Misc Liisa

Random musings

Archive for Cape Breton

Day 16- Separate Ways Down The Other Side

The plan for today is that Tom will get ready and help me pack in and hitch the trailer and then he will leave camp on his bike and I will drive the car and trailer with the dog.We figured that by this point I’d be sufficiently well versed in maneuvering the camper by myself (I’ve driven the whole way so far and have now gotten the trailer parked into 8 different sites).

We got everything packed in and ready to go pretty easily. We took the usual picture of Tom before his ride that we always take- the one I’ll show the police if he goes missing 😦  He was planning to take a side trip off the Cabot Trail and we figured we might meet up in Ingonish or likely a bit farther south from there. We planned to meet in the parking lot of a glass studio, one where from the satellite image it looked like we’d have space to park the trailer and get it turned around. We checked our phones to make sure we could make calls to each other in case he needed me.

He took off first and I followed a few minutes later and then passed him on the road. I stopped at a shop and we crossed paths again so that I could see that he nixed the side trip. I enjoyed stopping at various look-offs along the way and taking pics, but I had to choose carefully to make sure I could get the car and trailer in and out without needing any spotting. I got myself into a jam at one place I turned into when I realized that there wasn’t enough space to make the turning circle. But I did find space to park and it was a beautiful spot. So I hung around and waited it out until the car that I needed to be out of the way to make the circle left.

I found few shops along the way that had the parking situation I needed, so I mostly stopped at look-offs and beaches. They were gorgeous. This whole side of the island is full of large pink granite rocks tumbling down to the ocean and the water was a glorious blue color. Tenzin was happy to nap in the passenger’s seat. I missed the turn off to a beach and pulled into the next drive and got the trailer a little stuck. I was patiently working to get it turned around when a guy ran over and asked about the trailer and offered to spot me. He was really helpful and I was able to get turned around in about 4 moves rather than 14. The beach at North Ingonish that I went back to was well worth it.

People chatter a lot about the teardrop trailer. “Oh, look at it!” “It’s so cute” “It’s so tiny” They chatter even more when it appears that a woman is alone with it. But they come over to talk a little less, which was nice. I just got to overhear their conversations. And I was pretty proud that I was doing well driving alone. I had been worrying about how to get through this section of the journey for weeks and it was going just fine.

After pouring the sand from my shoes into a bag to take home, I headed off again to be sure I’d be in place at the glass shop on time. There was an outrageous amount of construction going on and the roads were terrible around it. It made me worry for Tom. These Canadians are very serious about road work and we had run into quite a lot of roads that were in the middle of construction along the way. From there I headed up a mountain and then down tiny curving roads that were extremely steep. I had been passing and catching up to 3 cyclists most of the morning but hadn’t seen Tom since he didn’t make that turn. I was very worried about him riding down these hills. There was a ditch that was at least 6 feet deep and walled with the granite of the mountain on one side and the cliff off the mountain with a guardrail on the other. There wasn’t much room for error. I was thankful for the Continuous Variable Transmission of the Subaru and the paddle shifters that let me manually shift into lower gears down hills.

Once past the mountain, I spotted a gift shop that had adequate parking and I pulled in and parked and switched out of my sunglasses. Suddenly, Tom came riding over. Apparently he was sitting on a guardrail just past the shop and he thought I had spotted him and was stopping to pick him up. Happy coincidence. He decided he’d had enough cycling after the scariness of that mountain and while I checked out the shop he got cleaned up and changed (the teardrop is a decent portable changing room).

We drove on to where we were supposed to meet and found that the glass shop was beautiful, but it felt too risky to buy anything that we’d have to transport so much further. There was a cute restaurant across the way and we stopped for lunch and then at another pewter shop, where I finally found a couple of charms (the purpose of my gift shop searching is to find interesting charms for a bracelet).

We continued to drive through more construction the rest of the day and eventually got to Hyclass Campground. We felt like we were getting this camp setup thing down to a science and were up and ready to go in no time. The site was nice and wooded, but Tom was really annoyed that 1- they charged us $10 for a bucket of wood that was obviously more than anyone could use in one night and 2- their showers were $1 for 3 minutes, which forces you to spend $2 to get 6 minutes. Plus it was one of the more expensive camps we’d been at in Canada.

We checked out the beach there (small, rocky, a group that seemed to have rented the whole thing).   There was a kid at the beach that wanted me to go out in the water to get back his ball. Clearly he had been told not to go in the water and they had convinced him that the little snails on the rocks were leaches that would bite. I had on leather shoes, but did manage to finally get the ball close enough to reach out and grab so I could help him.

It wasn’t until later that we realized the wood was wet and it took forever and a lot of firestarters to get a decent fire going. Tom was still stuck on the fact that most campgrounds as part of their camp cleanup recycle whatever wood you haven’t used and put it back into their next pile to sell to the next camper. But this campground was so clearly ripping you off with this (a bundle of wood is usually $4-$5) and the wood was wet. He was determined to burn as much as possible and we sat by the fire for quite a while once I got it going.

We decided to cook in the fire and baked potatoes wrapped in foil. Add that to some spiced black beans and cheddar and you have a camp meal that Tom calls “Mash” and declared to be “very good.” Another successful simple camp meal.

