Good Times in the Maritimes

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Hi all. Aren’t you all lucky. I’m writing my second post in the same day. The only reason is that I’m on the road (again), and have little else to do in the evening here in my hotel room. My plan is to just take it easy tonight, and rest up for my race this weekend. I’m in Montreal, and get back tomorrow at 7pm. Directly from there, I’m loading up the car and heading to the race site. I won’t be back until Sunday night. However, at least this gives me a chance to catch up a little bit on my blog backlog. In the last post, I filled you all in on my fathers’ happy [re]wedding day. Well, obviously that wasn’t the only thing that I did in my 4 days in Nova Scotia, so I thought I’d just write a little post to let you know what other fun I got up to while at home. If you’d like to see some pictures of what we did, have a wander over to the flickr site, and check out the folder from our Nova Scotia weekend.

As I mentioned earlier, Jody and I hopped on a Porter flight to Halifax on Friday after work, and came back on the following Tuesday evening. This gave us 4 full days to unwind in the quiet, peaceful area around Pictou County. The wedding festivities took most of Saturday, but I did manage time to undertake a few training activities. You see, I’m already starting to panic a little bit about my upcoming Iron-distance triathlon, so even though I was technically on vacation, I wanted to make sure that I squeezed in some good training stuff. I also knew the Nicole would be doing her best to stuff us full of food, so I had to make sure I balanced that out. Those of you handy with a calendar will also notice that Sunday was July 1st, so you’re probably wondering how we celebrated Canada day away from the nations’ capital. Well, fear not, I’ll fill you in. The easiest way for me to go over the weekend will be to just go through it sequentially.

Friday upon arriving, we had some quality chill time. We all hung around the kitchen talking about what we’ve all been up to, including a mini-dump from dad about his pilgrimage. If I were to write about that, it could take me forever, and that’s just not going to happen right now. I’ll let him take care of those things on his own blog site! It was a nice relaxing evening, that we haven’t had the chance to do in a long time. Both families were all together, and the last time that happened was several years ago at Christmas time, and didn’t include Jody and Nathalie. Not to mention the little Helena wasn’t around last time. She’s really starting to motor around on her own now. I expect she’ll be talking before too long as well, but not yet. That’s a good thing though, because with a kitchen full of pig-headed Meyers, it’s awfully hard to get a word in edge-wise 🙂 We decided that we shouldn’t stay up too late, since the next morning was wedding day, and I hoped to get in a long run before that. Off to bed by midnight.

Early on Saturday, I got up to get ready for the morning run. The funniest thing was that I was the first one up. I think I even beat Helena to get the rooster award. I had my sunscreen on before Patrick had even rubbed the sand out of his eyes. Of course, there was still some breakfast to be eaten before taking off. My plan was to do about a 30km run, my longest since the last year. Patrick, who hasn’t been training too much, decided he’d probably only join me for half the run. I had a couple options. Either I go out and back with Patrick, then repeat that loop another time, or just break away and keep going. I decided the best for me was to keep going, otherwise, if I stopped at home before the second loop, I’d be tempted to stop. Also, this way, I could run all the way to the Pictou Harbour, which is a nice area (after you get passed the pulp and paper mill). It was funny, as although I’ve driven those roads hundreds of times when I lived at home, it was much different experience running them. Crossing the causeway to Pictou was very different, as I could really see (and smell) the area where the cormorants nest. There were hundreds of them!

It’s a good thing the scenery kept me interested, because the running was really killing me! As I mentioned, that was my longest run in over a year, and I really felt it. I had a back-pack on with 2L of Eload, and needed every drop of it to keep going, as well as the gel flask I had with me. I just kept telling myself that this long run was absolutely crucial to my training plan for the Iron-distance race. I have to squeeze in a couple of these stupidly long ones so that my legs don’t completely revolt on me. After all, I’m somehow going to have to convince myself to run 42km after a 4km swim and a 180km bike! Yeah, I know, that’s nuts. I’m starting to think so too, but you never know unless you try, right?

