Our winter Canadian tour comes to an end. We learned so much traveling across Canada in these extreme conditions. First of all, one must layer! Secondly, your vehicle needs top-notched care and attention. Thirdly, don't fear the road.
After leaving Halifax we finally had a plan, sorta. We basically decided that Meat Cove would be as far east as we would go this trip. I have dreamed of visiting Newfoundland for many years. Knowing there would be a very long ferry ride to get us there we decided that warmer temps would be best for that journey. This brings us to the road to Meat Cove.
This route is a screenshot from the WikiCamps app, I use it to show our history, not really to show where we are going. Once we got on Cape Breton Island, we routed to the western side of the island. As we cruised up the highway toward Cape Breton Highlands National Park we needed to find a sleeping spot. We found a little peninsula that was quite deserted and settled in for the night. It was dark and quiet, perfect for us.
As I mentioned, layering is very important in this climate. Do yourself a favor and check out 32 Degrees
for lightweight and affordable clothes that are perfect for layering. Trust me, they are awesome. We both use 32 degrees for layering and for comfy sleeping. I literally use them daily.
This island is very different from the rest of Canada that we've seen. I found this tidbit of info from an article in the Chicago Tribune: From 1815 to 1838, some 22,000 Scottish immigrants, mostly from the Highlands and Islands, emigrated to the province. Many of these Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots settled in the area between Judique and Mabou in Inverness County on the island of Cape Breton. Although Scottish emigration to mainland Nova Scotia began with the voyage of the Hector in 1773 , Scots have formed a majority of the population of Cape Breton since the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Indeed, Cape Breton is the stronghold of Gaelic culture in North America.
Your Vehicle is your lifeline, pay attention to it and take very good care of it. When we experienced -40 degrees (which is the same for Celsius and Fahrenheit), we knew that we needed a block heater or battery blanket in order to not have serious damage. We handled that in Calgary and have used the block heater anytime we were sleeping in 5 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
This point in our journey is a bit sad and a bit exciting. We made it to Meat Cove and since there was really nothing for us to do we took pictures and chose our route off the island.
Once we left Cape Breton Island we stopped in Antigonish for the night and basically took the most direct route to the border. That put us into Calais, Maine.
Calais is just across the St Croix River from St Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. The first thing we did was find a restaurant. The Riverview Restaurant provided us with a wonderful welcome home meal. Calais is a quaint little town that I highly recommend. Oh, and if you like horseradish, go to Riverview Restaurant and tell them to set you up with their #5 horseradish. You will breathe better immediately, trust me on this.
After dinner we found a tiny little park on the river facing Canada and wished we were still there. While watching the river flow by I wondered how many folks just swim over to St Stephens... seems like a short swim. Anyway, time to focus on the US now.
The third thing I mentioned was to not fear the road. Well, don't fear it but absolutely respect it. Pay attention to the current conditions and be aware of what's headed your way.
As it turned out, there was a blizzard headed our way. Wait, what?! Yep, a blizzard. Family and friends across the country were reaching out to warn us that we needed to hunker down somewhere safe. I scoffed at the idea myself. I think Darin may have rolled his eyes at the notion that we were back in the US and we were getting worse weather than we had already experienced. We made it to Portland, Maine and indeed hunkered down. The blizzard warnings were spot on. The wind was intense! The cold was biting and the snow was everywhere! Don't be stupid, get somewhere safe when they say a blizzard is coming.
This journey was a highlight in my life and I can't wait to visit the true north again. One last piece of advice for you before embarking on a multi-month and almost 10 thousand mile trip in a van... Be very comfortable with your traveling partner. The close quarters are indescribable. I'm very grateful that my partner in life has the same desire to see everything we can. When disagreement occurs - and it will likely occur - suck it up and be kind. After all, it is the adventure that counts.
Please join us again as we make our way out of the blizzard and into warmer weather and ultimately back to the west coast.