Dateline: Sturbridge, Massachusetts
This visit to Halifax has been too short and today we began our long return trip to Maryland. We got a very early start, departing the Lord Nelson Hotel around 4:30am Atlantic Standard Time (3:30am EST) and drove through the nearly empty streets of Halifax on our way out to the 102 for the first leg of our trip. The headlights of some early commuters greeted us as we passed by the Stansfield International Airport, one of the day’s first arrivals passing over us. The lights of Halifax slowly disappeared behind us.
We crossed the 45th Parallel for the first time today at Stewiacke where we stopped at a Tim Horton’s around 5:30am for a bag of donuts and I welcomed a very large cup of steaming hot black coffee. The ground was snow-covered - the first real snow we have seen on this trip - and the parking lot was crunchy with black ice as a few flurries of snow ticked through the morning darkness.
Soon enough we were passing around Truro where we turned generally east on the Trans Canada Highway. And as we did, we began to climb into the snowy passage through the largely uninhabited Cobequid Hills running across the isthmus of Nova Scotia between the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The plows had not been out yet and the snow was quickly accumulating on the road surface. This is a lonely stretch of road until you finally chance upon the toll booth where we were told that the weather would clear once we descended the western slope. And it did just that.
Michael broke into a quiet rendition of “Snowbird” as we passed by Springhill, hometown of Canadian songstress Ann Murray as well as the Ann Murray Centre and a hockey arena named in honor of her parents. She’s still big up there! It was not long before the twinkling red lights of the massive Radio Canada International transmitter array near Sackville, New Brunswick came into view and we crossed the Missaguash River, passing out of Nova Scotia and taking one more step closer to home.
The sky began to lighten into a slate gray overcast around 8am when we jumped off the Trans Canada, which continued west to Frederickton, and turned southwest on Highway 1 through the Kennebecasis River valley toward St. John. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon when we stopped at the Bluebird Café near Sussex. The place seemed to be popular with truckers and we enjoyed a decent breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee.
The rest of our trip through New Brunswick was uneventful as we passed through St. Johns and continued down along the northern edge of the Bay of Fundy. We did not stop today being that we traveled this route back in August when the weather was warmer and sunnier. We reached the border at Saint Stephen shortly before 11am expecting the usual long wait to clear US customs. Instead, there were only a few cars ahead of us and the wait was short. The Customs and Border Protection agent inspecting my passport commented on my Chicago birthplace and asked if I was a Bears fan. I told him I favored the Packers only to discover that he, too, hailed from the Windy City. He winked and said something about deportation proceedings before waving us into Maine. The St. Croix River is narrow here yet we still gained an hour as we entered the Eastern Standard time zone.
We returned across Maine on Route 9 - the Airline Highway - to Bangor, crossing the 45th Parallel for a second time. There was snow in the air as we continued south on Interstate 95, but the ground was bare and many of the ponds and rivers are still remarkably free of ice for this time of year. Shortly before 3pm we arrived in New Gloucester - my wife and I live here during the summer months - but it was still too early to call it a day despite our departure from Halifax in the wee hours of the morning. We stopped at Cole Farms, one of our favorite local haunts, where we enjoyed a quick late lunch, and when we departed around 4pm, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.
Darkness fell as we drove southward across Maine, coastal New Hampshire and around Boston. A light snow fell without accumulating. It has been a very long day since Halifax and we have stopped for the night here in Sturbridge. A quiet dinner and it is time for bed. Tomorrow will be another early morning as we strike out for home.
Thanks to Michael G. Stewart for sharing his photograph of today's sunset.
From the Hermitage Artist Retreat
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