Ladies & Gents:
I'm baaaaaaack. Two weeks and 2,732.7 miles later, I have driven myself from South Jersey to Canada back, and to lots of points in between. I also haven't sent out a real newsletter in two weeks, so buckle up. It's a long one.
If you'd like to see my trip, I posted many many pictures on Instagram. I'm here. If you don't care about my trip, you can skip to the links at the end. Also, prices are in Canadian dollars.
I left New Jersey at 4:08 a.m. on Thursday morning (I couldn't sleep so why not go?) and made it around New York City before rush hour really set in. And then I drove (and drove and drove) to Canada. My first stop there was Minister's Island. It's only reachable by road at low tide, and takes visitors for three to six and a half hours per day. The "road" wasn't even really a road, but even after a dozen hours in the car, I delighted in bumping my Jeep over the rocks and through the mud. The estate there is gorgeous and was worth the $10 fee to get onto the island. It's only reachable at low tide because of the tidal bore. It's the same force that's creating this "run on the ocean floor" race.
I spent the night in nearby St. Andrews, which is a cute coastal town that reminded me a bit of Cape May. I watched Canadian football at the hotel bar, which was like watching America football through a prism. Three downs! A 1-0 score! Then it was up to Nova Scotia to stay at my friend Ian and Lola's house and watch their two dogs, four chickens and a duck named Alice whose favorite game is to escape her pen and run around the yard.
I was in Nova Scotia for 10 days. I loved it, but I have never had so many bug bites in my life (and horseshoe fly bites are the absolute worst – like greenhead bites that last for days). In those 10 days, I did some fun things like ocean kayaking, trail running, trail hiking, dirt road driving, and eating of maple syrup related items. I wrote about parts of the trip already, which you'll see in the links below, and have a few more assignments lined up to still be written, so I don't want to give too much away except if you're ever anywhere close to the Flying Apron or Sugar Moon Farm or Knife and Chopstick, to stop. But I will say that it's not a trip I would have taken if my friends didn't need a house sitter/dog sitter/chicken sitter/duck sitter, and I am so glad I went.
One quirk about my Canada stay was my discovery and then obsession with the brand Joe Fresh. I found it at a grocery store where I stopped because I had to pee. In the first one I visited in Elmsdale was a regular grocery store with a little Joe Fresh department. I bought a tank thinking it'd make a funny story whenever I wore it – hey this is my $6 tank from Canada, isn't it neat? Then I realized that it's the best tank top I've ever owned, so I went to the Windsor Atlantic Superstore, which has a much larger Joe Fresh section, and I spent an embarrassing amount of money there on v-neck tees, striped shirts, sunglasses, more tanks, and pajamas, including a pineapple top that I wear as a regular top. The sales woman looked at me like I was slightly crazed, and maybe I was. And then when I was in Truro, I stopped at THAT Atlantic Superstore and got just a few more things before heading home even though by then I had already learned that there are four Joe Fresh stores in Manhattan, and you can buy them online in the U.S. (and I learned now while writing this that it's sold at JC Penny) The selection, though, is not the same (the links to the tank and pineapple shirt are to their Canadian site), and their pajamas aren't sold in the U.S. that I can find, which was my excuse to stock up. One shirt I did buy there that ships to the U.S.: this one.
And then I used the rest of my Canadian money at the duty free store at the border on I-95 back into the U.S. to buy things like a Canada flag oven mitt and Canadian flag lighter even though I don't smoke.
I hadn't planned out the second part of my trip in advance, so I chose where to stop based on hotel prices. That first night, I stayed in Freeport, Maine (the Holiday Inn Express is a short walk to the Maine Beer Company, which was a plus) and of course went to the LL Bean Flagship Store the next day. I first visited in the 1990s and was amazed at the outlet stores around it – this was before you could find outlets along almost every heavily traveled highway. The last time I'd been to Freeport was in 2002, and the complex is much bigger now. They also have those duck boots teenagers and hipsters freaked out about last winter. I posted about it on social media and might have ticked off some people who love them, but here's the deal: yes they are very practical. But they're not cute – and I say that as someone who owns – and loves! – a pair of Crocs and fake Birkenstocks (fake because my mom refused to buy me the real ones in seventh grade – and yes the fakes have held up this long).
Then I was off to Portland, where I walked 10 miles around the city my first day there. It's much like I remembered when I hung out there in the early '00s (my college boyfriend went to medical school in Maine) though busier. I stayed at the brand new Press Hotel, which had an amazing shower (a good thing when your friends' lovely home has a tub but no shower) and fancy bar and was so creatively designed that I almost forgot that maybe I should be mourning a newspaper building being turned into an homage of glory days gone by. I did stop at The Holy Donut on my last morning there even though I don't really like donuts – but a potato donut with bacon and cheese is a different story.
The next night, I stayed in Portsmouth, N.H., which was a place I'd heard of but never visited (chosen based on an affordable Holiday Inn – yes, I do like this chain very much though I was disappointed it was a regular Holiday Inn and not an Express, though the hotel was more than fine. I just like Holiday Inn Express). This time the walk about was five and a half miles, ended early due to the heat. What a charming town! My stop there here also meant I closed out my travels with two fantastic meals, one at the Portsmouth Brewery and the second at the Roundabout Diner – that one was next to my hotel. There's a diner near me that has a bar, but the food is nowhere as good as it was there. I doubt I'd ever find a lobster BLT on the menu. I also took a short detour to the campus of the University of New Hampshire and bought a hat at the college bookstore to replace my old Phillies hat that fell apart after a rainy hike. RIP Phillies hat. Hello new cap (which I'm wearing as I write this).
Then homeward bound. After I bumped my way through Manhattan, then North Jersey, and cruised down the turnpike into South Jersey, I was back home where I belonged. I was never so thankful to be home and sleep in my own bed.
I'm glad that I came home on a Thursday. Not only did I miss weekend traffic, but that gave me enough time to unpack, do laundry, go to the Collingswood Farmers' Market and see how the produce selection has almost completely changed while I was gone (hello tomatoes and peaches!) and reset myself to be ready to hit the ground running today. Sort of. I'll miss having a small glass of wine with lunch every day, but that's not conducive to tackling the assignments that came in while I was gone, or to starting the copyediting process on the book.
Onto the clips! Some cover parts of my trip, some don't.
"Haddonfield's Erin Donohue on another Olympic quest," Philadelphia Inquirer
"Packed and read to run," Philly.com
"Racing the Rain: A prequel to a cult classic," Philadelphia Inquirer
"Getting a little loopy in a hostel environment across the border," Philadelphia Inquirer
"Some runs just aren't good enough to make the catalogue," Philadelphia Inquirer
"Do I need trail shoes?" Philly.com
"Predicting winners and losers in the EMV rollout," CIO.com
"Portfolio Losers: How to Help Clients Who Won't Let Go," Financial Planning
What I Read
Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck. Interesting but a bit simplistic – not coming close to the depths of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which was also about a woman in the life of a famous man.
The Rumor by Elin Hildebrand. Another hit from the summertime Nantucket author. I interviewed her 10ish years ago, and she was a lovely, kind person over the phone.
Scenic Driving Atlantic Canada: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador by Chloe Ernst. This is an unconventional travel guide and, sadly, out of print (thanks to InkwoodNJ for tracking it down), but because it was focused on interesting drives, it pointed out some places that weren't exactly on the beating path.
Lonely Planet Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island. This helped most when I was walking around Halifax.
Maine: An Explorer's Guide by Nancy English and Christina Tree. My Jersey Shore books are in the same series. That's why I picked this one – and it served me well. It'll be going to the Collingswood Public Library soon since I won't need it and their other Maine guide is 10 years old.
The New England Kitchen by Jeremy Sewall and Erin Byers Murray. I bought this at the Maine Beer Company and made one of the recipes already. Two thumbs up.
I Hate Everyone…Starting With Me by Joan Rivers. Reading this one now. One thing I regret about my time covering the Jersey Shore is I never caught one of the countless shows Joan Rivers did in Atlantic City. The book's okay, but not nearly as good as she was delivering jokes.
What I Heard
Long road trips are made for audiobooks, and I made it through three. My library offers many wonderful things. The one I use most are the free audiobooks.
Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming. This is nowhere in the same spectrum as the typical celebrity memoir. I enjoyed driving to the lilt of Cumming's voice, but part of me wished I'd read it. Either way, a must read/hear.
Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet. This was an odd one that I almost stopped listening to four times, but it wasn't the worst companion driving over the two-land roads through Nova Scotia. To me, it was bizarre and not always in a way that made sense.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower. Only after I finished this one did I think a book about the White House might be an odd choice for the end of my trip in Canada. Fascinating history and tidbits with a side of gossip. I enjoyed it very much.
