It was a nice leisurely day today, as I was within a few minutes of my next destination for the night. Pre-ride inspection showed that the tire repair is sound – tire pressure was maintained all day yesterday through the Cabot Trail and overnight. Loading up Fury, I headed for Big Pond. I didn’t bother with breakfast at the hotel as I intended to have lunch at Rita’s Tea House. This is the home of Rita McNeil that she turned into a tea house. When she would perform, she would invite people to come for tea in Cape Breton. So many people took her up on that, she created the tea house. It is absolutely beautiful and also has her story, photographs of her family and friends and a lovely gift shop.
By this point, I was there for the food first though. I felt rather grubby in this lovely setting, with my t-shirt and riding gear, but sat myself down at a table. Charlotte, the server, did not seem to mind my appearance and wasted no time making me feel at home. For that is how it feels there – very homey. I don’t know what kind of energy is running through this tea house, but I had a great deal of difficulty controlling my emotions. The best I can describe it is when you are hurting and someone is kind to you and it makes you just want to fall apart at the seams because you know it is a safe place. More than once, while having my lunch and wandering around later, I had to wipe my eyes. It seemed to me that Rita’s big-hearted spirit permeated the whole place and she was still there.
If you visit, read the menu for all the available options and then just order what Charlotte tells you to! I had the lobster roll with a side of the seafood chowder and both were the best I have had since entering the maritimes. I had Rita’s Blend tea with it and that was also brilliant. Everything is homemade and I was sorely tempted by dessert but felt too full. I wandered around the house, reading the story scrolls and looking at the pictures. Eventually made my way to the gift shop, and there was dessert! I could buy a bag of Rita’s oat cakes and have them for dessert when I was ready. So, I did. And had a great talk with Emery in the gift store as well. Such nice folks.
A welcome bonus for the day was a message from the RCMP detachment in Enfield that my purse was turned in to them! So I will retrieve it on my way back through Nova Scotia to PEI and thumb my nose at Murphy. Just a little bit though - wouldn't want him to take me too seriously....
It was beginning to spit rain when I left Rita’s Tea House, and I headed back towards North Sydney. I wanted to go to the Highland Village, but the forecast was for heavier rain and that was another hour in the opposite direction. I hope to get there on my way back through because it looks amazing. Changing my plan, I thought I might at least get to the Cape Breton Highlanders Museum, which is much closer to my motel. We weren’t long on the road before it really began to pour, so by the time I rode the hour back, I decided to go straight to the Highland Motel and see if I could check in an hour early. They had a room ready for me, so I checked in, unloaded Fury and hung my wet things to be ready for tomorrow. The motel is a basic, neat, clean motel for a very reasonable rate and I am happily installed for the night. Breakfast is also included for the morning.
I got into the bag of oat cakes and promptly ate about 10. I can justify that though – they are just little things, so really, you have to eat 3 to consider it one full cookie…..
Oat cake consumption was promptly followed by a nap. The rain has not let up one iota, so it will be a pizza delivery night from Alexandra's Pizza. I did not order a gigantic cookie this time, since I still have at least half a bag of oat cakes. Then some planning for the next leg of my journey and early to bed. Until tomorrow, my friends!
If Murphy is Irish, he is showing a distressing lack of familial consideration. It was just kind of an “off” day from the beginning. Yesterday’s misadventure was losing my purse somewhere along the way. NO idea how it could have happened, but it did. Fortunately, my purse was just along for the odd times that I was off the bike and my credit card and bank card were in my riding suit. Still, a couple of things to deal with there and I took care of that as soon as I discovered it was missing and tore the bike apart to make sure.
Today’s plan was to head up the Cabot Trail early (8-ish) and hopefully beat the tourist traffic and then see the Alexander Graham Bell historic site in Baddeck on the way back. In doing my pre-ride inspection, I discovered that Fury had a flat rear tire! Checked as carefully as I could but did not see a puncture or anything wrong, so I pulled out my handy-dandy compressor and filled it up. A lovely man from the hotel came over to ask about it and I told him the trouble. He helped me check again for punctures or leaks around the valve stem and, seeing nothing either, told me of a mechanic up the road a few kms. The tire seemed to be holding the air I had pumped in well enough that I thought I could limp my way that far. So, travelled along the highway at 70 kph with my hazard lights and found Shaun Cox Auto Service. The folks in the front end were very friendly and checked for me. Yes, they would take a look if I could wait a bit. Well, what else did I have to do but repair my baby. Shaun is my new hero. He found the puncture in about 3 seconds flat and repaired it in about 3 minutes for the outrageous cost of $8.00 (did I roll my eyes out loud?) and filled it up with air. I was back on the road by 11:00 and not letting it get to me too much. I have been on the road for 81 days now and this is the first set-back of this type that I’ve had, so I can hardly complain.
