We awoke in our hotel room in Waterville, ME, no worse for wear considering… “Considering what, Tim?” you ask. Considering that when we arrived and loaded ourselves and our luggage cart into the elevator there was an open canister of Comet bleach cleanser on the elevator floor. Odd but, whatever.
Day 23/The French Called it Acadia
Earlier on our trip we bought a National Parks passport – a neat little spiral bound book designed for our kids to get stamped at each of the National Parks in the US. We figured we’d probably stop at our fair share on this 11,000 mile voyage. In fact, just the day before we had gotten a stamp in Boston. Yes, we were a bit disappointed that of all the historic sites in the cradle of American freedom the whole jurisdiction falls under one park – Boston National Historical Park. So from Bunker Hill to the Paul Revere House there’s just one common stamp. What’s the point?
This morning our navigator was set to guide us to another Park. We were headed to coastal Maine and Acadia National Park. Acadia was the name the French had given to all of Main and Atlantic Canada. In the hour and a half drive we encountered many “lobstah” signs. We found this amusing the first 32 times. The park itself was magnificent and everything one might think of when imagining the rocky cliffs and rough seashore of Downeast Maine. We set out on the park’s loop road determined to take in all the natural beauty of John D. Rockefeller’s former summer estate. He was no fool, that Johnny. The temperature was a cool 58 degrees with a splendid seabreeze coming in off the Bay of Fundy. On the beach we marveled at the crystal clear water. I even dipped my toes in. That experience reminded me of why I will never take part in a Polar Bear Plunge. We drove on to a picnic lunch in the park before heading up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast to breathe
Catholic in the sweeping view. While atop the precipice I lost one of the two lens caps from my wide angle/fisheye lenses. Perhaps the company will replace it for me.
After descending the mountain we drove into the nearby community of Bar Harbor. I keep praying that my kids will remember these moments, this time together, and these stops. Bar Harbor is the kind of place everyone should visit. The only problem is that very few people would ever practically find themselves in this part of the world to make the journey. It reminded me very much of Cabot Cove, the fictional setting of Murder She Wrote. That being the case I locked all my valuables away and put on a kevlar vest before getting out for ice cream with the kids. Cabot Cove had the highest murder rate in the known world and I just don’t trust Angela Lansbury at her age to track down the killers anymore. Karla had lobster ice cream. Yes, we all just threw up a little at that one. While she and I stood outside the ice cream parlor we enjoyed one of those wonderful moments that have come to define us as a couple. No matter what else, we’ve always just been able to make each other laugh and we find humor in the most ridiculous of things. We leaned against a lamppost looking at our kids who were happily eating their cones on a bench that faced the curb. A few feet behind them, on a bench butting up to the storefront, was a young boy blissfully working on his own confection. And then suddenly, as we looked on in sadness, his scoop of ice cream, a massive scoop at that, plummeted to the pavement. Oh well, it happens. Our sadness turned to horror as he slowly stooped down without lifting his backside off the bench. We knew what he was doing. Audibly, the two of us said simply “No, no, no, no, NO, NO! OOOOOHHHHH!” He had done it. He picked up the ice cream from the sidewalk and put it back on top of his vacant cone and began licking it again. We looked at each other. “Do we tell his parents,” I asked. “Nope,” said my wife. And then we laughed.
Turns out it was Moncton, the City that Tries. I say try harder.
Then we got back in the car and drove. “Shouldn’t we get gas?” I asked as only a passenger can. “We’re good,” said Karla. “I’ll stop before we hit the border.” To cut to the chase there is absolutely nothing (including cell phone coverage) in Maine north of Bar Harbor. About a mile before we’d have been running on fumes we found a gas station that had just closed. Thank you St. Anthony! I knocked on the door of the old general store. A woman came to the door with a large, barking dog. “You’re out of gas, ain’t ya? I’ll turn on the pump. You are in the middle of nowhere!” Thanks, I hadn’t known that.
I took over the drive at this point and ferried us to the Canadian border at St. Stephen/Calais (not the I-95 route I had hoped for but this was much quicker. Stopped at Duty Free for an epic purchase of smokes and then listened to my crossing agent instruct me that they had to be consumed in Canada. I’ll get right on that.
At this point I began my drive into the darkness. The time zone changes at the border so it was immediately an hour later. My passengers all went to sleep and I made the decision to soldier on and let them sleep. It’s moments like this where I really feel like I’m being the good dad, almost like Joseph shepherding Mary and Jesus into Egypt. You know he never asked Mary to take over the drive.
I drove through what I describe as a wasteland though I’m sure in the daylight it’s quite scenic. At night it was just me. I didn’t see a single car for three hours. I crossed from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia passing through what looked like 1965’s City of Tomorrow. Turns out it was Moncton, the City that Tries. I say try harder.
My arrival in Nova Scotia was greeted with fanfare (in my mind). You see, my mom’s parents were both born and raised in this province before escaping to New York as teens. I’ve always wanted to visit. But getting there sure felt like I was driving to the farthest end of the earth. I was remembering the end of that Narnia book where Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, Caspian, and that little belligerent mouse travel through the increasingly more shallow sea. I was expecting to glance down outside the car and see mer-people swimming about me. As I recall Caspian got his nose out of joint because the others told him he couldn’t leave Narnia, the rat defied gravity by rowing up a waterfall, and the other’s saw Jesus.
Instead of all that I saw Halifax.
Nova Scotia’s provincial capital finally came into glorious sight around 3AM and I did a happy dance. This was mostly because I hadn’t found a bathroom in 300 kilometers. Oh yes, I had to do all these crazy conversions. If you ever travel up here just keep in mind that 110 km is something akin to 95 MPH I think. Also, they take American money. In fact I think they prefer it. At least that’s the sense I got when I hit a random toll booth in the middle of absolute nowhere. And I mean NOWHERE. Who does that to drivers?!
Arriving to the hotel I thought of the sweet sleep that would befall me in God’s mercy after I got the kids into their beds. As I drifted off I realized how blessed I am to do this and I thanked God for what He’s done for me.