They’re everywhere!  Everywhere!  In the “True North”, signs are a bit different than what I am used to seeing in the lowcountry of South Carolina – bear warnings, moose crossings and information on the endangered plover population.

Because we are RVers, we have directions to “our level of camping”, orders from management on what NOT to flush and the potential to join a group of escapees.

In the last few days, we set up camp for a one-night stay in Petawawa Ontario.  My sister-in-law Erin advised us to be certain we weren’t in “Petaweewee.”  Humor at the expense of First Nation peoples.  LOL


And what’s THIS sign about?  Do camp parents offer beers to camping kids?  Or is that just a small man with a fetish for tall alcoholic women?


This is Jack Schrader.  We met him in the parking lot of the Giant Tiger, a Canadian store combining Walmart groceries and Dollar General merchandise.  In Pembroke Ontario this fellow stopped to chat, recommend a good sandwich shop and point us in the direction of a “chip trailer.”  This part of Canada is overflowing with French fry vendor trucks and those fries are some kind of good.  Jack reads the New Yorker, values the relationship between the USA and Canada, and wonders what is next for our countries, together.  He used to work for a Crown Corporation, a company run by the Canadian government making isotopes for U.S. medical companies out of uranium shipped north from the Savannah River Plant.  Small world – Clemson, Aiken, Pembroke Ontario.  Jack, french fries, Tigers.  The New Yorker.  Friendship.

Signs help me find libraries and post offices…

receive good advice at gas station bathrooms and oyster bars…

guide us through entry ways and exits…

with warnings of falling rock, steep slopes, and knowing “You are Here”….


Even brown paper bags manufactured in the USA by Novolex are signs that Big Stan dominates the Canadian marketplace!

The signs I crave most are the ones you cannot read, are not obvious, hidden signs that you need to be quiet to hear and aware to see.  The smile from a passing woman who cannot speak English.  A wave from a little girl driving a miniature Jeep along the uneven, packed dirt roads of a campground, blonde curls poking from under her bike helmet.  Big waves from a big man making a full turn in church as his sign of peace to everyone before communion.  Little boys wild with joy over their catch of the day, their lone “river fish” in a cooler, species unidentifiable, the harvest from a long afternoon fishing from a dock on the Ottawa River.

There are the signs from God and His friends with a sense of humor…IMG_2309

handcrafted signs in silent monasteries where only five Filipino nuns reside…IMG_0878

signs of eastern and western religions, the Buddha and God and carrying our yoke.


During our stretches of drive time on Trans Canadian highways, we listen to podcasts – Ted Talks, This American Life, The Moth, and the Writers’ Almanac among others.  During a Ted Talk on “Shifting Time”, Dr. Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, talked about people becoming happier as they age, even in the face of health challenges, the mechanical wearing down of the body.  She talked about poignancy.  I know the word but was unsure of its definition.

Poignancy – noun – the quality of evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.

In these days of travel, quiet, recollection, newness, adjustment, the signs around the experiences bring poignancy to the journey.  I see Art in Mac.  I see my father on the dock with the young fisherboys, talking about pickerel and walleye, baiting his hook with a worm.  I see my mother at the kitchen table when I peel a banana or tear a piece of donut and give it to Trooper.  I see my brother in the rush hour of mornings and in the green Canadian fields , my sister in the hands of a young Acadian girl holding white yarn, my nieces and nephews in the children and young adults moving past and around me, in their smiles, their delights and in their energy.  And there are the signs of God in the obvious and in the mysterious.



Signs:  sight, sound, silence, sickness, safety, surrender and sorrow.  Look for them.  It may take a lifetime to discover our answers.  Maybe an eternity.

Sometimes, the answers are in the happenstance exits to witness the silliness of the World’s Biggest Axe….IMG_2159

The signs are there.  There are answers.


All we need to do is ask for help.

Leaving Things Behind

 My Lulu Burgess sweatshirt.  The Cabot Trail.  A career.  Loved ones.

