I write predominately, about Atlantic Canada, but I get many people commenting on my posts and asking if I have been here, or there? Why don’t I write about past travels? I don’t write about past trips because they are in the past and I don’t live in the past. However, fellow bloggers Mel & Suan from Travelling Matters to Us have convinced me to share an early travel adventure story, because my experiences are far more interesting than the places themselves. I think you will enjoy this oldie but goodie.
In early December of ’92 I planned a loop tour from my home in Toronto, Ontario down the center of USA before heading to Cape Breton for Christmas, then continuing back down the east coast to Florida. On my return trip, I wanted to cover Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi and then be home in time for spring training at Woodbine Racetrack in mid-February.
I had a successful day of touring Louisville and Lextington and arrived late afternoon in Mammoth Caves, Kentucky. I wanted to be up early to go to the caves so I found a small, inexpensive motel in the town to stay the night. The proprietor of the place was a man in his sixties, he had no legs and was in a wheelchair. As I stood in the doorway of the office getting checked in, I could hear a lot of yelling and laughing coming from one of the rooms. I asked the owner if I would be safe. He replied,”Yes dear, they are just miners letting off some steam having a game of poker.” I said “Are they drunk?” He replied, in a thick Kentucky drawl, “This here is a dry county — ain’t no liquor here.” I had no idea what that meant. Is it like in Footloose? Is that is a real thing?
Then he added, “If you don’t feel safe you can have my gun.” And he pulled out a huge pistol he had resting beside him in his chair, and held it out to me to take. Being Canadian, I had never seen a handgun except on TV, and none were ever that size. I thanked him for the offer but declined it. He stuffed it back down below his hip in his chair and I left for my room shaking with fear. I recall a restless sleep but quiet prevailed around 11 pm .
The Caves were amazing and my tour continued on to Frankfurt, Kentucky, where there was a floral clock and Daniel Boone’s grave to see, then off to the house where Davy Crockett was born. I stopped in Nashville for a look around then made my way onward to Memphis. At Graceland I took a tour of jungle room and saw Elvis Aaron Presley’s grave.
The Jack Daniels distillery was a must-see. I bought a large bottle of the good stuff to bring home to my brother-in-law for Christmas. I headed east toward Cumberland Gap, where I hiked through the woods to find the marker identifying the point where the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia converge. Then I entered Virginia and stopped at Luray Caverns. I remember Rudolph Valentino’s Rolls Royce was on display in the museum area.
Next was Arlington National Cemetery to see Kennedy’s grave and the eternal flame. I finished up my tour and merged on to Interstate 95 north at rush hour on a Friday. Within minutes there was a car accident. The road was slick with oil and slush and the cars were splitting off to the left and right to avoid the crash. I got caught in the shifting and went into a skid, connecting with a cement girder and swiping an Audi on the way by. My Buick was a write-off and I was left rattled — but thankfully unhurt — on the highway with a crushed vehicle and a trunk full of Christmas presents.
After dealing with the police, I signed the wreckage over to the tow truck driver, and he dropped me off at a seedy hotel. I slunk to my room to think about my situation and to form a plan. The next day I took a transit bus to a mall where I purchased some luggage, returned to my room to repack my belongings, then hoofed it with my bags to the train station to catch a rail going north to Philadelphia, then later caught a bus to take me further north. There was a snowstorm covering most of Maine and New Brunswick and the bus driver said, ” I ain’t going any further, everyone has to exit.” We were in Portland Maine.
I teamed up with a couple from Ireland to split a $150 cab ride to Bar Harbor, and we were lucky to catch the last crossing of the ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was so cold on the crossing. I cracked the seal on the bottle of Jack and we all sang Irish songs till we fell a sleep on the booths in the lounge.
Early next morning, my companions and I had a hot breakfast then departed the ship. At Customs, the Irish couple were herded into a separate line, and that was the last I saw of them. The border patrol gave me a scolding for having too much liquor in my suitcase but he let me go after I explained my strife. I walked to the bus terminal, luggage in tow, and slept on a bench for several hours till the bus arrived to take me to Cape Breton.
It’s about 550 kilometers from Yarmouth to Cape Breton by highway, but it takes about 12 hours on the milk run. I sat in the back hung over and nodding off until a Mi’kmaq lad dressed in a tuxedo got on and sat beside me. He was headed to a wedding in New Brunswick. We shared a few drinks of whiskey, and I gave him the rest of the bottle when he got off the bus in Truro, with a wish for good luck at the wedding.
Road-worn and blurry-eyed I arrived on the island. My sister was very pregnant and I decided to stay and help out. We had one of our worst winters for snowfall in years. The shoveling was relentless. Every time he had to shovel the driveway, my brother-in-law John reminded me that, “a drink of Jack would be good right about now.”
When February rolled around, I caught a break in the weather. I purchased a second-hand Hyundai Pony and headed back to Toronto.
So many stories. Life is fun.
Cheers and happy travels from Maritime Mac