Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Abrupt Transitions: What Country Am I Really In??? - Dispatches from Canada (or is it?)

Dateline: Trois-Rivière, Québec 

 After a week in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick I have finally arrived  in Québec - la belle province - and I am resting my weary head this evening along
the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, in the realm of the Trifluvians, about half way between Québec City and Montréal.

I spent last night in
Edmundston, New Brunswick situated on the Canadian side of the St. John River opposite Madawaska, in Maine’s Aroostook County.  Just shy of the Québec border, Edmunston seemed an appropriate place to begin my exploration of the USA-Canadian border in northern New England (a ca. 800 mile long boundary between Lake Champlain, on the New York-Vermont border, and the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic Ocean where Maine and New Brunswick meet).

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 formally ended the American Revolution and concluded peace between the infant United States and Great Britain.  It also established the original boundary between this country and British Canada to the north, from the Atlantic coast to the northwestern head of Connecticut River and then proceeding down the middle of that river in a generally southwesternly direction to the 45th Parallel of north latitude in what is today northern New Hampshire.  From there it continued due west along this parallel to the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York as surveyed in 1771-1773.

The area around Edmunston / Madawaska along the St. John River was the focal point of an intense yet bloodless border dispute between the United States and Great Britain in 1838-1839 known as the “Aroostook War.”   Although originally between the State of Maine and the Province of New Brunswick, this dispute eventually drew the attention of the US and British governments and led to the unilateral establishment of the Republic of Madawaska by American interests on the Canadian (British) side of the river.  Local residents still refer to Edmunston by its republican title and the republic’s flag is frequently on display.  Edmunston, although in New Brunswick, is mostly francophone and therefore a suitable place to transition into Québec where French is the only official languages.

The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 eventually resolved both the local Aroostook War / Madawaska Republic dispute between Maine and New Brunswick, as well as redefining the international boundary separating British Canada from New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.  It also resolved the Indian Stream Republic dispute on the border of New Hampshire and Québec, and the Vermont-Quèbec border at Fort Blunder situated at the outlet of the Rivière Richelieu to Lake Champlain.
[See http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2009/07/one-step-over-line-part-2.html for additional information of the Indian Stream Republic.]

This morning after departing Edmunston I drove west along the St. John River on Route 102 for a few miles through a small panhandle of New Brunswick; the USA just a couple hundred feet away on my left.  I eventually turned northwest away from the river and drove through beautiful rolling countryside in full autumn splendor and dotted with deep azure blue lakes until I arrived in the Témiscouata Regional County Municipality of Québec.  From there I followed Route 289 - the "Route des Frontières" - to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River at Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska.  Along the way I once again skirted the Canadian-US border running along the Rivière Saint-François from Rivière-Bleue to Pohénégamook (formerly Estcourt), Québec.  I will remain in Canada for a couple more days before I return to my native land although today I jumped the gun just a bit at Pohénégamook.  More on that in a moment.

The US-Canadian border provides a number of strange boundary anomalies, especially along the roughly 90-mile boundary separating Vermont and Québec.  This boundary, also referred to in some quarters as the “West Line,” is based in part on an earlier survey in 1771-1772 and was formally established in 1783 along the 45th Parallel, the line of latitude halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  This boundary was later confirmed by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 which unfortunately did not take into consideration various boundary anomalies which have now been incorporated into the current official boundary recognized by both countries.  As a result the Vermont-Québec border deviates in some places by more than a mile beyond the 45th Parallel.

A 2006 essay published by the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) refers to international boundaries as “places of abrupt transition, where a conceptual cartographic line can manifest itself physically in many ways.”  This is probably no more evident than in Beebe Plain and Derby Line, two villages in the northern Vermont town of Derby which I plan to revisit tomorrow.  Both are situated directly on the USA-Canada international boundary opposite the municipality of Stanstead, Québec.  I first began visiting the Derby / Stanstead area regularly in 1994 after teaching a summer seminar at the University of Vermont, in Burlington.  I have always been fascinated by borderlands, and when I was young my father had told me about an old army buddy who came from Derby Line and lived in a house divided by the border.  Apparently he has a choice of serving in either the Canadian or the US Army during the war and chose the latter.  I had to see this for myself. 

