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Racing back west

"Cape Breton Highlands," by Carol L. Douglas.

“Cape Breton Highlands,” by Carol L. Douglas.

One of my friends was a co-driver in the 2010 Targa Newfoundland. This is an annual rally race covering 1400 miles over a seven-day period. They were driving a Porsche; I’m driving a 16-year-old Suzuki Grand Vitari with crates on the luggage rack. Otherwise it’s starting to feel similar, albeit with the addition of painting: paint, drive, paint, drive, sleep, repeat.

If you don’t have a cabin on the overnight ferry, you sleep in your seat. The first passage was quiet, if not terribly comfortable. The return boat was full of people whose trips had been disrupted by Hurricane Matthew. We were kept aware by small irritants: the hiss and rattle of a CPAP machine, a toddler’s cries, and the oversized screens that were never turned off. In the early morning hours, there were pleas for a doctor to report to deck seven. (“Is that person OK?” I asked someone later. She shook her head sadly.)

Another "one that got away."

Another “one that got away.”

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By the time we disembarked both of us were stiff and bleary. We raced toward to the Cape Breton Highlands. This was the only part of Nova Scotia I hadn’t been to before. Out west, the thrill of discovery fueled my painting; here, in a race to finish, visiting an unknown place was a dumb choice.

I don’t know if it was because I was fussy from exhaustion, but I was unmoved. The Highlands were smaller, more ordinary, and less breathtaking than Gros Morne. Well, of course. They aren’t trying to be Newfoundland, and they weren’t put there merely for my amusement.

"Cobequid Bay farm," by Carol L. Douglas

“Cobequid Bay farm,” by Carol L. Douglas

I was worn out by nature; I wanted to paint a harbor. But this part of the Cabot Trail isn’t a working coast. It is full of restaurants, tea rooms, and gift shops, and even this late in the season, tourists.

“But you live in a tourist area,” Mary reminded me. That’s not entirely true. Undergirding mid-coast Maine’s tourism is its fisheries industry. A coast without working boats is a bland dish indeed.

Mary was surprised by a cow as she trespassed.

Mary was surprised by a cow. (Photo by Mary Perot.)

I settled on a single lobster boat at anchor, never settling into a groove, painting anxiously until I was absolutely out of time.

And then I turned around. The dropping tide had left a cobbled beach curving toward me. It had everything one needs: foreground interest, color, structure, a headland in the distance.

Too late for that, I mused, as I reloaded my kit into the SUV. Stepping slightly off the road, I plunged into a ditch full of sticky muck, sinking instantly to mid-calf. It wasn’t quicksand, though, and Mary kindly pulled me out. Now I was both cranky and filthy.

Solitary farmhouse at Cobequid Bay. (Photo by Mary Perot.)

Solitary farmhouse at Cobequid Bay. (Photo by Mary Perot.)

We raced like fools toward Cobequid Bay. “I’m not going to have time to paint a second painting,” I whined. But I did, and it was a lovely sunset across a farmer’s field: gentle and sweet like Nova Scotia itself.

Meanwhile, Mary raced down to the bay to take photos before the light disappeared. Access was blocked by a sign reading “Private Lane.” She parked and walked down to the water. Where does she learn this stuff?

Last light at Cobequid Bay. (Photo by Mary Perot.)

Last light at Cobequid Bay. (Photo by Mary Perot.)

I start this morning from Moncton. It is 5.5 hours from my home in Rockport. If all goes well, I’ll be home late tonight. Spare a passing prayer for safe and easy travels. It’s been a long trip, and I want to get home.

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