Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 2 Yarmouth to Halifax/Dartmouth (June 1)

We wake up well rested and ready for our first full day exploring Nova Scotia.  The plan for the day is to drive east along the southern shore from Yarmouth to the capital city of Halifax. The coastline along the peach area of the map is our route. A search for better value in accommodations led us to select a Hampton Inn in Dartmouth, just across the bridge from Halifax, to spend the night.  

Before we leave Lakelawn B&B in Yarmouth we consume an excellent breakfast of omelets, toast, juice, coffee, and fruit in a pleasant dining room with classical music playing in the background, and flowers blossoming in the rear courtyard. Completely satisfied, we confirm our return in eight days for one more night, and head down the road. 

It's Thursday at around 8 am and the traffic in Yarmouth is light.  Driving around Nova Scotia is very easy for Americans, the signs are clear, numerous and easy to follow. A few traffic lights made us stop and think, like the rapidly blinking green light that seems to signal a delayed green for opposing traffic. The GPS on Gloria's Subaru Legacy detects the speed limits and automatically translates from kilometers per hour to miles per hour. 

Our first stop for coffee and sightseeing is the Tim Hortons in Barrington. Cape Sable Island across a causeway is listed as the southerly most point of Nova Scotia.  This morning it's shrouded in fog and we decide to skip the drive to the point and take our coffee further down the coast.  We discover that many of the Tim Horton's will accept American dollars, and their cash registers are programmed to give a reasonable exchange rate. Two medium coffees, paid for with a $20 bill result in $21 Canadian dollars and change. It feels like being paid to drink coffee. 

Following a tip from the car GPS (the restaurant locator) our lunch stop is the village of Shelburne.  We park on Water Street (also known as Route 3) and then walk down Dock Street to the Visitors' Center. Dock Street is flanked by a pleasant park that stretches to the waterfront. Neat lawns, comfortable benches, great views of boats in the harbor, a museum, bars, and restaurants make for a pleasant stroll. 

We ditch the restaurant picked by the GPS and eat at the Sea Dog Saloon overlooking Shelburne Harbor. The day is sunny and warm, so much so that we retreat from the sunny deck to a table inside. It's June 1, early in the tourist season, and the outside deck is half full but the interior restaurant is nearly empty. About a third of the patrons are locals, usually the sign of good, reasonably priced meals. The food takes an inordinate amount of time to arrive, a point of pride according to the menu.  The food is good, but not so special as to justify the wait.  The staff are very pleasant. 

After Shelburne we set our sights on the Old Town of Lunenburg further up the coast, but don't make it. We're noticing that Nova Scotia is just coming awake to the tourist season and some of the things we want to visit are not yet open for the season. We decide to check first and stop at a couple of locations that should have held Visitors' Centers.  Unfortunately these were closed or consist of a kiosk not yet restocked for the season.  We finally find an open Visitor's Center near Liverpool staffed by two bright and eager women.  The friendly pair defy the stereotype of slow talking Canadians by presenting an enthusiastic  overview of the wonders of the area delivered at an impressive speed.
Because the historic village of Lunenburg deserves more time than we have on this day, we decide to forge ahead and arrive in Halifax/Dartmouth early enough to do some exploring there. 

Our clever change of plans places us in the middle of a traffic jam in Halifax that is worthy of New York or Boston at rush hour. After more than an hour making the crossing of Halifax Harbor, we arrive in Dartmouth with a fire engine on our rear bumper.  Despite our best efforts to get out of the way, the truck follows us to the Hampton Inn Dartmouth and pulls up to the door. The call turns out to be a false alarm, but the inexperienced hotel staff don't appear up to managing the aftermath during which elevators don't work for hours, our room first won't open to our keys, and then won't lock, and the final straw, the hot water is off all night. The cold shower the next morning wasn't fun.   

One mostly good experience in Dartmouth was Ela! Greek Taverna, a little Greek restaurant across the street from our hotel.  The Greek dishes were outstanding except for the little problem of a piece of plastic wrap that got heated up along with my Mousaka. The thoroughly embarrassed waiter whisked the dish away, replaced it and deleted the item from our check--unnecessary, from my viewpoint, but a class act.  

