Let’s see… when my lovely wife left off we had just reached Halifax, or as I like to think of it, the East Coast’s Victoria. It really did feel a lot like our home town, even though we were on the opposite side of the country. I think the fact that it rained a whole bunch really helped to reinforce that feeling.
As Pia alluded in the last post, we swung by the Alexander Keith’s Brewery for a beer on what turned out to be Alexander Keith’s birthday. We got chatting with some guys at the bar and stuck around for more than the one beer we’d intended to have. Before long the place was packed and we’d made a bunch of short-term friends. It was a lot of fun, and it was really nice to have some people to talk to other than each other (don’t get me wrong, Pia is a charming conversationalist and we’re getting along shockingly well considering we’re constantly together, but after 3 ½ months of being together 24/7 we often run out of things to talk about). We also got to wear these
really stupid looking festive foam antlers.
From Halifax I flew home to Victoria for a few days and Pia went to a little cabin in Lockeport on this beautiful beach:
The purpose of my jaunt to Victoria was to be at a surprise party for my Mom’s birthday. Months of e-mail scheming paid off because she was totally surprised, not just by the party, but by my presence there when she thought I was 6000 kilometers away. The rest of my 4-day stopover in Victoria was a whirlwind of visiting and errands. I didn’t get to see as many people as I’d hoped, but it was nice to catch up with those few that I managed to connect with.
When I got back to Nova Scotia we drove north to Cape Breton Island, which has turned into one of the big highlights of the trip (the Gaspé Peninsula is neck and neck with it for first place so far). A couple of days after leaving Halifax, we found ourselves in Sydney, the second largest metropolitan area in Nova Scotia. It doesn’t take long to realize that this designation is kind of like saying the Quarter Pounder is the second fanciest meal that McDonald’s offers. Sydney is pretty small, but it compensates for it by having the biggest fiddle I’ve ever seen (I wonder what Freud would say about that).
Here’s an interesting fact about Sydney: looking for a coffee shop on Google Maps reveals seven Tim Horton’s and two other coffee shops (one of which we could not find and presumed it was no longer in business). People in the East love their Timmy’s.
It turns out that there’s really not much to do in Sydney at this time of year. The full day we had there was a Sunday and we went to find the tourist info booth (conveniently located next to the giant fiddle) only to discover it was closed for the season. We asked a local guy what there was to do in Sydney and he said “on Sunday, not much”. That answers that.
Cape Breton Island is famous for its music and while unfortunately we just missed a big celtic festival, we did get to see some local music at the pub.
Our original plan was to take the Ferry from Sydney to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, drive around the island to St. John’s, then take the long ferry back from Argentia. Unfortunately, we got here later in the year than we’d initially expected and we’re starting to find a lot of things closed for the season (including that ferry from Argentia to Sydney that we were planning to take) and the weather is starting to get pretty disagreeable, so we’re taking that as a sign that we better start heading South. On top of that, we’re getting a bit tired of small towns, so the big cities of New England are calling to us. We’ll make Newfoundland its own trip another time.
It’s funny, when we were planning this trip we fully expected us to have our ups and downs, and we knew they’d be exaggerated because this is an exciting but difficult way to live. What we hadn’t really realized was just how drastically the weather would affect our lives; not just in a gloomy mood kind of way, but in a much more tangible way because it affects our ability to see things, do things, and even perform basic tasks day-to-day tasks (try making coffee in a campground in gale-force winds). Way more so than it does in regular, at-home life. Here’s a prime example:
We took off from Sydney to do a loop around the Cabot Trail, a circular highway in North-West Cape Breton Island that goes through Cape Breton Highlands National park. The weather started off OK, but before long it turned to dark skies and heavy rain. These conditions made the winding, hilly, narrow route more difficult and stressful to drive. At one point we wound our way up the side of Smokey Mountain and caught occasional brief glimpses of the view below. At the top, out on a little bluff, was a park with picnic benches that seemed like it would provide an amazing view.
We pulled off onto the road leading to the park and found it was gated off and closed for the season. I got out of the van to walk out on the bluff to check out the view. The wind was blowing icy rain sideways at me so I ran the whole way. When I got to the park I couldn’t see a thing because the mountain was surrounded in cloud, so I turned around and ran back. I was completely drenched by the time I got back in the car. We drove on the the town of Ingonish where we stayed the night, feeling grumpy and beaten down by a day of barely leaving the van and being unable to see any of the scenic drive we were on.
The next day was a totally different story. The morning was sunny and, though it soon clouded over and even rained on and off, the weather didn’t interfere with seeing the sights. We stopped at lots of viewpoints to check out the glorious fall colours and even got out for a hike that ended on a beautiful cliff. Our mood was drastically better than the day before.
When we got to the town of Cheticamp, where we spent the night, the clouds even parted a bit in the West to give us this gorgeous sunset.
The next morning we started back New Brunswick and eventually into Maine. Before we left Cape Breton, though, we did get to see some moose! This mama and her calf were hanging out in the middle of the road. Man, are they tall.