Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Throughout most of May and June I spied this chicken coop for sale at the general store in Carlow.  It was originally a dresser/wardrobe and it was converted into most of what it is today.  I had to rip off its doors and fix them, and I also ripped off the back of the unit and reconfigured it into a nesting area for the ladies to lay.  By and by it turned into a fine area for 3 or 4 birds during the first of July with my brother's help.  However being on the road and traveling, there wasn't a great time to get the birds until now.

We were passing through Elmira the other day.  There is a store that sells all things Pullets.  They are serious enough that the electronic message on the sales receipt says, "Eggs for the body, Jesus for the soul."  They must be New Order Mennonite, not that such a message would only come from them, but they are popular in the area and quite religous.  Nevertheless these chickens aren't too fancy, but they'll lay an egg a day.  They were about $12 each, which I think is probably pricey.  We stopped at a Mennonite farm earlier and inquired about their poultry for sale and the ladies were $5 each.  But they looked all skinny and disgusting; like they had gone to war and back.  These $12 hens definitely look like they have lived the life of luxury, if that is even possible for a chicken.

So the high school aged New Order Mennonite kid went into the barn and grabbed 3 chickens like he had done it many times before, and some.  The hens surprisingly weren't flapping their wings or fighting back.  They certainly weren't jittery, or squawking away like this is it.  They were pretty calm and seemed reserved that a new journey was coming.  Albeit a new journey crammed in the back of an empty Pamper's box.

I bet Pamper's gets hundreds of notes about the creative ways their boxes have been reused.  Add chicken transport....  Fittingly too the chickens defecated all over the box - I thought that was a bit ironic as they could have used a diaper to catch the waist.  2 chickens were in the Pamper's box and the third was in a cat carrier.

So far they seem settled in and enjoying their new surroundings.  They have plenty of room to roam, lots of food, and a roof over their head.  They will be laying brown eggs.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Last Post and Trip Summary

I kind of dropped the ball on the true and accurate quantitative stats on the trip.  But rough calculations would indicate 4600km of kilometrage.  The truck has all the fancy electronic calculations and it showed that we averaged about 11.5 litres per 100 km quite steadily.  So we drank anywhere of 500 litres of gas.  Gas averaged about $1.10 per litre....  Not too hard to total those numbers.

We left on the 23rd of July and were home on August 8th.  That should be 16 days.  11 nights were in a hotel, and then the others were at the MacLeod's in Port Hood.  The 11 nights totalled $1350, there about.  Food, drink and like expenses weren't calculated, but at 16 days away, to estimate about 70 bucks per day wouldn't be too far off.  One bill to come will be the 407 Toll that we took on the way home.  It may be the dooziest of them all.  It is what it is.  My friend and his wife are starting a 20 plus day road trip today, ultimately going to and from Kamloops.  As I've wrote before, bring twice as less clothes and twice as more money!

The drive home was manic.  We were torn as the unfinished boat ride and fireworks were going to be missed.  Alex didn't plead, but made a good logical case for us to stay.  In the end it wasn't in the cards.  After a great out and back run with Alex, we returned to Shelly keenly packing up our provisions.  Wild horses wouldn't keep us/her/us from leaving.  Maybe another baseball tournament - maybe not.

Busy roads awaited as many others travelers had our intentions too.  It was all smooth sailing, retracing the familiar steps back across Nova Scotia, into New Brunswick, and up past Woodstock.  Edmunston, NB would have knocked off 900km for the day.  A worthy total.  But having already been fed and fueled, it was only eight or so at night and Rivere' Du'Loupe  was only 90 minutes more.  Or 90 minutes less the next day....  We pushed on.

As it was no hotels were available.  We went into one, and the receptionist informed us that they were full, and all others in the community.  No matter, Levis, PQ was only 90 more minutes and thus 90 less the following day....  Down adjacent the St. Lawrence in the dark.  Which incidentally, was how we were left, in the dark, regarding the hotel situation across from Quebec City.

It was the same story retold but with a different author.  All of the rooms in The Quality Inn were accounted for, along with every other room in the city.  Okay....  It was well after eleven at night.  I gassed and top the truck full.  Very full.  Who knows where we would get.  Who knows if anything was open.

