PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
Heading east from Quebec along the southern shore of the truly mighty St. Lawrence River we made our way towards New Brunswick. The TransCanada Highway changes numbers several times but it wasn't confusing as there really aren't that many highway choices. The upper northwest corner of New Brunswick borders Quebec and Maine, but the northern section of Maine has even fewer highways than New Brunswick! We stopped for the night in Edmundston at a campground just across border into New Brunswick. We were now in the Atlantic time zone, which is an hour later than Eastern Time. It felt odd to realize that the time difference between our family and friends on the west coast was now four hours. Right off the bat, we sensed a different flavor than Quebec. The signage was in both languages and the landscape was less developed. This proved to be a pattern that was followed throughout the Maritimes. We figured that the next day was going to be a major driving day and so it proved to be. We headed south along the St. John's River and much of this was just beautiful. We drove to Fredricton looking for gas, groceries, etc. and though it was one of the three major cities in the province, there weren't a lot of choices. We decided to route east through Moncton and stayed at a campground on the coast in preparation to cross the Confederation Bridge over to Prince Edward Island the next morning. All this time the weather had been alternating between showers and partial sun. The next morning we awoke to full rain. It was eerie crossing the nine-mile long bridge when both the end in front of us and the end behind us were lost in the mist.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is a lovely rural island that is crescent shaped and is about 225 km (160 miles) between each end of the crescent. One of it's claims to fame is that the author of Anne of Green Gables was from here and modeled the setting in her book on her beloved PEI. None of us had read Anne so we weren't moved to visit the author's home. Another claim to fame is PEI potatoes. We were oblivious to this fact too. I guess coming from the west coast we always heard about Idaho potatoes instead.
We had a day of beautiful weather and it encouraged us to wander around Charlottetown and east PEI. We found our first lobster pound. This is how the locals buy lobster. Lobster pounds are usually in either a store or a restaurant and you can get them either live or already cooked. Sometimes there is a picnic table out back to eat at, or you take it home to devour it in the privacy of your own abode. We brought ours back to the RV. The kids were amazed and dismayed to watch us eagerly, and messily, devour our first Atlantic lobsters of the trip.
On the trip over to PEI we crossed the amazingly long Confederation Bridge, which had a $35 flat fee per vehicle to traverse it. This was compensated by the fact that PEI had a federally enforced gas price ceiling. The gas was twenty cents a litre cheaper than on the mainland! Needless to say, we filled up. Speaking of gas prices, this was before Katrina, so the big push up hadn't occurred yet. However, taking into account the conversion of litres to gallons and Canadian dollars to American dollars, our estimate was that we were paying the equivalent of over $4 US.
We decided to take the ferry back to Nova Scotia to save driving back to the bridge and it cost us $76 Cdn. The crossing was beautiful but the weather was to turn ugly again very soon. We camped at the top end of the Bay of Fundy with the intention of catching a view of the enormous tidal range that this area is famous for - as high as 40 feet difference between high and low tide. The next morning the weather proved to be inhospitable so we skipped heading deeper into Nova Scotia and decided to head west through New Brunswick to St. John's.
One of St. John's claims to fame is the Amazing Reversing Falls! Again, this occurs in a northern channel of the Bay of Fundy. There is a rock formation beneath a bridge that forms small falls on an ebb tide. It literally reverses flow of water for about 20 minutes during the force of the tidal change. Armed with tide tables, foul weather gear and hopeful anticipation we awoke early and put ourselves in place to witness this miracle of nature. In the end we've got to declare it a bust. Sometimes you win, sometimes you just get wet.
Recalling past impressions, the Canadian Maritimes were usually regarded as "the poor cousins". From what we saw of New Brunswick, having traveled completely north to south and east to west, this impression held true. Of the three provinces, PEI actually seemed the most prosperous and certainly the most "cutesy".
The border crossing into Maine was through a small town that probably only existed for the reason of duty free business. Having been in the Canada for many weeks on this stretch we were prepared to have a thorough inspection but were tickled when they were almost cursory. Sometimes you win, sometimes you fly. So after a week in the Canadian Maritime provinces we headed back into the US of A and the shock of seeing $3+ per gallon gas prices.