Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Into the Great Wide North

Posted By on December 23, 2008

Leaving Athens, December 21 at 8'oclock.

Leaving Athens, December 21 at 8'oclock.

12.21: Athens to Niagara Falls, 310 miles. 1 state: New York.

It is 6:30 m on December 21, and the forecast is for more snow. I asked for some snow before we left, and I got it. Hoo boy, did I get snow. I have packed my knives and my pepper grinder and my favorite vinaigrette whisk, as well as two boxes of books, all the good tea paraphernalia, and a cocktail shaker. Stella’s bag is done, and I’ve turned the thermostat down to 53F. I have mixed feelings, but I know it’s time to go. Last night, some wonderful friends serenaded us with mellifluous wine, food, and song. Mostly, they’ll be staying, although many will take a week or so in Florida, Tucson, or Mexico, to break the winter’s fierce hold.

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero


Our destination tonight is Niagara Falls, where, due to the Christmas kindness of Jared and the Lupones, a gloriously cozy room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the falls, plus fireplace and jacuzzi, awaits. It will prove to be very difficult for us to get there. In fact, it is almost as though fate is conspiring against us.

There is a great deal of snow falling as we head north. Why are we heading north, you might quite rightly ask at this point? Well, Toledo and Casey’s family are tomorrow’s destination, and Google Maps routed us through Buffalo, and I noticed that Buffalo was really close to Niagara Falls, which I had never seen, and so, without regard to the season, here we are, driving 35 miles an hour straight north in the middle of one of the biggest snowstorms in years. Did I mention that the windshield wiper fluid-squirter isn’t working? This means that the existing 80% white-out conditions are intensified by, oh, about 18%. C is swearing at the lack of fluid and the resulting opaque, dirty grey windshield, and when I ask him if swearing makes it better, I get a warning glance that makes me zip it up tight. When the semi trucks bomb past us, visibility is reduced to a Brett Easton Ellis-style Less Than Zero. Maybe we should have stayed home.

Seven hours into the (five-hour) drive and about 50 miles from the Canadian border, C suddenly becomes convinced that he never put the bag with his computer–and passport–into the car this morning. We fret about this for a few torturous miles, then pull over to check because, well, there’s not much point in driving to the border without a passport. Eureka! It is there. Ten miles later, I proudly pull out my efficiently-packed passport and discover that I have grabbed the passport that expired in 1994. (This means that the picture was taken in 1984, yepper.) I am now very, very embarrassed, especially after all the disdain I nonverbally tossed toward C during the 30 minutes when we thought that he might have forgotten his. I begin to multi-task, feverishly calling the hotel to get US immigration’s phone number while checking with Choice Hotels to see if there’s a dog-friendly room available on the American side (immigration says “proof of citizenship ie, passport is required”; there is indeed such a room available). It’s ok to breathe now—we won’t be sleeping in the car—but what about our lovely room?

C is all for heading to the Quality Inn, but I want to push the envelope. We push on through the driving snow, so comfy in the car that has driven across the country seven times. It feels so much like home that I am in dangerous denial about the conditions on the other side of the glass, ie 10F and as such not hospitable to human or canine life. After the first barricades of the international border, I spy a little building labeled “Alien Departure Center.” The twenty or thirty people waiting patiently give me a serious case of the hairy eyeball when I swan right up to the counter and sweetly ask if I can get across the border and—perhaps more importantly, get back into the country, tomorrow—with an expired passport.
“Sure. It’s harder to get rid of American citizenship than you think. And by the way, you still look just like your picture.

Stella at the falls.

Stella at the falls.


I could kiss these burly, uniformed guys for a myriad of reasons.
“Thanks guys, my husband was about to kill me!”
Now I am all smiles, humiliation forgotten, and we are over the bridge and in Canada, where we promptly get lost because the imbecilic GPS system that comes with our iphonies couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery, as my first husband used to say.

But by 4:00pm, we are comfy and cosy on the 21st floor of the Sheraton on the Falls, chilling the chardonnay and marveling at, yes, the majestic falls themselves, but also the incredible proliferation of truly ugly, very tall, and strangely shaped structures which crowd in on nature’s profound and powerful beauty and vie to make it inconsequential.

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