When I’m on Prince Edward Island…
Allow me to use these ancient principles to illustrate the way that just when something annoying happens and just as you’re in the middle of being annoyed, poof! the yin yang thing kicks in and makes lemonade.
(No metaphors were [unduly] harmed in making the above sentence.)
Maybe everything is yin yangly but it seemed even more so on a recent getaway, which begins early early in the morning at Toronto’s Pearson Airport where the two people sitting behind me cannot shut up about how there is no smoking area inside the airport and how they don’t feel like walking all the way outside even though the entire return trek might take 20 minutes. They’d prefer to spend an hour moaning about it instead. Also everything is apparently the government’s fault. Everything. Then I overhear one of them say something that tells me they’re on our flight. Yay. Always nice to be in the company of conversational wizards in nicotine withdrawal. = ↓
But… they don’t sit anywhere near me on the plane. ↑
↑ It’s a blue sky day and we’ve been on a Rouge plane for hours and are therefore starving and possibly semi permanently scrunched up (thank you inch and a half of Rouge leg room!) so decide on a walk, maybe find a bite to eat.
↑ We head in that direction but, before getting to Timmy’s, we discover another place and wonder why no one mentioned this oasis of deli with ten thousand options for the best snacks ever. AND a patio overlooking a zen garden of smiling bees and giant purple sage.
↓ The place where we get our fruit and veggies is out of garlic because we are told the farmers are asking too much for it. Too much? How much is too much? And why is everybody willing to pay ridiculous prices for green tea coconut milk lattes but not locally grown garlic? Here’s the thing: if you can, please pay farmers whatever they want for decent food decently grown so that they too may have a decent life. (And the answer to the coconut milk latte is *because they are frigging delicious*.)
↑ They do have lovely onions. Also pears.
↑ After a kind of Laurel and Hardy show involving calling the place three times because I refuse to use GPS, we find it. We buy ethical chicken wings and other delights then drive to our favourite IGA for staples like olive oil. Our camping rule is that we shop once. Whatever we run out of, tough. It’s an iron man camping challenge to use only what we have and to not buy more or have leftovers. It’s not possible to express how much I love this part of camping. Or this IGA.
↑ We start a new schmuckless tradition.
↑ We move to a very nice trailer park.
↓ We are warned about rattlesnakes in the area. Oh sure, we say. Pull the other one, hahaha! But on a walk we hear what sounds like a rattle. We don’t stick around poking shrubs and rocks to see what it is.
↑ We feel wise to not care to see what it is.
↑ It’s also clear and sandy bottomed and shallow and the sun comes up over the hills that surround it. And the moon too. I swim every day.
↑ Oh suck it up already.
↑ The nicest people work at the Carmi Motor Inn. And they know directions.
↓ I go to a small town tourist info place and ask what there is to see. “Not much,” the guy tells me. He’s 81, he says, and has lived there for thirty something years and not much goes on and that’s the way he likes it.
↑ In the same town I find a small museum which is really just some pioneery things in an old house. My favourite thing is an old journal from the area that reads: “March 16th … Not much to do all day… March 17th… Not much doing all day, not even basketball after school… About a week ago I heard a meadowlark but haven’t heard one since… March 18th… A fine day but not much to do…”
↓ The Honey BooBoo family moves in to the camp site next to ours. The children throw stones at ducks and are so addle minded that their poor addle minded mother must yell at them constantly to do the simplest things, like not fall into the fire, etc. When we suggest they do not use ducks as target practice the mother chimes in with YES!!! RILEY AND DAYTON!!! THAT’S VERY INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR!!!! Everything they say is at a strange heightened volume as if perhaps they are used to living many kilometres apart and must communicate via open doorways and wind currents.
↑ When we ask if there’s another site we can move to, not only is there one, it happens to be the nicest site in the whole place. Thank you, Honey BooBoo.
↑ My honey picks me a consolation bloom.
↑ We buy more at the canteen. Chips are the exception to the iron man rule.
↑ Then we find a little house in the woods that sells homemade perogies and once again break the iron man rule.
↓ We are punished by the perogies overcooking themselves into inedible mush. We are grateful for chips.
↓ The chips are gone.
↔ Our remaining iron man ingredients are lemons, coriander, two eggs. two slices of bread, a tiny crumble of blue cheese, onions, a few spoonfuls of yoghurt, one perfect pear.
↑ Breakfast, just before leaving — lemony eggs benedict without the hollandaise or the peameal. And a fruit cup.
Embrace the yin yang.
Not so much an argument as Do you have to eat your chips like that???
But this comes later.
First, cross over into New Brunswick and go directly to the info centre to ask about restaurants between where you are and where you’re going. Info centre people hate this question and, it seems, don’t have an answer. BUT!!! they tell you with a certain amount of pride… there IS a zip line at Grand Falls.