The Cabot Trail now became my priority so, stopping only to fill up with gas and grab a snack for the road, off we went. As anticipated, the traffic was outrageous. I was stuck behind several vehicles that I swear have never seen a curve before in their life and thought every one should be taken at 20 kph! So, the ride was not that enjoyable for the first half of the trail. There were some lovely views here and there, but the traffic demanded too much attention to take them in and the inclination to leave the road for a lookout and have to get back into the traffic was not appealing. After about an hour and a half of this, I was pretty frustrated, so pulled off and had a drink and a bite to eat.
By the time I got back on the road, it was about 2 p.m. and the traffic had thinned a bit. Despite several stretches of construction, the second half of the trail from Pleasant Bay to Cheticamp was much better. Not only that, the views were much more dramatic and I was able to pull on and off at the lookouts with relative ease. Last night I had remembered about The Red Shoe Pub (owned by the Rankin Family sisters) and discovered that it was about another hour out of my way to get to it in Mabou. Over the day I had been debating it because I knew it would have me on the road later in the evening that I normally prefer to travel. In the end, I decided to listen to the voices and go.
So instead of turning back towards the hotel, I continued a bit further down the trail to Mabou – Home of the Rankin Family, as the sign says. I parked the bike right in front of The Red Shoe Pub. As I parked the bike, I laughed at the ice cream trailer across the road - Rolling Cones. They really have some hilarious and clever business names out here. The other day, the decor shop in Chester called "Going Coastal" threw me into paroxysms of hilarity.
When I entered The Red Shoe Pub, all the heads in the place turned toward the door. I smiled and ONE young man smiled back. The rest of the place looked at me like I was the local gunslinger come in to call someone out. I sidled to a table against the wall (‘cause us gunslingers gotta keep our backs to the wall) and ordered sticky chocolate date cake with whipped cream. Not very gunslinger-ish, but this is a new age. It was very yummy cake. While I was having it, a couple from New Hampshire sat at the table close to me and I struck up a bit of a conversation with them. Finishing my cake, I wanted to take a picture of the sign behind one of the tables. Fortunately for me, it was behind the table with the one young man who had smiled when I came in! And so, I met the Becks family – Harry, Jeanie, Anika, Chris and Katie. They were very friendly folks and we had a fun little visit before I left. This encounter restored my equilibrium for the day, so thank you Becks family! Guess gunslingers aren't so bad after all!
I toured around Mabou a bit and found a pretty church to take a picture of. There were many pretty scenes there, actually, but I enjoyed riding around rather than taking pictures. Leaving Mabou, I took Hwy 252. Didn’t really know for sure where it might dump me out, but it went the direction we should be going, so I took it. It was a gorgeous, curvy little road with pretty scenes and devoid of traffic! It did my ruffled soul a lot of good.
One of the things that had been bothering me the last couple of days was that I had not found the right place to leave Tracey’s ashes in Nova Scotia. I had thought the Cabot Trail would be the obvious place, but it didn’t feel right and she was not there with me today. Then, as I approached a curve, I could have sworn I heard her voice say “right here”. Just around the curve was the most beautiful, serene scene I have seen in a long time – a large pond, with a bridge in the background – actually the end of the Mabou Harbour, I think. I immediately pulled over and saw a bald eagle atop a dead tree and it all felt right. I took a picture of this scene to carry along with me and left some ashes there for Tracey. The eagle flew off and the feeling of peace descended on me again, having completed my important task for her. Though it also left me feeling very lonesome.
