I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.
I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.
I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.
By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.
The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.
We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].
I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.
The result of my decision last night is that I drove a long way today. Oh, I suppose I could have broken the drive up with another night in Nova Scotia, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
I got up and out early and headed for the Canso Causeway. The main road from Louisbourg to the mainland goes north almost to Sydney (a distance of about forty miles, so not that big a deal), and then southwest along the western shore of Lake Bras d’Or back to St. Peters, where I spent my first night on the island, and then down to the causeway by the same route I came onto the island.
The drive along the lakeshore was lovely, and I enjoyed the views. When I got to Port Hastings (the tiny town at the island end of the causeway, I stopped twice, once at a McDonalds (I’ve finally figured out the tea issue – I order a small hot tea and a large cup of ice, then I let the tea brew for a few minutes and pour it over the ice – then I go out to my cooler and add lemon juice and I’m in business [wry g] – hey, it works), and once at a museum at the end of the causeway that told about how it was built back in the 1940s, which was fascinating. I’d wondered about that big scar on the waterfront on the mainland side. Apparently that’s where most of the rock to build the causeway was blasted from. Next door (and the main reason I’d stopped) was a small shop selling quilts. The lady was very friendly, and she had some nice (albeit machine-quilted) quilts for sale.
And then it was over the causeway and back to the mainland, where I hit the main highway and headed west, thinking I’d catch the ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI), because it was a bit shorter coming from the east than driving around to the bridge. Well, I got to the ferry landing and discovered you have to have reservations. They were full up for today. So much for that. So I stopped to call and make a reservation for a campground near Cavendish (more about that tomorrow) on PEI. A campsite for tonight, and a cabin for tomorrow night.
And then I got back on the highway and booked. All the rest of the way across northern Nova Scotia and over the border into New Brunswick, where I turned north almost immediately, heading for the Confederation Bridge, which opened in 1997.
It’s another bridge on the scale of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, only without any tunnels. It’s 13km long, which is apparently the longest bridge of its type in North America. It’s seriously impressive (it darned well better be – when I cross it again on my way west, it will cost me $46 – you only pay leaving the island, not arriving).
I stopped at a welcome center on the PEI side of the bridge to get a provincial road map. The CAA map of the Maritimes isn’t all that good, but the provincial maps cover everything.
The campground was less than forty miles away at this point, but the road was – and this still sort of makes me giggle – winding and up and over and around, and it reminded me of nothing so much as the little backroads I drove in northwest New Jersey a few weeks ago. Weird, huh?
The campground is very nice, heavily wooded and private, and quiet. And close to both Charlottetown and Cavendish. If only the wifi actually worked…
Yesterday was mostly a driving day, from Halifax to Cape Breton Island, and a nice relaxing afternoon at Cape Battery Provincial Park’s lovely waterfront campground.
It was gorgeous and sunny and everything (although breezy and cool, not that I was complaining about the cool part, anyway), then, in the middle of the night, I heard rat-a-tat-a-tat on Merlin’s roof, and was suddenly really glad I hadn’t left anything outside, oh, like my folding camp chair, because when I woke up this morning, it was to the kind of rain I normally associate with a Pineapple Express in the winter back home. Well, it wasn’t that cold (although it never got above 62dF today, according to Merlin’s thermometer), but it was easily that wet. This is the kind of weather that words and phrases like “driving rain,” and “teeming” were invented for. Oh, and it was windy, too, so it’s been raining sideways pretty much all day.
I didn’t want to spend the day cooped up in the back of my van, so I went ahead and drove to the town of Baddeck, on Lake Bras D’Or (did you know that Cape Breton Island has a huge lake in the middle of it? I didn’t – although since there is a water passage from the lake to the ocean, I’m not sure it really qualifies as a lake, even though it’s named that way), where Alexander Graham Bell had a summer home, and where there’s a National Historic Site dedicated to him.
There was a visitor center/museum, which was very crowded because I wasn’t the only one looking for something to do indoors out of the rain, but it was still well worth visiting. I didn’t know much about Bell, except for the obvious that he invented the telephone and that he and Helen Keller had met several times (which isn’t as ironic as it, er, sounds – his wife was deaf, and one of his major passions was helping deaf people). I had no idea how much of an inventor he really was. Among other things, he was involved with early aviation and hydrofoils.
But the most arresting thing, at least sensorily, was the “try it!” display of an old-fashioned (omigosh, really?) dial telephone. The sound of it was just – wow, it was weird. I hadn’t heard the sound of a dial phone in decades. That seriously made me feel old. When I walked up, a woman was teaching her little kid how to dial it. So. Very. Weird. Sorry.
So. I really wanted to be indoors (not just in the van, but real indoors) tonight, and there were no rooms to be had in Baddeck (ba-DECK, not BA-deck), so I got a late lunch at a café with terrible service called the Yellow Cello (a 12” hot dog dressed like a Philly cheese steak, which was better than it sounds), and headed the thirty or so miles north to the Sydneys (there are three of them, Sydney Mines, North Sydney, where the ferry to Newfoundland leaves from, and just Sydney, which is the biggest city on Cape Breton Island), where I found a nice, warm, dry motel room.
