Tag Archives: Niagara Falls

Late Summer Road Trip

Our road trip to New York and Canada seemed like a long time ago now. The leaves were still green and the weather was still warm. Our trip started with a weekend to Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes where I knew we could photograph a few of the waterfalls in that area without having to hike a long distance. Then we would head to Canada where we would spend time in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.

We had three goals with this trip. The first was some serious rest and relaxation. Work has been very stressful for me this summer and I couldn’t wait to just get away. The same for Tom and we hadn’t yet had a vacation this summer. The second was to make a trip to the Small Talk Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I had decided to create a basket using their “dinner party themed” wines (just gorgeous, creative concept and labels) for the Quigley Catholic Gala. And lastly, we had wanted to photograph some landscapes and waterfalls, as we had been working so hard on getting the silky water effect with our new camera.

Finger Lakes, NY
We spent the day just outside of Ithaca and photographed the following waterfall in the Robert Treman State Park, just off Enfield Falls Road (Rt. 327) at the west end of the park.

Using NDx8 filter

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

From there we traveled west on Rt. 327 to Seneca Lake and Watkins Glen. We had stopped at many waterfalls along the way, but this was my other favorite photograph, taken at the SHE-QUA-GA Falls in Watkins Glen. I was so surprised, because the last time we had visited this waterfall in the winter, it was gushing with water. But I loved that it was so wispy and dainty with rich patches of green moss.


This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

Niagara Falls, ONT, Canada
We headed to Canada from there. I dropped my camera on the first day at the White Water Rapids exhibit. I had gotten a couple of photographs using our ND filters, but when I dropped the camera, the strap had luckily caught on the tripod and it wasn’t impacted. But I was still holding the remote release and it ripped apart, partially broken inside the camera and the rest of it was in my hand. Nice. We were done using filters. We tried, but every one of them that required the long exposure came back blurry — we just couldn’t hold the camera still enough, even propped on a hard surface. Here are a few photos that I did like:

Silky Rapids

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release.

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release. This shot was taken with my iPhone 4s.

Overall, the trip didn’t turn out quite like we had planned. We wished we had stayed in the Finger Lakes a couple more days and less in Canada.

We changed hotels the first night in Canada, because our Hampton Inn was so outdated that neither of us could deal. When Tom couldn’t stay, you know it’s bad. Nothing like a tiny shower stall, while having a giant heart-shaped jacuzzi tub in a retro 1970’s pink plastic. It was like a bad movie. So we moved further away from Niagara-on-the-Lake and to the Sheraton overlooking the Canadian Falls. It wasn’t the greatest either, but much better than the Hampton.  We had also seen and done everything in Niagara Falls, so after five days, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. By the end of the week, I didn’t have much energy and wasn’t feeling so great — little did I know that I would be in the hospital the following week!

So, we have no more road trips planned for the rest of 2014. But we do have a Caribbean trip coming up in November to Aruba. And we’re taking the camera!!! And I’m feeling fantastic!!! Let the countdown begin!

Always B E L I E V E !

Nothing Sweeter

Our first bottle of dessert wine — also known as Ice Wine — was from the Sheldrake Point Winery on Cayuga Lake in New York. It’s a bottle of 2010 Riesling Ice Wine and it cost us $65! I wouldn’t normally spend $65 on a tall and skinny bottle of wine, but it was unbelievable! We’re saving it for a toast this Christmas Eve — one year from my surgery, as I spent last Christmas in the hospital — to thank God for not only hearing our prayers, but answering them.

So Tom and I recently went to Niagara Falls for an extended weekend. We had planned to spend a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake and visit some of the wineries up there. We spent time researching the wineries and realized that Ice Wine is Canada’s specialty. Our search for the perfect Ice Wine was on! After visiting six wineries, we came home with 11 bottles of it — Cabernet Franc was by far our favorites. Each of the wines was the sweetest you can imagine and combined with dark chocolate — pure Heaven.

My brother, Bob had told us to open our window when traveling along Route 90E on our way to Canada. He told us that when we reached Lake Erie, we could smell all of the grapes along the way, as grapes are grown all along the shores of Lake Erie. I couldn’t imagine that. I cracked my window at one point and the aroma of sweet, ripe grapes poured in our car. We couldn’t believe it!!! I cracked the window for the next hour or so, every time we saw grape vines near the highway. And it instantly took me back…

Picking grapes at Grandma Knowlson’s house in August. We’d eat just as many as we picked. Those grapes were warmed by the sun and just so incredibly sweet! We’d be barefoot and the shade around the grape vines would make the ground cold on our feet. We were tanned by the sun, as we spent all of our time outside in the summer. We loved helping Grandma — whether it was picking cherries, grapes or plums. There was lots of laughter and lots of fun. There were no computers, no internet, no smart phones and no computer games — nothing to do inside. Most homes didn’t have air conditioning — if you can imagine that — and it was cooler outside. Did you ever just lay in the cool grass in the shade in the summer and spend an hour looking at the shapes in the clouds? Or lay in the grass on your belly and dig through a clover patch, looking for that cherished four-leaf clover? Or spend an afternoon picking grapes with your Grandma?

