GT-11 was another very memorable trip. Like GT-8, we drove Virgin along the blue highways, but this time most of them were in Canada. Unlike GT-8, we didn't camp: remember, the tent hasn't been used since then.
Diane started planning the trip in the dead of the previous winter. She had out the atlas and several Fodor's and Frommer's Travel Books for hotel ideas that wouldn't break the piggy bank. This was a time before the Internet and widespread use of 800 numbers, so there was a big investment in the planning.
This trip pretty much retraced our honeymoon trip sixteen years earlier. This trip was much better and so much prettier from an MGA. With the exception of Quebec, our experiences were generally better also. Could have something to do with the fact that we were a bit older and more well traveled by now. But when the rain hit, it was the same — the Ford leaked then, and the MGA leaked now.
Our trip started well. Then we stopped at a rest area just northeast of Toronto, where our travels turned into another MGAdventure. There we checked the oil. You know the drill: push the car back and count the fresh oil spots on the ground. Steven noticed that one of the spots was significant in size. After pondering for a moment, he decided we had two choices: take the car into a service station, put it on a lift and check it out; or just hop in the car, drive away and hope for the best. We opted for the latter. Diane had calculated travel times and hotel reservations so close that there was no time for things like breakdowns. Besides, why spoil a great holiday, worrying about a little thing like an oil leak?
Once out of Toronto, we swung south a bit and picked up Canadian Highway 2 which follows the St. Laurence River, a nice and peaceful drive compared to the 401. We were amazed at the changes. On our honeymoon we couldn't find a McDonald's or a Burger King in Canada. Now we had no trouble finding those nostalgic little eateries. Anyway, with the exception of a bit of a language problem in Quebec, the trip was going well until we got into New Brunswick and rain. For some reason, during this stretch of the trip, the windscreen wipers didn't want to stay attached to the arms.
It was raining, and we were on a two lane road when we encountered a tractor-trailer headed in the other direction. All of a sudden the wipers were gone, launched off into a corn field, and all we could hear were the arms grating on the glass. Steven yelled to Diane to fix her eyes on that spot on the road, until he could get the car stopped and backed up. After rooting around in the field for ten minutes in the pouring rain, we managed to locate both wipers. Steven put them back on the arms, double checked the fit, and we headed down the road once more.
They worked fine for about fifteen minutes when they decided to launch themselves again. Only this time it was on the down stroke, and they ended up in the middle of the road. The car behind us manage to flatten one. After twenty minutes of surgery with a pair of needle nosed, Steven declared the flattened one workable and reattached both to the arms. This time Diane was in charge of wiper control. When the windscreen was too full of water to see out, Diane would activate the wipers — for one stroke. The rain lasted another four hours.
We finally made it to our eastern terminus in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. We stayed at a cozy little Scottish Inn, where we had the full Scottish breakfast (odd, we didn't have breakfasts like that when we were in Edinburgh a couple of years ago) and visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. This is a must, even if you've never worked for Ma Bell, like us. The Cabot Trail is a drive that winds around the peninsula. Everyone says its the most beautiful drive in the world. They even fight over whether it's best to drive clockwise or counterclockwise. We never drove it. The entire route, which takes two days to drive, was completely fogged over the entire time.
Heading down the Atlantic Coast towards Halifax one afternoon on the Mariner's Drive, a young boy came running down a hill, yelling "Kenny Rogers!" at Steven, thinking that Steven and Kenny were one and the same. "Islands In The Stream" was popular about then, so Diane yelled back at him: "Yeah, and I'm Dolly Parton!" He was stunned!
After sightseeing in Halifax, we drove the Lighthouse Route to Peggy's Cove and then Lunenburg, for lunch. The changes in these places were amazing: finally discovered by tourism. Then on to Yarmouth to take the car ferry, Blue Nose, across the Bay of Fundy, reservation number TH3439TS, $118 Canadian. We hated to leave Virgin alone in the guts of the ferry but had no choice. The trip is about six hours: Diane fared this crossing considerably better than the first time we crossed sixteen years earlier.
