05 August 1999

Heading to Halifax

I got up before 6 (had to pee really bad...) and started our last morning in the woods.

I made my whole wheat pancakes for breakfast and chopped up some bing cherries I'd dehydrated to mix in the batter. Very tasty! We also ate the last of the plums and had tea/coffee.

We started breaking camp and I tried to give the rest of our camp fuel (more than 3/4 of a gallon, I expect) to the people next to us (opposite side from the radio jerks) but they use propane.

I poured all the fuel out of the stove and back into the can then lit the stove to burn it dry (that sucker burned for a good 20 minutes after that..) while we finished breaking camp.

I went to the washroom before hitting the road and ran into Cathy and Mary also on their way. I asked them if they wanted the fuel but they didn't want to take on any more "stuff"...I can relate. The were still planning to meet us at SoHo though. That should be fun!

For some reason, from the very first meeting, they (especially Cathy) remind me of someone I know...I can't think who but there's a sort of comfort and sense of familiarity with them, even though we hardly know them.

We finished breaking camp and hit the road just before 9. Later than we intended but we keep having conversations with fellow travelers about travels and homes.

Somewhere on highway 105, we passed this absolutely incredible rock face reflected in a small pool. The water was an almost perfect mirror and the sunlight, green and water made such a magical combo that I stopped, pulled a u-ey and went back.

We snapped some pictures and were headed back to the car when Keenan called me over to where he was standing. The side of the road dropped away to a steep ditch that had small scrubby trees growing in it. The tops of the trees didn't come much above the roadbed. In any case, draped over one of the branches of one of the trees in a small patch of sun was a small brown snake. Dunno what kind it was...it was brown of various shades with a lengthwise striping pattern. We didn't bother it and it didn't bother us. If it weren't for Keenan's eagle-eyes, though, I'd have never seen it.

We got back in the car and continued toward Halifax with no further adventures.

We stopped for lunch at Mother Webb's somewhere along the way and I can't say I'd ever go back. The AC was going full blast which was both noisy and freezing. I had to go back out to the car to get a jacket. And the music playing reminded me (rather painfully) of the radio jerks.

I had a burger (ok, but nothing to rave about). K had a hot chicken sandwich without the gravy and was really not happy with the whole experience. The waitress (a middle-aged woman who has probably been waitressing her whole life) seemed completely confused by his order and the concept of making changes/substitutions to what was on the menu. Luckily, it will be easy to never go back...

We arrived at the hotel in Halifax mid-afternoonish, checked in and showered. I called David at work while K had a beer at the bar in the hotel. Then we headed into Halifax proper to do some sightseeing.

We found the Fairview Cemetery and the Titanic gravesite. It wasn't at all what I expected. The stones all looked brand new, shiny surfaced with bright white paint in the incised letters. (I think they've been touched up since the movie came out...)

There are 4 arced rows of stones. The placard displayed there said that someone was hired to design the whole thing to fit into that particular spot of the cemetery. Most of the stones are all identical in size and shape...maybe knee-high, black granite rectangles polished smooth. The top of the rectangle is angled down and that's where all the writing is. Many don't have names, just "Died April 15, 1912" and a number...the number assigned to the body as it was found. A few places had larger, more elaborate stones. The shipping line bought the generic stones and any family/survivors that wanted something more paid for it themselves.

There was one obelisk-shaped stone that was dedicated to the memory of the "unknown child". According to the placard, the body of a 2-year old child was among the first found. The rescue crew was so touched by this small body that they arranged for the stone and held a memorial service. About 2 years ago, the body was identified as being the youngest of the Paulsen children. There is a family stone for the Paulsens...mother and 4 children...directly behind the Unknown Child stone. The Paulsen stone is much like the generic stones except that it says "Paulsen" on the diagonal face and the mother's name and children's names/ages are written on the front face.

There was also a J Dawson stone that wouldn't have meant anything to me except I'd read somewhere that the Leonardo DiCaprio role in the movie Titanic was a character named Jack Dawson. Supposedly, there is almost always at least one bunch of flowers in front of this stone, left by some teenage girl. Today, there were glads. Some of the other stones had flowers too, including the Unknown Child stone.

On the way back to the car, we wandered among the other stones and wondered at the stories they told. There were a number of stones originating from the 1917 explosion that destroyed a big chunk of Halifax. A munitions ship was in the harbor and for some reason blew up.

I saw one family stone that had a father and mother and 2 children. I was intrigued because "Nell" was listed as having been born in 1976 and there was no death date. If she still is actually alive, she'd be 124.
Another stone listed a father, mother and their 2 sons. The father and sons all died at sea in separate instances within 3 years. The loss that woman endured in such a short time...

We got back in the car and started heading more or less in the direction of the SoHo Kitchen. On the way, we found The Citadel and drove around it. It costs $6 to get it and was about to close in 45 minutes or so, so we passed. But I think I may have to check it out tomorrow.

With K to navigate and read the map (I don't think I could have done it without him...), we managed to find our way to downtown Halifax. The hills and houses reminded me of a cross between San Francisco and Seattle. It was actually kind of pretty until we got closer to downtown. As we were rolling into the downtown area, I was looking at all the people, traffic, bars, lights, etc and thinking, "This is horrible! I want to be back on the island, paddling in the bay, walking through trees and dunes with not another soul in sight. Bleah!!!"

Just as I was thinking all this, Keenan said, "Wow! Look at all the people and bars and life! What a great little downtown area. Isn't this fun?!?" with more animation and excitement than I'd seen all week.


We found SoHo and a great parking spot right across the street. We popped into the restaurant to say "Hi!" to Chalmers and meet the other people in his group. We reserved a table for 4 and then walked to the waterfront area to check out the buskers festival that was going on. The whole boardwalk area was covered with buskers hawking their wares, whether they were music, sword swallowing or trinkets of various sorts.

There was a big sailing ship moored along the dock called the Blue Nose. Apparently, it's available for 2-hour cruises that sounded really cool but we didn't have time right then and I doubt I'll have time tomorrow. We boarded it and wandered through, though.

We didn't have time to check out much of it but I did hear an Ecuadorian group playing their native music and liked it so much that I bought one of their CDs. I seem to be collecting music this trip...

On the way back to SoHo, we ran into Cathy and Mary and walked the rest of the way to the restaurant together.

SoHo Kitchen is a kitschy-cool place. Gregor told us it was fast becoming "the" cool (fashionable and trendy) place to be. I normally hate "trendy" but I loved the atmosphere at SoHo. And the food was to die for!

The Chalmers Doane Trio is (and I gather always has been) 4 people: Chalmers (on uke, clarinet, trombone, xylophone and whatever else needs to be played), Sue (bass cello), Steve (guitar and banjo) and another guy we didn't meet who played drums.

It was great music and the food was extremely good (have I mentioned that??). K and Cathy had the salmon special. I tasted it and we all agreed that it was far and away the best salmon we'd ever tasted. I had the Greek Shrimp that was also wonderful. Mary had the lamb chop special and said it was very good too.

It was a lovely, wonderful evening. The perfect cap to our trip. We said goodbye to Chalmers and "the girls" as Keenan kept calling them, then we headed for our hotel.

K heads out early tomorrow and I will play the day by feel. Cathy and Mary mentioned going to Peggy's Cove. A co-worker of mine recommended going there, but I thought it was too far away. Cathy said it's only about 1/2 an hour or so. I'd like to do the Citadel. I definitely want to do the knitterly gathering in the evening. I also need to mail my packages home and at the tail end of the day, return the rental car and make sure I'm all ready to fly home the next day. It'll be a full day!