We are, once again, camped in a Wal-Mart parking lot. But this time we are poised at the tip of the easternmost lobe of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and we are waiting for the ferry to Newfoundland.
Julia and I had left Meat Cove two days earlier. (Photos here on Facebook. This end-of-the-road detour is worth it if you ever travel to this part of the world.) We had zipped through the last half of the Cabot Trail. Camped for a night in a proper campground to do laundry and a desperately needed spit-polish on the trailer, inside and out.
Then we drove across the top of the the Bras D’Or (Arms of Gold) lakes, which weren’t gold, but were lovely to see, and ended up at the North Sydney Mall.
In two days we will board the Marine Atlantic ferry to Newfoundland, whose dock is just down the highway.
Besides two excellent grocery stores (Sobey’s and the Atlantic Superstore), there is a McDonalds, the ubiquitous Tim Hortons, and a visitors’ center—all potential dispensers of wifi. Before we leave, we will have tried them all. I will also have also sampled several of the nearby ATMs.
As far as I can tell, North Sydney has little to recommend it. It’s a mildly dreary industrial town, with shopping carts littering the river and lots of the zippy traffic I find so unpleasant to navigate with a trailer.
When we first pulled into the busy parking lot, I sought in vain for a quiet corner. Eventually, with difficulty and a couple of curb checks, I backed into a tight little spot at the end of a row of cars that I hoped would offer some privacy.
I might as well have pitched a tent on the freeway.
In these situations I find it helpful to walk around. So I walked. I looked down the alleys between stores. I explored the edges of the lot where other RVs were parked. I scoped out the loading docks, and that’s how I found the trash-littered expanse of cracked cement behind the mall.
When you are a nomad on a budget, this is the Ritz. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to step out the door of your trailer and not be looking into someone’s side window. A trashy field beats the pants off curious Wal-Mart shoppers trying not to stare.
We hitched up again, crept through the bustling parking lot, bypassing the other rigs crammed into their tight corners and laid claim to the huge, empty lot behind the Sobey’s to wait for the ferry to Newfoundland.
Ahhhh. Doesn’t get better than this.
To be honest, despite all the great stuff we’d seen thus far—the exotic foreignness of Quebec, the pastoral warmth of Prince Edward Island, the beauty of Cape Breton Island—I was most intrigued by the hulking lump of Newfoundland out there in the cold Atlantic.
Every chance I got, I had quizzed people who’d been there, “What’s it like?”
Brows would knit. Eyes would stare off into the middle distance.
“Newfoundland? Well…it’s different.”
I was excited to find out for myself. We would spend a month on the island, traveling from St. John’s, the capital city on the east, across the middle of the island and along the length of the Great Northern Peninsula on the west–to, you guessed it, the end of the road.
But first, we had a 15-hour ferry crossing to Argentia, a village tucked into Placentia Bay. I’ve done a lot of crossings, but nothing like this one. But then, I’ve never been on an island as remote and rugged as Newfoundland.