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Bay of Fundy & Cape Enrage

When we awoke in the morning, we went to Smitty’s for breakfast and found the service really bad. That could have been because there was an Eagle’s concert planned for that day at the Magnetic Hill in Moncton, and the restaurant was expecting a crowd, but there wasn’t a crowd yet when we arrived. We were served our coffees with no cream or sweeteners, so I borrowed a bowl of creamers from a nearby table and went to the car to get a sugar substitute. It took so long to be served, that by the time we left and went to the Bay of Fundy, we had just missed the tides. We thought about staying in the town of Alma for a day to watch the tides and the Parkland Village Inn had a vacancy sign outside. When I went in to inquire though, the person behind the desk was actually the first unfriendly person we’d met. No, they didn’t have a room available, no she didn’t know if anyone else did, no she didn’t know if most of the motels had internet available. I later joked to John that I was afraid to ask her her name, just in case she didn’t know!

We went across the street to a small cafe to get some lunch. There was a woman there who talked non-stop. Apparently, both her parents had dementia and she can make better decisions than anyone else in her family. Now, I don’t mind people having a conversation in a restaurant, but she was very loud, and it was difficult to have a conversation. So, not impressed with the town of Alma, we decided to push on.

I saw another town nearby on the map, called Cape Enrage, so we drove down there. Well, Cape Enrage is an interesting project. When lighthouses had become automated, the area had fallen into a serious state of disrepair and was slated for demolition. Six students from a Moncton high school, along with their teacher, went to Cape Enrage and started restoring it. Twenty students from New Brunswick high schools and universities are now involved in the project, and the Coast Guard has transferred ownership of the property to the Province of New Brunswick. It was an incredible afternoon, as we walked around and explored everything.

The fresh air out here is making me exhausted! We left Cape Enrage and drove to a suburb of Fredericton, where we stayed at the City Motel for the evening.

In the morning, we’ll be heading back up to Perth-Andover to rest for a few days before we start our trip home.

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Life

Discovering the Cabot Trail

Driving up the north side of Cape Breton, we headed for Pleasant Bay, on the edge of the Cabot Trail. There, we stayed at a really cute motel called MidTrail Resort. It was the kind of place you look at and think it will be very basic, unlikely to even offer air conditioning. Au contraire! When I walked into the room, I had to turn around and leave and ask John to come in. What a beautiful room! Remote controlled A/C, and a queen sized canopied bed. Sliding glass patio doors led to a deck on the back, where we could sit and have a cigarette while we feasted on the view of the mountains around us and the bay below.

I ate lobster for the first time in over 2o years and we had a nice Nova Scotia Chardonnay to go with it. The town of Pleasant Bay was small, but cute, but we weren’t there for the town, we were just there to sleep before we starting driving on the Cabot Trail. Words cannot describe the majesty of the mountains, the remoteness and the beauty. Even when it rained and the fog and mist descended on us, it was beautiful. We would stop and gaze at the view around us – the beaches, the lakes, the incredible sights around us; it was impossible to believe that the world is becoming overcrowded. And yet, even in this wilderness, wireless hotspots were available… hmmm…

Coming down on the Altantic side, beside the Cabot Strait which separates Nova Scotia from Newfoundland, we saw the fury of the ocean crashing against the shores. When I get a minute, I’ll attach a short video I took. All around, neat tidy houses in the midst of which could be found a unique log and stone home which just seemed to belong as it blended into the surroundings. What I’d pay to live in a place like that and to awaken every morning to the sounds of the ocean and the beauty of the water!

Eventually, we did finish the Cabot Trail and we drove back to the causeway to reconnect with the mainland again. And for a second time, we found a Super 8 hotel in Amhurst, Nova Scotia. I really like these hotels. They offer affordable luxury in a super friendly environment. I asked to use the laundry facilities but both the washing machines had clothes sitting in them (for quite a while), and the front desk clerk (Kim) didn’t feel right about removing the clothes, regardless of how long they’d been there. So she offered to take our clothes and wash them herself. We got a call in our room awhile later, that my clothes had been washed, dried and folded and were waiting for me. Now, I don’t expect that everyone that goes there will get that kind of treatment, but it does show how one exemplary employee can make all the difference in how satisfied customers are. Both John at Mr. Lube in Dieppe and Kim at Super 8 in Amherst, have converted me to being a deliberately repeat customer. I’ve found myself looking for places that have a Super 8, and hoping that they’re as good as the ones I’ve been too.

