I love Heritage Minutes, this one especially because the thought of fish so plentiful that the ships were slowed always makes me chuckle…then I wonder at our ability to catch those fish in such numbers that by 1992 the stocks were so drastically low that the Canadian Government declared a ban on the commercial cod fishery.

Many communities on Cape Breton Island were settled by people keen to take those fish out of the water but it was the Harbour at Louisbourg that became one of France’s most important colonial trading posts in 1719.

The British wanted control of Quebec, they wanted control of trade North America and in 1758 they knew that the key to getting down the St. Lawrence River to capture Quebec city was to first take Louisbourg.  July 1758 wasn’t the first time that Louisbourg was attacked by the British but it was the last.

Gratuitous use of an old map...because I love them.

After the British were successful in vanquishing the French from Louisbiurg they destroyed the fortress so that the French would be unable to return.  The town of Louisbourg remained and slowly grew around the ruins of the fortress.  Louisbourg became a town based on fishery and fish processing and suffered financially in the early 1990’s when the cod were no longer slowing the progress of ships in the North Atlantic.

In the 1930’s my paternal grandparents lived in nearby Sydney, and on their first date shared a picnic on the grounds of the Fortresses ruins.  Years later, in the late ’40’s my grandfather became the manager of the Louisbourg branch of the Royal Bank of Canada.  It was at the age of 11 that my father claims to have first seen the sun; my grandfather had been transferred to manage a bank on Nova Scotia’s South shore.

This is where my father’s family lived in Louisbourg.  Note that this photograph was taken mid-day in July.

The National Parks Service of Canada took on reconstruction of the Fortress of Louisbourg in the 1960’s.  Today the Fortress stands as an incredibly detailed monument to the lives of the people who lived there in the 18th century.

This summer we had the opportunity to view a reenactment of the seige.   I love reenactments!

When the Scots arrive the enemy should just run away.

It is kind of amazing that they even FOUND the fortress.

It is kind of amazing that they even FOUND the fortress.

more fog, and a bit of rain.

more fog, and a bit of rain

The best view of the action was from this perch on top of an overturned dory.

The best view of the action was from this perch on top of an overturned dory.

I am from Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.  I was born there, lived a bunch of years on Prince Edward Island but graduated from high school in Sydney Mines; it is a pretty nice place to be from.

The town of Sydney Mines was founded in 1784 by coal miners and the companies that employed them, this town’s people supplied the fuel of the industrial revolution. I am not sure when coal fired power generators went out of favour but I do know that since coal mining left Sydney Mines in the 1970’s there has been a struggle against high unemployment and declining population as young families leave the area for employment in the west.

There were a few moments during my visit to Cape Breton when I felt a strong urge to move back to my home town so that I could raise my children in a place where I have generations of family history.  The feeling passed when I remembered that there is no privacy in a small town.  I like to live in a place where I can be an asshat once in a while and nobody knows me well enough to bother gossiping about it.

One of my favorite places in Sydney Mines is known by locals know as the Barracks but it is officially called Fort Chaple Point.  Originally chosen in 1849 as a point of security for the massive amounts of coal being shipped from Sydney Harbour, the first members of the local militia were also mine employees.

The relics found on Chaple Point are the remains of a defense system built in the early days of the first World War in order to protect Sydney Harbour from a submarine attack by the Germans.

Every generation of kids in Sydney Mines has used this spot as a pretend castle, smoking hide out and general trouble making place. I picked up most of my good swear words from the graffiti on the walls of this main building. The first time I ever tasted beer was here, and I made out with at least one boyfriend in the shelter of those musty smelling walls.

The Barracks are romantic like moody Scottish moores. I lived in a house about a quarter of a mile from this spot and when nights were heavy with fog and the smell of coal fires I could hear the foghorn through my open window.  There were many late nights I would leave my bed and come here to do my moody teenaged stomping around.

image property of Organic Media

image property of Organic Media

I love this picture, until recently I had not realised that the roof of the fortress had been peaked in the 1940’s.

The observation building today.

Here is where the guns that would have blown up the German subs were mounted.  The subs never made shore.  We scared them off!

These structures were searchlight housing, there were three of these on each side of the harbour. The Germans wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Observe the 29 Steps of Doom.  The most frightening spot in the whole town.  I didn’t know what was down those steps but I knew that you could die if went down too far. Based on the smell from down there I suspect that the doom comes in the form of a bio-hazard.

