I blame it on L-Pooh. She the companion of my misspent teens, who upon our first meeting in the back seat of a car driving aimlessly around the small town I grew up in, announced she felt sick and proceeded to puke on my lap. We’ve been best pals ever since.
She also introduced me to Stephen King, who keeps a gothic house with bat-winged gates in Bangor, Maine. Literary snobs will sniff and shake their heads but let me tell ya, the guy’s got a way with words. Lots of words. He’s incredibly prolific and with six months of writing a blog under my belt, I have new appreciation for the work involved. He’s scared the crap out of me more times than I can count. I spent the night after reading Pet Semetary with all the lights in my apartment ablaze and still shudder when I see cherubic blond toddlers.
Is it still called stalking if you don’t meet the subject of the stalk, er, visit? His house is everything I hoped but alas, the King has left the building. Apparently he and Tabitha head south for the winter so I stand for a picture, Stephen King hard cover in hand, with The Dog by my side, smiling a foolish fan smile in front of the house. It was so worth it L-Pooh.
If Bangor is a blue collar town, Bar Harbour is its white collar alter ego. About an hour outside of Bangor, Bar Harbour, or Bah Hahbah to the locals, is upscale quaint. We arrive in town to discover the cruise ship fleet has disgorged its human cargo at the pier. The streets are flooded with LL Bean-wearing tourists, credit cards in hand, snatching up authentic “made in China” Bah Hahbah paraphernalia.
The Hahbah and town are lovely but less attractive when the streets are overrun by tourists shopping for that perfect tacky souvenir. Tourist towns (yes that includes Penticton) exude a kind of sadness when the season ends. It’s like the post New Year’s Eve party clean-up — a great time was had by all, but hey, who put a cigarette butt in the punch bowl.
With home and native land in the rear view mirror, we play that Canadian game of gas price comparison. You know the one, where you look at the posted gas rate and mutter and curse as you convert gallons to litres and U.S. $ to Cdn $ and figure out our southern neighbours pay around sixty cents a litre. Even with the yucky exchange rate (good timing Meanderers) it’s a win win.
Leaving the explosion of Maine’s fall colours behind, we head for the Kennedy’s stomping grounds on old Cape Cod. For getting from point A to point B quickly, there is nothing like the mighty interstate highways. Picture the Trans-Canada on steroids, cutting through major centres with ten lane choices and exit and entry ramps spewing traffic on and off.
Now picture the Meanderers pulling their 10,000 pound home through Boston and environs at rush hour on a Friday, the Dude’s white-knuckles gleaming as the Dame provides running commentary on signage and lane changes, while GPS Gertrude’s robotic voice adds 30 minutes to our travel time at regular intervals. To say Boston area traffic is bad is like saying Charlie Sheen enjoys a cocktail or two.
Our route takes us through the centre of Boston, where we wistfully note landmarks in the skyline from a previous visit before plunging into a multi-laned tunnel through which traffic is proceeding at less than a walking pace, mile after dark mile. Please, dear Lord, don’t let there be a terrorist attack now. We emerge from the darkness 45 minutes later, having covered about eight miles, into an endless stream of honking horns, lane-switching, crawling traffic that continues all the way to the Cape.
Traffic is so bad on the Cape drivers are encouraged to use the break down lanes on the side to bypass traffic and get to their exits. Apparently breaking down is verboten during rush hour.
We arrive in darkness, after a stop at Mickey D’s for sustenance, to find the campground office closed. Luckily we phoned ahead and the thoughtful site managers have taped an envelope on the office door with a gate pass and instructions to get to our site. The Dude is catatonic from the drive, PTDD, post traumatic driving disorder.
Now we’ve all heard the tale of Plymouth Rock, the pilgrims cross the ocean, land at the rock and voila America is born. Without them there would be no Black Friday shopping folks. Think about it.
The truth is less romantic. The Pilgrims landed at Provincetown on the tip of the Cape, stayed for about five weeks before finding its swamps and dunes less than hospitable, and headed across the bay for Plymouth.
Having recently finished a book about the Pilgrims’ journey and subsequent travails, the Dude is eager (for those who know the Dude, mildly interested would be a better choice of words) to visit Provincetown down the road. We have arrived during what is apparently festival weekend on the Cape. An Oyster festival is in progress in Wellfleet, a tiny town of narrow winding streets and lanes, lush gardens and a mix of permanent and “from away” residents. (From away is a term we learn applies to anybody not here for at least two hundred years).
Who knew oysters were so popular. Our campground hostess advises that the little festival started years ago with a few people from town getting together to shuck oysters, drink beer and trade tales about the big one that got away (which would make sense if oysters could actually move, but I digress).
The festival is now the equivalent of a large outdoor concert with foodies from all over Massachusetts and nearby states descending on the area to slurp oysters, wear knitted watch caps and watch competitive oyster shucking on the main stage.
But today it’s all about Provincetown. Sand dunes, dotted with scrubby pine trees, surround the town encroaching on the highway. Get rid of the townsfolk and the sand would take over the town in short order. I think I know why the Pilgrims left for Plymouth.
On this weekend, women have taken over the town. A lot of women with short hair, sturdy boots and t-shirts emblazoned with city logos. Some travel in packs of five or six but most walk, arms linked, window shopping along the street. We have arrived during Women’s Week, one of the largest lesbian festivals in the USA. The mood is festive and P-Town (as it is called) is bursting at the seams with raucous lesbians bellied up to the bars at every drinking establishment in town, of which there are many. We spend the afternoon perusing the shops before The Dude, intimidated by the estrogen levels, suggests we push on to find a quieter place to eat drink and be merry.
Combine Women’s Week and Wellsfleet’s Oyster Festival on a small coastal highway and you have a recipe for traffic gridlock on the Cape’s main thoroughfare. If this is what it’s like in the Fall summer must be a masochist’s wet dream. After quick deke off the highway along country lanes so narrow two vehicles cannot pass, we spot a restaurant and pull our diesel beast into the parking lot.
The candy cotton pink exterior and signage advising us we are at a Boulangerie/Bistro do not tell the whole story. The place is packed with festival-goers hoping to avoid the traffic. The owner sniffs haughtily in a French accent when informed we don’ have reservations before scuttling up a tiny table near the bar. The Dude begins to have misgivings even before we open the bistro menu expecting to find café prices. “Tabernac,” is all he can get out when he sees the full-on French menu with the various bits and bobs of animal parts the French love to eat and the accompanying prices, which he immediately begins converting to Canadian money.
Taking pity on the Dude’s glazed look the server brings him a biere and reading glasses before advising us of the fixed prix menu, which is the life preserver the Dude is looking for to avoid melting our credit card or having to head out in the gridlock awaiting us. Sometimes you gotta listen to your inner Pilgrim.
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