Final Troop Movement Day

Thursday Sept. 3

I almost forgot to mention that yesterday, a few of the guys climbing French Mountain (or MacKinzie, I forget which) saw a coyote chewing on a bone of some sort along the ride. I believe Dave and Craig might have gotten photos of the beast, but it was a quick sighting, and so neither knew if their pix turned out or not.

Most of the gang was scheduled to catch flights from Halifax Airport, so we had to get from Dingwall to the Airport Holiday Inn via van on this day, our last of the tour.

We drove along the Cabot Trail, continuing our Clockwise circumnavigation of Cape Breton. It was truly beautiful, and most of my pix from the Freewheeling van (our legendary Nick was the driver) are marginal at best, and cannot showcase the stark beauty of this place.

image

image

Our first leg-stretching stop was Neil’s Harbor. It had a lovely little lighthouse and a pretty harbor area. We simply wandered around and took photos for a bit, then piled back into the van.

image

image

image

image

Next stop was lunch at Ingonish, where we ate at a great café called the Clucking Hen. The “Weather Stone” was our first introduction to the café.

image

image

Across the road were two crafts shops: a woodworker and a glass blower, and Allen requested that some of us go into the Clucking Chicken to eat and others of us head to the studios and see the artists’ works, so as not to overwhelm the friendly kitchen staff. Jack and I headed over to the woodworker’s place and met the artist and he had some lovely pieces of finely sanded kitchen tools and figures of birds and many quite lovely combinations of beautiful woods.

A cup of homemade soup and a grilled cheese sandwich was lunch and we ate with the Colleys. Jerry suggested a photo of the Jack Russell and the Colley (Collie) beside the sign indicating a dog lived at the Clucking Chicken. It was a hoot.

image

Back in the van, I tried to capture some of the beautiful ground we covered. Again the pix are marginal at best.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Our next stop was the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, Cape Breton, and we spent a great hour or so looking at all the exhibits. It was quite interesting. I had not known that Bell had worked closely with the deaf to teach them speech, and that his work was founded on that of his father, who was instrumental in mapping the physiology of vocalization and speech.

image

Caption: Bell with Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan at Bell’s estate, Beinn Bhreagh. Bell first met deaf and blind Keller when she was a little girl. She later gave Bell much credit for her ability to write and speak. “I did not dream that that interview [with Bell] would be the door through which I should pass from darkness into light.”

I also didn’t realize that folks called him Alec rather than Alex. But a young Alec and his brothers constructed a replica of the human speech organs that they called a “voice automaton.” He also “taught” a dog to speak. The panel reads (in his own words): “By the application of suitable doses of food material, the dog was . . . taught to sit up on his hind legs and growl continuously while I manipulated his mouth, and stop growling when I took my hands away . . .
“The dog’s repertoire . . . consisted of the vowels ‘ah’ and ‘oo’ the diphthong ‘ow,’ and the syllables ‘ma’ and ‘ga.’ We then proceeded to manufacture words and sentences composed of these elements, and the final linguistic accomplishment consisted in . . . ‘Ow-ah-oo-gamma,’ which by the exercise of a little imagination, readily passed for ‘How are you, Grandmama.’
“The fame of the dog soon spread among my father’s friends, and people came from far and near to witness the performance.”

image

Another thing I hadn’t realized is that, at a certain time during Bell’s inventing and investigation of how things worked (around 1880), he formed a group called the Volta Laboratory with the prize money from France’s Volta Prize for scientific achievement in electricity. The lab was located in Washington DC, and he hired two young inventors to help, one of whom was his cousin Chichester Bell.

Chichester Bell was a native of Ireland, and was equally adept at playing the piano and boxing. He was a close friend of playwright George Bernard Shaw, who used him as the model for the chief character in “The Doctor’s Dilemma.”

Chichester had been both a practicing physician and a professor of chemistry before joining up with cousin Alec in the Volta Laboratory.

