Our Canadian Expedition has continued in force! We spent a couple nights in a beach town called Shediac in New Brunswick. Our RV spot was a municipal park – very nice facility for cheap!. The town itself is fairly flat and we got the bikes down and used them to get around. Never even unhooked the car.
We went to the beach and did a little wading in the Atlantic/Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is, on the Shediac waterfront, the WORLD’S LARGEST LOBSTER so we had to stop for Lobster Poutine and Seafood Chowder (YUM!).
And we had DQ – which we have missed. This one proudly advertises: Made with 100% Canadian Milk (there is a bit of national pride in the current Tariff-frenzy)!
We discovered something very interesting and unexpected. The locals follow hockey religiously (that is NOT a surprise). What is a surprise is the large percentage of locals who root (in the North American, not Australian sense of the word) for the CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS. And I doubt it was because they were trying to be polite, once we admitted being from Chicago. There was one guy … a homeless guy (???? Only speculation on my part, based on dress and grooming) who revealed a Blackhawks STANLEY CUP Cap once he found out where we were from. He was very up-to-date on the Hawks’ woes, salary cap issues and prospects, too.
But it’s Canada, so it should no longer surprise us that there is a LOT of “polite” going on. More than once, a friendly face at an RV park or a Walmart has said: “Be sure to lock your door tonite…after all, we ARE a security risk!” Always said with a smile.
I expected $700 – which made me want to cry, but I am getting used to it.
Just to emphasize how friendly and welcoming everyplace has been to random Americans… we stopped at a gas station in Shediac to fill the bus. As you would in the States, I went inside to have the clerk pre-authorize a BIG purchase. She said, “No Need. Just pump and come in to pay afterwards.” I said, are you sure? “I am about to buy a LOT of fuel…” She said not to worry (hon). Like she could not imaging insulting anyone by asking them to pre-pay for fuel. That is VERY TRUSTING…it wouldn’t happen in the USA if you were filling your lawnmower!
The whole time I was filling the bus’ tank, I was worried about what would happen if my card was not accepted (has happened a couple times). My guess: They would probably say, “Don’t worry (hon), you can just send us a check when it is convenient.” FORTUNATELY the card worked fine.
Speaking of POLITE with a capital P (and O-L-I-T-E), we had the pleasure of meeting Diane and Jim Farquharson, who live on Prince Edward Island. These are friends from WAY BACK of our much-more-recent friend, Peter Haggins. You may remember ( Post from September, 2017) we met Peter and his wife, Susan at the Casper Eclipse Rally Last summer. Then we visited them at their home on Vancouver Island…with the SOLE intention of having a beer. Instead, the bus’s alternator crapped out IN THEIR DRIVEWAY and we were stranded.
Put yourself in their shoes:
At this point, we hardly knew Peter and Susan. Put yourself in their shoes: Some folks high on the strange-scale whom you hardly know show up at your house in a vehicle that weighs 28,000lbs and is now stuck in your driveway. No matter how fast YOU might have called the police, Peter helped me acquire a new alternator and replace it. While Susan helped Liz on her journey to become a knitter. This over several days of camping in their driveway. Plenty of good eating and a wee bit of drinking as well. And on an ongoing basis, Peter and Susan continue to help us! Friends like these are priceless!
Apparently, Diane was a civilian employee at the Canadian Forces Base on PEI a ways back, and Peter was stationed there, flying Tracker Patrol Aircraft. Peter was her “favorite Captain,”according to Diane.
Peter said we should meet – that Jim and Diane were good people. He must have said the same about us, because the Farquharsons INSISTED on getting together; though with some complexity in the arrangement of when and where.
It seems the FOUR DAYS we were planning to be on PEI coincided EXACTLY with the FOUR DAYS when their entire family and friends of all sorts were to be at their cottage to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary!!! As soon as we found this out, we wished them a happy anniversary and tried everything we could do to somehow tactfully NOT meet so as to NOT intrude on their special occasion and family time.
The Farquharsons were having NONE OF THAT!