Grandma would make quarts and quarts of grape juice! My Mom planted grape vines at her house too. You could smell them on the way to the barn in August and September. I’d eat those grapes too — throwing the skins to the chickens in the chicken coop. My Mom made grape juice too — from Grandma’s recipe. There was nothing sweeter than their grape juice.

Until now. Until we found Ice Wine. So I guess we can give the credit to Grandma — who introduced all of us to the goodness of sweet grapes.


Tom and I are going to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada this coming Sunday. We are planning a wine tour for one of our days there and have gone through every winery in the region the past two nights to determine our route. Last night we had so much fun — jumping from one website to the next. The wineries in this region are well known for their award-winning ice dessert wines — my obsession in Finger Lakes! Each winery has at least two or three different ice wines and many of them offer more than 10!

And then it hit me last night, while we were researching our trip — Tom on his iPad, me on my laptop — almost dueling to find the best wineries — if we hadn’t gone on that trip between Christmas in New Years with my brother Bob, we would never be planning this fantastic adventure this coming week. Maybe we would still be going to Niagara, but we would probably have been spending more time in the casinos.

It’s amazing how three days, two years ago would influence our lives today. And it was destined to be a horrible trip back in 2011…

Bob had asked me if we wanted to join him on a short excursion to the Finger Lakes. He asked me to bring the SUV, because we needed the room to bring some “juice” back from one of the wineries, so he could make some more wine. I talked Tom into going, but he didn’t really want to go — and I knew that, but planned it anyways. Tom was annoyed at me that entire Christmas. We argued for at least five days over it — and I prayed so hard to God that he somehow help me get through it, promising that I would never knowingly do this to Tom again.

God heard me. We started out on the trip, fully packed, dressed in our winter gear. I was excited — a holiday road trip — and cautiously optimistic that Tom would have fun. And I had that nostalgic feeling you get those few days after Christmas that lasts until you have to go back to work. The SUV was almost full with my Mom, Father Louie, Tom and myself. We were picking up Father Bob at Holiday Valley ski resort in Endicottville, NY. And it was during those first few hours that God started working his magic between us. Sure, the freezing rain had me beyond stressed, along with Father Louie and his constant chatter about the temperature — but Tom started to relax. And when we reached Endicottville — the magic was all around us.

We ended up having such an adventure over those three days! Tom and I both stepped completely out of our comfort zone and took the time to enjoy something new and different. I know that God worked his magic through my brother, as even I never imagined how much I would love the Finger Lakes. Even in the winter — no leaves on the trees and as cold as you can imagine — it was amazing. I gave thanks to God for answering my prayers.

So back to our Niagara-on-the-Lake wine tour — I had a major magic moment — Tom saying, “are their wine labels designed well enough for us to stop here?” — joking with me that I was selecting the wineries based on whether or not I liked the label designs! And then it hit me — a feeling came over me — suddenly it was clear how God was working in our lives…

Those three days, two years ago are influencing our lives at this very moment! God blessed us not only then, but as the result of that trip, is now enabling us to enjoy so much more.

We’ve taken several trips to the Finger Lakes. And now we’re reaching out to Canadian wine country to try something new. That one moment and feeling, clearly seeing those threads that are weaved by God’s hand is a true testament to God’s work in our lives.

If we only believe.

Always B E L I E V E.

PS: Do you not agree that we have to visit this winery, simply because their labels are so adorable?

Are We There Yet?

I think movies like Christmas Vacation or Vegas Vacation are so popular, not because they are some of the greatest comedies of all time, but because they are relatable to so many people on so many levels. It was a time in history when taking the family road trip was the only way to travel. As a kid, none of us ever got on an airplane — I was 18 when I got on my first flight to see my brother at college when he was going to the Catholic University in DC. But taking that two- or four- hour road trip was part of the family vacation experience.

I was reminiscing about this just this week as people are getting their vacations onto the schedule at work. Their vacations are much different than the family vacations I remember. We didn’t travel to the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach, because the thought of an eight- or nine- or more- hour road trip with us kids would have been a nightmare for my parents. There were no CD players to pop in a two-hour movie and keep the kids quiet or asleep. I remember playing checkers on magnetic boards so you wouldn’t lose the checker pieces or playing “padiddle” for hours, looking for those cars or trucks with only one headlight. We used to count the number of “piggy-backs” or trailer trucks with an extra trailer. We even kept track of what states other cars were traveling from by their license plates. Or how about “punch-buggy” — looking for a Volkswagon Beetle bug and wacking your brother or sister in the arm — whoever saw one first. Anything to keep us busy. Oh, and bathroom breaks — they didn’t exist. My Dad would tell us, “I’m stopping now, you’d better pee, because we’re not stopping again until we get there!” — that’s where I get my strong bladder from. And you always traveled with a cooler containing pre-made cold-cut sandwiches and cans of pop. There was no bottled water or drink juice boxes back then. Do you ever wonder who eats at those picnic tables at the rest areas on the turnpike? Yea, the Miller family did that.

