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Monday, October 17, 2016

Vacation Planning

 Willie and I haven't had many "real" vacations in our married years, at least not with traveling involved. Heck, I've still never been on an airplane. If you don't count visiting my friend Dawn down in the St. Louis area, I think I can count two. One to South Dakota when the kids were pretty little. That was basically on an angry whim on Willie's part when he got passed over for a promotion. We took four days and saw Mt. Rushmore, The Badlands and camped at Custer State Park.

Last year, while my sister stayed with my dad for us, we went up to Minnesota. We camped at Jay Cooke State Park and also checked out a lot of other state parks along Lake Superior in Minnesota. We had very wonderful and relaxing time.

Jay Cooke State Park
Duluth, Minnesota

I decided that we were going to go on a "real" vacation again this year. I looked at the calendar and tried to find a time when we wouldn't be gone during any special occasions, like a birthday or such. I decided on the week of October 1-9. I had Willie ask for it off, and then started to figure out where to go.

I didn't want to have to spend the entire vacation in the car getting to and from wherever we went. I started looking at places. I looked at areas between a 12 to 16 hour drive away. First place I checked, the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been there. It was just too far to be able to drive to and get back in a week.

I then looked at Colorado, but many of the campgrounds in the mountains close on October 1. That made that a bit more difficult, but not impossible. The same was true with Yellowstone, and most of the National Parks in the mountains. Next I looked south. We could get down to the Gulf Coast, and I'd never seen that, nor an ocean for that matter. I looked east. Niagara Falls would be awesome. I've always wanted to go to Washington DC, and Philadelphia to walk in the footsteps of our nations founders. I asked Willie what he would like to do. Never really got any kind of a real answer. I kept looking. I bought two National Geographic books, one about national parks, the other about state parks. I looked and looked. I kept prodding Willie for what he would like to do to no avail. So, one day when he was at work I decided.

"We are going to Niagara Falls for our vacation." I told Willie. He looked at me like I should have asked him first. I looked back at him and I think he realized he'd better not say that.

"Ok," he said, "what made you decide on that?" Willie loves digging and creating water features. He loves trying to incorporate waterfalls. He liked the waterfalls we had seen last year in Minnesota. I had been to Niagara before with Girl Scouts when I was in high school. That was a long time ago. I figured it was time to get him there and for me to see it again.

I looked in the National Geographic books to see if there was some place near by where we could camp. I googled New York State Parks. There were plenty, and October is not exactly peak season for vacationers. I decided I was going to reserve a campsite anyway because it would be close to peak fall colors, so the weekends might be full.

I started looking at google maps to see how far Niagara was from this campground and that. What route to take to and from our house. Would we need to stop along the way for a night, and where would be good. Then I noticed one of the longer routes to the falls was through Pittsburgh.

My husband is the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers fan ever to be put on this earth. And he lives in Iowa. Living in Iowa does not make it easy to go to a Steeler's game. He had been to one. A pre-season game against the Vikings in Minneapolis. He loved it. He never really expected to get to see them live again.

I looked up the Steelers' schedule. Now, when I do things on a whim like that, it rarely works out. I knew I had a 50-50 shot, but maybe, just maybe, they would be playing at home that first Sunday of our vacation, or even Monday night. Lo and behold! The Steelers were playing Kansas City that Sunday night AT HOME! One thing on my bucket list had been to get Willie to a home Steelers game. It'd been on the list for years. I never thought we'd ever be able to make it happen, but there it was, a home game while we would be in the area. BUT would there be tickets?

I pulled up the Steelers' website. I knew they sold out often. Maybe there was still a chance, it was only May. I clicked on "Tickets." There were some available. I was floored! Was this really going to work out? I clicked on best available, and about pooped my pants. I knew NFL tickets were expensive, but good grief. I backed down the price range and found some still ridiculously priced tickets, but ones I could bite my lip and manage. I bought the tickets!

I was going to wait until Willie got home to tell him, but I couldn't. I sent him a text. "I did something, you can't get mad, because it's already done and there's nothing you can do about it. I got tickets for a Steelers home game for October 2!" I know he doesn't check his phone while he's working so I didn't know when I would get a response. I thought he'd be at least as excited as I was.

He got home from work. I hadn't gotten a response. I asked him if he got my text. "Yeah." That's not exactly the response I had hoped for, but ok.

Next step, Hotel in Pittsburgh and campsite in New York. Hotel was easy, Google, Travelocity, done. I looked for parks around Niagara, Ontario in Canada. They don't have a park system like we do in our states. They have national parks, but I wasn't sure if I could get Willie to get a passport, so I looked again at the state parks in the NatGeo book. One was within 2 hours of the falls, Letchworth State Park. I looked it up and booked us a spot.

Never being completely sure about decisions, I kept googling Letchworth. The more I googled the more I was happy with the choice. Turns out, a USAToday readers poll voted Letchworth the number one state park in the US. It also had three waterfalls. A deep gorge went through the center of it. It was nick named the "Grand Canyon of the East." The deepest gorge east of the Mississippi. So, that would be good.

Next, waiting...

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