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Old 02-02-2011, 04:29 PM   #46
lilolita OP
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Canada Day Eleven: Mira River, NS (60 miles)

The weather has been snowy here so I'm able to get some more writing done!

Rain. Rain. Rain. And slugs. Slugs. Slugs. That’s what greeted me this Monday morning. I woke up really early and was going to slip out of the tent quietly, to walk up to the privy and then sit and watch the steam rise up off the water. Quietly is the key word here.

I gently pulled the zip on the tent door on my side, and poked my head out to check on my shoes which were tucked neatly under the extended fly. “No slugs,” I said softly to myself. I reached for one shoe, which is white with green and mustard yellow stripes, the same mustard yellow as the slugs, and I screamed. “Aaaagh…I touched one. I touched one. Aaaaagh, I can’t get that feeling out of my head.”

So now the boyfriend is awake. “Didn’t you just check?” he asked. Well, yeah, but I’m really, really nearsighted and hadn’t bothered to put on my glasses. I’m regretting that decision now. “Get it off, get it off!” I’m yelling. Poor guy. Can’t even get a good sleep in while he’s still in pain and recuperating from the trip to Upper Leitches Creek.

He flings the slug off as I crawl out of the tent. I jam my feet in and head off of on my morning walk. Apparently while I was gone, enjoying stepping on as many slugs as I could, he had to scoop out not one, not two, but three of the slimy creatures from the bottom of his riding boots. I shudder just thinking about slipping my foot into my boots and feeling that squish. I really don’t like slugs.

Today he says he feels up for a visit to the Marconi National Historic Site. Finally! Who doesn’t love a good walk around a place where modern communications began?

Marconi National Historic Site, Table Head, Glace Bay, NS

We’re off, headed toward a tip of land in Glace Bay called Table Head. I really don’t know what my deal is with Marconi; I’m a little obsessed but I don’t know why. I’ve been to the site on Cape Cod in Chatham (several times) and to the beach station in Wellfleet. I’ve been to the site in Clifden, Co. Galway in Ireland. The Clifden location was the European side of the first regular trans-atlantic telegraph service; the North American side is the location in Glace Bay. My head is just about ready to explode.

We arrive at the museum and it’s pissing down with rain. We walk all around outside and then head inside to view the exhibit. The lovely young women at the desk don’t mind us leaving our dripping gear in a corner of the building. Two older gents are going on and on about radio stuff; one works there and one is visiting his friend. I don’t think they realize that it’s the girl of this moto-duo who is, quite literally, going bonkers over all the cool shit. I felt kinda bad for the girls working there as it must sorta suck, being surrounded by old men talking radio stuff. They were so very nice, suggesting that we visit the Fortress of Louisbourg on July 1st as it’s free on Canada Day which is just a couple of days way. I didn’t want to tell them that I wasn’t interested in the Fortress; I had everything I needed right in front of me on this spit of land with some cement foundations sticking up through the scraggly brush, the only vegetation that can grown in this harsh environment.

Coal cliff, Table Head, Glace Bay, NS

We headed out for a ride on the Marconi Trail, one of the themed “Scenic Travelways” put together by the Nova Scotia tourist board (at least that’s who I think does it). There are signs along the route indicating that it’s a scenic trail, just like the Cabot Trail or the Ceilidh Trail. I had read somewhere that the house that Marconi and his family lived in while he worked in Glace Bay is nearby and that the current owners don’t mind visitors. Of course I wanted to go.

Beware of Dog

I found the place. There was a large wood sign way up high tacked to a tree with random sticker letters that read “Beware of Dog”. Hmm, should we head up the driveway? And then we see the dog. Oh crap.
We both started back-paddling the bikes down the driveway and back toward the road. “Hurry, hurry, it’s coming!” I yell over the communicator. We get back on the roadway and the dog still isn’t at the end of the driveway. We sit at the edge of the roadway as the dog finally gets closer. Ohhhh, it only has three legs. So we ran from a 3-legged guard dog. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see the house.
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Old 02-02-2011, 05:02 PM   #47
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I absolutely LOVE your writing style!
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Old 02-03-2011, 04:37 PM   #48
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This is an addition to the Marconi day.

