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Déjà Vu

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 08 2014 · 125 views

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We slept in and ate some brunch at the place that's become our local favorite - Hometown Kitchen. All the waitresses know us now, and they brought a whole butterscotch pie to the table to show us, with a promise that they'd save a slice for my dad. We ate well, and my dad enjoyed his pie. For the first time, I sampled a bite. It was alright, but compared to my beloved turtle cheesecake it was actually rather bland. Regardless of my opinion, it's their most popular dessert.
We did a little more of our French back at the room, then took some short naps. Upon awakening, we decided to do one the one thing left in Chéticamp we have not yet done - walk on the boardwalk, Quai Matheu, that runs along the water, paralleling the road, from roughly our hotel down to Wabo's Pizza, which we ate a few days ago.
The wind was brisk, but it was a nice walk, and surprisingly short. Upon our return, we did even more French - we're now 5/8ths through! - and then went back down to Hometown Kitchen for our sixth and penultimate time. We got pictures of Yoder with our two waitresses, saw a beautiful sunset, and ate more delicious crab legs. I got ten legs this time, and even though the last three or so cooled off by the time I got around to it, it was still excellent - and that is the sign of really good crab.
After saying our goodbyes to our friends there who won't be there tomorrow when we go there for breakfast, we headed back to the room to do more French and get ready for tomorrow.
Tomorrow: we hit the road again to Prince Edward Island, almost completing our collection of provinces that one can drive to without going on a ferry or unpaved road.


Quotes from the Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Other Stuff, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip, twiggy Jun 08 2014 · 95 views

by Sumiki's Dad
"A twerked naval never exits."
"Nasal passages: what a concept!"
"Jello shoes: squishy and delicious."
"I like botulism - especially in a six-pack."


Je Ne Sais Quoi

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 07 2014 · 137 views

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We went out to have lunch at the same place we had lunch for the past two days. My dad got Steak on a Stick (with rice!) and my mom and I got two different kinds of fish and chips. For dessert, I had the turtle cheesecake again, while my dad fell in love with a butterscotch pie topped with a massive amount of meringue.
The weather was nasty today - all wind and rain and fog and chill. We spent most of our time indoors as possible.
After doing some Rosetta Stone French back in the room, we went back to the National Park side of Chéticamp to visit the Hooked Rug Museum. Hooked rugs, made by slipping yarn through stretched burlap in patterns not dissimilar to a gigantic cross-stitch, are a Chéticamp specialty, and most of the examples in the museum were stunning. Considered works of art as opposed to items to walk on, many were amazingly intricate, using miles of yarn hand-died in up to 400 different colors just for one rug. The time-consuming nature of this meant that the largest rugs - such as ones depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection - took a year of work to make each.
Mural-esque rugs depicted a collage of scenery from U.S. and Canadian history, including one that featured the heads of every Canadian Prime Minister (until about 1960) and every U.S. President (until about 1960). The artist of much of the rugs in the museum hand-made them up until her death, and her work has been featured in the White House, the Vatican, and Buckingham Palace.
I found the Prime Minister with the best name - a fellow named Diefenbaker, who has a lake in Saskatchewan named after him - and took a picture with Yoder the Duck next to his immense forehead.
After engrossing ourselves in the beauty of these rugs for about an hour, talking to the Acadians who staffed the place, and getting an ornament for my mom's Collection, we went back, did a little more French, then went back out for dinner - again at the same place. This time, I got some crab legs - and they were some of the most juicy things ever. If crabs had bones, this meat would have fallen right off them.
I had another slice of my beloved Turtle Cheesecake, but my dad was out of luck - the place had ran out of butterscotch pie for the day. Saddened, he drowned his disappointment in sugar-packet-laden coffee.
(Side note: I think my mom is tired, as she's been scattered for most of the day. While in the car, she thought that it was in the shop, and called out to it ... while she was sitting in the back seat as we rolled down the main street. After repeated spastic moments during our French sessions, we decided to keep her from messing with the laptop controls. She also dropped a whole sugar packet - paper and all! - into her then-black coffee.)
We finished up our French, so we're now halfway done with the course (and we know some basic parts of a conversation before we hit Québec).
Tomorrow: our last full day in Chéticamp as our unexpected stay begins to draw to a close.