I don't know if the result of my bad attitude about this particular Hampton  Inn, but the breakfast eggs had the texture of carpet underlayment.  Disillusioned with that hotel, and city life, we cancel our plan to return to this hotel in two days for a longer stay, and instead book another B&B in the town of Truro about 100 kilometers north from which we will explore the north shore.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Connecticut , USA to Nova Scotia, Canada, May 31-June 7, 2017 Day 1

Day 1, May 31

Today Gloria and I give in to our desire to be on the road. Although we love car trips across America, the trip described here was inspired by a challenge from Canadian radio announcer Rob Calabrese.  He created a tongue-in-cheek website suggesting that Americans consider soothing their disappointment over the US presidential election by immigration to Cape Breton Island. Although we plan to stay in the USA and work toward a electing a better president next time, we went north to check out Cape Breton. 

Cape Breton Island is the green area on the right of the map. It's part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, Canada's second-smallest province. The peninsula is 360 miles (580 kilometers) in length, about  80 miles (128 kilometers) wide, and home to just under a million Canadians.  We drove most of the perimeter in two hundred mile segments, staying a couple of days in areas of interest and never felt rushed.

In the past, getting to Yarmouth, NS required either an endless drive through rural Maine and the forests of New Brunswick or an 11.5 hour overnight ferry across the Gulf of Maine. This year we traveled to Yarmouth (on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia) by ferry boat from Portland Maine, in five and a half hours.  Since Portland is only 3.5 hours from home, that cut the entire travel time to under nine hours. 

The CAT ferry, new this year, is fast, clean, and very friendly. We hit some rough water about half way across the Gulf of Maine. Unlike quite a few of our fellow travelers, we didn't get seasick. We cleared customs in Yarmouth, NS at around 9:30 pm and found our way to the Lakelawn B&B only a mile or so away. The GPS was balky, but Mathew, our host, gave the kind of simple directions that anxious travelers like me appreciate. 

A friend once joked that Canada is much like the USA, just more efficient, polite and friendly. Our experience at the Lakelawn B&B was consistent with that generalization, as was the entire trip, this lurid headline in the local paper notwithstanding.

We both love our Connecticut home, a house we built ourselves and continue to remodel, nestled on four acres of fields, streams, fruit trees, and flowers, but there is something peaceful in leaving all the possibilities behind. I know this trip is overdue because as I sit in my quaint, comfortable room in a well maintained Victorian, I long to take out my tools (the ones I didn't bring) and make something better. The hot and cold taps are reversed on the sink--a simple fix.  The vinyl plank floor has a seam that is opening up, a defect needing a light tap with a hammer to seat it. The place can really use an additional outlet, and what's with that one inch step up into the bathroom?

I resist the urge to fix and settle for reviewing the itinerary for the next day, a plan that will survive only until the first side trip. Day one ends with an hour of reading the 2017 Doers & Dreamers Guide to Nova Scotia in front of an electric fireplace. It's cold and the heat is welcome.

Despite the busy location, we both have a great night's sleep, a major victory for my insomniac spouse. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day 7 - Back at home

Day 7- York PA to Colchester, CT via Wilkes-Barre, PA

My apologies for this post coming out a day late. The worst traffic of any road trip we make is the last two hours through Connecticut.  As much as there is a lot to like about living here, the roads and traffic aren't counted among our blessings.

We arrived home early in the evening and spent so much time visiting our favorite nooks around the yard that I fell asleep before updating the blog. The automatic watering system I installed just before leaving seems to have protected our plants well. Below see one of our raised bed vegetable gardens bursting with produce.

So here is our final day of this trip. Instead of backtracking through Lancaster (a fine destination) we headed north toward the Scranton PA area, crossed into New York at Port Jervis, and continued east to Connecticut. We took several detours, a couple looking for bathrooms or lunch and another to avoid construction on I84.  As usual, these side trips added fifteen or twenty minutes to the journey, but provided the most fun.  Both of our GPS devices lost their signal on side trip near lake Wallenpaupack so we just drove east and then south until we found a little village with a restaurant and signs to the interstate.

Since this is the trip end, I'll take a few lines to write about traveling. The picture above is where most of the journey was spent. On this trip we were testing the navigation and accident avoidance Eyesight system on Gloria's new 2016 Subaru Legacy sedan.  I won't turn this blog into a car review, but this may be the most comfortable, safest vehicle I've taken on a road trip. Blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, lane monitoring, crossing traffic alerts, back up camera, all took a little getting used to, but went a long way to making car travel a lot safer.  An average 33.2 mpg helped too.

We also have become increasingly more dependent on the Trip Advisor phone app to find attractions and restaurants along the way.  A couple of button pushes gets lists, ratings and turn by turn directions.  It is great for answering the perennial traveler's question, "I wonder what is off the highway around here." We used this app extensively on this trip instead of collecting bundles of brochures at the highway visitor's centers.