We got back to our camp site quite early as neither of us wanted to push it today. We hadn’t really explored the campground as we were in the section that wasn’t actually open because 1) they were busier than expected and didn’t want to turn us away; and, 2) Betty wanted us to be separated from any noise and commotion. The only section that was technically open was the big field where the RVs park.


We walked over to that section, passing a little area where a few tents were set up, and strolled along the RVs. Man, they can be big. One of them had a cat curled up on the dashboard. It made me sad as I was missing my cats. I noticed a building tucked way on the other side of the field and said, “I wonder what that is. Do you think this place actually has flush toilets and running water?” We had been using a privy, which I don’t mind, hell, it’s a lot better than not having one, but neither of us had cleaned ourselves or our clothes in 5 days. There’s really only so much a baby wipe can do.


Continuing our loop around, we come to the building. I open the door on the women’s side and he does the same on the men’s. Oh my…a shower. A bona fide, hot water shower. Guess what we did that afternoon? That’s right. I wore my clothes into the shower, lathered ‘em up, rinsed them off, took them off, and then lathered up me. I was so happy to be able to wash my hair as tomorrow night is our big night out, the reason we were in Mira River to begin with.
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Old 02-03-2011, 04:38 PM   #49
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I absolutely LOVE your writing style!
Thanks, Boon...I try. I'm having a blast writing it up, remembering everything. It's better than looking at the window at the 8 foot frozen piles of black snow out my window.
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Old 02-03-2011, 04:49 PM   #50
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Canada Day Twelve: Mira River, NS (59 miles)

Tuesday, June 29th is here, finally! The only day of our 15 day trip that actually had us needing to be in a specific place at a specific time. Tonight is the Men of the Deeps concert at the Cape Breton Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. Now you understand why I was so happy to have a shower yesterday. I was going to be sitting in close proximity to other people and wanted to represent for Rhode Island. I even packed a skirt.

As we’re suiting up, I notice the chain on my DRZ is seriously drooping. “Um hon, this isn’t good.” We agree to stop in the ranger’s station and ask Betty if there’s a Suzuki dealer in Sydney who could do a quick fix.

It’s not Betty. It’s some guy who didn’t seem like he wanted to help us very much. But then he softened up and started thinking. He suggested we visit Gord’s. He knows they have snowmobiles so maybe they can help. The boyfriend pops the name into the GPS and we get the location.


Happy DRZ400SM owner at Gord's in Sydney, NS

Off to the big city, Sydney. Our first destination was Gord’s with the hope that they could help us out with pulling the wheel back on my Dizz. We find the place easily and park right in front. We walk in and I go right up to the desk. I explain what’s going on and the guy says that they’ll take the bike right back. Now how’s that for service? We wander around the shop, looking at the bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles and all the super-warm looking gear. We’re there maybe 20 minutes, if that, and one of the guys yells over that the bike is all set. Really? Man, that was fast. “So whadda it’ll be?” the boyfriend asks. “Aww, nothing.” Good, straight-shooting guys. Thank you Gord’s, for taking care of Elsa’s chain and making my bike safe for riding back the 1,200 miles to home.

Next we head to the historic district in Sydney (apparently it’s the “North End Historic District” where I just read that it has “a gritty charm”) that I saw a couple days before when I was riding around by myself. We live in an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian house (can you even say that?) and we enjoy seeing beautiful old houses and how people maintain them. It definitely seemed like Sydney had seen better days, so we were really enjoying ourselves as we live in the same kind of city and the same kind of neighborhood. I would go so far as to describe my neighborhood as having a gritty charm. We both know that a “historic district” designation means nothing but more paperwork to have to deal with when making repairs.


St. Patrick's Church, Sydney, NS

We walked along the water looking at the houses and came up on St. Patrick’s Church, the oldest Catholic Church on Cape Breton. We didn’t go in because nothing was going to top the Mother of Sorrows Shrine in Mabou.

We continued along, noting that the houses suffer the elements similarly to the houses where I live. Water is the enemy. We stumbled upon the Cossit House Museum and thought, why the hell not, let’s go in and have a tour.

Turns out the Cossit House is the oldest house in Sydney. A woman dressed in period costume takes us through the house, room by room, and we note the similarities in building techniques to the old houses in Providence. Man, the walls were thin in the 1780′s. I can only imagine how cold it must have gotten.