Anywho, after that nice run it was off to get ready for the wedding, which you can read all about in my other post. The next morning was July 1st, and boy, was I in luck. I have very fond childhood memories of growing up in Westville NS for Canada day. You see, my little town hosts the ‘big’ local Canada Day parade for the entire county, meaning we get the fire trucks from all the neighbouring towns in our parade, along with all the tractors 🙂 Even better than this is the fact that this year marked the 150th year of our town’s formation, which meant we would surely be treated to a grand parade. I was certainly looking forward to it, for as much of a blast from the past as anything else. However, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story, as before the parade, which was to start at noon, we were heading over to Pictou.

Why Pictou? Well, to have a personal guided tour of the lobster hatchery of course. Now this is another long story, but the shortened version goes like this. Lobsters have never been bred in captivity. They become canabalistic after developing to a certain level, and are really hard to get to that point anyhow. That didn’t stop a family friend of ours from helping get one going in Pictou. It acts as part of the local museum, and as such is a not-for-profit enterprise. Their goal is to get nature from about a three percent survival rate of babies up to sixty percent. Lofty goals, but if they do everything according to plan, they just might get there. Although this was a holiday, we got a very private tour of the facilities anyway, which is basically just a boathouse that was purpose-built for this. There are some pictures to be found on flickr if you’d care to see more. Feel free to ask me about it too. It’s pretty neat and is gathering interest from across the world.

Now back to the grand parade. Well, I’ll have to admit, it seemed much grander as a child. Although we had plenty of tractors and fire trucks to check out, there wasn’t a ton of bang for our buck. Yes, there were a few floats, which made it fun, and plenty of pipe bands too, but none of the big acts that I remembered as a child. We used to get at least one international thing, such as the Berlin motorcycle police, which would be in the parade to wow us, but this year, it was just sponsored pipe bands. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a lot of fun, but not as big as I expected for the 150th. This was made better by the fact that I got to view the parade from my old neighbours lawn, right next to my childhood home. Even better was that the new owners actually allowed our family to parade through the house to check out how it has changed. And changed it has. The only real signs of our childhood remained in the attic, where we found our names scribbled in chalk on the chimney. Too cool! After the tour and the parade, Jean Fraser prepared us a great little lunch to munch on. She was sort of my ‘grandmother’ growing up, and her husband was my family doctor. It really was a great way to spend the Canada Day festivities.

After the downtown fun was had, we headed back to the homestead to relax for a bit. Oh yeah, that and eat some more. We had lots of leftovers to work on from the wedding still. Andrea and I had the idea that we should check out the local midway later as well. This was another Canada Day thing in Westville. There’s a big homecoming thing, with a crowning, as well as a midway, complete with rides run by surly booze-hounds and games of chance (or no-chance). Jody decided to skip that and take a little time to read and work on some crosswords. So Andrea, Patrick, Helena and I headed back downtown to meet up with a couple childhood friends of hers. After all, this was the gathering place of all people from Westville. I ended up bumping into people I hadn’t seen in well over 10 years. It was pretty nutty. This again was a bit of a disappointment. There were almost no people there. We chalked it up to being around supper time, so all the families had gone home, and none of the young punks had made it out yet. However, it was fun to watch Helena experience her very first merry-go-round 🙂 She was very interested in all the activity. We only stayed for a little over an hour, but in that time received several invitations to parties. I declined all of them.

Back at home, I had the brilliant idea that we should head out to the drive-in, which is just down the road from our house. It is one of only two surviving drive-in theatres in Nova Scotia. They were playing the latest Pirates of the Caribbean flick, and something else that I don’t recall. Jody was pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to keep her eyes open for the long haul, so we instead opted to stay in. Andrea had decided to head out to her friend’s house for a party, but Patrick chose to stay at home as well. So, the three of us got to work on a box of wine (yes, a box), with some CDs pulled from dad’s collection. We wondered why he had Kiss, but not even he could explain that one. We opted first for Tubular Bells II by Mike Oldfield, then moved onto some big band CDs. We also got busy on some ‘easy’ New York Times crosswords. Word to the wise here. ‘Easy’ should not be a term employed by New York Times. Needless to say, we only completed one puzzle between the three of us! Once again, I chose to turn in around midnight, since I had made plans to go biking Monday morning.