Okie dokie, then. Remember to say thank you.
Don’t entirely discount the zip line. Afterall you enjoyed the one at your local Treetop Eco-Adventure Park.
At Grand Falls witness a fearful gorge and decide that, gee whillikers, if only you weren’t so darned hungry, thirsty, tall, short… or if it wasn’t so cold, hot, rainywindysunny or possibly on the cusp of a locust invasion, you might seriously consider doing some zipping.
(Notice a child being strapped in as you leave.)
Drive and drive and drive and drive and drive (it’s a long road through NB) until you need gas and then while at some obscure off the beaten track gas station, find the sweetest little place for lunch on the River John.
Read brochures from the info place and find a motel at somewhere called Deer Island, a short ferry ride off the coast.
Call and speak to motel owner Diane who says sure she has a room, come on over.
Don’t panic when you can’t figure out how to find the ferry.
Call Diane again who will give you directions via back roads.
Don’t panic because the ferry leaves at 6 p.m. and you can’t remember if Diane said to turn left or right at the place that sells propane. Have faith in your instinct.
Find the ferry with time to spare.
Enjoy the view.
Find the motel and be happy with your tiny perfect room in this dreamy spot and who cares if not all the outlets work.
In the morning walk to where there used to be a thriving fishing industry and now is mostly litter and emptiness.
Be happy when the veggie seller shows up before you choose your onions and carrots because it’s excellent chatting with her although what she says is a lot of sadness about the island losing funding for its once perfectly functional school, and that now there isn’t enough money to pay even a single teacher so all children are ferried to the mainland, every day, to attend school. Much of this, of course, is connected to the loss of fishing.
Notice the once lovely houses, ancient family homesteads and funky cottages going derelict. It used to be a thriving community the veggie seller says.
Then find a book shop in one of those ancient family homesteads where the owners have lived and run the store for decades. They’re thinking of moving away. No one comes anymore, they say. Everyone’s moving.
Driving along the Fundy coast at last… marvel at the beauty and (again) the lack of places to eat (and why didn’t you bring a picnic??). Decide to open a bag of chips to tide you over. (No pun intended. Honest.) Make the mistake of asking your travel mate if they would like to eat some of your chips.
And they do.
(It’s not that you mind sharing, it’s just that they eat them…like that….)
And because it’s been a long day with beauty and sad stories and little food your hearing is unusually sensitive. Pull the car over and with as much exasperation as you can muster, say you need some air, to walk and breathe and be alone for a minute without the sound of chips everywhere.
Make sure it’s a beach made of small boulders so that you can’t actually walk very far comfortably.
Allow this to increase your level of crankiness.
There is magic in breathing and tide pools and rocks.
Smile and breathe together.
Head back to the car but not before choosing a small boulder to take home, a reminder that in the greater scheme of things, chips–no matter how stupid noisy–are but small potatoes.
Step One: get to Trois Rivieres, Quebec.
En route, embrace the OnRoute rest stops, which, by the way, are not for resting. They’re for walking, dancing, jumping about; anything that gets you moving. You don’t need to rest, you’ve been sitting in a car. What you need to do is use the loo.
Also, buy some chips and stroll over to the picnic area. Every OnRoute has one. Not everyone knows this. You’re welcome.
Or keep the chips to eat in Trois Rivieres or, better still, eat them in New Brunswick as you drive the Fundy shore where they will cause you to have an argument with your travel companion, thus stopping the car in a snit at what turns out to be the most extraordinary beach ever.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Did you have the foresight to bring chalk? No? Then hopscotch is out. Just get back in the car. Break time’s over.
Actually, no, it’s lunch. So stop at Kingston because that’s where Pan Chancho’s patio is.
Now put your happy full belly behind the wheel and drive right past Montreal. (That’s is a whole separate trip. Do NOT try and squish it in.)
Instead, go directly to Trois Rivieres. And no, you do NOT want to trundle along Hwy #132, aka Route des Navigateures and take a chance on finding the perfect little place to spend the night. Trust me. You don’t.
Because if you do it will be very late by the time you get anywhere.
Happy? I told you not to take the Navigateures. But did you listen, or did you just have to see for yourself that without a reservation there is nothing on the 132 that is a) available, b) reasonably priced, or c) not weird.
So, across the bridge in the dark to Trois Rivieres. Check into the first hotel you see and ask at the desk where you can have dinner (because the hotel kitchen has closed for the night) and be extremely grateful to be directed to a screened outdoor patio with excellent food. Have a glass of wine. Have two. Who cares that you’re eating dinner at 10 p.m. You’re cosmopolitan now. You’re in la belle province where only the pets eat at 7.