The little road continued to be delightful and Fury and I thoroughly enjoyed swinging through the curves unhindered by other vehicles. Eventually, we joined back up with Hwy 105 that would take us back to Boularderie Island, where the motel is. The highway was also fairly traffic-free, so Fury and I unfurled our own wings and flew down the highway, letting the last of our cares pass like the miles. I absolutely love coming around the last curve before the huge bridge that brings you across to Boularderie Island. There’s something exhilarating to me about sailing around a curve and climbing a hill onto a big bridge. We were back in time to see the sun set, which is my view from the motel room.
I’m so glad I found this motel and booked it. There are two on this little stretch of road and this one is the Inn of Victoria County (shows as Travels Inn online). The sign on the road just says Motel. The rooms are spacious and clean and there is a continental breakfast of bagels and pastries and coffee and stuff. Price is more reasonable than many in the area as well. It was great to stay two nights and not have to do the Cabot Trail with all my gear loaded up. Tomorrow it is on to new discoveries.
Had a fun day today. Got up in decent time and Reg and Ella took me over to Eastern Passage to toodle around Fisherman’s Cove. There is a really nice little boardwalk there and a bunch of cutie little shops and eateries. We had a fun time poking around for awhile. Lots of pirate displays as Pirate Fest was starting today. We didn’t hang around for the bouncy castles or the hangover breakfast. Instead, we headed back towards Halifax for lunch. We went to Fries & Co, which is their favourite fish and chips place and it was fabulous! It was the best fish and chips I have had and a 3-piece order fed all of us and we couldn’t finish the fries. So there’s value for you!
Heading back to Reg and Ella’s, I assembled my stuff, lubed Fury’s chain and loaded everything up. With 4.5 hours of riding to do by day’s end, I didn’t rush, but didn’t dawdle either. I did take a couple of side roads just because they had interesting names. One of these was Vinegar Hill Road. It was paved, but quite rough, and eventually I ran out of pavement so I turned around and headed back. It was a lovely, rural road with tall crops of corn and cattle out in pasture. It was a pretty day, too, so all it all it was a nice little detour.
Outside of a couple of little roads like that, I pretty much just rode the rest of the day away. Crossing the causeway to Cape Breton was neat. Traffic was stopped at the steel bridge and as I watched, it turned to open the canal and let a double-masted sailboat through. Despite the delay, it was very cool to see. The day was getting pretty chilly by now, but with only another hour or so to go, I didn’t bother pulling over to add a layer. With another 20 minutes to go after Baddeck though, the road really snuggled up to the coast and the temperature dropped about 10 degress, so the last stretch was pretty darn chilly! Arrived in good time, unloaded the bike and am looking forward to a good sleep tonight before seeing some all-new road tomorrow!
It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit today! After making sure we got pictures of Patricia with the Fury, I headed out to meet Art, who lives along the road to Peggy’s Cove. He is my brother-in-law’s (Terry’s) brother. I met Art and his son Trevor at their place and we had such a good conversation over coffee that I wasn’t paying attention to the time and more of it ran away than I had planned. But it was totally worth it and I texted Terry’s other brother, Reg to tell him and Ella that I would be arriving at their place at the end of the day later than originally planned.
Being already half-way there, it didn’t take long to get to Peggy’s Cove. The road out winds through several small villages and has one beautiful view after another. This is a good thing, because it is also covered with traffic – the views are so lovely you don’t mind going slow. In the back of my mind, I could hear someone telling me “make sure you stop and visit the……along the way”, but could not recall what. I knew when I came upon it though – it was the Swiss Air Flight 111 memorial. On September 2, 1998, this flight crashed into the Atlantic between Peggy’s Cove and Bayswater, Nova Scotia. All 229 people on board were killed. The memorial stands atop a hill along a boulder-strewn path that looks like a Viking shore, overlooking the Atlantic. Very powerful site.
It was at this site that I met Mike, his daughter Stephanie and “the London giant” Alex. 😊 (He was a tall lad). They were pretty stoked about my adventure and we had a great time chatting! It’s always fun to meet people who are excited about the adventure.
