Roots and Ben and Jerry’s

My dad’s side of the family has a lot of its ancestry mapped-out, and due to that, I know for a fact that all the way back to my 6th great-grandfather on my father’s side of the family, they had lived in and around this tiny town on the outskirts of the White Mountain National Forest. I’d never been in this part of the country and with the recent passing of my grandfather, who was born there, it seemed like a spot we needed to visit. As expected, it was about as tiny as tiny gets. City-center is a post office, a small general store, and not much else. I imagine it’s been that way for quite some time. We tried to drive around to see where my grandfather had grown up but only found a baseball diamond and a propane place. We took a few pictures to document the moment, which I’m keeping for myself, family, & friends (too personal for this page). It felt good to go, and good to move on.

From there we made a beeline to a spot all of us were excited to visit, the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT. The place was packed because (we learned on the way over) it was National Ice Cream Day. Nevertheless, we persisted (sorry, hard to resist that) and we took the tour (on Sunday’s there’s part of the tour you don’t get but I can’t remember what it was we missed out on) and at the end of the tour, we got a tasty sample of ice cream. That, of course, whets the appetite, stokes the fire of patience, and bolsters the endurance needed to wait in the line that wraps around the building to go buy a heaping, HEAPING big ice cream cone with ANY Ben & Jerry’s favorite you want. Trust me, unless there are dietary discomforts or life-threatening allergies at play, you will totally go for the mega portions because come on, it’s Ben & Jerry’s. This became our supper. With a wistful farewell, we waved at the black and white bovine in the field as we pulled out and back onto the highway. Sometimes, life is just very sweet.

That night we drove down to a little town outside of Boston for the second sibling visit of the trip. There was something mighty welcoming about a flat driveway and a long extension cord that powered our a/c. The icing on this otherwise sweet day was my itty bitty 4-day old nephew in his daddy’s arms there to greet us.

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KID THOUGHTS ON NEW HAMPSHIRE AND VERMONT (or, Kid thoughts on Ben & Jerry’s that sound a bit like free advertising)

D~ “Ben & Jerry’s is not like other businesses. It is non-GMO and supports good treatment of animals. It also supports good treatment of the earth, too.” 

Djr~ “Ben and Jerry are still alive! They are 60!” (please note, Djr’s grandparents are still alive and over 60)

A~ “Ben & Jerry’s has ice cream that changes the world.”

Halifax and the Last Canadian Hurrah

We started out too late in the morning to catch the ferry over to Nova Scotia, so we drove back over the bridge to New Brunswick and then on to Nova Scotia. We arrived at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, but too late to take in all the exhibits and had to rush through them, which made it less enjoyable. Currently, there is a great exhibit on the Titanic, as well as The Great Halifax Explosion that happened in December of 1917. Inside, we had a very in-depth chat with the woman that was tending the Robertson Store exhibit because she could see my children wanted to know what everything was for. The store was basically your one-stop hardware store for ships. Out back behind the museum, the Acadia is worth exploring (included with the museum admission). 

We strolled around the docks for a bit and spied our chance to have real Canadian Beavertail. Don’t worry, no beavers were harmed. It’s basically a funnel cake only in the shape of a beaver’s tail (though I’m not sure the purveyors would appreciate that comparison). You can get an assortment of toppings including our family favorite- Nutella, we opted for the original.

Danny found a good lobster sandwich there, too.

Afterward, we drove over to Peggy’s Cove, rumored to have an iconic and oft-photographed lighthouse. There are not many things in this world that live up to their hype, but it was clear why this spot is a favorite. We had our shutters clicking, too, the digital ones. My kids loved hopping around the big rocks. There were signs to caution visitors against fatal wrong steps. I made sure my kids understood the price could be deadly if they didn’t heed the warning. I saw a tourist take quite a slip while hopping over a puddle. Thankfully, that space between the rocks was a shallow one and he only had to deal with sopping wet pants and a bruised ego.

We drove a little farther on to the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial. A sobering reminder to make the most of what is in front of you. The memorial is set in a gorgeous natural area that’s been preserved. It was a horribly sad and tragic way for the lives of those aboard to end, but their resting place has been given the care and respect it deserved.

That night we had our last meal in Canada for this trip and it was at our last “must” on the Canadian food list- we ate at Tim Horton’s. I didn’t link it because they’re rather easy to find, even in some northern US states. Unfortunately, we hit this location at the wrong time because they were out of just about everything but what we ate was okay. I know I saw tastier things at other locations when we were traveling around, and I’ve had better stuff at Tim Horton’s before (granted, that was over 13 years ago). Please understand I’m saying that as someone who is not a big fan of fast food. My kids were excited to finally eat there, though.

After our meal, we drove as far as we could because we had an important stop coming up, a long overdue visit to see some family.

Funky cool lampposts in Halifax

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KID THOUGHTS ON NOVA SCOTIA

A~ “My favorite thing was trying the beaver tail delicacy.”

D~ “First time at Tim Horton’s!”

Djr~ “My favorite part of today was everything of today. Maritime (Titanic), lighthouse (climbing on rocks), eating cinnamon beaver tails, eating at Tim Horton’s.”

