4th July!

Hey Dad,

So last night I had the best nights sleep I have had in weeks! 

When I eventually got up, we had some breakfast; a real breakfast! No breakfast biscuits in sight.

Marks said the best way to get into Washington would be the metro. So we set off, me wearing my shorts with the stars and stripes, they seeemed fitting today. We got off one stop early to walk around and explore a little bit. 

We walked past a church, which had a free concert just starting. It was wonderful, a string ensemble playing classical music. As we went in I noticed all the performers were in uniform. They were all air force. We sat and listened for ages.

We left the church and walked towards the mall. It was packed! We were right by the Washington Monument! It was so busy though I didn’t try and take a picture. There was people everywhere, which we were expecting, it’s 4th July in their nations capital. We made an attempt to walk down the street, but the parade was on. They really go all out! The parade was huge. 

We walked past a load of big important buildings, which were impossible to get to as there were hundreds of people standing on the steps to get a good parade view. We kept walking. We finally found the end of the parade route, so we were able to cross the street and get into the mall. 

We walked through a sculpture garden, partially because it didn’t look very busy, unlike the rest of the mall. It was pretty neat, sculptures everywhere. Rebecca would have enjoyed it. There was also a huge fountain with the National Archives building as a backdrop.

We walked though the garden and were standing right outside the National Museum of Natural History. Wanting to escape the blazing sun and hundreds of thousands of people, we went in. There was an Imax show about to start, which told the sorry of a young Explorer called Henry Bates who wanted to find out if species could change into other species. It was fascinating, and the sit down in an air conditioned quiet room was a bonus!

We left the theatre and walked around the museum. It was potentially the best museum I have been in. The exhibits and detail was unreal. They even had a whole skeleton of a blue whale! There were rooms that looked at fossils, mummies, bones, insects, gems and minerals, human origins, mammals and even the ocean. It was amazing. I even got to see the Hope diamond! There was so much to see you could not hope to take it all in! 

We left the museum to walk to the end of the mall, towards the capitol building. Every year the mall hosts a free concert to celebrate the 4th July. Mark knowing his stuff knew we had to get there early as they close the lawn when it reaches capacity.  We found perfect spots on the grass, with a perfect view of the stage. Then all we had to do was wait for the show to start. 

Before that though, the rain came. Mark explained it always rains on the 4th July, a bit like us and Glastonbury I guess! We got soaked. Neither if us had a jacket, not that it mattered as I don’t think it would have helped. Deciding we were already wet, and the worst thing that could happen is we get rained on in 30°c heat, we stayed put. Thankfully the rain stopped and the sun came back out. We were dry again in no time. 

The concert was about to start, and they ran through who would be performing. My jaw dropped.

First up, The Beach Boys. Yeah you read that right, The Beach Boys!! I got to see The Beach Boys perform live, right in front of me! Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the other acts included The Blues Brothers and the Four Tops. I honestly Dad could not believe it! There was also music from Broadway stars, which were accompanied by a full orchestra. 
At the end of the show, cannons were shot, and the biggest and longest display of fireworks I have ever seen exploded in the sky above the concert venue, behind the Washington Monument. It was incredible! Like unbelievably incredible! The fireworks must have continued for over 20 minutes. 

When the show was over, we had to make the attempt to get back to the metro stop. Needless to say the streets were packed and everyone was heading in the same direction. Amazingly we managed to fit on a metro first time round. It was very very cramped though. Thankfully it cleared out pretty quick and we were able to sit down and find some air. 

We got back to the house pretty late and both collapsed on the sofa. The concert was playing replayed on TV so we stuck that on the try and find our self’s on screen. I think we just about found us. Well I am not sure which one of us fell asleep first, but my phone went off in my hand waking me up on the sofa. I looked over to find Mark asleep on the chair.

Time for bed. Another big day tomorrow!

What an awesome day! 

Night dad x

Meeting the Nejako’s

Hey Dad,

Well crazy day today. I am meeting the Nejako’s! 

As you know, Nan has been writing to her Penpal Nancy since like the 194os. We have been brought up our whole lives knowing we are connected to this American family in a very special way. Today I get to meet them. 

I got up and drove the two hours to their house. I am staying With Mark, Nancy’s grandson. So the grandkids of the pen pals are meeting. 

