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Archive for October, 2009

We want to learn a little about spies and codes and how the NSA evolved, so we pull off the Washington Beltway and visit the small, but interesting and rather hard to find Cryptology Museum, which winds up being right next to the huge NSA complex. But DON’T take that exit and DON’T point your cameras in that direction (we didn’t) – these people are serious.  So is the museum history – fascinating, if not the best organized (although we had a wonderful docent, who was there to guide and answer all our questions) -from the earliest forms of intelligence, through solving the Enigma (German code machine in WWII) and beyond.

We make it around the rest of the Washington beltway, listening to political talk radio, of course, and check into Bull Run Regional Park.  The next day we tour  Manassas Battlefield.  The first major battle of the Civil War , where they say innocence was lost.  The young soldiers who thought they were going off to have a fun and daring (and short) adventure,  saw instead the grim and ugly face of war.  Washington picnickers were caught up in the Union retreat and Stonewall Jackson got his name here.

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Left Maine on Saturday morning, after sleeping in the Navion in the driveway so we could winterize the house.  An added advantage of that arrangement was that Taylor had the whole night in the motor home to get over his traveling hysteria – and actually managed to NOT throw up on the first day on the road, as is his tradition.  So now you know.

If you’re still reading, we drove what has become “hard” driving for us (about 270 miles) and stopped for the night at “Aces High” campground in East Lyme CT – a very pretty campground, with ponds and streams and wooded hills. They recommended dinner at a great pub in close by Niantic, The Black Sheep.  I had a delicious autumnal pork chop dinner, with sage apples and mashed sweet pototoes and Dick had the best swordfish of his life.

We decide to stay at Aces High another night, since it’s snowing SOUTH of here in New York, and we’re only going to get a lot of rain.  So, we take a day “off” and listen to the wind and the rain outside, while we stay cozy inside, watching the Packer game with obligatory cheese and sausage.

Off  we go through New York City the next day – it’s a breeze. Sailed through the Bronx, saw the Empire State Building, crossed the George Washington Bridge, and it’s over before you know it.  Even got a glimpse of Lady Liberty.

We did, however, get a bit pretty screwed up around Baltimore – not having checked a tunnel to see if we were allowed (we weren’t).  Found the detour, went over a bridge that almost gave Dick heart failure – and finally found our way to a small, peaceful campground on the Chesapeake right before dusk.  Where a great blue heron guided us into our site, walking a few feet away on the shoreline boardwalk – and an Italian restaurant delivered  dinner to our campsite about an hour later.  I know I shouldn’t love that combination.  But I do.

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It’s over.  So now I need to sum up the last days of it, and send it off into blogspace  so I can move on to where we really are – moving down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

From Glace Bay we drove to Baddeck, and visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. He had a summer home near here.  I didn’t know that he’d had such a keen interest in helping the deaf, his wife being one of them. And what an amazing support, financial and otherwise, she was.

Drove towards the coast that night, in the rain, looking for a campground with a southern exposure that would allow us to watch the first Packer/Viking meeting – pulled into several spots, but no luck.  So we wound up at  MacLeod’s  Campground in the dark. We really have no idea where we are.  But the owner is wonderful, and we have a good talk with him about life and sports before pulling into our site.  We listen to the game on Sirius.  Maybe that was the less painful option, given the outcome?

We’re buffeted by storms all night long. And when we wake up, it looks like we’re in Scotland or Ireland.  Hills and grassy meadows to one side, down to cliffs and crashing ocean surf on the other.

MacLeod Campground, Cape Breton

MacLeod Campground, Cape Breton

We left in the rain, with a final shot out the window.

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Several more ceildihs before we left Cape Breton, one at the Rankin family-owned pub, the Red Shoe in Mabou .  Took the ferrry to Prince Edward Island –  we were in the lower level and with the open air ferry “window” and the breeze coming in through our own, it felt like we were on a cruise ship. The most hilarious moment – we’re in the middle of the North Umberland Strait crossing, looking out at the sea – and we hear a voice from the cab.  Our GPS voice, saying in her annoyed voice, “Recalculating.”

Ferry to Prince Edward Island

Ferry to Prince Edward Island

Spent two nights across the river from Charlottetown -and learned some interesting Canadian history, then on to the Holy Grail of Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables. Had the best lobster of my life (sorry, Maine) at a restaurant in North Rustico, after a wonderful hike along their boardwalk.  We closed the trip with another night at St. Andrews in the same campsite, so pretty much came full circle.

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Men of the Deeps

We drive back to the mining museum in Glace Bay – Dick goes down into the mine on a tour, and I go through the museum, waiting for the group to arrive for their rehearsal.  I have so much respect for these guys before they even start singing. For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t- before I arrived in this area) Men of the Deeps is a choral group made up entirely of miners and retired miners from the Cape Breton area.  When they perform ( they’ve toured China, Yugoslavia, Appalachian coal mining communities and Las Vegas, to name just a few “foreign” venues) they wear their miner’s uniforms, and come on stage lit only by the helmet lamps in their hard hats. They sing about life in the Cape Breton mines and in mining communities, and they sing from the heart, with the voice of experience. We just missed a concert they gave the night before we got to this area.  I console myself by thinking it was already sold out.

