Sunday, 26 August 2012

Day 8: Landing in Newfoundland

We woke early to catch the ferry.  We were required to arrive 2 hours prior to boarding the boat.  Aboard the ship we sunk into comfy chairs and relaxed in front of the big screen TVs, occasionally touring the sundeck up above to observe the panoramic view trying to determine the line where the sky met the ocean.
As we neared docking time we decided to sit in the restaurant on the boat where the windows faced the front of the ship to get a good view of Newfoundland when arrived.  Did we ever get a good view!  We sat next to 3 men who appearance and behaviour was odd to say the least.  The first man was older man in about his sixties.  He wore dirty, worn clothing and a baseball cap.  The second man was much younger.  He appeared as if were the first time he had ever left the safety of the indoors.  His skin was a a pale foggy white.  His eyes were deep set and bulged from their sockets.  The third could only be described as a know-it-all who barked out the most obvious of comments while resting his hands inside the lining of his sweatpants. They decided we were the target of their next friendship.  We had a few chuckles with them and before we knew it the ferry was docked and it was time to go.
Our campsite was amongst thick forest that opened up to a rocky lake below us.  We decided to make a special dinner to celebrate our arrival in Newfoundland. We made a lemon dill salmon, rice, beans with honey and almonds, and fried clams.  It was a delectable feast.  Julia and I describe the salmon as how we always wanted salmon to taste.  It was delicate and moist.  The stars hung above our heads as we ate, so bright.   I even caught a glimpse of a shooting star with a vibrant green tail.

Day 7: No Ferry, No Problem

The ferry to Newfoundland was broken so we had to wait a day to catch the next one.  Instead we decided to drive up the Cabot trail to Cape Breton for the day.  
Our first stop was a little town known for it's Celtic music.  We entered a small cafe, that had a stage at the front that looked like an old kitchen.  Then out came the fiddles.  The music bounced around the room, inviting everyone to caper to the beat. We stuck around for a toe taps and then returned on our voyage.
Along the way we stopped in a tiny town to find a good place for a picnic.  We found a warm sandy beach at the edge of a small Nova Scotian town.  We took off our shoes and let the warm white sand filter through our toes.  We set up the coleman stove on flat rock, and awkwardly huddle around roasting our hot dogs over a blue flame.  Julia laughed at our gawky attempt at cooking, the look of resignation on Brent's face.   His expression was one that said, "I don't like this, but I won't complain about it".  When we finished eating lunch we rolled our pants up and dipped our toes in the salty water.  
Back on the Cabot Trail, we entered Cape Breton Provincial Park.  The roads weaved the landscaped, twisting, turning, climbing, falling.  Each lookout provided a completely different view; we saw rocky cliffs that protested ocean waves, skies that poured sunlight onto endless seascapes, and hills blanketed by thick green forest that swelled into the clouds.
As the sun began the descend we stopped at a little restaurant and filled our bellies with an assortment of seafood.  We sat in a whitewashed porch that over looked a local harbour.  The setting sun, and Brent, hurried us a long, as we did not want to drive the windy roads in dark.  His assessment was a good one because as we rounded one of the corners a large, lumbering moose appeared on the road.  We slowed down and watched him disappear into the trees.  It was amazing how such a large animal could become practically invisible with only a few steps into the woods.  We could however, hear him snapping branched with his strong unyielding body.  We took this warning, and drove cautiously to our campsite in Sydney.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Day 6: More Driving

In order to get to our goal destination of the most eastern point in Canada we had to keep moving.  As we left Quebec and entered New Brunswick we stopped at the visitors centre for a picnic and admired the view.   We did take some time in New Brunswick to see the world's longest covered bridge, which, of course, we drove through, and see the Grand Falls.  The bridge reminded me a bit of the one in the Beatlejuice movie.  The falls were nice, but we collectively decided that they were great, but would not describe them as grand.  I guess we were a little spoiled coming from Niagara Falls.  We were told though, that in the spring when the ice melts they are much bigger.  The cool part was that people were zip-lining across them.  We watched them for a bit, then got back in the car to make it to Antigonish, Nova Scotia. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 5: Keep on Truckin

This day mostly consisted of driving.  We made it to our Quebec campground with just enough time to set up the tent, make spaghetti, and have a drink.