I also learned that Bell’s rival inventor, Edison, was more-or-less a “professional” inventor, while Bell did it for the pleasure of it: “With his telephone based prosperity, Bell was free to pursue his ideas as he pleased. He was not a professional inventor like Edison. He was a very independent amateur, experimenting for the pure joy of gaining knowledge. Bell was always more interested in possibilities than in realities, and he tended to lose interest when an invention reached the stage of commercial application. His boyish curiosity and imagination led him down all sorts of unexpected paths.”

“In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, and apparatus to record and play back sound. It was a public sensation. The novelty, however, was short-lived. Quality was poor, the records were short, and they soon wore out.
“In 1981, the Volta Laboratory began experiments to include the phonograph and, by 1887, they had brought it to the stage where it could be commercially exploited. Their invention, called the graphophone, was a marked improvement over Edison’s machine. It recorded sound on wax cylinders rather than tinfoil, resulting in higher quality and more accurate sound . . . the graphophone was a commercial success, providing the basis of the modern record industry. Anxious to pursue other interests, the Volta Associates disbanded their laboratory shortly after.”

Other interests that included aviation. Bell was very interested in the physics of flight, and began his experiments with kites (the Center holds a series of kite-making workshops for children throughout the visitation season). His experimentation eventually led to the first powered flight in Canada, right in Baddeck. On the fateful day (Feb. 23, 1909), school classes were cancelled and businesses shut down so the entire community could watch the experimental flight. Spectators rejoiced when the Silver Dart lifted into the air and then landed safely, although the flight was cut short because of a broken fuel line.

Silver Dart
Silver Dart

More than 30 additional flights of the Silver Dart were conducted during March of 1909 before a fatal crash ended Bell’s endeavors in aviation.

The Center was very interesting, and the setting at the edge of Baddeck was a lovely place to wait for everyone to finish up.

image

image

image

image

This is where we parted with Bruce and Linda, who did not need to stay at the Halifax Airport Holiday Inn, as they were driving straight to New Brunswick. We all said goodbye and piled into the Freewheeling van like sardines (Gaye and Woody had been riding with Bruce and Linda during the day, and at this point, they, too had to pile into the van) for the final 4-hour drive to Halifax.

The first half was mostly silent as folks tried to sleep and we kept the windows open so it was quite loud inside the van, making conversation difficult at best. I kept my eyes peeled for moose sighting, but alas, saw none.

We made one final pit and leg-stretch stop at a Dairy Queen somewhere in Nova Scotia, and everyone re-connected with their suitcases and we, with our bikes and car, and headed to dump everything in the rooms before heading across the street to a restaurant where we had our final group dinner.

After which, we all said our final goodbyes, as some were hitching a ride on the 4AM shuttle to get to their flights. Sad to say “so long” to the pack, but also looking forward to our adventures with Roomba in New Brunswick and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Bicycle Tour Beginnings

Monday, August 24: Checked out of our lovely (if somewhat damp) Blomidon Provincial Park site this AM early, so we could get to Sue’s home when we’d told her we’d be there, to park Roomba for a while. Naturally, the day we had to check out was the most beautiful day of our stay. Goodbye Blomidon PP – we will definitely come back to stay again.

 
From there, we also had to to manage our day sufficiently that we could drive to the Halifax airport Holiday Inn (where our bicycle tour will terminate) to park our car; and then somehow manage to get ourselves down to Halifax proper and link back up with our bikes, and meet our tour group for dinner.

Roomba rode like a champ to Sue’s place, and we introduced ourselves and had a great time not only showing off our trailer, but also touring their 1850s-era home and all the renovations they’d made there, and then sharing a spectacular lunch with Sue, Jim and my Virginia friend’s sister, Jen.

The day had dried off and the wind had come up and it finally became what I’d expected we’d find, weather-wise, here in Nova Scotia. We spent a few hours chatting and sharing stories with them and had a truly delightful time. As we were sharing our meal, a bald eagle graced our skies and we all had a look as it soared in the blue sky.