They insisted on meeting us “CFAs” at a local diner/restaurant “since they had to pick up their son at the airport and the Diner was 5 minutes from there.” CFA is what Islanders call folks not from the island, “Come-From-Aways.” We ate, talked, and discussed where we should go and what we should do while on PEI. They gave us marked-up tourist maps, strong recommendations about what TO do and what NOT to do. And, we learned during conversation that Jim is a HUGE BLACKHAWKS FAN.
And while we were sitting there, other locals in the diner chimed in with places to hear live music. Diane explained that PEIs are not nosey…they just want to help whenever they can.
Then, they ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to allow us to pick up the tab for them. Or for us, even. In fact, they had already settled it. Our guilt was assuaged only by the fact that, being a local place with local prices, their hospitality cost them only on the order of $20. Still…
After dinner, they were off to the airport, but not until they took us to Diane’s hair dresser and introduced Liz, who had mentioned she needed that done. Diane understood; Jim and I simply cannot relate! We found out later that their son’s plane was slightly delayed,so they did not miss a thing despite having inserted us into their schedule!
Some of the things recommended by the Farqurhason’s were as spectacular as they were surely off the CFA-track. Such as the Wind Energy Institute of Canada at North Cape, which is on the far Northwestern-most tip of PEI where the wind is unfettered from almost any direction. Here, companies that make wind turbines can test their equipment under development.
In addition to an interpretive center associated with the Institute, There is also a reef that extends off the point and separates the Northumberland Strait from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You can walk out a ways at low tide (we did!) but make sure you know the schedule as you would NOT want to be there when the tide turns (we weren’t).
Between our RV park and the North Cape, we wandered along backroads. One spot we enjoyed was the MacAusland Woollen Mills. A Factory where 6 generations of folks have been making blankets. A TOTALLY charming woman from the current generation gave us a tour from front to back…showing us all the equipment that turns bales of wool into fantastic blankets.
It took awhile to find her…to begin with, we were encouraged to just walk around the plant. Machines, chemicals – all sorts of places a tourist could get hurt. Completely unsupervised.
At one point some fellas who were final-washing the blankets pointed down a hall to the “Loom Room.”
“Where there are blankets being woven,” one said, “Or the operator is taking a nap. One or the other.” (The operator was our tour guide, and the current generation owner of the business!)
She was particularly proud of the two computerized looms she has acquired and installed, but also proud as hell of the old mechanical loom she learned on, and that her father and grandfather had to keep running.
She told us that one of the strategies for this was to buy as many similar looms as they could, in ANY state of repair, so they could cannibalize them for parts.
She described how the operator of the old machine had to watch all the parts and pieces as they moved in case something was going awry. This was a sixth-sense…if something didn’t sound right or look just so. If this happened, manually stop and manually “back up” to the problem. The new machines stop themselves if they sense an issue of any kind. That may be, but it still looked pretty complicated (almost magical, in fact) as the yarn and machine merged into a blanket in front of us.
She even showed us a special machine that she called a “Fluffifier.” I think she was having a bit of fun with the CFAs, but she was describing a machine that sort of plucks the surfaces of newly-woven blankets to make them soft and, yes, FLUFFY.
One thing that Jim and Diane did NOT mention, but we discovered in our meandering: The Canadian National Potato Museum. Now, you cannot make this stuff up! WHO KNEW that PEI is the worlds LARGEST PRODUCER (per capita) of Potatos???!!!
PEI produces 10,000 TONNES of Potatoes (pronounced “pudaydohs” here) per capita, which is a HUGE number…the next in line is China, at 900 Tonnes per capita. Now in RAW terms, there are only 150,000 people in PEI and 1 BILLION PLUS in China. But that is not important, according to the Canadian Potato Museum.
PEI, BTW, does export potatoes – especially seed stock. And Canada, in fact, is one of the world’s largest potato exporters – with a lot at least formerly going to the US. Today, who knows. Of course only AFTER catering for the Canadian Strategic Poutine Reserve.
This museum had fascinating (really!) exhibits on all the different KINDS of potatos, and potato diseases. The history of the potato as a food source (where it REALLY came from and went to). How potatoes solved the problem of scurvy and food provisions on long ocean journeys (they keep well in the hold AND contain vitamin C).
