The End, July 5-7

Maritimes 2008

Saturday, 5 July Souris (Rollo Bay), PEI. Sunny, high 25-27.

The 23rd P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival

We head over to the festival grounds around 10:00 a.m. I guarantee you’ve never seen this many camper-vans, motor homes and buses. Almost 600 of them, and they’re mostly filled with retired folks who just travel from bluegrass festival to bluegrass festival. As soon as we get out of the car, we see 3 folks jes settin (Bluegrass for ‘just sitting’) outside their trailer pickin guitars, dobro and mandolin, so we wander over for a listen and a chat. Guitarist Albert says about three times, “We’re jes tryin’ to have a little fun.” I had my Zoom recording for about 20 minutes in my shirt pocket.

Here's a video I cut together to give the flavour of our 1st impression upon arrival:

Albert and the gang sing "Don't Sell Daddy Any More Whiskey." Jess tryin' 't have a little fun.

We spend the morning attending workshops (banjo, guitar, harmonizing) and chatting with folks, and the afternoon enjoying the blue sky and some wonderful acts, mostly from the Maritimes, but a couple are from the U.S.

The Timmons Family is from Pittsville, Maryland. There's nothing like family harmony. When she wails, Kathy, the sister on the right grabs my heart and tears it into little bitty pieces. Here she is on "Kentucky Girl". Ouch!

Another clip of The Timmons Family, with stills of the crowd. Note how Kathy nods and smiles as the audience applauds her soulful harmony note.

Set in a field near the woods in the N.E. corner of Prince Edward Island, the Festival attracts hundreds of campers. The transportation comes in all shapes and sizes. You're listening to announcer Bob-bo. See if you can find his gray school bus. He's from Nova Scotia, but the bus came from Labrador. Next you hear "18 Wheels on the Highway" by the Bluegrass Diamonds from New Brunswick.

Festival crowd

...looking onto the stage from the mixing shack. The sound was right perfect.

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At around 4:00, we take a dinner break at the Village Feast. It’s a community event being held at the rink just outside Souris...

...to raise funds to help feed a town in Kenya. Farmers helping farmers. They’ve sold a thousand tickets (at $29 each!). Three choices - steak rare, steak medium and steak well. Sorry, Sharon.

Then we take a break back at the hotel before returning to the festival for a couple of hours in the evening. We don’t stay to the end. There’s only so much bluegrass and blue hair we can take in one day.

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Sunday, 6 July

Sunny, high 28. Today we drive across Canada’s smallest province from Souris in the northeast to Miscouche in the southwest. It’s a day of exploring and poking around with a few ideas in our back pocket, but no real itinerary. It’s a great food day (two stops for fish chowder, and both of them excellent) and just a great day in general. We head to the northern shore for a swim at the beach near Brackley, in the Provincial park. It’s too cold for me to go in past my thighs, but Sharon manages a dunk.

As we leave the beach, we notice smoke coming from the trees. By the time we reach the car, it's looking dangerous. Within 5-10 minutes we hear sirens. We heard nothing on the news, so I presume it was quickly put under control.

The farm country here is grand and green; yellow green, dark green, fern green, bright green...

...all flanked by a big blue sky and brick red earth. Endlessly lush farm fields of potatoes, barley, corn, potatoes and more potatoes...

...did I mention potatoes? Perfect rows of them mounded up in dirt coloured by iron oxide.

There’s red sand on a lot of the beaches, and red cliffs overlooking the sea, too. This is a very typical PEI coastal view.

We don’t arrive at our B&B near Summerside until after 7:00. Since we are not terribly happy with the place, I'll use "Greg Arias's B&B" as the pseudonym. We are greeted by the incomparably gregarious Greg Arias, whose family has owned this house since it was built 108 years ago. It’s been a long day, so Sharon and I decide to stay in.

I go downstairs and get trapped by Greg. You can’t ask this man directions to the room you’re standing in without it taking half an hour. I ask him where I can buy a 6 pack, and he reminds me that it’s Sunday and everything closed up at 5. Being the generous sort, he offers me some of his. Before I know it, we’re deep into his life history (and his 6 pack) and damned if it isn’t interesting. He’s going through a rough transition right now (I won’t go into it. I can feel you nodding off.) and is being quite vulnerable and soft in his disclosure. I like this guy.

Sharon and I have a lovely fight before bed.

The sun sets on our second day in P.E.I

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Monday, 7 July Sunny, high 29. Hot. Beautiful weather for the 7th straight day. At Greg's recommendation we head out to a local beach or three. We are sworn not to tell other tourists. Ives Beach, St John’s Beach and Union Corner. Shhhhhhh. St. John’s is several kilometers down a gravel road that has some huge mud holes and is totally deserted when we arrive. A couple pulls up in their pickup. They proceed to fill it with sand for a fire pit they are building at their cottage. They are locals. It seems talking a blue streak is quite a common trait here in PEI. A local woman comes walking down the lane. They tell us her name is Lulu. She soon retreats, and it is just us.

This is the south coast. The water is very warm, much warmer than the north. Sharon and I have a great time playing in the waves. Time slows right down. I think we’re in the water for over an hour.

Next, we drive down to the beach at Union Corner, which has more people (maybe a dozen), but the water is just as warm, so we swim there for a while, too. Beach-hopping.

This seagull is an absolutely shameless show-off. For a good 15 minutes, she conducts hovering practice, no more than 20 feet away. The bathers all gawk jealously as she struts her stuff. Click play to see what I mean.

Then back to the room to change clothes and on to Summerside for...

...a lobster super at the Legion. It’s the Lobster Festival all week!

We are surprised to find it served cold, but it is sweet, tender and absolutely deelish.

Itching for one last caleidh, we see that a local fiddle jam is advertized on the southwest coast at Abrams Village. We arrive at the rink at 7:30 – the scheduled start time, and there is no one there yet.

Lobster pincer statues flank the entrance to the Abrams Village Community Centre.

Careful! Don't get too close.

So we go out to explore the coast in the beautiful sunset. If nothing else happens this evening, this marbled sky was enough:

We think the long-legged birds are osprey.

This old guest house looks luminescent in the light of a PEI sunset.

Returning to the Community Centre at 8:30 or so, we see 4 people sitting around a table with their guitar and fiddle cases. There is no one else there. They tell us they’re waiting for someone to come and turn on the P.A. system. We decide to move on. We call Greg for a recommendation of something to do, but even HE comes up empty. His only suggestion is a place on the water back in Summerside. They MIGHT have some live music. Nope. But we sit and have a drink anyway. This day has been a wonderful nightcap to our Maritime trip. Tomorrow is all about driving. New Brunswick for a night, Quebec for a night and home.

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P.S. By the time we got home on July 10th, our oddometer looked like this:

6513 km. For the Yanks on my list, that's 4,047 miles. Safe and sound. Thank You.

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