Monday, July 23, 2012

A blissful birthday

Yeah, yeah, I was gone for a day. I went far enough north not to have Internet or cell reception. And frankly, as Delilah rolls the tape, you'll see why only a jackass would have been on a computer there...

Day 3: Port Hood to Meat Cove
Total mileage at the beginning of the day: 892.6

As is always the case with me, I was on the road around 7ish. Charlie came around the back of the motel and pulled a Scooby-Old-Man-Withers and scared the shit out of me: "You leaving already?" Garrahagah! Yes, sir.

My first stop off was Inverness, for a brief look at the coastal town near where Alistair MacLeod grew up (age 10 onward). MacLeod's short stories about working class families on Cape Breton are impeccably written. I've been rereading Island as I go on this adventure. One of the themes MacLeod touches on a lot are men working in the mines. Lots of mines across CB, and all the hardships that accompany that way of life.
The ride north switches from winding woods to open sea. And again, I love being the only person on the road.

And eventually, looming in the distance: Highlands National Park.

But before that: the adorable little town of Cheticamp. Being of French Canadian descent, I was really looking forward to this. While most of the towns up here are of Scottish descent, Cheticamp has stuck to its Acadian roots. Everyone appears to be bilingual--what I dig is that when I speak my toddler French at them, and they quickly begin talking in English, some have French accents, and some don't. I don't know. Maybe I'm spending too much time by myself if I think that's worth sharing. Whatevs.

The first two pics were taken from the island across from town.

All was right with the world, until I came across this and pulled a Dukes of Hazzard stop in the gravel on the side of the road.

Just real enough to be real creepy

The stuff of nightmares.
And who thought to put the triangular flag there?
I admit, this stuff gets people talking. I met a woman from Winnipeg at this spot. She asked me to take a picture of her with the scary dude. After, she asked if I wanted the same pic taken of me with him. Um, no.

Cheticamp is famous for its hooked rugs. Way back, traders from big cities paid Cheticamp women for their rugs, and the women were pretty thrilled to be able to make an income. There are several stores featuring rug hooking, as well as a museum. I'll just bore you with one pic.
This was done with yarn. It's incredible.
After exhausting Cheticamp, it was time to gas up and head into the park. First stop: visitor center.
So many head cut outs, so little time.
Okay, let's get serious. Delilah, roll the tape...

This ridge is the Skyline Trail, where a young woman was attacked by
coyotes in broad daylight. I was warned emphatically by many people (and books) not to go it alone. The pictures I have seen from the top are stunning, but so am I.
No need to get hurt for a picture.
"Damn! Who is that sexy bitch taking pics of herself in the national park?"
--said everyone driving by
Pleasant Bay
A dude. Just 'cuz.
I pulled in to Pleasant Bay just in time to board a whale watch.
First Mate Brandon. Ahh, to be young and wear tie dye.
"Sonny, it's my birthday. Wanna give an old lady a kiss?"
I didn't take pictures during the whale watch because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy myself, not try desperately for that perfect shot like everyone else. The trip was fine, and there were a healthy number of whales, but it all felt just kind of meh to me. I think I've been spoiled by the whale watches in New England.

Eventually, I was back on the Cabot Trail and headed toward Cape North. From there, I got off the trail and headed to my final true destination: Meat Cove. The road winds for a while, then it turns to dirt and gets really interesting. Like 45 minutes of interesting. Now, bloggers and guide books described it as a precarious drive in. But if you're in a car and not driving like a jackass, you'll be fine. It's certainly remote and quickly ascends and descends around tight corners--I wouldn't want to drive an RV there. But people do all the time. I did see one car flipped over in a ditch on my way in. An emergency vehicle was working to get it back onto the road. I don't know what happened, but I never had a moment of concern while driving in or out.

Now behold the campground on the left side of this picture. It's in the middle of nowhere, owned by a 7th generation Scottish family. It's not the kind of place you want to get to and think, "Oh, shit. I forgot to pick up butter."


Note that I no longer have the little bitch tent.
I got a different small LL Bean tent and adore it.
I got to the campground mid afternoon. The days are longer up here, and I've found myself a couple times waiting for the sun to go down--weird, I know. So I sat and read. I wrote for a while. I cooked a hot dog. I stared at the water. And unfortunately I started thinking about what this all means--going to the end of the earth on my birthday. The thoughts were mixed. They went something like this:
  • I came here because I wanted to see Cape Breton and all its majesty.
  • I also came here because I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone.
  • If I didn't take this trip, I might not have traveled at all this year.
  • Half of what I enjoy about the road trip is blogging about it afterward.
  • Doing something like this alone does NOT mean I don't need people.
  • I do need people.
I'm an introvert who puts on a good show at work and out with friends. I'm shy and afraid of getting hurt. I operate in self preservation mode most of the time. It breaks my heart when people say, "I know you don't like to be hugged." And a remote fishing village is a wonderful place to go for a week. But when it comes down to it, I need all of YOU. So I sat on a mountain side, turning thirty-blah, and thinking about all of this, and about all of the people who have come and gone in my life. It. was. so. heavy.

I was about to pack it in, when a woman at the next site came over and asked if I wanted to join her and her boyfriend for a drink. I instantly went into shy mode and politely said no and thanked her. But I offered her the rest of my fire wood, and as we carried it over to her site, she mentioned that it was her birthday. I stopped. "It's my birthday too!" Then we did the girl thing--What? Get out! Shut up! Seriously? I can't believe it!

What are the odds?

Next thing you know, I'm sharing champagne with Kathleen and Ian from Moncton, NB, under a billion stars, on a cliff, next to a fire. It was a beautiful thing, and I'm forever grateful for that memory. K and I, you really made my birthday--our birthday--a memorable one. I hope you found the note I left on your windshield when I pulled my Houdini stunt this morning, disappearing before anyone at the campground woke. I hope you're enjoying your last day of vacation. And I hope I see you again in the not-too-distant future.


1 comment:

  1. Kelly I really enjoyed the blog about your trip to Cape Breton! I'm born and raised in Cape Breton and I always love hearing about others perceptions of our island. The great thing about Cape Breton is that so many people can come here and each person can find their own little piece of heaven. I've lived here for 26 years and am yet to go to Meat Cove but your pictures have easily convinced me that the camp ground will be my destination on my next trip to the highlands. I was a little sad you did it alone and also had to miss out on hiking the Skyline. I hope you can make it back to our island and see it because pictures don't begin to do it justice. I get what you said about doing it alone and it giving you the freedom to do as you please but if you are ever back and looking for company I am an excellent travel buddy, where the Cabot Trail is concerned anyway! Also I laughed at the part about businesses being in houses, its so true! Having grown up here I think its perfectly normal to just walk into a random house unannounced and have the occupants immediately put the tea on. Traveling in Mabou with my fiance I had to pee so bad I went into a little grocery store that didn't have a bathroom but they told me to go in the back door in the house next door. I walked in on a family having lunch and they welcomed me to stay lol Feeling so welcome everywhere you go is one of the best things about Cape Breton and makes me feel homesick anywhere else I travel. Anyway I loved your posts and sincerely welcome you back any time you can! :)