Another scene from our 7k mile journey to the maritimes.
Kendall, the Lobsterman
The southeast corner of Nova Scotia is rivers, coves, harbors and bays. The land is flat, if you take the main road between Yarmouth, where the ferry lands and Halifax, the capital, you can make the trip in a handful of hours and miss it all. It took us almost three days. Route 103 is the main road, but Route 3 detours and winds and does a much better job of following the coast.
The new high speed catamaran ferry service just isnÔÇÖt right. ItÔÇÖs an aluminum hulled, high tech jobbie with gas turbine engines and hydraulic car decks for better loading. The son of a gun moves at 55 mph across the Gulf of Maine from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth replacing the familiar Scotia Princess from Portland, reducing the sailing time from 12 hours to 3. The interior was much closer to an aircraft cabin than your typical coastal ferry. We avoided the casino area in favor of the plush seats that would have been at home in first class.
Once we got to Yarmouth reality returned with long lines and customs. So we sat on the bikes in the rain going through a number of lines and stops until Jill and I were in the office talking to a very petite, but efficient Customs officer, in body armor, who wanted to ask me a few questions about my past. I had assumed my youthful activities were a closed book, or at least they were 15 years ago when I joined the Department of Energy to work with Defense Programs. There I got a VERY through background investigation by some very nice FBI agents, so I knew I was clean. But I guess in this post 9/11 world, a box of out of state firecrackers in a bright yellow van with rainbows on the windows is now an explosive charge involving a motorvehicle. It WAS a long time ago and charges WERE dropped, but they still they had to ask me a few questions:
Were you ever in trouble with the law? Yes, my ex-wife accused me of domestic violence about 7 years ago, but charges were dropped (I didnÔÇÖt mention that this was now standard practice in Ohio to get an unwanted spouse out of the house without having to show actual wrong doing)
What about explosives problems? Yes, I had a box of out of state fire crackers in my van, but that was over 20 years ago
Were you convicted? No, I promised not to do it again and charges were dropped
Where were you born? New York City.
Why does your birth certificate say Lebanon? That would be Lebanon Hospital
Even been to Malta? Syria? No maÔÇÖam.
Luckily they didnÔÇÖt have a copy of my training records showing an extensive background in military explosives or things might have gotten sticky. I do however still work as a safety engineer in the explosive field and often inspect munitions facilities. But even thought I might take work home in the evening, it is PAPER work and not bit and pieces of product.
Finally, I was allowed into Canada, but only on my continued good behavior.
Just up the hill from the ferry landing is a beautiful visitorÔÇÖs center. We were greeted by a bagpiper dressed in the traditional kilt and efficiently collected a few more pounds of maps and visitors guides. Finally, after losing three hours on the ferry, one hour to time change, and yet another hour from my bad behavior of distant past, we were off on a trip long planned.
Now, to those who hadnÔÇÖt grown up on the coast of New England, Nova Scotia would appear exotic with quaint villages, fens, salt marshes, small harbors and traditional architecture. It felt like a far more rural and far less commercial version of Block Island, where my father summers. But unlike Block Island, Cape Cod, or MarthaÔÇÖs Vineyard this is NOT a tourist resort. Block Island used to be a self-sufficient fishing community about a hundred and fifty years ago, but hotels starting coming in after the civil war. This area is populated by fisherman, loggers, farmers, dairymen. The tourist areas were further north and east. We met few people on the Nova Scotia who job titles were Administrative Assistant, Manager, Programmer, or Analyst. Most had real jobs and produced real products, a far cry than the paper pushing that many of us do earn our tract homes and mass produced gizmos. Best of all, no Wal-Marts. The age of consumerism hadnÔÇÖt hit up there yet, they all seemed so innocent.
