If a Dentist Farts in the Woods...

Trip Start Jun 17, 2008
Trip End Aug 31, 2009

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Where I stayed
Marine Atlantic Ferry

Flag of Canada  , Nova Scotia,
Saturday, July 11, 2009

"If the next blog is just a simple picture of my bloated stomach, you'll know the week is going well…"

So ended the last blog, but that triggered a barrage of e-mail, ranging from the polite, “Thanks, but no thanks…we don’t need that picture to know that your parents are spoiling you”, to the downright nasty, “if you do that, I’ll divorce you!! P.S.  Get the $@%! off of the couch and get the RV out of storage!  xoxoxo” 

You will be pleased to know that we have acquiesced to the wishes of our loyal readers.  Despite fully gluttonizing (is that really a word?...the spell checker isn’t underlining it?) myself at both sets of parents we decided to take another direction with the pictures.  Instead of a photo of me covered in crumbs and food stains, we’ve used some of Tracy’s favourite pictures from the past year for filler.  Of course, this might have more to do with the fact that only a few pictures were taken last week.  And those taken would likely be of little interest to the average blog reader.  I may be wrong, however…perhaps, like the famous photo of the traumatized Vietnamese girl running naked from the napalm attack, a picture labeled “Kevin trims his nose hairs” could win a Pulitzer Prize.

We quickly discovered we had mixed feelings about being back on home soil.  Yes, we were very happy to see family and friends, and yes, it is remarkably comforting to know the local customs and language; but being back home was also unsettling in its “sameness”…the same headlines in the newspaper (“Liberal Party Looking to Regroup”, “Blue Jays Lose Again”, “Stock Market Stagnant”), and the same day to day routine to get prepared for (school, kid’s activities, jobs)…etc., etc., etc.

Best not to dwell on the more mundane aspects of “life”…after all, we still have the East Coast of Canada to explore and enjoy over the next five weeks or so.  That being said, our week at home did have a few “blogworthy” moments:

-    With some of her birthday gift money, Laura wanted to purchase a new game for her Nintendo.  She looked at one that was priced at $20 and asked, “How much is that in Canadian dollars?”  I guess the question is understandable since she had asked that exact same foreign exchange question almost every day over the last 12 months.  I was about to say that “$20 is $20” but unlike most other countries we visited, the price doesn’t include tax, so I had to revise my answer and say that “$20 equals $22.60”.  Welcome home!;

·    Tracy and I had interesting dentist appointments.  After the requisite cleaning and chastising (“You need to do a better job flossing!!”), the hygienist mentioned to Tracy that she would check to see if the dentist was still there.  That’s strange, Tracy thought, as “making a dentist appointment” usually means that you have an appointment to see the dentist (even if it’s only for a few minutes).  The hygienist returned and said “The dentist has already left on his vacation, but I think there are no problems with your teeth.  If you’re not comfortable with my opinion, you can make another appointment to see the dentist”.  The obvious answer would have been that we already made appointments to see the dentist (i.e. “That is why we are here now!!!”), and although Tracy was more diplomatic in her answer, she did let her annoyance be known.  Continuing to dig a hole, the hygienist continued, “Oh, would you like me to add a note to your file that when you make a dentist appointment, you would actually like to see the dentist?”  Are you kidding?  But then the (sugarfree?) icing on the cake came as Tracy was paying, and the good dentist (who apparently hadn’t quite left) walked by, gave her his $10,000 smile, and asked, “How’s everything going with your teeth?”  “Isn’t answering that question your job???” Tracy wanted to ask, but instead she just commented that the paraffin wax hand treatment and the warm neck massage pillow were both very nice.

In the whole scheme of life, it’s probably not a big deal, as I’m sure the hygienist is well enough experienced to spot any trouble areas.  (Then again, this dentist office has always had an inordinate number of very attractive employees, so perhaps “experience” isn’t high on the qualification list).  It just reinforced our previous notions that we need to change to a dentist that is more interested in helping us take care of our teeth, instead of being focused on up-selling all sorts of cosmetic facial surgery.  Maybe we should make an appointment at a spa, with the hope that we might see a dentist there instead.  The children were disappointed with our planned change, however, as they are going to miss the colourful aquarium and the Xbox in the waiting room…

·    I inadvertently started driving on the left hand side of the road three times during our first week back, and Tracy had to literally stop the car at a small traffic circle and ask my mother (who hasn’t driven in 20 years) which way to go.  Yes, we are even more messed up than when we left (or is that right?);

·    It was just weird having to knock on the door of our own (rented out) house, when we stopped by to pick up some supplies;

·    How does “Personal Travel Sabbatical” sound for a 14 month “hole” in my resume?;

·    Santa Claus, in his wisdom, had delivered one of Laura’s Christmas presents directly to my parents’ house.  I guess he deemed it too bulky for our knapsacks.  The gift was the first season of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series that Tracy and I had grown up watching.  I’m not sure what it says about us (or about TV shows today), but watching episode 1 with the kids brought tears to both of us when the good folk of Walnut Creek rallied around Pa Ingles so that he wouldn’t lose his oxen.  Sponge Bob has never had the same effect;

