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cabot-trail-3-copySOMETIMES trips are more accurately described as a series of interesting incidents. Not so much leave Point A and arrive in Point B, but rather overcome a change of plans here, come across an unexpected situation there and adapt to the new normal.

And so, when I told a friend I was planning to visit my granddaughter in Nova Scotia, she jumped at the chance to come along to check things out for her upcoming retirement in Cape Breton.

“We’ll go in my Ford,” says she. “It’s better on gas. But when I travel, we leave early.”

“All right,” say I compromisingly, “but you’ll be doing the driving if we’re leaving at eight in the morning, because I’m a night owl and I function better after noon.”

No problem. The plan is set: I’ll crawl out of bed at seven, drive my Jeep Patriot in my morning stupor to her house about 45 minutes away and transfer my suitcase over to her little car. Then I’ll catch up on missed sleep.cape-breton-summer-2016_2

And so I arrive all sleepy-headed at eight on the dot (which is worth mentioning, because it’s not an easy feat for me). I’m looking forward to snoozing in the passenger seat and maybe picking up a Starbucks breakfast in a few hours when we hit Montreal.

Incident No. 1. My friend’s car is missing. There’s no point in trying to unlock the mystery here. Between her husband and her three children, there are three vehicles and whoever drives whatever as needed. This particular morning, the Ford is absent and no one seems to know who has it or where it is.

“Can we track it down? How long do you think that might take?”

Sensing uncertainty, my foggy morning brain kicks in and I suggest, “Well, we have a perfectly good car right here. Why don’t we go in my Jeep?”


our gite in Quebec

My friend confesses she is not comfortable driving a standard, but at this point I would count Incident No. 1 as solved. My friend packs her carry-on and her backpack, her tent, camping chair, bedroll, bag of outerwear, bag of shoes and hiking boots, bag of food and a cooler in the back of my Jeep. Just as well we’re taking my very large car. Seriously.

On about five hours’ sleep, I drive the entire tiring nine hours to Sainte-Luce in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region on the northern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula, where my friend has booked a bed-and-breakfast for us.

Incident No. 2. We’ve decided to continue north on Day 2 and to cross into New Brunswick at Campbellton. My friend’s husband has recommended the route as the more scenic one and he’s right. It’s a striking landscape, reminiscent of British Columbia, without the mountainous heights. Only we miss the turn that will take us across the J.C. Van Horne Bridge that spans the Restigouche River and we’ve gone nearly an hour too far up the inlet. As we pull into the little town of Carleton-sur-mer, I gasp as I turn to my friend and say, “I have a friend who lives here. We’ve definitely gone too far!”


The J.C. Van Horne Bridge to New Brunswick

As we’re “here now,” I locate my friend, kind of by chance, as I haven’t been there for a good 10 years. I specifically remember the view from her door, so I’m mostly looking to my right to see if I can jog my recollection of the stony beach that faces her house.

She is not surprisingly shocked to see an old friend standing at the lip of her valley garden and plies me with uncountable kisses and hugs. It’s a wonderful moment and, with a bag of fresh pickings from her garden, we retrace our steps to the missed bridge and head south to Nova Scotia, arriving somewhere around midnight.

Incident No. 3. There is no running water at the house where my granddaughter is living. She and her mother have moved here only a few days before. It’s an old family home that has been vacant for 10 years and needs tender loving care, which it will receive over the next few years. Meanwhile, we have arrived pre-well digging project and, well, it’s not very comfortable living without running water. I share the double bed with daughter-in-law, granddaughter and dog. My friend sleeps on the floor. And the next day, we head out to “the cottage” in Cape Breton.


Incident No. 4. My daughter-in-law has strapped her lime green kayak onto the curved roof of her Dodge Avenger for our cottage/beach holiday, but it sways so heavily on the highway heading east to the Cape, that we pull off and decide to put the little boat on top of my jeep, which has rails and a much flatter, longer roof. A little tighter on the straps, and problem solved.

Incident No. 5. Definitely the scariest: we head off to “the cottage,” a 100-year-old house that will eventually be bulldozed to the ground, with food supplies for the several days we will stay. As we begin the “cottage opening” process, the electrical panel switch falls off, and sparks shoot out. All the electricity goes out and, as it’s late, we head to bed in the dark, leaving our salmon, steaks and chops sitting overnight in a cooler with no ice, wondering if they will be safe to eat. The next morning, a kind neighbour hooks us up with an electrician, who fixes the problem very quickly and, it turns out, our food is safe to eat.


An important note here: the rest of our little summer holiday was beautiful, with a drive around the Cabot Trail, a lazy afternoon on the beach, hanging out in the quaintest of coffee shops, and some amazing barbecues.








Susan Hickman