Tormentine’s been left behind

I can’t help but be awed by Confederation Bridge. By any standard, that’s a huge bridge. On a trip to P.E.I. during the nineties, at the beginning of what was supposed to be a trip across Canada, I saw the bridge in mid-construction. I saw it from the ferry, which would soon be replaced. For the ferry’s staff watching that bridge being built must have been like a condemned man watching carpenters build the scaffold he’d hang from. I don’t know, though, because I didn’t ask anybody. In fact, I had no idea the bridge was going to be anything but good for everyone.

Before that 1996 trip even began, though, on the road from Fredericton to the ferry, the drive shaft fell off the old truck I had bought. That alone should have warned me to abandon the whole cross-Canada trip, but I had committed myself to it and there I was. It wasn’t a pleasure trip and I don’t think about it much anymore. However, being in Cape Tormentine again this summer it was hard not to superimpose the two trips, the one with my son over the one with Elaine. The only consistently delightful thing on that former trip was my son, Christopher, who was 11 at the time, who chattered incessantly to everyone and always seemed to be happy just to be there with me. He’s a soldier now.

woman walking on boardwalk to beach with blue sky overhead

Tormentine’s weather as wonderful as I remember it

This summer, on the first of two trips to Cape Tormentine with Elaine it was the sunniest of days with the freshest of breezes. It had all the makings of a perfect day. Perfect for traveling, for taking photos, but most of all, it was perfect for being with each other. Our happiest times together are when we’re in the car going someplace. It doesn’t have to be somewhere new because we are always new and see things around us with new eyes and more memories.

I wanted to go to Cape Tormentine because in my mind it is an exciting departure point. My very first trip there, back in 1977, I was with another young soldier, Randy LaPointe from Lorne, N.B. We had hitched to the ferry from the army base and walked on with our packs on our backs and no cares in the world. It was sunny then, too. It was a good trip for both of us.

The next trip was still as a young soldier but alone on my motorcycle. I remember a hostel or two, some beaches, but mostly I remember the ferry. I remember going to the front of the line because motorcycles boarded first and I remember being the first one off. There’s something about watching the ramp drop and the wharf appearing and getting the signal to disembark that makes you feel like you’re off on some great adventure. The weather then was unrelentingly beautiful. At least that’s how I remember it.

chain link fence with wharf usage sign

Something hangs over Tormentine

So, I had expected wonderful weather this time and wasn’t disappointed. It was indeed sunny. But times have changed. Something hangs over Cape Tormentine now that wasn’t there on any of those other trips and it doesn’t go away. It’s like standing at a site where a terrible accident no one can forget has happened. It’s a town that’s been left behind, abandoned.

A few families still live there, but it’s mainly a cottage and camping area now, which means there is no nasty, thriving industry to spoil a holiday. No trucks. No trains. No traffic. Nothing. Where people once parked their vehicles waiting to board the ferry the paint of the dividing lines is fading. The wharf isn’t being maintained and is now fenced off, condemned. The government buildings look dark and cold even on a sunny, summer day. The family restaurant that must have been thriving back then, looks suspended in time, frozen at the moment the bridge opened and the ferries stopped running.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Cape Tormentine and recommend the trip there. It still has loads more character than its usurper, Cape Jourimain, where the bridge begins. I like Cape Tormentine for much the same reasons the residents are bitter: it has been forgotten. In Cape Tormentine it’s always sunny but the mood is melancholy, which isn’t always bad, especially when you can close the book or you can get on the highway and leave.

dilapidated restaurant