The Importance of Friends and Family

By Remy ( Photos by Liz)

We had stuck it out in Nova Scotia as long as we could, and now it was time to make a dash through what the locals call “the drive-through province”, New Brunswick. This moniker refers to the fact that many people dash through this working province to take in the delights of the rest of the Maritimes. As mentioned before, New Brunswick has spawned many dynastic business families, and maybe this is why – no time for frolicking, so might as well make money!

We had prepared ourselves for the border crossing by filling in the online interrogation forms regarding our vaccination status and general health and were ready to be stopped at the frontier and grilled about our lifestyle. Instead, we sailed across and were in Moncton before we remembered that we were in a locked-down province! Another stop in Fredericton to have a coffee and take in the downtown, then finally into the delightful Village of Gagetown, where I had invited ourselves to visit an old Army buddy.

A couple of free-range Strathconas – me and regimental confrére Rob Stoney.
Rob’s humble abode in Gagetown, which is alone large enough to house a small town! The house dates back to about 1815 and still retains many original features. Rob was a generous host, and it was unfortunate that we didn’t get to meet the rest of the family, who were visiting family in central Canada.

After our reunion with an old friend, it was time for us to head into my ancestral homeland around Woodstock, NB. My parents had insisted that I fulfill family obligation and visit with people I had always known as Aunt Betty-Ann and Uncle Richard. It was great to have a family historian like Betty-Ann brush me up on my antecedents, and to be in a place where everybody knows how to spell our last name. And the stories that Betty-Ann told about growing up in the area helped explain a lot of the quirky things that had informed my own upbringing. It was great to see my cousins Charles, Ray and Brian again so many years after my visits to this area in my youth. It is interesting to see how we have all grown up while still recognizing the young boys that we once were! Liz and I also received a fascinating education in the family potato farming business. It was hard for us not to pick up the local Carleton County accent, which is very distinctive and unlike anything else we have heard across Canada.

With Richard in one of the climate-controlled potato houses where the crop is stored. Behind us is approximately 3 million pounds of potatoes, and this is only one of six such houses that they fill each year! Some of the crop will remain in these houses until next July, as McCain’s and Old Dutch processes them throughout the year.
These potatoes have eyes! Every week some of the potatoes are sent to the factory for a test-fry to see if they are ready for processing into chips. Every chip in the test batch ends up with a hole in the centre, like these ones. We thought it was similar to how they punch holes through decks of cards in Las Vegas after they have been played so they can’t be used again.
The nearby village of Hartland boasts the world’s longest specimen of that New England oddity, the covered bridge. 1280 feet in length, if you are interested. I hope someone dresses up as a headless horseman here every Hallowe’en.
It is nice to see that there is some artistic talent in the family! And nice to see the family name spelled correctly, for once.
Many generations gathered at “The Camp”, where my great-uncle Dudley used to retreat to fish and roam the woods. The original building has been replaced by the new but in no way modern, one room cabin in the background.
New Brunswick Gothic photo with Richard, Betty-Ann and Irene.
Yes, we ate potatoes with every meal (which I grew up thinking was a matter of law). Cousin Ray prepared huge piles of delicious curly fries, and the crowd was big enough that it demanded the use of power tools, as seen on the table behind.
Ray graciously loaned us the use of his “wheeler” to explore the back forty of the camp property. I may have to own one of these, some day!
At the sugar shack where Uncle Dudley used to make his own maple sugar. We were able to guide a quick seminar on identifying and gathering oyster mushrooms and were excited to hear that they gather chaga from the yellow birch trees in this area.
A piece of family history – the last remaining building associated to my great-granddfather (and namesake) Randolph Tompkins. This barn is still owned by Irene, who lives a short way down thee road, and so remains in the family.
Luckily, there is no close-up photographic evidence of the disastrous encounter that my hair had with the campfire at The Camp. I managed to singe the whole front of my head, including eyebrows, and presented a ludicrous appearance as a result. Happily for me, cousin Brian’s wife is a professional hairdresser and kindly corrected the damage as best she could.

It was a nice break to be able to come in from the cold of van-life travel and be welcomed into the warm embrace of family. And what a wonderful family to have! Many people made extra effort or changed plans to attend the cook-out at the camp, and Richard made sure that their home was extra warm to accommodate our expressed preference for warm climates. We experienced a very strong sense of family, and the generosity and kindness of the extended Culberson clan, including hot showers and home-cooked meals, bolstered us for the next challenge as we finally cross the border to continue our journey through the US of A.