I think today’s family road trip probably looks a lot different. Besides the CD player or total entertainment system available in many vehicles, and various car seats jammed in based on the age of your kids, I think you’d probably find the kids with earphones and their iPods, or maybe even playing games on their iPads — maybe someone reading a book on their Kindle (if that didn’t make them car sick). What would we do without technology? Times have surely changed — in only a matter of 20 years. But that’s another story for another time.

My Mom used to tell me that she never used car seats for us kids. We didn’t like them — so there you have it — she didn’t put us in them! She said it was easier to hold the baby in the front seat. Well, I guess there was less road-rage, cars didn’t go 100 miles per hour, people weren’t distracted by technology or in a major rush — they actually went the speed limit and took their time, enjoying the ride — that was part of the vacation — not to mention those 1970-something vehicles were steel tanks!!! So maybe safety wasn’t the issue it is today in our “beam me up, I wish I was already there yesterday” world of today.

And, think back to the days when nobody had a major credit card and certainly not a debit card. You had an old-fashioned checkbook and you traveled with cash in your wallet. Or maybe you got traveler’s cheques if you were worried that your cash could be stolen. Seriously, do traveler’s cheques even exist today?

Lake Erie 1971. The water was always a bit chilly, even in August — but we loved it anyways.

Lake Erie 1971. The water was always a bit chilly, even in August — but we loved it anyways.

We took a family vacation every year. It was usually in August, because we went to Lake Erie, PA in the early years and the water didn’t get so warm until then. And even then, it was pretty cold for swimming. And Mom and Dad, they loved packing us all up — each of us had our own hard-case suitcase with these flippy kind of buttons that were spring-loaded. I can still hear the sound they would make as you pushed the button to open your suitcase! Dad would literally be whistling while he loaded the car, laughing and joking — leaving all the stress of his work behind him, and Mom would be loading up the cooler. When we hit the road — everything was behind us for an entire week! Can you imagine that today? No cell phones, no gps, no computers, no way to contact anyone until you stopped at a pay phone somewhere along your route. There was no email, no checking voicemail or calling in to see if everything was okay. You were on vacation! Ah… we need to find that peace in our lives again!

As kids, there was no better place on this earth than Lake Erie. I still love it to this day. Tom and I go at least once a year to Presque Isle and hang out on the beach. Lake Erie was the beach for me. I didn’t see the ocean until we started going to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation — and I was in high school then. Those road trips were even longer — at least nine hours, but we rode in style in the back of the truck camper. So, our whining wasn’t heard by Mom or Dad in the cab of the truck — and they didn’t really care what was happening. Dad even welded a custom bike rack and had five bikes bouncing along with us. We were the epitome of the American family, living the American dream.

And if you think back to those “Vacation” movies with Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid, you laugh, because you had similar situations on your own family vacations. And, I love how they bring in the extended family with cousin Eddie — we all have extended family who only add to the memories of these days. And the crazy things that happened, yes, they happened to the best of us.

Gosh, I remember the year we went to Lake Erie in August 1977. We used to rent these little cottages where six or eight of them had their own private beach front. The cottages usually had two bedrooms and a small kitchen. You never ate out at a restaurant in those days! Mom would cook in this tiny kitchen or we’d cook on the outdoor grills. Maybe we’d go out for ice cream. But, I seriously cannot recall ever eating at a restaurant when I was little. I remember one morning, Mom had on the radio — one of those old-fashioned kinds with the big dial on the front — and it came across the radio that Elvis Presley had died. I would have been nine, almost 10 years old on that vacation — and I can remember asking my Mom who that was and she told me a singer. I don’t know why that stuck in my brain.

That was the same year that Dad took the boat to Lake Erie and on his way back to the cottage, caught the trailer hitch on some railroad tracks — ripping the underneath of the car or something bad. That’s how I know there weren’t major credits cards back then or the garages didn’t accept them. I don’t know, but they used all their cash to fix it. Another Griswold family vacation. And if you can imagine this scenario — back then, we had the station wagon, yeah, right out of the Brady Bunch, complete with the wood grain siding! Oh, and I can verify, it did have a third row seat — called a rumble seat, except when you rode there, you faced the traffic behind you. Oh, and AC — what was that?

Vacations today are more extravagant. Tom and I look for what Caribbean island we’re hitting this year, but we still love that road trip. So we plan a couple of those — less than five hours to our destination. Besides our trip to St. Lucia, we have several road trips planned. A couple to the Finger Lakes, NY, an Erie trip and a long weekend planned to Niagara Falls, NY. And, we’ll probably go to the cabin at least once. And this year to our trip to Lake Erie, I think I’ll pack a cooler for the day and plan a picnic on Presque Isle. I’m sure I’ll check my email while I’m sitting at that table — after all, I can’t live without it. But, I’ll fondly think back to all those Miller family vacations, remembering a simpler time.

I wonder if my nieces can read an old-fashioned map. Those were the days.