A: A lot.
The decision my roommate and I came to, not too long after I posted my last entry, was Canada. Why not go to Canada? We could probably find something to do there that would fill 2 1/2 days!
We got up early on Sunday and drove up route 1, stopped for breakfast, and made it to Calais in three hours or so. I was almost coming out of my skin with excitement as we got into the line that arched across the river, through customs, into Canada. I had only been to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia once, taking the ferry across from Bar Harbor, and had spent a grand total of 6 hours in another country. I considered this present adventure to be my first trip “abroad”.
In St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, I parked the car at the Visitor’s Center and Lea Ellen and I went in to collect info and plan our next step. We picked up a map that detailed the official Fundy Coastal Drive and went racing back to the car to set out upon it.
It was a foggy, overcast day, and it sprinkled off and on as we followed the route along quiet country roads that took us through little seaside villages. For most of the day we couldn’t see beyond the first line of trees, and when it appeared to the right of us the great Bay of Fundy was a glittering strip of grey, quickly buried beneath heavy mist.
We were in high spirits however, and Lea Ellen kept the car cheerful with music. Our enthusiasm brought delight to even the darkest of landscapes, and we frequently turned off the road to seek out waterfalls or covered bridges. New Brunswick that day was brooding and mysterious, charging us with an electric curiosity. (I admit that we had drank a lot of coffee as well!)
We had a bit of a misadventure in St. John, a larger town that had a toll bridge. We had not gotten any Canadian money yet, as Lea Ellen figured we could get what money we needed by using our debit cards at an ATM. We got off the highway to find one, but then were unsuccessful in retrieving money from it. We figured the problem out once we were back in the States, and while the solution was simple, the lack of it provided us with a somewhat stressful half hour!
We got a little bit lost in St. John, but right as we were starting to get annoyed I spotted a funny looking tower at the top of a hill. “Let’s check it out,” I said. My companion, absorbed as she was with flipping through the maps, was uninterested. I parked and hopped out of the car, camera happy, and then went into the visitor’s center and got directions. Our new route took us across the river, right past one of the famous Reversing Falls (which I didn’t understand and was therefor not impressed by) and after navigating through some traffic and a tangle of road ways, we were back on track.
Our first really wonderful stop was in St. Martins, and it was almost an accident that we found it. We were dutifully following the Fundy Coastal Drive, and were about to just breeze through one more little town when Lea Ellen suggested that we check it out for a minute. It was quaint, of course, and we rounded a bend and saw some very picturesque boats pulled up next to a high dock, sitting on the sand waiting for the area’s famous high tides to make them float again. There were two more covered bridges that were very nice. We agreed to go on just a little farther, rounded another bend, and then I had to give a little squeal.
Caves!! Lovely large sea caves, blinking back at us from across a wide sweep of rocky beach. We parked near a restaurant that claimed to have “world famous chowder” but ignored that completely and went dashing down the beach. The cave was high and deep, shaped like a cornucopia, and brick red. The cliffs nearby seemed to be layer upon layer of beach, and you could pick smooth round rocks out of the loose clay. The whole place was fittingly weird and different and like nothing I had seen in the States!
The rest of that day was filled with long hours in the car, with both of us coming up with various schemes for the following day. We pulled into Fundy National Park around 7:30 and went to one of the campgrounds to get a spot for that night and the next. Then we drove down into Alma, seeking dinner and somewhere warm to spread our maps out and plan properly.
We ate at the Parkland Village Inn, where I had delicious scallops, and a lovely mango creme brulee type thing. After dinner we spent an hour or so in the bar drinking espresso and reading all the literature we had picked up along the way. We chose some trails to hike the next morning in Fundy National Park, and then drove back up to the campground.
It had warmed up a bit, and the misting had stopped some hours ago. The evening was very pleasant, and we were well fed and sleepy. We began to set up camp, and discovered something somewhat unpleasant – Lea Ellen had forgotten to bring the tent poles! Fortunately I still had camping gear in my car left over from my VT/NY trip. We put up the mesh tent and draped the “Walrus”, a floor-less A-frame tent, over it, laid out our sleeping bags, tucked ourselves in, and went to sleep.
We awoke to puddles in the tent and a light but steady rain. Lea Ellen was pretty damp, so we muddled our way out of the tent, cleared out space in the back of my car for her, tightened down the Walrus so that I would be more protected, and hoped for the best. Moments later it began to pour. I spent the remainder of that very long night lying as still as possible in my bag, trying not to touch the sides or roof of the tent, lest more water began to seep in. Eventually I fell asleep again, but as soon as it was light I got up and began banging around the camp, trying to wake Lea Ellen so that we could get on with it all…!
It was actually already 8 o’clock, so she wasn’t too miffed with me when she woke, and we agreed to pack up, get our money back from the second night of camping, and go down to Alma for some breakfast. The campground was thick with fog, and our hiking plans appeared unattractive to us, so we determined that we would head on up the coast and see where the road took us.
