I know from childhood pictures that my parents had taken us here as little kids, but I had no personal memories of it, but now I do.
I’ve been spending most of August in Stratford, Ontario and I’ve purchased tickets to all 13 productions they are putting on this summer as part of their yearly Shakespeare festival. The one day Trip I really wanted to make was to Niagara Falls. Like I said, I know from old family photos that I’ve been here before, but I think was maybe four or five years old, and have no memory of it. As such, it was a bucket list event.
From Stratford to Niagara is a two hour drive each way, and I was a bit late getting started as I got reminded by an email from the family lawyer that I needed to file some paperwork ASAP, which meant I was going to have to spent the night in Toronto and get to the relevant consulate for a 12:10 appointment. (I’ve actually had to do this for months, but the consulate I needed did not have offices in any of the other places I’ve visited over the last two months, but there was one in Toronto — which is only a one hour drive from Niagra). This of course meant I had to find lodgings for the night there, so between that and printing out the documents he wanted filed, I didn’t get out of the house till noonish.
The first impression of Niagara was that it is NOT an affluent town, at least not in the sections I first drove through. Then as you approach the falls you enter an almost Los Vegas type/Orlando type atmosphere with Casinos and tourist trap attractions from hell (Ripley’s believe it or not, dinner theater, various gardens, a historic battlefield, etc) — but clearly there’s more than enough available in the area to fill three full days of intensive vacation time, and probably enough to justify I devote two full weeks to the place at some future date.
Driving along the parkway the falls were generating SO much spray that I had to keep the windshield wipers going, and then after parking whether or not you were being drenched with the water while walking on the sidewalk depended entirely on which way the wind was blowing (see picture below).
However, if the spray was coming right at you, and you were willing to get right up into it, you got to see some amazing distortions of image, rainbows… (Mind you… great lakes water is so dirty that I usually avoid swimming in it, so one really has to question ones willingness to stand in that spray without goggles.)
Parking at the falls is DisneyWorld expensive, $22, so if you’re going to drive there do so with the intention of staying a while. On the converse side, they don’t charge you anything to walk along the promenades and enjoy the view.
There’s a visitor’s center where you can shop, eat, and buy tickets to various excursions including a boat the goes to the base of the falls, a trek that goes behind and along side the falls (I seriously thought about that one, but then decided against — maybe next time), and various other things… none of which are cheap. I ate at the restaurant and was seriously unimpressed, but it did have a good view:
As I was walking along the promenade I noticed across the street was a small park area devoted to Nikola Tesla, the favorite scientist of all of my engineering friends. You’d think they’d like Edison but you’d be wrong… although bringing up the topic can result in hours of debate:
Edison never really invented much of anything, he hired other people to build things for him. What Edison was, was a CEO type, rather than an engineer. Granted he was brilliant salesman who had vision and understood what the customer really wanted with regards to technology, but he lacked the skills to build much of any of his ideas (think of him as being Steve Jobs); Tesla, on the other hand, was more like Steven Wozniak (affectionately known to geeks as “The Woz”) the guy who actually built and designed the first Apple computers (which Steve Jobs had the good sense to recognize for what it was). Tesla invented a lot of the things that made our world what it is today.
One of my very good friends used to be the head patent attorney at Apple Computer in San Francisco, and to quote her, part of why she made the big bucks was she had a knack for getting engineers to actually do the paperwork necessary to file patents. Engineers like building things, they HATE doing the paperwork necessary to protect their inventions. Edison would come up with ideas and then hire a bunch of engineers to to invent things for him, and then would run to the patent office and file all of their work under his own name…
Tesla was just such a brilliant engineer who had started out working for Edison, and was known for inventing amazing things but never bothering to do the paperwork necessary to protect them, or at least not at first. In fact, as the story goes, early in Tesla’s career Edison offered him a huge sum, about a million dollars in today’s money, to solve the engineering problems Edison was having with the electrical generators (DC or direct current) he needed to build and install before anyone would buy a light bulb. Once Tesla had the thing working, he came to Edison to get paid, and Edison basically laughed in his face claiming the offer wasn’t a serious one (Edison knew a verbal contract is only worth the paper it’s written on) so that it was now Tesla’s word as the young engineer against that of his boss, the famous Edison. (But like I said, it’s one of the stories, hard to know if it was truth.)
So, what did Tesla Do? Firstly, he got into the habit of filing his patents, but equally important, he invented the far more efficient electrical AC system (Alternating Current), which is what the electrical station at Niagara generates. The reason in the US we hear more about Edison than Tesla is Edison played a lot of dirty pool games to discredit Tesla and convince the US government to always listen to Edison rather than to Tesla… hence why the rest of the world is mostly using AC current while the US uses the far less efficient DC variety.
In fact, Marconi, who is credited with having invented radio (and winning the Nobel prize for it) … created that system by utilizing 19 different technologies that Tesla had been the one to invent.
At some point I’d like to go back, spend the night and enjoy it a bit more leisurely; drive across Honeymoon Bridge.