Prince Edward Island to Dunvegan, Nova Scotia – After disembarking from the ferry, only slightly shocked that they loaded cars while we were still unloading, I knew I needed to make time for an oil change and stopped in New Glasgow, NS, at the third Toyota dealership on my trip. I was delighted to hear they could change my oil in an hour and again, they gave me terrific instructions for the next leg of my journey. I stopped at the information office in Antigonish.
“So Antigonish means ‘the place where the black bear breaks branches and eats the beech nuts’, right?” I asked. I hadn’t followed my own advice to listen to the radio and learn the right way to pronounce the name of the town.
“It’s Annie-ga-NOOSH,” a young man told me kindly. I looked at him. Where was the “T” sound? And why am I craving eggplant suddenly?
I repeated what he said and they assured me that it was the place where the black bears broke branches and ate beech nuts. After receiving terrific directions and a recommendation for a campground on Cape Breton Island complete with a phone call to make sure there was room for a tenter, I headed into downtown Antigonish for an ATM.
Antigonish is a lovely village. The turn-of-the-century homes are quintessential Nova Scotia, all wood, well-kept, and friendly. I was to find out just how friendly when I asked the bank teller if she could break a twenty-dollar bill.
“How about a ten and a five and the rest in loonies and toonies?” she asked. I stumbled.
“Sure, I don’t know what those are but that sounds great!”
“Ahhhh! You gave yourself away! Where are you from?”
“Washington state,” I told her. “But I know how to say Annie-ga-NOOSH!”
She laughed and I made a note to visit again. We would be friends if I lived in Antigonish.
The drive onto Cape Breton Island was spectacular. Rolling hills lead down to the sea, some wooded, many grassy. The shingled homes look weathered and salty. The air felt heavy with sea mist. So heavy, in fact, that I drove right into a rainstorm.
Now the roads on Cape Breton Island are old. Most are reddish like the soil and soon I was driving slowly as the tire grooves filled up with water and the car became a hydroplane. Rounding curve after curve, I finally saw the sign for MacLeod’s Campground.
The campground sits down a dirt road next to the ocean. Map in hand, I drove past the big trailers to pick out a tent site. The one I chose was just over a large sand dune studded with grass and sea rose, private and close to the ocean. I asked the woman at the camp office what the fee would be to live there forever, then I went back down the hill and swam in the sea.