After a nice stack of French toast, the morning seemed more cheerful. It was also starting to clear up, and as we took 915 out to Cape Enrage, the fog began to break up in ernest. By the time we had wound our way to the end of the cape, past golden fields and our first legitimate glimpses of the Bay of Fundy, it was positively sunny. It was also ferociously windy.
Battling rather incredible winds (the tail ends of Hurricane Ike someone told me) we went to check out the little lighthouse, and observed the different color of the ocean there – silver grey mostly, with chocolately brown waters where things were churned up.
Backtracking, we visited a beach where I hopped out to take pictures of the cliffs. The wind blew spray up into my face from a distance of several hundred yards.
It was nearing high tide when we pulled into Hopewell Rocks, where those classic photos of the Bay of Fundy and the dramatic example of the record breaking tides are taken and found. We went to check out the “Flower Pots” and “Diamond Rock”, going down long flights of stairs to stand nearly on the beach. At low tide you can walk on the ocean floor, but when we were there those chocolate colored waves were crashing in, sending a whipped cream spray into the air. The odd shaped rock formations appeared to be squatting in hot cocoa!
From there we drove along a river fittingly nicknamed the “Chocolate River”, to Moncton, a small city where we stopped to find lunch. Parking downtown, we wandered the streets until we found the Restaurant Graffiti, where we had a fabulous meal.
We then visited the Magnetic Hill Winery, which was a beautiful restored farmhouse on a hill overlooking Moncton. We tried several kinds of wine made from blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. They were quite delicious, lacking that bitter aftertaste that many wines made from something other than grapes seem to have.
We couldn’t leave Moncton without checking out the actual Magnetic Hill, a natural phenomenon, or optical illusion that makes it appear as though you are rolling up hill. I dutifully drove down an apparently flat road to the base of a small hill, stopped near the white pole, put the car in neutral and took my foot off the break. We then began to roll backwards rather quickly, and somehow, I can’t explain it, it really did appear as though we were rolling up hill. There was no one else there, so we did this six or seven times, trying to figure it out, but all we can say is that something weird happens there, and it is pretty trippy.
We got back on our Fundy Coastal Route and followed it down the other side of the Chocolate River, through farmland and orchards. We stopped at one orchard and purchased apples, which then filled the car with a wonderful scent and seemed to make autumn wrap it’s cozy arms officially around us.
A few more hours in the car through pretty countryside and sunshine brought us, around 5 o’clock, to the tip of the New Brunswick coast. There route 16 makes a daring 8 mile leap across Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island. I promised in my last entry that I might blab on about bridges in this one, and the Confederacy Bridge does indeed send me into raptures. I had seen a special on it, on the Discovery Channel some winters ago, and since then I have dreamed of seeing it in person. It is a marvel of engineering, built to withstand the ice that covers the strait in the winter and breaks up with considerable force in the spring.
We didn’t have time (or the $40) to cross the bridge, and chose to save that for another trip when we could actually visit and explore Prince Edward Island. We stopped at the visitor center and I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of the bridge, and the Cape Tormentine lighthouse, which was a few miles down the coast.
Having completed the entire length of the Fundy Coastal Drive, and having run out of land and time, we turned north and followed the Strait for a short time. Passing through some farmland, we came upon a house that proclaimed itself to be a B & B/cafe/eatery which provided German baked goods and coffee. Lea Ellen shouted for me to stop, and we pulled in. A very nice German couple met us at the door, and in no time we found ourselves sitting on the porch watching evening fall, drinking French press coffee from thin porcelain cups, and eating fat slices of apple and yogurt cheese cake.
Back on the road, we had to put sightseeing behind us and make a beeline across the province. I had to work the next day at 3:30 p.m., so we needed to wake up that morning as close to the border as possible. It had taken us a day and a half to cross one way, but it only took us 4 1/2 hours to get back. I enjoyed driving at 110 kilometers an hour, and didn’t get sleepy until we were almost back to St. Stephen. Lea Ellen again proved herself a worthy travel companion by keeping the music going and taking us down the most direct and useful roads.
We arrived in St. Stephen around 11:30, and after a little trouble found a nice family owned motel to stay in. The older fellow who checked us in saw our exhausted state, took pity on us, charged us for a one bed room and then gave us two beds. We proceeded to lounge on those beds, writing postcards and watching bad TV until we both fell into delicious sleep.
We woke late the next morning, relishing the fact that no mater what time we left it would be an hour earlier when we arrived in the States. We had a leisurely continental breakfast and then packed up, made a few last minute purchases, went through customs uneventfully, and found ourselves back in our own country.
It was a pretty day so the ride home was very pleasant. Maine didn’t seem as exotic as Canada, but it was, as always, beautiful in the September light. We took our time going home, stopping for lunch in Ellsworth, and to buy flowers in Trenton. We pulled into our driveway around 2 and unpacked the car in a kind of daze. We had fit so much into the last few days, had so many adventures, and seen so many new and interesting things. We were tired and overwhelmed and extremely satisfied.
Now I can say that I have been out of the country, and this trip was no more than just a taste of what lies in store for me if I continue to seek out wonder and chase after adventure. Believe me when I proclaim “I will!” After all, who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to do this: