On the whale trail: Part one

The beginning in an occasional series on a recent trip to Canada

There is never anything quite like the feeling of leaving one life for another—and that is the simplest way to define a vacation.

We left on a quest to kayak amongst whales in the St. Lawrence River on August 23, requiring a drive up through Maine and then from there, to Quebec City. I hadn’t slept well the night before the trip, and felt bad my wife was unable to join us due to scheduling problems. I drove in a kind of stupor, and was apprehensive the old Corolla would somehow fail us—we’d recently swapped out the brakes and radiator, and we’d find out how solid our work was rather quickly.

On these long trips, I also feel the last post before the unknown is Route 2 on 95 North. The cost of the tow to the car back home from there is going to be more than the car’s worth….But we were fortunate. We drove on with little incident, stopping at a small turn off on Maine’s 201 to drink a couple of beers at a picnic bench. The day was beautiful and bright, and that sense of being in another country strong. It was nice, and I was pretending I was living in some other time than the current one.

It had been the hottest summer on record. The sins of mankind, America’s in particular, are catching up with it. What you sow, you will reap, and the release of carbon exhaust is killing us. It is clear we’ve sown the wind, and the whirlwind literally is behind it: How many more Katrinas do we need to prove it? Yet the senate had voted to take no action on the problem at all—the biggest of all time.

We pressed onward: The Kennebec River is a lovely meandering stretch of water, particularly when covered in a mist, sitting gentle and mysterious between its two banks, where visible from 201. I have been driving along it for over a decade and often think about Benedict Arnold’s near lunatic attempt to invade Canada by paddling canoes up it. (Incidentally, various armies from the region called the United States have attempted to invade or harm Quebec for four centuries—it’s almost a Germany-Belgium kind of relationship, but it’s gone into dotage.)

But Maine was rather cool and I knew Quebec would be even more so. It is a sad fact, but when one goes on a long trip, one sacrifices a day at least – a day when one does very little – to the drive there. Once in Jackman, I was exhausted. Jackman’s dwellings lie at the bottom of a long hill. There is a mock police cruiser at the top put there as a joke to make everyone slow down. Jackman doesn’t have a police department—its laws are upheld by the occasional roving state trooper. The locals are more or less the law.

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