They receptionist in Levis was nice enough to give us a list of 50 or 60 names of hotels within the general area.  She sort of just handed the paper to Shelly with a this-is-a-your-problem-type-of-problem look.  Which it was in that it was "our" problem.  However.  We drove and called a number in Drummonville, PQ.  It was another 140 km, but, being an optimist, 140 km less to drive the next day.  Sure enough at the Hotel Dauphin a room was available.  "Hold it, " we pronounced in fran-glish.  We'd be there at 1:00 am.  It was also, the last room they had.

The next day we had a stop to make in Kingston.  Friends of Shelly's.  Having been with all my friends for the past 15 days it certainly wasn't an unreasonable or undue request.  We got up and drove the 350 km from Drummonville to Kingston and had a 90 minute visit.  We had to keep it outside and in a park because their condo and contents would have taken a severe beating from the caged restlessness of Molly and Wally.  The friends are in their 70s, and as it is they don't have a Molly and Wally proof house and contents.  Any self respecting 5 and 2 year old would have torn their place to shreds, add long car rides, late nights, lack or sleep, eating in restaurants for stretches on end, our two were at their max.  But the visit was fine.  They live right at the marina and downtown trail in Kingston and we pushed off with the last 450 km in front of us.  Home was looking good.

I wish I had taken more people pictures over the past two weeks and some.  I don't have any pictures of us in Quebec City as I forgot the camera on both excursions, and there were lots of things going on.  It is also  nice to have pictures of people.  No pictures of Alex and I together.  None really of Rich and I.  The biggest shame is the lack of pictures of us as a family.  You can only do so much about that however, hence the selfie stick....  But I like the people pictures to tell a story just as much or better then the geographic shots.

As for other summary notes, it really goes without saying that at times it was difficult and a task all in all to bite off what we tried to chew.  You are just out of your comfort zone in all capacities with kids on the road.  However the alternative is staying put and not exploring or trying new things.  A little bit of struggle and diversity when one is out of their elements is a good thing and needs to get identified from time to time too.  When you travel you can't fight the elements of weather or distance or time.  You have to give in to them and work accordingly with whatever gets thrown at you.  You have to reserve (hotels perhaps), but you have to be reserved to go with the flow, rather then alter the path of the flow.

More Chestico Days

After two huge days of baseball and running championships, the awesome parade, square dancing, and, of course piano moving, there was just bit of unfinished Chestico Days business.  There was a boat parade we were invited to ride in, subsequent Port Hood Island visit via boat, and the grand finale of fireworks down at the wharf.  Molly was so excited to get this all going, unfortunately it would not be the case.

We drove the 5km to the marina in two cars.  It was raining.  The parade was postponed for twenty four hours.  No sea faring fellow would want to be out in this weather if it wasn't absolutely necessary.  We boarded the big boat to have a beer and plan the next move with a dozen or so other disappointed partiers.  We would end up going to the captain's cabin in Judiquo for a BBQ.   It was captain Linden MacIntyre; 2009  Giller Award winner for The Bishop's Man and retired CBC host of the Fifth Estate.

The BBQ was great, although it continued to rain the entire time. He has an amazing place and it would have been better to be outside.  However the two dozen people who were now there were all really nice and we all engaged in conversation like we had all been friends for years.  Such as it is during a Cape Breton kitchen event.  It was so much fun that Alex had to call for a ride home.  Linden was celebrating a release of a new novel, and just revelling at being around his siblings, children, grand children, and friends. After Linden found out we were from Goderich, we talked to him at a little length about the Steven Truscott story, investigation, trial and of course acquittal years later.  He had quarterbacked a Fifth Estate story about Steven in the early 2000s which brought him to Goderich.

So all that could still be done would be the fireworks.  We had an incredible scoff to eat and in a way it was like another fine Cape Breton kitchen party.  Six adults, five kids, and the dog and rabbit.   Kids hand dishes we washed, and the troupe was off to see the nine thirty explosions.  There was a silent presence getting closer to the launching area.  Though it wasn't raining, the light show would also be delayed.  No fireworks.  Back to the house.  Transition to bed.