In Beebe Plain, the half mile length of Canusa Street / rue Canusa runs along the border.  Houses on the south side of the street are in the USA while those on the north side are in Canada.  The entire roadway is Canadian territory.  To visit a neighbor across the street one must go to the end of the street where the respective border stations are located and show a passport and then return to the neighbor’s house on that side.  To go home one has to repeat the process.  It is probably easier just to wave and shout . . . in English or French depending on which side of the street one lives.  Consider, too, the fact that whenever American residents of Canusa Street pull out of their driveways they have left the USA and must report to the border posts at the end of the street.  Canadian residents of rue Canusa need not report for border inspection as long as they do not cross the line into the United States.

The dilemma of residing on this international boundary is further compounded where a few homes in Beebe Plain / Stanstead are situated directly on the line; homes where families eat in one country and sleep in another.  Fortunately a different set of rules applies and these residents are not required to report if they cross the line inside the building .  However, they must report to the respective border post if they leave the building into a different country than the one from which they entered the building.  It wasn’t always this way; customs officials in friendly neighboring countries knew who lived on Canusa Street and the border-straddling home and often turned a blind eye.  To add insult to injury, residents of homes straddling the border must pay property taxes in both countries. 

Jim Lynch, in his novel Border Songs, referred to the northern US boundary as "the nonchalant border, a geographical handshake."  Not anymore.  The reality of the USA-Canada border . . . long touted as the longest undefended border in the world where passports were not required and border formalities were frequently as informal as a wave and a smile . . . changed forever after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Present security concerns now make it necessary to adhere to strict procedures.  US and Canadian customs agents can’t even go back and forth on official business unless they leave their weapons behind.  Only a few steps separate them yet it has become easier to communicate by telephone.  

Just a couple miles east of Beebe Plain on Québec Route 247 (an extension of rue Canusa) is Rock Island, another village within the Stanstead municipality facing Derby Line, Vermont.  Here, too, a few buildings and homes are bisected by the border.  The local library, shared by both towns, was intentionally built on the border at a time when Derby Line and Rock Island were joined at the hip and one was able to wander back and forth between countries without formality or concern.  Both entrances to the building lie in the USA as do the library’s foyer and offices.  The book stacks, a reading room, and the circulation desk are in Canada.  There is a line demarcating the border running through one of the reading rooms.  The toilet in the bathroom is in the USA; the toilet paper in Canada. [This was a subject of my September 19, 2013 blogpost.  http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2013/09/good-restrooms-make-good-neighbors.html
Upstairs the opera house is also divided.  The stage is in Canada while most of the audience sits in the USA.  It all seems strange . . . but true.  Streets once shared by the two communities have been gated at the border point since 2009 when passports became necessary when passing thought he international boundary (they can be open and closed remotely to permit the passage of emergency vehicles).  Now many eyes, sensors  and cameras keep tabs on who is where and why , , , even library patrons from both countries although they are still allowed access to the building without having to first go through border formalities.  There are two fire escapes - one in each country - in case of an emergency. [The library is also the subject of a prior blogspot posting on June 28, 2009. http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/search?q=Derby+Line]
That being said, however, patrons are warned not to park on the Canadian side of the building if they’re American, or on the American side if they’re Canadian.  If they do, and they fail to report to customs, they may be subject to arrest.  All along the border one sees more of the familiar green and white US Customs and Border Patrol vehicles, as well as those of the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP/GRC, on the Canadian side of the line.  A rumored friendly border has become deadly serious.  Even the once common photo-op of straddling the border can get you arrested.

The US-Canadian border has been particularly volatile this year following President [sic] Trump’s inauguration and his subsequent ill-advised and blatantly unconstitutional travel bans directed at residents of several predominantly Muslim countries.  Canadian authorities have reported that up to 500 individuals, many of them citizens of the banned countries in question already in the United States, are daily trying to flee the United States to see asylum in Canada.  How unfortunate that those who came to America’s shores to seek respite from terror, persecution, and violence must now search beyond America’s borders for such protections.  All the more unfortunate when these migrants have become so fearful of remaining in the United States that they seek to enter Canada by any means available to them, including illegal ones.  As a result, Canadian border authorities are also clamping down and enforcing laws and procedures to the letter.  The border has not been this confrontational since the War of 1812. 

