The gateway to Canada from the more rural roads of Maine is through St. Andrews, and from what one sees from the road in, the town is a dismal affair matching the American side in empty spaces and forgotten endeavours. This is not the typical Canada one sees when one flees Amerika, such as the crossing from Detroit or anywhere in northern New York State where the poverty, crime, and grimy icky of life on our side of the border is replaced with a bland yet friendly cultural mosaic of the Boards of Canada variety. Not so much St. Andrews, but this was but a stopping point on our way to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.
Our experience in the Bay was that of an idle vacationer mixed with a little crunch of scheduling since our fare vehicle and all occupants needed to be on a ferry prior to midnight of the next day and there was some degree of haste required to drive first to a campsite in Fundy for the night then on to the tip of Nova Scotia and North Sydney that when driving across the rising and flowing hills seemed to grow ever recede into the distance.
This writer had been here before and in some certain strange circumstances.
It was a number of years past and again I was driving the burgundy convertible known as the Hooptie. This time I had met with some associates who were on their own Roadtrip and I forget how I was drafted into this mix, but at the time I was underemployed and I had the free time off from work as I had switched jobs from X to Y and begged my new then employer for a little gap in order to attend to house maintenance the belated nuptial celebrations of a friend of the family who had been shacked up since I was a child, and to spend a little time in Canada. It seemed as good a time as any to join a crew car camping down to Nova Scotia – if not a little inappropriate since these lads had all been students years ago in an educational program I directed… that is before I had become destitute and a bad example of staying in school, getting various high education degrees, and working 9-6PM (9-5 a thing the past for my generation) as I had been as director and mentor. Whatever the social mores, taboos or folkways broken, I was going to enjoy reconnecting with these riotous adventurers if not guide a little if things went too far down the drain. Or perhaps I would just go native too. Enjoy the wilds of nature and the spirit of youth and a little freedom before once again retaking a adult’s highchair behind a desk and starting at a computer for 8-10 hours a day to become wan and sallow, corpulent and crepuscular.
We had driven all night from Quebec City to some road in New Brunswick and in the prickling blue pre-dawn the pull off on the side of the road looked as inviting as anything we had previously seen and the presence of a few campers let us know that indeed this was a safe space to rest for the morning. This was supposed to be but a scant several hour drive but turned out that with the small roads and slower speeds, perhaps a wrong turn or three, we had driven all night, which in the northern parallels of summer is not that long but gives to the body the same effect – Ohgodamnyouwestayedupallnight. I initiated this mess either way. I had joined the merry band of tricksters having picked up one in Montreal and driven on to meet the others stuffed clowncaresque into one car on the outskirts of Quebec City where the group was considering putting down their pallets for the night in a park… just a few miles outside of the city in the Montmagny Bird Sanctuary. Being a nervous person (not good in a partial scofflaw) and not wanting to be gathering tickets, I rallied the troupes, inspired them with the promise of a large box of ale I had purchased (Amerikan readers, worry not, the parties at hand were all well over the age of imbibement) that we would consume once we found our more perfect camping spot. Also, Nova Scotia was about 1200 kilometers away so had we not ridden hard one day (night as the case was) we would never have gotten to our more wild lands, the destination, the End of The Earth.
Also, of note: this mission wasn’t mine. It had been dreamed up by the leader of the party T-E- and I was an add-on rather than part of “the gang.” Actually T-, the fellow I had picked up in Montreal was perhaps a co-conspirator or assumed he was. The others, while important to the spirit of the epic, were but a merry band who had agreed upon the route. Unless you talk to them individual now since perhaps this memory of mine has not held up with Time.
Along with being rather rag and tag in appearance and mode of transport, we were in early celebration of mustache month. We had represented – Porn Star, Science Teacher, Handle Bar/Goatee, Can’t Grow Facial Hair, and me – pure Quebec (also I wore a jeans jacket AKA Canadian Tuxedo). We came in to our camping spot frenetic and dizzy from the drive. As promised, the libations were offered to the group and rather than solemnly sipping at victory in the miles bourne, these small band reveled in and cavorted about the small river next to our newfound home causing quite a ruckus. This level of celebration was understandable but to a degree where it was obvious that I was to get no sleep and I questioned a great many choices in life before something took upon me to continue on the road. I was sitting sipping just ever so on a can of Foul Beer and in conversation with T – when it occurred to us that we needed to press on. I forget why this was such a profound need and to this action a schism was created between us and our erstwhile leader. I abandoned my flagon of ale and crept through the bush to a more enclosed location from which to plot and to find a way to sustain ourselves for our next leg of the journey.
After the riot had becalmed somewhat, T- and I crept back to the Hooptie and put her in neutral. Rolling back some way out of the parking lot, a heavy morning fog had come to stifle our view but this also gave us our needed cover. Again, not sure why at the time this had become so important. Lowering the top of the car, we pulled ahead into the Unknown, not quite with a plan or even a reason for breaking away from our caravan.
On we drove into the mist. Of a sudden a moose appeared from the fog and with a hard press on the brakes we stopped just-in-time. I assume the moose bore the same expression of surprise and fear as we did. Then onward we drove, our primary occupation coming up with versions of how the other’s would rise, exclaim at our absence, and then become enraged. Again… not sure why this had become the amusement. We pressed on until finally, the spell had been broken. My eyes twisted up in my head and we had to find a location to stop. We had assumed that there being one main road that there was no way to forever lose the rest of our party, but in retrospect 1200 kilometers is still a long, long, long way to search. Coming to a beach it was still early morning. T – was in some coat, ragged and with a spray painted deer on it…. I had a jacket and leather pants which made more sense in the chill air than the sun. We walked to the beach on which there was a ruined structure, some exhibit to the Native Peoples that wind and winter had torn apart. We both collapsed on the beach in two separate heaps in order to rest. Both with coats over our faces for some shade.
The sun rose ever higher. I was awoken by a baking sensation in my legs as the sun heated my legs and the pants acted as tin foil on a pile of potatoes. T- fared little better. Groggy we rose to see that the beach had been populated by families, vacationers, sun bathers, and the like – except for a zone where we both had passed out. It was like there was an invisible fence that guarded us off or that part of the beach was closed, since while we were not close to the water… there was not so much as a single chair or occupant around us.
We staggered to the pavilion and found an outlet in order to charge a cell phone. We made contact with our party, and their anger was not the “hahahaha” sort of funny but the “fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou” funny. We met them and moved on, the trip somehow lost a certain dynamic, or at least between the planner and co-planner, whoever those were. In a day or two it seemed we had amalgamated into one questing group again and at the next campfire I shaved my mustache in a way that I said looked like Charlie Chaplin but everyone decided I looked like Hitler… in a jeans jacket. We traveled on, to more adventures and finally to the End of The Earth where we camped in a nor’easter storm of some magnitude. But Meat Cover and Hitler, that’s another story.
It was to this Brunswick highway that I had returned. I was in the same car and on the same road, driving in the same direction but under very different conditions and with a new quest… one of my own making. Ours was a vacation and not a demolition derby. I did not don a mustache. My former companions are now scattered about the world, each on their own adventures, and no two highways are alike, no matter how similar the landscape may appear since it’s a long, long, long way to Sydney.
Editor’s Note: This blogger did not keep the post-a-thon in July due to a number of reasons such as lack of connectivity to the internet, however, it is hoped that, Dear Reader, more interesting posts will come of these travels.