Talk about being welcomed in with open arms! Marks aunty Judy was there too. It was amazing meeting them, and finally putting a face to the names. 

They both knew so much about us and our family. Story’s Nancy had told them just like story’s nan has told us. Judy in particular has amazingly fond memories of Aunty Jean when she was stationed out in Washington DC. Judy had so many tales from when she was a child with Jean coming over and doing the usual crazy and amazing Jean things. She was so amazing to talk to. I gave her an update on how Jean is now and showed her some photos. 

After a speedy catch up, we headed over the Marks parents home. It was Marks birthday today, so we were heading for a family get together. Again I was greeted with open arms, all with story’s and questions about our family and the conversations between our Nans. There was Marks parents, along with Marks sister, her husband and their adorable daughter. Marks other nan was there too, along with Mark, Judy and myself of course. 

We spent all afternoon sitting in the garden and eating BBQ food. Home cooked food! Yes! 

After many many stories were shared we all got back into the cars and headed out to a beautiful park. We were going to listen to the Baltimore Philharmonic orchestra play. It reminded me a little of the old ‘party in the park’ we used to all go to. Families with a picnic and blankets sitting on the grass listening to live music. It being 4th July tomorrow, everyone was in a party mood. The atmosphere was amazing, and everyone was so happy. The music was great, and the fireworks amazing. Sadly our view was slightly obstructed by a tree, but that didn’t really matter. 

The whole evening was wonderful, and I felt so welcome and part of the family. They are all just so lovely Dad, and it was so clear Nancy cared as much about nan as nan does about her. 

We got back to the house and crashed out. It was a very long day! Mark pulled out a photo album and we looked though it. It was unvelieveable! One album at photos in Nan must have sent in her letters. Photos of Nan and Grandad on their bikes and photos of you and uncle Jim as small children. There was another album, filled with when Nancy and her Husband Mark came to visit the UK. I was able to put some names to faces for Mark. Well there were pages in there full of us grandchildren. Photos I have never seen! Nancy must have taken them on her camera and came back to America to get them developed. We were like 4/5 ish with a baby Charlotte at like 18 months if that. The photos were at our old house too! I forgot what that wallpaper looked like! It was amazing to think that we meant enough to Nancy to not only take the photos and have them developed, but to put them in a photo album and keep it all these years! 

Mark showed me to the spare room. Dad there are photos of Nan and Grandad all over the house! there is even a photo of them at the foot of the bed in the spare room, standing outside Nan and Grandad house. There was one of Jean too! There is even some of Jean’s art work on the wall, which she must have sent to them a few years ago. 

I can not believe I am here, in a house Nan and Grandad have visited many times! 

Another huge day coming up, it’s the 4th July!

Night dad x

Falling Water

Hey Dad,

So today is all about one building in particular. Falling Water. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it’s a building I studied a huge amount at university. To be honest I think even you would make a pit stop to go and see it. 

I checked out and jumped in the car, the building was only an hour away! The satnav took me off the toll road interstate and managed to direct me in the opposite way of all the tourist signs. Again, I followed the satnav. This time it worked out in my favour, it took me through some local towns and farms. The houses were beautiful, with loads of land around them and views over the rolling hillside. It was like driving in some parts of the UK, with a narrow road and high trees lining the route making the road dark as it dips down a hill. It was a really nice drive. 

While driving along admiring my surroundings I kept stumbling across Jellystone National Park. Of course that is home to Yogi Bear! Wondering if I would see anything Yogi Bear related I drove past a huge statue! I was going to fast and had a car behind me to stop, so I kept going, figuring I would go back later. 

A little further down the road I came to falling water. One catch. They are sold out of tours today. Damn! But I can buy a ticket to view the grounds, so I can see the house, I just can’t go inside. I decided I could cope with that. I want to are the structure and the outside more anyway. I paid for a ticket and was told to come back in an hour. Lunch it is! 

I went back at my allotted time and started to walk through the grounds. The house is set in a national park, and it’s just beautiful. The whole area is made up of trees and shrubs, and small path ways leading people to Falling Water.

The building was beautiful! I walked around every inch I could, and then walked even further to get some good photos. The structure was just so ahead of its time. Seeing it close up was awesome! The inside looked really cool too, but I was not overly disappointed. I walked around the house and the grounds for over an hour just looking at how the building even stands up, and how it interacts with its surroundings. It is built over a waterfall after all! 