We’re hoping to make it to the Bay of Fundy tomorrow. Click the video to get a sense of where we are – no other people around, just us and the ocean.

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The Beauty of Nova Scotia

One thing I have noticed on this trip, it the number of rest stops along the highway, east of Ontario. Why can’t we do that? I’m not talking about the McDonalds and Tim Hortons stops, but honest to goodness rest stops, with washrooms, pop and coffee machines, picnic tables, maps, trees, and so on. A place to stop and stretch your legs, empty your bladder and rest and enjoy nature for a few minutes.

Leaving Dieppe, we drove south to Nova Scotia and we actually picked up a few souvenirs for our kids (okay… for ourselves too!) The even had a young lady playing the bagpipes at the Welcome Centre! What a beautiful province! We drove up the north shore to a small town just north of New Glasgow, called Pictou. This was the landing place of the first Scottish settlers, to form New Scotland. Pipes were being played in the town square, and the scottish style pubs were displaying their tartans. In the harbour, they had recreated the ship (the Hector) that brought their ancestors over. We couldn’t resist stopping at a local pub for a good scottish brew! John had a dark beer from Halifax, while I drank a red beer that gave Rickards Red some serious competition. I decided to ask the lovely young lass that served us, if she could recommend a place to stay. After talking to us a bit and getting to know what type of people we were, she offered to phone her friend, who was the innkeeper of a hotel just down the street, called the Customs House Inn. So there we stayed, in what used to be a government customs office, now renovated and turned into an inn, with every modern convenience, beautiful fixtures and antique furniture. The price was extremely reasonable for the beauty of this inn… well, beauty inside because the outside still looked like a dull government building.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that all of the hotels we stayed in so far were totally non-smoking. Strange for us, but no serious problem. I don’t mind going outside for a smoke. I learned something about myself as well – I am a terrible bitch in the morning without a cig. After that first smoke, I could go literally for hours without another. Maybe that’s clue to how I will be able to successfully quit.

The second beautiful, luxurious hotel we’ve had the pleasure of staying in. And I cannot believe how extremely friendly the people are. I still saw some depressed areas, namely closed businesses, etc., but it wasn’t as prevalent as in New Brunswick. The lack of tourism is hurting this community as well. Surprisingly, the gas here is similar to what we were paying in Ontario, but I understand it’s gone down there since we left, while we have kept paying the same. I’m glad we decided to come on this trip!

In the morning I discovered I had a problem with TomTom, so we drove into New Glasgow and used the free Wi-Fi internet, to try and solve the problem. I ended up deleting the TomTom application, and reinstalling it. Everything worked great after that. Another thing we’ve noticed out here is the free wi-fi internet everywhere! Why don’t we have that? There are literally hot spots all over here. With TomTom fixed we were on the road again, driving along the north coast and head onto the Cabot Trail. Tonight, we plan to stay in Pleasant Bay, on the coast on the outskirts of Cape Breton National Park and the Cabot Trail.

More to come!

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Visiting New Brunswick

I always mean to pre-plan a vacation, but I usually end up making last minute arrangements because John (my husband) and I can never agree on where we’re going or what we’re going to do. And so it was again this year.

At the last minute, we decided to visit the east coast. We decided against including Newfoundland, due to the cost of the ferry and the time it would take. We didn’t feel we would do it justice, so we’re saving it for a future trip all on its own.

It wasn’t a good start, with John getting a speeding ticket in Cobourg. We drove through Quebec, staying one night just outside Quebec City, at a place called Motel 541. It was off the beaten track and very reasonably-priced. But with no air conditioning – just the basics. The room however, was extremely clean and the sheets were of a high quality.

When we arrived in New Brunswick, construction abounded, with most of the highway being worked on, resulting in many delays. This was the first time our TomTom GPS let us down. I suppose it knew there had been road closures and had guided us to the detour. The highway was open though, so TomTom lead us around in a circle! John was not amused. We stopped in Grand Falls for lunch. This was the “town” I had visited years ago, and it has really grown!

I have to admit, I last visited New Brunswick over 30 years ago and things were much different. I can’t make jokes about New Brunswickers anymore. The quality of living has vastly improved, and we didn’t see as many houses that should have been condemned, as I did last time.