The Barracks overlook Lochmans beach.  The land is entirely undeveloped and I love seeing the natural vegetation of the town flourish here.

Wild blueberries are so small in Nova Scotia, and they are the best I have ever tasted.

Wild blueberries are so small in Nova Scotia, and they are the best I have ever tasted. Hanna and I feasted on fist fulls of ripe ones on the day we visited.

I was pretty excited to find that the history of Chapel Point and it’s sister site has been recorded online. Over the years neighbors to the area there have campaigned the local govrenment preserve the history and buildings of this amazing spot. I don’t know were the salvation of these structures will come from, weather it will  be public or private iniative but, if this property were located in Vancouver the observation building would be developed for condos and with granite countertops installed they would list for $350 thousand dollars each.

With a stash of left over miracle pizza from Giordanos hidden from Canada Customs in our cooler Hanna, Fox and I set out from Paw Paw, Michigan (I love saying that I went to Paw Paw) headed towards Montreal.

Our first stop upon crossing the border at Detroit/Windsor was of Tim Hortons for some Ice Cappuccino and Honey Crullers.

Our first stop upon returning to our home and native land was Charleston Lake Provincial Park, this fantastic natural park was recommended to us by family members who have camped there for many years.  We pulled in late at night; as we were approaching the campground Fox asked me if there were any bears, Hanna asked me if there were any ticks and I hoped that there were no mosquitoes.  Our first inauspicious sign looked a lot like this one:

There were so many fantastic signs in strange places this summer. I wish that I had photographed more of them.

I certainly can’t say that I was thrilled that snakes might be so abundant in this area that I would have a likely chance of running one over.   Upon pulling up to the campers registration I was greeted with three warning signs.  Beware of Bears!  Beware of Ticks!  Beware of Mosquitoes!  Fortunately I had left Hanna and Fox back in the car so that I got to manage that moment of horror all by myself.

In spite of our fears and warnings of creatures great and small I would love to someday return to Charleston Lake, it is a beautiful spot.

Hanna in Charleston Lake

Hanna in Charleston Lake

It was a glorious and sunny day when we awoke the next morning…and I am glad that we took the time to enjoy it because it was our last nice day for a rather long time.

Our next stop was Montreal and a two day stay with my brother Andrew,  his girlfriend Sabrina and her family. We horsed around a bit with Kahlua, the super horse.

We are not really very horsey people. Really we just aren’t horsey people at all. But, we love almost any animal enough to want to get in close enough for a snuggle.  This animal has the added bonus that she will let you hop on a take a ride.

I had never realised how much Hanna looks like my little brother until I started looking at this picture.  They are so cute!

Andrew loves to have some fun, he is pretty adorable.

There is a moose in this hoose.

There is a moose in this hoose.

This is Sabrina, how sweet is she?!

After spending 2 hours lost on the highways in Montreal I was happy enough to not do much driving while I was there. We spent most of our visit to Montreal between the barn and our host’s home doing wonderfully ordinary things like showering and sitting on a sofa.  Pretty nice after 13 nights in a tent.

Summer is readin’ season and this one ended with filled iPods and canvas bags crammed full of the stories that filled up our summer.

Most of our road trip towards the East Coast was driven in the company of Jim Dale, who read to us the full Harry Potter series.  Hanna had read the series a number of times and finally convinced me that my life was incomplete until I fully understood the epic battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.

The Potter series was perfect for our family on this journey, all three of us were captivated for what could have been some wretched car hours.  After years of resisting this cultural potterwave, I am glad to have given in and paid Potter some attention. I am a dedicated fan from here on in.

Click on cover photographs to link to reviews or information on these books:

Fox has only recently been interested in reading for pleasure, and I am glad that he loves some of my old favorite characters; Henry Huggins and that dog Ribsey.

Hanna’s new favorite reading is the Warriors series.  A series about clans of feral domesticated cats living in a world of complicated wild cat culture.  I lost count of how many of these books she read this summer, but I can tell you that we had to make a lot of stops to find a book store.

