Day 5: Baddeck, N.S.
After spending rainy night in tent,
camper marvels at Jack and Muriel's RV
Thursday, August 10, 2000
The great Canadian escape is not what it used to be, at least in central Cape Breton where four campgrounds sprout like beetle infestations along the shores of Bras d'Or.
South of Baddeck, the KOA, the Wal-Mart of campgrounds, housed 459 people in the pouring rain the other night, in what looked and felt like a miniature town. People stayed in pup tents and elongated motor homes, each nestled in the woods, a picnic table or two away from the next. And in the morning, they could find just how much U.S. camping comfort has permeated the maple forests: a swimming pool and hot showers stand next to the Margaree River, a basketball court is located by the hiking trails, while a video rental shop does a brisk business not far from the salmon runs. At the end of the day, campers can retreat to the restaurant for lobster dinner followed by blueberry pie.
I was surprised when the German-born manager said roughly half of the guests were American. Down in the unserviced tenting sector where I stayed (like all low-rent districts, it was downhill from the serviced lots), the licence plates were almost all from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec even though the recycling bins were filled with Old Milwaukee cans and E&J Gallo bottles. The manager said I needed to venture up the hill to a chichi ridge reserved for motor homes.
There I discovered a phalanx of American RVs, with plates from as far away as Florida and Texas. Although there were some Quebec plates and one from Ontario, the Big Mamas were all-American, like the Dutch Star from Delaware designed exclusively, according to its rear, for "Jack and Muriel." The 10-metre-long motor home came with a satellite dish, water intake and power supply, which was being recharged at the KOA. Because a motor home can't go everywhere, Jack and Muriel also had a Jeep Cherokee in tow. For short jaunts, they had strapped a scooter to it, right where bicycles usually go.
John Stackhouse's Notes from the Road will appear daily in The Globe and Mail, and on globeandmail.com, until the Labour Day weekend. His conclusions will be published in September.