NY: The Final Frontier (Sixth and Final Phase of Home Leave 2014)

We ended our vomit-free home leave streak the same day as my toddler asked me “Where’s home?” These might be two clear signs that it is time to bring home leave to a close.

Our trip to NY was primarily about visiting family and friends with a side trip to Niagara Falls (because who could resist?).

The night before beginning our Sixth Phase we arrived at my sister’s place after midnight but were up the following day and on the road to western New York by 11 am. We were on our way to visit C’s dad and paternal grandparents who live on the  Allegany Indian Reservation. C’s grandfather is a member of the Seneca Nation, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. C is 1/16 Seneca Indian, though as its matrilineal, neither she nor her father are members. Though C is not a member of the tribe and therefore will not receive annuity checks or qualify for scholarships, I still find knowing this part of her genealogy interesting.

I convinced her dad to go to Midway State Park where, yes, you may have guessed it, there is a carousel. The park dates from 1898 and therefore is one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the United States. So it is on the National Register of Historic Places. I’ll be truthful; it looked a bit neglected, there were not many people there. Yet C doesn’t give a hoot if a place is popular or not, as long as there are fun things for her to do. She enjoyed the 1948 Herschell carousel and other kiddie rides.

After visiting her dad, we then headed to Niagara Falls. Wow. Just wow. The Falls are another place I have long wanted to visit. I took C on the Maid of the Mist boat trip though I had had some reservations about standing on a crowded slippery deck with everyone wearing the same blue ponchos. Still the ride is just 20 minutes total, which is just about as much time as a toddler (or her mom carrying her) can stand. We skipped the Cave of the Winds as I had heard it was definitely not the kind of place to take a real little one (read: wide “safety” bars with plenty of space for intrepid, independent toddlers to slip through = one of mommy’s greatest nightmares). I was so glad we took the Maid of the Mist ride soon after arrival on Friday as the weather was bright and clear and warm (i.e. perfect) and there was almost no wait to board. The following day it was overcast and the crowds were in force (the next to last Saturday of summer). C also woke with a fever.

Since C was not feeling 100% we took it easy the second day, though she still insisted we go “see fish,” so we did head out for a trolley ride to the Niagara Aquarium. I would not give the aquarium a good rating as it was really, really small. Still C liked the seal and sea lion and spent all her time just watching them, so whatever, she was happy.

I also indulged my new carousel obsession and drove to North Tonawanda, New York, just 20 minutes from Niagara to visit the Allan Herschell Carousel Factory Museum. Yeah. Can you believe it? Until San Francisco I liked carousels, but now I am finding them EVERYWHERE! The Factory Museum is also on the National Register of Historic Places and, naturally, includes an antique Herschell Carousel, from 1916. C rallied long enough to ride once around and some of the other kiddie rides. She even allowed me about 30 minutes to browse through the museum part.

Then we visited historic Fort Niagara, another State Park. Unfortunately C was much less keen, so we did not have much time there. It is located at a beautiful spot at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario and is also listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark (two for one!). On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the Whirlpool State Park, to view the large swirling waters of the Niagara River as they churn downstream from the falls and watch the Aero Car cross perilously above the whirlpool on the Canadian side. As it was Home Leave we stayed entirely on the U.S. side, but I would love to return and spend some time across the border.

Next on the docket was a visit to Rochester to visit two friends of mine – one RH, I have known since she was 7 or 8 years old (I used to be her babysitter!) and the other MF is a friend from Indonesia who is studying for her Masters at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I have been looking forward to seeing these ladies for a long time. RH has two children of her own and although they are 5 and 13 years old, C bonded with them almost immediately. She ran to the younger boy, arms outstretched, as if she had known him a long time. Still, by the time we left she seemed more attached to the older child. While in Rochester we visited the Ontario Beach Park for a little time on the playground and several spins on the 1905 Dentzel carousel (!) and also visited the amazing Strong Museum of Play, rated as one of the country’s top children’s museum. Two and a half hours there (including lunch is the fabulous café in a 50s diner car located in the front atrium) gave us only a little time to scratch the surface. Just before we left we did have enough time to ride the 1918 Herschell carousel, also in the atrium.

Our final stop was Hamilton, NY where I met my cousin MK and her two kids. Or rather she is the cousin of my cousin and her kids the 2nd cousins once removed of my cousin, which makes them C’s 2nd cousins of her 2nd cousins. Following? It took me awhile to work that out in my head. For simplicity sake MK and I are going to be “CC’s” and the kids will be CC’s squared. We just enjoyed getting to know each other, including a fabulous home cooked dinner that included MK’s parents. MK lives just outside Hamilton, the location of Colgate University, on a lovely hill with a breathtaking summer view of the central New York countryside.

On our way home from Hamilton we stopped in Broome County, NY where six antique Herschell carousels are located. It is the only such place in the US where so many such carousels are concentrated and they are FREE for everyone to ride. I thought we might first just visit one or two, but once I learned that if we collected a card at each location we would earn a button at the end, I was committed. http://gobroomecounty.com/files/countyexec/GBVC%20Carousel%20Guide.pdf

And so ended the super amazing Home Leave 2014 adventure.

The Stats:
Total days: 60
Number of books finished: 10
Number of Children’s Museums visited: 5
Number of carousels ridden: 17
Miles Driven: Just over 5,000
Miles Flown: 15, 101
Miles Run: 62.2
Total number of States visited: 12
(TX, LA, MS, AL, TN, VA, HI, NC, CA, SD, WY, NY; 14 if you count driving through MD and PA to get to NY)

One EPIC Home Leave complete!

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