Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cape Breton charity II. Hitchhikers II.Chesterfield I. Sandbanks and gas tanks. Chesterfields II.

I disembarked the ferry in Sydney and began making my way back to my refuge on Cape Breton.  I was looking forward to sleeping somewhere other then my car, which by this point was a mess of randomly strewn objects.  I was hoping to clean things out, and reorganize in Newfoundland, but the rainy weather thwarted my desire and ability to do so.  I pulled into a gas station and reorganized my car, my head and my life.  Now on to Port Hood.

I was met with smiles and handshakes, and was treated to a delicious home cooked linguini with shrimp, the first real meal I had in days.  Bob and Lynn were once again, unbelievably accommodating and offered me there home for whatever I needed.  Not having showered for 3 days, my first order of business was to wash off the smoke and sweat crusted on the outer layer of my epidermis.  God it felt good to be clean.  I took care of some communications and fell asleep to the rythmic sounds of ocean surf once again.  This was to be my last night on the atlantic coast, the thought of which struck a chord of sadness and melancholy within.

Knowing the depletion of the budget I had hoped to find a passenger to travel westwards, but after some close calls, I had no takers, so my route was to be the most direct route possible.  My sights were set on hitting MTL around midnight.  I left at 9am said my goodbyes once more to the Martins and was on my way with a couple of ham n'cheese sandwiches and some snacks for the road packed and ready for me.  I will miss those Martins I tell you, I will miss them alot.

So I just drove. Through Nova Scotia. Past the Confederation bridge turn off to PEI, then into New Brunswick.  Just after I passed through Fredricton I saw a guy and a girl hitchiking, I pulled over to the side of the road, and when I saw they were heavily pierced and tattooed, my judgemental side kicked in and I almost drove away.  I fought back my judging ways and offered my services freely.  Brian was a 25 year old, with tattooed knuckles, dreadlocks and bandannas wrapped around both wirsts.  He was dressed in black from head to toe.  His girlfriend, Sophie, had nose rings, tattoos, and had a punkish goth look to her.  I was a little aprehensive, but realized I was being fearful of nothing but my own perceptions.  In tow, there was a dalmation, probably only a few months old, growing quickly into his adult body.  They all clamoured in and we were off to Montreal, where  they both conviently lived.

After a few minutes I realized my fears truly were unwarranted.  These two were good souls, on the road experiencing the bounty of travel.  Brian who was sitting shotgun did the bulk of conversing with me and he told me about the places he had been, the rails he had ridden, and about life in the city earning a buck with a squigee.  Hours flew by and before I knew it, 15 hours had elapsed.  I really enjoyed the company and was so glad I had assuaged my early fears and judgements.

I had tried with no success to stay with a few friends I knew in MTL the day prior, but with no luck.  Brian and Sophie offered me a chesterfield to surf, as a thank you for the ride.  As we pulled into Montreal the familiar feeling of that magically charged city washed over me.  There is something about Montreal that just makes it one the most unique places on the planet.  Its combination of art and culture, and clash of languages and food and hip people make it one of my favourite cities in the world.  I would loved to have stayed, but I had a friend to meet in Brockville, Ontario the next day.  Our final destination to be Sandbanks Provincial Park, outside of cozy little Picton.

When we arrived at Brian and Sophie's place around midinght, we were greeted by a shirtless dude with a serious mohawk that exposed the tattoos on the side of his head.  He was warm and friendly and we fist bumped and he proceeded to show us a rusty bladed knife he had acquired early that day.  I was completely exhausted and went to lay on the faux leather, forest green chesterfield.  I tried to maintain an element of sociability but my eyelids felt like molten lead, and the soft sounds of late night city traffic wafted into my ears like a lullaby.

I woke up shortly after 6 am, the city's pulse a dull murmur.  I grabbed my pack, slung it over my shoulder and said goodbye to the two dogs on the floor in the kitchen and made a quiet ninja-esque escape.

There is something intrinsically beautiful about a city before her rumble of morning traffic.  Her empty streets gleaming with unpolished anticipation.  The storm of cars and people only a faded dream of the future.  I made for the freeway, and once on, could see the side streets swelling with activity.  I watched the city in my rearview and uttered a silent farewell.  I know I will be back.

It took only a couple of hours to get to Brockville from Montreal, and I got off the first exit, settled in at a Starbucks and waited for my young friend Artur to show up from Ottawa.  I went to work on this blog until he arrived.  He showed up, bringing in an "outside" coffee, with no cares in the world.  His beaming face brought a large grin to my face, it was good to see a familiar face.

We ate a bagged "Polish lunch" Artur had brought with him on the Starbucks patio.  It consisted of bread, cheese, sausage, pickles and clementines (not so Polish I think).  I greedily ate, and so did he.  We grabbed some supplies, which he paid for, and hit the highway.

