Updated: Aug 29, 2022
The trouble started right away.
We crossed into foreign territory at the tiny town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick which is just south of St. George, NB and St. John, NB and just west of St. Andrews, NB. Is this some sort of Papist state? We rolled Buck & Stanley up to the little window at the otherwise empty border crossing with unease and apprehension. Hoping to verbally disarm the young border agent by greeting him in his native tongue, I offered salutations first in Spanish, then Dutch and finally in Russian with no visible sign of comprehension. He said he spoke English. That’s odd. Is this a foreign country or not?
He then presented me with the usual battery of questions about our possessions and intentions. Finally, he inquired “Are you carrying any firearms?” To which I replied: “No.” He seemed a tad surprised by my answer. Perhaps the very bad ass American black truck (made in Japan) that I was driving made him think “this dude must be packing.” So he added: “you know that’s illegal in Canada, right?” To which I replied “Wait, what?? What about my Second Amendment rights you socialist mall cop!? Have you not even read our Constitution?"
Or, I would have done, were I not already smuggling nearly thrice the allowable quantity of importable spirits tucked away in Stanley’s contraband hold, and I didn’t relish the idea of having to fork that over simply to joust with this Maple Syrup Mountie. So here we are, in Canada, unarmed, and surrounded by an entire country of similarly unarmed and remarkably polite people. It’s terrifying. In late August, we’ll be back in the good old US of A, where I will be able to return fire when the odd pissing match inevitably turns violent. Until that time, when a Canadian tries to get too friendly or polite with me I will have to rely on the untested propane can flamethrower that I’ve improvised.
As he waved us through, telling us to have a nice day, I gave him that look: the one that says: “just give me one tiny excuse my friend and we’ll be hoisting the Stars and Stripes over your Parliament building in Otta-whatever before you can say Hockey Night in America!”
The nice didn’t stop there.
Our first campsite for the night was in St. George at Granite Town Blueberries, a small little farm stand, that very helpfully also sells chainsaws. They put us right on a lovely river at the back of their parking lot and generously let us fill up our freshwater tank. This was all for free mind you. As we were getting set up, a local gal just pulled over in her Subaru, out of the blue, to complement our trailer. Then she gushed on about how today was our lucky day – because it was ‘Family Fun Day’ in St. George. There was a craft fair, face painting, a soap-box derby, and “floppy dogs” (some sort of local fried dough concoction). Better still, little St. George boasted the (second) biggest fireworks show in all of Atlantic Canada (a term I assume includes a few small islands nearby). She really seemed invested in the idea that we enjoy her little village. Which has to make you suspicious as to what game she was playing?
The next stop was Fundy National Park, which I needed to see because when I was 7-years old and we were mildly obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records, I remember a before-and-after shot of some fishing boats in the Bay of Fundy going from low tide to high tide. It was impressive. Like 52 feet or something. Not as impressive as the world’s tallest woman, or the world’s fattest man, but still, it made an impression.
After returning to the trailhead from a lovely hike full of waterfalls, we saw that we had a ticket on our windshield. Our park pass had fallen from its station on the rear-view mirror, and we were in violation. Here we go... now we’ll see the dark underbelly of this Beaver Republic. Except, it was a very polite ticket. Very Canadian. It simply asked us if we would be so kind as to stop at a visitor office at our next convenience and display our pass...? You will not take me alive.
We followed the coast of New Brunswick north and then crossed the impressive 8-mile bridge over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and onto Prince Edward Island. PEI is officially the quaintest of all the Canadian Provinces. It’s all cozy cottages, adorable lighthouses, sandy beaches, red clay roads, green fields blooming with wildflowers and, of course, green-gabled roofs. This is where Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote her quirky, vaguely autobiographical, and delightful coming-of-age story Anne of Green Gables. We toured the beautifully restored farm that was the inspiration for the setting of the book; and that is now maintained by the National Parks Service. Somehow – and I do blame my hometown librarians for this oversight – I had never read the book. Consequently, I had not a clue what I was seeing. Still, I was won over by the charm of the place and by Montgomery herself whose life story and quotations were inspiring. We bought a copy of the book at the gift shop. I read it the next day and am not ashamed to admit, I might have shed a tear or two.
The people are improbably nice. The scenery is exceptional. The environment is unpolluted (weirdly, they seem to actually celebrate protecting the environment here, instead of casting it as a political blood sport. Small town newspaper headlines trumpet the latest renewable energy effort and there are car charging stations throughout the parks). Perhaps most impressive is their public bathrooms. All over the National Parks, even at out of the way trail heads and campgrounds, they have spotless bathrooms with flush toilets, hot and cold running water, and free showers. Who are these people? Contrast this to the States where in most of our public spaces, the best you could hope for would be a prison-style bathroom that was last cleaned during the Carter Administration.
Up Next: Nova Scotia and the Cape Breton Highlands. There should be plenty of dour Scotsmen there. People I actually understand.