Because of the improvements in their telecommunications networks, many major companies have relocated their call centres to New Brunswick to take advantage of a bilingual work force. Hats off to Frank McKenna for what he’s done for the province! The only thing I worry about is that call centre jobs usually pay little more than minimum wage to the workers and, depending on the company and how they treat their staff, these jobs are usually very high-stress and can cause heath problems in many people; but I won’t go into that aspect any further. The standard of living in the province does seem to have improved significantly. The cost of housing there is also much cheaper than in Ontario. If you had a decent job, you could live well.

But just to prove they’re not any better than any other provincial government, they have dumb ideas as well. They one stupid thing I saw was the new super-highway coming south out of Grand Falls, NB. If you miss your exit to Perth-Andover (which I did because TomTom didn’t know it had moved), you CANNOT GET OFF FOR ANOTHER 40 KMS!!! Can you believe that? A 40 kms stretch of highway that you cannot get on or off of. So I went 40 kms out of my way, with gas the price it is!! Granted, it moves traffic through the province quicker, but guess what? It also prevents them from stopping a local businesses – motels, restaurants, gas stations, etc., all of which I saw closed and out of business on the old highway. From Perth-Andover to Florence, NB, no gas, no motels, no restaurants. All out of business because their local government built a super-highway.

In Perth-Andover, we stayed at the really quaint Castle Inn, once the home of the Lewis family. In a room full of antiques with a jacuzzi tub, I was surprised at how little I paid. One of the owners told me that business had not been well since the super highway was built. Since people could travel farther, and faster, they were canceling their reservations. Millions of dollars must have been spent to renovate this beautiful historical home and turn it into an Inn. I’m sure they thank you, Frank McKenna.

We drove down and took the Miramichi River route, up to Miramichi, and then drove down the coast to Shediac. Unfortunately, they were having a festival of some sort and all motels were busy. We ended up driving west 20 kms to Dieppe, which is a suburb of Moncton. There we stayed at a Super 8 hotel, with king sized beds and a jacuzzi tub. Very nice. In the morning, we had breakfast at one of our favourite restaurants, Cora’s, which just happened to be next door. Lucky us! While in Dieppe, I got an oil change at Mr. Lube (I didn’t want to worry about my warranty), and I was extremely impressed with the service and friendliness! I am going to write to the company and mention the person who serviced us, and let them know that I am now going to be a Mr. Lube customer!

Along the way, we felt we had to choose between PEI and Nova Scotia. John wanted to see the Cabot Trail the most, so off to Nova Scotia we went. Stay tuned!

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When a friend dies…

A friend died today. We hadn’t been close over the past few years, ever since my mother passed away, actually. Stuff happened; words were exchanged. It was a difficult time for both of us. I was going through the grief of losing my parents and was thrown unexpectedly into menopause; Rita had a lot of health & family issues. Eventually we drifted apart.

In the past couple of years, we had talked again. Not about important stuff, she wanted help to buy a new computer, then she needed help to fix her computer. We kept the conversation light, and said we should get together for bingo sometime (she was my bingo buddy years ago and we would go to games a couple of times a week). We never actually did go to bingo though. I had been thinking of her recently, of calling her and getting together for bingo. Neither one of us had been to bingo in years.

I had no idea she wasn’t well. She had had a bypass operation years ago, but I thought she was doing well. The last time I saw her, she had lost weight and had quit smoking. I was amazed at how well she looked. She had two grandchildren, and she was so proud of them! She had also gotten in touch with some relatives in Nova Scotia and went down there every year to visit.

I waited too long to call. When I got home from work, there was a message on my phone from Jim, her husband. She’d gone into the hospital for angioplasty, but the surgeon said the blockage was too severe and booked her for another bypass, which she had yesterday. This morning at 9:30 a.m. she went into cardiac arrest and passed away.

Rita and I were very close in age; my birthday is on January 13, while hers was on December 24, so we were less than a month apart.

So, how did this affect me? I am grieving for my friend. Time and distance and differences separated us, but I will always remember her and I will always regret that I didn’t call her to get together for bingo sooner. I will also take better care of myself – I’m overweight, have dangerously high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Losing the weight is the first step.

51 is too young to leave. I hope you’re in a better place Rita. You will really be missed.

Goodbye my friend, rest in peace.

Rita Lepine
December 24, 1956 – June 6, 2008

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This work by Suzette Leeming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.

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Ethics Lost

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics and morality that exist in our world today, or not.

