How would you choose to spend your rest day in Niagara Falls?
I would spend mine getting out of Niagara!
First I go for a soothing Aveda facial.
I ask Mandy, my Canadian facialist, what she thinks about America.
She is cautious - doesn't want to offend the customer - she says our music is better known...
...says she doesn't know much about America, but she's heard about our health care and she's glad she's Canadian.
Then I take a taxi out to Ball's Falls - a nature center.
I ask my taxi driver about today's holiday.
It's a civic holiday, he explains. No special event.
On top of the usual times like Christmas, they have some long weekend holidays.
More than one? I ask. How many civic holidays are there?
Twelve, he says.
Ball's Falls is a quiet place - just what I want.
Hundreds of acres of woods, falls and picnic areas.
They have an education center which is LEED certified.
The water is recycled.
The building materials, locally made.
I talk with their activities director, Angela.
She is just back from her one year maternity leave.
This place gives you one year off with your baby? I ask, incredulous.
Oh, everyone in Canada gets a year. she says.
Is this a civilized country or what?
Balls Falls is along the Niagara Escarpment - a cliff between two land masses that extends from New York up into Canada then down west of Lake Michigan towards Chicago.
Does this mean it could earthquake?
This is a lovely place for families.
The kids see all kinds of wildlife here.
I just love the peace and quiet...
So glad to be out of Niagara Falls.
I see my first New England aster.
I love the brilliant purple flowers.
And so do the butterflies.
I go looking for the falls.
The path takes me through their historic village founded by the Ball brothers.
I wonder if they're related to the Ball brothers that founded Ball Glass in Muncie Indiana.
Their family has been a huge supporter of my charity, the Red-tail Conservancy.
Huge old barn.
The beams still show the rough edges where an axe blow chopped a solid tree trunk into straight angles.
Maybe I am sensitive right now to our muscles and how they react to stress, but I can almost feel the steely, sweaty arms of the pioneers axing those logs.
Wooden planks broad because the trees were so large before they were cut down - by hand.
Very different from today's tree plantations - we're into fast growth and cut them as soon as usable.
I find a back stairwell into the basement.
It's cool and dark.
I listen to the soft sounds of footsteps over head.
People step slowly here - looking around in awe, respectful.
I think about the contrast with the noise and lights of Niagara Falls.
I'm glad I'm here.
Back on my mission - to find the falls.
I'm not the only one.
I follow a family with two young boys.
Are they twins? I ask.
No, they are cousins visiting the falls for a family picnic.
And yes! they lead me to the falls!
Water crashing 200 feet to the gorge below.
Birds flit in and out of the whooshing waters catching bugs - or just playing.
And look - the German lady with the big camera is on the other side right next to the falls!
I need to get there!
So I circle around up the river...
...careful not to disturb the old man enjoying his moment in the sun.
I find the secret entrance...
Down a narrow path - careful for the poison ivy!
And I find the walkout to the very edge of the falls.
I sit on the flat stone - only a few feet from the plummet.
Alone now... the families and old man have gone home to dinner.
And I have time to reflect...
...on what my spirit needs on a day of rest.
I think about Al's impression of Niagara Falls.
How she stands at the edge and sees the water hesitate - pausing - scared before cascading into the crashing waves below.
I need to go.
Back up the public path to the center I hear a last Dad telling his son - "We're going on a nature adventure.
One last pause of my own...
....before I re-enter the crashing noise of civilization.
Dinner with Al...
We share our days.
Her day - a young one - exciting, energetic - packed with the sights and sounds of a new place.
My day - slow, quiet, reflective.
Do we rest like we bike?
We watch reflections on our walk to the hotel.
Tomorrow we begin the last leg of our adventure across the country...