At 11PM that night, we arrived at Customs in Bar Harbour, ME. The hood just reached this man's belly button. It really bothers those guys when they can't see your eyes. So, the US Customs officer just had to see Virgin's vehicle registration card. This meant that Steven had to unfold himself to get out of the car and get at his wallet. After he returned to the car, Virgin decided to get back at us for leaving her in the ferry guts alone. She wouldn't start, and we were pointed up hill. All we needed was a bit of a push, but the Customs Officer wouldn't oblige. So now both of us had to unpack ourselves from the car to push it out of the way. Luckily, the line of traffic was only fifteen cars deep, and it was now after midnight.
On The Back
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We finally got her started and drove across the street to the Anchorage Motel where Diane had made reservations (well planned). It was way past midnight, we didn't have a flash light, and Steven couldn't sleep until he knew what was causing the problem: the batteries needed water. He filled the batteries by feel, and the next morning, with a quick push, we were on our way. We probably could have used the crank, but we'd have had to unpack the entire boot to get at it. This is the second best design element of the MGA, closely following cockpit ventilation.
We finally made it to Norwich. Each GT presents a new venue with new things to see and do. The Nutmeg Chapter planned events that took advantage of all the scenery and history in the area.
Since we were in the vicinity of Mystic Seaport, we spent a lovely, Mystic (misty) afternoon touring the old boats and shops at the historic site. Diane remembers a very large garage where boats were being made by hand. Why do we have such a fascination with garages? Lovely, lovely woods and huge fabric sails. Later, we also toured the U.S.S. Nautilus in Groton and then attended tech sessions in the afternoon, but not about the Nautilus.
99 Bottles of Beer
The Friday evening dinner was aboard a working steamboat, the Sabino, out on Long Island Sound on a beautiful evening. We all piled into huge yellow school buses to take us to the port. After several choruses of "99 bottles of beer on the wall...", we arrived. There were sailboats galore out on the Sound since the sailing conditions were perfect. Kind of like being in an A — windblown and motion sickness prone. We were in a corner of the boat most of the evening in deep conversation with friends Howard & Dottie Goldman, Butch & Judy Smith, Kurt & Rose Boegli and Dick & Shirley Feight. More of the same back at the hospitality suite. Diane has a note in her journal that we gave wiring diagrams to Butch. And that John & Lynn Kravontka gave Steven a white PGA tournament golfing hat.
The car show was another interesting experience. After a very nice start, the weather turned to "crap" on Saturday (must have been a Nor'e'st'r).
Car Show: Falling Water
As you can see in the photo, the only dry place in the lot was inside Tom Ball's pop-up trailer. Almost everyone either ran in and out, between the rain drops, to glimpse the cars or just stood in the lobby marking their ballots from what they remembered from the day before or on what the rain-soaked people had to say.
That lobby was probably the largest hospitality suite NAMGAR's every had at a GT. There was one larger, but that's another story (GT-22). Despite the rain, everyone had a great time socializing. Luckily, that was the only time it rained during the GT itself.
At the banquet that evening we were presented with the Distance Award for this journey: 2690 miles traveled to the GT in an MGA. We didn't get the hard luck award, if one was given. But, Steven did manage a couple of contracts with small towns in Nova Scotia to oil the roads!
The trip home included a stay at the Silvermine Tavern in Norwalk and a stop in Corning, NY to visit family. Steve's cousin and her husband owned a Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Painted Post, near Corning, so we spent a few nights visiting. We attended a play one evening at the Corning Glass Works: the female version of The Odd Couple. We got to meet Fanny Flag and Mitzi Gainer and to experience a theatrical version of a "stay vertical" at the after play cast party. A young, nubile scenery painter was really interested in hearing about Steve's MGA — until Diane showed up. (nubile? - Diane; obviously, Steven is writing this sentence!)
The rest of the trip was uneventful, and that oil leak - a loose drain plug - oh, well...