Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happiness is

Matching snowflake pajamas and spending Christmas with the family wearing them.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A little rehab background

"You really have to work to strengthen your leg muscles supporting the knee."  

"Yada Yada Yada", I said back.  

And then I paid the price.  Torn meniscus.... both lateral and medial. " Huh?"  I said?  That means inner knee and outer knee, and when it's bad enough, surgery.   I held off for a year or two until I couldn't take the pain and couldn't walk the dog, and then, I chose a surgeon. At the time of my choice, his Houston Oiler knee doctor credentials impressed me.

Thus began my journey of learning more about my body.   Having ignored the wisdom of those who knew better than me for so long, I was determined to do things right after surgery.  I started rehab immediately after my day surgery to trim away the torn meniscus and other degenerative issues in my knee.  Since my surgeon sent me home with a constant motion machine to use 4-6 hours daily, I went beyond the minimum and strapped my foot in at bedtime too,  adding 10 degrees range of motion every day until my knee bent all the way to my waist and awakened me at 2 am, about the time my narcotics wore off.  I awoke gasping at the sensation that my leg was caught in an animal trap.

In addition to the machine, I also brought home some crutches.  I was a 60 year old crutch virgin, wondering how such a hobbled experience as I was having with my new third and fourth leg could possibly lead to healing.  For three days, wearing the same pajamas, I rolled my coffee cup around on an office chair and tried to figure out the mechanics of walking.   Then I took a Saran wrapped shower and went to meet my PT guy, who taught me to walk on one crutch,  and I regained a hand with opposable thumb.  I was back in the business of carrying my own coffee.

Meeting my PT guy also meant I could dispense with the few terse instructions on rehab my surgeon sent.  I had read  them over and over, unable to make sense of

         Therabands (black silver gold) 20-30 reps no discomfort to anterior infrapatella area

These were the surgeon's instructions to an Oiler trainer, I realized, but I had absolutely no frame of reference for them. Any another time, not on pain pills, I would have searched the web for information that might have cleared things up.  But instead, I just started doing the routine the PT guy gave me, because his instructions came with pictures. By the end of my first week, I was feeling pretty proud of how much I could bend and straighten my knee and walk on that one crutch.  I was practically flying from chair to bathroom to the coffee pot.

Things were looking up until I cruised into my one week checkup on one crutch.  The surgeon was incensed that after all his valiant effort and painstakingly clear explanations that I would listen to a crazy PT man and walk on one crutch, much less stop taking pain pills because I was falling asleep.  “Why do I knock myself out with instructions?” he lamented.  "Take the pain pills, have some coffee," he said, "and do more squats."

Show me your squats," he ordered.  I squatted.  He corrected my technique.

I pulled out my list of questions, such as, what exactly did you find when you looked inside my knee, what did you do, what should I expect down the road?

“I fixed it,” was his answer, and that I should expect to get presents at Christmas.
“No, seriously, I want to know if I can hurt it.”  
“Well, you can get run over by a car.”
“Am I just closer to a knee replacement?”
“I thought I explained all this to you already.”

Surgeons, got to love them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Today Daisy and I walked thirty five minutes.  The entire walk I felt what I would describe as a tweaking feeling in my butt, but I know that won't be a good enough explanation on Saturday morning.  That's when I will return to the gym for my next rehab workout and Lisa will ask me to describe the sensation more specifically, maybe even use a scientific body part term like gluteus for butt.  Then she's likely to comment, "That's good, that means you worked your glutes on Wednesday."

Yes, readers, I have been absent three months because I have been in rehab.  Not the drug and alcohol kind, but the "I really want to walk normally again" kind.  And I have been studying anatomy with the renewed interest of somebody with a dog in the fight.
Did you know that the hamstrings are six muscles?  And that each one can individually be the problem of your complaint that your hamstrings are tight?  I think with me is it the semimembranosus, but who can be sure?  They all tie in together at the knee and the hip.  Lisa thinks my tightness starts with the knee.  There's a reason for that.....knee surgery three months ago.