So this is probably not the best time to do many close-up exploration of the US-Canadian frontier.  One false move, whether intentional or not, can have dire consequence.  Nevertheless, earlier today, as I was passing through Pohénégamook, Québec, I chanced upon another border anomaly . . . this one by far stranger than the others I have experienced and one I have wanted to visit for many years.  I am referring to the “American” town of Estcourt Station situated at the northernmost point in the State of Maine which has the third longest state border with Canada after Alaska and Michigan.  Some have claimed it is the northernmost point in the contiguous United States, but that honor goes to the Northwest Angle, situated in Lake of the Woods where northern Minnesota borders Manitoba; yet one more border anomaly resulting from the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.  And like the Estcourt Station, it can only be effectively reached by passing through Canadian territory.  Estcourt Station is, however, the northern-most point in the Eastern United States and the most isolated American border community in the 48 contiguous states. 

To call Estcourt Station, Maine an American town is a bit of a stretch.  It is hardly a town at all; just a single road - Rue de la Frontière - which like Canusa Street in Beebe Plain is situated entirely within Canada until it reaches the customs post at the far end of town.  The only public access is from Québec Route 289 at Pohénégamook (population ca. 3000).  The official population of Estcourt Station is four American summer residents who live in houses solely within US territory.  The remaining residents are Canadian citizens whose few homes are bisected by the border.  Technically an American town, residents have a Québec Area Code and receive their water and electricity from Canada.  There is twice weekly US postal delivery although the town mail boxes in the United States can only be accessed by passing through Canadian territory which requires reporting first to the Canadian border station. 

There are no commercial establishments save a filling station situated entirely in the United States which can only be reached by first reporting to the US border station a mile farther down Rue de la Frontière and then returning through Canadian territory to the station.  I am reminded of an incident that occurred here back in 2003.  A Canadian resident of Pohénégamook crossed into the United States at Estcourt Station in order to purchase cheaper gas (at the time 20-25% cheaper than in Canada).  The US border station was closed at the time and so the Canadian did not report.  He was nevertheless interdicted by the US Border Patrol and charged with entering the United States illegally.  They found a hunting rifle in the resident’s car (not an unusual occurrence in those parts) and he ended up spending a month in jail and the incident led to a high-level diplomatic dust-up between to otherwise friendly neighbors.

I arrived in Estcourt Station by the most direct route; driving several miles through the far northwestern strip of New Brunswick into Québec beyond Fort Kent, Maine, the closest American town.  To reach Estcourt Station directly through the United States would require a two-plus hour trip via private gravel logging roads which are difficult under the best of conditions.  Try it sometime during the winter.

There is a Canadian border station located in the middle of Estcourt Station (on Canadian territory, of course) at the access point from Québec Route 289.  Upon my arrival I reported to the station.  I had no plans to formally enter the United States, but I did want to visit the small park at the end of town on Rue de la Frontière which sits directly on the border. There is also a footbridge crossing the Rivière François, the only footbridge linking the two countries, and one must take a few steps across American territory to access the bridge.  Must I drive to the opposite end of town to report first to the American border station before returning through Canadian territory to the park?   I had read how intransigent the American inspectors can be and I did not want to do anything illegal just to experience this rather quaint border curiosity.  The friendly Canadian inspector saw my American plates as I pulled up and already knew my question before I asked it.  He told me the park was considered a “gray area” and I was free to visit and move around it.  He reminded me to touch the border pylon in the park as it was the northern point in the United States [sic].  He did, however, caution me not to stray farther beyond the park’s perimeter into American territory or I might well have an unwelcome visit from the American authorities who monitor the area with cameras and sensors.  Ironic that they would have to transit Canadian territory to get to me. [In general, I have found Canadians border agents friendlier and more accommodating, a subject of July 10, 2013 blogspot.  http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2013/07/back-in-ussa-dispatches-from-maine.html]