As we’re standing in the last room (which is also the first room where you check in), the daughter of another museum employee is talking to her mom. She’s a teenager and she is absolutely furious that the administrators at her school want to drop Gaelic as a language for study. She is spouting off about the fact that school is continuing to support Acadian French. We’re intently listening and the mother notices this. She gives the daughter a look to tone it down. I wanted to say, “Hey, we’re linguists; we’re not judging. We’re extremely interested in how language communities interact.” But I thought that would just be too weird. So we thanked everyone for their time and left the Cossit House. We never did get to here any “Gaelic” spoken (I put it in quotes because I’m not really sure if it’s called Canadian-Gaelic or Cape Breton Gaelic or what) and I’m curious if it’s used as a home language anywhere in Cape Breton. I have spent a lot of time in Ireland and in the Gaeltachts Irish is a home language, and it is vigorously supported in national schools (in pockets). Ok enough boring language stuff.


A wall of coal under the bay

On to the Miners’ Museum. I was so nervous that the concert would sell out that I dragged the boyfriend to the museum to pick up two tickets. The friendly woman at the desk who sold us the tickets told us that we could explore the museum exhibit at our leisure before the concert as they keep it open late. She also showed us a supply closet that we could use to store our jackets and pants so we could be comfortable during the concert.

But first, the tour. The museum has a tour, the Ocean Deeps Tour, where they take you into a coal mine that extends under the bay. It’s set up like a 1930′s mine to give an idea of how miserable the work really was, even though the mine was modernised as it was a working mine up into the 1990′s.

Our tour guide, Sheldon Gouthro, was a former miner. He was also quite the comedian. The mine was really cool. The walls were made of coal and as we were walking, you realized you were under water. Parts of the mine are so low that I was practically stooped over halfway. I cannot imagine doing that kind of work. Sheldon had very strong opinions about the various mine owners and was very critical of the fact that the owners provided housing to their workers and maintained the company store. Living in Rhode Island, we’re both more than aware of how this system maintained a hungry working class.


Note the canary in the coalmine


Sheldon Gouthro, our mine guide, and yours truly

After the tour we rode back into town to grab supper, one of the few times we ate out as I was cooking most of our meals. Getting around the center of Glace Bay is as confusing as getting around Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It’s all one-ways and we were getting all twisted around and confused. Plus, it was raining and getting dark.


Canadian flag hanging off a fire truck ladder

We’re riding down a main street and I see a giant Canadian flag hanging from the top of a fully extended ladder on a fire truck. As it’s very close to Canada Day, we figured it was a display of Maple Leaf patriotism. But then we saw all the people, slowly walking down the middle of the street and on the sidewalks, dressed in red. We saw firemen in their dress kilts. “Hmmm, this is odd,” I thought to myself. “It’s Tuesday. We still have two days to the holiday.” I didn’t think Canadians were all gung-ho with the flag-waving.

Then it hits me. I saw the sign two days ago, celebrating a fallen hero. We were riding smack dab in the middle of a memorial service for a young man and solider killed in Afghanistan, Jimmy MacNeil. I’m absolutely horrified. My dad is retired US Navy. Respect for the military is part of my family. And here I am, riding a motorcycle in a hi-viz jacket, through a memorial service. I hope none of the family saw us. Thank you, Sgt. MacNeil.

The crowd was great, parting and letting us ride through. We finally pull over and park, and enter a place called Jiggers Dining Room and Lounge. We both had burgers and some kind of Molson that we don’t get in the US. The place was fairly empty (everyone was outside at the memorial service) and the television was on. We got caught up some more on the World Cup (oh yeah, the Netherlands are steamrolling!) and learned that the Queen was visiting Canada, including Halifax. Oooo, the Queen. In Nova Scotia. There was a lot of coverage. What can I say? We shuffled off those shackles in 1776, baby! [Canadian friends: this is tongue in cheek...don't want to upset anyone in a country that I'm absolutely in love with.]

Back to the museum for the concert…Men of the Deeps! So I’m a bit obsessed with miners’ choirs. Odd, yes. But at least I know why as opposed to the Marconi obsession. There is a band called Test Dept. who were one of the first post-punk industrial outfits using whatever bits of scrap metal they could find to create music. When I lived in New York there was an overpass all the way downtown, near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, under which I would stand in the middle of night making yelping noises, all inspired by Test Dept.