Rocky Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip Jun 06 2014 · 93 views

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We got up groggily. My dad got up to see if the service station had a part from Sydney. They did not, but we were cleared to drive around the greater Chéticamp area from the edge of Cape Breton Highlands National Park down to a little beyond the edge of Chéticamp. Our brakes sounded no different than they had previously on the trip. Without using the emergency brake, we were initially pretty confident that we could limp along back to the States ... but if we broke down on what remains of the Cabot Trail and back off Cape Breton Island, we don't have a towing option - even less so on the weekend.
All of Chéticamp's businesses and half of the houses are on one road - the Cabot Trail - that acts as its main street. Everyone knows everyone else, and while nearly everyone communicates in French as the default, everyone is also bilingual. English speakers are initially regarded with a slight air of contempt, but we endear ourselves to them with our attempts at trying to speak their language.
With the car cleared for local excursions, we drove south from Chéticamp and drove over onto Chéticamp Island, which parallels the town. We went as far as the pavement did before turning around, but we could see the entirety of Chéticamp.
We turned back and ate some massive sandwiches at All Aboard Restaurant, sampling the local custom of putting vinegar on their fries (which made my dad's eyes cross because he put a little too much vinegar on a tiny fry). We split their strawberry shortcake and got some advice from the waitress, who told us of a lighthouse on the other side of Chéticamp Island. While she said that it was a dirt road, she also said that it was in good condition.
My parents took a nap in the room, waking up around 4:00 or so and ready for the lighthouse. We took the same road over to Chéticamp Island and turned onto the dirt road.
At first, the road wasn't bad. It wasn't great, but one could see well-wore tracks with less gravel. But as we passed over a small cattle crossing, the road conditions worsened considerably. Potholes filled up with muddy water, huge rocks shook the car back and forth, and gravel made up the rest of the slanted road - all not but a few feet higher than the water that was a little too close for comfort.
We had to turn back, but not before going up and then back down a hill - which wasn't fun for anyone involved.
You have no idea how much of a relief pavement feels after that.
With a newfound awareness that the Chéticamp folks' idea of a dirt road differs significantly from our idea of a dirt road, we doubled back towards the town, stopping for some supplies at a small convenience store/music shop, a local institution. The man who ran it had heard of us, saying "so you're the folks with the black car ..."
We're becoming famous in Chéticamp.
We purchased some more water, a can opener so my dad can get into the Coca-Cola bottles he got yesterday, and a cream soda, purchased on the advice of the tow truck driver, who remarked that the blueberry soda tasted like "blueberries mixed with cream soda." I'm drinking it now, and it tastes like liquid cookie dough. It's delicious.
This also marked the first time in my life that I've seen bagged milk. I'd heard stories about Canadians purchasing their milk in bags, and it's just as ridiculously impractical in person. I cannot for the life of me understand how bagged milk is of any advantage to the consumer.
Back on the road up Chéticamp, we stopped at the church, which we'd heard had a gorgeous interior but kept weird times. The steeple is visible throughout the area, and the inside didn't disappoint.
It looked much more like a church interior from a large and affluent city, not the Acadian Mayberry of Chéticamp. Gold leaf was everywhere and everything was extraordinarily intricate. We walked around, then went up to the balcony to see a bird's-eye view of the stunning chapel and to look at the organ, which appears to still use a hand-cranked bellows system. Lifelike statues of saints look down from alcoves, massive murals adorn available spaces, and everything just feels so vast and grand.
After ogling sufficiently at this architectural marvel - built stone-by-stone in the 1890s - we went back through Chéticamp and through to the other side, back into Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We stopped right before the great big mountain that was the site of the beginning of our problems. We went down to the ocean and dipped our hands into the waves. I was surprised at how warm this portion of the north Atlantic is, as I'd always envisioned it as cold almost year-round.
We hiked up the short but steep trail to the overlook at the top of a large rock, but we couldn't see too much from the top - especially compared to the vistas we could see on the Skyline trail yesterday.
We headed back to the car and double-backed into town, stopping at Hometown Restaurant, where we had our 4:00, post-Skyline lunch yesterday. We ate light, with individual salads (their Caesar is one of the best I've ever had - croutons that aren't bread-rocks and just the right amount of garlic), a lobster dip, and a slice of turtle cheesecake. All three are worth a third trip on their own.
(My dad and I ordered tea, since they had decent sweet tea before. Unfortunately, we're used to iced tea being the default, and so we were rather shocked when our waitress brought out steaming pitchers. We rectified this, but it was quite the faux pas on our part.)
We ended up talking to the owner/chef a while about various things. My dad's still trying to rope me into playing the piano at one of these restaurants - there are a surprising number of them here! - to help pay for our time in Chéticamp (although, amazingly, our Cape Breton experience will come out significantly under budget). We also learned that the reason the fellow earlier knew about our car is because one of the folks at the repair shop is quite the gossip and tells stories about folks who had come through to most anyone who will listen.
At the conclusion of this light supper, we got a second dessert just a little ways down the street at a place called Mr. Chicken, which has - according to the Hometown owner/chef - the best ice cream in Canada. Coming from a woman who has been all across Canada, we decided to give it a whirl.
My dad had a milkshake, but my mom and I got the maple walnut. Though we got the smallest size - a "baby bite," as they were called - they were easily a half-pint each. When they said "baby bite," I thought they meant a bite for a baby, not one the size of a baby.
With the days' adventures concluded, we headed back to our room.
The brakes didn't act up. We probably could make it at least as far as Antigonish, perhaps all the way home. But it's a long rural drive from here in Chéticamp all the way to the Prince Edward Island ferry, and tow trucks don't operate on the weekends. Though the thought that we could make it is still there, we know it's best not to push our luck.
If the part doesn't get here by Monday, though, we're going to get out of Chéticamp. As nice as this little place is, we still have a schedule to keep.
Tomorrow: another day on the town in Chéticamp.