Day 4: Fulfilling Childhood Dreams

We had an excellent start to the day when Aunty Joyce offered us an assortment of coffee.  She brought out a dark oak box with various flavors of coffee in colourful metallic cups.  It was a coffee treasure chest.  We picked our coffee after carefully researching each flavour in a booklet that provide a rich description of each cup.  Coffee was followed by hot crossed buns, toast, and oranges.  Thanks Aunty Joyce!
Then we were off to take the metro to downtown Toronto.  Our first stop was the Hockey Hall of Fame.  It was a fantastic blend of history and activity.  I must admit I felt a little sorry for Brent touring around the museum with two girls clueless about the sport.  But his expertise quickly turned to our advantage, because we got our own tour guide.  He patiently explained each exhibit and the backstory to each player and team. I had one goal.... To touch the Stanley Cup.  But while we were at the museum the cup was on it's own Canadian tour to visit the hometowns of the La Kings, being triumphantly held above the head of Willie Mitchell over looking the Rocky Mountains.  However, Brent explained that there are 3 real cups. The original cup which was there inside a vault (the museum was originally a bank) at the museum, which was first Stanley Cup.  It was behind glass, so I settled for a picture.  Then Brent described the touring cup, which is what we see on tv.  And finally, the third cup, the display cup.  As I exited the vault I entered a large room with a high stained glass ceiling, surround by various trophies enclosed in glass.  And at the far end was the display cup.  It stood proud, expertly polished, and free from a glass case.  I walked up and touched it.  The three of us stood next to the Canadian icon, we were in the presence of a true victorious legacy.  I don't know if it was the intensity of the moment or my hunger but it was time to take a lunch break for so mediocore Thai soup in the food court.  
When we returned it was time for the interactive part.  There were simulators where you could shoot the puck or be the goalie.  But my favourite part was the play by play simulator where your voice is recorded while you describe the game you see on the tv screen.  All in all, the Hockey Hall of Fame was a lot fun.
Next we were off to the CN Tower.  We took the elevator up to the top and looked at the skyline of Toronto.  On this level there was also a glass floor that you could walk on.  Cautiously, we edged our way onto the tip of the glass floor.  Julia and I needed a little more convincing that it was safe to step on.  Brent went for the gusto and walked right across the floor from end to end. But I like a challenge and eventually mustered up the courage to follow in Brent's footsteps. The fear of seeing the ground so far beneath you was almost paralyzing.  After we calmed our anxiously beating hearts we took an elevator up to the highest point of the tower.  It looked like a flea circus below, the people tiny black dots, the cars like hot wheels.  
By the time we came back down it was starting to get late, but we had one more stop; the CBC studio.  Inside was empty, everyone had gone home for the day.  We were too late.  But we toured the empty halls.  The floor was paved with stars with names of the CBC personalities; Rick Mercer, Don Cherry, etc.  Then we saw it. Standing out in the open in the hall. Mr. Dressup's tree.  We climbed the front, and took pictures.  But our sense of childlike exploration began to grow.   I creeped around back and found the door inside. Surely it would be locked.  I pulled at the door and it opened.  Julia excitement bubbled over.   We got in side.  We were inside Mr. Dressup's tree.  It was a place where childhood expectation, imagination, and dreams come to meet.  We were all in disbelief that we were inside the tree, but I must admit, Julia wins for the most excited.  She bounced around wide eyed.  I could practically see the four year in her awake up.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Day 3: NiagaraFalls

I woke up early and immediately began my search for a cup of coffee.  I found one in the head office, as well as some friendly workers who gave me the inside scoop as to where to park for free, which was fantastic because parking was $10 an hour otherwise.  It was a bit of a walk, but we got an rare view from behind the falls.  We also got to see the old power plant that ran it. All the while snapping numerous pictures along the way.  
When we reached the tourist site there were so many ways to "experience" the falls; you could go behind the falls, on a boat, on a bus etc, etc.  After many discussions we decided that we would drive up the street and see the Great Gorge via an aero car, not an aero bar, which is also good.  No, it's a large cart that holds about 30 people and runs along a tiny cable, so that you may travel over the rushing waters below.  The Great Gorge is down the river past the falls where it makes a 90 degree turn causing an eddy ( word provided by Brent, he also offered the word vortex).  I would describe it a swirling, deep waters that want to suck me down to the jagged rocky bottom, but you know eddy works too.
We gingerly stepped aboard the suspended metal cart. It lurched forward and removed the steady land beneath our feet.  But we are dedicated to our Canadian documentation, so we leaned over the edges of the safety rails to ensure we got the best photos.  We slowly moved across the river and 5 minutes later we were back safely on land.  A short trip that felt much longer.
We continued down the highway and found Laura Secord 's house.  We were greeted by  a tour guide dressed in authentic 1800 clothing.  We learned about the war of 1812 and the impact that Laura had in it, as well as what it was like to live during that time period.  We also learned that even though Laura was an integral part of the war the government would not give her an army pension because they did not recognize women in the army. 
After a delicious dinner in the Beatles booth at the Hard Rock Cafe, we made our way to Brent's Uncle Lyle's home in Toronto.  Uncle Lyle and Aunt Joyce welcomed us with open arms, a night cap, and a comfy bed.  Good night.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Destination Indentity

