Archives For July 2011

Made another 500 miles today so should be home sometime tomorrow. Usually I don’t spend a lot of time on the Interstates. I prefer State roads and a more casual drive. In the last three days I have driven more than 1200 miles of interstates and have refined my opinion of them.  When I used to drive them about fifteen years ago they were mostly numbing. To be driving at a constant speed for hours at a time was deadening to the senses.

But I have a different opinion of them now. It seems there are two modes to today’s Interstate. Those who go 50 mph and those that go 80 mph! I think many of those who go the slow way can’t help themselves. They include some pretty old RVs that just can’t climb more than a two percent grade without coming to an almost stop. And then or course the fully loaded semi-truck, which those of us in the mid-section of the country are more than familiar with, also slow going up hills. If you try to go the speed limit in the slow lane there seems to always be one of these guys just ahead of you.

The other lane of the highway is populated by those going mostly 80-85 mph or at least trying to. They seem to almost dare anyone from that slow lane to creep over into “their” lane. When you do that are always about 1.2 inches off your rear bumper trying to intimidate you back to where you came from. When I used to drive regularly on the interstates it wasn’t like this. There were a few crazies that seemed to have a death wish but they soon got pulled over by the many State police cars who patrolled the roads.

That is the biggest difference between years ago and now. I think in my 1200 miles of driving I have only seen two police cars and they were behind stranded motorists. There is just no one out there now to keep the crazies in line and their speeds down.  The funny farm has taken over the interstates! Being a truck driver must be the most stressful job in the world right now.

Before I close this post I want to also make another statement about the past beliefs. I think we all know the statistic about 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast. I personally evidenced that fact yesterday. There are about six different interstate loops around Boston. I took the one the farthest away from the city. I must have been at least 50 miles from the downtown area. I came into the area in the early afternoon on Friday. Almost as soon as I hit the loop so did about 10,000 other cars we all proceeded down the eight lane wide highway in an astounding 5 mph or less. After two hours of that I finally made it the 30 miles or so to start heading west, away from the coast.  It was still bumper-to-bumper for another two hours or so before it started to thin out.

Having had this experience I am hereby declaring that the 50% of the population can have their 50 miles. I won’t be impinging on their territory anytime again soon..

And the journey goes on….

Going Home….

July 29, 2011

My wife has decided that she wants to go home so we will head out this morning. It will take two to three days to get there from here. Since she is not feeling well I will be doing  all of the driving so it will be a long couple of days.  Give us a little prayer that we get there safely.

And the journey (home) goes on…

Here I am banging on the keyboard in Bangor Maine. We made about 500 miles today which is the most for one day on this vacation. Unfortunately I had to do almost all the driving. My wife started feeling poorly yesterday so we cut our time in Nova Scotia short and started heading back this morning. She wants to rest and try to get a good nights sleep and then see how she is in the morning.

We may just make a dash for home from here. It is about 1250 miles and will take about 23 driving hours.  I should be able to do that in a couple of days unless her condition deteriorates. Her condition is not life threatening but it does put a definite damper on any sightseeing. She really wants to go to NYC and see Ground Zero while we are this close but I told her we can do that on another trip if necessary.

Given that her health was not that good when we started it’s almost amazing we have made it as far as we have. But even without this latest event her endurance has continued to go down daily throughout the trip. It might be wise to just call it quits here.

And the journey goes on… or doesn’t…. more on that tomorrow…

Since I had a laid back  few days of letting my wife savor her view I thought I would pen some of my closing thoughts about Canada and the people we have met here.

