Driving through New Brunswick was like sitting in a moving iMax theater for six hours, watching colors and scenery in some world that normally only photographers and filmmakers get to see. Oregon gets some beautiful fall colors, but nothing close to this. The Northeastern autumn had finally popped, and we were in the right place to see it, because New Brunswick is pretty much nothing but trees with a few towns scattered here and there. On the way up, it had gotten boring. (“I’m pretty much done with trees,” our friend Marcia declared.) On the way down, it was an adrenaline rush.
The day was sunny and warm at last, and the light intensified the color. “Is this real?” I kept saying, whipping off my sunglasses to see that, sure enough, my shades weren’t tricking me. It was breathtaking in the literal sense, as we gasped with each new view.
It was my 61st birthday, and Kate was feeling badly that we had to spend it driving, but I assured her, this was a great birthday. My only frustration was that I couldn’t stop and take photos. It was freeway the whole way, and we had such a long drive it didn’t feel wise to get off and wander. Kate took some shots through our buggy windshield as I drove, and when she drove, I took more, checking for Gypsy before opening the side window to at least get some without window glare and bug splat. The result was a lot of throwaways, but several that if not the sharpest, give an honest depiction of the colors surrounding us all day.
Towards the end of the day, we found a campground just this side of Fredericksburg. My birthday happens to be Thanksgiving in Canada, and we wanted to catch a turkey dinner in a small town. Our proprietor knew just the thing. She pointed us to the Creek View Restaurant in Gagetown, just a few miles up the road, and it was the real deal. Small, dark, with just a few locals and a very tired waitress/cook, we got a fresh turkey plate with pie for dessert. I missed my own stuffing and Kate’s cranberry sauce, but it was a pretty decent small town meal.
That evening we chatted more with Donna, who owns the campground. When we told her what she was doing, she confirmed our decision. “Do it while you can,” she said, as so many others have told us. But she followed that with her own story. She and her partner of 23 years waited for her partner, Ellen, to retire to follow their dream. They got married and bought this campground. Within weeks of both, Ellen was diagnosed with cancer and spent the next year fighting it. She never got to live the dream. Now, three years later, this campground is a healing place for Donna. It’s what kept her going after Ellen died.
It’s strange sometimes how connected you can feel to someone you just met after a 15-minute conversation. I felt her pain but also the intensity of her message. Live life now. A breathing reminder that what we have is so precious and that it was right for us to leave Kate’s hard job behind and do this now. Thank you, Donna, for trusting us to share a bit of yourself.