So, if you check back, I'll share some moments of wisdom, pain and humility soon.....maybe even start at the beginning of this sixty year old's fight to walk the dog like a normal person.  Gotta go..... gotta stretch.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ave Meniscus

I could have been faithful
to you, my sacred knee
listened to the sages
who said strong muscles
would save me from hell

But I took their counsel
and put it away, along with
“buy low, sell high”
and other worldly axioms
all good in theory

Instead I betrayed you
leaving no choice
but the surgeon with the big ego
and saran wrapped showers

Now  I worship daily
in the temple of the Y
leg presses, adductors
supine, prone, squatting
genuflecting to my knee

Soon I will have quads of steel
hams of spandex
chiseled calves
taut abductors
supple gluts

All this and more
I will offer
on the altar to my knee
never again
a disbeliever.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Would I fly?

Standing at the top of the Mount Cannon near Franconia Notch  on a warm July day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I experienced a disconcerting urge to leap into space and fly. What would it be like, to be swept by an updraft, to circle with the eagles? To gently spiral, looking for lift, meandering over valley and peak? My tummy turned. I backed away from the edge.

Moments later, two gliders rushed silently over my head. My mind climbed into the cockpit, living my fantasy. 
We chased each other, criss-crossing, two birds playing.

The thermals were favorable, and we climbed higher.

Ever aware of our mortal limitations, we kept one eye on the airport to the north in Franconia.
Do you ever wonder, if you stepped out, would you fly?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A little mountain music

On the Blue Ridge Parkway, a stop for a little bluegrass at the Blue Ridge Music Center..........Daisy had no opinion about the selections.

There's no drive more like a massage than the crest of the Appalachians.  From Front Royal, VA, not more than 60 miles from crazy busy bee DC, all the way to Great Smokies National Park, we are wending our way. In the distance the hazy blue ridges seem to say slow down, be calm, we've been here for billions of years, and there's no need to hurry.  So we don't.

The speed limit in the first section, Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, is 35 mph.  The park is less than two miles wide but over 100 miles long.  On either side, the valley is green, the river winds, and I can hear the song with the same name in my head.  "Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you.....and hear your rolling river...."

Little towns dot the landscape, but it is still largely agricultural.  It was food that made the valley so coveted a prize in the civil war.  In the town of Front Royal, markers describe the only urban battle in the civil war and  the cunning moves of Stonewall Jackson, outnumbered by the Union forces but not outfoxed.

In Shenandoah, I walked one mile on the Appalachian Trail, an uphill rocky switchback that taxed me to the max and rewarded me with a million dollar finish.  Imagine, 2,175 miles of rocky mountaintop hiking.  I am not sure the AT will stay on my lifelist, but just to re-inspire those thoughts, I am listening to Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" during the drive.  I'd read it years ago, but it is a perfect redo for this trip. In addition to a humorous account of his treks on the trail with his hapless college buddy Katz, Bryson treats me to a geological history of these mountains, the world's oldest, a third of their original size.  They took billions of years to get this soft and pillowy.  The haze that makes them blue is, unfortunately, pollution.
The Blue Ridge section of the Parkway has more elevation, including some 6,000 foot peaks,  and is over 400 miles long.  Sometimes there's even cool relief from the heat wave.  The speed limit increases to 45,  still a casual stroll along the ridge of the Appalachians.
Along the Blue Ridge, rhododendrons grow wild.  In the spring, the parkway is a pink cloud.  I think there are no bad seasons here on the parkway.  Summer is green with wildflowers.  Butterflies are abundant on the pink phlox, queen ann's lace and rudbeckia.  Here the native flora that botanists from England harvested when the land was still wild grows in abundance.  There's also wildlife, although it is harder to photograph.  I saw two black bears as they scuttled across the road and into the bushes, several wild turkies, and deer.  All of them were quite shy.

The park service has preserved split rail fences along the parkway....a delightful way to separate the picturesque farms from the highway.  At one waypoint, five styles of spit rail fence are on display.

The artisty and the beauty of the stonework, the winding, undulating highway, the waypoints, the overlooks,  all built during the Great Depression, convince me that the our current recession would be worth suffering through if one more Parkway were built with our tax dollars.  I find it sad that nothing permanent like this drive in the clouds will be left to show for our investment in bailouts and rescues. I'd rather have a scenic highway than AIG.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Christine!

For your birthday, Daisy has finally posted a blog.  Have a happy one!
And today's photo:  The James River on the Blue Ridge, sky and water.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Give us this day our daily maintenance

My cousin Brian asked me to write about daily life in the RV.  Here's the request answered, although I do think it sounds a little like whining.....