In 1984 at the height of Maggie Thatcher’s destruction of the unions (wonder where I stand?), Test Dept. released an LP (yes, an actual 33 1/3 vinyl record) of music recorded with the South Wales Striking Miners’ Choir called Shoulder to Shoulder. If you’re interested, try to find a copy of “Comrades in Arms” as it demonstrates the blend of the pounding industrial beat with the resplendent voices of the miners.


Men of the Deeps concert, Glace Bay, NS

I was seated next to an older woman who leaned over to me and asked, “Is this your first time?” “Oh yes, and I’m very excited.” I did realize I wasn’t going to get raw brutality from the Men of the Deeps, but I sure was hoping for some sweet voices. And they didn’t disappoint. At one song my neighbor leaned over and asked why I wasn’t singing. I said I didn’t know the words. That’s when she realized we were not from nearby. They sang one strong union song, and I was happy. I let my inner Billy Bragg out.

All in all, I had a great time. It was fun to watch the younger couples who brought their young children, dancing out in front. Some of the songs were obviously ones that everyone knew so there was quite a sing-along. At the end of the night, I thanked my friendly neighbor and the woman who sold us the tickets (I think her name was Kathy), who checked in with us as we exited the concert hall. She let us back into the supply closet where we suited up for the dark, rainy ride back to slugville.

The ride back was scary. Pitch black. In the rain. On unknown roads. With a guy with a fractured scapula. The boyfriend insisted on riding his own bike, even though I had offered that we ride 2-up on the BMW with me as the pilot. We kept it slow and arrived back at Mira River the backway as I had mapped it all out in my head two days before. It was probably about 11:00 pm, too late for a campfire, when we got back to our site. Full of burger and Molson and miner songs, I crawled into the tent and didn’t even flinch when I saw the gazillion slugs slithering their way across the tent.
Tomorrow, we start the ride back to little Rhody. Slow pokes that we are, where will we stop?
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:12 PM   #51
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Eh?

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If you're wondering about the injury I'll relieve some of the suspense. I spent the rest of the trip slowly improving but I didn't go to the hospital or doctor until I returned home. After x-rays, consultation and an MRI it was discovered that I had fractured my right scapula. I was thrilled that it wasn't a torn rotator cuff which would've required surgery and months of rehab. As it was, I did everything a doctor could have done on the trip; I made a sling out of a pair of long underwear and used my arm minimally (although I bet a doctor wouldn't have recommended riding a motorcycle for another week and sleeping in a tent).

But it was painful, very much so. The worst things were getting dressed/undressed and sleeping. The funny thing is that it was easier to me to continue to ride to work after we got home rather than drive a car because it hurt so much more to shift gears in the car than to twist the throttle.
Man! I separated my shoulder doing a stupid thing involving a motorcycle and a ditch in Prince Edward Island. I sympathize.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:17 PM   #52
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I absolutely LOVE your writing style!
+1

The sluggish start to your day is a great piece of work.

That rebellion thing in 1776? We call it infrastructure, and you're still paying taxes, correct? I figure it was just a bunch of guys with no respect for a nice loose leaf tea. ;)

I'll behave now. Do continue.
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:33 PM   #53
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Like it! Great stuff and well written. More please.
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Old 02-05-2011, 04:42 PM   #54
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Thanks, Boon...I try. I'm having a blast writing it up, remembering everything. It's better than looking at the window at the 8 foot frozen piles of black snow out my window.
Ummmm, How do you get Black snow? The rest of us have snow thats, basically white???
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Old 02-08-2011, 06:11 AM   #55
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Ummmm, How do you get Black snow? The rest of us have snow thats, basically white???
Fourty2ri, the wife and I were in Providence yesterday not far from Lilolita's 'hood, and indeed the snow piles were all an ugly, dirty, blackened mess.