Breakdown Cruise

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 05 2014 · 91 views

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The man from the repair shop knocked on our door at about 10:00 to tell us that our brake had been fixed. My dad went down the street to get it, as my mom and I packed up in the room. The problem was in the emergency brake, and we were told that we should be good as long as we remembered not to use it.
We set out back up the Cabot Trail, retracing our steps almost to the site of the brake-flame. Our destination was the gorgeous Skyline Trail, an almost five-mile trail on the top of French Mountain, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Cabot Trail itself as it winds its way down the next mountain over towards Chéticamp.
The walk there was uneventful - lots of woods, even more moose droppings. We didn't see any wildlife, save for two small light brown ground squirrels and one small gray snake. That was just fine by me - I've already seen bear and moose from the safety of the car, and I have no intent of ever seeing one without the protection of a motor vehicle.
The trees cleared and we walked out on the boardwalk overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean ... but the fog had rolled in. Fog comes into the area around Chéticamp very rarely and we'd heard that the conditions can change suddenly at the series of viewing areas, so we waited.
We sat down and waited, occasionally stretching our legs out, for the better part of an hour. Just as the wait became unbearable, the fog began to lift around the mountains, slinking back along the water.
We were above the clouds, The long tip of the mountain, jutting out towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was completely clear, as were the peaks surrounding it. One could see the Cabot Trail as it wound around the mountain, down into the clouds and then back up again.
It was a wonderful view.
We stayed there for a long while, thinking that the fog might just break so we could see a bit of the ocean, but it never did. Once the locals started turning back, so did the few tourists - including a family from Orlando, who we talked to for a while. I took a few group shots on their camera for them and they did the same for us.
It was a long haul back. It's one of those trails that just sort of feels uphill both ways, and once we knew what we had ahead of us, with nothing to look forward to, and no fog to keep things cool, it was a slow haul back to the car. But get there we did, and we set back off down the Cabot Trail towards Chéticamp in low gear.
We stopped at every available pull-off, making sure not to hit the emergency brake. The brakes seemed fine, didn't smoke, and didn't smell bad. But as we headed into Chéticamp, the brakes sounded bad - specifically, that back right one that had had all the problems. As we pulled into a restaurant parking lot, the brake sounded like a muffled scream mixed with the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.
Hoping that the brakes were just overheating, we ate a late lunch. My dad split after he ate in order to drive the car down the street to get looked at by the same folks who took care of it earlier. My dad, meanwhile, limped back on down to the service station. By this point, he said that the brake was smoking again.
My mom and I got out of the restaurant and walked another mile or so to the service station, where we got the scoop: the brake was not totally disengaging. It was too late to call the dealership in Sydney, the nearest major city, so they will do that in the morning.
We walked down another block, got a room at the same motel as last night, and crashed.
Tomorrow: If the dealership in Sydney has the brake part we need, our car will be fixed by 2:00 and we can get farther down the road closer to the Prince Edward Island ferry. If not, we may have to patch it back up and see if we can limp down the road to Antigonish, which has a dealership.