One of our principle destinations on our West to East road trip was a stop at the Laura Ingalls Homestead, in De Smet, South Dakota. Finally I was able to get Hanna to start reading the adventures I loved so much when I was her age. And, it was a perfect opportunity for me to re-read some of my favorites from the Little House on the Prairie Series. I loved Laura and her era so much when I was a kid that I asked my grandmother to sew a  Laura Ingalls outfit for me – I wore the hell out a calico skirt with I was in the fourth grade.

Thank goodness I recently overcome my aversion to reading the books they try to sell you near the cash register of the drug store, because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have become new reader of Jodi Picoult. In each Picoult novel I have read to date she presents a formulated morally complicated issue in an easy reading, large printed, page turning, Hallmark Moment of a story. Perfect for lazy reading in the sun.

David Sedaris is another new discovery for me. First I was attracted to When You are Engulfed in Flames because of the skull; I like skulls, especially when the skulls are cool enough to be smoking. Short funny essays took the edge off of a few of my agitated days.

Finally, when the kids were with their father’s mom in Halifax and I was in Cape Breton with my mom I was able to read some books that required (and deserved) more of my attention.  In preparation for a long hoped for visit to Falling Water, I began to read Nancy Horan’s, Loving Frank.  I had been expecting a dishy historical romance and wasn’t let down, but this book gives so much more; a  glimpse in to the state of marriage during the early decades of the 20th century, a discussion on early feminism, an introduction to the design philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright.  But, most remarkably this is the story of a woman driven to define herself outside her relationships with men.  I will be writing more about this book when I tell you about my visits to some Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes, it had a tremendous impact on me this summer.

I purchased The Fellowship in the museum shop at Taliesin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s in Wisconsin. To this point I have only made it through 65 of 600+ pages.  So far I am enjoying a more detailed look at the philosophy of Wright. And, there are pictures!

I have owned a copy of Life of Pi for at least 3 years and it had remained on my bookshelf, unread for all of that time.  I wanted to read it; I really did, but I didn’t. The audio book kept me company from Wisconsin to through to Wyoming.   A boy gets lost at sea with a Royal Bengal Tiger….I looked forward to getting back in to the car so I could hear what happened next. It was pretty captivating. And, this story would have been age appropriate to listen to with my 8 and 11 year old children.

I knew that I would love The Kite Runner, but I waited for a long time before I decided to read it.  I needed time and the right frame of mind to take on this fairly heavy account of Afghanistan and Afghans in the 30 odd years since the Russians invaded. I listened to this book, read by the author, as I drove through Montana and the Columbia Plateau; the arid landscape and rolling hills west of the Rocky Mountains.  Kind of like Kabul…I think. Kabul in the 70’s was a relativly progressive place. Women (of the right class) could be educated and have careers, children were safe and happy.  There was lots of rich detail in this book, and a dramatic plotline. I waited too long to read this one; I would have had a much better understanding of the history and politics of Afghanistan and appreciated the challenges facing any nation that chooses to wage a war there.  I am looking forward to reading more of Khaled Hosseini…in fact I might buy his next book in Audio format so that I can ejoy hearing the proper pronunciation of the Farsi words.  And, there is the added bonus that Hosseini has a pretty dreamy voice.

So there we go, another summer of great reading is over.  I have lots more to show and say about the rest of our road trip, and hopefully over the next week or two I will manage to process it and get it all down.

Okay so a few weeks have gone by and I have come to appreciate just how important high speed internet is to my very existence.  We spent a fantastic two weeks in Cape Breton and perhaps being forced off line was a good thing for me, but that didn’t mean I liked it one bit. We were staying at my mother’s summer home close to the middle of nowhere.

We arrived to my father’s home on Prince Edward Island on August 3rd…glorious PEI with glorious WiFi. There is lots to catch up on but let’s start where we left off.  Chicago!

Some 5 years ago, when I was still married and working in the airline industry, That Guy I Married Once and I took advantage of my flight benefits and spent a great weekend in Chicago. We visited the Art Institute, The Sears Tower, and drank lots of beer.  It was a great trip and I knew that I wanted to go back someday.

I was a bit hesitant to venture out of the wilderness and in to a city.  Mostly because I might remember what good coffee and table service was like and never be able to go back to the tent.  Fortunately after I paid Donald Trump $18 for 3 hours of parking I was all too glad to hit the open road again.

So, we started our day with a trip to Target, have I mentioned before how much I love Target?  It is one of the best reasons to visit America.  After restocking our provisions (sunscreen, bug spray and cookies) we left Rochester, MN for a less than 2 hour drive to Chicago.