I drove the very short distance down Rue de la Frontière to the Border Park.  To my left was a steep embankment leading up to the tracks of the Canadian National Railway linking Montréal and Halifax.  To my right the houses of Estcourt Station, Maine; almost every one bisected by the international boundary.  The roadway is bordered on the American side of the line with sensors and cameras to monitor any activity on the border.  At the end of the road there is parking area adjacent to the park, both of which are divided by the border.  A large border pylon stands in the middle of the park.  Just beyond the park is the Rivière François, the Route 289 highway and CNR rail bridges (both wholly within Canada), and the aforementioned international footbridge. 
The original bridge at this location was wide enough to accommodate horse carriages.  It was long known locally as “Tobacco Road” as Canadians would visit the now defunct small store in Estcourt Station which did a fast business selling American cigarettes which were two to three times cheaper than tobacco products in Canada. That bridge washed away many years ago and there was no plan to replace it as it permitted Canadians to enter the United States where there was no official port of entry.  It was finally rebuilt but the new bridge is limited to pedestrians only.  Canadians residing in Estcourt Station can now reach the commercial area of Pohénégamook even though they must cross a few feet of American territory in order to do so.  Those crossing from the Canadian side are greeted by a prominent sign warning visitors they must report to US customs at the far end of town.  There is no such sign requesting visitors to report to the Canadian border station.  Yet one more community and a host of problems not envisioned by Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton in 1842.

UPDATED October 11, Dateline: Pittsburg, NH: The day after I visited Estcourt Station I returned to Beebe Plain - Derby Line, Vermont / Stanstead, Québec where I once again probed the international boundary, this time from the Canadian side of the line.  Driving south from Magog on Québec Route 247 along the eastern side of Lake Memphrémagog, which is also bisected by the border, I approached the border and turned left onto Canusa Street.  Since it lies wholly in the Canada and I was continuing on to the Rock Island side of the line a few miles east, I was not required to report to either border inspection station facing one another across the street.  I finally crossed back into the USA at Canaan, Vermont.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Nova Scotia Wines: Discovering the Tidal Bays - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: Grand Pre / Gaspereau River Valley, Nova Scotia

I had no idea Nova Scotia was known for it wines when I first visited the province in 1995. On that trip we happened upon Jost Vineyards located near Malagash, in the rolling hill country not far for the picturesque coastal inlets of the Northumberland shore opposite Prince Edward Island. A pioneer of the Nova Scotia wine industry, Jost Vineyards produces many distinctive wines which have won numerous national and international awards. I recall tasting several of them on that visit years ago. Today it is Nova Scotia’s largest wine producer and has joined the Mercator and Gaspereau vineyards, near Wolfville and Grand Pre and the shores of the Bay of Fundy, to create the province’s Devonian Coast Wineries. My itinerary for this trip did not include a return to the Northumberland Shore, but I was able to purchase two bottles of 2015 Marechal Foch, a fruit driven, medium bodied red, at the Nova Scotia Welcome Center on the Trans Canada Highway. A good start.

This latest trip to the province provided an opportunity to visit the other two Devonian Coast vineyards. Mercator Vineyards, in Wolfville, is devoted to making extraordinary wines in limited edition. Unfortunately the town was jammed with tourists out on a beautiful autumn day and so I did not tarry there. The real prize is Gaspereau Vineyards, in the Gaspereau River Valley, in the heart of the Acadian homeland made famous by Evangeline, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s epic poem. It was here in 1755, at the beginning of the Seven Years War, that the British set in motion the "grand dérangement," the expulsion of over ten thousand French speaking Acadians to Europe and several of its American colonies (although not to Louisiana as many believe). Many returned to this area after the end of that war, in 1763, and it is once again a vibrant Acadian community.

But this is not a history lesson. I’m here to talk to you about wine. Great wine! Normally I am a drinker of reds (hence the purchase of the bottles of Marechal Foch), and only rarely do I give whites their fair due. I have enjoyed many white wines over the years, especially when I was living in Germany, but I have drifted away from them since then. I just find reds more interesting; a personal preference and nothing more. So I was prepared to taste reds when I arrived at the Gaspereau Vineyards which is known for its rich variety of robust reds. Before I got started, however, I inquired about some of the other wines and was rather curious about the "Tidal Bay Flight" which, as it turned out, is an opportunity to sample the Tidal Bay offerings from all three Devonian Coast Wineries . . . a treat since I was unable to visit Jost on this trip and Mercator was hard to reach through all the tourist traffic.

