Today’s mission was to get up and around the north and west shore of PEI. As rain was a possibility mid-afternoon, I headed out shortly after 8:00 a.m. It was a cool morning and fall is definitely in the air, with the odd tree showing gold or red leaves. Still, it was a bit milder than yesterday and I was prepared for it.
It took a bit of time to get off the main highway, but I took the first opportunity to do so and headed for the road that ran along the water wherever possible. These roads are practically deserted and a pleasure to cruise along with the farms and ocean and curves here and there. Today I saw the first canola crop I’ve seen on the island, as well as some dairy farms. I also rode by many little inlets with their mussel beds (now that I know what all the little buoys out in the water are). PEI is famous for its mussels and so they are cultivated quite avidly.
Fury and I also sailed along an area of peat bogs on our way north as well. This fascinated me all over again after learning about them in New Brunswick. Again, that feeling of riding along on top of something that is just floating on the water – which isn’t altogether incorrect. I find it interesting how the vegetation changes in these areas. Took a little detour to Tignish and enjoyed some quiet time reading about the fishing industry there and sitting on the rocks listening to the ocean.
I have seen lots of blue jays in my travels around PEI. Which makes sense, since it is the provincial bird. They are a different jay from the stellar jays we have in BC, and are pretty photo-elusive when you are on a motorcycle. I have seen ravens regularly as well, but the blue jays seem to be at least equal in number.
We continued to travel north until we reached the North Point Lightstation. While I have seen several windmills across the island as well, the North Point Lightstation has many of them, generating power for the island. The lighthouse is a functioning one as well and the point is a beautiful, wind-whipped shore. You will have lots of red coastline to see in pictures today because I couldn’t decide which ones I liked best! While wandering the Black Marsh Nature Trail, I saw a tiny little blue bird sitting on the side of the red cliff – cutest thing ever. It looked like a wee blue jay - I saw it as clear as day, but my phone doesn’t take zoom photos very well. The crickets were chirping away in the long grasses of the shore and there were tons of cormorants coasting along in the water. Cormorants seem to be the dominant sea bird in the east, where it is seagulls in the west. There were some story boards set up at the beginning of the trail and one of the stories was about a German u-boat that was on a mission to rescue some German naval officer PoWs that were to escape a prisoner camp near Fredricton. The sub disappeared in the waters of the North Cape and after 3 days of no contact, the was determined to have been lost. The boat and its crew of 47 have never been found.
As I travelled through Norway on my way to Skinners Pond, it struck me as funny that I could say I travelled to Norway and Toronto in the last couple of days. Didn’t know there were communities on PEI with those names.
Skinners Pond was, for a time, home to Stompin’ Tom Connors, and there is a sizeable centre in Skinners Pond in his honour, with an exhibit, an old school house which he attended, and the house he lived in. There is also a large performance hall and a food vendor there. While I knew he was a famous Canadian musician, I didn’t know about his story until I heard it as part of the show in Charlottetown that I attended. He was one of the artists featured in Tara MacLean’s Atlantic Blues production. Though I had planned to visit Skinners Pond and check out the centre, the presentation at her show heightened my curiosity. Tom’s is a story of overcoming adversity in just about every form. He was born to an unwed mother in the late 30s, and knew little besides poverty and hunger until he was put in an orphanage at the age of 8. Eventually, he was adopted by a farm family and spent the next few years running away periodically, until he left for good at the age of 14. He hitchhiked all over Canada, worked at whatever jobs he could find and wrote songs, played guitar and sang whenever he got a chance, always on the move. He wrote about the people and places he had been and worked and was fiercely proud of Canada.
Stompin’ Tom Connors got his name for his habit of stomping his cowboy boot on the stage to keep time and it became his signature when he made it big. Despite having many records go #1 on the charts, and gold records beyond number, he never performed outside of Canada. He boycotted the Junos and returned all of his Junos in protest against them being awarded to Canadian artists who had left the country. He was quoted as saying "Losing our talent to the benefit of the United States or any other country doesn't do a damn thing for this country or anybody in it." He advocated for support of the Canadian music industry to help up and coming artists to keep them working in this country’s music community. Stompin’ Tom also created the label A-C-T to help Canadian artists get recognized and recorded. All-in-all, it was an educational and inspiring story. It was also validating for me, since I set out on this adventure on purpose to explore and learn about my own country. I have found much to be proud of.
Not far out of Skinners Pond, I stopped at the little harbour town of Miminegash. It is clearly a working harbour and I rode around it before stopping for lunch. The smell of burgers from the gas station restaurant was too much for me and breakfast had been a long time before. They didn’t disappoint, serving a good, homemade burger.
By the time I headed out again, it was spitting rain a bit, so I threw on my waterproof pants just in case it decided to get serious. The rain did pick up a bit as I travelled south (on Hwy 14 east…..sheesh), but it still wasn’t too bad. It had been windy most of the day, so that was nothing new, and we finished our loop down to West Point. The lighthouse at West Point is actually an Inn and museum and sits next to a provincial park. At least I think it was “next to”, because I didn’t have to pass the park gate to enter. I didn’t intend to pay a park fee for a day just for the privilege of taking a picture of the lighthouse. At that point, the rain and wind were steady and it wasn’t walking-about- on-the beach weather. I’m hoping reasonable weather will hang in there for another few days as we bring our adventure to a close.
The rain and wind pursued us for another half and hour or so, but we rode out of it eventually and made it back to warmth, stopping only to grab a couple of yogurts for tomorrow morning. I was in hot bath by 5:00 p.m. and have most of my stuff gathered up and ready to load in the morning. Fury and I have almost circumnavigated the province. Considering how small PEI is, that may not seem like such a big deal, but how often do you get to use the word “circumnavigated”?!
Another harbinger of fall, the geese have flown over honking away in flocks. So until tomorrow, my friends, ride safe and may the wind be ever at your back.