With the five kids asleep, the dog and rabbit nestled into their slumber, and three adults tapping out too, it was left to Shelly, Alex, and me to discuss various topics in education and life.  A number of profound observances were noted, and no sooner had eleven o'clock rang, the three of us ambled to our bedrooms looking for sleep.  It wasn't hard to find.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chestico Days

We had quite the spirited day on August 5th.  Morning came early as it usually does with Wally.  By seven he had already been up for thirty minutes, and he was restless to get out of his crib 15 minutes ago.  So a Cape Breton kitchen meeting was in progress to sort out the events of the day.

Up first was an 8km road race.  The no frills out and back race for ten bucks was on for Evelyn and I.  It would start at the fire hall of course, and proceed 4 clicks South on 19, and then back.  It was a beautiful sunny, warm and windy mornin.  There were about 100 people plus eager to set a personal best, or just finish the race.  I ran with a group of 3 other people for the first half, the two others by 5k, then just one other until 6k, and by the next half mile it was just me.  I ran in for the win in thirty minutes and thirty seconds absolutely smacked with fatigue and exhaustion.  I spent all my energy.  It was a good time, and Evelyn finished as the third female across the line within ten seconds of the first and second place runners.  It was a close finish.

Post race, the municipality had a parade.  We watched it from the start, thus reaping a vast amount of candy and treats that were thrown from the floats.  Each kid filled a plastic grocery bag.  It was Halloween-esq, but without the really good, high end candy.

The heavy lifting started thereafter.  Alex brought out a piano from Dartmouth to be moved into the Port Hood house.  I had always thought piano moving was insufferable, terrible work.  But a year ago I watched Shelly's piano get moved into our house in Goderich.  Granted the man and women who moved it were seasoned pros, they navigated the process with total and complete ease.  I remember thinking if I knew it would have been that easy, we could have done it.

Well today was my chance and I can say emphatically that ease was not in the equation.  It was an upright piano as Shelly's was, but this was a monstrosious beast!  We had all the right tools like a good dolly and a make shift sidewalk across grass.  We had enough room to get through doorways and no tight turns or obstacles in our way.  However the weight of this instrument made it very difficult to move.  The kicker was a 10 inch lift into the house.  If it wasn't for creating a lever with a 2x6, there would have been noooooo way Alex, Shelly, and I would have completed the task.  Anyway it got situated into its new surroundings, and I pity the people who have to move it again.

After the piano business, Alex and I took the girls to the beach.  Port Hood is known as the beach capital for f Cape Breton.  The beaches are in wonderful shape and the water always seems to be warmer in the area.  We spent an hour and a half there and sure enough, despite being a bit windy, it was a great day in the sand and surf.  And after moving the piano and running the race, it felt all the more relaxing.

By late afternoon Crystal and John Robert had arrived at the house and we had supper.  In the evening Alex and I returned the Uhual rental, and then we gathered up some people to go to the West Maboo square dance.  We completed a few sets of the three finger sequence and got caught up with Alex's sister Marianne.  It was getting past midnight and we still had a fifteen minute drive home.  It had been a busy and fun filled day as is usually the case out here.  Never a dull moment!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Port Hood, NS

We left Alma and continued east getting further and further away from home.  Was this a good decision?  Have we had enough of the nomadic lifestyle, and be better served by returning back to familiar grounds.  It was too late for that as Moncton was driven through, then Amherst.  We were officially in Nova Scotia.  We had driven 450km reaching Port Hood in Cape Breton.  Puke stains engulfed Wally, the car seat, an IPad, and everything else on the rear passenger side of the car during the last 1.5km of the journey.  Close, but not close enough.

We made great time however.

By and by we got settled.  Our hosts had to go back to Dartmouth, NS to take care of some personal affairs, so we had their cottage/cabin to ourselves for the next 48 hours.

Upon arriving Wally was tended too first.  Bathed, cleaned, fed, cuddled, and sorted he was mostly back.  He was put down to bed and by mid afternoon and the truck was soon stripped, wiped, Clorox bleached, and aired out as much as possible.  Molly and I went on a laundry adventure, and found a spot at a campground just before Maboo to wash the items which were dirty in the capacities that they were.  The campground had a pool.  So as our clothes were washed and dried, we swam.  It was a great use of time.

On Wednesday night we didn't do too much of anything else except get a feel for the lay of the land, and to plot our moves for the next couple of days.  As it is the municipality is having their annual summer festival known as Chestico Days.....  There would be lots to do.

