I was afraid that Miss Julia might refuse to leave Prince Edward Island. We had both become fond of the “gentle island” in our few days there, but what with our gallant waiter’s phone number in her back pocket and a vague mention of a phantom job, who knew what plans might be brewing in that 20-something brain?
In the end, however, we drove back across Confederation Bridge, feeling absurdly sentimental about the place with its red dirt fields, brazen foxes, lobster pots, and lively music.
Back on the Nova Scotia mainland, we headed east toward Cape Breton Island. The road was a broad and zippy two-lanes, and I drive at the speed of a dray horse. (For the record, I am not a dray horse. Gas was $1.30 per liter/$5.20 per gallon here, and I get about 19km/12 miles per gallon. I’m trying to save the planet and my budget at the same time. Got a problem with that?)
So, as cars piled up behind me, Julia scoured the horizon for an alternate route, and that’s how we ended up on a little country road along the Northumberland Strait with misty views of lovely Prince Edward Island across the water.
We stopped at a farmer’s market that looked like farmer’s markets everywhere; we passed through Pugwash and Tatamagouche and decided that Antigonish was as good a place to stop as any. We decided that because my trusty GPS told us that Antigonish had a Walmart.
As all road travelers know, old Sam Walton was a trucker well-acquainted with the prejudices against an 18-wheeler parked on some highway or city street for the night. So when he became king of the discount superstore, he decreed that his parking lots would always have room for truckers and travelers.
You can say that it’s a good business decision, because most of the RVers I see in Walmart lots head straight into the store to stock up. You can also say that Walmart drives out local business and mistreats its employees and squeezes suppliers and has questionable environmental practices, and you might be right. But when you are in a strange place and need to stop for the night, it’s always comforting to see the Walmart.*
So, as I said, my GPS told me that Antigonish had a Walmart, and I set my little electronic guide to lead us home.
Turn left at West Street.
We are passing a classic, old university with arches leading to green lawns and brick buildings. A wedding is in progress.
Now we are navigating through a tricky little hub of an intersection on Main Street. Hmmm. Not really Walmart territory, I think, but I have to pay attention to the road.
Our GPS lady leads us smartly on. We wind deeper into a residential district. I am busy watching lights and traffic. In a delusional part of my brain, I expect that suddenly a Walmart would appear, probably with angel choirs and a bright star outshining those sickly yellow parking-lot lights.
Delusion was no longer an option.
Arriving at your destination. On the right.
Did that voice sound self-satisfied or was it my imagination? We sat in a dead-end street in the middle of a neighborhood looking into the front-room windows of tidy residential bungalows.
Nothing to do but admit defeat and gingerly turn around (Again, I am everlastingly grateful for a small rig with a tight turning radius) and begin rewinding, trying to pick our way back through town. Then trying to figure out where Sam’s elusive mart may be.
A couple tricky turns. Quiz a student on a street corner, and we learn that we had driven right by the place on our way into town! Such is the allure of that gentle, confident computer-generated voice coaxing you one turn after another, deeper into the labyrinth, overwhelming your better judgment. I’ve heard of people with rigs much bigger than mine forced to back down mountain slopes after following their GPS to the bitter end of a two-track, thinking the thing knew a secret passage through the mountain.
We pulled into our little asphalt heaven, crabby and tired, and quarreled about where to park. I like to cruise around and find a spot where the door faces a grassy, if trash-littered, field. Julia was having none of it, and we ended up smack in the middle of the parking lot with car butts in our personal space.
I groused about it all night.
*In some upscale places, the town fathers (or maybe their wives and girlfriends) seem to think that campers in the Walmart lot look trashy. So they plaster “No overnight parking” signs on every lightpole.
Come on, folks. What’s so classy about the local Walmart, anyway? I won’t hang laundry on the bike rack or pee in the trash-littered vacant lot. I don’t even carry a gun! I just need a place to park for the night. I always spend money in your store, so stop being such stuffed shirts.
** I keep forgetting to mention that the final blog in my Newfoundland Diaries series appeared on Huffington Post a few weeks ago. The link is here. Check it out. You know what to do. Like. Tweet. Bang on pans. Make a fuss. Thanks.
***An album of Prince Edward Island photos is here. While you’re at it, could you “like” the Wanderingnotlost.org FB page? Thanks for your awesomeness.