  • Canada has a complicated history – It is hard to believe that Canada was not Canada until almost 1860. Before that they were just a conglomeration of territories. They seemed to only come together because they thought they would be overrun by the United States after their Civil war. In some ways they are much like us in that they seem to be equally divided on many issues not the least of which is the French/English one.
  • I can’t understand the French Canadian thinking —  In my cursory view French Canadians seem to be very much as I envision Frenchmen in general. They seem to be a rather pompous bunch who view everyone who is not French with some skepticism. It seems that most of the rest of Canada accommodate them by providing all their road signs and other things (menus, history signs, etc) in both languages. But when it comes to the French Canadians they don’t seem to be willing to do likewise. The English word is almost entirely missing in the Province of Quebec. How the rest of Canada let them get away with that is a mystery to me.  Don’t the Quebec citizens realize how much they stifle their tourism by this attitude?
  • With some exceptions Canadians like their food pretty bland – As we are near the end of our trip through Canada I am going to stick to an early observation. Although we occasionally came across food that was well seasoned as a general rule there is just not much flavor to their fare. We had a pizza that I think was supposed to have pepperoni on it but it tasted much more like bologna than pepperoni.  What they call link sausages taste again like bologna and has a consistency of liverwurst. Those of you who have read my past posts know that one restaurant’s rendition of Mexican food  that we visited was an abysmal failure due to lack of spices.  Of course there are exceptions to this general observation. One was the pub in Ottawa and another was an Chinese restaurant in New Brunswick. And finally there were the blue mussels in Prince Edward Island; those were the best mussels I have every tasted. They were in a very well seasoned with cream and tarragon sauce. In fact they were so good  I ordered a second pot after I finished the first one. I will savor that meal for sometime to come.
  • Most of Canada looks pretty much the same – I know you can probably say this about just about any place so I may be getting myself in trouble here. But there certainly is a lot of pine trees in Canada and a lot of water in the areas we visited. The most notable exception to the pine trees, not the water, was on Prince Edward Island. It reminded me more of the pictures I have seen of Ireland than Canada. I think PEI will become my favorite province we visited.  But one thing I am very thankful for on our visit here is that we escaped the 100 degree temperatures of our home area. I kind of dread heading south from here as we will probably be getting into that heat. Our tour guide on PEI said that many affluent Americans come and buy homes there and live there for five months a year to get away from the heat. The Canadian summer are wonderful but I’m sure the winters are pure dread!
  • Most Canadians are surprised to hear how much we spend monthly for our healthcare – When we tell them that our personal healthcare bill exceeds $1200/month they are totally astounded. They, like most of the rest of the developed world take for granted that healthcare as a right that is regulated by their representatives in government. One lady said that she sometimes gets upset because she has to pay more than the usual $5 for her prescription medicine but given what we pay she will not be doing that any more.
  • Things are just more expensive in Canada – Sales taxes in Canada is generally 13% except for food from grocery stores. Gasoline is costing us about $5.20/gal here and hotels are generally the same as in the U.S. Two #1 meals as McDonalds will set you back about $20.  From what I have been able to discover income taxes on the middle class are generally a little higher in the U.S. and property taxes are about the same. So, it seems to be generally more expensive to live in Canada. But, given that Canadians have universal healthcare they do not have the average $6,000 per person in healthcare costs (which is about $10,000 for seniors) that we have in the U.S.
  • Canadians think that we in the U.S. spend too much and borrow too much – They pride themselves as have much less government and personal debt than we do. They seem to value relationships over material goods. Since they are so tied to our economy (tourism is down 30% in Canada due to less visits from the U.S.) they are suffering much of the same consequences as we are. They are rather resentful of that fact and I don’t blame them.

Since this post is getting much too long I am going to quit here. I think generally life is better for Canadians than it is for us in the U.S. especially with all the political insanity going around us now in the States. Canadians just seem less stressed than we are and that is a good thing. But I don’t envy those in the desolate areas that must cope with the bitter winters! I wish we could learn some of the good things our neighbors to the north could teach us. But as pompous as most of us United Staters are I doubt if we ever will.

And the journey goes on…..

Not much to report today. We did wander into town for about four hours yesterday for lunch, shopping, and picking up food for our in-room supper tonight. Lunenburg is a very picturesque town as shown in this picture I bought. It was set up by the British in the early 1700s so establish an English foothold into the French dominated territory.

Spent the rest of the day lounging around the motel room. We had dinner in our room consisting of some kind of lunchmeat of which I didn’t recognize and oreo cookies.  We will be going into Halifax today for sightseeing. Right now Yvonne is on the fence as to whether to move to a motel around Halifax or do the two hour round trip to here and back again tomorrow. One thing I have learned about my wife’s decision making is that it is a very last minute thing.

And the journey goes on..

{afternoon addendum}

I was unable to post the above in our previous motel room due to the wifi going down so I will update our day to be included here:

My wife did decide to leave the motel in Lunenburg and to head to Halifax. It was about an hours drive east. We went to the Citadel and the Public Gardens in the city and then tired of the urban environment decided to leave Halifax and head further east. We ended up about an hour east of the city. This was basically the first motel we came to on a very desolate road. Fortunately there is also a restaurant here that doesn’t close until 8pm so we are set for dinner. I couldn’t tell you the name of the town; we passed through scores of them. Each named town typically had maybe five or so houses and nothing else. The town we are in now does have this motel with restaurant and a gas station so it is a major hub in the area Smile.  But most importantly as far as Yvonne goes it does have a view of a cove off the Atlantic Ocean although she won’t admit that it is actually better then the one we left this morning.

So here we are again in the sticks for tonight but at least I think I have internet access (I will know as soon as I try to upload this post).  Tomorrow we will likely head north to the mainland access for Nova Scotia and then down into Maine. It will be nice to get back to the U.S. and to our de-valuated dollar.  One good thing about this trip is that the money we converted to Canadian dollars two weeks ago has actually increased 3% in value since we left (that is the Canadian dollars that we are holding are actually worth three cents more than when we exchanged them two weeks ago). It would have taken more than five years to have gained that much value in our savings account!

And the journey goes on again…..

Deja Vu all over again. Wilson said this almost one hundred years ago. Will the current crop of willful men finally do it?

