Life on the road has settled into its own comfortable rhythm with Van-nessa. The basics of survival are distilled down to finding groceries, water, sani-dump stations, showers, fuel, a place to park overnight. Sometimes we sleep under fluorescent lights and busy roads in Walmart parking lots, sometimes we get sunsets and starry nights at serene campsites. Our space is small, but we are perfecting the (sometimes impatient) dance to make our tiny home on wheels work. Sometimes the kids complain they want their space and the comforts of home, but mostly we are content with what we have.
I remind them: you can’t have a comfortable life AND an adventurous life all the time. Usually, it is a trade off.
And its worth it.
Living in a van is a good exercise in remaining fully present and only tending to what is happening right in front of you. Thankfully, Prince Edward Island is a pretty spectacular place to be fully present.
We crossed over the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island just as the last bit of sun was disappearing below the water. The bridge was under construction when both Kirk and I went to PEI in the 90’s, so this was new for everyone. At 12 km long and ranging from 40-60 meters above the water (which freezes in winter!) it is quite the engineering feat, that many islanders say irrevocably changed PEI culture.
Sunday morning and we headed to Charlottetown to browse a flea market where Katie found all kinds of treasures she insisted enhanced her vibe. Whatever that means.
Then to Queen street for the Charlottetown farmers market and to wander around the beautiful harbour, complete with lots of treats and browsing for whatever caught our eye.
We were hoping for a picture of the parliament at the home of Confederation but it was entirely under construction so a picture in front of a picture was a quirky enough alternative. Does that enhance my vibe? I think so.
The island is super small. 280km long and as narrow as 6km in some places, so it didn’t take long to drive around most of it, stopping at picturesque lighthouses as we went. On the north side of the island is Prince Edward Island National Park, where we lucked out with another beach front campsite at Cavendish, played in the red sand and watched the sunset over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
When Kirk travelled across Canada as a teen, they spent most of their time in PEI visiting relatives, many of whom still live there. Much to his mother’s dismay, we did not contact any of them to go visit on this trip. Kirk’s only memories of meeting them was feeling bored out of his mind with yet another cemetery visit and family BBQ, and desperately wanting to go to the beach. So, this time we made sure to maximize beach time by spending a hot afternoon at Cavendish beach between sand dunes and the surprisingly warm water, soaking up the sun.
We also made the stop at iconic home that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write Anne of Green Gables, which is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of Canadian classics ever written. The house was adorable, and the “Haunted Woods”, “Lovers Lane” and “Babbling Brook” were equally quaint. Katie, an author herself, was astounded to learn that Kirk’s family is related through marriage to Lucy Maud Montgomery, a fact she has heard dozens of times before, but only sunk in once she was standing there, reading snippets of Lucy’s journal entries and her thoughts on being a writer. It is pretty incredible to think of how one character, one simple story has had such an impact on so many people and both captured and shaped Islander life so perfectly.
Of course we promptly bought tickets to see the musical production of Anne of Green Gables for the following night.
But first, seafood.
To New Glasgow Lobster Supper we went. A low-key lobster dinner place that Kirk recalls going to on their visit. For over twice the price of a lobster dinner in ’95, we each ordered a lobster that comes with all you can eat mussels, seafood chowder, hot dinner rolls, salad and dessert. I don’t get as excited about lobster as most people do, but I admit pretty delicious. Mussels on the other hand? I just don’t get it. I always try them and am disappointed every time. I can’t be the only one that thinks they taste like mud pate, am I?
We spent our last night in PEI at a campsite called Cumberland Cove upon the recommendation of my good friend Lori. It is a humble piece of grass along the shore, owned and operated by a cute old couple that were more then happy to show us treasures they found washed up on shore (a 3000-year-old arrowhead from England!) and gave us a bedazzled shell and sand dollars as mementos of our stay. It was getting late, but the tide was out, and we couldn’t resist another walk along the ocean floor. I sent some pictures to Lori and she wrote back “Aw that makes me so happy and so sad at the same time.” You see, Lori’s parents had a summer home a few houses down the dead-end red road opposite the campsite. Lori and her family loved to spend a few weeks in the summer playing on the same ocean floor, searching for
sea glass and jellyfish, and spending time with her parents. Not long after their last visit, Lori’s father passed away, rather unexpectedly. Her mom sold the house and they have never been back.
The people we love, the places we visit and the feelings they bring, braid together to create a memory. What happens when one of those strands unravel and the memory shifts? I guess that’s the fleeting and devastatingly beautiful thing about our experiences. What will we take away from our experiences on this trip? Is it the beaches of PEI, our uncontrollable laughter while we drew funny characters in the sand or the fact we were all there together as a family?
The ocean floor at Cumberland Cove felt a bit like sacred ground, knowing that it is so special to someone that I care about, even though the place meant nothing to me prior.
However, the next morning, we stamped our own memories on the ocean floor when we spent several hours digging for clams on the sandbar on a moody, rainy morning. New memories my kids will tell their future partners and bore their children with on new roadtrips in 25 years.
A bit more touring around to see some more beautiful lighthouses before we headed back to Charlottetown to catch Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, which was of course incredible. I cried when Matthew Cuthbert died. Just like I do every time. I think its because his character reminds me of my Grandpa who passed away several years ago. My memories of him are happy/sad all at the same time too. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
Back over the long Confederation Bridge in the darkib. ‘Night PEI and thanks for the memories.
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