Melody, the very pleasant young lady who was assisting me, was happy sing the praises of Tidal Bay. Officially launched in the summer of 2012, Tidal Bay is the first wine appellation for Nova Scotia. Unlike most other wine regions, where an appellation is defined by a specific geographic region, the Tidal Bay appellation applies to Nova Scotia as a whole and vineyards throughout the province produce their own variations.

Melody described it as a generally crisp and aromatic white wine which is a master of the Nova Scotia terroir with its cool climate and the influence of the sea throughout the province. Melody was quick to point out, however, that not just any white wine can qualify for the Tidal Bay appellation. To obtain this designation, a wine must be produced using specific grape varieties grown in Nova Scotia. Production through bottling must also follow strictly enforced standards approved annually by an independent blind tasting panel consisting of winemakers, sommeliers and wine experts.
So I passed on the reds and sampled the Tidal Bay Flight and was impressed with all three, but favoring the Gaspereau. And why not? It was awarded the Double Gold in the 2017 All Canadian Wine Championships; the Silver Medal at the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada; and Best in Class for Tidal Bays at the 2017 Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards. I liked it so much so that I purchased two bottles.

Afterwards I drove just a short distance to the Luckett Vineyard where I did tastes their reds, but not before I enjoyed a lovely lunch overlooking the vineyards and the Bay of Fundy in the distance (where I took the above photograph) . . . a tasty seafood bake washed down with a glass of Luckett’s own Tidal Bay which pairs nicely with the local seafood. I added a bottle to the two I purchased at Gaspereau Vineyards.

I would have tasted them all over the valley, but I was traveling alone and I had an hour drive back to Halifax. The upside . . . I have three bottles of Tidal Bay and two Marechal Fochs to enjoy at my leisure. I can live with that.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Canadian Thanksgiving - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Tomorrow is Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, a statutory holiday on the second Monday of October throughout the country (except for the four Atlantic Canada provinces where it is observed, but not officially). That said, most folks here in Nova Scotia seem to be celebrating it today. This is my first Canadian Thanksgiving, and having no specific plans, I spent it exploring more of the North Atlantic coastline near Halifax. I saw lots of people out enjoying an unseasonably warm day and the stunning autumn colors before returning home to a holiday meal this evening.

Other than being in early October, Canada’s Thanksgiving is celebrated much like we do at home in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November. In fact, the holiday was brought north of the border by Americans seeking refuge from the Civil War at home, and it was celebrated in November until 1957 when it was moved to its present date. There are traditional sporting events. There is turkey and stuffing, pumpkins and other seasonal produce, and pies of every description. And like our holiday, Canadians gather with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of autumn and the harvest season before the onset of a long, cold winter. Still, the celebration in Canada is relatively low key. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. No Thanksgiving cards. No holiday displays in the stores. None of what we are used to these days in the States.

I’ll be honest. I think I like the Canadian version better because it has remained traditional without all the frills that we have come to expect during our celebration which has become a four-day holiday and the biggest travel weekend of the year. Add to this the fact that Thanksgiving also marks the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the USA even though I have seen Christmas decorations in stores since early July 4! Americans seem more interested in seeking out bargains at the malls than spending a pleasant day with their friends and families. Stores are open and people have to work. What kind of a holiday is that? What are we really giving thanks for anyway?

So it was refreshing to be reminded of the true meaning and significance of Thanksgiving. Here’s wishing my Canadian family and friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Halifax: A Novel Idea - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Back in January 2013 I participated in The Next Big Thing, the blog interview. The format was very simple . . . answer ten questions about a recently completed, or current writing project. I chose the draft manuscript for a novel-in-progress . . . at the time my first. I am presently in Halifax - my third visit in the past six years - to continue my work on that particular novel project. In the meantime, however, I have just completed the first draft of another novel (now my first). Now that I have returned in earnest to that earlier novel project, I decided to revisit those previous questions and I have updated my responses where necessary. So here goes . . . .ten interview questions for "The Next Big Thing":

1. What is your working title of your book (or story)?

A Gentle Whisper. The title is taken from 1 Kings 19:12. "And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper."

