Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

EDIC, part two...

Overlooking Englishtown.Cape Smokey Provincial Park.
The eastern entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.Overlooking Pleasant Bay from the Cabot Trail.

The seeds that led me to travel to Nova Scotia's capital were planted nearly a decade ago. The impetus to head northeast to Cape Breton Island, and specifically its Highlands, was placed upon me much more recently. Remember all the celebrities who made (mostly empty, I presume) threats of moving to Canada if Donald Trump were elected President? At least one Cape Bretoner elected to use the leverage and roll out the welcome mat to try to attract attention to a region whose population has declined in recent decades. Now, I have a well-compensated job here in the States, so I never entertained any thought of relocation. But it certainly helped to give another dimension to the trip.

Coming out of Sydney, I headed north toward the TCH. Instead of heading around St. Ann's Bay, I took Route 312 to the Englishtown Ferry (top left). That two-minute boat trip crossed me over to the sandbar, from which I headed to the Cabot Trail. The driving was easy for the first 45 minutes or so, until the road began to both climb and wind into hairpin turns. Shortly after, I elected to make my first stop at Cape Smokey Provincial Park (second from left) and eat the lunch I bought back in Sydney. Though I was hungry by that point in the day, I soon after found myself wondering whether I could have held out for a few more minutes. The winds were way up at Cape Smokey (top right)... and calm and peaceful not long afterward, following passage through Ingonish and Keltic Lodge. From that point on, I was stopping every half hour on average to grab pictures. I've been through Banff and Jasper on the other side of the country, through the San Rafael Swell in Utah, and through the Green Mountains of Vermont... and the natural beauty I witnessed on September 12 in the Cape Breton Highlands ranks equally with each of those three. It's something that I've only shared a small sample of in the pictures above, and I've made a point of reminding myself of it regularly by putting the pictures on the network at work. In retrospect, it was a mistake to travel all the way to Sydney the night before; my time on Cape Breton would have been better spent heading into the Highlands on Sunday night and taking some more time to explore them. I'm not really a food or shopping for trinkets person, but I still feel like I could have gotten more out of the Highlands - but that regret doesn't take away from the experiences I did take in.

By the time I reached the small fishing village of Chéticamp just past the park's western entrance, it was 4:30 in the afternoon. By then, it was far too late to reach Baddeck in time to visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. I thus pointed the car back toward Port Hawkesbury, where the Canso Causeway connects Cape Breton Island to the mainland. I quickly grabbed dinner and searched for a hotel room, as this was one of the two nights for which I hadn't secured lodging before flying to Canada. I was able to book myself a room at the MacPuffin-fronted Canadas Best Value Inn, which I'm not sure remains open, and was fully deserving of the two-star rating it had on Google at the time. It was probably the worst accommodation in all of Port Hawkesbury, and quite possibly the worst accommodation in the whole of Cape Breton Island. Not enough electrical outlets, cobwebs on the lamp fixtures, a chair that partially collapsed if I shifted my weight in the wrong way. The room had a tube television that, when I first saw it, reminded me of the screens on which I watched many years ago. But I didn't have time to concern myself with such things...

... I had time only to check if NTV, a station out of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, was available to me. Sure enough, it was. And as the clock approached 19:30 Atlantic (aka 20:00 Newfoundland and/or 18:30 Eastern), not much else mattered to me. I had no explicit intent of booking this vacation during the opening week of Jeopardy!'s 33rd season, but indeed I had so booked it. Fortunately for me, I'm in close contact and on excellent terms with the dean of the J! press corps, and so I was alerted to the possibility of watching the first game of the new season a half hour ahead of when I otherwise might have. There didn't seem to be any rust on my own trivia game after the six-week hiatus and a weekend filled with travel and revelry. There not being much to do afterward, I settled in for the two Monday Night Football games and to get rested up for another day with significant travel on the itinerary...

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