However, I was more concerned in trying to find a decent place for lunch, since it was getting late, and we spent much of our day with the ferry. Route 3 was fairly empty and had a 60 kph speed limit or about 40 mph. First we were looking for a place to take a break. We had read much about the local parks and wanted to find one for a picnic. We were getting no where fast but were getting hungry, wet and tired
The first park we found was even labeled ÔÇ£picnic parkÔÇØ but I was the only one to make it through the water hazard a quarter mile down a dirt, one lane access road to find an empty park in the dripping rain. Shelter would have been nice. John had to dismount from the Valykrie, and unhitch the trailer to make the turn around. Later, we turned down a side road on a slender strip of land into the Atlantic Ocean to an arcadian village and found a wonderful place to eat. The food was interesting. The fish was excellent, but enjoying the Rappie pie was a learned behavior, not an innate one.
During our late lunch, we again read the motorcycle guide to the region and decided to find Port lÔÇÖherbert provincial park for the eveningÔÇÖs camping. Following the instructions to the letter (we didnÔÇÖt know there were both a Port lÔÇÖherbert road and an EAST Port lÔÇÖherbert road, but then again, neither did the guidebook) we found ourselves not at the park, but at a deserted beach, twelve miles down a dirt road, on sport bikes.
It was obvious that folks had camped here recently. There were even pots and pans hanging off trees in the camping area. But the signs gave us much concern. First, there were NO signs indicating a park, but there were signs saying not to take shell fish and that the beach was closed due to the nesting ground of an endangered bird species. After we walked the area, we returned to the bikes to put on some very strong insect repellent since the black flies and skitters must have been getting paid overtime. Suddenly, a fairly new, bright red pickup truck shows up, with fiberglass patches covering the rust holes in the rear fenders, driven by chap in his late 30ÔÇÖs, Kendall the lobsterman.
Kendall told we really didnÔÇÖt want to camp there, and showed us the carcass of a whale that had washed up a few weeks before. (Later we saw the newspaper story with Kendall posing with the dead whale.) Actually it was the remains of the carcass, since the bears had been feasting on it. Some bones were left. That is when we decided we really didnÔÇÖt want to camp there anyhow.
KendallÔÇÖs wife saw (actually heard) us go by and since Kendall was looking for some motorcyclists from the states he had met before, he found us. Our bikes should have been very quiet, except while we were heading northeast, the packing in my muffler was heading southwest, thus rendering it less than effective. So, we were invited to camp in their backyard, at their private campground, with tables and a fire ring, a dug privy, fire wood cut, a 270 degree view of the river and a beach to clam on a few yards away.
What a friendly bunch of people. Kendall hung out and had a cold beer with us (we had a selection of microbrews from the states with us, in the cooler on the camper trailer, hard duty). Luckily he had just mowed the field a few weeks earlier. The unspoiled beauty amazed us. It turns out that is was the ONLY spot we stayed more than one night the entire trip until we hit the national rally in Lima.
Kendall took us out scallop fishing, or we took care of the boat, while he dived for scallops, and then taught Jill and John how to clean them. He told John to take the wheel and dove off with his scallop sack. ÔÇ£donÔÇÖt hit the rocks or run me overÔÇØ. We talked for HOURS about his life on Nova Scotia as a fisherman and to his wife who grew up on the same land they were living on. Jill, with her mental health training called them the least anxious people she had ever come across, or at least far less anxious that her normal population group of inner city Dayton, Ohio.
But life is hard as a fisherman. The lobster season is from November to April (and we bitch about being on a bike during the winter?). The traditional Cape Islander boats, (what I used to call a Nova Scotia fisher,) has a partially open wheel house with a large exposed deck and almost no heat. During the off-season (what we call boating season), he fishes with nets for herring and dives with scuba gear for scallops. At 38 feet long, the boat is long enough to fish the open Atlantic for days at a time. I complain when I have to walk around aircraft flight lines in 100 degree heat!
Yes, the road less taken is often the best road taken. You can meet the most interesting people that way. However, it did slow us down on our journey to Newfoundland.