What I did over my summer vacation

For the last two weeks I did, what was for me, two things nothing short of amazing for my “summer vacation”.

I took a 3,300 mile road trip and I didn’t use my computer.

The trip started out a simple “Let’s go visit my Mom and attend the 28th Annual Yorio Family Reunion” (more on Reunion to come).    That translates to driving from Houston, TX to Niagara Falls, NY.  What could be easier.  After all, it’s only a mere 1,500 miles to the Falls and I used to do trips like this all the time years ago in my car.  We could take the truck and do it up in complete comfort.  There would be lot’s of room in the truck for us and just about anything else we wanted to bring with us (or bring back with us), the truck has lots of gadgetry to play with while driving (GPS, SiriusXM, DVD player, 6 way adjustable seats), and it would be cheaper than flying with less hassle by having to deal with airports.  What a great plan.

However, as they say; “The best-laid plans of mice and men…” (by Robert Burns) or maybe paraphrasing the expression “do not leave well enough alone” would be more apropos.

Since we were driving to the Falls to see my Mom, we thought maybe we should make a side trip to St Louis, MO to see Karen’s parents.  A side trip trip is a bit of an understatement; it’s an 800 mile side trip.  But it WAS the right thing to do, so our simple roundtrip up to the Falls has now become a Houston to Niagara Falls to St Louis back to Houston trip of about 3,100 miles.  When you add in all the side trips while in the Falls and St Louis we put over 3,300 miles on the truck.

Now, remember back in at the beginning someplace I mentioned that one of our logic points was “cheaper than flying”.   Here’s how that piece of logic worked out.

Part of our plan was to take our time.  We left on a Wednesday for Niagara Falls and arrived at Ted’s Hot Dogs on the Boulevard around 1:30 PM on Friday and made it to my Mom’s about 2:30 PM.  we left the Falls and made it to St Louis Wednesday afternoon.   We left St Louis on Friday and arrived back in Houston mid Saturday afternoon.   That totals out to 4 nights in hotels just for the driving days.   That brings me back to “cheaper”.   Gasoline cost were about $700 and we averaged about $80 per night for hotel rooms; about $320 for four nights.  Not counting food, we spent over a $1,000 dollars just for the driving days.   We could have easily purchased airline tickets for two people for a whole lot less, if we had planned properly.   Of course, once the decision to drive was made, we were pretty much locked in.  Although changing to air travel was discussed, we decided this would be more fun… (smile)…

BTW, neither traveling person was seriously injured by the other person in the truck over the two week road trip… LOL

Another brilliant move I made was to purchase exceptionally good tickets to the Cardinals Pirates game Wednesday night.  Although it was fun to see a game in the new stadium (even though Pittsburgh did beat the Cardinals that game), it locked us into to having to be in St Louis for the game Wednesday night.  We could stay longer in the Falls and just move everything else out a day or two.  We had to be in St Louis by Wednesday afternoon.

Once we arrived (stopped driving), Niagara Falls and St Louis were great visits.

Niagara Falls: We made it to the Falls (walked around the Three Sister Islands), Lake Ontario, and Fort Niagara… plus one Harley dealer… had to buy a T-shirt.    And we did eat while we were there.. and ate, and ate, and ate… if you are from the Falls, or no someone from the Falls, you know what I mean.   We had lunch at Ted’s Hot Dogs, dinner at the Como (Gnocchi for me of course), wings at Duff’s, double steak and cheese from Viola’s, custard at Hibbard’s, pizza from Ventry’s (on Pierce Ave), fresh Italian bread, cream puffs, and pizza from Di Camillo’s, De Dee’s Dairy for one of the largest scopes of ice cream you may ever see, and a terrific breakfast with my Mom, Niece and her two girls at the Over Dose Cafe on Main St. (for you “older” Falls types, it’s located were Round the Clock used to be years ago).

We also attended the Yorio’s 28th Annual Family Reunion (my Mom’s side of the family.  Having moved away from the Falls more than 35 years ago, this is the first time we have ever made it back from the Reunion.  By the time we finally left the party, 84 people had attended.   Every family that does attend brings a dish.  Needless to say, we had some spectacular food that Sunday afternoon.   The craziest part though was seeing cousins for the first time in 40 years ( I last saw them when they were about 10 years old) and being introduced to their children and grandchildren.  Unfortunately, it was only Karen and I; we had no kids or grandkids to show off…. but Karen did bring lots of photos…  It was fun seeing everyone after such along time away.

Then to St Louis and more food… Lion’s Choice (best fast food roast beef sandwich in the world), Ted Drewes (maybe the best frozen custard in the world), Gus’ Pretzels (a unique soft pretzel unlike anything I have ever had before), and toasted ravioli at the Pasta Company (couldn’t make it out to Rich and Charlie’s this time).

A side note, although not a destination city and only a stop over on the drive home, in Texarkana, TX we had dinner at a local family owned restaurant recommended by the Hampton Inn called the Ironwood Grill.  The food was terrific.   I would highly recommend this place if you have some time (it’s very busy and takes a while to get seated) and don’t mid spending a few bucks (not the most expensive place we ate but far from the least expensive).   It’s well worth it.

Between the specialized local cuisine, there were lots of chain restaurants; a couple of IHOPs, a couple of Bob Evans, Texas Roadhouse, Steak ‘n Shake (great chocolate milkshakes), Arby’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a lot of McDonald’s.

Did you know that there’s an iPhone app for the Texas Roadhouse, Loin’s Choice, White Castles, McDonalds, Culvar’s, Steak ‘n Shake, and Wendy’s…. there are probably more but these are the ones I have on my iPhone.

We spent a lot of time visiting family and eating.   I now have 15 extra pounds I will have to lose at Snap fitness over the next few weeks. (I’m still trying to figure out how looking at a Twinkie puts on 5 pounds but riding a bike for an hour only burns off 100 calories… doesn’t seem fair… LOL)

We did not spend much time listening to music in the truck.  Most of our time was wasted playing on phones and messing with the GPS systems.  Even though the truck has a pretty good GPS, we brought my Garmin just for fun.  On more than one occasion they give conflicting directions, in one case completely different directions.

We also did do some side stops while driving to the Falls and and to St Louis.   On our way to Niagara Falls, we stopped in Bowling Green, KY to visit the National Corvette Museum (NCM).  They have made some huge (and very nice) improvements over the last few years.   We also attempted to stop at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame on our way to St Louis.   That was a disaster.   Between the construction in downtown Cleveland and the total lack of any kind of parking, we finally had to give up the idea of stopping.  We had only wanted to spend one hour and blew more than that trying to park.   We’ll have to do the Hall of Fame on our next road trip.

Finally, the roads.   There was construction everyplace.    What I liked best was where the Interstate was cut down to one like for 20 miles or so and at no time did we ever see any construction or construction working.    Speed limits are also exciting.  In Texas you can go from 75 mph down to 35 mph and back up to 75 all in the same single mile stretch.   We also had a section of HW 59 (going to be I-69 someday) in Texas with a speed limit of 75 mph and nothing more than a double yellow line separating on coming traffic.   And if the road construction didn’t get to you, the 18-wheelers did.  They were everywhere, usually driving side by side on a two lane interstate going 60 mph in a 70 mph….

BTW, in case you were wondering, I did get to meet an patrolman just East of Cleveland, OH in a place called Willoughby Hills (speed limit dropped form 70 to 60 just for the couple of miles of this city) for only $200… (smile)… Completely my fault, I wasn’t paying attention and he was using instant on radar.

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