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I took a spur of the moment road trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia during the summer of 2011 at which time I came up with the germ of an idea for a novel. I returned to Halifax in early 2012 when I explored the possibilities further and began to map out in my mind where I wanted the story to go. For the past five years I have been conducting extensive research, outlining chapters and drafting character studies and narrative summaries.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It is a novel - a Bildungsroman - constructed of several sections divided into chapters. I would consider it more literary than popular fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There are a great many characters in the novel covering a period of time from 1914 through 2001. Much of the narrative is set in the late 1990s in Europe, Canada and New England. I see the main characters from this period being played by Matt Damon, Jennifer Lawrence as Susanna Emerson, Shawna Waldron (she played the daughter in The American President [1995] . . . she’s all grown up), and Anthony Hopkins. There are a series of flashbacks to World War I and the great Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917. These are peopled with a rich variety of characters, and my wife insists that I come up with a few to be played by George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Liam Niessen, and Viggo Mortensen.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The main story line revolves around an American historian attempting to write a book about the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to publish through an established publishing house or small press.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I am currently deep in that process.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising (1941), Robert MacNeil’s The Burden of Desire (1992), and Jennie Marsland’s Shattered (2011). All three of these novels, written by Canadian authors, use the Halifax explosion as a focal point of the narrative although their individual denouements are widely varied. As far as I know, I am the first to construct a novel on the subject from a mostly American perspective.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My visits to Halifax, Nova Scotia over the past six years and my readings on the Halifax explosion and its place in modern Canadian history and culture.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

They might find the balancing of foreshadowing and flashbacks interesting as they both lend verisimilitude to the suffering of the people of Canada, and especially Halifax, during World War I.

Having gone back through these questions today I find that they still ring true. I guess that is a good sign. I did add a couple more names of actors my wife would like to see in the film treatment of the novel (ah, to dream). We did not discuss these additions, but I have known her for 46 years and I am pretty sure I am on safe ground here.

I spent yesterday on the Halifax waterfront doing research, and tomorrow I return to the waterfront and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, as well as spend some time on the harbor ferries to get a feel for the place from the water. All of this will help when I am sitting in my study in Maryland this winter trying to capture the feel of this city 100 years ago.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Free Day: Deeper In Country - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

I spent much of today in the car driving the breath of New Brunswick and a couple more hours into Nova Scotia, from St. Andrews, near the US border, to Halifax which was my ultimate destination.

I was in no big rush to get here and so this morning I took a leisurely drive along the Bay of Fundy coastline as far at Saint John, visiting several more fishing communities along the way. In was early enough in the day that the tide was high and vessels were riding quietly at the moorings. I have been at these same harbors at low tide when the boats were tilted far over on their sides and resting on dry ground. You have to carefully time your comings and goings or you are out of luck until the next high tide. There are only two each day. Such is life on the Bay of Fundy with some of the highest tides on earth

Reaching Saint John, I turned northeast into the beautiful hill country with its farms and forests rich with autumn colors. They are reaching their peak this far north. I eventually joined the Trans Canada Highway near Moncton, the province’s largest city, and from there I continued east into Nova Scotia, passing large wind farms at the head of the Bay of Fundy before crossing the so-called "Cobequid Pass" although there is no official geographic feature by that name in the Cobequid Mountains (more like high hills . . . the highest elevation is ca. 1200 feet). The moniker comes from the a joint private-public Crown corporation that manages the toll section of the highway going through the "pass." Here especially the rock maples and birch are brilliant orange and gold. For a second day in a row I crossed the 45th Parallel, this time at Stewiacke, between Truro and Halifax.

