2 Old Hippies

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BTV to Park Frontenac

The trip starts in very familiar territory -Franklin  County and the Eastern Townships  of Quebec. We stop in Sutton at a wonderful little cheese and charcuterie shop for our lunch fare — Tomme from Kamarouska, and a Brebis made by the good Brothers of the abbey on the lake. A dried sausage from St Jean Port Jolie, and a baguette.

On the way to Parc Frontenac we run into thunderstorms, but this trip we don’t have to set up a tent in the rain, a big improvement over our honeymoon trip. We learn on arrival that there’s no electricity in the park, but that means better dark sky viewing once the clouds clear out. This part of Quebec is an internationally designated “Dark Sky Reserve,” where the municipalities have instituted controls over lighting, to keep the night sky intensely star-filled. We’ll have to wait for the moon to wane to get a good look….on the way back in a week.

Rain stops long enough to make dinner outdoors. Then loons on Lac St Francis, reading by lanternlight, and a comfy sleep in a dry bed, scattering of rain on the roof.


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So far, so good

Noah from the beloved VW repair shop just called, and the auxiliary battery checks out, so we should be able to keep the christmas lights lit at night, (We use them to read by, and generally to create nice atmosphere.)


I was worried we’d have another trip interruption, like last year’s failed “All the way West on US Rt 2” plans.  But, the Westy checks out. For now.

And props and a shout out to Noah, our youngish hippie mechanic  – here’s a link to a story about his band, Waylon Speed. We’re afraid he’s going to get really famous and quit working on VWs…. (Noah is the guy with major beard happening)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRRHG1J54v4

Preparation is well underway, as Craig gathers the gear together. Here’s what the staging area (formerly the living room of our house) looks like today. That giant yellow blob is the tempurpedic foam topper we unroll every night for the bed..I sewed up a big case for it, using two really cheap bed sheets from Sears. Unroll, throw on the pillows and blanket and voila, bedtime. Yeah, this is not going to be like the camping trip 30 years ago, not at all!)



Honeymoon Reboot

Next Monday we’ll leave for two weeks to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. We’re returning to the Gaspe Peninsula, the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River, where it widens to become the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I’m calling the trip the Honeymoon Reboot. But that time, we camped out of a small station wagon, canoe on top, with dome tent and air mattresses. We took a shortwave radio with us and listened to Radio Moscow. This time, we have the Westfalia, and the provincial park campgrounds all have WIFI. Times certainly have changed.

One of our fondest memories from that trip is the morning fog pouring over the cliffs at Forillon. Hope the weather is this good when we get there.

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Top this, you other Old Hippies

As I rummaged in the linen closest for towels for recent guests, I came across one of the better examples of the frugality of 2oldhippies: a bath towel from a set given to us as a wedding gift by Craig’s sister 30 (yes, thirty) years ago this August.

20150307_120952Coincidentally, another long-serving wedding gift is a pair of colanders from my own sister. One has lost its base, but still drains four servings of boiled pasta with ease.


Less successfully surviving married bliss is a lovely bowl that some Montpelier friends picked out for us at Artisan’s Hand, most likely. It can no longer serve pasta from the colander, but it’s great for popcorn.

20150307_120749“C’mon, guys,” you might say. “Enough is enough! Why not just get fully functional replacements?”

To which I’ll just reply that these items are one year younger than our 1985 Westy camper. Well, at least we’re consistent.


Those Damn Socialists

Some of us living in Vermont feel really comfortable when we’re visiting Canada, more comfortable than we do visiting, say, the Midwest of the USA. Actually, some of us toy with the idea of Vermont (yes, by seceding) joining the Maritimes and Quebec and forming a more perfect union. (Is is a coincidence that the only two states that were independent nations prior to US statehood – Vermont and Texas – are the states where  current citizens talk openly about secession?)

Just a few things about the national and provincial parks in Canada that have us shaking our heads and saying “Oh, those damn socialists!”  (Quick: what’s the emoticon that means “sarcasm!”)

  • Free hot showers! Yes, in the campground there’s no assumption you’ll be in a gigantic Mobile Home, complete with hot running water and shower stall. No assumption you’ll carry a roll of quarters to feed the hot water tank.
  • At Fundy, at Anchorage Provincial Park on Grand Manan Island, and at Forrilon National Park of Canada (where we spent our honeymoon 29 years ago) we found communal “kitchen buildings” for indoor cooking in inclement weather, and big sinks with hot water for washing dishes.
  • Don’t have a big enough tent for your family reunion at Fundy National Park? Well, how about this one, available for rent, fully furnished and with a great view of Owls Head?
    Or try one of Parks Canada’s yurts?20140914_185217And the best views in the park? They belong to the people who have tents, not motor homes:

Our own spot includes water and electricity, the kitchen sinks, showers and free WIFI, for $25/night.
20140913_160640 Not that Canada is heaven on earth, but when the motto of the purpose of government is “Peace, Order and Good Government,” it does produce different outcomes. For one thing, a basic acceptance that government has a role, and a job to do for its citizens. Here in the USA, we have citizens (certain lawmakers and the people who vote for them) who think their job is to stop government from doing anything constructive at all.