I ran on Thursday morning, and Shelly got herself signed up for the area's coed slow pitch tournament.  This was nine o'clock in the morning.  The first pitch was at ten.  One more lady was needed, so Shelly was in luck.  Lots of it too.  Shelly loves baseball and a day of it would be nothing but a good time.  The teams were picked at random, however there were 6 MacDonalds on her team and two others whose last name also started "Mc/Mac".  In more ways then one she was an outcast, last name included, however her stingy defence and open up offence showed her peers that her Ontario ball skills were not to be scoffed at or taken lightly.  Wouldn't you know it, they won the Championship.  The kids and I returned to see the final few innings of play and this bunch of homogeneous looking guys with red hair and beards, and the lasses, had their customary picture taken at home plate as winners do.

Anyway it was been five or six years since I have been to this cabin.  I was surprised by how things have changed around it and the community.  We are here for another few days and will get more observances and incidences noted.  As of yet our hosts haven't arrived, but it will be quite fun when they do.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bay of Fundy National Park

Only a simple 300km separated us from our next destination in Alma, NB.  The salt and fir ecosystems on the Bay of Fundy and pine forests of southern New Brunswick collide in this beautiful location.  The national park is quite large and of course it boasts hiking, biking, camping, water sports and fantastic scenery all about.

We got checked in to a great motel with cabins.  The cabins were all booked, but our room is basically a suite with a kitchen and a sectioned off area with bunk beds for the kids.  The danger flags rose because of the sleeping arrangements (bunk beds), but having one of the two fall from the top would be just-the-way-things-go during this trip.  Disaster and accident has found us everyday one way or another, so the bunk beds could add to this.

Added to the fantasticness of the area, we also were 24 hours with the Tremainiacs.  After swapping stories on the highway and having some drinks, we ordered pizza and continued to one up each other's tales with reflections of our time on the road.  They had a great story about two flat tires just off of the Cape Breton Causeway and how it got fixed, to ours which was a shit explosion (by a kid), in Quebec City at our lodging and how it got cleaned.  I guess the main idea was about solving problems more then anything.

We all went for a bit of a run and or bike ride on the Tuesday morning.  Evidently the bed would not be a problem, but a pretty hard wipe out on the bike by Molly.  Trying to hard and being over confident on rough terrain, Molly had quite a header and shed some blood and lots of tears.  Her lip caught most of the fall, and it looked like it had been injected with Botox.  It was a source of a lot of whining and complaining throughout the day.  In the end the run was okay.

We also drove about 40km to the Hopewell Rocks.  It is that iconic site you see of rocks submerge to different levels during the high and low tides.  Rocks that are arched, and in one picture someone is kayaking through them and in another the person is walking.  It was neat.  But really crowded.  Tones of people and bus loads of tourists such as ourselves.  

On the way we stopped at this beach when the tide was low.  There were hardly anyone else there, and we just walked and walked out almost one half of a mile or more.  It was great and we should have just stayed.  However Hopewell wasn't so bad, that was until tiredness overcame Wally at the furthest point away from the truck and we had to just get back as he became wild and wacky beyond belief.

The park also has an amazing salt water pool which is heated.  It over looks the ocean.  The pool is probably 25m by 20, and it has an additional kids section.  There are plenty of chairs which lined the perimeter, and lifeguards on duty.  Both times we went it was busy, but not too busy.  The pool is another added touch which sets it apart from other similar places I've been.

We had walked quite a lot.  There was one more destination to get to and that was Dickens Falls.  It is a very easy 1km loop where there is a 15 or 20 foot waterfall.  The water is only about 50 cm wide when it falls, but it is impressive nonetheless.  The family was fresh, so we walked it without any problems or crowds of people.

There is so much more we didn't or couldn't do here.  4 days would be most ideal with a keen and willing bunch of adventurist with good weather.  It is an outdoors paridise and Alma offers nothing for indoor entertainment other then restaurants.  Alma is teeny tiny small, but the area at large is huge.  We stayed at the Fundy Highlands Cabins and Motel and it was amazing.  

I knew the sizeable tidal shifts that happen down here and was so glad I came to check it out.  The fishing boats are floating and docked when the tides are high, but are put on crates and lifts when the tide is low.  Scott Cook recommended that we get to this area and I'm glad to have.