The Model A Canadian Maritimes Tour
By Pieter and Judi Dwinger – Sept/Oct 2008
Judi and I participated in the September/October Canadian Maritime Provinces Model A tour. What a great trip! We saw some amazing parts of Canada during the 3+week tour, which covered over 2700 miles in the A's.
The weather varied from relatively warm to the mid-low 20's. Lots of rain and wind especially on the first day of the tour when we had to detour from the pre-planned route, by hundreds of miles, to skirt the hurricane. The hurricane was heading directly to where our first night's stop was to be. The last hurricane to hit Nova Scotia was 17-years ago, so of course our first day/night on this tour proved our luck by being hit with the hurricane!
40 Model A's started the tour, which was planned through the Model A Touring Club. We were the only participants from Orange County .
Cars from the west coast states were shipped to Portland , Maine . These cars were to have taken a ferry to Yarmouth , Nova Scotia to meet all those who had driven or trailered to the jumping off point at Calais , Maine . But Hurricane “Kyle,” decided to visit the Atlantic Coast into New England just at the time we were to start our Model A travels.
The ferry was canceled as the seas were way too rough and dangerous for the high-speed catamaran ferry to make the crossing as planned. It was a group decision that our only option was to drive several hundred miles to catch up with the rest of the tour that was already in Yarmouth .
It was a rainy, very windy drive to Calais , ME where we stayed overnight. We were able to skirt the hurricane but were still pummeled by the fringes of Kyle.
The next day drive into New Brunswick and then into the scenic St John was very nice as the hurricane had passed. We arrived well after dark and made our way to the ferry dock for an 11PM 3-hour boat ride that took us to Digby. We arrived at the Admiral Digby Motel about 2:00 AM! for a very short nap before an early breakfast and a dash across the narrow island that is Nova Scotia to the port of Lunenburg , where we finally joined the rest of the group for lunch and a short, but extremely cold cruise on the famous sailing schooner Blue Nose II.
We started with 40-cars but lost three cars during the tour. One car had been shipped to Portland Maine , but the owner had a medical problem, which required storing the car for shipping home at the end of the tour. Another one had a fatal engine problem, a broken crank shaft. That one was shipped back to the warehouse in Calais . A third car broke down just 2-days before the end of the tour with a broken ring and or pinion gear.
We found the roads to be some of the worst we have encountered in all of our antique car tours. The ice, rain, freezing conditions, every year, deteriorates the roads faster than they can make repairs, which makes for a tough driving experience. Every one of the 37-(tour finishers) cars on the tour have developed squeaks, groans and other strange noises, that will require some effort to locate and repair. About 1/3 of the cars were essentially problem-free. All the other repairs were successful with one requiring the removal of the rear end, overdrive, transmission, clutch/flywheel to fix oil leaking rear main bolts.
Our 29-sedan with its new engine did well after a few minor fixes.
The weather that was rainy at the start, cleared and we had some very nice days interspersed with some grey drizzly days. In all, the weather, after the first week end, posed no real problem, though it got down into the mid-20's near the end of the tour. On the sunny days, the colors of the tree leaves were beyond dazzling!
This tour had been amazingly well organized by Ross Milne, one of the Canadian members of the Model A Touring Club, along with the help of Bob Moore and Jim Baker. Ross had organized the Model T Club of Southern California Canadian tour 2-years ago, and then replicated the T tour with a few changes to fit the A's. Many tour folks had GPS units, which were used to great advantage, even in the rural areas of the Maritimes. In fact the GPS worked better than cell phones in many areas.
Some of memorable experiences were: The cemetery in Halifax where bodies recovered from the Titanic sinking are buried. As of today they are still identifying some of the remains using modern DNA methods.
The fiddles and pipes of the Celtic people of this area produce sounds and flavors of our own eastern rural areas, and are the source of the Cajun tunes of Louisiana .
We found that the Canadian people are wonderfully friendly and showed a great interest in our cars. The local Canadians with antique cars were eager to show them to us. The entertained us and saw that we were well fed. The hospitality and camaraderie shown us was magnificent.
The restored French Fortress (early 1700's) at Louisbourg was a great place and truly appreciated by people who have restored a Model A! This is the Canadian version of Williamsburg , but is much bigger! It is isolated and unlike Williamsburg , there are few autos in the area. It really makes one appreciate how the French attempted to bring civilized society to the undeveloped raw land of the “new world.”
The seafood all along the route was very interesting and generally very good. The seafood chowder soups were incredible. Each area of the provinces had their own versions of the chowder and were markedly different.
We boarded a fishing boat, which held half our members (the other half of the tour went earlier) where we learned how lobsters were trapped, cooked and eaten. On the boat we were served a whole (cooked, but cold) lobster and we had to demonstrate what we had learned on how to properly eat a lobster. Most of us decided we preferred hot lobsters. A few days later we had a second test of our lobster eating skills at a group dinner.
We toured a number of museums from chocolate manufacturing, mining (where we actually went underground), the home of the author of Ann of Green Gables, and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.
The drive around the Cabot Trail with its roads winding along the seacoast, hills blazoned with trees of gold, green, orange and red contrasting with the blue, frothy sea are truly unforgettable. There were long steep hills that challenged us and our cars as we were forced into low gear for long periods.
The most memorable part of the trip was the Bay of Fundy , where twice a day the tide flow is the greatest of anywhere in the world. We were able to walk on the ocean floor where several hours later the water was about 40-feet deep.
If you have not yet visited Canada we highly recommend making this marvelous country a must-do trip.
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