2003 East Coast Road Trip, Part 1- From Illinois to New York

Disclaimer: Most of what is written below is a word-for-word account from my travel journal written in 2003. I did have to edit some of the content to make my account a little less dull. I also added a few hindsight comments in italics here and there. Some of the pictures included are my own and not the greatest quality (disposable camera, you know 😉 ).

August 4, 2003

…And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or at least I have)-my vacation! I hope to document these two weeks well; sort of like Mark Twain’s books on his travels. I regret not journaling my last solo road trip which scaled the heights of epic. The country is still recovering from its effects.

Well, I better get going. It’s after 8:00 AM, and miles to go before I sleep.


It’s now about 6:45 PM. I’m dining in Mentor, OH, birthplace of James Garfield (20th President of the United States for those who are historically challenged). Unfortunately, time constraints won’t allow me to do any exploring of the town. However, I will take the time to recap my day to this point.


I left Wheaton, IL around 9:45 AM…Much of the trip was uneventful, except for some really big rain storms that slowed traffic to a crawl, and for a bottle of Pepsi that exploded in my lap, christening my shorts while I was gunning it down the expressway. Fun stuff…

Eating up the miles through northern Indiana and Ohio on the 80/90, there was very little in the way of scenic wonders until I got to Cleveland around dinnertime.


I drove into the downtown area… and I have to admit, I was a little impressed by what I saw of it, although my look was brief. It was a mix of the old and new, the city clean and well-kept—quite beautiful in its way. However, Cleveland does pale in comparison to Chicago (okay, so I’m biased). I was also amazed at how quiet it was even though I had come in during “rush hour.” I wish I had the time to explore the city further, but it was starting to get late so I pressed on.

So, here I am in Mentor, along the shores of Lake Erie. I still have quite a few hours of driving left before I get to my hotel in Niagara, NY, so I better quit writing and finish my dinner…


It’s nearly midnight, and I finally made it to the Niagara Falls Days Inn. Things went smoothly until I got into the city. First, I went the wrong way on Buffalo Ave…Then I got to the Days Inn, only to find out that there were actually two Days Inns in town and I went to the wrong one. After an eternity, I located the right one, but now there’s no air conditioning, so I’m sweltering in here! Man, what a day! I think sleep is definitely in order.


August 5, 2003

…At this moment, I’m sitting on a bench overlooking Niagara Falls, or at least part of it. You know, I couldn’t count the number of times that I’ve seen pictures of this place in books and on TV, but nothing compares to actually being there and seeing it with my own eyes…

Niagara Falls 8

I crossed over the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island, located between the American and Horseshoe Falls. The island derived its name from a farmer who once lived here. After a hard winter, all of his livestock died with the exception of one goat. Impressed by the goat’s heartiness and pioneering spirit, the farmer named the island after him; a truly touching story. Anyway…from the island, one can look directly over Horseshoe Falls. This is probably the more famous of scenes, and for good reason. The view is tremendous and awesome; the roar and foam of the water and the rocks below, shrouded in a fine mist. Actually, everything around the falls has a hazy, dreamy quality to it, as the mist and spray rises ever upward and outward…

Niagara Falls 12

“…Therefore I will remember you, from the land of the Jordan,

 the heights of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.

All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,

At night His song is with me,

A prayer to the God of my life.”

Psalm 42


It is sometime later, and a new scenic beauty takes the forefront. I am now in the heart of the Adirondacks. I got off the highway several hours back and decided that it would save time and toll money to take the scenic route.

Adirondacks 3

…As I am writing this, the wooded mountains loom around me. Everything is so green! It’s also quite peaceful. Not many cars are coming through, so the drive is quite smooth, except for the occasional small town that I have to slow down for. Well, I ought to get going again. I’ve still got a ways to go before my next stop…


…And here I am in Plattsburgh, NY, nestled along Lake Champlain. I rolled in a little after 9:00 PM. The remainder of the trip was good except for the last half hour when it got dark and the rain started falling pretty steadily. But I made it…

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