This was the day that the border opened, after twenty months of closure to non-essential travel. We were expecting hordes of eager snowbirds to be packed in tightly, and so were pleasantly surprised to roll up on the world’s longest undefended border to find exactly three other vehicles in front of us. One of them was a resident of Maine, so our entire wait was about 15 minutes. After a couple of quick questions, we were through ourselves, and thrilled to be finally pointed south!
Touring the waterfront in Portland, Maine. This Portland is easily as cool as her twin in Oregon.
Portland has a hard-working waterfront, with fishing boats and warehouses and taverns and pubs that have always primarily served the fishing crowd, not tourists – very authentic! Our only disappointment was when we found a renowned bakery, only to discover that they did not accept cash at this time. Foreign transactions on our Canadian credit card would have made it ridiculously expensive for us to buy anything. We don’t like to have anything interfere with our food, and it took us a while to get over this as we biked away empty handed.
It looks like we may be able to chase autumn southward for a bit! Still a lot of colour in the trees.
We crossed through Maine and into Massachusetts to visit a friend, Sue. We had used her address to have an American funds credit card sent to us, to avoid further bakery disappointments. Sue was the crucial part to our “Plan B” if we had been forced to have our van shuttled over the border before it was officially opened to land crossings. She was the American operative who would have met us in Montreal and driven the Radvan across so that we could have flown over and met her on the other side. Happily that was not required and we could just visit with her at her home! As you can see, she is pretty cool (the scooter is a regular mode of transportation for Sue around North Adams).
While it is small, North Adams has a great Museum of Contemporary Art, where we spent most of a day.
Sue took us on a hike (which of coursed devolved into a mushroom foraging expedition).
They have the coolest things in grocery stores here! If they had these in Canada, you would have seen this at every Thanksgiving dinner at our home.
There are jerks in the USA, too. One of them, frustrated by my slow speed through a scenic area along a lake, passed on a double solid yellow and then cut us off with the trailer he was towing, which ended up tearing the side view mirror from our van. We were able to collect the pieces and reattach the mirror again, Red Green-style, with a hose clamp and some duct tape. It took us a few hours to calm our nerves.
Filing the hit and run report with the Pittsfield PD. While we encountered one road-rager, we also met a nice witness who had tried to track down the offending vehicle and looped back to check on us and provide his information as a witness. I also got to trade shoulder flashes with the officer who took our report.
Crossing the Hudson River from New York into New Jersey. West Point is just upstream and New York City is just downstream. This is the first of what will prove to be many beautiful suspension bridges along the Eastern Seabord.
After a night in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant parking lot, we spent the next day travelling through portions of New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia and finally Virginia.
One of the views in Virginia, so beautiful that it does not seem real. There were a lot of deer here, too. We spotted almost fifty roadkills in one day, which suggests that the population is quite healthy. Shameful waste of life, though, and they don’t appear to believe in game fencing around here.
Can’t go to Virginia and not try the peanuts! They are very good here.
Our first encounter with cotton. Hard to believe that that stuff just grows on trees!
Our first Mexican food! And we expect to have much more of it on our journeys through the USA. The two of us ate more than we should have for under $20, and it was generally pretty authentic except for the flour tortillas on the tacos.
Treating ourselves to a beer and sunset from a rooftop patio in Little Washington, Virginia. This was the first town to be named after George following the successful Revolution. We parked beside a house that still has a cannon ball lodged in an exterior wall, the result of a Confederate bombardment of the town during the Civil War.
In Beaufort, North Carolina, we attended Bingo Night at a local microbrewery, where Liz frustrated the locals by winning two of the five rounds of bingo! And that included the final round of blackout bingo. Not surprising, given her history as the Door-prize Winner Queen of Inglewood.
Some of Liz’ bingo booty – a crowler and a four-pack of the local brew. She also won us breakfast and lunch the next morning!
Swinging amongst the live oaks in Beaufort. These amazing and beautiful trees are called “live” because they have green leaves year-round, and grow to massive proportions.
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, which is located on one of the low-lying barrier islands that line this coast. The houses here are built on stilts due to the inevitability of flooding. The nice houses, that is – the mobile home parks are still at ground level. Those places just seem to invite disaster in every possible way.
Some of the grand and well-preserved architecture in New Bern, South Carolina, with lots of porch area for drinking sweet tea.
New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, which was originally developed by a pharmacist as a health tonic. Wonder what he would think now.
Just outside Charleston , South Carolina, is an area known for the production of sweetgrass basketry. This is a skill that was transported from Africa with the slave trade, and was valuable to the production of rice, which was an important commodity in this area. Hundreds of roadside stands like this line the Sweetgrass Basket Makers Highway, as this stretch is known, where the people who preserve this skill sell their wares.
Beautiful and practical pieces, we wish we had room for one to use in our mushroom foraging!. You always know exactly who wove the goods as each stand is named for the weaver.
The signature dish in this part of the world is shrimp and grits, which we had to try. We have learned by now to order only one entrée between the two of us as it will always be a sufficient amount of food. We were lucky to find one of the best examples of this dish around in Mount Pleasant, SC.
Shem Creek Park in Mount Pleasant. The park is a salt marsh, so the only way to get around is on these extensive board walks
Harry the Freeloader, a well-known local in Mount Pleasant. This snowy egret hangs around the boardwalk and accepts gifts of minnows from the fishermen.
No Jumping? Ya, right

We are still fleeing south, but as you can see from the photos, it is often possible to don shorts again. It is interesting how the culture and the accents have changed, and we are constantly reminded of the fractious history of this part of the world, with its history of slavery and war. The people are friendly and the food is great, but it is also different from what we know, which is what makes traveling so great!


Published by tompkinsontheroad

Married mother of two awesome boys who is now living full time in a self converted Camper van and seeing more of the world. We gave up something super special to live our dream of living a free and simple life on the road exploring new places and taking joy in the discovery of the extraordinary

9 thoughts on “The Importance of Friends and Family

  1. Of course Liz won 2 bingos !! Buy a lottery ticket for me please Liz! You have the best luck ! Lol 😂
    So nice to hear your stories . Miss you guys xx


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