We said a reluctant goodbye to Roomba, shut down the systems, gave away our leftover food, and then Sue and Jim took us up to one of the nearby wild blueberry farms, where we could see all around the 5 or so districts, and ate a couple warm wild blueberries, standing in wild thyme patches. It was lovely.

Headed to the airport Holiday Inn on an easy drive, and caught a cab from there to Halifax. Very chatty driver from Poland, who said we must absolutely not miss the salt mine-turned museum in a village near Krakow, when we go there (the dollar is quite good against the Polish currency right now, we learned).

As Jack was continuing to chat with our driver (and paying him $70 Canadian) Laura and Craig English, two of our fellow tour riders, asked if Jack always chats up the cabbies like this – of course, I answered, “He chats up everyone like this. It’s why we’re always late!”

We hugged necks and they were off to the harbor, and we were off for a shower before the group gathering for dinner.

16 of our 20 gathered in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, and we walked the couple of blocks to our group dinner at a restaurant called Five Fishermen. Met up with 2 of the group there (staying at a different hotel) and the final two of our number went whale watching instead of joining us for dinner.

Allen gave us the overview of the tour and those of us in the group who had not ridden together in the past introduced ourselves and we had a delicious meal with wine tastings from the local offerings and an excellent locally-made Ale served at a quite decent temperature (not too cold) from a Nova Scotia micro brewery whose name I could not pronounce last night and cannot remember now, but will try to get and document, because I hope to have another soon.

  
We van our suitcases and those bicycles brought from home (including ours) up to Wolfville tomorrow, where those who did not bring their own cycles will be fitted for their tour riding machines. Then it’s going to be a quick ride to lunch and then I think we get to decide where and how far to ride after lunch. Might depend on whether there is wine involved with lunch or not 🙂

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sunday, August 23: This was our day to take our bicycles into Halifax to store them prior to our tour group’s kickoff gathering tomorrow evening. When we arose, the sky was blue but the sun wasn’t up yet. Then the fog rolled back in and we didn’t see the sun again until much later. We hitched the bike carrier and left Roomba for another day. 

The drive to Halifax was uneventful, and we got on the correct road to the Hampton Inn Suites, but we overlooked the actual hotel in the deep downtown of Halifax. A little more working our way around, and we found it. After we made the arrangements for the manager to store them, we headed down to the seaside walk to find lunch. We did find Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery, which has been around for centuries, apparently. But it’s in a lovely old factory building right by the waterfront, and inside was a handy place to have a pint and some fish ‘n chips. The meal was excellent — the beer only okay.

  
We did some more wandering, and stopped by a bakery to get some bread to add to the lunch we’re planning with Sue, the friend who’s going to store our Roomba while we cycle about. We also stopped by a place called Rum Runners to get a small rum cake to finish our lunch tomorrow.

Halifax is a great big city and harbor, so there were lots of shops and restaurants and plenty of tourists and things going on. We saw the biggest ship I’ve ever seen that was privately owned, moored along the boardwalk.

   
   
The weather stayed dry but overcast down south. I took my jacket and rain hat along as we hiked the boardwalk. But we never got wet while out of the car. Got a few sprinkles along the drive, though.
Heading back, we drove through Wolfville, where our bike tour will begin on Tuesday. It’s a lovely small village that I’m looking forward to seeing in more detail from cycle-back. From there, we could see the Blomidon escarpment (if it can be called that), which has been our “home” for the past few days, but will also be a part of our cycle tour. 

  
There is wi-fi right around the Park Office, so I sat there for a while to get some blog backlog up to the ether. The person manning the station said it had cleared up by about 11A up there, and they’d had spotty sunshine throughout the day. So Roomba’s solar panels got a little boost while we were away, after all.

When we returned to camp, my poor slippers were just as wet as the day before, and we really had no way to dry them with the humidity. They were beginning to smell bad. I despair that my fave slippers will not survive the Blomidon Drench.