chapter lx

Archive for March 2009

Spent yesterday driving around, phoning places for rent, talking to people to let them know I’m looking, exploring possibilities and places that might be nice to live. I did look at one little house, about a half hour from Halifax in the country, way back on a side road. It is a one-bedroom, cute and affordable so I know that there are possibilities. The questions I’m asking as I look are where – town or country, close to Halifax or Bridgewater, apartment or little house. Of course, there is still the question of how will I pay the rent, but the first thing is to get an address, unload the van into a new home. I am meeting a couple people on Monday, and there are others to connect with.

For now, my friend John is being generous with room, food and information and I am lucky to have a guide in much of this newness. Today we took a long walk to Labrador Castle, high above the tree line. It was a perfect spring day for a walk – muddy but sunny and warm. On the way there, John showed me the thrift shops, the used furniture places, the grocery/general store with fresh produce right there next to the barrel of nails.
We had coffee at the top of the world, made with a very clever “Kelly Kettle.” The water is in a reservoir around a hollow chamber, sitting on a small container for fire. It boils water in a flash, with very little wood, no mess and the whole thing is compact.

Tomorrow more phone calls, more exploring and more enjoying the discovery.

The Buggy Bank in Berkeley has offered amazing service helping sell my car. If you are ever looking for a decent used car, or want to sell one I highly recommend talking to them. I am so relieved that I left my car with them.

At Labrador Castle

At Labrador Castle

Walking to Labrador Castle

Walking to Labrador Castle

On the way to Labrador Castle

On the way to Labrador Castle

From the top of Labrador Castle

From the top of Labrador Castle

Boiling water in the Kelly Kettle

Boiling water in the Kelly Kettle

View from the front door in West Dublin

View from the front door in West Dublin

Here I am, destination found. It was another lovely clear day for driving – blue sky, rolling roads, pines everywhere, look out for deer and moose. My friend John has offered a room until I find a place, so I am in West Dublin, down by the Lahave river, close to the sea. We went for a long walk on Crescent Beach when I got in. Felt good to be stretching my legs, feel the fresh air.

Now it’s time to prioritize. Find a place, get a health card, register the car, get a phone, get a bank account. I think address is first and move ahead from there. Of course, the other one is find a job – anything for now until I get settled. I know it takes time to meet people, see what’s out there, where do I want to be, what do I want to do. But I also know that if I keep my eyes, ears and heart open, things will come into focus and it all works.

I had forgotten how dry cold weather is. I have been reaching for lip balm and hand lotion since Pennsylvania. There is more snow on the ground here, but the air has that tinge of spring. The numbers here are so extreme: 110 on the highway, -4 overnight, 86 for a litre of gas. I do kilometres, celsius, kilograms ok but never did get the conversion for liters. I think that gas is about 30 percent higher here, based on the cost of a fill-up yesterday.

Good news on the Mazda in Berkeley – the oil had been overfilled, it was burning off excess oil. An oil change will fix that, and the woman is still interested in buying it. What a relief!

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

The Sea

The Sea

St. John, New Brunswick, mile 4990. Hah, here I am finally in Canada, cleared Customs and Immigration and here I am in a Holiday Inn! Left Maine mid-morning after a nice breakfast at that sweet Village Inn. The border is about 2 hours from there, a winding two-lane road through mountains, but first I stopped once more to find boots in Calais – did find some, not beautiful but practical, although they are short but fine for now. Next winter I will look for tall warm boots, but for now I don’t anticipate trekking through knee-high snow. Also a stop at duty-free; hard to decide but finally got a bottle of Kahlua. No room in the van for a two-four and I was afraid if I went for a bottle of Jack, we’d get too friendly. By mistake though I was across the border before I had done that shopping, so turned around, and had to go through the whole ID, how long have you been gone, where are you going to US Customs just to go back and do my shopping. Anyway, it took about 1-1/2 hours to clear into Canada. First, was what am I bringing? I can hardly remember what I have brought – it’s been almost a month since I saw any of it. Outside of the usual, clothes, household, personal memorabilia there is not much else. He did want the serial numbers from the camera and laptop. The problem was the car. I don’t have the actual title – it arrived in the mail at Mary’s yesterday – my mail is being forwarded to her. There is no way she could have faxed it today while I was there – she wouldn’t be home from work until 10 this evening here. So my man was very clever at working the papers, and somehow issued everything I will need to register the car in Nova Scotia, I hope. So, I am officially a resident again, and feel so happy. It was after three (I lost another hour today, Atlantic time) and I decided St. John is far enough. I thought I would take the ferry over tomorrow, but it would be $120 and I’m sure it won’t cost that in gas, and an easy five hour drive.