I lost my sweatshirt.  I didn’t want to get it dirty after just laundering it, so I took it off and hung it on the handlebars of my bike while I was emptying the black and grey water tanks.  My bike is mounted to the back of the Winnebago.  I drove away from site 48 in Dingwall’s Hideaway Campground forgetting the dangling pale, blue hoodie.  I remembered it at 3 A.M. the next day when I was chilled in the RV.  I like sleeping in it with the hood over my head.  I asked Mac for it after one of his early morning “tee-tees” (as Diana would say) and he said, “It’s not hanging up.”  Later, when I told him what happened, he remarked, “Oh well” in an unremarkable way and I appreciated the response versus what I may have said.  Something like, “You dumb*!#.”  I won the sweatshirt at a Christmas giveaway from Nan Sutton, owner of Lulu’s, my fav Beaufort Bay Street shop.  Visiting Nan and Lulu’s at Christmas with Mom was an annual event.  Now, I kind of understand how apparel gets orphaned on streets and sidewalks.  Dumb*!#’s like me.  There are bigger things to consider.

Losing the only sweatshirt I packed for this Canadian trek causes me to ponder loss.  These days, many things cause me to think about loss.  Mac and I finished the Cabot Trail closing a six year wait to get here.  We didn’t stop at every overlook but we inhaled the beauty at every twist in the road.  Capturing surprise and wonder in every iPhone photo – not happening.

I’ve met other newly retired folks on this journey like the fellow in the campground laundromat who asked me, “What’s next?” in the same way my brother Stan asks me the question but not with the same intention.  Laundry-boy is heading to Thailand, Rome, Barcelona, and then the USA.  He and his wife sold their house.  I shared that we did not sell our home.  I am a bit risk adverse.  And when I think about what’s next, it isn’t a travel brochure or a litany of destinations.  One day at a time.  Discernment after career.  Hoping for that Wow! moment.  Didn’t find it doing laundry and I am having flashbacks of my sweatshirt. 😦


This morning, I met Glenn, 58, retired two and one-half years from jobs as a lobsterman and Fortress security guard.  He was catching mackerel after mackerel in the Louisbourg Harbor on Walmart lures that cost about $3CAN made out of a hook, sparkling shredded plastic and clear tubing.  The weight on his line is a piston with hooks a fishing buddy made.  He uses the fish as lobster bait and gives some to a friend for coyote traps.

Glenn’s doctor told him “shift-work takes ten years off of your life” so he at fifty-five, he “walked out the door.”  Too many changes at work.  “Changes are good sometimes, sometimes not” he says.  Mentioned earlier, Glenn worked at the Louisbourg Fortress.


We visited the historic site, a reconstructed archeological masterpiece replete with costumed staff and period furnishings.

Mac found the best looking soldier on the grounds to befriend.  Nice musket.


Underneath loss is joy waiting to be found.  Between layers of wondering and wandering are second chances.  At a secluded Dingwall beach Mac discovered, I dove into a bone-chilling ocean.  In a tiny Nova Scotia hamlet, I met Superwoman.  On bike ride at dawn, white wings lift to heaven.  And somewhere in Nova Scotia, a stranger wears a pale blue hoodie from Lulu’s.  Let go.

Finding the Red Chair and Other Nova Scotia Gems

Mac and I made it to the red chair on the Acadian Trail, a challenge put forth by the Cape Breton National Park keeping the promise of a “majestic view.”  I hiked the 5.1 miles once…Mac did it three or four times.  A steep climb up and a cooling hike down into a shady forest lined by Robert Brook.

Friends along the way…

Mac wrote a poem for me while I was on my trek entitled, “Vivian on the Acadian Trail.”


Pretty amazing, right?  Look out Robert Frost!  BTW:  brees = breeze  🙂  Canadian spelling.

So what are we learning?  Cheticamp is known for her hookers – as in rug hookers.

