Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Truro’s Tidal Bore and Digby’s Neck

Have you ever heard of the Balancing Rock of Digby? It is AMAZING!! I saw a tinyBalancing Rock of Digby Neck picture in the corner of a tourist magazine, and had to see it!

It’s on the Digby Neck, on the opposite side of the almost-island of Nova Scotia from Halifax. It is so worth going to visit there! Everything’s interesting.

Even the trip to get there! We went to Truro first, to watch the Tidal Bore.

Bird's Eye View of Tidal BoreI talked about the Tidal Bore in my blog about Alaska, but the Truro Tidal Bore, on the Bay of Fundy, is the fastest Tidal Bore in the world!

We were told it was a “must-see”, and when we got there, we were surprised to see people setting up camp, all along the bend in the river – picnics, lawn chairs, beach umbrellas. We were completely unprepared, so were forced to just stand there waiting. (How embarrassing!)
Before 1 Before

Right on schedule, we heard the sound – like a hiss – that grew into a rumble – and then into almost a roar, as the water came.
During !During

You know that movie, Backdraft? about the firefighters – there’s this one part where the fire fighter is talking about how the fire has thoughts and schemes – or something like that… The guy says “It’s a living thing. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it.” That’s EXACTLY how I was feeling about the rushing water! I felt like if I stood too close to the edge, it’d reach out its watery fingers and grab my feet and drag me in!
DuringDuring 1

As I mentioned in the previous blog about the Turnagain Arm Bore in Alaska – the Truro Tidal Bore (one of the fastest in the world) can travel up to 30 miles (48 kms) an hour and can reach up to 20 foot (6 meter) waves!
After1After

After we left Truro, we continued our journey to Digby Neck, stopping somewhere along the way, in a little tiny town (maybe it was actually the town of Digby), at McDonalds, where, after waiting about an hour to order (Yes – McDonalds, fast food), we had lobster sandwiches. And, REAL lobster and REAL sandwiTiverton NS, I thinkches!! Not even shredded or canned, but actual lobster. So yummy! Worth the hour wait. Oh! It’s called a McLobster. Of course!

The Digby Neck is a very narrow peninsula that extends out from Nova Scotia, with St. Mary’s Bay on one side and Bay of Fundy on the other.

The Balancing Rock is actually on the other side of Petit Passage, on Long Island, and is accessible only by ferry.

path to RockThe Trail to the Balancing Rock is very level and calm, meandering through the forest, until all of the sudden, there’s a STEEP staircase down to the ocean (well, St. Mary’s Bay)! Fortunately, there are benches andSteep Stairs landings at which to rest, from time to time. (Don’t forget your inhaler, if you have asthma.)

The Rock, made of basalt, is approximately 30 feet tall, and standing straight up from the ledge on which it’s perched!! Apparently, it’s attached by two small sections, but there’s a gap between the sections that you can actually see through to the other side.

Balancing Rock 2Those were the highlights for us! Lighthouses, balancing rocks, tidal bores, and history.

After a few more days, we headed home (on a crookedy little tiny plane so small they could only fire one engine at a time at take-off!) And, thus ends the Adventures in a Disposable Car.

Next week, I think we’ll talk about Hawaii!!

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Lighthouses and Memorials

If you love lighthouses, Nova Scotia is the place for you! There are over 160Peggy's Cove Lighthouse historical lighthouses scattered along the 7400 km coastline.

In fact, Nova Scotia has the more lighthouses that any other province in Canada… although, really.. is that a surprise? there’s not much competition – most of the country is landlocked.

The oldest working lighthouse in North America is there – 82 feet tall, built in 1758, and located on Sambro Island!

Thinking that’s very old, I Googled to see how 1758 compares to the oldest working lighthouse in the world… and I found the Tower of Hercules, which is an ancient Roman lighthouse built some time late in the 1st century (probably during the reign of Trajan, between 98-117 C.E.), still in use, in north-western Spain….well… 1758 is old too…

 Built in 1915 (at “only” almost 100 years old, it’s like it’s brand new!) Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse (or, actually: Peggy’s Point Lighthouse AT Peggy’s Cove) is one of the most photographed lighthouses (in the world?) Perhaps that’s because you can drive right up to it, and it’s only 45 minutes to an hour from Halifax. (Website says an hour, Google maps says 45 minutes… website probably knows best.)

Lost sailorsWorth seeing, there, is the “Fisherman’s Monument“, sculpted in 100 feet of granite, by a Finnish artist named William E. deGarthe.  This sculpture depicts the lives of 32 fisherman and their families.  I was told, while we were there, that one of the fisherman is actually a self-portrait of the artist.  I can’t find anything to support that, now, but I like that it could be true.