The museum even had the POTATO HALL OF FAME. Really. A Hallway. Labeled “Hall. Of Fame!”
And, the Canadian Potato Museum was the scene of a FIRST in our travels (and in our lives, for that matter). For the FIRST TIME, I was able to pay the “Senior Discount” admission fee, having just turned 60!!
(For unknown reasons, at the Potato Museum, a Senior is 60 vs. 65.)
There were lots of other things to see along the way…we drove about 600 miles over 3 days. Which is a LOT for a relatively small place.
More than once, someone would look at our license plate, at the size of our car and then at me and say, “Did you drive all the way from Illinois in that car?” NO, I assured them, there was an old Bus involved. This was usually followed by, “What’s up with the Blackhawks” and then ½ hour of conversation with a total stranger and several MORE recommendations of things to see. So we saw:
The “Singing Sands” Beach. This is a spectacular beach whose sand has the weird chracteristic that it “sings” as you walk on it. “Singing” is a very optimistic description of this. I would say it is more of a cross between “Squeal” and “Crunch.” But I can understand why “Sing” is more marketable.
One Magnificent Beach after Another!. Speaking of beaches, everywhere we drove, we pulled off and walked on SPECTACULAR beaches. Most virtually deserted.
The PEI National Park. This is a little peninsula with with a dunes ecosystem and a very nice hiking trail.
The New Glasgow Lobster Suppliers. This is a “must do” for CFAs, apparently, but the Farquharsons insisted also for PEIs. You order and pay for your Lobster at the door (Liz and I selected 1.5lb beasts). Then they serve you an ALL YOU CAN EAT feast of everything else you can imagine. To begin, Seafood Chowder AND a bucket of local mussels. Then a Salad plate. Then the lobster you selected. Then home-made pie. I inserted another bucket of mussels (it was all you can eat, after all!) between the lobster and dessert – which was an EXCELLENT lemon merangue.
Backwoods Burger – and Talent Contest. This was a little place in pretty much the middle of nowhere. The owner was setting up for the evening’s Talent Show. We had burgers and local beer (mine was an OYSTER STOUT – weird but good) and PEI-Potato Poutine. We appreciated the latter so much more since visiting the Potato Museum. We could not stay for the show itself…it was later in the evening and it appeared most tables were already reserved!
BBQ ala Farquharson. On our last day on PEI, Jim and Diane invited us to their cottage, which is right next to the best-beach-on-PEI-with-No-Signs-To-That-Effect: Thunder Cove Beach.
They gave us VERY detailed directions — turn left on this road, right on that one, until we finally ended up on a road with ruts deep enuf to swallow the clown car. After navigating this VERY carefully, we arrived and spent 5+ hours in delightful conversation, punctuated briefly with PEI-Potato Salad and Burgers on the BBQ.
We expected only to stop and say hello, but again, the Farquharsons were having NONE OF THAT
By the end, Jim and Diane had deemed us “Quite OK for CFA.” We learned some other PEI vocabulary, too. For example, “Rubber-booters” which describes Hippie-radical-environmentalists. And “Charlton” which is what they call “Charlottetown.”
Leaving PEI offered a couple of choices. There is the Confederation bridge, which is how we arrived. But this involved backtracking about 1.5 hours west to the bridge, then 1.5 hours back east on the other side before we continue eastward into Nova Scotia. And, the bridge toll (paid on the way OFF the island) is $66 for our vehicle.
Jim suggested the old-fashioned ferry, which leaves from almost the farthest east point of PEI — in the direction we needed to go — it would eliminate 3 hours of driving! Sounded like a good tip from a native, so I called to check…and discovered the Ferry would be $125 – OUCH. And was almost fully booked! And, even though it would cut off 3 hours of driving, probably would not save too much time in total (though it would save some diesel…not trivial).
To be honest, it was a coin-flip; not to be decided solely on time or cost. We chose the ferry just cuz and there was a spot available on the right day. I booked on the 7:30PM ferry because that was the only slot left. We arrived early however, and drove right on the 4:30 Ferry. Too polite to make us wait, I guess, even if we are CFA. Or possibly happy to expedite our departure?