The Fault in Our Car

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 04 2014 · 108 views

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We began the day at the Alexander Graham Bell museum, along the Cabot Trail around Baddeck. We thought it'd be interesting to poke around - after all, we figured it'd be mostly about the making of the telephone. As it turned out, Graham's life and inventions far surpassed the telephone - as a noted teacher of the deaf and proponent of his father's system for teaching deaf students to speak.
In fact, what was most striking was that the museum didn't talk all that much about the telephone - a good chunk of it was dedicated to the Silver Dart, the first manned flight in the British Empire, flown not far from the site of the museum. Bell assisted in the creation of the Silver Dart, and lived a short distance from Baddeck.
Bell's forward-thinking spirit and childlike enthusiasm for tinkering meant that he ended up producing tons of prototypes, some of which were almost a century ahead of their time. Bell actually produced the first cell phone - similar to his telephone prototype, only that the electrical signals were sent via light. Though he called it his greatest invention, it would have been impossible to commercialize at the turn of the century. Still, the principle of bouncing electromagnetic waves around to send signals sans wires was the same one behind the invention of the cell phone.
After a lively walk around and new information in our heads, we started of on the glorious Cabot Trail and began the great loop around Cape Breton Island. The road conditions were somewhat poor to start off, but improved immensely once we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
We poked around the nearly deserted visitor center and then entered the all-but-deserted park. We stopped at the pull-offs and traversed some of the smaller trails ... but the trails gave us worse views than from the road, so eventually we decided to stick to the places that we knew we could see stuff from. The fresh bear droppings along our first trail kept us on our toes - or, should I say, in the car.
Rain and mist came in and out, on and off, for most of the day. Hungry, we stopped at a place featured on the Canadian equivalent of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, a show called You Gotta Eat Here - Coastal Restaurant in Ingonish, a place that did a pretty good job at advertising its television appearance. I got the burger that was featured on the show - the Ringer Burger - which is piled with onion rings and some kind of sweet honey barbecue sauce. It looked a lot bigger than it really was due to the onion rings, but it was still quite filling.
We headed back on the Cabot Trail, winding in and out of the park. Most of the prettiest scenery on the Trail was on the other side, which we got to as we turned and began heading north and back down on the north edge of Nova Scotia.
Of course, this is the time that Murphy's Law began to kick in.
We began a slow climb up a mountain, stopping at the ample pull-off areas for breathtaking panoramas of the seascape and landscape - the Trail far below, mountains above, valleys with small babbling brooks, and the Atlantic Ocean, stretching out until it met the sky.
At the second of these pull-offs, my dad said that he felt the car acting funny - like it wasn't rolling all the way. He chalked it up to trying to start from 0 on an incline with a lot of weight in the trunk ... that is, until we got to the next pull-off. Something smelled kind of funny, and sure enough, our back right tire was smoking slightly.
We figured that it just got a little hot while going up and down massive inclines, so we stopped for a good while until it had stopped smoking and no longer radiated heat. I kept an eye on it in the rearview mirror and my mom kept her window down so she could smell it if it started smoking again.
Without any signs of trouble, we reached the next pull-off. My dad slowed the car down, put the emergency brake on, and we all heard a pop. The next thing we knew, smoke was coming out of the brake apparatus anew, and my mom briskly warned us that there was a small fire.
I launched out of the car and threw what remained of my water bottle on the tire, which steamed up. We dumped quite a bit of our water supply on the tire. It was still hot when we were done, but the fire and smoke had gone out. The smell, as thick in the air as the midges we would come to hate, was still there.
It's at times such as these when faith in humanity is restored, for half a dozen different cars rolled up to see if we were fine. We must have been quite a sight - three folks gesturing and talking around a tire with a veritable puddle around it. We met a family from Salt Lake City visiting a family member in Maine, who took my dad down to an emergency call box two kilometers down the Trail. (We had tried OnStar, our cell phone, and the cell phones of anyone else who had offered help, all to no avail. There's no reception on the Cabot Trail.)
We met a independently-minded older lady from Austin out on a free-wheeling road trip of her own. She didn't know where she would end up before turning back, but was thinking about hopping on the ferry to Newfoundland. She offered us fruit and water, but we assured her that we had plenty of supplies.
The Salt Lake City folks returned and my dad emerged from their small sedan. We thanked them profusely for their trouble and offered to pay them, but they refused. He'd contacted a tow truck in Chéticamp, where we were originally planning to spend the night anyway. We had to wait another hour or so, but we spent it talking to the families that drove up to offer us their help.
Eventually a man came up from Pleasant Bay, a little village that we'd gone through at the base of the mountain upon which all of these events transpired. Interested in the car - as many guys who know cars are - he poked around and posited a few theories as to the origin of the fire. Whatever it is, it will likely be a pretty easy fix, even if they have to bring in parts from Sydney - which is just a few hours' drive away along the northeast edge of Nova Scotia.
Eventually, the tow truck came barreling up the mountain, right before we were totally eaten alive by the pesky and ever-curious midges. We gave the driver a brief rundown of the situation, and my dad drove the car up onto the bed.
Unfortunately, the cab was even smaller than the one we all had to cram into in Texas last year. We were all crammed into an area of about one and a half seats. We maneuvered around to the least uncomfortable position in the cab, to the amusement of the driver. I was originally going to sit equally on parents' laps, but to do that, I would have had to basically lean over because my head wouldn't fit upright. So I got the other window seat, my dad was in the middle, and my mom sat halfway.
This meant that there was no room for seat belts. My mom leaned over onto my dad or myself depending on the curve. We were packed into that cab like Sardines playing Twister, and we were keeping the driver laughing by cracking jokes left and right. By the time we had traversed the most scenic parts of the Cabot Trail and made it into Chéticamp, our driver felt like an old friend.
We rolled into the small repair shop, met a fellow with green teeth, and got a ride to the motel just up the street. I had my reservations (no pun intended) at first ... but this place is actually pretty nice. People up here put pride into what they do. It's a small-town kind of feel without Americana ... Canadiana, perhaps?
For dinner, we walked a little ways down the street and ate at the restaurant adjoining the Harbor Inn. It was good food and good ambiance - I ended up with the haddock, with some kind of dill sauce on the side. Dessert was fried ice cream. All in all, not our best meal, but it was excellent. (My dad ordered his first beer in 32 years.)
Tomorrow: depending on the car situation, we'll either get a little farther down the road (after backtracking to see what we missed on the last little stretch of the Cabot Trail) or staying in Chéticamp another night. At most, we'll spend just one more night in this sleepy little town, but that would be unexpected.


