My Best Vacation
- I had just turned 23, which was my "golden birthday". That is, my birthdate (the 23rd of July), matched my birthday (23). My grandma had told me about the special day when I was a child. Then, for the next eighteen years, I looked forward to that special day, and I dreamed what a success I would beat the age of 23.
Well, the birthday came and went, and everything was wrong with my life. I had just graduated from college, and while I was happy to have a degree, my friends were leaving town at the end of the term. I had no job, no boyfriend, and my apartment lease was up soon. So, I decided to go on a road trip by myself. With an old Toyota and a VISA card, I drove from Minnesota to Montreal, Canada... a distance of over 2,000 miles. I went through Sault St. Marie, where the beautifully strange arching bridges curve dramatically over the industrial coal barges and the paper mills. Quite an experience, as was the route through rural central Canada. When I arrived in Montreal, I crashed on a friend's floor and attended a juggling convention that I knew was planned for that weekend. I ate bad Greek food, and saw great modern art (including a Nam June Paik sculpture). I walked all over the campus and the town. I attended a juggling show, and a few days later was included on Canadian TV music video show juggling flaming torches.
When the convention was over, I drove to "Pennsic war", a Rennaissaince Faire in Pennsylvania. Again, I knew the event was coming up, though I hadn't really planned on attending. I just assumed I could find a place to stay (which was true). On the way down to Pittsburgh, I went to a great amusement park near Toronto and saw Niagara Falls (see below). While wired on No-Doze, I caused a small car accident... nobody was hurt, no cars were damaged, and no charges were filed. I slept at rest areas or by the side of the road next to semi-trucks as traffic whooshed by.
Finally, broke, dirty, and tired (but oddly happy), I wandered into Gettysburg National Park. At a costume store, a local told me that a film crew was shooting somewhere nearby. So, I borrowed a technique that got my Grandfather onto the movie set of "How he West Was Won" in the fifties... I followed a catering truck and snuck behind them past the security guards. From there, I went to the casting office and got a "job" as a movie extra, or "Background Artist" as they are officially known. There was no pay, but I could camp for free and I was fed by "Cast Services". I dressed like a Confederate soldier, slept in a pup tent, and met Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Tom Berringer, and many odd civil war reinactors. You can see me in several scenes of the film "Gettysburg"... I die in at least four different scenes. They were short on actors during the shoot, so they just switched angles, made me switch costumes, and then I was blown up all over again.
- Niagara Falls is a lot more fun that I thought it would be. The drive from either side of the U.S. border is beautiful. It was breathtaking to watch the water flow in a wide, smooth river, and then suddenly go over the end of the world. You could jump in anywhere close to the edge, if you wanted to. Or, you could rent a yellow rain slicker for a low price and walk over slippery wooden bridges almost underneath the falls, where the rain pours down on you in buckets and you look up laughing. The "Maid of the Mists" is a slightly more expensive boat cruise around the falls, but I preferred to slide my way around the bridges on a private tour, falling down and giggling like a madman.
Toronto, Canada amusement park
- I'll have to look up the name of this amusement park. All I remember is that I hit a dog on the highway (or, at least I hope it was a dog... it ran away off the highway) which caused me to stop for the night in a $200 a night hotel. The next day, I went to the nearby amusement park, which stayed open for four extra hours. There were no crowds, and I rode the roller coaster again and again while watching the sun go down over the first steep drop.