Back to the car I drive back to where I saw the big Yogi Bear. He was cool, but he was on a camping ground. I abandoned the car on the side of the road and ran up the exit drive of the camp ground.I snapped a photo and ran back to the car before I was seen. 

The drive to my overnight stop was across country over all the hills and woodland.finally no interstates! I pulled over everytime I saw a lookout sign, just to see what was around.  The area was just so pretty, and green! 

I eventually made it to a small town called Cumberland. First thing I noticed was nothing. Not one person, or open shop, no birds and not one single car. Weird. A little freaked out I checked into the hotel. Realising I needed to eat I ventured out into the abyss. I stumbled across one homeless person, a cat and a water fountain. The whole town centre was empty! The only thing open, a McDonald’s. Typical.

I went in, wondering if I was even hungry enough to eat this kind of food, to find the restaurant was full of people. On closer inspection, it was full of single middle aged men. All seemed to have tatty clothes and had an unkempt appearance. Feeling slightly on edge I ordered at sat in the corner so I had a good view of the tables. I ate pretty fast, the looks and stares were very off putting. A family came in, ordered food and walked out with it. I followed them out and walked back to the hotel. 

Well another day gone, and another big day tomorrow! 

Night dad x

Driving South, and looking out of place

Hey Dad,

So I realised something crazy this morning. I am currently as far North as I will go on this trip, and I am right on the Canadian border on the East coast. Well a month or so ago I was in San Diego, close to the Mexican border on the West coast. I have literally driven to the opposite points of the country. 

Anyway, I packed up this morning to head towards Washington DC. Of course i have a stop to make on the way. I checked out and headed towards a town called Pittsburgh. This is just a over night stop really, 4th July weekend funnily enough seems to make all the motel and hotel rooms really expensive. This was the cheapest in the right direction.  

The drive was another dull drive down a interstate, with not much to see. One thing that was pleasant though we’re the hills. The landscape was no longer flat, and there were views across countryside. That made a welcome change. 

After another day of driving I checked into the hotel and chilled out for half an hour. I walked over to the only restaurant I could see out of the window. This is where it got funny. 

I walked in, and instantly twigged that the people in the restaurant and sitting waiting for a table were all very smartly dressed. The waiters had clean white pressed shorts with a tie on. Well me walking in with my leggings, hoodie and trainers definitely stood out. I asked how long the wait was, and the woman said that there was no wait for a booth at the bar. Fine. 

I sat down and was given a wine list, a big long wine list. I was certainly not in a fast food place! Not feeling overly hungry I ordered an appetiser and a side salad. The waiter then cane over with freshly baked bread and oil. Yep this was a nice place. I started to with I had at least brushed my hair before coming out! 

I should point out this restaurant was on the end of a retail complex. It had a mobile phone shop next door and a fed Ex store next to that. The frontage made it look like a basic but nice family restaurant. Nothing to suggest it was a more up market place. The food was really good mind, which after checking the price of it I was glad. 

I ate, paid the bill and walked out pretty quickly. As I was walking out a party of a dozen young girls walked in. Must have been a birthday party, all dolled up to the nines. They were about 15, but dressed to try and look 18. They each walked in and looked a little shocked at me walking out. I was not in a puffy dress and high heels that I could not walk in, or have curled hair with pretty jewels in it. I laughed to myself and left. 

Well back at the hotel, and ready to plan for tomorrow. Ohiopyle tomorrow, which holds one building in particular I want to see!

Night dad x

America in the morning, Canada in the afternoon

Hey Dad;

Ready for a long day! 

I checked out and set up a rough plan. Given up with proper plans now. 

Well I opened the door, and the weirdest thing dad, there was water falling from the sky. It was raining! Didn’t really know what to do with this. Still, first day in months of questionable weather, I can’t really complain. I don’t think I have seen rain since Fiji. 

Anyway I checked out and headed over to the falls. I then had the joy of finding somewhere to park.parking everywhere was $20 for the day! I knew I was only going to be here a few hours; I was not paying $20!! I found a spot on the road, $6 for two hours, much better. I walked though the park and over a bridge to Goat Island. From there you are in between the American falls and horseshoe falls. It was pretty spectacular. The thing that hit me most though was the noise of the water. It was unbelievably loud, I don’t think I have heard anything like it. The shear size and magnitude of water going over the walls is incomprehensible. The mist that came from the bottom as the water hit the rocks below was awesome too. Unfortunately it was still raining, and the sky’s were grey. Not the best for photo opportunities!