Gaelic and French take turns with English-speaking folks on this island.  Mass on Saturday night at St. Pierre was in French.  The homily was very deep.

Atlantic salmon fishing in Nova Scotia is some of the best in the world – was some of the best in the world.  Now fishing is catch and release due to dwindling numbers and overfishing in Greenland and other salmon pathways.  Bernadine Marple gave us a guided tour of the fish museum.  She said she could tell I was in sales.  Would bet I was good at it.  (Found Colgate’s Softsoap(R) in the bathroom – yay!)  That’s me holding a swordfish nose.  Mac indulged me with this visit.

Another great stop at Cape Breton Clay.  Met Bell Fraser and her dog Ryder.  Beautiful woman who gave me great advice.  When we talked about art, pottery, dogs and writing, she asked me what I studied and I gave her the diverse and schizophrenic list, she told me to “own” my knowledge.  She’s right.  Everyone is right with this piece of advice.

After a mountain bike ride to the Salmon Pools…(a black fly was trying to bite me in the selfie.  Mac later informed me that only the female flies bite)…

Mac baked potatoes in the fire and we had one of our best low-cal meals yet!

Trooper has been having fun with a baby squirrel in the tree behind the Winnebago…

Toby remains laid back…IMG_1145

I’ve had two great rides on the Vespa up the Cabot Trail to the Grande Falaise (big cliff)…

and we leave tomorrow for Dingwall (northern tip of the island) leaving Parka, the national park mascot behind…IMG_1696

More serious thoughts are brewing but for now, happy with nature and life and one another.

P.S.  Here’s some moose poop for you!


Dunvegan – Cheticamp – Cape Breton National Park


The journey…music, water, mountains and lobstermen.  We are in Cheticamp, in Cape Breton Highlands National Park for five nights.  This will probably be our longest camping stay.  It is the destination.

Mac hiked the Acadian Trail this morning (I cannot download his pics – technologically challenged) and I hiked to a salmon pool with about fifteen other campers, some from the U.S.A. (Bethesda and Watsonville, IL) and of course, Canadians!

Scott (pronounced “scoot” in Canada-speak – I’m exaggerating – kinda) led the hike.

Some important things I learned:

  • “Don’t mess with moose.”
  • Hide behind a tree if charged by a male moose.
  • If you spot a bear, act like a fool – scream, jump around and the bear will “probably” run away.  Hmmm….
  • The beech scale bug is infecting American beech trees in the park resulting in dwindling numbers and allowing for the sugar maple to flourish.
  • Sugar maples germinate quickly and then “wait to grow.”  Trees waiting to grow.  So many lessons there.  Waiting for growth.  Waiting.  Young sugar maples will wait as long as two years for the right time to stretch upward.
  • Cape Breton is Americans most favorite park to visit.  (Did I get that right?  Over Yellowstone?  I don’t think I was listening.)
  • Rivers and streams “braid” just like the essays I like to write – twisting, turning, taking detours.
  • I miss my mother in this world.  It dawned on me, again, as I walked the trail with strangers and could not share the journey with her.  I wondered if I am missed, out of touch by phone and with spotty, spotty internet.  Interesting how our ego takes us back to self.
  • I shared the walk back with Brian, a retired postman from Illinois and his dog Syd.  Brian raises homing pigeons, has been retired fifteen years, uses a noise machine when he camps at rest stops and at Walmart(s) and has had both of his knees replaced.   Brian also crafts his own beer and has fifty-one beer shirts.  He advised that Indian beers (as in India, not First Peoples Canadian Indians) are really “hoppy” because back in the day, the British needed to preserve their pale ales for the long sea journeys and used hops to make that work.  I would have enjoyed my solitude on the walk back to camp but decided to try to be a bit more friendly as a communal camper.  It all works.


