Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Canada 2012 Day 11

The weather is so, so. Cloudy and a bit nippy, but the clouds are thin
and the sun could burst through them at any moment. Since we have to
wait until 5 pm to pick up our tent we can afford to go spend time at
the Kosy Korner Cafe, which is a mix of greasy spoon diner,
convenience store, and coin laundromat. It is the laundromat that we
are interested in, because Annie cannot shake off the habit of getting
her clothes 99.99% dry using a drier (she will learn the bitter
lesson, in Mexico and China, that sun-dried clothes are the norm
rather than the exception).  [Annie: NEVER! From now on Annie will
insert her comments to my narrative in square brackets]
Sometime around 10 am we finally got going, in a preliminary
exploration of the bicycle path recently inaugurated in PEI. The main
path runs lengthwise through the middle of this long island, along the
alignment of the old train, but there is a major “spur” connecting it
to Charlottetown, which is on the central-southern coast. We picked up
this spur in town, and biked the 9 km to the main path, and another 6
km to the east, before turning back. Not bad. Easy 30 km and we were
back in town by 2 pm.
We had some time to kill, so we took the time to visit the House of
the Confederation, where in 1867 representatives from Canada
(comprising all states from Ontario westward) and from the old Acadia
(Quebec, PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and New Foundland) met to
first propose the idea of a confederation. A second meeting took place
in Quebec a year later, where the confederation was formally agreed
upon, and a draft of the constitution was written. One more year
elapsed and the representatives met again, in London, to approve and
adopt the final version of the constitution. Finally, on July 1 of
1871, the Queen formally recognized the confederation and its
constitution, and the Dominion of Canada made its debut as a
self-standing nation (but with the Governor General appointed by the
Queen as head of state).
Satiated with knowledge about Canadian history we retired to a very
British pub, to eat fish and chips and drink a Guinness. Very tasty
Finally 4 pm arrived, so we went to the hostel, picked up our
saddlebags, and pedaled to the bus station. Our friends from the train
were as good as their word, and as soon as the bus arrived we were
able to retrieve our tent and get on our way. Our plan was to pedal to
the north shore, to the eastern tip of the Green Gables National Park.
Now, I don’t want to point any fingers, and prefer to think that the
deception played on us was inadvertent, but the fact is that we were
sorely misled by the map of the island, which is printed in a small
piece of paper, with very large, easy to read symbols. Because they
are large, the symbol for the entrance cabin to the park is connected
to the bike path by a very small segment of highway 15, and is almost
side by side with the symbol for the Stanhope campground. We knew that
it was 9 km from Charlottetown to the bike path, so made the
reasonable assumption that another 10 km would bring us to the
campground. I was a bit worried about taking Highway 15, but the gal
at the bus station assured us that old roads had wide shoulders for
bicycles to ride.
Off we went, full of confidence and good cheer, even though the clouds
had not parted and the wind was freshening. Lo and behold, when we got
to Highway 15 we found not only a shoulder, but a well marked bike
path, which we tackled with such gusto as only abject ignorance can
provide. Remember I had mentioned the rolling hills of PEI? Well,
Highway 15 was laid straight as an arrow across the topographic grain
of the island, draping over the hills without any concession to the
realities of geography, so in no time our pleasure ride turned into a
veritable roller coaster. To complicate matters the wind turned into a
head wind, and the “wide shoulder” disappeared within a kilometer and
became a 10 cm wide white line (thank God that Canadian drivers are
very courteous and gave us as much space as possible). Oh well, we
could handle 10 km of such conditions. Ah yes, but is it only 10 km?
Much to our distress we found out that the notion of including
distances in the highway signs is all but unknown in PEI, so we kept
going, and going, and going, and the head wind kept getting stronger,
and stronger, and stronger. Finally, at the edge of our strength, and
after at least 20 km of roller coaster, we arrived to the park. It
must have been around 8 pm and we were bushed. Thank God the
campground was just by the entrance to the park. Or was it? Once again
they played the trick of showing the direction of the campground, but
giving no distance, so we kept going in what by this time had turned
into a gale, for kilometer after interminable kilometer. I had to keep
a close eye on Annie, who was doggedly hunched over her bike, ready to
keel over without a moment’s notice.  [True – I thought I would die!]
Finally, after 10 km within the park, we got to the campground, where
a friendly young woman rapidly assigned us a site in the woods, well
sheltered from the wind. Ah, peace and rest at last! But it was not to
be. Because it was sheltered from the wind the campsite had become the
meeting point of all mosquitoes within a 5 km radius, and they
hungrily assaulted us as soon as we had laid the backpacks down. Annie
had the brilliant idea of donning our rain suits to avoid the attack,
and properly suited we managed to erect our tent and thus create a
safe heaven for ourselves. I have no recollection of preparing dinner
that night (Annie thinks we just ate cheese and crackers, [and I sat
on top of the table so the little nasties would have less chance at
me].  We slept the sleep of the dead, having logged a good 70 km total
under rather challenging conditions.

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