Also at Peggy’s Cove area is the Memorial for Swissair Flight 111.  On 2 September 1998, Swissair 111 crashed into St. Margarets Bay, killing all 229 people (215 passengers and 14 crew members) on board.  The flight left from JFK Airport in New York City, and was going to Geneva, Switzerland, but at almost 2 hours inflight, there was trouble.  They considered turning and going back to Boston or Bangor, but were informed that Halifax Airport was closer.

MemorialAfter trying everything possible, the plane came down, in St. Margarets Bay.  At 345 miles per hour, the airplane disintegrated on impact, and everyone died instantly…. Another terrible tragedy for the area.

We came across the Memorial while hiking over the gigantic granite rocks. We didn’t know it was there.  One of the stones has markings in it ” 1 1 1″ for the flight number, but also, if you look through the markings, they point to the actual crash site.

I took pictures of 3 or 4 other lighthouses as we travelighthouse routelled the almost-island of Nova Scotia, but I don’t know what they all are called!  I will definitely have to consider taking the Historic Lighthouse Tour next time!

Go check out the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society for a complete list and details for each of their lighthouses.

One more Nova Scotia blog next week.

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Halifax, Nova Scotia

As mentioned last week, we took the CAT Ferry from Maine to Yarmouth,Yarmouth Nova Scotia, and then drove around the south point of Nova Scotia and up the other side, to Halifax.
Yarmouth area

It looked EXACTLY like I thought it should.  When I was little, I had a book about some little kids who explored the rocks and caves in Maine, and something happened with a gigantic crab or lobster… I forget exactly what… and since I can’t remember enough about it, I can’t find it… but for my age group, it was a “thriller”… ANYway – all of the pictures and these big, giant boulders, and that’s exactly what Nova Scotia looked like.  Like we were miniature in the land of giant..boulders.  AND, it was misty and overcast often, which is exactly what it should be…in my imagination… so, I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Actually, the first few days we were there, it was really nice and hot.  TheFreezing cold Atlantic ocean, however, was FREEZING!! How is it that the air temperature (in July) could be 105-110° Fahrenheit, and the water SO COLD that I couldn’t get in deeper than my toes, and even that hurt!!!!!?  I blamed it on “the Atlantic”. (I can’t help it – I’ve mostly only been in the Pacific, and it’s always warm – I mean, later, we were in Tofino, British Columbia, and that’s when I discovered that it was the latitude, not the ocean, that accounted for the icy waters…but that’s a blog for a later time.)

Halifax, established in 1749, is now a town of approximately 390,000, Lighthouses 1according to the 2011 Census.

Since we were visiting friends, and not doing really tourist-y things, the only thing I remember straight off is that we ate lobster.  Now, the way I heard the story is that they picked up yummy fresh lobster in fancy packaging (see previous blog – I pretend a lobster tail is “fancy packaging” for some sort of yummy food. … I can’t see the entire lobster and eat it…) ~ actually, Peter and the guy we were visiting went to the pier and picked some lobsters fresh from the barrels… ANYway – “lalalalalalal”, she says, with her hands over her ears…

At some point, the people we were staying with ended up in a great, big, huge angry argument about something (I can’t remember what about BUT it WASN’T anything to do with us!).  It was loud and angry, and we were uncomfortable, so we tiptoed out the back door and went for a walk.

Little did I know that we’d stumble upon a highlight of the trip.  And, since Halifax Town Clockwe’d snuck out, I didn’t have my camera (or wallet or purse or anything, for that matter), so I missed this, in pictures.  It was night-time, and suddenly, we found ourselves in a cemetery.  (The fourth and final cemetery of this particular trip – the other three were planned, but this one was a complete surprise ~ the Fairview Lawn Cemetery.)

At first, we were just strolling along – I want to say it was lit up by the full moon, but that just might be my memories now… but it was well-lit, anyway… as we “browsed” the headstones, we became aware (gradually), that the headstones all had the same dates…April 15, 1912.

Everyone knows the story, or at least have heard enough about it, or at least saw the movie to get the heart wrenching, tear jerking gist of the tragedy of the Titanic.  I can’t even talk about it.  You can do your own research if you want/need further details.

Or, watch the movie.  I didn’t want to watch it. I resisted it. I refused to go to the theater.  Then, a friend brought it over, because the music was beautiful… I cried from the very beginning and had nightmares for… a long, long time.   Can you believe that the movie came out 16 years ago!!?