I had one very moody evening when Mac and I couldn’t level out the Hushpuppy on a hill in Dunvegan at MacLeod’s Beach Campsite (left below).  Instead of a view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the hilltop, we had a fabulous view of the bath/shower/*!#*house.  Lots of traffic, lots of folks cutting close by our campsite (#39) to the point one woman said she thought about “stopping to chat” and then her cell phone rang and she kept walking up the hill after her shower – Thank you Canadian Bell Telephone!

But here is the lesson.  The showers were free unlike other campgrounds with tons of hot water.  If you had to go #2, it was a short walk. Garbage drop off was close by and if you get up off of your butt (Vivian!) and quit sulking, look what was just a few hundred yards away…

Plus, maybe the woman passing by had an interesting story or needed to share.  There aren’t enough hours left to waste.  I cannot forget.  There aren’t enough hours.


Hyclass Camping in Havre Boucher, NS

Yep, living the life in Nova Scotia.  That’s Brook in B12.  We camped beside his family in B13 in the Hyclass Campground.  (The irony should not be lost on anyone!)  Brook is a lobster fishermen and a big fan of Trailer Park Boys – filmed right down the road in Bible Hill (more irony!)

Actually, Canada Day was rainy but fun ending in fireworks over St. George’s Bay.

The internet connection is slow in high class campgrounds, so we’ll post more at our next stop on our jaunt to Cape Breton National Park.  We’ve been eating well, resting, writing and we are tied 2-2 in backgammon.  All is well.

Also, a small tribute to Irene.  Trooper loves these:


BTW, the best thing about Hyclass living…the sunsets.

See you down the road!

Behind on blogging :-( …

Will try to blog more soon.  Just a snapshot…

We’ve been to Maine:  Pemaquid Point:

We have been “urban camping” in Shediac, home of the world’s largest lobster and “Washer” tournaments – you throw “washers” the size of hockey pucks in three holes for points – a version of the U.S. corn hole bean bag game:

We arrived here after an incredible journey along the Fundy Trail – so beautiful.  I told Mac that it was so quiet there that “the silence hurts your ears.”  So blessed to witness the beauty of Canada and creation.

Off to Nova Scotia this morning……Havre du Boucher…..3.5 hour drive.   Probably 5 hours in the Hushpuppy counting lunch, gas, and dog walking stops!

By the way – It’s Canada Day here today!  JULY 1 – the 150th birthday of Canada – parties and fireworks.  Fun time to be here, but it’s drizzling.

Au revoir!

Five Days – SC to NY

Summer is a road trip to Canada.  Nova Scotia is the goal.  To get there, Mac, Toby, Trooper and I left Lady’s Island, South Carolina on June 18 at 11 a.m., one-hour behind schedule.  I delayed blast-off trying to restore an iPad Pro with all of our training videos for the Fuse. The videos are gone.  I did not backup to the Cloud.  Whatever training we rec’eived from David Quick, the mechanic/technician at Dick Gore’s RV World in Savannah is stored in human memory and for now, we are managing.  We have our Operating Manuals – one hundred and fifty pages of RV knowledge at our fingertips. More on that later.

We named our Winnebago “Hushpuppy” hoping the name will translate into the behavior of the boys – quiet dogs in quiet campgrounds.  One can hope.


Interstate 95N to Emporia, Virginia.  First stop.  Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Originally from New Jersey, Mary bought the campground.  Dogs are welcome.  So are Ranger Smith, Boo Boo and Cindy – Yogi’s friends from way back when.  We bought tee shirts and a baseball cap for our McRae nieces in Villanova, PA – next stop…

Dodging rainstorms and high winds, the Hushpuppy made a stop in Jersey where a key attraction was a mock toll booth.  Too much fun.  Take it where you can get it.

Dinner with Erin, Janie, Darci, Audrey and Tina the silver box turtle (a gift from SC that Audrey quickly named).  Beautiful women.  Beautiful home.  We missed Jeff.