So it was a free day; getting from one place to another without much time to focus on anything but driving. But is was free, too, in that I did not have to pay for any of my meals! I returned to the local Tim Horton’s this morning before I left St. Andrews. I was having a nice chat with a fellow from British Columbia who once worked at the Canadian embassy in Washington. He was kind enough to pay for my donut and coffee. Then I stopped for gas around 1pm at an Irving station at Norton, New Brunswick. I visited what appeared to be a newly remodeled WC and upon exiting I was confronted by an attractive young lady who was taking a survey on public reaction to the new design and decor. I gladly answered her questions and for my time and trouble I received a $5 gift card which paid for the sandwich I planned to buy for lunch. On top of that, the cashier gave me a small rubber ducky for visiting the Irving station. Following my arrival in Halifax this evening I went out for a late dinner. I had to wait what seemed like an inordinately long time to both order and to receive my dinner. When I did, it was cold. They made good, and the second meal was just fine. But they "compted" my entire bill, nevertheless. So it was a free day in every way possible.

I gotta come to Canada more often. They really seem to like me up here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Looking Into Yesterday - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada

Last night at midnight I drove the few blocks from my motel to Joe’s Point, on the banks of Pottery Cove and the St. Croix River. From there I stared across the dark waters to a few scattered lights along the far shore - Robbinston, Maine. The good old USA. I had been looking at the America shoreline ever since I arrived here in St. Andrews, New Brunswick yesterday afternoon. A river dividing two countries. Yet at midnight it took on a new mystique. I was standing on the Canadian shoreline at midnight, in the Atlantic Time zone, and I was staring across to Maine where it was 11pm, in the Eastern Time Zone. I was looking into yesterday. I am reminded of stories I have read about ships operating along the International Date Line, in the Pacific Ocean. Those on the west side of the line looking east were looking toward tomorrow; those on the east side of the line looked west toward yesterday. Standing there I imagined someone standing across the water looking my direction . . . into tomorrow, and I wondered what it would be like to stand on the border with a foot on each side of the line . . . one foot in yesterday, the other in tomorrow. No bending of the space-time continuum, but it was weird to think about this on a cold midnight in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

This morning I awoke to the horrific news of another heinous mass killing in the USA, this time on the Las Vegas Strip. There are 59 confirmed dead as I write this with over 500 injured, many of them critically. I watched the TV reports here in Canada where this kind of thing does not happen because this country has sane gun control laws without usurping its citizens' right to bear arms responsibly. The USA could have them too if our leaders were not in bed with the NRA. Those who arm terrorists, or turn a blind eye to this marketing in arms, are terrorist themselves. There is blood on all their hands this morning. Every morning. I ask myself why I should even go home again. The USA is becoming unrecognizable as is continues to sink into insignificance. I wish I could really look back to yesterday before yet one more insanity was perpetrated on innocent Americans.

Upon my arrival here in St. Andrews yesterday, I settled into my cozy motel room and set off exploring this quaint little town. I was last here in August 1995 when my wife and son and I were returning to Maine from a trip to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. It is much as I remembered it. I spent the evening walking along Water Street looking in the shop and gallery windows, and stopping in a couple eateries to sample the local salmon washed down with some fine Canadian beers - Alexander Keith’s IPA from Halifax, and Alpine from nearby Saint John. I walked out on the town wharf to get a closer look at the harbor at low tide which twice daily drops almost 30 feet below the high water mark. I topped off the day with a visit to the ancient blockhouse, one of the few left intact in Canada, to watch the sunset. Here British troops stood guard during the war with the United States, 1812-1814. A feared American invasion never materialized yet cannons are still aimed across the water at the USA.

This morning I joined a Canadian ritual . . . donuts and coffee at a local Tim Hortons . . . and I was lucky enough to arrive just before a busload of leaf peepers setting off for a day along the Bay of Fundy coastline. I was headed in the same direction to explore the Fundy islands at the head of Passamaquoddy Bay. I followed the coast to St. George before turning south to Back Bay and L’Etete where I boarded the Abnaki II, a free ferry operated by the provincial government, for the twenty minute trip from the mainland among forested islets to Lords Cove, on the eastern tip of Deer Island.

