Sunday, January 1, 2012

Down East and Upward Into the New Year

Dateline: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sending out best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

I awoke around 5am this morning in Freeport, Maine. Yesterday was a long 14-hour day of discovery as we drove from Maryland to Maine via Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. We were all very tired when we arrived in Maine and we were long in bed before much of the world welcomed the new year.

This is my first posting of 2012 and the second dispatch from the Great White North, which so far is not very white at all. We were on the road by 7am passing all the highway signs warning of snow and urging drivers to take it slow. But no snow! There was a heavy frost on the ground as we set out, and the bridges were a bit icy, but the ground across Maine and New Brunswick is bare . . . and very little ice in the rivers and ponds. Certainly not what one expects to find in early January. This being both a holiday and a Sunday, there was very little traffic on the roads and so we were able to make very good time. We passed through Bangor at 9am, and less than an hour later we were walking along Main Street in Ellsworth, the gateway to Acadia National Park and Downeast Maine. During the summers this area is clogged with tourist traffic and I usually keep my distance. Today it was very quiet . . . . and an absolutely delightful place to stretch our legs.

Our morning’s journey took us across Downeast Maine on US Route 1 and as we drove I regaled my fellow passengers with John Steinbeck’s descriptions of the area when he passed this way in the autumn of 1960, and which he later recounted in Travels With Charley. We passed Kilkenny Cove, at the head of Frenchman’s Bay, and admired the hills of Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula in the distance. Despite signs to the contrary, just about everything along the road was closed and shuttered tight for the season, including Ruth and Wimpy’s lobster pound, the home of Wilbur the Lobster. We continued past several Washington County villages and headwaters, passing a very small church in Sullivan, until we finally arrived among the blueberry barrens near Machias, and the tidal flats of Cobscook at the far eastern extremity of the continental United States.

Around noon the sun disappeared for the rest of the day with a light mist in the air. Just like yesterday! A good time to stop for lunch at an old favorite - the New Friendly Restaurant, in Perry, Maine. I enjoyed a bowl of fresh fish chowder, the fish & chips plate (so much for the New Year’s Resolution), and an endless glass of root beer.

We crossed into Canada at Calais/St. Stephen and immediately lost an hour as we entered Atlantic Standard Time. Bad enough that we have such a long trip, but 2pm suddenly became 3pm and we still had to drive across the entire width of New Brunswick and a goodly portion of Nova Scotia. Michael and I explored the edge of the Bay of Fundy back in August and so we did not tarry today; it was once again time to put miles, or I should say kilometers, behind us. The mist thickened as we drove through Saint John and dusk descended upon us accompanied by bands of snow showers as we approached Moncton. More snow, some of it heavy, fell as we crossed the Cobequib Pass, but we quickly ran out of it as we approached Truro and finally turned south toward Halifax.

We arrived here around 8:45pm local time. Another long day on the road. We dropped Spencer and Anna off at her apartment and we have checked into the Lord Nelson Hotel. Thankfully, we will be here for a few days and I am anxious to explore more of the city that I was first introduced to last summer. And to properly welcome the New Year, I am going to go to the lounge off the lobby for a couple cold brews before turning in. Oh, Canada!

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