Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

On Vacation

Last summer we vacationed at a cottage on the shores of Lake Erie, a couple of hours away from home. It was a fun place to be, but by the end of our week there the water had turned bad with huge piles of seaweed and algae plugging the beach. This is apparently quite common along that stretch of shore and we decided we would not return in case we found the beach unusable for our whole vacation (as did our neighbors who spent time there a couple of weeks after we did). As we examined our options this year we thought it might be fun to stay at home and to focus on day trips. The advantage is that we will not be paying for accommodations, saving us some money and free up funds to do other fun things; the disadvantage is that we will not be paying for accommodations; instead we will be staying at home which is where “real life” happens. This may mean that the vacation is not as relaxing as we had hoped. Time will tell. I’m taking the first week of vacation this week and will take another one later this month.

I spent the first two days of vacation mostly staring at the walls. Or something. I’m not quite sure what happened, but the days just disappeared.

Yesterday we spent a great day on the first of our day trips. We began by heading for the Buffalo Zoo. While Toronto has a world-class zoo, it is too large to traverse with a two-year old and tends to be very busy. Buffalo is smaller (it takes about two hours to see all of the animals) and is not nearly so crowded. Though the Toronto Zoo is definitely far superior in terms of the quality of its exhibits and the diversity of the animals, we found the Buffalo experience quite enjoyable. It was an overcast day and there were occasional showers. These factors combined to keep a lot of people away and at times it seemed like we had the place almost to ourselves. It was great.

When we ran out of things to see at the zoo we drove around Buffalo until we found a place to eat (McDonalds, as it happened—the kids chose) and then we headed to nearby Niagara Falls. We crossed the bridge to the Canadian side of the Falls (if you’ve ever been you’ll know that the Canadian side offers far superior views) and found a place to park for a “mere” $20. That’s right—$20 to park to see the Falls. Most of Niagara Falls is a tourist trap, where the prices are grossly inflated ($6.75 for a small ice cream?!). The place is always crawling with tourists and it was interesting to note that just about every tribe and tongue and nation must be represented at any given moment. We chose not to pay for any of the over-priced and over-crowded rides, movies and other attractions and just enjoyed staring at the raw power of the Falls themselves. And, of course, the kids enjoyed getting wet in the ever-present mist stirred up by the churning water hundreds of feet below. We returned home tired but thankful for a good day.

That was our first day trip and we expect to have quite a few others. We are going to spend at least one day at Marineland (a theme park that also has whales and dolphins, etc) and no doubt a day or two at a beach. Beyond that we are not quite sure where else we will go and what else the summer will hold.

I do know that today I’ll be spending a lot of time up to my elbows in an aquarium. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on the site, but I have a 60-gallon show tank that Aileen graciously allows me to keep in the living room. A couple of years ago I happened upon a local store that sells aquariums and tropical fish and decided I wanted to give the hobby a shot. When I found the tank on sale, I snatched it up and decided to go freshwater rather than saltwater, primarily because I was really taken with the look of a planted aquarium.

In the last year I’ve found that I truly do enjoy working with the aquarium and have been trying my hand at keeping different fish and growing different plants. At this point I’m ready to convert my rather haphazard efforts into something with more continuity and more order. So over the next couple of days I am going to replace the substrate (bound to be a rather awful job) and will replant each of the plants. It’s going to be long and messy but will hopefully reap dividends (and I’m not sure yet how I’ll dispose of almost 100 pounds of gravel that I no longer have a use for). I am planning on trying to do something in the Iwagumi or Nature Aquarium styles that will no doubt evolve as time goes on.

Once the substrate is replaced, I will be adding a CO2 injection system (assuming it shows up in the mail soon as it is supposed to) which should work wonders with the plants. And then it becomes a process of sitting back and waiting for the plants to grow. I can’t wait!

I’ve also promised Nick that I’ll play a game of Risk with him today, so I’d better get going. I’ve got lots to do…