We’ve been through Bill Clinton having oral sex in the White House, the Jean Chretien’s Liberal Adscam, Stephen Harper’s Conservativea circumventing the election rules, Martha Stewart’s inside trading, the head of Canada Post forced to retire because of outrageous expense reports, Brian Mulroney making deals with criminal people while in office, Worldcom’s accounting fiasco and the resulting aftermath, and so on and so on.

And now the Toronto Catholic School Board trustees, living high off the hog while they operate the school board on a deficit. Expenses such as car allowances, cell phones they’re allowed to keep, Dominican Republic vacations, extravagant dinners, and gold plated benefits. Even lingerie was expenses – now how does that relate to education?

Recently, Ryerson University wanted to expel a student who put together a study group on Facebook to solve an engineering problem they were supposed to work on individually. The school called it cheating. HELLO!?!?

Why are we surprised when we catch our children cheating or even wandering into grey areas? They see the news, they know what’s happening. It’s become the business style du jour. Grab what you can before they kick you out – if they catch you!

Call me naive, but I expect more from our government than having them act like pigs at the trough. I expect more from major corporations than having them think up more creative ways to screw us. And I really expect more from a group that puts a religious name on themselves. They’re greedy, selfish, pigs, marauding as pious Christians, which makes me sick.

I’m more sympathetic in situations where someone steals (call it what it is) because they are in financial need, but these are people who are already rich – looking to get richer. The people who end up paying are the poor and the working class.

How long are we going to take it? The only way to approach this situation is to start charging people AND SENDING THEM TO JAIL!! At least our children will then realize that it’s wrong. We need to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. Let’s throw out the corrupt politicians, and charge them for their misdeeds, or at least for breach of public trust. The laws were created for all of us, but authorities seem to leave the rich alone while they harass the rest of us.

Have we become such a complacent society that we will just keep taking this? The one thing I really hate about getting older and wiser is that I don’t like what I’m learning – what I’m seeing and hearing. I’m becoming disillusioned.

Am I the only one that feels this way?

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What is Toastmasters?

Amazing how quickly a month goes by. I should at least set up a day of the week on which to post.

It was pointed out to me (thanks Paul!) that I never really explained what Toastmasters is.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The organization currently has 226,000 members in 11,500 clubs in 92 countries. Some well-known Toastmasters include Peter Coors of Coors Brewing Company, Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, Tom Peters, management expert and author, and Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii.

Toastmasters has been helping individuals develop communication and leadership skills since 1924. Toastmasters is for anyone over the age of 18 and members come from all walks of life. One thing they have in common is a strong desire for self–improvement and helping others. We learn best by doing. Each Toastmaster Club is a learning laboratory where you’ll enjoy experimenting, discovering and developing your potential.

Simcoe Shores Toastmasters meet on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesdays of each month at Belhaven Hall on Warden Avenue (just north of Old Homestead) from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome to join us at our meetings.

Effective July 1st, I’ll be taking on the role of President for the club. I’m a little overwhelmed, but shall endeavour to do my best, which after all, is the best any of us can do. I’m also trying to keep in mind that this is a learning opportunity. My first role in Toastmasters was Secretary/Treasurer, then I was VP Public Relations last year, and now I’ll be President. With each step, I feel my confidence growing and I know I will learn a lot from this experience.

Wish me luck!

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What if…

Toastmasters changes lives. I heard this phrase quite a bit when I first joined Toastmasters, but I have to admit… I didn’t believe it. Oh sure, it was something worthwhile doing, sort of an educational/social/volunteering kind of thing, but changing lives?? A stretch… or so I thought.

Then I attended the Toastmasters District 60 Conference held a few weeks ago at the Sheraton Conference Centre on Hwy. 7 and Leslie. This was a last minute decision for me, as I tend to avoid large crowds, especially conference-wise. I worry that someone will try to talk to me and I’ll be forced to chit-chat and I’m not good at that. I’ll either babble on about myself, create a social faux-pas, or make a fool out of myself somehow. So, I attended the conference reluctantly, but that’s getting off-track. I listened to some of the most inspiring, insightful speeches, and heard people talking about what they have achieved in life as a result of what they learned in Toastmasters. By the end of the conference, I’d come to the realization that… wait for it!!! TOASTMASTERS CHANGES LIVES! Will it change mine? I don’t know or expect that, but what if?

