We started the day at the visitors center at Hill Cumorah. I thought about it on this trip, and I decided the name "Hill Cumorah" is a misnomer that perpetuates a false understanding of Book of Mormon geography. I think we should call the place something like Restoration Hill. If anyone cares to hear more on the subject, let me know.
Anyway, we started at a visitors center. I asked myself, "Are visitors center missionaries such inefficient time-wasters because that's how heaven operates and I need to make my peace with it, or is God on my side and He's saying, 'I know! Not everyone needs to see the 40-minute video!'?" Our kids used to watch The Restoration several times each Sunday and can quote large portions of the movie verbatim. (When my wife was younger, she was the same way, but with Rocky IV.) I appreciate the film (back to talking about The Restoration now--I don't really appreciate Rocky IV that much), but I didn't drive to New York to see a film I've seen a billionty times at home.
The first sister missionary we met told us to get to town by driving up "the 21." I said, "Are you from California?" She said hesitantly, "Yes, how did you know?" I said, "You used the definite article to refer to a highway." We assured her that we were from California, too, so we weren't making fun of her. She said, "How else are you supposed to refer to it?" I said, "Twenty-one." She said, "That just sounds weird."
We walked to the top of the hill and saw the memorial, then we went to the Smith family farm and the Sacred Grove, then E.B. Grandin's print shop. Every place we went, the missionaries said to us, "You picked a great day to visit." (Seriously, every place we went. Like, we heard that at least ten times in the print shop alone.) Evidently there were 15,000 visitors two days before.
I have a lot of pictures to include and I don't want to set each one up with its own paragraph. If this blog post was an 80s movie, this would be the video montage portion. Cue the Loverboy song.
We left Palmyra and headed to Buffalo. We saw Millard Fillmore's grave (and the Millard Fillmore history lesson tied in well with the Mormon history lessons from earlier in the day). We've now seen the graves of George Washington, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan (19 of 39 dead presidents). On our drive to California, we'll see Dwight Eisenhower.
We skipped the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration National Historic Site and headed to Canada. The kids were very excited to visit a new country. They immediately decided that everything in Canada was better, and they all want to move to Canada when they grow up. Which should make my job easier in two years when I try to convince them to move to Australia instead of returning to America.
Since our four children are minors, we were unsure how to handle the fact that they are required to sign their passports. The U.S. State Department website says minors who can sign their own passports should, and for minors who can't, a parent should sign and write in his relationship. So we had Crazy Jane sign her own, but for the other kids we had my wife sign and write "mother." Evidently that crap don't fly in Canadia. The Canadian border guard said he could "send us to immigration" (whatever that means) for not complying with Canadian law with our American passports. It scared the crap out of us that China might be as big of jerks about this as he was. We checked the State Department website again to make sure (actually, my wife checked because she was less confident I had correctly interpreted it).
We went to Niagara Falls. Everyone loved it. So much that we stayed forever. Well, almost forever. When we first got within sight of the falls, Jerome had to pee, so we had to rush around looking for a bathroom, ignoring the giant waterfalls. In the middle of this, Screamapilar noticed the waterfalls and flipped his lid. He was, like, "Why the crap aren't we looking at THAT?!" After the bathroom emergency, we did spend time looking at it.
I pointed out American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Crazy Jane asked, "Where is Niagara Falls?" She was very disappointed to learn that that's just the collective name. In fact, she commandeered my wife's phone to tweet her displeasure. "I went to Niagara Falls yesterday. The only disappointment was that my whole life I had been led to believe there where [sic] three falls." (She wants her own Twitter account and so periodically tweets on my wife's phone. I guess she's trying to show us what we're missing by not following the tweets of an almost-twelve-year-old.)
A deaf guy tapped me on the shoulder and tried to sell me a card with sign language stuff on it, but I didn't have cash. Remember that deaf guy.
Articulate Joe is big into road signs, so he absolutely loved this sign.
He thought it was awesome that the fence in the sign was an actual depiction of the fence bearing the sign. It was like they were saying, "Hey idiot, we're speaking in generalities here. It's not like we don't want you to climb all fences, or some hypothetical fence. You shouldn't climb this exact fence, right here." All said with only the word "danger."
To avoid paying an international ATM fee on every transaction, we were going to get cash out of an ATM, pay one fee, not have to deal with exchangers, and be done with it. When we got to the ATM, I didn't have my wallet. I thought, "Crap, I've been robbed in a foreign country." This didn't look good for me. Here I was, about to move overseas for two years, and my first trip "overseas" in over a decade begins with being robbed. I'm responsible for my wife and children, and allowing yourself to get robbed is a crap way of meeting that responsibility. I thought back to the deaf guy and I thought, "I bet he robbed me while tapping me on the shoulder. Or else he had a compatriot." Strangely, it made me respect him more. Selling sign language cards is resourceful, but using sign language cards as a front for robbery seems infinitely more resourceful. My wife used her debit card to get our cash (she hadn't managed to be robbed within her first hour because she's an AMATEUR!) and we went back to the car to see if my wallet was there.
It was not in the first three places I looked. Which was enough to make me think, "Holy crap, it really was the deaf guy." And then it was in the fourth place I looked. So that little bit of excitement ended.
If you think the speed limits in New York are low, you should go to Canada. They trick you by using made-up measurement units of smaller size, so you go, "Wow, I'm going 100!" And then you think, "So why is that senior citizen riding a Rascal keeping pace with me?"
Everyone loved Niagara Falls so much that we were even later, then the crazy-ass speed limit slowed us down even more. The sun was setting as we reached Hamilton, still hours from our campground.
We saw Lake Ontario, our second great lake of the trip. And across the lake, very tiny, we could see the skyline of Toronto. But we kept losing time, getting closer to setting up our tent in the dark. And then I remembered the rule I created for myself when I was in that landlord-tenant dispute in 2011: if something is causing stress in your life, stop doing it. So since our commitment to camping that night was causing stress, I declared we'd be staying at a hotel, instead. My wife was disappointment because our campground reservation for that night was the most expensive of our three, and she wanted to see if it was expensive because it was just an awesome campground. Instead, we got a room at a Courtyard Inn in London, Ontario. Which was totally not where I told the Canadian border guard I'd be going. I felt like an outlaw. And then I went to sleep.