Falling for Niagara Falls

Day 1 was finally upon us. We pulled into Niagara Falls (Ontario) around noon. Parking was a bit of a trick. We didn’t do our homework and just figured we could park somewhere close to the Falls, but many of the closer parking lots are not open to RVs. We did eventually get redirected to Rapidsview Parking Lot. There we paid $10 and we made lunch in the parking lot before heading out. There is a free shuttle (the We-Go) from this lot to Table Rock. From there you could pay for the bus/shuttle but we chose to walk. A lot. We walked to Niagara Falls and took about a thousand photos with our children in the forefront and the Falls behind them.

We had purchased tickets for the Hornblower Cruise (Canada’s version of the Maid of the Mist) online before we arrived, but when we walked up to get in line, the ticket-holder line was wrapped so far back it would take over an hour to get through, so we opted to walk around a bit and come back to it later.

My husband had the genius idea to walk across the bridge to the U.S. and then walk back so we could finally get stamps for the children’s passports. My kids were excited and so was I. Ha-ha! We’d figured out a way to make it happen. We went through to the U.S. side. The Customs Officer was all smiles and welcomes and my children explained their earnest desire for stamps. She dug out her nearly dry ink pad and accommodated. We had stamps! Albeit, stamps to mark our arrival to the U.S.

We walked around a bit on the U.S. side but it was hot and we were feeling a bit foot-sore on our first real outing in this year of travel, and after an hour or so, we trekked back to Canada. This time the bridge was full of tourists, including the gentleman in front of us who comes down from Toronto to purchase can’t-finds (in Canada) cheaply. He was headed back to catch the bus that would take him back to Toronto.

We made it up to the Canadian Customs Officer and with eager grins explained how it was our children’s first time in Canada and how kind the U.S. agent had been. We were waved away. “We don’t do that. Next!” Alack, alas. We learned that even in Europe, the days of stamps in passports are coming to an end. It’s all electronically monitored and that our best bet is in more economically-deprived corners of the world where things are operating a bit more “old school”. Wah-wah.

On the way to our Hornblower Cruise, we stopped at the Secret Garden Restaurant and had our first real Canadian specialty, Poutine. If you’re unfamiliar, Poutine is a pile of French Fries covered in gravy and cheese. The type of cheese varies from place-to-place but it’s always cheese. This time it was shredded Cheddar but we saw it with cheese curds in some places.

At long last, we boarded the Hornblower with our complimentary ponchos (if you go, feel free to recycle these at the end, or, like we did, dry and stash them in your vehicle in case you need them later). From the bridge when you looked down at the tourists in line, you’d see scads of people in their own clothes going into a building and all coming out in red ponchos. It looked like a little factory.

I will admit I didn’t expect very much from the cruise. The Falls are breathtaking but I figured my kids would be more impressed than I was. When we got out there though, I was gobsmacked. You get as close as you safely can and there is no way to really grasp how massive Niagara Falls is without being at the bottom of them. I can’t fathom what the Indigenous groups must have thought of them when they first encountered them, or the colonists when they arrived. I can’t imagine being where I was in a smaller vessel. It was impressive and worth the cost ($26 adult/ $16 child).

After that we headed for our overnight spot. It’s worth checking with friends and family along the way if you’re RVing to see if there are spots you can park or park and plug-in overnight. It saves a bit of cash if you’re just heading from point-to-point and not staying more than a day.

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KID THOUGHTS ON NIAGARA FALLS

D~ “What surprised me the most was the diversity of cultures.”

Djr~ “What surprised me the most was the amount of mist!”

A~ “The thing that surprised me the most was the food at the Secret Garden. It was awesome. AWESOME!!” [she had a grilled cheese sandwich]

Without Further Ado, Canada, Here We Come!

The mail and paper service was on-hold, our RV was packed, and we were on our way. Later than expected, which tends to be our family norm, but we were on our way. In the early evening of July 7, 2017, we set out on our first family expedition in this year of travel that lies ahead.

Ambassador Bridge

Around midnight we were nearing the U.S. border into Canada (Ambassador Bridge) and were greeted by a fireworks finale and the traffic that follows. Gratefully, we were just slipping through a portion of that traffic and soon were at pace before the border checkpoint. I made a mental note to check for events along our points of travel in the future. (This becomes a theme.)

The border crossing was rather straightforward. First time in Canada? Where are you headed? Are you bringing any fireworks or weapons? The only slight inconvenience was having to wake the children so customs/border patrol could verify the children in our vehicle were the children presented on the passports. Pretty standard stuff. The only disappointment was a lack of a stamp in my children’s passports to mark their first trip to another country. (This becomes a theme too, thanks to the electronic tracking of movements and the redundancy created by the stamps.)

When asked where we were headed, we mentioned several things including going to Prince Edward Island to pay homage to the literary sites made famous by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The customs officer stared at us blankly. My husband shrugged his shoulders in that manly “I know, right?” way. The officer queried further, “you’re going to PEI because of a book?” I nodded enthusiastically. He shrugged like my middle schooler. I think at this point he decided we were both a non-threat and maybe a bit dim.

Moments later, I was trying to snap a photo of the bridge as we drove over it.

We settled for the night around Chatham-Kent. First new thing for me? The exits were all marked “On Route” and I liked that better than “exit”. It felt a bit more like enjoying the journey instead of just wishing you were at the end.

The only trouble this night was a bit of excessive snoring and a pesky mosquito. Small stuff.