From Way Downtown ... Bang

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 03 2014 · 112 views

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We left our hotel at 11:00 and topped off the gas tank before going back downtown as we accidentally did yesterday, this time entering the now-open Halifax Citadel. Used from colonial times up until WWII for various purposes, the Citadel is now refurbished and acts as a living history museum, with folks dressed up in period costume, marching around, playing bagpipes, firing off cannon, etc.
After going down a blind one-way ramp (and hoping that people would be following the stoplight at the bottom), we parked and entered the Citadel. We walked around quite a bit of it, asking the folks in costume any questions we could think of. The re-enactors and other costumed men were from the 78th Highlanders, and we saw them fire off the noon cannon, which could be heard echoing off of every building in Halifax. It was quite an explosion.
We wandered up and down, checking out the cannon, the magazine, holding cells, and other things. We visited the schoolhouse, where the poor and illiterate soldiers could get a high-school level of education in order to advance up the ranks. In the schoolhouse area, we saw an old-timey Magic Lantern (an early kind of color image projector), a primer book which listed the seventh planet - later to be known as Uranus - as "Herschel," after its discoverer.
Further walking around the place, we stopped by a room where we could try on replica uniforms of the 78th Highlanders. I ended up with the uniform of the lead piper, while my dad got the officers' uniform. We posed with the agreeable fellow who helped us put the thick wool jackets and kilts over our clothing and with Yoder.
After walking around most of the Citadel, we backtracked along the road up to Truro, where we had split off to go to Halifax yesterday. When we got to Truro we turned east, heading along Nova Scotia bound for Cape Breton Island.
I started driving for a bit around the town of Pictou ... which is where the fun began, road-wise. The speed limit was constantly changing, the road kept changing from an Interstate-quality limited-access corridor to a thin two-or-three-lane one, and the locals went 150 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on the two-lane sections with trucks oncoming way too close for comfort.
Civilization was few and far between already, but somehow everything got even more desolate around Canso Causeway, where we got a quick bite at a nearby Subway before almost every scrap of civilization ran out.
In the ostentatiously-named Municipality of the District of Guysborough, we had to stop for a bridge that was rotated to let a ship through the causeway. It didn't take too long, and it was interesting seeing the bridge twist around before us. At around 5:00 we officially crossed over Canso Causeway and onto Cape Breton Island.
Most of the communities we passed were inhabited by Native Americans, but we did pass through a number of signs and place names indicating the region's living Celtic heritage. A few signs were in Gaelic and the only Gaelic college in North America is here - somewhere along the Cabot Trail. We'll be seeing it some time in the coming days.
A little before 6:00 we arrived in Baddeck and checked into our quaint little motel, overlooking the gorgeous Bras d'Or Lake. We're not too far from the site of the first flight in the British Empire - in fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that our room overlooks it ...
We ate at the adjoining restaurant. Unsure of what we wanted, we ordered the Thai Nachos - spicy won-ton chips covered in cheese, chicken, and a spicy sauce. I also had this for an entrée. My dad had the fish and chips, my mom had the salmon, and we all sampled around. I found the sampler dessert rather gross (not a fan of carrot cake, bread pudding, or mint brownies), and we entertained ourselves and our waiter, who had about as pronounced a Canadian accent as one can have.
Tomorrow: we begin the drive on the scenic Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island.


