End of the road
|(Garry Sowerby photo)|
Lisa is taking a nap, something she rarely does in the car.
When I notice the sign to Meat Cove, there is no question I’ll be taking the hour-or-so diversion off Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail.
Although I’ve driven the iconic Nova Scotian trail a few times I have only been to Meat Cove once, during the summer of 1974 in a weathered 1967 Volvo 244.
Ends of the road have always fascinated. Who lives down there and what is it like to live in a place with only one way out, unless you are swimming of have a helicopter?
On a grand scale, Nova Scotians all live at the end of the road. Unless you take a ferryboat to Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island, the only way to drive out of the province is across the Isthmus of Chignecto between Amherst and Aulac, New Brunswick.
So we Nova Scotians all have something in common. Only one way out.
“How’s the road?” must be the most-asked question in any end-of-the-road place.
That might be why I ventured to Meat Cove all those years ago. There wasn’t much at the end of that road then but a stripped late-model Peugeot 504. I can still see it at the side of the narrow muddy road sitting on its brake drums with the windows broken out and its interior stripped.
Since then I’ve motored to a few ends-of-the-road that have played a big part in my life.
What about the road to Nordcap, Norway? The village on the north shore of North Cape Island is regarded as the top of Europe and it is precisely where Cape Bretoner Ken Langley and I needed to get our ‘84 GMC Suburban to stop the clock on our attempt to set a new speed record from the bottom of Africa to the top of Eurasia.
Although fraught with an ambush, war zones, smuggling ships and corrupt government officials, the boys from the Maritimes beat Spring to North Cape and were greeted by impassable snowdrifts.
The only way through was to talk the Norwegian road works folks into sending a couple of massive snow blowers to clear the path to the end of this dead-end road.
A few years later, I found myself driving a Citroën Deux Chevaux from Ushuaia, Argentina to the end of the most southern road in the Americas
The rickety two-cylinder Citroën was the only rental car in town and I needed to check out exactly how far south one could drive on the island of Tierra del Fuego.
There was no monument at the end of that road, not even a token sign congratulating intrepid drivers they had made it to the bottom of the Americas.
The only thing there was a broken down Caterpillar bulldozer fading in the sun, that had obviously given up.
The longest dead-end road I’ve ever driven was 800-kilometres of glare ice along the desolate route from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska later that year.
I had already driven around the world, from the bottom to the top on one hemisphere and this was the dash to the finish of the last in the trilogy of long-distance driving records that took 10 years out of my life. The road was private then and there was a scramble of bureaucratic maneuvering that involved selling our GMC Sierra, getting a job and then an assignment to haul a small box of brake parts to a customer at the end of the road.
No sweat. My road partner Tim Cahill and I took turns keeping our pick-up truck between the ditches even though we had driven 7,500 km pretty well non-stop from Dallas, Texas on the last leg of our 23-day slam-bam transit of the Americas.
The motoring editor from Popular Mechanics Magazine and an oil company security guard signed us in at the end of the road. That was a relief and even though the clock stopped and the record was ours, we had to drive 800 kilometres all the way back to Fairbanks for a celebratory drink.
Oops! Dry town at the end of the last road at the top of the Americas.
And now, all these years later I’m waking Lisa as I pull a new Buick Verano into remote Meat Cove, Cape Breton. Hey, there’s a little inn, a restaurant and a campground at the end of that road now.
Inside the restaurant a German couple uploads digital pictures to the Internet. Motorcycles with Ontario plates pull up.
A camper van from Colorado pulls out. Indeed, Meat Cove is about the busiest place we’ve seen during our business trip to Cape Breton Island.
But that’s no surprise because you never know what’s waiting at the end of the road!