After the chilly, windy purgatory of Northern Ontario (OK, in reality it wasn’t that bad, but, despite the fact that there was actually only one grey freezing cold day amongst many sunny ones – including 32 degree weather in Thunder Bay – my mind refuses to budge from the image of that dire 300 km of roadway between Longlac and Hearst) I spent three full days in in lush, warm Eastern Ontario, visiting my Dad.
I love my Dad’s cooking. We had sea bass and red snapper and arctic char and trout, fish cakes, split pea rice… mmm, mmm, mmm. Dad’s food is delicious – only someone who loves tasty food could describe his own recipe for fish cakes with “and there’s no seasoning in it.” That’s right, no seasoning, because thyme, oregano, hot pepper sauce, salt, and black pepper are not seasoning. They’re just “the ordinary things you put in food.”
On one of my dog walks with Scooty, I met up with Mr Chan, my high school Art teacher, and had a great visit with him, and on the same walk ran into Mr Dwyer, an eighty-something year old former neighbour I hadn’t seen since he took Mum and me up in his airplane, over ten years ago.
On Peter’s horsey friend’s advice, I took Pai down the road to the cross-country ski trails just outside Summerstown, where we had a good ride through varied deciduous and conifer forest, and got off-track by mistake and rode on some trails through rolling farm fields. Ontario fields have a honey-sweet smell to them – maybe it’s clover, maybe it’s some other flower – and that smell, combined with the scent of newly mown hay just screams summertime to me. The only damper was the cloud of deer flies that scoffed at my fly spray and nagged Pai through almost the whole ride.
We hit the road again yesterday, Sunday. Montreal was almost a piece of cake to drive through on a Sunday morning. For days, I had been dreading driving my rig through Montreal – I don’t even like driving a car through Montreal, never mind the truck-and-trailer beast. (I can remember the first time Wayde and I drove the auto-route together on our own: we were driving to PEI for Christmas, and we were in the Mini, and it was 6:30 in the morning and dark and sleeting snow and those crazy Montreal drivers were all going 130 km/hr and tail-gating and zipping in and out of lanes like they were all driving motorcycles on a sunny day.) Anyway, I say “almost”, because although traffic was blessedly light, there were still parts of the highway where the trailer was riding on the lane markings on both sides, that’s how narrow the lanes are.
The Trans Canada follows the St Lawrence river through pretty Quebec farmland, then cuts inland to the New Brunswick border and Edmundston, which is halfway between Dad’s and the Island.
Upon arriving at my Dad’s last week, I had begun to look up places to overnight in Edmundston. I’d already done some quick searching before leaving BC, but now I began to search in earnest… and it became apparent that no horses live in Edmundston or anywhere near Edmundston, at least as far as Google is concerned. I searched for “horse”, “equestrian”, “tack store”, “farrier”, “riding”, “trail riding”, “hunter-jumper”, “dressage”, “fairgrounds”, “horse show”, “stables”, “farm supply”, as well as “cheval”, “chevaux”, “pension”, “exposition” – you name it. Nada. I called the one large animal vet in the area, and he had trouble thinking of anywhere that might be suitable, but did kindly give me a couple of people’s names – neither of which was home. I emailed the New Brunswick Equestrian Association. Still nothing. Seriously. No horses live in Edmundston, or if they do, they are all in the witness protection program living under assumed names.
I finally decided to try regular campsites, repressing my traumatic memories of setting up that e-fence pen in the pissing rain in Saskatchewan by consulting the weather report every ten minutes and seeing that forecasts of sunshine across the East Coast never wavered. I happened upon a listing for the Riverside Iroquois RV Park, and gave them a ring. I got the OK to come on down with my horsie – an equine guest being a first for the campground – and so that’s what I did last night.
I could not have landed in a better spot.
Junie and Larry, the park hosts, are just the most fabulous people you could ever hope to meet. They welcomed me like I was family they hadn’t met yet, and made me feel like Pai was the most beautiful creature to have ever set hoof on earth. Pai had a shady spot under the trees for her pen, and we all walked down to the river to cool off.
Junie, who is afraid of horses, was won over by the placid Pai.
Junie and Larry had me over for some socializing, and plied me with beer and ouzo well into the night. The two of them sold up house seven years ago, and spend their time roaming the roads in winter and managing campgrounds in summer, and so they have no shortage of fascinating and hilarious tales collected on their travels. I am now hankering to go to Quartzsite, AZ just to meet the famous naked bookseller.
I left Edmundston this morning, for the last leg of the journey, laden with gifts from Junie – hemp seed and homemade soup and a very special rock and a jar of her handmade cream.
At our lunch stop in Fredericton, I met up with Bev, a fellow soapmaker I “met” online. It’s great to meet online acquaintances in real life, and I was chuffed that Bev took the time to hunt me down for a quick get-together. I hope to also meet up with Rhonda, another soapmaker, on the trip home in September.
I arrived at Horace MacKay’s place on the shore in PEI, just down the beach from our cottage, late in the afternoon, and reunited with Mr Andrews, who’d flown in in the wee sma’s of Sunday morning. I got Pai set up for an hour of grazing at her new barn before she’d be put away for the night, and Wayde and I popped home for a glass of cider on the lawn. We hadn’t even half-finished our drinks when my cousin came screaming down in her SUV. “SYLVIA!!! YOUR HORSE IS LOOSE!!!” Pai was running around the hay field (which, fenceless, borders the road) like a pale version of the Black Stallion, looking very Arabian indeed (she almost never does). Within minutes of being Home, my mare had managed to assemble an audience of cousins, neighbours, visitors, and children to watch her perform.
As soon as she saw me, she stopped, dropped her head, and grazed, which allowed for an easy wrangling of the delinquent. She was sent to bed (with dinner), where she is sharing a barn with a yearling Standardbred filly.
So tomorrow’s agenda includes some fence repair, as well as a few stall modifications to try to exclude at least some of the mosquitoes, which are insane. Of all the mosquitoes I’ve encountered across the country, the PEI mosquito beats them all. PEI mosquitoes don’t dick around like those BC and prairie and Ontario mosquitoes. They are small and they are fast and they know their business, and the come at you in battle formation like a bunch of Cylon Raiders. Apparently PEI horses just stand in their stalls and take it like a man, but my little flower with her prairie hives may not tolerate this kind of attack.