In Halifax, you will find the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which includesMaritime Museum 1 artifacts, photographs, and details about the Titanic and it’s tragedy.  Rescue workers sent all Titanic survivors to New York, but all those who perished were sent to Halifax.   The map does seem like it’s pretty equal distance, either way…
Maritime Museum

Also found in the Museum is information about the Halifax Explosion, another tragedy, just 5 years after the Titanic, December 6, 1917.

As we know, this was during World War I, and one of the ships in the Halifaxanchor port was loaded down with (transporting) ammunition.  (I guess normally that would’ve been indicated by a red flag or something, but they were trying to be sneaky to avoid attracting attention enemy submarines.)  Another ship in port was carrying relief efforts…  Neither wanted to change their course, and by the time they understood the impending danger, it was too late, and they collided.

Unfortunately, a crowd had gathered on the wharf because of the burning ships… plus, there was the normal hustle and bustle of the businesses along the harbor…The explosion that followed levelled the port of Halifax and killed 2000 people and injured 9000 more.

Halifax Tragically, sailors from the ship carrying the explosives (the SS Mont-Blanc) tried to warn the spectators of the terrible looming danger, they were speaking French and nobody understood them.  Terrible terrible terrible.

HalifaxExplosion.org explains: “the air was filled with the sound of bursting flames, billowing smoke, explosions, fire bells, and crowd reactions all around… and then a momentary silence…”

The shockwave from the following explosion travelled about 1500 meters perSeagull second; the heat was “in excess of 5000c” and the heat vaporized the water around the ship, and produced a 16 meter tidal wave straight to the pier.  The before-and-after pictures are devastating.   (Is 5000c” Celsius? If it is then it’s around 8540° Fahrenheit… in other words, unfathomable… To put that into perspective, the inner core of the Earth is estimated to be between 7026° Celsius (12680° Fahrenheit), as per the World Book EncyclopediaWikipedia reports approximately 5700° Kelvin (5430° Celsius, 9800° Fahrenheit)…the surface of the Sun is estimated to be around 5726° Celsius/10340° Fahrenheit… hmmmmm)

More Nova Scotia details next Sunday.

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Bangor to Bar Harbor (Maine)

So, once upon a time, we started this roadtrip, which I call “Adventures in a Disposable Car“.  As mentioned, the plan was to drive one way, from Calgary to Halifax, Nova Scotia, through the United States, and then fly home.   BUT the car only made it to Omaha, Nebraska.

PortsmouthWe rented a car at the Omaha airport, but since we had no intention of returning it to the pick-up location, we weren’t allowed to drop-off the car in Canada. So, we immediately came up with a Plan B (or C or D), which was: we’ll drive the car to Bangor, Maine, and then catch the Greyhound Bus, from Bangor to Bar Harbor, and then, from Bar Harbor, we’d take the ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, where friends would pick us up, drive us to Halifax, where we’d rent a car…

So, we drove to Bangor (through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, so we get to cross New Hampshire off the list… although, on our next New England trip, I have a few actual things I want to do while IN New Hampshire, so we are going back there anyway…)

We dropped our rental car off at the Bangor airport, and caught a cab (which, by the way, was a powder blue station wagon, which must’ve been from the 1980’s…does that make sense?) back to the Greyhound Bus Depot.

We planned to take donate most of our camping gear to the Good Will, or something similar, in Bangor; send some of our personal larger items, by Greyhound, back to Montana to my Dad’s house; and the rest (suitcase items – clothing and shoes) we’d take with us.

At the Greyhound depot, the ticket agent was a man who looked EXACTLY like my Grampa.  Since you may not have known him: He wore overalls, had the bushiest eyebrows and a roly-poly belly.

We walked up to the booth (there was no one else there, not even any other employees), and said, “We’d like to go to Bar Harbor, please.”  (Bar Harbor is 47 miles southeast.)

He said, “Whey-uh?”

“Ummm. Bar Harbor.”

“You want to go whey-uh?”

“Bar Harbor… Maine…?”

“….. ohhhhhhhh…. you mean Bah -Hab-uh! Why dincha say so?”

So, I said, “OH. Yes. Sorry. We’d like to go to uh Bah-Hab-uh, please.”

Next, I explained that we had some crates going to Montana.  No problem, he said, just put our address on the crates.

I said, “oh, ok! Do you have a marker I can use?”

He said “A what?”Bar Harbor2

I said, “A marker.”

“A what?”

“A marker.”

Peter says, “A pen! Do you have a pen?”