Recipe for maintenance: Put your house on wheels, drive it down the road and shake it all day. Follow this simple recipe and you are guaranteed to have daily maintenance.

For example, yesterday Carl re-installed the shade on the cabin door, then made the passenger seat belt re-tract again. This morning he cleaned the refrigerator drain so that ice stopped forming in the defrost tray. Then he changed filters in the a/c, a procedure that requires a screwdriver. Tonight, he re-caulked the exterior where the cab and the house meet. That's when he noticed the screws in the cabin door were loose.

So you might be thinking it looks like Carl does all the work? Well, maintenance wise, that's true. When I am on my own, I let the fix it list build higher than the deductible on our maintenance policy, and then I visit an RV center and get it all fixed at once. Last summer when the A/C went, the water pump went, and the kitchen faucet knobs all came off, I met the minimum on my policy and then some. The sticky part, after finding a repair center on my route, was making two trips to the same repair center two weeks apart so they could get the A/C unit ordered and delivered.

Little things seem like big things in the RV. Particularly if they are noisy things. Two nights ago an alarm started beeping. I crawled down from my bunk and disconnected the battery. Carl opened the window, in case we were dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. Just needed new batteries, it seems. Last night the satellite clock alarm went off at midnight. It's very easy to accidentally set the alarm when pushing the light to see what time it is as you go by in the middle of the night. Carl reset the clock alarm to noon in case it happens again.  And the smoke alarm goes off anytime I use the frying pan for beef.  Maybe it has a cholesterol sensor?

There's more to RV TV than using the remote. One night Carl thought the TV wasn't working, but next morning discovered there's a filter that accidentally got turned off.  When we got to Canada the TV stopped picking up signal entirely.  Carl slept on it, and then had an aha! moment.  Canada is still analogue.  The signal going through our digital converter box was the problem.  Not that Canadian TV was something we craved:  it was either in French or World Cup coverage, and if those buzzing horns bother you in your great room, try listening to them in 120 square feet.  We caught up on some movies, like Avatar on the small screen. It's all plot on a 17 inch display. Recently I drove off with the cable still attached, but it looks like I got away with it. TV cable still works fine.

Driving the house adds stress to other components as well. We have broken three bike racks now.  The problems started when we added a storage box behind the RV and the bikes are now farther back behind the box.  We also bought a bike cover, because the bikes get really dirty without one. The cover created a sail, and bike racks started failing, two last summer and one this summer.  Luckily, Carl discovered all the failures while parked and we haven't dropped the bikes on the freeway yet.  We're now going uncovered with dirty bikes.

Daily life in the RV involves conserving water and developing a pattern of electrical use.   All is cool if the microwave or hot water heater are not on at the same time as the A/C.  We've learned to remember this most of the time. And all RV'ers learn that hair dryers are verboten.

There's other daily jobs besides maintenance, and we've reached a routine on who does what.

Prefers to drive, except during sleepy time in the afternoon
Plans the route on his GPS ... he couldn't sleep if he didn't
Hooks up TV and finds all the channels
Fuels up, lubes up, pumps up the air shocks, all systems go
Hooks and unhooks, walks around to check before driveout
Makes a dinner salad, just like at home
Early morning Daisy pee - they are both early birds
Does his best to make me happy

Decide where we are going, what sights we are going to stop to see
Drive when I want to look at something at my pace and don't want to give directions,  want to listen to music (driver gets radio control), and when Carl needs a rest
Refill fresh water tank
Hand wash the dishes (I am a fan of Dawn Hand Renewal detergent, which makes my hands feel better than before I wash dishes)
Take out the trash every day (I am amazed how much trash we create every day... we have a large carbon footprint relative to the space we live in)
Wash clothes
Empty the grey and  black water (a very special job)
Take Daisy on morning and evening poop walks
Answer Daisy's middle of the night emergency walks...this is when I fantasize the bedroom door to the backyard at home

When you live in 120 square feet, relationships patterns require adjustments.  Foremost, only one butt can be in motion at a time.  While waiting for your turn to move about the cabin, you can work on your Buddhist patience practice. You can also practice patience while waiting for your turn to stretch out on the sofa or for your spouse to go to bed or wake up or be ready to go, and a list of other things that you can imagine for yourself.  And I haven't had a private thought all summer.  In that small space, nothing is private.