Some of us in the USA are dumbfounded by this dumbing down of citizenship, by the voters who are voting to re-elect the do-nothingest Congress in our history, specifically because they are doing nothing. Meanwhile, here’s what Canada is doing: http://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/index-eng.html.  Yes, Canada has a federal agency called “Infrastructure Canada,” whose charge is instigating, partnering for, and funding projects to make Canada a world-class nation. Can you even imagine this happening in the USA ever again? The agency’s current program, The New Building Canada Fund, is based on this philosophy:

“World-class infrastructure is the backbone of our country’s economic productivity. Our Government is committed to investing in Canada’s infrastructure to reduce commuting times for families, enhance economic competitiveness, encourage job creation and strengthen trade corridors. We understand the vital importance of infrastructure to help get goods to market, to connect people and businesses with the world, and to reduce gridlock on our roads and highways. The New Building Canada Plan will continue to support infrastructure projects that foster economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity.”

And you can see the difference this makes, even in a national or provincial campground.

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Fundy National Park – Where Even Superlatives Fail Me

Continuing north, and at the end of a road that goes nowhere else, is Fundy National Park of Canada, where the Caledonia Highlands Plateau (the uppermost reaches of the Appalachian Mountains) meets the Bay of Fundy.

20140914_104149There are sloping, meadow-like highlands

20140913_135134and rainforest jungles (accessible by cantilevered board walkways and stairs – it strikes me that this spot is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited, as deep and rich and wet as anything I’ve seen in Washington state or British Columbia).


fundyparkbeautyplace1And of course, all-hell-broke-loose (well, it took 1 billion years, but still … ) geology everywhere.

Herewith, illustrations with text provided by Parks Canada’s Fundy Park guide.

“Around Alma and Herring Cove the story is one of rivers and jungles. The grey and beige rocks forming the impressive cliffs of Owls Head are made of sandstone.20140914_120744This rock used to be sand and mud which a vast and ancient river lay down during the Carboniferous era (about 325 million years ago). Along this river there was a lush, tropical jungle.  The rock has a fine sandy look to it and contains many black plant fossils and thin seams of coal.

The story is considerably older at Point Wolfe where volcanoes and the movement of the continents have formed the oldest rocks in the park. Walk down the steps to Point Wolfe beach

20140914_120620and as soon as you reach the beach you will notice some grey, green rocks forming a low cliff along the right side of this inlet. The rock has been smoothed by the tides but the story can still be deciphered.20140914_122757_LLSVolcanoes erupting ash and lava created off-shore islands during the Pre-Cambrian era (one billion years ago). Afterwards, during a collision between the continents of Europe and North America, these volcanic islands were bulldozed into the mainland. Look for the white quartz veins, swirling folds and criss-crossing fractures in the rock, which tell of this transformation. Rocks, which have undergone changes due to the heat and pressure of continental collisions, are called metamorphic rocks.

Point Wolfe is a geologist’s paradise. Opposite the grey rocks, you will notice rusty, maroon coloured cliffs towering above you. (JK note: yes, visit at low tide…..)20140914_122252The rusty red cliffs tell a tale of crumbling mountains. These mountains were created by the ancient Pre-Cambrian volcanoes and by the collision of Europe and North America. At one time they rivaled the Rockies in massive splendour. But they were worn down, or eroded, by the passage of time. Water and gravity piled all of the debris at their feet. These boulders and pebbles were later cemented together to form a new rock which we call the Hopewell conglomerate.

Think about that for a moment: “The collision of Europe and North America…”  “rivaled the Rockies in massive splendour…” , and not only that, but the highest tides in the world. (Yep, in the photo below, that’s a kelp bed on the right …)20140914_121430Words do fail me, and that’s saying a lot.


Behold the Road Cut

2oldhippies love fresh bread, the smell of fresh laundry from the clothes line, and as you might guess if you’ve been reading the blog, fresh road cuts.


We are old enough to remember when the interstate highway system was built. One of us cannot remember the new roadcuts created then back in Tennesee, but in Montana where I grew up, the road had to blow through (literally, with a lot of dynamite) a canyon of the Missouri River between Great Falls and Helena. (near the stretch of the Missouri River that Lewis and Clark named “Gates of the Mountains.”) Those fresh road cuts were so awesome, so beautiful, and so revealing that my brother, who had just selected geophysics as his university major and was quickly turning into a rockhead, made us all take a field trip on the new highway just to pull over and look at the fresh road cuts. I’ve loved them ever since, and my reaction is pretty much the one with the snapped head and the word “Squirrel!” only I say “Roadcut!”

Here in Vermont, the Interstate construction did much the same service, opening up the inside of the earth for closer inspection, and Vermont is very interesting, geologically speaking. Periodically, our beloved rockheads at the Agency of Transportation decide to widen the cuts, clean up after rock slides and such, and we are treated to fresh roadcuts (thus increasing my driving time between Burlington to Montpelier, rather the decreasing it, I might add.)

Our original 2014 adventure travel plan — US 2 West, then down the Rockies through Wyoming to Boulder/Denver, included following the Interstate route through Wyoming that got another roadcut fiend, John McPhee, all excited, and which he wrote about in detail in Rising from the Plains, a great read about the geologic history of the Northern Rockies. We were all set to marvel at those road cuts. It was the geologic wonders of New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy that gave us our alternative destination once our plans had to change, but we didn’t know that the relatively new Fundy Trail Parkway was waiting for us with dozens of fresh “Roadcuts!” Wow. As everywhere along this coastline, bending, folding, piling on, intrusion, uplifts, hundreds of millions of years of “all hell breaking loose” on display. And in case you can’t get here soon enough to see them in their fresh state, before mosses, lichens, mineral leaching and other aging processes dull them, we are pleased to offer you our views.

Behold the Road Cut!