I walked back over the bridge and headed towards the American falls lookout. Too cloudy for any rainbows, damn! The wind from this side of the falls was really strong too. I followed the path around and got to the observation deck. A platform which sticks out over the falls. Fearing the cost I went to find out, $1.25; phew! Again the view was amazing, but windy. 

Back off the deck I had a little time flleft before I needed to get back from the car. Tired of being blown about and getting wet I headed indoors to a visitors centre. Inside they were showing a short movie about the falls, the history and the legends. It was really fascinating, you would have liked it. It showed how people came and settled at the falls, and then the stories of dare devil’s who tight roped over the falls, and about the woman who went over in a barrel. Did you know she had a cat in the barrel with her? Mad. It also told us the story of the kids that were in a boat which broke down. The boy went over the falls, and the girl was saved 20 feet from the drop. The boy survived. First ever with no protection equipment. Other then a life jacket. The movie however did not go into any stories of people who tried and failed.

As I came out of the theatre the sun came out! Blue sky’s.  Typical.  I managed to walk quickly back to the American falls look out for another photo, but then I had to practically jog back to the car. 

Heading North I drove to the Niagara Whirlpool, apparently one of the largest in the world. Again, the volume of water is just unvelieveable. There was also a little cable car going over the whirlpool, it went from Canada to the USA. Reminded me a little of the cable car we had to take when Huw did his bungy. 

Anyway quick stop for a late lunch and off to my tour! 

I eventually worked out how to get into the car park and signed in. There were only 12 on the tour out of a potential 28! 

The first challenge is to get over rainbow bridge and into Canada. Through customs and another stamp in the passport I officially made it into Canada! 

The tour took us to Table Rock, where we got in a lift, which took us into a tunnel.  As you go down in the lift you are handed a poncho. That should have been a bit hint of things to come. The tunnel is right under horseshoe falls into the bedrock. There are little openings through the tunnel where you can stand and see the water falling over the edge. The noise was insane! There was also a viewing platform. Now the reason for the poncho became apparent. The platform was being battered by mist and spray from the falls. Thankfully the ponchos are one size and being a short arse it came to my ankles! There was also a full rainbow stretching from the American Falls to the Horseshoe Falls, finally! I had just enough time to heck out the view back at the top of the falls before heading back to the tour bus.

The next stop was weirdly a car park, it was to get a view of the water plants.  The flow of the falls is controlled. There ware huge under ground tunnels which carries the water to a hydroelectric plant. Typically, only 50% of the water is actually going over the falls, and in low tourist season they reduce it to 25%. If the water going over is only 50% of what is possible, the full 100% must be terrifying! 

A drive drive took us to the Skylong Tower, where a lift on the outside of the building took us to a viewing platform, again; tall building, must go up! The view was pretty awesome, especially if you stood on a ledge, put your body weight on the safety barriers and stuck your arms through for a good shot. I made a few people feel very nervous. 

The tour then stopped at a gift and snack shop. Nothing special other then the tourist tat, there was however a huge moose statue. It looked normal until you saw the view from behind. He was a very well hung bull. 

The tour carried on down river where we saw the cable car I sported this morning. Now of course I was on the other side of the falls. Still looked a little dodgy! 

Then a quick pit stop at the hydroelectric plant. The distance the water travels underground is apparent when you realise how far down the road you have come. It goes for about 7 miles! We also stopped at a floral clock in a botanical garden. Not really sure why, compared to Niagara Falls, I could really see the appeal.

Back on the bus, the sun had set and it was getting very dark. The bus headed back to the falls. The Falls at night are lit up, they illumine them in loads of different colours and patterns. It was pretty amazing. So was the amount of people who were standing on the sides waiting! Of course they were waiting for one thing. Fireworks! 

The fireworks were very good. Not the world’s best, but for a free display you could not complain. 

Then it was back on the bus to go back across the border. America ask a lot more questions than Canada! But I got though fine. 

The last thing to do was do drive the 30 minutes to my motel for the evening. It was all going well until my card declined. Sh*T. I got it sorted though.

What all day Dad! 

Night dad x

Driving to Niagara

Hey Dad,

So another non eventful day.