Last Tango in Halifax

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 02 2014 · 146 views

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We caught up on some well-deserved rest and ended up leaving the hotel a little after noon. Our first stop of the day was an optical illusion called Magnetic Hill. Magnetic Hill has been known since Moncton was founded and the road was put in - there were reports of wagons and goods rolling uphill since the early 1800s. It was more publicized in 1933, and today, there's a whole Magnetic Hill complex around the illusion itself.
Magnetic Hill is bizarre. To look at it, you'd say that the road dips down before coming back up on the other side. But once we reached the bottom, we put the car in neutral (as the sign directed us to) and we began rolling backwards - what appeared to be uphill.
After reaching the end of the hill, we drove forward again and I hopped out to capture the illusion on video. However, I have to say that the illusion pretty much vanished as soon as I stood up, for even though it looked uphill, I could definitely tell it was downhill.
Disinterested in the rest of the Magnetic Hill complex, we got some gas and began the trek to Halifax.
The drive was surprisingly hilly, very woodsy, and utterly desolate. A brief change of scenery occurred right before we entered Nova Scotia, when we dipped down into a lower, more marshy area.
After getting information at the Nova Scotia welcome center and surviving the vicious wind in the area, we stopped in Amherst to get a cash advance at a bank. It took half an hour to get through the clogged line, so my dad did that while I walked around and took pictures with Yoder the Duck next to creepy statues.
We stopped for a quick late lunch at a Subway and then rolled out. We passed Oxford - Canada's Blueberry Capitol - and saw forested mountains in the distance. We paid a four-dollar toll and kept trucking to Halifax, and checked into our hotel a few minutes after 5:00.
Still hungry, and knowing of a great place just a few minutes from the hotel, we set out for it ... only to get turned around by the insane road system of Halifax, going over one of its two bridges over to the heart of the city, ending up near Citadel Hill, home of quite a bit of Halifax history - mainly, a fort that was used for defense against the French and updated for different wars, being manned and used for various purposes until World War II.
We paid a small fee to park and walked around the hill, though it was not open. Still hungry, we got back in the car, drove past an iconic clock tower on the edge of Citadel Hill, and took our second shot at finding the restaurant.
We found it - but only after going over the other bridge, winding our way through intersections with almost no lane markings, an extra helping of potholes, and no signs telling you what road you're on or what road you're intersecting with.
Despite all this - and did I mention the road work? - we found the place - Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers and Poutinerie - about five minutes from the hotel, but a trip that took us very nearly an hour.
It was worth it. I got a burger with a large hunk of fried mozzerella and some spicy chipotle mayonnaise. The bun was flimsy but the mix of flavors was delightful. My parents split a chicken burger and a lamb burger - but my mom couldn't finish her half of the lamb burger, so I tasted it. It featured a lemon hummus - a little strong, since I didn't know it was coming, but it had a unique flavor.
As a side, we split a poutine. This was not the fake, flimsy poutine we got in Moose Jaw last year - this was the real thing. A bed of freshly cut fries on the bottom, topped with a ton of cheese curds and a thick, rich gravy. Best of all, I finally got my dad to try a poutine. He exhibited some apprehension towards trying a poutine - which is strange, considering his general adventurousness, but I convinced him to try a bite, which he rather liked.
Tomorrow: Cape Breton on the northeastern end of Nova Scotia. We'll be traversing one of the prettiest drives not just in Canada, but the entire world - the Cabot Trail - over the next couple of days.


