I looked up from a brochure describing the massive tides of the Bay of Fundy, the briny body of water that forms the southern coast of the Canadian province of New Brunswick and the northwestern coast of Nova Scotia.
With a vertical range up to 50 feet, the bay’s two daily tidal cycles move more water than the combined flow of all the rivers in the world. At low tide more than 400 square miles of ocean floor are exposed to the atmosphere and to visitors from around the world who flock to the area to witness the amazing world of Fundy.
My wife Lisa had wandered off muttering something about mudshrimp, periwinkles, barnacles and ingredients for an edible seaweed salad that sounded like something from an episode of “Fear Factor.”
We were parked on the access road to Minister’s Island, near the resort town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. It was low tide and everything on and around the rocky trail was water-logged, not surprising considering the road is submerged under up to 20 feet of water most of the day.
I glanced over at the empty ignition switch of the Chevy SSR we were touring in.
“I hope she doesn’t drop the keys out there,” I thought, reckoning we would have about an hour and a half to find them before the SSR, the road and surrounding area were submerged during another session of Fundy water works.
Before long, Lisa returned, empty-handed except for the keys thankfully. She slipped behind the wheel and fired up the 390-horse SSR, slapped it into first gear and motored across the barren seascape to Minister’s Island. I fumbled with brochures, maps and guide books that were splayed over my lap looking for a morsel of intelligence to prove my worth, while she combed the sea floor. I had spilled the contents of a bag of trail mix between the center console and the seat and scrambled to extricate what I could to feed the driver.
“You’ve managed quite a mess over there,” Lisa laughed. “Now you know what it’s like for me most of the time.”
She was right. Over the years we have packed hundreds of thousands of miles onto a slew of vehicles over routes from India’s GT highway to the ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk on the Mackenzie River delta in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
The usual drill? I drive, Lisa does everything else. That means navigating, researching, logging progress, keeping order in the cockpit and nourishing me with food and knowledge. All the while driver, lord of the domain, gets to do exactly what I love to do … drive.
On this trip we decided Lisa would take on the driving duties, which would give me a chance to relax, enjoy the countryside and be the unsung slave to driver. But, Lisa got the jump on me. The second she heard the throaty growl of the 6.0-liter V-8 SSR, I got a look that planted me in the passenger’s seat for most of our cruise around southwestern New Brunswick.
I admitted to having been a wheel hog for long enough. And after all, there was probably sound merit to checking out the world “over there” that I missed for those kazillion miles wired to the steering wheel. It would be an opportunity to linger on a sight, daydream and ponder conversations with locals without the charge of getting us safely down a stretch of twisty asphalt. Let Lisa deal with all those gears and horsepower.
Our plan was an island loop from our hotel, the cozy Algonquin Fairmont in the captivating seaside town of St Andrews, a half hour’s drive from the U.S. border in Maine. We would visit the summer residence of visionary railroad builder Sir William Van Horne on Minister’s Island, drive a circle route onto Deer Island and then Campobello Island where F.D. Roosevelt’s cottage is open to the public.
The bridge that connects Campobello Island to the state of Maine would provide an international flavor to our motorized day trip. Not bad: two countries, three islands, two ferry boats, two international bridges and a drive across the ocean floor and back. All in a very reasonable 10 hours.
The day was an absolute hit that I would strongly recommend to anyone looking for a little adventure. Craggy coastline, friendly locals and rugged quaint villages provided an “out-there” atmosphere often lost to commercialism and traffic.
By the end of the day, I learned to keep my side of the SSR in a sensible state and often impressed Lisa with a historical factoid, accurate ETA or suitably timed tasty morsel of redeemed trail mix.
Back in St. Andrews, we pulled up in front of the Algonquin Fairmont. The doormen cast coveting eyes on the rumbling SSR as Lisa swung it into the parking lot.
As I packed up the travel brochures and maps and picked errant scraps of trail mix out of the floor mats, I noticed Lisa chatting with the doormen.
“It’s got 390 horsepower and a six-speed manual. Want to see how the convertible top works?”
Garry Sowerby, author of “Sowerby’s Road, Adventures of a Driven Mind,”is a four-time Guinness World Record holder for long-distance driving. His exploits, good, bad and just plain harrowing, are the subject of World Odyssey, produced in conjunction with Wheelbase Media. You can send Garry a note online at www.wheelbase.ws/media using the contact link. Wheelbase Media is a worldwide provider of automotive news and features stories.