And indeed, you will find charming hamlets with a few buildings each.
Think about doing a series…
Discover an abandoned building that gives you the creeps.
Do NOT take a side trip to Levis, thinking you will find the Tourist Info office and ask what other wonders are not to be missed along this stretch of bucolic roadway. You will only spend over an hour in construction and on one-way streets going the wrong way only to find the Tourist Info office is closed. Ferme. Moved. No one knows where to. Maybe it’s vamooosed entirely. I don’t care. Let’s get the hell out of Levis.
Ignore the gnawing suspicion that because you have so far seen diddly squat in the way of eating establishments on the Route des Navigateures, that there is probably diddly squat in that department. Refuse every instinct toward sanity and the main highway, the 20. Instead, insist there must be a place on the water… a bistro, with music and wandering Mexican minstrels.
By now it’s the cosmopolitan lunch hour of 3:30 p.m.
Before you give in to a burger from a gas station, glance up the road a bit at a place that looks closed.
Go there and walk around back and knock on the falling off screen door and discover that the place is, in fact, open. Shout allo! to get the attention of the guy who is checking his phone while very bad music plays too loudly. Double check that the place is indeed open and don’t bother trying to explain (especially in French) why you are un petit peu surprised to hear the answer is mais oui, just be happy there’s a patio overlooking the St. Lawrence and order a chicken caesar because apart from the fact that the service sucks and the food is awful, this is pretty much the sort of place you’ve been hoping to find all the way along des Navigateures.
Beach walk and briny air clears your senses and you finally get on the main highway where you make the rest of the short drive to Riviere du Loup—a four hour jaunt which so far has only taken you all day.
In Riviere du Loup, thanks to a friend, you have the name of a dreamy hotel.
Enjoy the view.
Then get some Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Next up: what’s with all the white houses? aka… hello, New Brunswick!
When people come to visit, I never know where to take them.
Inevitably, we find ourselves at this diner or that café or the restaurant that does the excellent veggie naan even though the server is a pill.
Almost always we walk. Through the ravine, downtown, around the ‘hood, the beach. I point out the tree with windfall apples I use to make a crumble each October. And the place where once the kids and I ate pistachios and played Daniel Boone eating pistachios. It’s not a high end tour but there are almost always stories that spring from it… mine, the visiting people’s.
We’ll go to the galleries of course. There are a lovely abundance of them here. The market. The bookstore. The emu farm.
A concert maybe. A slice of local theatre.
There’s a junk store I might think of taking them, depending on mood and whim and inclination, where you can barely move for the amount of crap and treasure and the owner’s hoarding instinct, which prevents him from ever wanting to sell anything. The only store where when you ask how much this is, you’re told it’s not for sale. You don’t go there to buy, you go there to do anthropological studies.
If it’s summer we’ll paddle a rented kayak and have fries from the best chip truck in these parts or sit on a patio in a trailer park luncheonette and drink iced tea with some not too bad grilled cheese sarnies.
If it’s winter we might stay home and light a fire. I might make a feasty meal or maybe just keep it simple, make an omelette… I’ll mention that final scene in the movie Big Night and I’ll put on the CD and we’ll talk about first times… first omelettes, whatever…
We might drive. To see the xmas lights or the country lights.
This is what I do… and sometimes I wonder: is it enough, these emus and sunsets? And then I wonder why I feel that way because when I visit someone this is exactly what I want. NOT the Eiffel Tower, not a string of organized entertainments, but the experience of actually living in a place… the small slices of everydayness.
(Although I will not decline a quick dash into the Louvre.)
So tell me… when visiting, what is it we want?
And by we I mean you.
According to Wikipedia, Bertha Benz was the first person to take a long distance road trip (106 km at a maximum speed of 16 km/hour). She made the trip in 1888 with her two sons and “without the permission of her husband”. Her reason was that she wanted to visit her mother although there are suggestions she actually did it to publicize her hubby’s brand new ‘Benz’ motor car. It worked.
A third reason (unofficial but most probable in my opinion):
What I realized after a recent 3400+ km drive to PEI and back is that a road trip (different from getting somewhere as quickly as possible) taps into a sense of timelessness—the proverbial ‘journey’ versus ‘destination’.
There is still red sand in the car and in my shoes and I am in love with a rock I brought back and I keep playing the tape I kept playing all the way across New Brunswick and then Quebec and Ontario, right up into my driveway.
Something I learned: a good tape is an essential thing for a road trip. Just one. It becomes the soundtrack. (Would love to know your own road trip soundtrack if you’d care to share.)
Other tidbits of road trip lore and Things I Learned In Between the Fine Lines… to come. (And, I hope, to hear, from you…)