And, as the current VP Public Relations, I would be remiss if I didn’t get this plug in…

Simcoe Shores Toastmasters, of Georgina Ontario, meets on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesdays of each month at the Belhaven Hall, on Warden Avenue, just north of Old Homestead, from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. We welcome guests and you owe it to yourself to come and see what Toastmasters is all about. And ask yourself… What if?

Simcoe Shores Toastmasters website

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TomTom and Garmin Lose Their Way

An article today in the Technology section of Business Week outlines the difficulties currently faced by GPS/Navigation devices.

Among my family and friends, I tend to be known as the gadget queen. If there’s a gadget out there, chances are I have it. I even have a wireless glove, connected by USB, that I can use on my PC similar to a mouse. When playing solitaire, I can just point at the card I want and drag it to where I want it. It would also be neat with role playing games… “Okay – I want to move these guys from over here to over there… prepare to do battle”. Neat. You may notice I said “can use” which is not to imply that I do use it. Other than testing it out, I have never actually used it.

In the kitchen, I have almost every gadget designed to save time. Three types of cheese graters, automatic apple/potato peelers, automatic slicers, plastic wrap dispensers, powered wine cork removers, egg slicers, etc. I’ve got a pasta maker, waffle maker, dough maker, and so on. I’m running out of room to put my gadgets.

But I don’t have a GPS – a fact that surprises people that know me. You see, a GPS is a portable device, and there’s only so many things I can fit in my purse. I have my cell phone, and my PDA and already that’s too much. Also, the good GPS devices seem to be several hundred dollars and I don’t want to buy a piece of crap just because it’s cheap.

I believe for a new technology to be effective, it needs to be (a) affordable and (b) convenient. So what I want is a GPS device that keeps a charge for close to a month and I don’t want to pay more than $150.

I’ve looked for some type of GPS software for the PDA, but I need to do a lot more research, and quite frankly I don’t have time. I have a plan though… when I need to update my cell phone, I will get one with a PDA and GPS device built in. That will be a couple of years from now and by then the prices will be cheaper. Until then I just have to look up my routes on an old-fashioned map or print out directions from mapquest or google maps before I set off.

Maybe the gadget queen is getting old (and cheap).

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What’s up with hairstylists?

Just after Christmas, my longtime hairstylist moved from Ontario to New Brunswick. A bit far to travel. I really hate looking for a new hairstylist.

There’s a salon not too far from me called Allure. So I made an appointment and went in. The stylist, Jenn, had bleached blonde hair, with very dark roots. Not very inspiring. I thought I’d take the chance though, and try a new look. So I asked her, if you could do anything to my hair, what would you do? I was thinking perhaps a shorter, sassier look, perhaps some highlights, whatever… I was game.

Well, she had no ideas other than “match my hair colour to my eyebrows”. That meant going darker, back to my natural colour of chestnut brown. It looked really good, they gave me a scalp treatment and she styled my hair using a straightener. It looked fabulous! And for all this, I was charged $32, after taxes. Wow! I was onto something good here!

As my hair grew (which it has a tendency to do very quickly) the fact that my hair is almost completely white was very obvious with the contrast between the white and dark (now I remember why I went lighter). So, a month later, back I went. I asked for a bit of a trim this time. Okay, so the trim took off a couple of inches – no worries, it will grow back (and quickly). The charge this time was over $60. I can live with that, after all, she did cut it.

Fast forward to today – those darn roots were back, so back to Allure I went. Jenn had done her own roots, so she looked much more professional. No trim this time, just touch up the roots. I had her pull the colour through as well, since that tends to brighten up the colour. Well, she left the colour on for 45 minutes while she did others’ hair (is it good for the hair for the colour to be on that long?). Then she washed it out and blow dried it. The charge? $61. Huh? What would it have been with a trim? $80? $90?

Don’t salons usually follow a price schedule? Did I get a really good deal the first time? Was that a mistake? Hmmmm.

It looks fabulous – even though my bangs keep falling in my face. I was thinking of trying one of those root touch-up kits to stretch the time between visits, but I’m worried about ruining my hair. How dangerous can that be though, if the salon leaves the colour on for sooo long?

I think I’ll call my previous stylist in New Brunswick and get her opinion. Meanwhile, I should grab a headshot of me while I’m still looking good. Linked In, Facebook, and even this even this blog would probably look good with a photo of me.

My cheapness aside, Allure is a nice salon, and Jenn is a very good stylist. I really do look good!