The weather is supposed to improve somewhat, at least so far as the rain goes, by late tomorrow, but it’s supposed to stay windy and chilly, and that’s about what’s decided me to not take the ferry to Newfoundland. Four hours one way on the open ocean in weather like this (I get seasick unless the water’s pretty calm, and I should have realized long ago that it wasn’t going to be) does not sound like fun. Plus, the whole trip would probably take me at least a week, what with a day each on the ferry on either end, plus two days driving each way to get to L’Anse aux Meadows once I arrived on the island and just one day there. And that doesn’t even count seeing any of the rest of it (the other part I’d like to visit, St. Johns – Great Big Sea territory! – is clear on the opposite corner from L’Anse aux Meadows – probably a three-day drive one way, plus three more days back to the ferry). It seems like so much effort and time and money without as much return as seems reasonable. I’ve spent a lot of time driving through rather monotonous taiga in the last few days, and a lot of getting anywhere in Newfoundland is going to be 99% taiga.
So I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen. Still, I’m glad I got this far. Tomorrow I will probably go see Cape Breton Highlands National Park if the weather is improved enough, and I also want to see Louisbourg National Historic Site before I leave Cape Breton and head west, once and for good.
Although I do understand the climate can leave something to be desired [g].
Anyway, today I walked and museumed all day. First, I hiked up to the Citadel, an 18th century (reconstructed in the 19th) fortress in the heart of Halifax. I told you the hostel is in a great location – it was only about eight blocks, albeit most of them uphill.
The Citadel reminded me almost forcibly of Edinburgh Castle, and I don’t think it was just the bagpiper or the young men and women in uniforms including tall fuzzy things on their heads. The location, up on a hill in the heart of a bayfront city, the weather (cool and cloudy, at least in the morning), and the age of the thing (granted, not nearly as old as Edinburgh Castle, but much older than anything I’m used to at home), all made it seem similar, in a very happy-to-me way.
The museum inside was – eye-opening, yes, that’s the word. Okay, I watched Canada: A People’s History when it was on the CBC (I get the Vancouver affiliate on my cable when I’m home) a few years ago, and I knew they have a completely and utterly different perspective on the War of 1812 than we do, but it’s still odd to view exhibits talking about the U.S. invading Canada (which barely even gets mentioned south of the border, even in school). Anyway, it was fascinating. Well worth the morning I spent there.
Afterwards, on my way to the waterfront, I stopped at a little sandwich place called As You Like It for lunch, which was cute, with a mural on the wall purporting to depict a scene from the play, and tasty, with a roast beef sandwich and a brownie.
At the waterfront was the other main thing I wanted to see while I was here, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is to Canadian maritime history what the Kansas Cosmosphere was to the space race. Which has pretty much become about the highest compliment I can give to a museum.
The exhibits were all over the place – arctic exploration, the ages of sail and steam, the Titanic (Halifax was the closest port of any size to the disaster, and they sent the ships that went to recover the bodies, or as many of them as they could), and the Halifax explosion.
What, you’ve never heard of the largest pre-atomic manmade explosion in the world? Which killed almost as many people as 9/11 did in New York, and leveled most of the north end of an entire city? The sound of which was heard hundreds of miles away? On December 7, 1917, a munitions ship loaded with thousands of pounds of explosives bound for the war in Europe accidentally collided with a Belgian relief ship, caught fire, and, well, you can imagine the rest. I’d known a little about the explosion, again thanks to the CBC and a historical movie about it a few years ago, but I don’t think the scale of it all registered until this afternoon. Apparently it did more damage than the San Francisco earthquake or the Chicago fire. Oh, and then the next day they had a blizzard. Those poor people just couldn’t catch a break.
My last stop of the day (so to speak) was at the ferry terminal, where I paid $2.50 to make a round trip across the harbor on a cute little passenger ferry, and strolled along the Dartmouth waterfront, where I had a great view of the Halifax skyline. That was fun.
By the time I hoofed it the ten blocks or so back to the hostel (stopping at a needlework shop along the way) my feet hurt, but it was a great day. I enjoyed the heck out of Halifax. It was an awful lot of fun.
Tomorrow, though, I’m headed to Cape Breton Island. I’ve been looking forward to that, too. And D-Day for my Newfoundland decision is getting awfully close here…
I didn’t end up taking too many photos today. I did pop up into Delaware for a few miles, then came back west across the Eastern Shore to the highway. I didn’t stay on it for long, though, turning west at a sign for the Oxford-Bellevue ferry. It was not free (it cost $12 for Merlin and me), but it was scenic, and nice out on the water. I’ve never had my car be the only one on the ferry before (the capacity was nine vehicles).
After I reached the other side of the Choptank River (which was more an inlet into the bay than a river), I drove west to the tiny tourist town of St. Michaels, and then on to the point at the end of Tilghman Island, or almost to the end. The very end of the point is a private inn, and unless you’re staying there you can’t go all the way. I kind of wish I’d known that before I drove out there, but c’est la vie.
It was still a pretty drive. When I got back to St. Michaels, I ate a flounder sandwich at a local café, and then banana ice cream across the street at a little place called Justine’s. I haven’t had banana ice cream in I can’t remember how long, and it was delicious.
Then it was back to the highway. I turned off before I got there onto a back road the map insisted did intersect the highway a few miles further on, and it did, but a bit further than I expected, which was a nice thing.
I stopped at a produce stand and bought cantaloupe and big beefsteak tomatoes to take to Teri’s house, and then went up – and up, and up – and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (as opposed to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). It’s almost as tall and long as the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, but it felt longer. I think it might have been the traffic, which got pretty intense, and did not let up through Annapolis and up into Baltimore. But Katrina’s directions were very good, and I had no problem finding Teri’s house, so that was a relief.
Nobody was home when I got there, but Teri had told me where to find a key, so I let myself in, and she arrived soon afterwards. Katrina was a bit later because she’d had to have her car worked on before she left Pennsylvania to come down, but by the time it was dark we were all together, so that was good.