Carrying on down the road, I arrived at Peggy’s Cove, which was extremely busy with tourist traffic. I found a spot to park in the lot fairly easily though, as there is always someone who parks over a line and leaves enough room for a bike where a car can’t do it. While the lighthouse is very picturesque, it was not the lighthouse that made Peggy’s Cove special for me – it was the rocks and the ocean. The massive granite shore is quite the site to behold and then walking up the rocks towards the lighthouse, you are greeted by the power of the ocean. Then, as I walked further and over the other side, even more beauty. As always, I was captivated by the surf crashing onto the rocks. The Atlantic ocean has a very different feel than the Pacific – wilder and thrilling, while letting you know without a doubt who is in control in this environment. I spent more time than I planned to just sitting on the rocks letting the ocean hypnotize me.
When I came to my sense of time, I realized I would not make Lunenberg today, so I determined to ride onto Chester, which was only another 40 minutes up the road. As we headed out, the fog rolled in and we darted in and out of the fog as we navigated the beautiful, twisty road to Chester. It was exhilarating to fly along through all the pretty little villages, cloaked in fog. I felt like a pirate – pressing through the fog to sneak up on the next village to fall prey to our adventure!
Arriving in Chester, I thought I should stop at the Fo’c’sle, which claims to be Nova Scotia’s oldest pub, established in 1764. While waiting for my bite to eat, I heard the people at the next table say something about travelling the country and one guy said “you should do it on your motorcycle”. I inserted myself into their conversation by saying “It takes about 4 months!” and so met Sheldon, Ron and Cale. They were also keen to hear about the adventure. Cale and his girlfriend have done much more adventurous travelling through foreign countries – South America, I believe he said.
While we were chatting, my small bowl of soup arrived, along with the carrot/cheesecake layer cake…..why have I never thought of this?! Both the seafood chowder and the cake were delicious.
It had begun to rain while I took my break, and the sky had darkened dramatically. I looked at Fury and said “well, what do you think?” She just growled “I am a dragon, with a pirate on my back. Nothing shall bar our path today!” (I might have been letting my imagination run away with me. 😊). So we gathered our booty of twisty roads and beautiful views and pictures, and off we went.
By the time we were back on the road, it had started to pelt us pretty good. It seems Mother Nature sees fit to end every day with a soaking just to make sure we are paying attention. After a few minutes, as we rode back towards Halifax the rain stopped and the roads dried. And a dense fog settled in. Welcome to the east coast.
Arriving at Reg and Ella’s about 6:00 p.m., I called to tell them I had arrived and in doing so, realized I had texted the wrong number earlier in the day! So I felt like a real heel because of course, they never got the message that I would be 2 hours later than expected! Their grandson Logan is visiting and was probably cursing me for delaying dinner. My sin was graciously forgiven and Fury is tucked safely away in the underground parking. Since I had spoiled the plans for going out for dinner, Ella prepared an impromptu frittata with fresh tomatoes and all kinds of good things. We had a good visit before and over dinner and then had a walk around the harbour front to walk off the day’s ride. Fruit salad and frozen yogurt have proven a great way to end the day! Time for some R & R now. Until tomorrow, adventure-seekers!
Today I got up early with an ambitious plan of doing a bit of a loop from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove to the Annapolis valley, but with the realistic knowledge that I would probably get one or the other of those areas travelled. While suiting up to go, I decided it made sense to start with the Annapolis valley. I knew the weather wasn’t going to hold out all day and of those two destinations, it is easy to get to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenberg from Andrew and Patricia’s.
I headed north with the objective of visiting Halls Harbour, The Lookoff, the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum and possibly getting as far as Digby. The ride up to Halls Harbour was beautiful. Halls Harbour is a tiny community right on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. There is a lobster restaurant and gift shop there called The Lobster Pound. I was too early in the day and it wasn’t open yet, but it has good reviews, so I’d give it a go if you are in the area. I spent some time wandering the short pier and lookout before getting back on Fury and heading out again.
I back-tracked a bit to get to The Lookoff, which I expected to be an elevated viewpoint. It turned out to be a community. I assume itwas called The Lookoff for the spectacular view of the Annapolis valley below. And it was spectacular.
