While on a trip north of the Mason-Dixon, my wife and I decided to toss caution to the wind and drive through New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. I don’t know what we were thinking. It wasn’t the first time we had been to Canada, but it was the first time that we had attempted to drive there, and believe me when I tell you that they don’t call it a foreign country for nothing. The way they drive is downright un-American.

Our troubles began just as soon as we entered New Brunswick. Immediately after we crossed the border, we began to encounter aggressive Canadian drivers who time and again attempted to run us off of the road.

“What is wrong with these people?” I asked. “Are they crazy?”

“You are on their side of the road,” my wife replied, looking up from the map.

“I thought we were supposed to drive on the left up here,” I replied.

“That’s in England,” she pointed out.

“Oh.” It was an honest mistake.

It was during this time that I discovered that even though many Canadians speak French as their primary language, the hand gestures they use when meeting drivers head-on are apparently universal and are easily understood. I also discovered that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police no longer ride horses and wear red suits. As a matter of fact, when they pull you over, they remind you of a Georgia State Trooper who says eh a lot. Luckily, the first one I had the opportunity to meet came equipped with a sense of humor, so we were allowed to continue our journey after I demonstrated that I really did know the difference between left and right.

The remainder of our time in New Brunswick passed without incident, although my wife caused me some concern when she went tree-blind for a short period of time. 90% of New Brunswick is covered by trees, and another 5% is covered by MOOSE CROSSING signs, so that only leaves 5% of the province for everything else. Now, I love a good tree as much as the next guy, but even so, there are a lot of trees up there. I just hope that Old Brunswick, wherever it may be, has a little more variety in scenery.

Just before we arrived at the border with Nova Scotia, I pulled into a filling station that offered gasoline for $1.04. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen gas that cheap since Gerald Ford was President. Then I discovered that the fuel was sold by the liter, not by the gallon. A liter is basically a mis-spelled quart, and it is part of the Big Metric System Conspiracy that has been lurking just over the horizon—literally, apparently—for the past 40 years or so. I am used to buying Coke by the liter, not gasoline. It takes a lot of liters to fill up an automobile fuel tank.

After paying more for a tank of gas than I paid for the car, we rolled on into Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia, by the way, is from the French for “if you stop for that traffic light, I will drive up into your trunk.” It was our plan to take a leisurely drive down the coast to Yarmouth, and then to ride the ferry back to Portland, Maine. If you intend to someday follow in our footsteps, beware. As you drive across the province, you will notice signs every few miles that have the number 100 posted on them. Nothing else, just 100. This sign does not mean that you are on highway 100, and the speed limit is not 100 miles per hour. It is a speed limit sign, to be sure, but the speed is posted in kilometers per hour. This kilometer business is also a part of the Big Metric System Conspiracy. Think of it as a really short mile.

It was at this point in the trip that I got to meet my second Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. “Vous n’êtes pas de autour de ces pièces, êtes vous, garçon?” he asked. This translates roughly into “you are not from around these parts, are you, boy?” Like his colleague back in New Brunswick, he let me off with a warning once we had established that I really wasn’t from those parts, and that I had failed to pay any attention at all back in the fourth grade when the chapter on the metric system was presented.

The rest of our drive passed without incident, although my wife worried me once again when she went mist-blind for a time. Mist-blindness is akin to tree-blindness, but it is usually not as serious and generally occurs a little farther to the east. 90% of Nova Scotia is covered by mist, fog, and steam. Another 5% is covered by MOOSE CROSSING signs, so, like New Brunswick, that only leaves 5% of the province for everything else.

If you ever find yourself in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and want to ride the ferry back to Portland, Maine, I have some travel tips for you. First off, you can ride the ferry if you just have to, but it will be cheaper for you to give away your car, charter a plane, fly home, and then just buy a new car when you get there. They think a lot of that ferry. But if you do take the boat, keep in mind that you will be crossing the open Atlantic for six hours, and that the water can get rough at times. Regardless of what you may have been led to believe by every cartoon you have ever watched, making limburger jokes to your seasick wife is a very bad idea. I cannot stress this point enough.

Luckily, the Captain and crew of the vessel know that this is a long voyage for the average land lover, so they have been specially trained to make the trip seem shorter by relieving all of the passengers of as much additional money as possible on the way back to the states. To help them in this endeavor, there is a duty-free store, a casino, two snack bars, a souvenir shop, and a bar. If it weren’t for the five-foot seas, the lack of cowboy hats, and the absence of Tom Jones, it would be just like Las Vegas.

As we came into Portland, the seas calmed and we were able to remove my wife’s Dramamine IV drip. As the ferry eased up to the pier, I took the time to show her the souvenirs I had purchased while she had been indisposed. There were t-shirts for the kids, some post cards, a coffee cup, and a cardboard box especially for her.

“What is in the box?” she asked.

“These are for you,” I replied, handing her the genuine I Heart Canada bright red tennis shoes I had bought her. She looked at them in disbelief for a moment—like she couldn’t comprehend her good fortune. Then she removed them from the box, put them on, and laced them up.

“You like them, eh?” I asked, speaking Canadian. She clicked her heels together three times.

“There’s no place like home,” she said. “There’s no place like home.”

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Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.