Friday, July 4, 2008

Claire hits Cape Breton

Okay, so:

I picked up Winnie and Inti in Montreal, outside the Villa Maria metro station, last Saturday, in order to drive them to Halifax.  I had to be in Halifax by, well, today, so I thought I'd drive them, wander around the Maritimes a bit and head back to Halifax.  I'm easy going.

Inti had never been outside Nova Scotia before, so on the way back, we cheered at every border crossing.  This seems to have been a mistake, because literally the moment we crossed from Quebec into New Brunswick, and cheered "New Brunswick!", Armageddon was unleashed upon my car.  That is to say, Carmageddon.  Heh.  Anyway, it started making this ungodly noise and we rattled to a stop at, literally, the 1 km marker.

Fortunately, an old man on his way to buy beer or back from buying beer stopped to help us; since it was the weekend, chances of finding a mechanic were essentially nil, so we limped to a gas station, where the young bloke took a look and told us it was just a hole in the exhaust pipe.  We could drive on it fine.  This was good, 'cause we were six hours from Halifax.

So we drove to Halifax.  Winnie's parents were incredibly nice and sweet and made me breakfast the next morning (waffles!  fresh local strawberries!) and then I departed for Antigonish to pick up one Jason Loxton, who I had coerced into going camping with me.  I'd originally found him on Couchsurfing, but since he seemed convivial enough by email, I asked him if he wanted to hike into the back woods of Nova Scotia with me.  He said yes.

Turned out to be a darn good thing he did, too, for many reasons, not least of which is that I wouldn't have known what to do when my exhaust pipe CRACKED IN HALF right around Baddeck, NS.  So I stuffed  him in the car and drove up the coastline in the pouring rain, stopping to be appalled at various roadside events, and we were making the turnoff for Cheticamp when the car made a somewhat loud cracking noise and got extremely loud and lost all pickup.  "Hmm," we said.  Actually, we said something a lot more vulgar.  It was Sunday afternoon, so everything was REALLY closed, but we limped it back to a gas station in Baddeck to see if anyone had some metallic aluminum duct tape we could use to wrap the pipe.

Nobody did.  But instead, we managed to get an extremely nice woman to open the bay doors of the garage attached to her Irving station so we could pull the car in; she let us use her jack, wheel supports and O-ring clamps, and fished us some pop cans out of the garbage, because we had learned, thanks to a gentleman waiting for a bus to Truro, that this was a good idea.  It was a good idea.  As Jason sprawled under my car, hammering and screwing and not being crushed, the gentleman told us all about his multiple hitchhiking trips across Canada, how he had avoided lung cancer because of working outdoors in -50 degree weather which caused all the tar in his lungs to solidify so he could spit it out, and how he had just had to fight with a ghost in the place he was staying in Baddeck.  "It kept flipping buttons over in the middle of the night," he said, "so I just told it I wasn't going anywhere and it would have to learn to live with me."  Or not, I guess.

So Jason fixed my car.  And we drove in bucketing rain up to Cheticamp and the entrance to Cape Breton Highlands park.  Then we drove into the park.  It was getting dark.  And, I can't stress enough, raining.  Finally, we just pulled into a hiking trailhead and threw the tent down in the woods right next to it; stayed up late listening to music, arguing about religion, and wondering if the tent was going to collapse.  It was like all the parties I went to in high school but mroe fun, cause now I'm a grownup and I don't have to brush my teeth if I don't want to.

Next morning, we were awakened by the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard, followed by rapid cessation of rain; I guess it was too scared to keep it up.  So we went for a long hike and talked about rocks (he's a paleontologist) and bellydancing until we rounded a corner and saw a MOOSE.  AND a baby moose.  It was a beautiful day, made even more beautiful by moose-sighting.  Even though moose are ugly.

Then we decided to try and drive up to the tip of Cape Breton Island to a place called, I kid you not, Meat Cove.  We were out of the park, in Pleasant Bay, when the car started making a horrible noise again.  So we stopped, right next to a family from Toronto who were waiting for CAA because the oil filter fell out of their rental car.  This was their second rental car; they'd given the first one back because the car radio didn't work.  "I said we should have kept it," said the youngest son, "but noooooo."  "I don't think 'I told you so' is an appropriate response, given the situation," I told him.  Later I heard him explaining to his mother that the reason their car had broken was because it was Chinese.  It was a Toyota.

Jason fixed my car AGAIN.  But it was not perfect this time.  It was not super functional either.  But it was running.  Thanks to the old crotchety mechanic and his jack, we headed back up the road towards Cheticamp, and decided to pitch the tent in someone's backyard, right on the water.  Jason fixed the car AGAIN and so I made him grilled cheese sandwiches.  He was very ingenius: drove the car up on a block of wood and wedged it so it wouldn't fall over and crush him, then tinkered away for an hour.  Fell asleep to the sound of ocean and the stir of stars and drove back slowly to Antigonish the next day.  This would have been Canada Day, in case you were keeping track.

We blew out the last few cans pulling in to his driveway and had showers before wobbling out to the fireworks with his friend Kim, who made us brownies first.  Then I got my car fixed the next day.  Then it was too late to really go anywhere else, so I hung around Antigonish for another few days, wandering through the heart of Nova Scotia and doing amazing things with amazing Jason.  Now I'm in Halifax with UberWench.


Hugh said...

These are wonderfully wry experiences you have had in CB. I attended StFXU in Antigonish and usually travel up

Hugh said...

I didn't finish my post. I usually travel up to Inverness, CB every year. My son has a place in W. Margaree and his wife's family live in the area so I recognize a lot of the place names. The story of the tailpipe reminds me of all the times I've had something similar happen to the old cars I used to have and it always seemed as if the first item to rot out was the muffler or pipe.

Thanks for the humorous journal about NS. I look forward to more.