Biking? Yup, it pays to know people. As it turns out, one of my high school buddies now owns and operates one of the best-known bike shops in the area, if not all of Nova Scotia. Shout out to Clint at Pictou County Cycles! Not only does he own and run the place, but another of my very good friends works there as well. They were keen to take me biking too. The way things worked out, it was only going to be Scott and I biking. Here’s the clincher though. I wanted to go road biking, but they specialize in mountain bikes. Not only that, but Clint had just sold his road bike, so I couldn’t borrow that one. Not to worry, Clint got Scott to pull a brand new bike from a box and build it up for me a couple days earlier, just so I could ride! Isn’t that awesome. Try finding that around other parts. I very much appreciated this, as similar to the long run, I also need to do a great amount of biking got the iron. The plan was to do about 120km, but that ended up getting shortened. Why? Well, I forgot just how hilly our county is. It’s constant rollers all the time. This kept our average speed much lower than I’d hoped. Also, it began pouring rain while we rode. That in itself wouldn’t really stop us, and we carried on through it, but combined with the slower speed and the lack of water I had made us choose a slightly shorter, 100km route. It was still a wicked bike ride though. I had also promised to try and be home by one-ish.

As things worked out, I was over an hour late getting home, since I’d neglected to change the time on my watch, and had relied on that to gauge our time. Not until I got back into Scott’s vehicle did I notice his dashboard clock was an hour off. Oops, nope, it was me that was off, not him. Luckily I didn’t get in too much trouble. Plus, I don’t get to see Scott very much, so it was a great visit. Once home, we had some more delicious food, before heading back over to Pictou. We were going there in order to check out dad and Nicole’s new house. We also decided we’d just stay in Pictou for supper, and that the kids would treat the newlyweds again. It was neat to see the ‘new’ house. It isn’t really new, but in the midst of a renovation being carried out by dad. As this will likely be the last home he lives in, he wants to make sure it’s laid out just the way he wants it to be. They totally re-did the kitchen, were replacing all the windows, and changed several walls. Not to mention a complete re-decoration of the entire place. They stepped us through the plans as we tried imagining the finished product. I’m already looking forward to the finished product. After the tour, we strolled down to the waterfront to scope out a place to eat. We ended up choosing just a casual pub / eatery for supper. There, I ran into a guy I worked with for a couple summers at Michelin, out for a bite with his wife. Small world again, as he doesn’t live near there at all. He’s a lifer there, working shift work driving a forlift. Although it was almost ten years later, he said they still talk about me sometimes there. Funny thing, life is.

After supper, we headed back home, and Jody and I did a bit of organizing, since we were leaving the following afternoon, and wanted to make the most of the day. Although I still wanted to go to the drive-in, I realized that just wasn’t going to happen. I made do with another quiet evening. I took the opportunity to walk around the property a bit, since it would likely be the last time I did so. There are certainly a lot of good memories there, and hopefully I’ll be able to hold onto those. If not, I’m sure other great memories will fill in the voids. After all, what is life if not a collection of fond memories?

The next morning got to a bit of a slower start, which was fine by me. I really haven’t had the chance to sleep in for quite some time now, what with training. But by sleeping in, I mean to say I was still up by 8:30. Damn. On the agenda was yet another trip out to Pictou. There were a couple reasons for this. First and foremost, I had my eye on doing some kayaking in the Northumberland Strait with a local kayak outfitter that was new. It wasn’t clear if we’d just be able to rent boats or had to do the whole guided thing. I was up for either, but with the guided option, we may be limited in the times that we could go. Our other to-do item on the list was a tour of Grohmann Knives in Pictou. This is to the best of my knowledge the only true knife company in Canada. They make a full range of kitchen knives, as well as hunting, fishing, and pocket knives.

Grohmann Knives is one of those little Canadian success stories. I used to work for them. In fact, it was my first ever job. I was a manager of a retail knife store in one of the local malls run by them as a side project. Unfortunately, business wasn’t brisk enough to justify both the retail mall store, as well as their retail factory store, so I found myself out of a job after about a year at it. This has little to do with Grohmann today though. They make great knives, hailed almost universally by many chefs as a high qualify knife. The edges may not hold as long, but with proper sharpening are fantastic tools. The funny thing is that Grohmann doesn’t really exploit their reputation. They are a small outfit, and prefer to stay that way, rather than grow into a big company. I’m torn as to whether I think it’s brilliant or crazy. Why not make the most out of possible success? Well, for the one thing, it’s the family feel, which they’d no doubt lose if they grew.

