The Milestone Celebration

Earlier this year my brother, sister, Pam and myself started to plan a big milestone (80th birthday party) celebration for our Mom. She lives in Granville Ferry, across the Annapolis River basin from Annapolis Royal, one of the oldest European settlements in North America.

Fort Anne sits at the point in Annapolis Royal with a commanding spot over-looking the Annapolis Basin. It’s a star-shaped, earth-walled fort that was built in the colonial times and passed from the French to the British a few times over its history.

The town itself has not changed much in 400+ years. It has only one traffic light and no fast food, or malls within 20 miles. The Saturday farmer’s market in town is the event of the week. Someone was working on a new dory on the wharf.

We had two parties for my Mom and the weather was beautiful for both days. The first one we held at a historic B&B in town, The Hillsdale Inn, for family and her friends. We even had a bag-piper play for the afternoon.

All of her relatives at the party gathered for this shot.

After folks started to leave we had an awesome game of croquet on the lawns there. Some games are just made for beer drinking.

The next day we had a second party for just the relatives in the community center near her house. The menu for this party was lobster.

My sister was a flurry of activity coordination and cooking for the parties, which she enjoys doing. For the rest of us, it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the time talking with each other.

Pam and I stayed at the Inn a couple of nights during the parties, but spent the rest of the time parked at Dunromin Campground, within walking distance to my Mom’s place. The spot we got was the same one my grandparents had there as a seasonal guest for years while I was growing up – pretty cool.

After the parties most folks needed to head home. We took our son to Halifax for his flight stopping at The Tangled Garden to restock our supply of mint jellies for future lamb dinners.

His flight was at 5am so we had a nice dinner in town at the Alexander Keith’s brewery and then dropped him off at the airport hotel before heading back to my Mom’s place.

We did some sight-seeing while we were there. Over the mountain is Parker’s Cove, a fishing village hidden back in the trees. The tide was out, exposing the rocks along the coast, where the tides here are 20 feet or more.

We also visited the Habitation, or Port Royal, the original French colony in Nova Scotia. I found out this trip that my great-grandfather was part of the crew that rebuilt the fort in the 1930s to become one of Canada’s first parks.

The inside of the fort is decorated as it would have been when it was being used by the French beaver trappers and traders at the time. The fort was raided at some point in its history by the British from Virginia, who took everything they could carry away. The French trappers were away and came back to a ransacked fort. The spent the winter with the local Indians and were restocked from France in the spring.

We also had lunch at the beautiful Luckett Vineyard. The food was as good as the view. The telephone booth in the vineyard allows you to call anyone in North America for free.

The evening view from my Mom’s kitchen is very nice. I refinished her deck this trip and the foam on the water due to the changing tides seems to glow in the evening twilight.

We had our fill of great home-made fish chowder, poutine and lobster during our visit, played some rousing hands of cards and dominoes, and with the favorable exchange rate things were not as expensive this stay. Pam and I are now heading towards our next set destination of this summer’s adventure – Minnesota.

Mad Dash to Nova Scotia

As we waited for the Roamer to be fixed we continued our exploration of the nearby Virginia area. We went back to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike around Otter Lake. The dam was constructed out of huge fitted rocks that lets the water cascade over.

We saw an otter, a muscrat and a harmless black snake hidden near the path that made Pam jump very high. On the other side of the James River are the old locks that were used for the cargo boats coming down Battle Creek.

We even saw a turtle making its way to a dead log in the James River to get a little sun and rest before setting off for the far bank.

We hoped that the Roamer would be finished on Friday, but no such luck. Pam and I spent the holiday weekend with her Uncle at his place on Smith Mountain Lake, along with his son’s family. They have a nine year-old girl, Leigh, so we became experts at the card game Sleeping Queens. Uncle Bill has a nice 21-foot runabout so we spent much of the time in and on the water.

One of the marinas on the lake had huge school of carp that would eat anything. Kids put peanut butter on their toes and let the fish suck it off, a “hillbilly pedicure”. There was a great fireworks show on the weekend which we enjoyed from the boat while floating out in the middle of the lake.

We got the Roamer back Monday evening just before they closed for the July 4th holiday. The destroyed axle was there to see, burnt oil and metal shavings draining out.

We filled up and headed north knowing we had about 26 hours of driving to do in two days. Due to our late start, the first night we spent in a truck stop on the West Virginia – Pennsylvania border. Our DEF sensor told us we had 800 miles to refill the reservoir or the truck won’t run – of course. We hit a Walmart on the way to pick some up because the next day was the 4th and we were not sure what would be open. After seeing the late night crowd in Walmart we figured the truck stop was a much better option.

The next day we blew through a lot of states. It’s great driving in the East because you feel like you’re really covering a lot of ground, passing through state after state every hour or so. We started in West Virginia, up through Pennsylvania, into New York, then Vermont and stopping in New Hampshire – wow. I guess you need to live out west to understand how different that is – to cross so many states in a single day.

We did stop for lunch and a break at my old school (RPI) in Troy, NY. It was the first time I had been back on campus since I graduated 34 years ago. I gave Pam a quick walking tour of the place. Some things are new, but much has not changed. Pam’s grandfather also attended RPI in the 20’s.

The second night was not going to be another truck stop, mostly because there are no east-west interstates in Vermont and New Hampshire – lol. We stopped the night at Pillsbury State Park in southern New Hampshire.

Our campsite was right on a lake with loons. It was a nice end to a long day of driving.

The next day we were up early and off again north. Maine doesn’t look that big until you drive it from south to north. We hit the border, declared everything we had to avoid a tear-down inspection delay. We ended up paying duty and taxes for the extra wine we had stored away, and would have consumed on the way up at our originally planned more leisurely pace. We made it to the Nova Scotia border in the early evening and the campground near my Mom’s place right around midnight.

We made it for my Mom’s birthday gathering with a couple of days to spare, and only a couple of days later than we had originally planned after spending 10 unplanned, but fun days in Lynchburg.