My First Visit to PEI

Twenty years ago last month, in the fall of 1992, my friends Richard and Victoria moved from Peterborough, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I both owned a pickup truck and was unemployed at the time and so, always being game for an adventure, I offered to load up their life into the truck and, along with my friend Stephen Southall, make the trip east with them.

We had lovely weather for the journey. And Stephen is a great travel companion (to every hitchhiker we picked up, Stephen gave a different life story; “oh, I’m an accountant.” I think we may have inadvertently prevented a young lad from becoming and air traffic controller in the process).

We drove south into New York and across through Vermont and Maine, and crossed back into Canada at St. Stephen. At the border we presented quite a scene: a couple of beardy ruffians with a yappy dog, hauling a pickup truck filled with who-knows-what. The border guard asked Stephen, who was driving, to “please hold your dog,” which Stephen took to mean “please hold your dog up to me so I can pet it because it is so adorable.” This is not what the border guard meant.

Miraculously, though, we were let through with nary a question while Richard and Victoria, the clean-cut couple behind us driving a late model sedan, were held up for over an hour with questioning and searching.

In New Brunswick we took the dip down into Fundy National Park, during which time the brakes on my 1978 Ford F100 pickup started to die. They got as far as Halifax, fortunately, where Canadian Tire was able to bring them back to life.

Leaving Victoria and Richard to start their new life in Halifax, we headed west. When we got to the fork in the road just across the New Brunswick border — one direction Moncton, the other direction PEI — we flipped a coin. Prince Edward Island won. And we headed for the ferry. It was to be my first visit to the Island.

Coming off the ferry on the other end we pulled up to the Visitor Information Centre to get a map and our bearings. It was the off-season, however, so the Visitor Information Centre had been repurposed into a daycare (the liquor store next door was still open, though). So, with no bearings to be had, and no knowledge whatsoever of the Island, we turned west at the Albany Y and, before we knew what had happened, we hit West Point (after driving from Ontario to the east, the distance from Borden to West Point seems like popping round the corner).

We set up camp in Cedar Dunes Provincial Park for the night. I remember thinking “my, this place is really beautiful.”

The next morning, having driven as far west as we could imagine, we retraced our steps and headed toward Charlottetown. We set up camp at Strathgarney Provincial Park, and then, on a dark and stormy night, drove into town, or at least the edge of town, to catch a movie — it might have been Sneakers or perhaps School Ties; I can’t recall. We never actually made it into Charlottetown proper.

In the morning we packed up camp, headed for the ferry back to the mainland, and, as recounted earlier in these pages, drove back to Peterborough by way of Rhode Island.

Five months later I was back on Prince Edward Island for a job interview, and, a month after that, in the same pickup truck, this time loaded with my things and Catherine’s, I was a resident (Catherine came two months later). We’ve been here ever since.