As always, GPS devices are to be trusted slightly more than the instructions from locals, but expect them to be wrong sometimes.  What I love about the always active, on-board Star-link GPS on the Subaru, is that I can drive around randomly, and then press a destination and  always find my way back.

Thanks to the many people who took time to talk to me, tell their stories, and answer my questions. I'm the kind of guy who talks to people around me wherever I am, in check out lines, at restaurants, festivals, pumping gas. I'm happy to report that the Americans I met tended to be very civic minded. Most contributed hundreds of  volunteer hours putting on festivals, raising money for the needy, preserving cultural heritage, serving on civic boards, or just sharing a word of encouragement to a traveler. Yes, there are some bad people out there, haters and clowns who make money by riling them up, but that's not who I meet traveling around America. As we approach some big decisions politically, I am hopeful, and confident, that the American people will reject messages of hate and would-be leaders who try to turn us against our neighbors.

If you want to find out what I learned about attitudes toward tax revolutions (a lot), you'll have to wait until IRS Nation comes out in the Spring of 2017.

I feel a Fall Agricultural Fairs and Festivals tour in our future.  If we make it, we'll see you along the way. David

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Day 6 Washington, PA to York, PA via Cumberland,PA

Day 6. Today we left Washington finishing up the final day of the Whiskey Rebellion and started our slow journey back to New England.  Below is a final look at the crowd and yours truly with a mug of root beer (honestly).

Instead of back-tracking through Bedford, we elected to head slightly south east toward Cumberland, PA along the Maryland border.  This has to be some of the prettiest country I have ever seen. Hills and ravines covered with lush green forests. Farms and villages every few miles.  Much of the rout parallels the original road that Washington and his men opened up to assure that the goods from this region would be sold back east.

A little gem along the way is the Fort Necessity National Park.  The place is immaculate, educational and of immense historical significance.  It was here that George Washington, as a junior officer, had his first victory and first defeat against French and Indian troops. Of course he nearly single handedly ignited the French and Indian War, but who is perfect. Below is a restoration of the fort from which Washington surrendered to the French.  If you want the rest of the story try Google.

From the fort we traveled to Cumberland through some equally beautiful southern Pennsylvania country.  If they had access to the ocean I'd consider moving here. Our lunch stop in Cumberland was pleasant.  Thanks to the TripAdvisor ap, upon which we are becoming dependent, we found Sammy's, a little hole-in-the-wall that served excellent quiche, salads, and omelettes. 
Sammy's was down a brick side street set off from a long pedestrian walk surrounded with shops. Here is Gloria at about the half way point of the walk.

Several hours further and we arrived in York, our overnight stop.  Food at the White Rose was disappointing, but the bar was cute, loud and apparently fun but I was too strung out from the road to want to drink, so the atmosphere was wasted on me.

We are trying the Homewood Suites (A Hilton property). Our room is nice and everything in the facility looks new and shiny.  I'll see how I sleep before rendering a final verdict.
 See you tomorrow, our final day on this trip.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Day 5 Washington, PA

We spent all of day  5, Saturday, at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival in the historic downtown district of Washington, PA. We arrived early and found ample on street parking only a few blocks from the pavilion where most events were to occur.  At 10:00 the stage was vacant, but after 11:00 continuously occupied by bands mostly featuring Irish and Scottish music and some Cajun and Blue Grass. This was supplemented by other bands in several other locations along south main, mainly taverns and historical buildings.

Once things got going it was a non-stop family friendly festival for the entire day.  Late  morning all of south main street was closed for a rather long parade featuring the usual high school bands, fire and police, local businesses, state fair queens, Here are a couple of tough characters that were not usual parade fixtures.

 Every hour or two street actors would stage events relevant to the Whiskey Rebellion to the delight of all.  Muskets were discharged, tax collectors humiliated while mostly amused spectators looked on. Historic buildings staged informational open houses and tours. We especially enjoyed the tour of the magnificent courthouse and the David Bradford House Museum.

The highlight of the Saturday festivities was the street theater production of the tar and feathering of a tax collector. Fortunately the tar was chocolate syrup and molasses and the  dramatization was much more humane than historical accounts of the real event.

The afternoon crowd was quite a bit larger than the morning, but at no time did I feel too pressed. All in all this was a fine event and a credit to the community.

The highlight of the event for me was the chance to talk to a half dozen locals about the festival, taxation, public discourse on matters such as one's relationship to the federal government.  Included in these was a late teen who discussed her dilemma of carving a future in a would with few economic opportunities and the prospect of huge college debt. These provided exactly the kind of input I needed to make IRS Nation authentic.