The drive from Calais/St. Stephen was clear, glorious blue sky, watch for deer, little traffic and lots of dirty snow, pines, lakes and rivers. Coming in to St. John was confusing and finding a place for the night even more confusing. I have been out in the country so long. But I did stop for a coffee and donut at Tim Horton’s, and asked where is a motel nearby.

The biggest problem now is my Mazda 3 back in Berkeley. Someone wants to buy it, phoned Sunday, we made a deal and she needed to take it to her lender today for the lender to inspect. Well, she phoned as I was leaving the border to say that she took it from the Buggy Bank and it started smoking white smoke out the rear and seemed to have some trouble accelerating. What can I do, 5000 miles away? I told her to take it back to Buggy Bank, and spoke to Jerry there. He is going to take it to Oakland Mazda tomorrow, and see what is going on. I can’t imagine. That car never gave me one minute of problem and is still under warranty. I just want to sell it, now! I don’t want to keep making payments, don’t want to keep insuring it. I feel like I’m so far away, and don’t know what to do. Wait and see what’s going on with it I guess. Aaaaarrrghh.

Roadside snow

Roadside snow

Northern Maine

Northern Maine

Brewer, Maine. Mile 4820. Okay, good connection here. I’m staying at another independent motel – great rate, beautiful room and friendly staff. I keep hoping that these lovely little motels can survive the next few years. They just have more character than Econolodge – nicer pillows, towels, more thought in the decor. Right next door is a home-cooking restaurant where I had a delicious dinner with grapenuts custard covered with whipped cream for dessert.

Back to yesterday. Took awhile to figure out how to get out of DC – by mistake I got on the Washington-Baltimore Beltway but that turned out ok – little traffic, and got me to Baltimore, where I got lost for awhile. I thought I was following signs for US 1, but then the signs disappeared and I drove around blocks of row houses, block after block, some renovated, some boarded up. I knew if I kept going, eventually I would find some highway. I decided to take the 83 to 81 to avoid New Jersey, New York. Been there, don’t want to do that again. Anyway, Pennsylvania is rolling and pretty; Wilkes Barre, Scranton, got off the freeway now and then to see some towns. It got colder and colder as I headed north – the heater works great. But it was also very windy, work driving. Today was windy all day, too and cold. Water was frozen mid-stream falling down the rocks at the side of the road, and today the vestiges of snow banks left by the plow lined the roads and parking lots. Ah, I remember March, and all the filthy snow.

Nevertheless, I felt elated as I drove into Maine. This is the final leg, and it is beautiful and clean and good. The sky was so blue and clear all day, and the pines tall and fragrant on both sides of the road. I spent some time looking for winter boots, but no luck. Too late in the season even for clearance. They all have spring sandals out now, and the few boots lying around are ugly and still too expensive. I did see a beautiful pair of shoes but even on sale they would have been more than $100 and I really don’t need shoes. They were so nice.

It has been a good trip. I’ve only been to Starbucks once, and haven’t eaten once at a fast food place – it’s possible to eat good real food even when you don’t know where you are. I have stayed at chain motels only half the time, sometimes because it was time to stop and I couldn’t find anything else. I’m so grateful the gas is not $4/gallon. I have had wonderful visits with so many people and now it’s on to new beginnings.