As for fashion,  I like my three changes of clothes very much.  (Actually, five changes, but two are for cool weather, wherever that is.)  When it comes to groceries, we live European style....never buy too much at once, and buy as much from roadside vegetable farms as possible. The homemade pies at the fruit stands help me get in five fruits and vegetables daily and the ice cream cones increase my calcium  intake.  Healthy eating rules in the RV are very flexible.

We're not very particular about washing the RV.  In fact, we haven't done it this summer.  Lots of rain has done the job to our satisfaction, although we have considered pulling in to a fundraiser and letting the cheerleaders wash it.  Some owners like to wash their RV every night, but I think the guys outside for hours waxing and buffing are simply finding a way to have a few private thoughts.

So, Cousin Brian, does this help you visualize the nitty gritty of life on the road? 

Today's photos:  sunset in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, with tobacco (yes, Amish tobacco) growing between the corn fields and a hot air balloon overhead. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Moose Rules

I don't always get a view like this from my campsite. But from time to time, the view makes all the inconveniences of living in 120 square feet worthwhile. The view tonight is from the Grand Isles in Lake Champlain. To one side the Green mountains of Vermont fade into a blue haze. On the other side, the Adironacks of New York beckon. Other views are burned in my memory: the sun setting on an Amish farmer still plowing the fields,  watching the tides rise and fall at St. Martens on Fundy Bay and the Atlantic from the  bluffs along the Cabot Trail.
But twice as often as a dreamy view I see the broadside of another RV. I shut my blinds and start writing about the places I have seen that day and the view improves. And once in a great while there's a campground without a view that stands out for other reasons. Such a camp can be found at Moose River in Vermont.

Most of the Moose River campground residents are long term, "seasonals". They rent their little plot of ground with a water hose and electric plug and park their rig next to Moose River for the summer. The Moose River seasonals are a happy bunch who take ownership of the campground and its rules to heart. And well they might. In addition to a spot by the river, the campground provides them with a long row of pastel rockers on a porch with a view of an eclectic collection of moose.
That's where the residents were when I checked in, rocking on the porch, except for the greeting committee on the road that gave me the universal motion for "keep the speed down." (I was speeding along at 10 mph, twice the suggested speed limit). Once I slowed down, I was welcomed warmly. The porch rocking group was disapointed I was staying only one night. I could see it was going to take longer than one night to appreciate the collection of moose statues scattered round the campground.
It was also going to take more than one night to get the rules memorized.  I received my check-in informational packet, with two pages on garbage procedures plus some very detailed information on restaurants where I was to say Moose River sent me. The owner said that since I had a pet, the poop rule applied. She would charge my credit card $25 if I didn't pick up after Daisy, and if another resident caught me, they would get a $25 reward. I too could profit from catching a dog owner not picking up the duty. The laundry had more rules. I broke two of them: I used powdered detergent and washed a rug. More rules about the shower curtain....I did okay with those.
Seasonals are a new experience for me this summer. The Northeast and Maritime Provinces are packed with summer RVers who park a few miles from home and settle in to life in the RV park. On Prince Edward Island, I met a woman who lived 20 minutes away. She liked to move to the RV park in the summer, she said. In Antigonish, Nova Scotia, I met a family that lived in the same town. There they were, a few blocks from home, living in the trailer, sitting under the awning a few feet from the next RV, grilling burgers, watching the children come and go. Young fry roamed the park from sunrise to sunset, riding bikes and skateboards non-stop. Is the attraction the confined area of the park so the parents don't worry when their children run free? The population in the Maritimes is so sparse, why not a spot on the beach, or a lake, rather than the middle of a town?

I don't understand the motivation for clustering so close together, but I find the seasonal residents a happy, helpful lot. They quickly offer to help, whether it's telling me which dryer works the best and giving me their leftover dryer minutes, or referring me to a Vet for Daisy. Everyone wants to pet my dog, and that's important too. They are good people living the good life, enjoying a perpetual summer picnic. That's the memory of RV park life that makes me smile when I lower my shade and dream of a view.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dear Readers

Today I finally left the Maritime Provinces and being back  in the USA is exhilarating.  So excited with the familiar! All we had to do to re-enter the USA was surrender our tomatoes and citrus.

I'm watching American TV as I write.

I have been thinking about writing some travel articles, and I would love feedback.  If you have been reading this summer, please let me know what your top three favorite blogs were.  I'd like to work on making them submittable as travel articles, which means I need to add more particulars so people can find the location, eat at restaurants, etc.  Submittable, is that a word?

