Maritimelog VIII: Take Me to the Bridge

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M’lady and I woke up perched on the northernmost tip of Prince Edward Island inside our perfect little borrowed home-on-wheels.  On one side of us was the expansive Gulf of St. Lawrence (or was it the Atlantic Ocean?) and behind us was a not-yet-open info booth, beyond which stood a line of majestically twirling windmills.  I started the day playing outside with the ocean and the windmills while m’lady made coffees in the RV’s kitchen (or is it a galley?).  After a cuppa joe and a few final pics of the gulf and mills we slid in the sliders and got on with what would prove to be another wonderfully scenic drive.  

Toddman harnessing natural energy

Despite taking the longest and slowest route we still managed to arrive in O’Leary in less than an hour (PEI is so small that sometimes I’d swear the maps are actual-size).  We easily found the Potato Museum* and parked in their lot.  We were early for being early; being a Sunday the museum wasn’t scheduled to open for a few more hours yet so we made lunch, unhooked the bikes and tried our luck on the Confederation Trail.  

PEI was quick to belly up and finish their chunk of the vast Trans Canada Trail network, completing the main artery of the island’s Confederation Trail as early as 2000.  I love pretty much everything about this country of mine having an interconnected web of interprovincial bike paths so of course I was eager to try out PEI’s contribution.  The Confederation Trail was built on the old trans-Canadian railway line so the crushed stone path that traverses from one end of the island to the other is smooth and flat, and it offers several optional detours along the way.  

We pedalled about eight kilometres through stunning scenery, crossing picturesque bridges and stopping at several of countless idyllic rest stops along the way before turning around.  Gosh, what a ride!  I absolutely loved it.  Riding the entire Trans Canada Trail is definitely a future dreamtrip of mine.  

By the time we got back to the parking lot we’d decided to pass on the museum after all, but we did stop into the gift shop and really now, isn’t that the main thing?  Afterwards we racked our bikes to the rear of the Sunseeker and snapped a few pics of our mascot Rocky d’Homard posing in front of the museum’s giant frontispiece potato before heading off for more adventures.  

Or at least a snack, we thought, as we almost immediately found ourselves pulling into yet another roadside oyster place.  The restaurant was offering free shucking contests on the patio where the lucky winners were welcome to slurp down the precious, slimy prizes inside.  Of course m’lady imbibed; of course I abstained.

Our final stop on Prince Edward Island was a toothless tourist trap called the Bottle Houses at Cape Egmont (not to be confused with the extremely-similar Bottle Houses at Treherne, Manitoba or the ones in…okay, unlike potato museums there are only two tourist-y bottle house roadsiders in the world).  

It seems some guy with an enormous drinking problem and/or manic bottle-collecting fetish decided to invest his spare time – and a man with such problems is bound to have plenty of spare time – into building a pair of small houses and a church out of empty liquor bottles.  Each structure is made from over ten thousand individual bottles imbedded in cement but like I say, they are rather small.  And rather plain, if I’m being honest.  As children’s clubhouses they would be quite awesome, remarkable even, but as houses that somebody could actually live in?  Not so awesome.  Though here I am remarking on them.

And while I’ll admit that the place is definitely a curiosity and it rather impressively made it into Ripley’s Believe It or Not! column, I’d conclude that if you ever happen to find yourself driving in or near Cape Egmont, PEI you’re just as well to save yourself the $5 and just keep right on driving.  

With the last and least stop of our island adventure complete we endured another fifty kilometres of gorgeous coastal driving before putting Canada’s smallest province temporarily in our rearview mirror.  As we pulled our 28’ RV up to the Confederation Bridge toll booth I was shocked to learn that our $40 fee to leave Prince Edward Island (going to PEI doesn’t cost a cent) was the same price they were charging for a lowly little regular-sized car.  Crazy.

And what a ride!  The 12.9km Confederation Bridge (that’s eight miles, which makes it the longest bridge in the world that spans over iced waters) that connects Prince Edward Island to the mainland is truly a jaw-dropper.  If you manage to maintain the posted speed limit of 80kms/hr it takes ten solid minutes to cross the bridge, which affords ample time to appreciate what an amazing architectural achievement it is.  But it’s hard not to slow down a little when you are presented with the stunning views.  I mean, the infinite strip of perfectly symmetrical concrete stretching fore and aft is distracting enough, but it’s those elevated vertigo-views of the endless, all-encompassing sea on either side of the bridge that really slowed down our crossing**.   

Once our wheels touched solid ground on the New Brunswick side of the Confederation Bridge our RV vacation was essentially over.  From there it was just an hour or so to my folk’s place in Moncton where with some sadness we handed the keys of the mighty Sunseeker back over to its rightful owners.  We overcame our melancholy-of-impermanence with a heck of a barbecued dinner and several stiff Jack and Coke’s while revelling my mom and dad with many of the tales included herein.  I believe I left out the story about the time I pulled out of our densely-wooded camping spot with the RV’s sliders still slid out.

Thanks Sunseeker (and mom and dad)!  It was a great ride.

(Lest you think this is the end of this series, allow me to reassure you and suggest you remain on the edge of your seat.  For after just the briefest of parental retreats our adventure continues with an exciting cycling tour of the Magdalen Islands.)

*If you’re surprised to learn that Prince Edward Island has a museum dedicated specifically to the lowly potato then you’ll be extra-surprised to know that there are in fact fourteen potato museums currently operating on planet Earth.  The closest competitor to our little Potato Museum there in O’Leary, PEI?  Potato World in Florenceville, New Brunswick, just five hundred kilometres away. 

And just like you, I have thus far visited none of them.

**Though not nearly as slow as those pre-bridge ferry crossings that we had to endure back when I was a kid.  The ferry crossing itself was always fine and I think it only took a half-hour or so (is that even possible?) but I recall having to get in line for the ferry several hours early to ensure a spot on the boat.  I doubt many people pine for that particular part of the good old days.

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