I am only a couple hours from the border, and looking at tomorrow, I think I will have to see how long it takes to clear customs. If it takes very long, it will make a long day so I may go as far as St. John and take the ferry in the morning – one a day, at 9 am. If it goes quickly, I may press on and get all the way tomorrow. Have to wait and see.

March snow

March snow

Near Hartford, Conneticutt. 4425 miles. A good day, sunny and clear but getting colder. Came up the east side of Pennsylvania across the Alleghenies, east through the bottom of New York and the Hudson River Valley, and into Conneticutt. Pulled out the warmer coat and I guess leather shoes will be ok now. No allergies since Atlanta – it is not spring here yet. Probably not above 40 today, and looks like more of the same. We’ll see how Bella likes cold weather. This is another one of those cheap motels with spotty internet – frustrating so I’m going to sign off now. More tomorrow

Hudson River Valley

Hudson River Valley

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

Still in Greenbelt. Spent the past few days in DC at galleries and museums. Thursday, the National Gallery where I saw an exhibit of Robert Frank’s America, a book of photographs he published 50 years ago after spending a couple years traveling the US on a grant to capture the American spirit at the time. Some of them were quite moving, and most were very good at telling a story. Also an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts. I love them, they are such small gems. This collection covered about five countries and two hundred or so years. Beautiful. Then took one of the guided one-hour quick look at the American painting collection up to the twentieth century. It was worthwhile, letting someone point out the highlights and give context.

Friday, back to the city and the Renwick Gallery, which had an exhibit of the work of Greene & Greene, architect brothers who were designing homes in California the early years of the twentieth century and were very influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, Morris’s philosophy of beauty and utility. They not only designed the homes, but the gardens and furniture. It was well presented, and very beautiful. That gallery also has an entire room of paintings by someone (I’ve forgotten his name already, maybe Calen) who traveled the US during the 1830’s to 50’s painting native Americans, their dress, their customs and ceremonies and wrote a little about each tribe, how they lived, how many were left, etc. He knew that it was important to record those things, and it was very impressive, the thoroughness that he brought to the project. There were probably 200 paintings on the walls, from eye level to ceiling, and the variety that he captured was wonderful. Then down to the Smithsonian American History Museum, which was entertaining and interesting – spent a lot of time in the inventions and inventors section.

Coming home, my cell phone died – when am I going to remember to keep that thing charged, I think it’s time for a new phone – and I got on the wrong bus to get back to Joan and Stephen’s. They began to worry when I wasn’t back by 7:30 and I had been traveling the wrong direction for about an hour.
We went to the Zoo today and saw many wonderful things.

Magnolia in DC

Magnolia in DC

In the inventions hall

In the inventions hall

Stephen, Joan and Amina

Stephen, Joan and Amina

At the zoo

At the zoo

More zoo

More zoo

Underwater

Underwater

So beautiful

So beautiful

Greenbelt. Turned into a beautiful sunny day here, early spring, bulbs just beginning to poke through the leaves, little chill in the air but sunny. I finally got out the paints, and dressed Bella up, and Amina did her some too. Too bad I didn’t think earlier to just do it, and have everyone I have been to see add a little of their art. I hope that Joan and Stephen paint something. So here are photos, outside and in. You can see that the packing job is expert – no shifting around, the things I need at hand; picnic basket full of good snacks, nuts and dried fruit, crackers, and a small cooler for juice and cheese and fresh fruit. There is a larger bag that fits beteen the seats that hold books and maps and computer and chargers and makeup and I don’t know what else.

Bella

Bella

Duvet and Raphael's Madonna on top

Duvet and Raphael's Madonna on top

Like a Bedouin - pillows and blankets and rugs

Like a Bedouin - pillows and blankets and rugs

The most comfortable driving seat I've ever had

The most comfortable driving seat I've ever had