You can refer to the index for the months of May, June and July.

You can post a comment below or email me at daisy.lincoln@gmail.com.  Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Men in Plaid

The first few weeks of this road trip now two months duration, my mind was swimming with everything that was different. Then the rhythm of the road took over.  Change has become routine,  and my daily task is to redefine "normal."
On Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, bilingual road signs are "normal." And why not Gaelic? After all, Nova Scotia in Latin means New Scotland.  King James VI of Scotland gave New Scotland to Sir William Alexander in 1621. This was confusing to me, since the island had already been claimed by both England and France before James made his gift.  Then I learned that at the time of his bequest, the Scottish king had also succeeded to the thrown of England and become English King James I.

The French were the first to colonize Nova Scotia beginning in 1605.  (This makes it normal to have tourist brochures and informational videos in French as well as English.) The Scots, despite the wishes of James VI,  did not populate Nova Scotia until the next century, after the failed Jacobite revolution, when they sought political and religious asylum. More immigrants arrived after 1759, Highland farmers who had been forced off their rented land to make way for sheep grazing by the British.
I'm glad the Scots came, because this week it has been normal to listen to some Celtic fiddlin'.  My first Celtic fiddler owned a whale watching boat along the Cabot Trail.  He fiddled at the dock, and when we found whales, he fiddled again.   He fiddled up two Pilot whale pods with 'tweens and babies, sociably cruising the cove.
My next Celtic event was a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee).  In Antigonish, the Highland Games kickoff weekend featured a church luncheon with highland dancing, fiddlin' and square dancing.  St. Joseph's Social Action Committee prepared a fine tea of finger sandwiches, biscuits with jam, and unfamiliar deserts, including a pot of whipped cream with Irish oatmeal.  Lady pipers greeted the party-goers on arrival and young girls River Danced on the makeshift stage of the parish hall.  Then Michael Hall, locally renowned Celtic fiddler, took the stage with a heavily rosined bow.  The early crowd was predominantly ladies,  tapping their feet and nodding in time. Then the hall filled. Everyone was moving to the music, fingers, shoulders, heads and feet keeping a rhythm that was hypnotic.
As the fiddler warmed up, the crowd warmed up too, and soon a group of eight was square dancing.  This was no dosey-doe kind of square dance.  No, that would not be normal in Antigonish.  Their steps were Irish jig, a highlander step.  One couple took the lead, and a complete set included four sequences. I think I could have done it.  My mind said I could have.  It felt normal, a Scottish version of a Czech wedding dance.  Or maybe it is the MacIntosh name somewhere in my mother's family tree.

Over the summer, normal has come to include foot long lupines and naturalizing daylilies blooming in the ditches, blue waves pounding  at rocky shores and lapping in fishing coves with lighthouses round every corner, and fog that curls in on a whim. Normal landscaping includes an old lobster trap, lawn chairs in shades of rainbow sherbet, and a miniature lighthouse. Taco trucks sell fish and chips and I've become a fan of them.  But nonchalance about men in kilts? I'm not quite there yet.

Next weekend when the Highland Games fill the streets of Antigonish with men in kilts playing pipes and competing in tug of war, I could work on acquiring kilt immunity....an entire weekend might innoculate me. I could watch the kirking of the tartans or attend the Clan MacGillivray/Clan Chattan gathering in the town where most street names and building names start with the preface Mac.

I could attend the Halifax Tatoo, an annual production of military precision drills, piping, dancing.... that might build up my kilt callouses. Certainly the ongoing re-creations at the Citadel, the fort high on a hill overlooking Halifax, helped acclimate me today.

Maybe with time a man with nine yards of tartan wrapped around him will look normal. Mel Gibson, Braveheart, I'll call you when I am ready for the big test.  We'll see if I notice you are wearing a kilt.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh Canada

This lovely pair of ladies is celebrating Canada Day, Canada's birthday, and it seems the opportune time to clear a few things up.  First, what's with the Queen? If she's still  the Queen, why celebrate bloody independence, eh? Did somebody not tell the royalty?  This week the Queen's in Halifax, inspecting the Canadian navy, as well as reviewing a pageant of warships from other nations, on the occasion of the Canadian Navy's 100th anniversary  Then she'll buzz off to Ottowa and Toronto, where the newpapers will likewise report on her hat, her coat, her dress and the sapphire brooch from her Mum, along with proper etiquette should you meet her.