Who managed to find the parking lot at the Field Museum without getting lost once?  Me and my awesome navigator Hanna! No need for a GPS for this duo.

Fox in front of the Veteran's Memorial

Our destination, The Field Museum shares park space on the Gold Coast with the historic Soldier Field.  Soldier Field really is an amazing looking building; rebuilt in 2003 the building retains it’s historic facade which wraps around a very modern looking colosseum.  It kind of looks like a UFO ascending from ancient Greece. Go look at the link because none of my photos did it justice.

Hanna & Fox enter The Field Museum

Hanna & Fox enter The Field Museum

We came to this location specifically to visit Sue, she is the most complete T. Rex skeleton yet discovered.  She is named after the paleontologist, Sue Hendrickson who discovered the fossilized remains in South Dakota.

Oh Sue, What big teeth you have!

Oh Sue, what big teeth you have!

Though we came to meet Sue, my favourite exhibit by far was the Evolving Planet. Go, click on the link and check it out.  I love learning and thinking about how we have come to exist as we do on this planet and was thrilled to give the kids an opportunity to start thinking about how all existence here on earth has adapted and evolved to fit it’s environment. Most striking to me was the visual reminder of how recently humanoids came to exist here and how frequently life here has been wiped out; there have already been 5 mass extinctions during the 4.5 billion years since Earth was formed!  I left there reminded of how small we are and how easily humanity could be gone, replaced in millions of years by some new species that will look in awe at our silly inventions and self centered existance.

Here is silly Hanna on the thigh bone of a silly old Sauropod Dinosaur.

Drum Stick!

Drum Stick!

Here we see a side by side comparison of Australopithecus afarensis and The Modern Human Tourist:

Thank goodness I dont need the full body wax.

Thank goodness I don't need the full body wax.

Finally, at the Field we saw Fox congregating with his Fox friend:

It was late by the time we left the Field, so I rushed Hanna to a place I was desperate for her to see.  The American Girl Place, a mecca of little girl indulgance.  Unfortunately we had forgotten the camera back in the Trump Tower so I wasn’t able to capture the way her jaw dropped when she saw three levels of frothy girly dolls.  At $90 a doll, I really found myself wishing that I could justify buying her one and I might have if we hadn’t already over spend our frivolity budget on hats.  I was pretty partial to Kit:

Who am I kidding?  I really just want one for myself.

How do you end a perfect day in Chicago?  With Chicago pizza of course.  We were starving but the 45 minute wait for a table at Giordano’s was well worth the wait.  As Fox (famous for fussy eating) bit in to his first bite he said, “This is what pizza must taste like in heaven.”  I am sure that he is right and silly or not I plan to enjoy as much pizza as I can before the next mass extinction.

That is how many km’s I drove the Focus over the past 17 days.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of myself and how glad I am that I ignored that panic attack I had the day before I left Vancouver.

I have TONS to say, my luck with internet has been horriable since arriving in to Canada and today I am using my mom’s laptop with dialup.  After spending two fabulous days with my baby brother, Andrew (aka Uncle BooBoo) I was just ready to get back to the Maritimes.  Our first destination is My mom’s place in Catalone, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  We had planned to spend a night in New Brunswick on the way, but when I got there it was raining, the kids were sleeping and I felt really good so I decided to truck it right to Cape Breton.  Trucking it means that I planned to go full steam ahead to my destination, not that I was going to put the car on a flatbead and nap while our car was trucked.  Boy, was Fox dissapointed when I explained that to him.

I arrived in to Cape Breaton just as dawn was breaking this morning:

We drove 19 hours yesterday, the kids were amazing.  I fell in to my mom’s bed and had a nap while the kids went swimming, I am about to take the bath to end all baths and tonight I am going out with a highschool friend to have a good old fashioned night of drinking. 

I will start catching up tomorrow!

We have lots to say about Chicago, but for now, have a look at Sue!

We are in Paw Paw Michigan and about to make our Run for the border then to Charleston Lake tonight and on to Montreal to Visit with my brother Andrew and his partner Sabrina.

Might not be in touch until late tomorrow because I am going to go for the hard core driving for a few days.

Sorry Aunt Trudi!  Here is Sue!