Adventures in Demented Utensils

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 01 2014 · 107 views

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We left Ellsworth before noon, gassed up amidst what appeared to be an octogenarian biker gang, then braced ourselves for a drive on "the Airline" - the local name for Maine Route 9. The moniker doesn't refer to air travel, but in the sense that predated mankind's first flight; it's because it's a faster route to Canada than going up and around on the modern Interstate route.
The grades were steep and there were a few potholes, but it wasn't anything like the 20 miles we had to traverse on Route 179 in order to get to Route 9. The frost heaves had frost heaves and the potholes went down multiple layers. We survived this hilly and bumpy route intact, and the Airline was a smooth ride all the way to the New Brunswick border - but we did top off our gas tank.
Our trip odometer at 1,668 miles, we experienced what was our easiest and quickest border crossing ever, then got to New Brunswick. New Brunswick is in the Atlantic Time Zone, so we skipped an hour ahead as we looked for some kind of visitor center.
We exited at one of the first opportunities, at St. Stephen, the Canadian chocolate capital. As is the norm with cities on this edge of New Brunswick, it's named after a saint. After getting a massive amount of information on New Brunswick from a particularly bubbly Wicker, we crossed the street for a late lunch at a place called Pizza Delight.
Pizza Delight, it turns out, is a small chain with locations around New Brunswick. We were the only people in the whole place, and after admiring my extremely bent fork, we decided to split something called a Donair.
A Donair is kind of a local thing - you don't see them much outside New Brunswick. It consists of a pizza crust, a little tomato sauce, Donair meat (similar to the thin lamb meat you'd find in a gyro), pepperoni, and cheese, all baked like a pizza. On top go fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and a thick, sweet garlic sauce called Donair sauce.
It's fairly hard to describe, but just think of a meat lover's pizza with a minimalist salad on top and you'll be close. I was skeptical at first but then came to love it.
We entertained the two waitresses there for a while before getting back on NB 1 to Saint John, which we got to and passed through within the span of five minutes. It's the largest city in New Brunswick, which tells you a lot about the population of this province.
There wasn't much in the way of scenery between Saint John and Moncton, which is the largest city in the tri-province area where New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island meet. The number of hills was surprising, as was the dearth of birds. I got us from Hampton - just a few kilometers from Saint John - to Moncton.
The lack of traffic on main Canadian corridors always surprises me. Two lanes in both directions and you still wouldn't see a car for long periods of time.
We rolled into Moncton - where the hotel has almost no one in it aside from us and the staff members - and entertained the girl at the front desk who was obviously bored out of her mind before our arrival due to having no other human to talk to. She suggested a few places to eat in downtown Moncton, and we chose a place called Catch22 - a lobster bar just a short drive downtown. We also got three complimentary beers (!) and some maple candy. We took a picture of her posing with the one and only Yoder the Duck.
My mom got a lobster roll, and my dad and I both got the same thing - the massive Fisherman's Platter. Each had half a lobster, shrimp, scallops, haddock, crab cakes, rice pilaf, and a roasted vegetable medley of broccoli, zucchini, and carrots, all served on a massive translucent fish-shaped plate.
The utensils in the place were worse than the demented fork I'd experienced at Pizza Delight - the knives, while cool-looking, had their handles twisted 90 degrees around their axis. Ergonomically sound, there was just no place to put it. My dad knocked his first knife clear off the table, and I nearly dropped mine into the booth cushion - only some catlike reflexes prevented a second mess.
We started a few running jokes with the waitress about seeds, the utensils, and a few other things. After we'd cleaned our plates, we got a banana and strawberry flambé, set aflame right at our table. We also got their last peppermint crème brûlée - but this was complimentary.
Upon our return to the hotel, we got some more maple candy from the front desk and learned a few interesting tidbits regarding the non-standard operation of our hotel. Suffice it to day that the inner workings of this place sounds like a mix of McHale's Navy and Fawlty Towers.
Tomorrow: we make the drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I am bound and determined to get my dad to try a poutine.


