Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Trip that Almost Didn't Happen, Day 3

After our late night on Friday I was hoping for a decent sleep-in on Saturday.  The boys did pretty good, aside from Carter waking up wet at 4am and needing a full change.  We moseyed out of the hotel a little after 10:30, which was not as early as I probably would have planned, but given the circumstances, it was fine.  It's just always a challenge gathering up clothes and toys and whatever has been left in the bathroom, then getting it all down to the car.  As I mentioned in my last post, this was our "wild card" day.  We didn't have any specific plans aside from going down to the water, hopefully checking out the beach for a bit, and then stopping at Mercyhurst on our way out of town.  Whether we got back at dinner time or bed time was totally up in the air and simply depended on how fun things were! 

Our first stop was the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, right across the street from Waldameer Park.  Craig kept bemoaning the fact that this was on the site of his old drive-in movie theater, but we stopped in anyway since it was free.  I think it would be better for older kids, and if we wanted to spend more time here there were a couple movie presentations and things like that.  We could have learned all about the history and environmental development of Presque Isle.  The building itself was very nice, and included a 75-foot tall observation tower.

Inside they had these three towers full of wooden motion toys that you could start up using a wheel.  They were all connected so they'd all start moving at once.  It's hard to see with the reflections on the glass, though.

Here's a close-up of one.  It's got a UFO and a sign that says, "Welcome to Presque Isle...it's out of this world!"  The UFO spun, and the human (alien?) figure there moved, as well.

There was a lot of ecosystem-type educational stations--here's Jacob playing with one where a fan could blow sand.  I think it was showing how the coastline formed.

The boys played a few minutes in a room with puzzles, puppets, and drawers full of discovery items, and then we ushered them upstairs.  Here's the top of the towers--who knew they were lighthouses?

We took the elevator up to the top of the observation tower.  Here's a view down to the front plaza...

...and over to Waldameer.  You can see the top of the big roller coaster (with the colored flags) to the right.  You can see the lake in the background.

Here's a shot of the smaller coaster that Jacob rode with me and didn't like.  It was so covered in trees that it was hard to get a good picture of it from inside the park.

Jacob wanted to take the stairs in the tower, so I made the deal we could walk back down!  He and I took all 131 stairs back to the ground and met Craig and Carter there!

Then it was time to go off to the beach!  As we got on the road, we passed under the tunnel for the big roller coaster that goes over the road.  Riders pass through it twice.  It was definitely an interesting addition to the ride!

We drove around Presque Isle State Park for a while.  It is a very long peninsula and the roads are generally one way, but since we were just exploring, we drove to the end rather than utilizing any of the u-turns along the way.  The outbound side mostly had grass from the road to the water, which was maybe only 10-20 feet at any given spot.  There was a great walking/riding trail and we saw a ton of people using it.  The boys were eager to get to the beach, though, so we continued on and picked a beach where we saw a concession stand and decent parking.  We hauled our stuff down and picked a spot.  We weren't planning on staying for long, particularly since it was nearly lunch time and concession options aren't always the best for Jacob.  Jacob had refused to put on his swim trunks at the hotel (and honestly, none of us bothered to do it either at that point), but of course both kids got wet while trying to bring up water to our spot to make castle-ready sand.  Luckily they dried just fine, and we had a very nice time.  It wasn't too hot and there was spotty sun, so it was a pleasant day for it.  The beach was mostly sandy with a lot of small, smooth rocks.  The water was seaweedy but for the most part clear.  The boys had fun building for a bit, and I think next time we can make plans to spend more time here.

One of Jacob's creations

Taking a walk to the water to fill up the pail
After our super cheap McDonald's lunch using our coupons from the baseball game, we took a quick trip to Mercyhurst University, Craig's undergrad school.  We figured the campus would be quiet, and aside from what appeared to be a wedding in the chapel, it was.  As we drove through, Craig marveled at all of the changes since his time there.
Entry gate
Craig wanted to see if he and Jacob could get on the lacrosse field for a couple minutes, and sure enough, the gate was open.
The entrance to the football/lacrosse field
They only did a few shots, but it was fun to see them out there!

We took a little stroll in our quest for the (closed) bookstore, and came across two lovely park areas.  This one was actually a class gift from Craig's brother's class.  That sculpture is a fountain with water cascading down the sides.

Craig thought that this park's landscaping/design might have been his class gift, but he wasn't sure.

After a quick look at the gym (mostly to find the bathroom!), we piled back in the car and started the drive home.  We planned to stop in Buffalo for dinner, but the ridiculous antics in the back seat (seriously, they wouldn't leave each other (or us) alone) prompted us to just push through and get home.  They both ended up falling asleep for the last hour or so.  It was an unfortunate ending to a fun trip.  It was not without its challenges and super annoying moments, but it accomplished what I wanted it to--we saw some new things and made some new memories.  I'm glad we did it, but I definitely need to remind myself that these types of trips come with major battles and frustrations.  I guess it's nice to fight those battles in a different setting, but it's never going to be the blissful trip we'd all like it to be.  But things should get a little easier as Carter gets older and can do more, and hopefully the boys will get along better (in general) as time goes on.  Still, I don't anticipate extending our travel time limit any too soon!  Now we're back to the grind and facing down the end of summer...I can't believe how fast it's gone!  Let's hope we can finish it strong!

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