I asked the "What's with the Queen" question of waitresses and information centers for several days but got no further than "Well, because she's the Queen."  Then a Cape Breton local on my guided tour of Fort Louisbourg stepped up to the technical side of the Queen question.  Elizabeth is the Queen because Canada is a constitutional monarchy.  She's the nominal head of state, just like in England. 

So, if Canada is technically part of the British empire, albeit loosely, what's with all the French?  Simple. They were here before the British.  Here in Nova Scotia, French influence is abundant.  Fort Louisbourg is a great place to brush up on some Francophile facts.  The French wanted colonies here for the same reason as the Brits:  money.  There was even more money in cod fishing in Louisbourg than there was in the fur trade in Quebec.  The French built Fort Louisbourg to protect their territory.  Over the years, the Brits continued to lay siege to the Fort which guarded the St. Lawrence waterway to Quebec.  Eventually, the French lost all of North America.  The Brits did their best to expel the French settlers, the Acadians, giving Longfellow a story line for his poetic epic Evangeline and relocating some fine Cajun food to Louisiana.

Happy Birthday Canada, long live the Queen, and laissez les bon temps roulez!

Disclaimer:  All the facts in this blog are pure hearsay, opinions are just opinions and there's no distinction between them.  I have glossed over the latin name Nova Scotia, New Scotland, and perhaps I will get a heresay explanation for the bi-lingual Gaelic road signs sometime on my journey around Cape Breton Island. There's still more questions than answers.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prince Edward Island - Through Anne's Eyes

I arrived on Prince Edward Island with a giant gap in my childhood cultural experience, having never read Anne of Green Gables and therefore with no frame of reference for the fictional Avonlea, the Haunted Woods or Lovers Lane, all of which author Lucy Maud Montgomery modeled after a family farm near Cavendish. The story line of the children’s novel centers on Anne, a red haired precocious girl adopted by a couple living in a house called Green Gables. They were mistakenly sent an orphan girl instead of a boy, yet decided to keep her. But I knew none of this. I needed a crash course. So, with a friendly  PEI library recorded book loan, I embarked on my driving tour of the island while listening to the eleven hour unabridged version of Anne of Green Gables.