The Maine Event

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip May 31 2014 · 112 views

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After a delicious breakfast in Bangor, we headed down on Route 1A towards Acadia National Park. Route 1A gave way to Route 3 in Ellsworth, and we got to the entrance of Acadia around 1:00.
Post-Visitor Center, the first few pullouts were beautiful vistas of the shore, the ocean, and distant islands, but they were marred by the trees that got in the way. We eventually kept going after getting close to a few fearless seagulls, likely fearless because they equated humanity with free food distribution.
Before 2:00 we experienced our first big excursion: the Schooner Head overlook. I spotted what looked at first to be an old trail, as the pavement that once had smoothed it out fell victim to the vicious Maine frost heaves that have taken such a heavy toll on their roads.
We wound our way on this trail until I spotted a cut-through to some rocks. At first, I thought it'd just be a clear shot of the gorgeous, rocky shoreline that gave Acadia its fame, but it ended up being so much more than that.
There was no sign of any human activity on these rocks. Looking down on the Atlantic crashing against the granite below, we climbed around and ogled at the scenery for quite a while before eventually, sadly, having to meander our way back to the trail. In the meantime, we examined the bits of wildlife - plants, algae, and lichen - that have made the barren rocks their home, and looked out to the shore below and seascape beyond.
Our next stop didn't come too much later - this time at Monument Cove. We parked and asked a bearded park ranger how to best see the Monument - which isn't actually a man-made monument, but rather an erosion that ended up creating a cracked brown monolith of stone. It was in its own area, impossibly difficult to reach due to the large but smooth stones that lay beneath it. Instead of the more traveled rocks to the left, we took the path to the right and worked our way down the rocks right up to the Atlantic itself, sitting on one end of a long rock as waves splashed up against the other, throwing spray out where it was visible in its entirety but not near enough to hit me in any way.
I was sad when we had to go back, but go back we did. Soon enough we pulled off again at Otter Point, and again we clamored out on the rocks. These rocks were much different, however - layers of granite were crushed up, creating a labyrinth of large jagged stones down to the ocean. Here, we investigated a layer of incredibly jagged quartz, incredibly smooth rock (which we also saw at the first rock-carousing excursion), and incredibly still pond-puddles - some surprisingly deep. Indentions in the rocks created places for water to run into during storms - it was higher than even high tide could reach - and algae would thrive in it. White and fuzzy-looking on the bottom, it grew in green strands upwards to the top, where they'd float.
One thing we didn't see while exploring Otter Point was an actual otter, but I saw something that looked quite like an otter scurrying across the road at a very fast clip. We were too far away to see if it was an otter or a beaver - in fact, I was the only one who even caught a glimpse of it - but either way, I know I've seen a new animal.
The last big rock adventure of the day came at a stone beach, on a very narrow trail that hugged the edge of a sheer rock face. Once on the other side, it opened up to a much larger expanse of rock, one that was easier to climb around, as the rocks in general were much larger. My mom spotted the biggest algae-filled pond-puddle of the day, which we looked around before heading back again.
We stopped at the Jordan Pond House for a quick bite to eat to tide us over until dinnertime. For a drink, I sampled a locally made blueberry soda, bottled in what looked at first glance to be a beer bottle. I loved it, but it's one of those things that you either love or you hate. It's quite possibly my new favorite drink, which is a shame since it's not sold anywhere outside of the Portland-Bar Harbor area.
After an attempt to hike a trail to the Bubbles (strangely enough, they're mountains) we turned back due to the bugs that ate us like they were at the top of the food chain. We didn't get out again until we were most of the way up the road on Cadillac Mountain.
(Side note: Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic coast, is less than 1600 feet tall, but seems much higher because it basically rises from sea level. It was named after Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who was granted rights to the land after he requested it from the governor of New France. The same absurdly-named fellow would go on to found the city of Detroit, hence the Cadillac brand of cars. I wouldn't bother mentioning this except for the fact that, despite not having a Cadillac car, we do have a sexy Cadillac engine.)
The views from the road up and the summit of Cadillac Mountain are stunning. Mountains - which would be considered rolling hills were they not so close to the water, thus amplifying their height - lay beneath us, and the rocky shoreline ran in and out every which way, etching out an intricate design as it met the Atlantic. Inland, lakes dotted the landscape, and if one tried, one could make out the very road we'd traversed earlier when we were between rock-clamoring excursions.
It honestly felt like we were walking around inside a postcard; everything was just that gorgeous.
We took our time walking around on the summit (home of the earliest sunrise in America) and then began making our way back. We would have stayed longer, soaking in the details of the landscape and seascape, but our stomachs won out, so we rolled into Bar Harbor to see what we could find.
The thing about Acadia - and, in fact, most places this time of year in this corner of the continent - is that the season hasn't exactly opened. The restaurant at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia is due to open tomorrow, on the 1st, and many other places won't open until school gets out a little later this month.
Nevertheless, since the locals have to have somewhere to eat, we drove through the streets of Bar Harbor, noting all of the lobster places. We'd all been craving some Maine lobster - specifically, my dad - so we went into a place that wasn't crowded. It turns out that it'd just opened earlier in the day, so we were one of the few customers they'd had all day.
I hate saying this, but lobster places are lobster places - i.e. functionally interchangeable. Our bet paid off - they brought out whole (cooked!) lobsters, which we cracked opened and sucked the morsels out of, all while looking supremely idiotic in our restaurant-supplied bibs.
The lobster, along with our sides, our fries, our dinner rolls, our desserts, and our pre-meal soups, made for a very big meal - but we ate nearly all of it, having spent so much energy climbing around on the rocks earlier in the afternoon. Around 7:00 we left Bar Harbor, doubling back to Ellsworth along a highway that somehow has worse potholes going than coming.
Tomorrow: we hit the road to Moncton, New Brunswick. With very little between here and the other side of New Brunswick, we'll make a day of it across what is thankfully one of Canada's smaller provinces.


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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo

"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva

BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex

What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus

I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok

Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker

Sumiki - hat-wearing ladies man. - Black Six

He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist

I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens

I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig

I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk

I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome

Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex

Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz

10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome


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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)


1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/13 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
8/27/13 - 8/5/14 - None
8/12/14 - Another Chro Original
8/19/14 - Kanohi Zatth
8/26/14 - Miniland Hatpile
9/2/14 - S. S. Starfish
9/9/14 - Special - Claude Hairgel
9/16/14 - Green Flame
9/23/14 - Avohkah Tamer
9/30/14 - Special - The Havoc Wreaker
10/7/14 - Fire Snake


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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.




ToM Dracone
-Toa Lhikevikk-
Dirk Strider
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
Toa Robert
The X
Dave Strider
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Commander Helios
Popup2: The Camel
~Shadow Kurahk~
~System Of A Down~
Kohrak Kal17
Jackson Lake
Thunder on the Mountain
Ackar's Follower
Bitter Cold
Doc Scratch
Mendicant Bias
Darth Eryzeth
Toa of Vahi
Makuta GigaDon
~Toa Drokonas~
Progenitus Worldsoul
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
Bohrok Kal
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
.: WoLVeRINe :.
Alternate Velika
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
The Great Forgetter
Thomas the Tank Engine
Jonah Falcon
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
knuckles chaotix
The Bean
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Toa of Dancing
Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light



Vorex: Keeper of Time


Toa of Smooth Jazz



Dual Matrix

rahkshi guurahk
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle

so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra

You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.

It's a long story.


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