So now, in this magical turn of events, I get to sit off to the side in the small auditorium, named for them, while they practice for their upcoming tour through Canada. It’s like a private concert – but I’m only a few feet away.  They’re getting ready to do a Christmas show with Rita MacNeil so they’re working on some background parts, but they also run through some of their own numbers, and it’s breath-taking.  I didn’t take pictures because I felt it would be an intrusion, but I’ll never forget their faces and their voices. Some of them come over and talk with me during their break.  One of them, Nipper MacLeod, is one of the original members – I recognize him from videos in the mining museum.  They are all so friendly, funny, down-to-earth – talent without the pretense.   I hope I get the chance to hear them in a real concert someday.  Until then, I’m going to treasure forever the song they sang at the end of the rehearsal – “for sitting through the whole practice”.  And I was already pretty choked up – just being in their presence… wow.

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Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotai

Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We choose Point of View RV Park for our stay here.  They have a hotel at the end of a little peninsula, right in town, but the “campground” (more like a nicely appointed parking lot) has views of the water, and since we’re off peak, we’re basically alone in it.  The people who run it are super nice and helpful – and offer a great dinner (tough choice between halibut and lobster) and breakfast deal.  We eat some local halibut and then start our love affair with Cape Breton music.

In Cape Breton, a musical gathering is called a ceilidh -pronounced kay-lee for those of you, who like me, find our Gaelic a bit lacking – as in, what in God’s name is that?  And it’s where you go to hear amazing Irish and Scottish music. And love your family roots and tap/stomp your feet when you can’t dance (which you definitely want to).  Our first ceilidh is held in the Louisbourg Playhouse, which is a re-creation of  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, built at the Fortress by Disney for the filming of Squanto: A Warrier’s Tale.  Disney donated it to the town, and they moved it – and built a roof over the uncovered part of it.  We had a wonderful talk with one of the older gentlemen who’d been part of that construction during intermission (where they also serve oat cookies and tea on the amazing second floor). As for the amazing music – Jennifer Roland  introduced us to beautiful, dancing fiddle-playing, Jason Hempt  was a strong back-up for her and Troy Young, who was making his debut as a guitarist song-writer, some lovely tunes.   Jason definitely held his own as singer/keyboard artist/humorist, when it was his turn.  Lucky 9th graders that get him during his day job.

The next day we went to Glace Bay to visit the mining museum there. But before we buy our admission tickets, we learn that if we come back on Sunday, Men of the Deeps, (North America’s only choral group that requires you to be a coal miner to join) will be rehearsing there.  We just missed their performance by a day in Louisbourg – and since they are taking off on tour in a few weeks (and we missed them in Vegas- wow, these guys did Vegas!) I am so excited about being able to see them in rehearsal, we postpone our tour of the museum until Sunday.

But before Sunday – comes Saturday and I wake up on my 61st birthday to find the little Navion all festively decorated.  (Brought back so many memories of our decorating boats in the past for Christopher’s 4th of July birthday.)

Happy  61st Birthday

Happy 61st Birthday

Then, we finally make it to Fortress Louisbourg.  It’s definitely worth the trip.  Beautiful, historic and even though it’s not as staffed with costumed interpreters  as during high season, we had many interesting conversations with the staff that were still there and doing a great job.  And we had a fabulous lunch.  Since it’s a certain year in the 1700’s, we get to choose where we eat according to class – so today there’s a restaurant with soup and cheese , which is crowded and we can’t get in – or a full-course meal a few doors down.  Dick gives me a birthday lunch in a cozy little house, fire blazing –  a tureen of soup, delicious chicken and vegetables, potatoes, and apple tart.

Fort Louisbourg
Fort Louisbourg
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Then it’s back to the Louisbourg Playhouse to hear Third of a Dozen, which included Jason Hempt, an absolutely  rollicking good time.

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It was hard to leave the Lunenburg area, so we eked out one more night at an RV park right in Lunenburg itself.  You’d never know we were in the town, (and close to the filming of Moby Dick)  given the view and the visiting deer.

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Out my bedroom window

Out my bedroom window

But after five nights, it was time to move on to Halifax.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has exhibits on both the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic (bodies were recovered and buried in cemeteries here).

I got interested in the history of the Halifax explosion after reading Anita Shreve’s novel, “Wedding in December”.  So then I read Laura MacDonald’s non-fiction account “Curse of the Narrows”.  Two ships , one carrying tons of explosives, collided in the Halifax Harbor in 1917 , set off a fire,and then an explosion,  that killed at least 2000 and injured 10,000 more, leaving Halifax in ruins.  It was the most powerful man-made explosion ever, prior to the atomic bomb, and caused a tsunami in the basin – as if the fire and shock waves from  the blast weren’t enough.  So many people, standing at their windows, watching the ship on fire after the collision, were blinded or killed by the shattering glass when the explosion went off.  The chaos that followed, the search for dead and wounded in the blinding blizzard that arrived the next day, and the sheer magnitude of the medical and relief efforts were  mind-boggling.

We also visited Pier 21 – Canada’s Ellis Island, which has been transformed into an immigration museum, rode up to Citadel Hill and around the downtown on the free and friendly bus, “Fred”,  and toured Alexander Keith’s Brewery, before having a delicious dinner and heading back across the bridge to Shubie Park Campground.

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Pulled over at Blue Rocks to watch Packer game

Pulled over at Blue Rocks to watch Packer game

Just pull over.

We decided to drive to Blue Rocks, just beyond Lunenburg.  What a good place to test our clear view to the southern sky…

Reception was great.  So was the view.

(This was the Packer – Rams game, from a week ago. There won’t be pictures of us watching the Vikings …)

View out back window, Blue Rocks

View out back window, Blue Rocks

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