Monday, August 27, 2007

Scenes from a Canadian Voyage de Route (Road Trip)

Got back last week from a night up in Maine and three nights in Quebec City. There always seems to be some complication you least need when you can't speak the language. This trip it was a flat tire on our car we discovered on our middle day up there. So instead of heading to the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, we spent a nice afternoon in the Quebec suburbs trying to bridge the language gap searching for auto mechanics and Good Year dealers to get a new tire. But we still had a good time. Just as when as I was a kid, it was fun to walk on top of the walls of the old city. Quebec still has the scent of horses from the carriage rides. This time I toured the Chateau Frontenac and the Quebec Parliament, which was a first for me. And the road trip's always fun:

Survey says... It's when you're on a road trip that you discover the benefits of satellite radio. So since I don't have it, it was a bit interesting trying to find suitable radio entertainment driving through the deep woods of Maine before the French radio stations kicked in to leave me completely at a loss. Driving out of Portland, the best option was 87.7 on the FM dial, which carries the same frequency of Channel 6 on the TV. Since Portland has a Channel 6, we listened to Family Feud but it really loses something when you can't see the answers on the board.

Maybe Grimace is on the loose, too... When we were driving back to the States from Canada, we had to make the requisite stop at Border Patrol. It's always interesting the questions you get asked. Going into Canada, they seemed most concerned about bringing in alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. Coming back into the U.S., they wanted to know if we had bought anything in Canada that we were bringing in. Since we bought no souvenirs (not that Quebec doesn't have beaucoup opportunities to do so), the only thing we had was the bacon cheeseburger (hamburger wasn't an option, interestingly) I got at McDonald's 20 minutes before and hadn't eaten yet. I always prefer to follow the full disclosure policy in front of federal agents, so I said all I had bought was the hamburger. I thought he was making small talk when he asked if I polished it off. (It was around lunch time.) When I said I hadn't, he let me know that I couldn't bring it into the U.S. although I could pull over and eat it. Choosing not to do that, I tossed it. I imagine it's a beef regulation rather than any concern that the Hamburgler is plotting against any Burger King targets in the U.S.

I hear the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are gone, too... On the way back, we stopped at the former site of the Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire. The Old Man was the state's symbol, showing up on license plates and road signs. In May 2003, the Old Man suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed. So I was curious what has become of the site. We pulled into the parking lot and there were a few other cars there (probably a few more than I expected), but there was no notice that the Old Man had actually left the building, so to speak. The museum was shuttered, but the notice said it was because it was under construction. Not until you made the five-minute walk down to Profile Lake did you notice there is no man and find a sign explaining what happened that day in May. I guess there's a memorial that is now in the works, but if you didn't know the Man is gone, be forewarned before visiting the site.

By the way, if you are traveling to Canada, the country has done away with any refund of the GST it charges. That's too bad, since the federal and Quebec provincial taxes were pretty steep. And since the Canadian "looney" is now on par with the dollar, don't expect any deals.

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