Sunday, July 31, 2016

Upstate New York

Today we woke up to the sound of thunder and pouring rain.  Immediately I was grateful that we weren’t about to stand in a line for an hour and a half in this weather. And after searching for nearby chapels we realized that there were no meetings that started after 9:30 am, so that’s another good reason that we did the Cave of Winds last night.

It was still raining hard as we entered church and again as we left an hour and a half later. We were hoping it would ease up, as we were going to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls after church. It didn't. But the view from the Canadian side was breathtaking, just like I remember it from when I was there as a kid. 

After we’d gotten our fill of the giant waterfall we headed toward Palmyra, NY. The rain had been steadily pouring all morning with no signs of a break. Brian and I looked at each other nervously knowing that it would be difficult to see the church history sites in Palmyra. The kids were not going to be happy about sloshing around the sacred grove in the rain. But as we pulled into Palmyra, the sun began to break through the dark clouds and the rain stopped. We visited the Smith family farm, sacred grove, and Hill Camorra at length with only a threat of storm clouds around us.

By now it had already been a long day, but the elder who gave us a tour had told us about the printing press where the original copies of the Book of Mormon had been printed, and it wasn’t too far out of our way. So we decided to add that to our itinerary. I’m glad we stopped there, not only because learning about 19th century book making was fascinating, but also because they had several original pieces of well known art on display. Again, the missionary there told us about another church history site in the area; the Peter Whitmer farm. This is where 30% of the translation took place and the church was officially organized.

We probably should have done a little research on all these places before we started this trip, but the whole thing was so last minute that we really didn't have time. We were literally booking hotel rooms a day or two before we stayed in them.Anyway, the Whitmer farm sounded cool so somehow we scrounged up the energy to visit one last site. It was probably my favorite stop of the day, making the effort worth it. I especially enjoyed a 4 minute video at the end that depicted the growth of the church from its humble beginnings; six members in a farmhouse, to where it is today; filling the earth. We were the last people to leave the visitor’s center and it was long after dark. Chase and Clara were dragging but they honestly had been such troopers all day!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Niagara Falls!

Today was like a roller coaster of emotions and events! We began in Kirtland OH, visiting the church history sites there. It’s much smaller than Nauvoo, but full of stories and miracles. We were in a small group and the sister missionary who guided us took plenty of time to point out all the interesting details. We also walked up the hill and visited the Kirtland temple, now owned by the Community of Christ church. They give tours and have a great visitor’s center too. I enjoyed being inside a historical building that I’ve seen so often seen in pictures.

We left Kirtland around three and stopped in town for lunch before getting on the road again. Once I knew we were going to be driving for a few hours I called my sister Amber, to check in with her about meeting up in Philadelphia next week. She also had some terrible news about Poopsie Woopsie to share with me. He’s been staying there with the Berry’s and Arnell’s while we’ve been away. I felt bad that she was the one who drew the short straw and had to tell me that my little Bunny Foo-Foo died a couple days ago. I couldn’t believe it, and it still doesn’t seem like it can really be true. Five months ago, a random stranger standing in line in front of me at Pets Mart gave Bunny Love to me the day before Easter. Admittedly I didn’t want another pet, and tried to give him away. But once we finally decided to keep him he quickly became my favorite thing ever. When I heard the news about his tragic death I began sobbing in the car (I hardly ever get emotional, but I’ve done the ugly cry twice this week and I don’t want to do it again for at least two years), so we had to pull over and tell the kids what happened. The whole thing was just miserable, and I was glad when we finally got ourselves together and kept driving.

We were all still somber when we pulled into Niagara Falls two hours later. We’d planned on doing the Cave of Winds, but there was a crazy loooong line. It appeared that several tour busses had arrived just before we did. The forecast said the weather tomorrow morning would be stormy though, so we figured we’d better wait in the line tonight and crossed our fingers it would be worth it. None of us knew what to expect, we just heard it was awesome. And it was! The long wait was totally worth it. The line had several places to sit, and exceptional people watching. All walks of life, ages, clothing styles, and at least a dozen languages seemed to be represented zigzagging through the queue, yet we were all united by our bright blue and white foam sandals stamped with the Cave of Winds logo. Plus we waited alongside the edge of the falls and had a beautiful view of the Canadian skyline and a picture perfect sunset.

When it was finally our turn for the main attraction we were all excited. Full disclosure; there’s no actual cave. Why they named it the Cave if Winds, I dunno. An elevator descends seventeen stories into a long tunnel. It spits you out at the base of the falls where there are ramps, walkways, platforms, and staircases that curve around next to and under the falls. It was amazing! We wandered around down there as long as we wanted, getting completely soaked (despite the disposable poncho they provide). Clara was a little frightened by the thunderous noise, thick mist and gallons of water spewing from the falls in every direction. She tried to steer clear of the torrential downpour as much as possible, but eventually she too wanted the ‘full experience’ and bravely planted herself under the falls. The whole experience was so, so fun.

After we made it back up to the top and recycled our ponchos we walked out onto ‘Luna Island’ for a view from the top. By now it was dark, and we watched them illuminate the falls with colorful lights. Eventually we checked into our hotel, physically and emotionally spent. Thankfully it was close by!