CBC The Current. Not a book but a CBC show with interesting segments and guests. I listened via the CBC Radio iPad app.
What I Watched
Magic Mike XXL. I saw this at 3:30 p.m. two days before I left when everyone else in the complex was there to see the Minions movie. Whatever. The movie was an absolute delight. I liked the first one, especially since it showed many of there reasons why I didn't stay in Tampa after graduation, but the sequel was more fun – like a buddy road trip movie with strippers.
Land Girls. I had a discussion on Saturday night about Downton Abby with someone who didn't like it because of the melodrama. My argument was that almost all Masterpiece dramas are like this – but not all of them have crossed over to the U.S. Land Girls is on Netflix, and was another period drama with a lot of melodramatic elements – and I'm okay with that, just like I'm okay with all the twists and turns of Downton Abby.
North & South. Ehhhh. It was okay, but maybe a bit too depressing for my mood at the time. It's a miniseries and only three episodes so it wasn't too terrible to watch while cooking.
Nashville. I watched most of this series in real time, but half way through the last season because watching it without cable became a pain (no I don't have an antenna and I know I should get one but I'm lazy). Rainy days in Canada were perfect for catch up.
BoJack the Horseman. There is no way to describe this show. Season two is just as weird and strange and dark as season one. Give it a chance if you have Netflix. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. LOVE. It was just as silly and funny as the original movie. The prequel idea was brilliant – and yes they make fun of that too.
Tools of the Trade
Not a regular feature on the newsletter, but a few things did make the trip much easier, so I'll give them shout outs here (also another time to remind you, dear readers, that I don't take free samples so what I recommend here is because I bought them and loved them. I also paid for all of the travel you read about above. I didn't take any comps so you can trust – I hope – those recommendations)
REI Sahara Roll Up Pants. I bought these in 2012 before my first trip to Asheville, N.C. They dry quickly, they roll up tight, and the roll up aspect – without forcing you to zip off the legs – was ideal for this trip. I had a bad bug bite right about where most of my pants hit. The roll up option meant I could avoid making the bite worse just by wearing pants.
Stem Strappy Racerback Tank. I bought the blue version to wear to my pre-trip birthday party, and it became my go-to in Canada on days where I'd do something active and then want to interact with people without looking 100% like I'd just been mucking around in the dirt or mud or sand. It didn't look like something I'd chose for active adventures, but then I wore this ocean kayaking, hiking, and walking around Halifax. I washed this and the REI pants multiple times on the trip.
Madewell Slub V-Neck Pocket Tee. A shirt I have in multiple colors that works with almost anything. I brought white and maroon with me. The weather was rainy and slightly humid for most of my trip, and the lightness of the tee was perfect for that weather. I usually buy them when Madewell runs a 40% off all sale items discount. I pick whatever colors are on sale. While I do like those shirts, this Gawker item about their lookbook made me laugh.
Northface Rain Jacket. This was a gift so I'm not sure which model it is, but what I linked to is close. No liner – just a rain layer with sturdy hood that kept me dry (of course I also left it in the car on the one hike that involved a downpour).
LeSportsac Classic Hobo. I've had this bag since 2007, and used it to research my first two books, then whenever I needed a bag big enough to hold a book while also being a material that could get damp from either rain or sweat. It's the ideal size for walking around – big enough to hold all I need while also light enough to not be a burden. Most of the time I forget it's there.
Marc Jacobs Quilted Zip Around Wallet. Sorry for the eBay link, but it's not sold anymore (mine is black). This is usually my winter wallet (which I also use as a clutch). I brought it with me because it could hold my cash, phone, cards AND passport all at the same time. Before you clutch your pearls and say "Jen but the price!" know that I buy a lot of higher end items used or with Nordstrom gift cards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It's chip enabled (and has been since before the EMV changeover started), and charges no international fees. Perfect for international travel.
Travelocity. Most of my hotel searches started here, then I'd go to the property's site to see if they were offering the same price. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn't. But Travelocity is always where I started.
2002 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport. The best vehicle ever. Obviously. I've had it almost a year now. I never ever would have taken this kind of trip without her.
Phew! That's long, but a lot's happened since I last sent that last newsletter/short note. And now it's back to catch up.