Before automobiles, it was said that a horse pulling a carriage just ambled along until it smelled the barn. Then it had to be held back unless it ran for home. So too, on our longer trips, there comes a time when we do less “drifting” and more “driving.”
Leaving Quebec City, we drove northwest to Saguenay and then back southeast to Saint Siméon. It was interesting because we expected terrain like we had seen in northern Ontario or in the Maritimes. Instead, we found ourselves in Appalachian Mountains and valleys; the chain runs from Newfoundland and Labrador to Alabama.
We took a ferry from Saint Siméon across the Saint Lawrence to Rivière-du-Loops. Counting our trips to British Columbia in 1999 and the Maritime Provinces in 2011, it was our sixth Canadian ferry.
We crossed the St. John River into Maine at Madawaska, the northern end of U.S. Route 1. It was sort of a milestone because we were in Key West, the southern end of U.S. 1, last November.
At Fort Kent, another border town, we noticed a local gas station owner had posted his prices in gallons for U.S. customers and liters for Canadians: $3.95 per gallon and $1.15 per liter. Gas prices are all a matter of perspective. $3.95 was much more than we paid when we left home in April. $1.15 was much less than the lowest price we paid in Canada. In Canada, we paid as much as $1.59; remember, every cent on a liter is about 3.8 cents per U.S. gallon. $1.59 per liter is about $6.04 per gallon.
Although we increased our speed and distance, we did still did not take the shortest route home. Near Gorham, New Hampshire after spotting a road sign, we decided to visit Mount Washington, the oldest “tourist trap” in the nation. It seemed fitting we should pay homage to such a site.
We happened to arrive on the first day of the 110th anniversary “Climb to the Clouds” car race, one of the oldest motor-sports events in the world. Two
morning stages of the race up the 7.4 mile-long Mount Washington Auto Road were held that day. But we were allowed to drive up in the afternoon. [On site, a sign said our drive was eight miles.]
Alie is afraid of heights. Had I realized just how steep (average grade: 12%), narrow and winding the road was, I would not have taken her up. Had she realized, she would not have gone. But she survived, and we enjoyed the views from the top. Only when we got to the top, did we realize we could have come up on a cog railroad.
The first person to climb to the top (the Indians thought it was sacred) was in 1642 by a fellow named Darby. The Crawfords, owners of the surrounding land, laid out a path to the top in 1819, making it the oldest hiking trail and tourist spot in the country. The road was started in 1853, and Tip Top House, the former meteorological station and current souvenir shop, was built the same year. Mount Washington claims the “worst weather in the world,” and the highest recorded wind speed, 231 miles per hour, was recorded at Tip Top House. We had a beautiful day.
The road was completed in 1861 and immediately began to take tourists to the top. F.D. Stanley, who later created the “Stanley Steamer,” drove one of his cars, the first automobile, to the top in 1899 taking a little over two hours. The current race record was set the day after our visit: six minutes, nine and nine hundredths seconds at speeds occasionally over 100 mph. That seemed impossible to us; it took us about twenty minutes, and going much above twenty mph seemed dangerous. (When we got home, we found a recall notice to have our “brake booster” inspected for premature failure. I’m glad we both did not know that.)
Moving on, we took the ferry across Lake Champlain from Burlington, VT to Port Kent, NY. It was our second time on this ferry, and we think our 7th US ferry although trip we have no idea how many times we took White’s Ferry across the Potomac
After wandering across the Adirondacks, we got on Interstate 81, a real sign the horse had smelled the barn. With slight detours to see friends, we headed home. Our trip covered about fourteen thousand six hundred miles. We visited 27 States, D.C. and six Canadian provinces.