Heading down from The Lookoff, I set google maps for Greenwood. Having taken the road to Halls Harbour, I was routed down Hwy 221 instead of back to the main road, which was all to the good. This lovely rural road was in good shape, with only a few stretches of rough pavement. It trailed me delightfully through crops, cattle farms, orchards and vineyards. As I was riding, I was thinking that you don’t have to go just to PEI for red roads – the soil is already appearing red around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Along the way, I discovered the Northville Farm Heritage Centre. It also was not open, but the gate was open, so I was able to park Fury and wander the grounds, taking some pictures here and there and peeking into the windows of the buildings. It was pretty neat – lots of old equipment and setups from the “old” days.
Eventually, I made it to Kingston and over to the Greenwood Aviation Military Museum. This is a fabulous display of military aircraft used during the wars, the airmen and women who flew them and personal stories from the WWII. It was very emotional to read the stories and see the displays – it makes it seem so real and one feels the atmosphere of the war – the tragedy and quiet bravery of those who fought. There were also displays of the various medals awarded to soldiers and explanations of them that I thought was so interesting. Stepping outside, there are several military planes on display around the grounds. Quite fascinating to see them up close and personal.
It was time to find some lunch after the aviation museum. On my way to the Green Elephant restaurant, I spotted a Honda store. Knowing I needed some more chain lube, I went into the shop. The product was not easily found and as no one seemed to have the time of day for me, I left and went for lunch.
It had started to rain when I left the aviation museum and by the time I was done having lunch, it was still spitting a bit. With Digby still more than an hour away and the weather forecasting rain in that direction, I decided it was time to head back to Halifax. A few minutes down the road and it began to rain in earnest. I stopped at the Tim’s in Berwick to change out my jacket and have a tea in hopes of it letting up. As I entered the shop, some locals were sitting having a coffee and they joked and talked with me for a while. One gentleman was able to suggest some shipping options for me to check out as well. By the time I was done my tea, the rain had let up, so I headed out again.
Mother Nature was just teasing us though – we were only out for another 10 minutes before it began to rain again and poured on us pretty steadily all the way back to Halifax. Only a few minutes shy of our destination, I spotted a Canadian Tire store and was able to get off the highway to find it and get a can of chain lube. Riding the last 20 minutes to Patricia and Andrew’s, I arrived in time to have a quick shower, fix my helmet hair and go for dinner with them! We went to the Five Fishermen in downtown Halifax and had a great meal. Time to crash and burn so we can continue our adventures tomorrow! Thanks for joining me, my friends!
Patricia and Andrew and I went on a little history tour of Halifax today. Such an interesting day. We started with the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, which has a section with 150 graves of people drowned when the Titanic sank. The White Star Line, to whom the Titanic belonged, commissioned four Canadian ships to recover as many bodies as possible from the disastrous event. These ships found 328 bodies. Many were buried at sea, but 209 were returned to Halifax. Many were unidentified and their markers simply state the date of their death and the number assigned to them as they were found. Very careful notes were made of the victims, their personal items and clothing, and of the 150 buried in Halifax, only 40 remain unidentified.
Among the stones are more prominent ones, where the family or friends of the victims had augmented the basic memorial stones provided by White Start Line to identify their loved ones. One of the most prominent of these was the stone of Ernest Freeman. Ernest was the Chief Steward of the ship and one of the owner’s favourite employees. Freeman argued with Ismay that his boss should be the one to get on the lifeboat because someone would need to deal with the media and the families of victims. Freeman stayed on the ship to help get people onto life rafts and went down with the ship. Ismay had the headstone erected to honor Freeman to “commemorate a long and faithful service”. It was both fascinating and extremely moving to walk among the graves of such a monumental loss of life.
On our next stop was at the Mont-Blanc Anchor Site. On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the narrows of the Halifax harbour. The French vessel, the SS Mont-Blanc, was laden with explosives. The collision caused a fire and, knowing what the ship was loaded with, all hands abandoned ship. The French ship, of course, exploded and threw steel and detritus in all directions. Such was the force of the explosion that a piece of the anchor was thrown almost three miles from the harbour to this location. Over 2000 people were killed in the accident – many of them were bystanders who were injured or killed by the debris. Something like 691 victims were blinded by the glass blown out of the windows of nearby buildings. The need to deal with this crisis was such that the government established an organization to deal with it. This was the birth of the CNIB.