-Terry
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Old 02-08-2011, 06:55 AM   #56
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"As we’re standing in the last room (which is also the first room where you check in), the daughter of another museum employee is talking to her mom. She’s a teenager and she is absolutely furious that the administrators at her school want to drop Gaelic as a language for study. She is spouting off about the fact that school is continuing to support Acadian French. We’re intently listening and the mother notices this. She gives the daughter a look to tone it down. I wanted to say, “Hey, we’re linguists; we’re not judging. We’re extremely interested in how language communities interact.” But I thought that would just be too weird. So we thanked everyone for their time and left the Cossit House. We never did get to here any “Gaelic” spoken (I put it in quotes because I’m not really sure if it’s called Canadian-Gaelic or Cape Breton Gaelic or what) and I’m curious if it’s used as a home language anywhere in Cape Breton. I have spent a lot of time in Ireland and in the Gaeltachts Irish is a home language, and it is vigorously supported in national schools (in pockets). Ok enough boring language stuff."


Glad you enjoyed the trip. The Gaelic that's spoken in CB is Scots Gaelic and is more prevalent in the Mabou/Inverness area. Many of our ancestors came from the Highlands in the late 1700 - early 1800s as a result of the Clearances. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances

Our friend Jeff (or Goridh as he likes to be called) basically had a Gaelic only policy in his house. He and his now ex wife were fluent, his little guy is pretty much fluent now too.

Small world - That boat closest to the shore on the left is my buddy Floyd's. His wife & mine grew up together. They live about a 30 sec drive from the wharf.



Mabou Harbour Road, NS
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Old 02-08-2011, 10:58 AM   #57
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Fourty2ri, the wife and I were in Providence yesterday not far from Lilolita's 'hood, and indeed the snow piles were all an ugly, dirty, blackened mess.

-Terry
In da' hood? Terry, what'n'the'f was YOU doin in the hood???

I forgot she lived in the seedy, err, sunny, south side of probydense !!
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Old 02-08-2011, 01:12 PM   #58
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In da' hood? Terry, what'n'the'f was YOU doin in the hood???

I forgot she lived in the seedy, err, sunny, south side of probydense !!
Yeah, every once in a while we have to leave the peace and quiet of the woods and head up into the mean streets of Providence for something. Up there they have lots of police with heavy firepower to keep the peace, down here where where we live we have a few cows standing sentry on my street (bad guys beware - they are really really mean cows!)
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Old 02-10-2011, 04:19 PM   #59
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"As we’re standing in the last room (which is also the first room where you check in), the daughter of another museum employee is talking to her mom. She’s a teenager and she is absolutely furious that the administrators at her school want to drop Gaelic as a language for study. She is spouting off about the fact that school is continuing to support Acadian French. We’re intently listening and the mother notices this. She gives the daughter a look to tone it down. I wanted to say, “Hey, we’re linguists; we’re not judging. We’re extremely interested in how language communities interact.” But I thought that would just be too weird. So we thanked everyone for their time and left the Cossit House. We never did get to here any “Gaelic” spoken (I put it in quotes because I’m not really sure if it’s called Canadian-Gaelic or Cape Breton Gaelic or what) and I’m curious if it’s used as a home language anywhere in Cape Breton. I have spent a lot of time in Ireland and in the Gaeltachts Irish is a home language, and it is vigorously supported in national schools (in pockets). Ok enough boring language stuff."


Glad you enjoyed the trip. The Gaelic that's spoken in CB is Scots Gaelic and is more prevalent in the Mabou/Inverness area. Many of our ancestors came from the Highlands in the late 1700 - early 1800s as a result of the Clearances. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances

Our friend Jeff (or Goridh as he likes to be called) basically had a Gaelic only policy in his house. He and his now ex wife were fluent, his little guy is pretty much fluent now too.

Small world - That boat closest to the shore on the left is my buddy Floyd's. His wife & mine grew up together. They live about a 30 sec drive from the wharf.



Mabou Harbour Road, NS
Hey Nova, thanks for posting info about the language. Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of people time in Inverness/Mabou. That is pretty cool that your friend had a Gaelic only policy. I always thought it could be very useful to speak a relatively obscure language. When I lived in New York, I heard two old guys speaking Irish on the subway. They definitely knew no one would know what they were on about.

As for the harbour pic, we had no idea where the road we were on was headed when we decided to ride down it. What a pleasant surprise at the end. Two of the fisherman drove by us in a pick-up truck and man, you got some tough guys up there. And I thought our New England fishermen were gruff.
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Old 02-10-2011, 04:21 PM   #60
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Fourty2RI and tmlee, leave my naybahood alone. It's you guys from the suburbs who come in and ruin it, what with your buying dope and prostitutes.

Now, back to the story!
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