I got up and checked out and started the drive to Niagara Falls.i thought I would be on the toll roads again, but happily there was no charge for the majority of the road. 

After a few hours I grabbed some lunch in yet another fact food place. Seriously the options for food on the road are seriously lacking! 

Back on the road I saw signs for a Niagara Falls information centre, so I headed towards it. It was really helpful, with things to do I didn’t know about. I knew I had to wipe Canada out of my trip because I couldn’t take the car over the border, but the Canadian side had the best views of the falls. So I booked on to an evening tour which would go to the Canadian side, and include a few other things I wanted to do. More on that tour tomorrow though I guess! 

The drive eventually ended up as toll road, figures. The road then took me through Buffalo, which was much more built up then I thought it would be. I also then had to drive over a beautiful bridge to get to Niagara. Of course there was a toll for that too. 

I checked in and headed out for dinner. I came across an Italian restaurant. Looking at the menu they had an offer on called ‘taste of Italy’ which meant you could choose three different pastas to try, with unlimited salad and breadsticks. I was sold on the salad. Well I don’t know when I will learn, but the portion was insane. One individual pasta would pass as a main course at home, and I had three of them to get through! The plate was the size of a party platter. I measured it with my hands, it was two hand spans long. It was crazy. The breadsticks were like thin mini baguettes too, and there was eight of them! There was no way I could get though it all. Before I could say anything the waitress came over with a box for the leftovers. There was enough there for another full meal. 

Barely able to over with pasta overload I headed back to the motel. 

Big day tomorrow Dad, Niagara Falls!

Night dad x

A ‘rock and roll’ kind of day

Hey Dad,

Back on the road again today. Only a short drive though. 

I packed up the car and went to check out. The motel I stayed at was right on the interstate, and was sort of a truck stop. There was even a shady looking bar next door, which I didn’t bother going into. I did see some interesting looking characters around too, and their trucks. As I was checking out, a guy with tattoos on his neck and two tear drops under his left eye called me very beautiful and smiled at me. It’s definitely one way to start the day I guess. 

Anyway I got back on the interstate, and shock horror it was another toll road! Again the detour was much longer so there was really no point, the toll would can’t as much as additional fuel. This part of the road was also covered in roadworks. It was ridiculous. Paying for a road where your speed is limited to 50 from 70 was a little frustrating. What was a two hour journey ended up being more like two and a half, but whatever.

I arrived in Cleveland, which seemed to be mentioned in loads of obscure films. I have heard of the place, but never seen it. One thing I did know about it was there is a rock and roll museum. I set the satnav in that direction.

Dad this place was pretty cool, you would have liked it. It covered stars from Michael Jackson to Metallica. It was sensory overload though. Films, gig and concert clips, memorabilia, more guitars then you could count, and even the ever famous Michael Jackson Glove. There were bits from all the bands you listened too! I spent hours in this place, wandering around and reading all the information behind the artifacts. There was also a theatre playing a stevie wonder concert, with guests like B.B. King and Sting. It was amazing! There was also a huge section dedicated to the Rolling Stone magazine, and the covers over the years. Even the building the museum is in was cool, a glass pyramid with ‘long live rock’ in huge red letters outside.

Over to the motel for the evening, which meant driving through cleveland in rush hour. I can’t remember the last time I was stuck in traffic! It didn’t take long to clear mind. The motel is at the side of the airport runway, which means every so often you get a ‘whoosh’ noise go right over your head. It’s only a small airport so I am hoping the noise won’t continue all night.

I went for dinner in a restaurant just down the road. I am not sure who they thought I was, but I seemed to get the special treatment. I sat down and ordered, but something went wrong in the kitchen, they messed it up or something, but the waiter came back apologising like he had smashed up my car. I was then given free nachos and salsa. My meal came out, which I got over excited about as I ordered an extra side of asparagus. I have never been so excited for asparagus, but it’s the first time I think I have seen it as an option in the USA. They were not cooked as well as you cook them mind. With that I was asked if everything was OK my the waiter twice, then the manager came over to introduce himself and check if I needed anything. I was even offered a refill on my drink, which I had only drank about a quarter of. After two more checks and saying twice I did not want dessert, I asked for the bill. 

Back to the motel room for the night. Another long drive tomorrow, I am hoping to make it to Niagara Falls! 

Night dad x