“OHHHHH – a Mack-uh! Why dincha say so???”

Eventually, we got our tickets to Bah-Hab-uh, and our crates were set to go to Montana.

We got on the bus, and told the Bus driver our plan: “We’d like to go to this cottage, which is right beside the Cat Ferry Port.  Can you please drop us off there, on the way to Bar Harbor…errrr Bah – Hab-uh?”

(We’d (OK, I’d) found a cottage that was SO CUTE, that said they were walking distance to the CAT Ferry. Perfect!)

Bar HarborThe Bus Driver said, No. There’s no way he was leaving us at those cottages – it wasn’t within walking distance. What he proposed is: when we drive by the cottages, he’s point them out – but not drop us off. When we pass the Ferry, he’ll point that out. If we still want to stay at the Cottages, we could hitch a ride with him, on his way back.

Yeah – that was a GREAT option because it was at LEAST 5 miles from the Cottage to the Ferry! Seriously!! (a problem with the Internet…you never know for sure what you might get…)

So, there we were, “stranded” in Bar Harbor.  THAT is not an option, at all – the most hospitable, generous, easy-going town.  The bus driver knew the motel owner (I’m 99% certain it was the Bar Harbor Villager Hotel) and explained that we had to 1) rent a room, and 2) get to the Ferry the next day.

They hammered out the deal (with Peter observing), in that: as soon as the motel owner heard what we needed, she volunteered to drive us to the Ferry landing herself!

We settled in to Bar Harbor for the evening, exploring up and down the main street, going in and out of stores, restaurants, pubs…

We asked one store clerk what time they closed shop.  She said, “When people stop coming in…could be 8pm, could be midnight.”  So, I said, “Ok! When do you open in the morning?” She said, “Depends when we close the night before.”

This is the kind of town for me.

We went for dinner down by the wharf – and had lobster, of course. You must have lobster if you are in Maine! They had bucketsQuarterdeck Restaurant (barrels?) of lobster from which you can pick, but I prefer to pretend that my lobster (and crab) isn’t a creature, and that it’s just yummy food in fancy packaging.  (This is how my cognitive dissonance works.)  So, we went to a restaurant, where I could just order a tail.

We stayed there until the sun went down, and then meandered back up the main street towards the hotel.

We stopped at a little (and I mean “LITTLE”) pub along the way for an after-dinner drink.  It was SO small – kind of like a hallway, with a bar and some stools, no tables.  The Bartender was from … I don’t remember where he was from… I think Ireland, Peter thinks Australia…he’s just there in the summer, but comes back every summer, to just “be” in Bar Harbor, and, of course, to bar tend

.   AND, he was a GREAT bartender!!  For a “tall” drink, he included AT LEAST an ounce of mix.

CAT ferryThe next morning, as promised, a the crack of dawn (or, well, a few minutes before 8:00 am, actually), the hotel lady kicked everyone out of her Continental Breakfast area, locked up the hotel office, loaded up all of our luggage  (well, what’s left of it) in her van, and drove us to the Ferry.    We insisted on “giving her something for her troubles…or at least, gas money”, but she absolutely refused… until finally, it seemed offensive to insist.

We loved the place! We are going back.   Sometimes, a whirl-wind road trip is like a Sample Platter. You get a bunch of bite size appetizers, and then choose which you like, so you can re-order that next time. Bar Harbor is a “re-order” item.

CatThe CAT Ferry is/was one of the fastest ferries, from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth, took about 3 hours.  Here’s my …misunderstanding… I assumed that since it was “only” 3 hours, and it was “in” the Bay of Fundy, I wouldn’t have to worry about sea-sicknessness…. (I’d never been sea sick before – just cautious and aware.)

Yeah.  About 1/2 hour in – SICK!  SICK!!  the route was on the outer edge of the Bay of Fundy, so really – the Atlantic Ocean.  I don’t know if the sea was calm or …wavy… but after 1/2 hour, I had to take medicine and spent the entire rest of the trip… asleep.  I’m certain that despite the blue sky and sunshine, it must’ve been tumultuous seas!!!!

After apparently missing whale sightings, we ported in Yarmouth, I guess 3 hours later… and yay! friends picked us up!

(By the way, the CAT Ferry no longer runs from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth… it was retired April, 2010, after a decade of use.  I guess it was too expensive to run, and the governments on both sides couldn’t keep up with subsidizing it… They are, apparently, looking a new/different ferry line to connect the two places – just not as speedy as 3 hours… could you imagine if that was your commute!!???)

Next Sunday – something about Nova Scotia…

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