So this year I decided to experience my most Canadian year.  I am a Canadian, and have always been a Canadian, but want to experience what it really meant to be Canadian.  Is it the cliche stereotypes that we projected in the opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics, with igloos and giant inflatable moose or is it something more? I hope it is.  Often we define ourselves by what we used to be, where our ancestors came from, and far too often neglect to include our Indigenous People as part of our identity.  What does it mean to be Canadian now?? Well I'm about to drive my way across Canada to Newfoundland to find out, and hopefully have some fun along the way, to find out.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Day 2: Waldorf's kingdom

The next morning I woke up early and explored the campground.  I walked along moose trail, and found a teepee.  We originally tried to rent the teepee, but campground owner told us she would not recommend sleeping in it because she couldn't guarantee that wild animals might stay out, and it smelled musty from being water logged.  We took her advice, but I was happy to find it and look around.  
By 10 am we were back on the road, although we had planned to go return to Canada through Buffalo, a wrong turn took us through Kalamazoo to Detroit instead.  We finally were back in Canada and in Niagara Falls by midnight with just enough time to see the falls lit up for about 15 minutes.  We explored Clifton Hill which was a whirlwind of lights, sounds, movements, and people.  And then my worst nightmare happened, we came across Dinogolf, which included giant dinosaur statues.  Brent walked right up to one and gave it a big hug. Less than 24 hours and I lost my bet.  Although, I am still determined to hug a puffin.
By the time we found King Waldorf's Camping Kindom it was 2 am. So we pitched our tent in the overflow field, roasted a few hot dogs and went to bed.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Day 1: Three Apples and a Watermelon

Our long journey began with the misfortune of packing early morning in the rain.  We stuffed our bags and camping gear into every cranny of the Mazda trunk and upper roof storage, filled our hands and tummies with Tim Hortons coffee and began our trek towards the states.  A quicker passage to the North.
After many ridiculous conversations we reached the boarder.  We popped over to the Duty Free.  I decided that I wanted to get a toque, a true Canadian August purchase.  Julia found a stand that had toques that looked like various Canadian animals.  She tried on one that looked liked a moose.  She decided that it made her look too much like a child, which beats the alternative of believing it made her look too much like a moose, and left it of the shelf.
We were finally ready to approach customs.  We waited with our ID ready, and I was prepared to answer any questions, maybe a little too prepared.  When they  asked if we had any fruit I replied three apples and a watermelon.  When they asked me where it was from I said Safeway.  Brent and Julia found this exceptionally funny and stifled their laughter until we were safely back on the highway.  Back on the road we imagined what awaited us in Canada.  I really hoped to see a puffin.  Actually, I hope to hug a puffin.  This dream was a mistake to share with Brent.  He felt that he had a better chance to hug a dinosaur than I did hugging a puffin.  And the $10 bet was made.  We'll see Brent....
12 hours later we had reached our first destination the Wisconsin dells, the family version of Las Vegas.  We were surrounded by lights, and watersides, life sized pirate ship, a Paul Bunyan mega breakfast buffet, wizards and mystery, and so much more.  But we didn't have time to stay and play we need to find the Wanna Bee Campground.  
At the campground we were greeted by a giant angry bee costume at the front door next to the bee hive restaurant.  We sat down and ordered something to drink after a long journey.  We had the whole hive to ourselves.  So, we began taking photos of the place, and of course of the giant bee.  That's when the woman behind the counter told us we could put on the bee head!  We each took turns dressing as a giant bee!  A bee-autiful end to the first day.