On the factory tour, you get to see all the various steps of the process, as well as learn about where the materials come from. Steel from Germany, Wood from South America, horn from all over, and walrus hide from Canada, etc. etc. Then, you also get to see the actual craftsmen, which is what they are. They sit at little cobblers stools in front of basic machinery working the metal into the correct shapes, and putting the perfect edge on each of them. Carefully riveting the wood, sanding the handles, and so on. All this is done by hand by people who have been doing the same thing day in and day out for years. They decide what to work on depending on the stock levels, and who is around. If a certain expert is out one day, they’ll shift to a different product. It was fun to re-visit this factory and store, and I remembered why I like knives so much. They’re cool!

After the tour, and requisite shopping (they make great unique Canadian gifts!), we headed to the wharf to check on paddling. As it turned out, they only offer kayaking back at Pictou lodge by guided tours, and we weren’t at the right time. However, a local let me use his phone, where I called the owner. His helper answer, telling me the owner was elsewhere, but that someone else should be at the Lodge. I had emailed a couple days before, and they remembered me. She said they could likely set us up with something if we headed over. And so Patrick, Andrea, Jody and I made our way there. We were the only ones to show up that day I think, and the guide was happy to give us an abbreviated tour (at full price however) to accomodate our time constraints. She breezed over the normal safety lessons to give us more water time. You start on a little pond for practice, then portage over to the ocean. This in face was the first time I got to paddle on open ocean, which was neat.

The four of us, along with the guide, made our way out to the playgrounds of the sea lions, and yes, we did see some of them. There were big males and smaller females. You could see their heads pop up out of the water, looking not unlike dog’s heads. Then you’d here their heavy breathing, which we were assured wasn’t due to our good looks. They’re a pretty shy lot, so we didn’t get super close. I think Jody got the closest, being about 20ft. away. I tried snapping some shots, but on the camera, they just end up looking like little dots. It was still a lot of fun though. I also dabbled at taking some shots of each of us underwater with a camera bag I had bought for just such that purpose. It worked pretty well, but was hard to manipulate from within the boat. Luckily I didn’t drop it into the water, although I came close! The weather was splendid, with the water remaining pretty calm, with very little breeze. All told, we spent close to three hours from start to finish. We would’ve loved to stay longer, but Jody and I had one final stop before heading back to the Halifax Airport.

Back in the car, we headed back to Pictou County cycle. I wanted to thank Clint in person, as well as say sayonara to Scott again. We got to the store and it was just nuts there. Scott said it had been like that all day. They get a solid stream of customers all the time coming through the doors. Some for repair work, some to buy stuff, some just to browse, but all of them keen to give business to the store. It was great to see. Keep in mind, I’m from a pretty depressed area, with only a few employers, so to see a local business thriving was pretty cool. While there, I chatted up Clint about a racing jersey from their store. They have a team who all wear matching jerseys. As luck would have it, there was one size small jersey left, and I picked it up at cost. Now when I’m biking in New Zealand, I’ll have a couple unique jersey’s. One Canada jersey from my big sis, and now a PC Cycle team jersey. Sweet! I also got Clint to throw in a couple printed water bottles, which I plan to use during races and such. Since it was so busy, we didn’t stay too long.

We got back home for the final pack-up, and got dad to agree to make the hour and a half journey to the airport. We had a late afternoon flight back on Porter, and didn’t want to miss it, as we had to work the next morning, and there were no later flights. The drive up was very uneventful, and we got in with plenty of time. It was time to say goodbye to the good old Maritimes once again. I don’t make it out that way, but every time I do, I’m reminded of both why it is I no longer live there, but also why I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to grow up there. Under different circumstances, I’m sure I’d like to have a place out that way. The pace of life is quite agreeable, and there’s some great terrain and sights along the coastline. However, opportunities don’t abound, which leads to the great migration. I’m not sure how long it will be before I make it out again, all I know is that it’ll be to a new house, with new memories in the making. I’d like to say thanks here to my dad for hosting us, and for giving Andrea and I such a great childhood home town. I suppose you could have made a home for us in any number of places, but you chose the quiet little town of Westville instead. All in all, not a bad choice! That’s it for now kids. Take care, and hug your folks, they probably did the best they could for you, just like mine did, and deserve a little recognition.

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