Artur followed me down the 401 until we reached Picton and we ditched his car and packed everything into mine.  We hit the park shortly after 3pm and found out there was not a site to be had, anywhere in the park.  Bummer.  Artur insisted we hit the beach and not worry too much where we would be sleeping, I was inclined to agree.

The beach at Sandbanks has to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Canada.  It is a wide stretch of golden sand arced around a northern bay of lake Ontario.  There are 3 kilometers of beach, and you can walk out for a few hundred meters before the water is over your head.  There are sand dunes blocking the view of the beach from inside the park, and when Artur and I crested the last dune before the water and saw the waves and sun and surf, we high-fived one another and made our way onto the sands.  We jumped in the warm waters and swam like we were 8 year olds.  The rest of the afternoon we hung out, had laughs, traded stories and insights and ate chips and fig newton cookies.  With a few hours of sunlight left we decided to walk the beach and come up with a plan of action.

I suggested we stay on someone else's site and pay them for the privelage, but Artur I think had a differnt idea.  The beach was clearing, fast.  I looked over my shoulder and saw three teenagers waving at us.  I thought maybe these kids would let us stay on there site.  As I walked over they yelled out they were only warding off seagulls, and had no interest whatsoever in Artur or I.  I started a dialogue, hoping they had a site and would let us set up camp.  They were just townies, locals, hanging out on the beach, two guys early twenties and a girl roughly the same age, maybe a bit younger.  They didn't have a site, but they did elude to a rock beach a half hour drive away that would be totally vacant, and totally available.  It's where the locals camp, just far enough out of town to avoid the heat, but close enough to be near home.  The young man giving us the information said he didn't know the exact location of this lawless paradise, but said an old codger at the Milford Bistro would be happy to point us in the right direction if we could pull him away from his duties at the restaraunt.  We offered our thanks and walked away, Artur loving the idea, and me still dead set on getting a $40 camp site. 

We drove around the park to see if there were empties, sites with no people or people who may have cleared out earlier then there expect departure date.  We found two such sites, 29 and 112, I even went so far as to ask the guy on 113 what happened to the 112ers.  In heavy french he replied "the went 'ome hearly".  Good enough for me to present my case at the gate.  So we got to the gate house and spoke with Emma, a cute twenty something who informed us our reconnaissance was pointless, people check in as late as 3am and the park was booked to the max, swollen with campers.  We asked her if she knew about the rock beach, to Artur's elation, she did.  Not only did she know about it, she knew exactly where it was and had a map for us to get there.  I looked at Artur and his shit-eating grin, and decided to concede.  We would be camping for free and probably illegally.  All part of the adventure.

After taking us in a 20km circle which brought us back at the park gates once more, we were on our way.  We found the hidden paradise at the end of a gravel cul-de-sac and saw a road way blocked with large boulders.  The blocking was weak, I had about three inches of space when I drove around and into a nicely landscaped clearing overlooking the lake and a rocky beach.  Also there was a giant 30 foot long covered picnic area which would serve our purposes for the sphaghetti dinner I had planned.  It was sweet as hell, the stars looked like a pull-out in a National Geographic, and we went to the business of setting up our camp.

Artur lits some candles and watched many a bug succumb to their doom while I set up our stove and got dinner made.  We had a nice dinner, headed down to the beach and made a nice bonfire, and talked about life, the nature of man and beast and women.  Always with the women.

The next day we packed up and went for a swim at the rock beach.  The water was beautiful and I had a bar of soap and a lake bath.  I then went Cousteau and snorkelled the beach and the rocky bluffs that made up the small point on which we had camped the night previous.  People began showing up and we realized that our little spot wasn't the private paradise we though it was.  We packed up and got the hell out of there, but not after talking to a few of the locals who were all real swell folks.

Artur offered to take me to lunch, and of course I agreed. He asked some townie kid on a BMX where the best place to eat lunch on a patio was.  He pointed up the main drag and reffered us to "Chesterfield's".

We walked into the little bistro which had a unique and fun, artsy feel to it.  There were home made murals on the wall, and large red chesterfield's adorning the lobby.  It was one of those small town places that was a house converted to a business and was cozy and down-to-earth with a touch of funkadelic coolness.  There were vinyl records that were being played through a real record player.  I chatted with Graham, the owner, a dark, blue-eyed dude with a great demeanor and open gravity about him.  We chatted, and I mentioned my quest, which he thought was cool.  Graham was on a similar quest, he was getting one pic a day of himself drinking cider made from a local micro-brewery.  A noble deed in my opinion.  An even nobler deed was him buying me lunch.  If you are ever in Picton, please go see my man Graham at

And so ended a great leg of my adventure.  The budget is hurting, bleeding bad.  We are down to about $350, 3 tanks of gas to get out of the maritimes and into Ontario, will do that to ya.  But have money, will travel.  I will hope that I can find some work, and barring that, a bag of cash randomly forgotten in a random place will also suffice.  Now it's off to the t-dot to visit an old friend.....

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