One of the inspirational stories of this tragedy was that of Vince Coleman. He was a train dispatcher for the CNR. He and his colleague were warned of the impending explosion that would result from the SS Mont-Blanc being on fire. Knowing there was a train due shortly with over 300 people on board, Vince Coleman took the time to send a dispatch to the train to tell them to stop out of range of the explosion. He then continued to send warnings along the rail line to all trains bound for Halifax. This act cost him his life as his final message was sent: "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys." A Canadian heritage minute re-enactment can been seen on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw-FbwmzPKo
Our final stop of the day was at Pier 21 – the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Another fabulous and thought-provoking exhibit. Pier 21 was the major immigration centre of Canada from 1928 to 1971. The stories of immigrants and refugees are tragic and inspiring all at once. We can never relate to the set of circumstances, fear and desperation that leads people to abandon everything they own, get into a fishing boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean and hope to be received favourably by the country they land in. Then to face the discrimination and hardship of re-establishing your family in a foreign country with a different language and culture. I hope we never do have to relate. My favourite part of this exhibit was the Myth/Fact bits throughout the museum. So often I see the limited, narrow statements of what trouble “immigrants” cause by coming to our country and it is just wrong. I challenge you to listen to their stories of heartbreak and loss and say they don’t deserve to make a life here. I challenge everyone to arm themselves with facts rather than Facebook memes to better understand what actually goes on in our immigration process, and to look back on history and realize the contribution of immigrants to the development and growth of our country – right back to our own ancestors.
On the way out of Pier 21, we took a quick peek into the gift shop where I was seduced by Peace by Chocolate. This was begun by a Syrian refugee family who had been chocolatiers in their home country. They began by making the chocolates in a shed in their yard for the local community they arrived in - Antigonish. They have grown their company so they are now able to produce their chocolates from a factory and employing 20 people. They were financially independent within their first year of operations. A true success story of perserverance and determination. Yes, clearly immigrants are a burden to our society (insert sarcasm here....).
We wrapped up our day with a short stroll down the Halifax harbour waterfront. A perfect conclusion to our afternoon. Returning home at a reasonable hour, we had time for a cocktail and some chill time before Andrew called us to table for yet another fabulous dinner of salmon, pasta and asparagus with dill sauce. Life is tough. I might actually get this blog posted so I can get to bed in decent time tonight. Looking forward to more explorations tomorrow.
Also included today, as I forgot yesterday, are the photos of me not being a dog person…the dogs don’t seem to know it.
Today was a day of discovery. In spite of heading out a bit later than expected, I managed to see quite a lot as I toodled my way south to Halifax. The plan was to arrive at Patricia and Andrew’s in the early evening.
Woke with a headache, so even though I rose at 8:00 a.m., it took me a while to get going. While checking out Fury, I met Catherine and Jeff. They are from Vancouver, but were out east visiting their daughter who has recently moved to New Brunswick. Of course, Catherine and Jeff are taking advantage of the opportunity to see more of the east coast while they are here. They joined me for the breakfast included in our room charge and we had a grand visit over our bagels and coffee before heading out on the road.
I arrived just over the border of Nova Scotia last night and the “Welcome to Nova Scotia” sign was so impressive, I had to zip back the few kilometers to take a picture of it this morning when there was enough light. That task accomplished, Fury and I took all the side roads we could find that would eventually lead us to Springhill, Nova Scotia. This was the hometown of Anne Murray and a stop at the Anne Murray Centre was a must. The exhibit was pretty neat, with mementos from her childhood and early life all the way to her awards and platinum records. I did not know that Anne Murray was the first Canadian female artist to make #1 on the American charts and the first Canadian ever to receive a gold record. I didn’t watch the video at the entrance and felt like I missed the story of her discovery. I filled in the gaps from Wikipedia at this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Murray.
On the way to the Anne Murray Centre, I noticed signs for “Tour and Underground Mine” and recalled hearing about a coal mine that could be toured in Springhill as well. After finishing up with Anne, I went across the street to have some lunch at Sociables and then followed the signs to the mine.