A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible. 
Woodrow Wilson

Wilson Quote

I am sitting in a small motel room in Lunenburg Nova Scotia writing these words waiting for my wife to wake up to tell me what she has planned, or maybe doesn’t have planned for the day. Lunenburg is on the “South Shore” of this province. Two days ago I told my wife that she was going to be in total control of our time in Nova Scotia. I would offer no comments or suggestion and would agree to everything she decided. After the fact she seems to always say that I was the one who decided everything so I was not going to allow that comment any validity this time.

We left Prince Edward Island yesterday morning and came across the ten mile bridge back to the mainland. Nova Scotia was just a few miles south of the bridge. We stopped at the first welcome center here and Yvonne spent the next hour working with one of the greeters there to find the “perfect” cabin!  She wanted something on the water where she could sit and look at it for a few days. This motel was supposed to meet all those needs. When we got here after driving 250 miles in Nova Scotia we found that it does have an ocean view but it is about one hundred yards away and has a road between us and the water. Unfortunately the only place to park the car is between our room and the water thus somewhat blocking the view.

I am going to try my best in the coming days here (I don’t know how long she want to stay) and put on a happy face for her. Sitting and doing nothing is just not my thing but I will do it for her. Winking smile I have internet access from the room although it is very spotty and sometimes very very slow so I guess I should be content. She wants to leave the world behind; I want to take at least a part of it with me.

We did go into town last night for supper and it was pretty nice. Hopefully she will decide to at least spend a few hours there touring the area today or tomorrow. It is a small (probably 5,000 people or so) fishing town that has turned more into a tourist area lately but still has a great deal of charm. As Sarah Palin said if I had binocular eyes I could see Maine from here as it is only about 50 miles west of us. I am getting a little anxious to return to the U.S. even with all the total nonsense that is going on there now.  When we leave here it will be down into Maine and our New England part of our adventure.

Depending on what is on the agenda, I have no idea on what it might be right now,  I may spend some time today wrapping up my thoughts about our neighbors to the north and telling you some of the conversations we have had with them.

All this political foolishness is getting insane. I just wish the president would grow a backbone and tell congress to give him what they gave the previous president seven times. Give him a “clean” bill that raises the debt limit in the next three days. Yes we need to look at spending but we don’t need to put the country in a totally unnecessary peril to do that. Those guys are risking everything I have spent my life saving for my retirement.

This game playing stupidity has gone on for much too long now.  Its time for some “grownups” in our nation’s capital to take charge…..   Where will we get them??

President Obama please don’t let me down once again.

But what do I know….

Will Rogers answer to education reform. It makes sense to me.

. . . why don’t they pass a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting anybody learning anything? And if it works as good as the Prohibition one did, in 5 years we would have the smartest race of people on Earth.

Will Rogers -January 4, 1925

Will Rogers Quote

Here we are already beginning our third week of our Canadian adventure. Today we did something that we don’t often do and that is take a tour bus. We decided instead of driving the 100 or so miles around the island we would let Graylines do it for us.  It was a very pleasurable trip. Our driver/guide is a lifelong resident of Prince Edward Island (PEI) who told us much about the local history and how the island has changed during his lifetime. The bridge we went over is several times longer than we have ever encountered and several times for expensive (about $45 toll).  He said it was finished in 1996 and has somewhat changed the face of the island as now PEI gets about 30% of its economy from tourism.

Of course there were the usual local battles about whether to build the bridge or just continue to rely on the 2+ hour round trip via the ferry. Some say the bridge wrecked the lobster fishing on the south end of the island; some say it was never that good to start with. The lobster population, despite severe government regulations has continued to decline but the blue mussel population has more than replaced it. PEI ships their mussels all over the world including a very substantial amount to Japan.  So, I have decided to try the blue mussel for dinner tonight and reserve our lobster dinner for Maine later in the week.

Our tour today took us to the north side of the island to the Cavendish National Historic Site of the famed novel “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Montgomery. A PBS series about the novels played in 1986 (I can’t believe it has been that long ago!!)about the story of Anne Shirley of Green Gables PEI is still rather fresh in my mind. As usual the story was a fiction but based on the experiences of the author. Above is a picture of the house that inspired the novel.  I looked into getting a set of DVDs of the series but they were priced at about $120 Canadian (about $140 usd with taxes). Fortunately there was wifi in the shop so I checked out the cost on Amazon and found it to be about $50; so I will be ordering the series when I return.

From the historic site we went to a beach on the north shore. There was a front that came through the area last night that cooled the temperatures from the mid-70s yesterday to the mid-60s today. Evidently that also brought some rare white caps on this beach as shown in the picture here.

We are now resting in our hotel and getting ready for dinner in a few hours. This will be our last dinner on PEI. Tomorrow we will tour a couple historic sites and then head down to Nova Scotia.  I have decided to let Yvonne do 100% of the decision making of what we do and where we go in Nova Scotia. This will be a very interesting couple of days for me to see what she decides to do.  After NS it is down into Maine and to NYC.

And the journey goes on.