There are a few more events tomorrow, but we are off to York, PA where we will spend a night before returning home.  See you then.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Day 4 Washington PA

Day 4 Washington PA. The threat of severe thunderstorms north of here around Pittsburgh kept us in the region today.  We spent an hour or so in the old historic section of Washington watching crews set up for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival events that become more numerous this evening and on Saturday.  Crews were erecting tents, running power, setting up booths.  The handful of tourists that were out in late morning didn't have much to see except an information booth that was un-staffed.

However, the lack of attractions did give us a chance to tour the town by car and on foot without battling crowds or traffic. Here I am at a festival notice adjacent to one of the historic sites on South Main Street (which doesn't exist according to my GPS).  Behind me is the David Branford House. Branford is credited as one of the leaders of the opposition to the Whiskey Tax of 1791 that led to armed conflict in 1794.  The government position (Treasury Department web page ) is that some local thugs shot up the home of a tax collector before being driven off.  Later a tax collector was captured, beaten, tarred and feathered and  humiliated for days by local farmers.  When President George Washington showed up with nearly 12,000 troups the protesters returned home and their leaders, including Branford, fled.

Here is a little of what the locals have to say about David Branford house on a sign on South Main in front of the original home. We also talked to a couple of locals to get their take on the festival.  Neither had much of an idea of the history behind the event or had attended recently. 

We spent the day driving around the community for several hours. We had a couple of decent meals and spent a couple hours in a modern cinema.  Washington is a much larger community than I expected.  The old town center where David Branford house is located is a mixture of new streets, sidewalks, lights. newer buildings, restored older ones and lots that are in poor repair. The overall effect is rundown.  Outside of the old town center the community is a mixture of hundred year old buildings that quickly are replaced by new construction.  We are staying in a fairly new hotel, one of a dozen or more structures adjacent to a modern casino.  Washington may be an old community but it appears to be in he midst of quite a bit of new growth and modernization.   

While we were walking around the old town section an apparently white guy in a pickup stuck his head out while making a turn and shouted "Black Lives Matter." True, we all matter and injustice to one of us is injustice to all of us. Thanks for the reminder whoever you are.

I am less appreciative for the obscene gesture from a motorcyclist who was unhappy that I was driving the speed limit.  I don't set the limits, I just follow them.

Tomorrow is the big Whiskey Rebellion Festival Parade and dozens of other events which we plan to attend. I'll let you know what happened along the way. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 3 Lancaster to Bedford to Washington

Day 3.  This is a travel day starting in Lancaster PA with a stop in Bedford PA and ending in Washington PA. Our stay at the Hampton of Lancaster was OK in that the hotel is clean, in good repair, and the staff friendly and helpful.  On the down side this one is expensive for a Hampton Inn, and caters to groups of young athletes. This trip it was high school girls basketball. They seem to be great kids, but they are everywhere, and a bit loud and rambunctious well into the night. I don't think we will stay here again since this is common for this hotel.  There are better choices in the region.

Our halfway stop, about three hours west, was the township of Bedford.  The attraction that drew us here was Fort Bedford, a museum in a recreation of a fort built in 1758. But since we arrived well after noon we decided to eat first. Instead of making a plan we wandered the East Pitt street looking for something promising. 

We decided on the Golden Eagle Inn and weren't disappointed. The food was modestly priced but a cut above from the chick pea and curry soup to the garden salad with more kinds of fresh vegetables than usual and grilled chicken cooked to perfection.

As a bonus we discovered we had eaten next door to the Espy house that had served as George Washington's headquarters during the 1794 campaign to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Our trip was  about understanding that conflict and what people think about it today, so it was a treat to walk this spot.

Our visit to the Fort Bedford Museum was greatly enhanced by volunteer and retired history teacher Jim Hostetler who gave generously of his time and knowledge of the pre-revolutionary war history of this region. Jim is an example of one of those Americans who keeps giving, even years into his retirement. Among other things we learned that by the 1790's Fort Bedford had long fallen into ruin.  In fact, post revolutionary war maps laying out the future township of Bedford didn't even show the fort. The Museum building is housed in a reproduction a few blocks away from the site of the original fort.

At the end of a park path Gloria found a recreation of the original stockade restored by a team of archaeologists on its original site.  This museum has a wealth of artifacts and is well worth a visit.

We left Bedford in mid afternoon and traveled a couple of hours further west to Washington. Despite making stops more frequently we were a bit road weary when we arrived and decided to use the evening to plan our next day instead of heading out on the town.  Most likely we will head north to Pittsburg tomorrow and come back to Washington for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival on Saturday which is the main day. 
See you then.