It is one of the Fundy Islands, along with Campobello Island, at the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay. Along with Lords Cove, there are two other small communities - Fairhaven and Leonardville - each with their own wharves and fishing fleets. The economy is primarily fishing and aquaculture although tourism is important during the summer season. Settled by Loyalists in 1770 the island population is roughly 1000 although I had to look hard to find anybody out and about today. Not much going on around there in the off season. Most of the fishing boats were tied up and lobster traps were stacked on the wharves and floating docks.

Located on its southernmost point is Deer Island Point Park where there is a seasonal campground and picnic area. From here you can look across the short distance of water to Eastport and Lubec, in Maine. They are the easternmost city and town in the continental United States respectively. There is also Campobello Island, and on a clear day such as this one you can see the Roosevelt "cottage" above its northern shoreline near the island village of Welshpool. These waters are the home of Old Sow, the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. Several gray seals were playing in the swirling waters.

I had hoped to enjoy some local seafood at the 45th Parallel Restaurant (half way between the Equator and the North Pole). Unfortunately it was closed despite all the open signs scattered about. So I made my way back Lords Cove and boarded the ferry Princess II for the trip back to the mainland. I continued over to Blacks Harbour which is the northern terminus for the year-round ferry to Grand Manan Island situated 20 miles to the south. This whole region is the center of a thriving aquaculture industry.

It was a long day and I was happy to return to St. Andrews for more salmon and local brews. I looked into yesterday. Now I am happy to just look forward to tomorrow.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Heading Down East - Dispatches from Canada

Dateline: St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada

After three months at our lake cottage in Maine, I departed early this morning for points north and east.  My trip today took me through central Maine to Bangor where I crossed the Penobscot River.  From there I traveled across the Airline Highway (State Route 9) to Calais [CAL-us] and the Canadian border.

There are essentially five ways to reach Canada through Maine.  There is the coastal route along US Highway One, and although very scenic in many spots, it is a slow slog through numerous towns clogged with traffic, much of it headed toward Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  Once past there, however, the traffic dies down but it is still a long, slow trip.  Then there is Interstate 95 up past Houlton, but this would put me far north of where I want to be once I got to Canada.  My favorite is Route 9, and the obe I followed today, is the so-called “Airline Highway.”  Approximately 100 miles from Bangor to Calais, it is the shortest and most direct route to the Canadian border.  And whereas there is relatively less traffic on the Airline Highway than found on the other two main routes, much of what you do encounter is large logging trucks barreling toward their destinations.  The final two routes are State Route 27 from Farmington up through Coburn Gore entering Québec near Lac Mégantic, in the Eastern Townships south of the St. Lawrence River, and US Highway 201 through Skowhegan and Jackman that leads into Québec’s Beauce region and St. Georges, on the Chaudière River south of Québec City.  Neither of these routes would take me anywhere close to where I needed to be today. 
I wanted to get to Canada as quickly as possible . . . especially since I lost an hour   entering the Atlantic Time Zone when I crossed the St. Croix River from Calais, Maine into St. Stephen, New Brunswick.  Once you leave Bangor and begin driving along the southern bank of the Penobscot River, you don’t see much of anything except trees, more trees, and the occasional marshy bogs populated with thick stands of bleached deadwood amongst the living trees. This is the silver lining in taking this route given the fact that the autumn colors . . . the red maples and the golden birch scattered among the spruce and balsam . . . are reaching their zenith in Down East Maine now that October is here.  Who can complain about driving through millions of trees decked out in their fall finery?  This is lonely country where the townships have numerical designations rather than proper names.  Very few people live there.

I arrived in Calais in the early afternoon.  A beautiful, cloudless sunny day with temperatures hovering in the high 50s (the thermometer dipped below the freezing mark for the first time overnight).   After brief and very friendly Canadian border formalities I ran some errands and then continued to my day’s destination.  I am spending the next two nights here in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  Founded in 1783 by American Loyalists, this shire town of Charlotte County is situated on the southern end of a narrow peninsula separating the boundary waters at the mouth of the St. Croix River and the northern extension of Passamaquoddy Bay.  It has been several years since I was last here and I am looking forward to a casual day exploring the town and the nearby islands situated in Canadian boundary waters. 

It will be another two weeks before I return to the USA.  Frankly, I am in no big hurry to get back.