The Springhill Miner’s Museum is set up to memorialize the miners who were killed in the 1891, 1956 and 1958 disasters and it is truly a destination that should be on your list of things to see in Nova Scotia. Upon entering the shop and paying admission, you choose a tag with a number on it and have a chance to view the small museum while awaiting the tour into the mine shaft. The display is very interesting, with displays of the different tools used over time and articles about the mining tragedies that took place in Springhill. An explosion in 1956 and a “bump” in 1958 killed 109 miners. I learned that a “bump” is when a small destabilization (like and earthquake), causes the mine floor to rise and “bump” the ceiling of the mine. Some miners were killed and others were trapped without light and air while awaiting rescue.
There are two tour guides – Tony and Justin that conduct the tours into the mines. Tony was our tour guide today. It started at the wash house where the miners would prepare for work by changing into their mine clothes to start their shift and then shower and change back to their street clothes after. The wash house, back in the day, would have been wall-to-wall showers, so the men would hang their clothes on hooks and hoist them up to the ceiling to keep them dry. These hooks would also keep their water cans and “piece” cans that would have their lunch for their 8-hour shift. Draegermen were specially trained miners who were given goggles, clamp-style nose-plugs and a breathing apparatus and trained to rescue miners who were in trouble. These men were volunteers and received no extra pay or compensation for this specialty and dangerous task. Tony told us that the nose-plugs were made from asbestos, which of course, at the time, was not known to be harmful.
Moving outside, we saw the mine carts that travelled in and out of the mine shaft, carrying approximately one ton of coal each. At the beginning and end of the day, there would be a couple of carts with seats that would carry 6 men each down into the farther reaches of the mine. Tony said the coal seams might be only a few feet deep, but would extend to great distances horizontally, so they would work a seam back until it was exhausted, leaving pillars to support the ceiling. I was impressed with the ingenuity of the mechanical undercutter that was like a coal chain saw that was used in later years. This could undercut the coal seam, which would then be drilled and blasted to make it easier to mine.
Moving on to the lamp house, we were shown how each miner had a brass tag with a number to put on the board at the beginning of his shift. He would then retrieve his battery operated lamp with his number on it. These lamps were charged with an acid battery (like a car battery) and had to be properly sealed so as not to create a spark underground with the coal.
I asked if the miners had steel-toed boots and he said yes, they did, but they would cover the leather with brass tacks. This was done so that when they were working on their knees, the leather on the toes would not wear down and expose the steel toes of the boots and create the risk of spark underground. There were 3 shafts into the coal seam – a front shaft for delivering the miners and ore in and out, a back shaft for emergency exit and an air shaft to allow fresh air into the shaft and dispel the methane gas so it was “safe” to mine the coal.
The mine shaft was cool and dark and close. While lit for touring purposes now, at one point, Tony turned the light off to show us what it would have been like for the miners trapped in there. With the small amount of light generated by the miner’s lamps, the shaft would have been a terrible enough place to work. I can’t imagine doing an 8-hour shift in there six days a week for about $12 a day. Back-breaking work in terrible conditions.
After leaving the mine shaft, we returned to the museum and gift shop and turned in our tags. Each tag was the name of a real miner and the staff lady showed me what had happened to miner 981, who had the number on my tag. Harold Emree was killed in the 1958 mine bump and left a wife and 10 children. The visit was profound and amazing and I can recommend this visit to everyone whole-heartedly.
I got back on the road with every intention of heading straight to Patricia and Andrew’s. Then, on my way through Parrsboro, I saw a sign for the “Fundy Geological Museum”, with a dinosaur on it…..no brainer. They have some amazing fossils and rock displays at this museum, along with great story boards and some interactive stuff for kids (big kids, too 😊). Nova Scotia is a bit unique in it’s representation of every rock type imaginable and the variety and age of fossils found in the region. I was not aware of the fossil region here and found it quite riveting. Definitely worth the stop and an hour’s delay.
Arriving at Patricia and Andrew’s shortly after 7:00 p.m., I was welcomed warmly and shown to yet another fabulous room! I was further spoiled by a very yummy Patricia Cocktail, followed by Andrew’s steak and lobster dinner. Being informed that there was blueberry cobbler for dessert, I was careful to leave room. I’m not sure common life will do, after this! Fur babies Scout and Zena appear to have decided I will do, so far as company goes. I would swear to you that I’m not a “dog person”, but it is not apparent from the pictures below.
We are heading out to explore a bit of Halifax tomorrow, so I had best get some sleep for the adventure!