Erin took great care of us.  Lasagna, veggies, brownies and cookies.  A goodie bag with the fixings for smores, a hammock, a camping emergency bag, gift cards for Starbucks and REI, collapsible dog bowls and dog treats.  We met Hazel, the new razor-toothed chocolate lab family member.  She’s “TOTES ADORBS” – Audrey speak for totally adorable.  In the morning, we received a pic with Audrey in her Yogi Bear tee.  Cool.

Late Monday night, June 19, we set up camp at French Creek State Park north of Pottstown, Pennsylvania.  We were tired, full, needing to be stationery.  Rain cooled the evening and campsite 007 in Loop C was home for two nights.


And then, disaster.  The slide on the driver’s side of the Winnebago was stuck.  Wouldn’t close.  We spent four hours trying to solve the problem which turned out to be a blown 20 AMP fuse.  Mac noted, “The Fuse blew a fuse.”

I learned a lot about the slide control box, the fuse box, the battery booster, and the parking brake.  Our savior?  John the toothless, park maintenance guy with long wild grey hair but a sensibility that probably saved us hundreds of dollars.  Next stop, Auto Zone for a variety box of fuses.  Like John said, “Every time you go camping, you buy something you didn’t have.”  In the drama, I left the brass pressure regulator valve behind still attached to the water line.  Yes Ranger St. John… a new Camco valve is on my Amazon shopping list.

June 21:  Destination – Warrensburg, New York – the Adirondacks – Lake George

My dear friend and former co-worker, David Kreckman and his husband Doug host us for dinner and a night “on the ground” at their home and guest cabin off Exit 24, Interstate 87, just outside of Bolton Landing, home to Lake George and The Sagamore.

The occasion, the Adirondack Writers’ Retreat that I will attend with Doug until June 25 while Mac hangs with T & T at King Phillips Campground.

Mac texted me today – “Be Bold, Be Creative.”  How great is that?  Inside the retreat house:


Yes they are.

First Trip

Not a disaster, but the test trip – our first – to the Mt. Pleasant KOA north of Charleston was challenging.  On the Monday ride from Beaufort to Mt. Pleasant, Trooper, our Silky Terrier was anxious and needed to be situated between the seats, not in the crate.  Toby the beagle slept.

We pulled into Campsite B19 complete with water and electric (haven’t ventured in to “black” water yet).  Jim and Ann, a couple right around our age from Elijay, GA were KOA site mates.  They were in a small trailer.  Cute.  Jim was a “vaper”.  Ann had allergies.

It rained all day flooding downtown Charleston.  The Fuse leaked in both corners – up front where the chassis joins the motorhome’s body.  Disheartening.  We used small chunks of patio pavers and plastic table cloths to tarp the roof of the RV.  Tornado watches were in full swing and it was amazing to watch the storm move into the vicinity on an HDTV that sits above the cab seats.  We did not choose to sit in the elements for the natural experience of it all.  The rigatoni Mac made for the trip was easy and fabulous.  The microwave works.  The 2-burner stove was great for warming up the gas station coffee in a saucepan – reminiscent of how my Dad made coffee…an aluminum pot, Folger’s instant, a spoon, a cup – Voilá!

On Wednesday morning, May 24, as I disengaged the parking brake to pull out at 8 a.m., there was a ceaseless chime making Mac and me nervous that the camper step or slideout weren’t pulled in, or something was hanging off of somewhere.  Five hours at Palmetto Ford and an escape to a Best Western across Hwy 17 to wait for the diagnosis, I learned from Dick Gore’s RV World (yep, that’s where we bought the Fuse) that a sensor under the passenger seat probably became disengaged when I swiveled it to face the inside of the cab.  I walked to the Ford dealership from the hotel in more rain, worked with Kevin the master technician to correct the problem, took back control of the Winnebago, joined Mac, Toby and Trooper in Room 331, got takeout from Bessinger’s BBQ, took Sudafed and Emergen-C for the cold that began on Monday, had a hot shower, shaved my legs, and called it a day.

Are we ready for Nova Scotia?