We tried to reserve a spot on the ferry to PEI for the next day, but their website sucks. It has options for specifying that you have a vehicle that is 21-30 ft. long, but then it can’t book a reservation. It doesn’t error and there is no info saying you can’t make a reservation, it just gets stuck. This made Tom nervous that we’d have to leave really early to get there and make sure to get on the boat. I wasn’t so nervous because there were lots of ferries each day and we had no time obligation on the other side.

Once we got settled into the Shadow that night, we watched the last episode of Better Off Ted that we had on the iPad. This was going to be a problem. We’d gotten used to the 22 minutes of TV before bed, but the other shows I had on the pad weren’t things Tom liked. But since we had so little connectivity, there wasn’t a chance to load anything new to watch. Besides, Tom is very picky about TV shows. They have to have no laugh track, something funny, but not too weird, preferably some science fiction element and no law, medicine, or police action. Oh, and he hates most sitcoms. So these days when I can find something he will tolerate, we like to buy a whole season or two and watch an episode a night until it runs out. I wasn’t sure how we would get through the next several days and get home.

Pics from today are here- http://bit.ly/aiU2Ym

Day 15- This Isn’t Kansas Anymore

I got up early in Halifax, intent on getting a little more laundry done since the hotel had a guest laundry room. I wanted to wash the towels and the dog’s blankets. I felt bad that Tenzin’s car binkies hadn’t gotten washed when we were at Acadia and at this point were stinky and here we had a clean dog. So I wanted to get his binkies clean too so he could enjoy his time in the car. I was up at 6:30am getting the laundry into the washing machine.

Tom was very nervous about the fact that we had a lot of driving to do that day and was annoyed that I was working on the blog rather than getting breakfast. Once we figured out that he just wanted to go to the hotel restaurant and get something, we packed up and went downstairs to eat while the clothes were in the dryer. The restaurant there was terrible. Their breakfast paled compared to the eggs Steve Chapin had made us the day before and it took way too long.

But we were able to hitch the trailer quickly and be back on the road with clean towels and binkies shortly after 9am. Now we just needed to find somewhere to get some gas. We wanted to find something close to the highway so we didn’t lose too much time getting off the beaten path. Tom tried using the Google maps on the iPad to find something and we were reminded once again that Google maps SUCK in Canada. We kept seeing exits that had no gas listed. And we kept driving. And then the empty tank light came on and we started to get really nervous trying to figure out how many miles/km we could go. We finally found a gas station and pulled in on what might have been fumes. There was also a Tim Horton and we got some iced coffees and timbits for the road. I don’t think that I had every really realized that Tim Horton is really just Dunkin’ Donuts Canadian style.

As we drove across the island again, we found that it really looked a lot like anywhere. It could have almost been the midwest US. But then you get to the Canso Causeway, which crosses over to the island that makes up Cape Breton and the scenery changes. For awhile, it’s a lot like driving along Route 1 in California.

We stopped along the way at a Co-Op to pick up some groceries and get some lunch. It was surprisingly hot that afternoon and we were making good time with the trip. We parked the trailer and went into the grocery and were surprised to be accosted by someone who walked up and started talking to us about being from NY. Clearly, he had watched us park and had followed us into the store. It freaked me out a little, but that’s just how open and friendly people in this part of Canada are.  People throughout the store were chattering about us and our little trailer. We started wondering if no tourists ever shopped here, but we persisted in finding some good things to cook while camping and pick up fresh local milk and eggs and Canadian bacon.

Once you get to the National Park and the Cabot Trail, the scenery changes again and becomes something you’ve never seen. The road winds up and down and twists and turns on mountains with fantastic vistas of the sea and completely flat mountain tops. There are look-offs all along the road and we realize that is just what they call them here. A storm chases us as we wend our way up the trail and we can see it out over the ocean and behind us in the rearview mirror.

At one look-off I see what looks like a whale, but by the time Tom gets back with the binoculars I can’t pick it out again. We are headed across one of the flat mountain tops when we suddenly see two bikers- one of them an old man with a long white beard riding a high wheel bicycle. You know, the kind that was popular back in the 1880s. We were both befuddled by the sight. As Tom said “I never thought I’d see Santa Claus riding a bike across a mountain.” We stopped at the next look-off and waited for them to come by so we could get pics and ask questions. And we were shocked to see his braking system- foot on back wheel and think about the mountain road on the way down.

The next section of the road was tremendously scary. It was steep. It was windy. It was the kind of thing that made Tom and I both happy for the Subaru and the easy handling of the Shadow. And grateful that he had decided to bike the next day and not this one.

As we got to the lower part of the mountains, we suddenly saw two moose come across the road. They were huge and majestic and calmly hurried across- a big one and a little one. Ten minutes later, we saw another pair do the same thing. We were able to quickly grab the camera, but only got one good shot of the moose.

Once we got to the Hideaway Campground and Oyster Market, we got the campsite setup and headed off to see their little waterfront. We liked the campground there- it had great wooded sites and good bath facilities despite the paid showers. There was a cool piece of driftwood there that looked like a dinosaur skeleton. I made Tom’s favorite pasta dish for dinner (penne with red pepper, black olives and mozzarella in a balsamic vinegar sauce) and we had a nice evening by the fire.  At some point, Tom noted that in the end “all these camps are the same once it gets dark. It’s dark, there are trees. It could be anywhere.” I beg to differ. Some places aren’t dark. Some places don’t smell as nice as this pine forest. Some places don’t have trees. And it is comforting to know that no matter what’s outside we always have our comfy little trailer to settle into to sleep.

Pics from today are here- http://bit.ly/bamxmK