Next up was getting our RV, the “Big Zeke”, out of storage.  Tracy’s father had been kind enough to take it in for the “emissions test” so we knew it was running (which reminds me I should drop an e-mail to the real Zeke to inquire about his gas emissions…what’s a blog without at least an attempt at gas humour!).  We were all very excited to be getting back in the RV as it really can be an enjoyable way to travel.  Ignition…check.  Interior lights…check.  Microwave…check.  Furnace…check.  Water system…pink stuff coming out of the faucets…doesn’t taste like lemonade and smells like antifreeze.  Note to file: flush water system.  Secondary coach battery…dead…check the Wal-Mart invoice to discover that there was still two weeks warranty left on the battery.  When we took it in, it turned out that the battery would be fine after two days of slow charging, but because that seemed to be an excessive amount of time, the employee just put in a new battery at no cost.  Gotta love the Wal-Mart!  With a hearty thank you, and a promise to do some future camping in some Wal-Mart parking lots, we were on our way.

Now we just had to decide exactly where to go, considering the East Coast of Canada is a pretty big place.  It seemed like a reasonable idea to start as far east as we could go, and work our way back, so that meant Newfoundland would be our first destination.  The preferable ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland left at 9pm on Wednesday night, and it was 9am Monday morning…2080 kilometres to travel…we can do that, God willing (or should I say Big Zeke willing)!

Our first day of driving was good.  While we did leave 30 minutes later than planned, we sailed through Toronto without delay.  And the Big Zeke was like a wild stallion, just wanting to run…“Whoa big fella!”  800 kilometres later and we were well into “la belle province” of Quebec.  We wondered how “belle” it actually was, when Tracy called ahead to an RV park and started talking to them in English.  “Click” went the line…surely they didn’t hang up because she wasn’t speaking French?!?  After a deep breath she called back and started talking French…no problem with the line this time.  Hmmm?    

Given my lack of abilities in French, my goal was just to get through the province without having to talk to anyone.  One stop at the RV park (that Tracy handled), one stop at a self service gas station, and my goal was accomplished (although I did talk to Michael once to tell him not to pour Tabasco sauce on his sisters’ pasta).  We have some planned stops in Quebec on the way home so it might become a little more difficult to continue to give this province the silent treatment.

Being on a “road trip” again made us smile.  We started seeing the “giant” items again, like the Big Apple in Eastern Ontario and the Big Sled Dog in Quebec (…at least I think it was a sled dog; there were only French signs).  Does it seem strange to you that there are more English signs in Syria and Turkey than there are in one of Canada’s biggest provinces?  Come to think of it there might be more Canadian flags in those countries as well.

It was also good to be camping again.  The Big Zeke was solidly entrenched in a big muddy field at the Quebec RV park.  The gas grill fired up much faster than the charcoal ones we had been using the previous seven weeks in Southern Africa.  And just to make the experience perfect, the “security” guy drove by in a golf cart wearing his cut off jeans and an undershirt, with a beer in his hand.  “Très bien, Dude!” I applauded (to myself, of course).

Another day and a half of driving and we were through the province of Quebec (and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and had arrived at the ferry port, a full five hours early.  We were actually told to come back a little later, when the traffic from another ferry was gone.  This seemed like a good idea at the time as it gave us an opportunity to park the RV and fire up the generator.  The high from making power didn’t last however.  Upon our return to the ferry dock we were placed in the line that had to wait a full 100 minutes after the “Return to your car as we will commence boarding soon” message, before we actually drove onto the ferry.  We were in fact the very last vehicle to board.  Borrowing the accounting inventory term of LIFO (“Last In, First Out”), I wondered whether we would be the first ones to de-boat (?) the following morning.  Considering we were snuggly tucked in behind a tied down lumber truck and sandwiched between two 35-foot Winnebagos (which caused no shortage of RV envy!), I thought not.

As I’m writing this, we are still on the ferry the following morning.  The sleep on the dormitory beds was not too bad, although I did find it difficult to fall asleep after being mocked by my family for the “pillow incident”.  When we arrived at our assigned dorm beds, one of them was missing a pillow, which we quickly procured from a neighbouring, but not yet occupied, berth.  When the kids wanted to explore the ship I said I would stay back and guard the pillows.  What I saw as an act of unselfish and courageous chivalry just caused the rest of the family to shake their heads at my “apparent analness”.  But who had the last laugh, you may wonder…I saw at least two people scavenging for pillows, but because of my proactive thinking, the Elop clan could, without a care in the world, rest their heads on some (quasi) fluffy pillows.  I proudly felt like Jack Nicholson after his famous rant in “A Few Good Men”, although I suppose protecting pillows from pilfering soccer moms may not be as dramatic as protecting Americans from those nasty commies in Cuba.  Regardless, the successful guarding of the pillows has me thinking about a new career in security.  I think I’m now ready to don my ripped undershirt and join Jean-Francois in the golf cart at the Quebec RV park.  “Budweiser for me, please!”, or should I say, “Un Budweiser pour me, silvo play”.

And now, it’s on to Newfoundland….
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