Through the eyes of the red-haired orphan who has captured the hearts of readers for 100 years, I learned a few things about Prince Edward Island; some things are the same, others she never dreamed of. I crossed the Northumberland Strait onto Canada's smallest province on the13 km Confederation Bridge, completed in 1997. Anne, adopted from Nova Scotia, came by ferry and then by train to arrive at her new home. Today, the trains are gone and the rail bed is a hike and bike path stretching from one tip of the island to the other. Hiking or biking the gravel path between the storybook small towns of Prince Edward Island is gentle, since the highest elevation of the island is 152 metres (499 feet). Hike and Bike Trails. PEI is laid back in geography and atmosphere. I could feel myself decompressing with each mile. Except for the capital, Charlottetown, and a few major towns, commercial development is understated.
Russet apples and potatoes are unchanged from the early 1900's. PEI is home to miles and miles of potatoes, growing on small farms in ruddy soil, red from iron oxide, and with a spectacular view. If you like your potatoes distilled into Artisan Vodka, take a tour of the Prince Edward Distillery on the East Cape. Polish off your potato experience by visiting the Potato museum  in O'Leary. Potato Museum
PEI is pristine and pastoral. Lawns are mowed almost daily and in June, giant lupines that have naturalized over the island fill the ditches with pinks and blues and whites. PEI calls itself the gentle island, embracing a laidback attitude, but also gentle in its rolling hills of cultivated land, farmhouses and churches crisp and white, just as they were in Anne’s time, and endless coastline, harbors, fishing villages, and 52 lighthouses. (After the first 40 lighthouses, I developed lighthouse numbness). Most lighthouses have been moved from their original locations due to erosion as the fragile sandy red soil of the island washes away with every winter storm. Lighthouses serve no useful purpose today, modern navigational devices having made them obsolete. They are points in history, preserved to commemorate events they have witnessed during Anne's time and before and lure tourists like me into quaint fishing harbors and onto points for a closer look at a lighthouse and the water, never more than 20 kilometers away from any point on the island. Lighthouses
I am puzzled that Anne, who lived only a few kilometers from the popular Prince Edward Island National Park, never mentioned outings to the beach. PEI’s beaches are human friendly, with wide swaths of white or red sand. At the National Park on the North Shore, the water is quite temperate for swimming in summer. I will suspend my disbelief that Anne was not a fan of the beautiful water that laps at PEI, just as I suspended disbelief that Anne’s adopted family would ask a distant acquaintance to pick out an orphan for them while they were selecting their own.
I doubt that Anne dreamed that one day PEI would call itself Canada’s Green Island and use wind turbines for 5% of its electricity. The North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Center filled my mind with facts and opinions about alternative energy sources. PEI was my first experience with green garbage. By the time I left the island I had the system down: compost the leftover fries and napkin, trash the plastic fork, recycle the water bottle, and take the wine bottle back for a refund. (Anything bottled on the island must use refundable bottles.) PEI is home to the original recycler, Édouard Arsenault, an Acadian who, after returning from World War II, collected thousands of glass bottles and built a house, a tavern and a chapel at Cap-Egmont on the Western Cape before he finally became compost himself in 1984. Coincidentally, he was also a lighthouse keeper. Bottle Houses
Anne talked only of food served at tea, but if she had discussed dinner, surely fish would have been prominent. After potatoes, fishing is the second largest industry. PEI gave me my first taste of hake, which is popular in Ireland and now appearing in North American waters. It was the luncheon special at the Blue Fin in Souris, where a generous serving of pan fried hake, biscuits, coleslaw and mashed potatoes was difficult to finish. The special included desert, for me a moist bread pudding the friendly waitress packed to go. Lobster was in season in June, but I was early for the church lobster suppers of  July and August. I was also early for tuna.  Scallops are another local favorite, along with oysters and quahogs, which one waitress described as "like a clam but slimier". Along the Western cape, at the Seaweed Cafe in Miminegash I had my first Acadian meat pie and a seaweed pie made from Irish moss harvested from the ocean. I’ll try anything once, except maybe not quahogs. Seaweed Pie
By the time I reached Cavendish and the Green Gables house, I was in love with Anne the island’s heroine, referred to by Mark Twain as the most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice. The world has remained in love with Anne for over a century. Since publication in 1908, the book has been translated into 17 languages, has 7 sequels and has been adapted to film many times. I confess to butterflies as I approached the house made famous by Lucy Montgomery. I walked down Lover’s Lane, into the Haunted Wood, and up the stairs to Ann’s room under the small green gable. And I felt at home, as though Anne might walk through the door and offer me a raspberry cordial and some biscuits with jam. Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables made me fall in love with Montgomery's island. I was wistful when I finished her book, and reluctant to leave her island. Montgomery felt the same way. She married a minister and moved to Ontario where she raised three sons and continued to write until her death. But her heart never left the island. She asked to come home to the island of her birth to be buried, near Green Gables in Cavendish Community Cemetery. I understand why.  And I heartily recommend that you too make the book part of your vacation reading when visiting her island.

Photos - Counterclockwise driving tour of Prince Edward Island

End Notes: 

tourismpei.com, the official site for Prince Edward Island, is excellent.

 Welcome centers with information are located near all entry points and additional sites are easy to find throughout the island. PEI maps available there showcase three scenic drives, all with good roads, and pinpoint camping and tourist attractions. Ask for the Hike and Bike Trail maps at the same centers. Lodging and dining information is available as well.

Approaches to PEI :
Major airlines connecting to Charlottetown include Air Canada, Delta, Northwest and West Jet
Driving from New Brunswick, the Confederate Bridge spans 13 Kilometers, a 12 minute drive across the strait of Newfoundland.
From Nova Scotia, Northumberland Ferries operates between Caribou and Wood Island PEI, a 75 minute trip.
Entry to the island by bridge or ferry is free. Fares are collected on the return, approximately $42 for a passenger vehicle on the bridge and $64 on the ferry.

How long should you spend? I spent five leisurely days driving the scenic routes. Add more time for Charlottetown, especially during the summer festival season. In 2010 Circ du Soleil participated in the Canada Day parade and fireworks displays. Summer theatre in the capital city features Anne of Green Gables, of course.

When to go? June and September are less crowded, but you will miss the church lobster suppers and the festivals of July and August.