Friday, 15 August 2008

On choices well made and musings on Scots

Well, I'm in North Sydney at a basic but comfortable B&B overlooking the harbour. With exception of one long, steepish hill, Route 223 was a blast. Not quite as fast as West Bay to Marble Mountain, but with better views. While there wasn't a paved shoulder, the traffic was quite light. I amused myself by counting how many cars went by in either direction. After half an hour, I had only counted 18. I would have counted for a full hour, but I came across a convenience store that was the obvious place to stop for elevenses, in this case an oatmeal cookie and some chocolate milk. Needless to say, by stopping I would have "upset" the data gathering. All things considered, I think I made the right choice.

Another interesting and correct choice I have made a couple of times is to get milk as a snack drink. To knock back lovely cold milk can really hit the spot. Unfortunately, milk doesn't work as a drink carry with you. If I may refer to this earlier post, I think I have proved point 7 of why it is better cycle tour in Canada than in Spain.

I did a load of laundry this afternoon in an actual laundromat as opposed to the old sink and Campsuds routine. While my clothes were in the dryer, a family came in from a SUV with a B.C. license plate. The elder of the children was moaning about having to wait. His mom shushed him saying they weren't going to go anywhere anyway until they got on the 10 AM ferry tomorrow morning, i.e. the same one as me. Using this point, I chatted with them for a bit.

Outside the public library there was a seriously long-distance touring bike. As in a spare tire in evidence along with the capacity to carry at least 5 liters of H2O. I was tempted to go in and see if I could figure out which person at which public access computer the bike belonged to. I didn't, partly out of shame of being a yuppie "wimp" de-caffeinated credit card cycle tourist. I went into the library later in the day and bought some old National Geographics to read on the ferry. My leisure reading material on this trip is Dickens' Bleak House which isn't a whole lot of fun.

When I came into North Sydney, I was greeted by the sight of the Caribou and the Leif Eriksson the ferry terminal. These Marine Atlantic ferries are bloody big ships. As I looked for somewhere for lunch, I was a bit surprised to see a number of people in safety vests walking around. I assumed they were ferry workers. After some thought, I began to realize just how much manpower it takes to run those ships and to insure smooth operation around the clock.

One of the things that struck me about the Highland Heritage Village was just how spartan the existence of the people in the houses would have been. The visitor follows a path leading him or her through a chronological sequence of houses that a family would have been living in. It begins with the Scottish black house. Next is a log cabin, a frame house, a central chimney house and a central corridor house. (At least I think that was the progression.) All of these houses were rather austere. The central chimney house, in particular, featured very thin internal walls. In effect, these types of houses were of relatively low quality and were not terribly comfortably built. I am suspicious that this might explain why I have seem so many abandoned old houses and many newish prefab houses. I suspect that to bring the old houses up to modern standards of comfort would require too much time and money for the return on the investment for the locals. The B&B I stayed in Port Hawksbury was the former residence of a Victorian-era ferry-boat captain. The owner described how when they renovated it, they didn't find any insulation. "Not even newspaper." And this was a "nice" house.

Another thing that I got out of the Highland Village was the very different fates of Scots in Nova Scotia. The Pictou Scots seem to have done very well for themselves, at least for a while, whereas the Bras d'Or Scots seem to have done relatively poorly. I suspect that my uncle Julian would say that I should write a research paper on the topic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Newf! You're about 350 km away from your destination (my house). I guess I'll put some sheets on the bed. Sounds like NS has been good to you so far, and I hope the TCH is good. It's better if you can avoid ferry times... Alice