Thursday Sept. 3
I almost forgot to mention that yesterday, a few of the guys climbing French Mountain (or MacKinzie, I forget which) saw a coyote chewing on a bone of some sort along the ride. I believe Dave and Craig might have gotten photos of the beast, but it was a quick sighting, and so neither knew if their pix turned out or not.
Most of the gang was scheduled to catch flights from Halifax Airport, so we had to get from Dingwall to the Airport Holiday Inn via van on this day, our last of the tour.
We drove along the Cabot Trail, continuing our Clockwise circumnavigation of Cape Breton. It was truly beautiful, and most of my pix from the Freewheeling van (our legendary Nick was the driver) are marginal at best, and cannot showcase the stark beauty of this place.
Our first leg-stretching stop was Neil’s Harbor. It had a lovely little lighthouse and a pretty harbor area. We simply wandered around and took photos for a bit, then piled back into the van.
Next stop was lunch at Ingonish, where we ate at a great café called the Clucking Hen. The “Weather Stone” was our first introduction to the café.
Across the road were two crafts shops: a woodworker and a glass blower, and Allen requested that some of us go into the Clucking Chicken to eat and others of us head to the studios and see the artists’ works, so as not to overwhelm the friendly kitchen staff. Jack and I headed over to the woodworker’s place and met the artist and he had some lovely pieces of finely sanded kitchen tools and figures of birds and many quite lovely combinations of beautiful woods.
A cup of homemade soup and a grilled cheese sandwich was lunch and we ate with the Colleys. Jerry suggested a photo of the Jack Russell and the Colley (Collie) beside the sign indicating a dog lived at the Clucking Chicken. It was a hoot.
Back in the van, I tried to capture some of the beautiful ground we covered. Again the pix are marginal at best.
Our next stop was the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, Cape Breton, and we spent a great hour or so looking at all the exhibits. It was quite interesting. I had not known that Bell had worked closely with the deaf to teach them speech, and that his work was founded on that of his father, who was instrumental in mapping the physiology of vocalization and speech.
Caption: Bell with Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan at Bell’s estate, Beinn Bhreagh. Bell first met deaf and blind Keller when she was a little girl. She later gave Bell much credit for her ability to write and speak. “I did not dream that that interview [with Bell] would be the door through which I should pass from darkness into light.”
I also didn’t realize that folks called him Alec rather than Alex. But a young Alec and his brothers constructed a replica of the human speech organs that they called a “voice automaton.” He also “taught” a dog to speak. The panel reads (in his own words): “By the application of suitable doses of food material, the dog was . . . taught to sit up on his hind legs and growl continuously while I manipulated his mouth, and stop growling when I took my hands away . . .
“The dog’s repertoire . . . consisted of the vowels ‘ah’ and ‘oo’ the diphthong ‘ow,’ and the syllables ‘ma’ and ‘ga.’ We then proceeded to manufacture words and sentences composed of these elements, and the final linguistic accomplishment consisted in . . . ‘Ow-ah-oo-gamma,’ which by the exercise of a little imagination, readily passed for ‘How are you, Grandmama.’
“The fame of the dog soon spread among my father’s friends, and people came from far and near to witness the performance.”
Another thing I hadn’t realized is that, at a certain time during Bell’s inventing and investigation of how things worked (around 1880), he formed a group called the Volta Laboratory with the prize money from France’s Volta Prize for scientific achievement in electricity. The lab was located in Washington DC, and he hired two young inventors to help, one of whom was his cousin Chichester Bell.
Chichester Bell was a native of Ireland, and was equally adept at playing the piano and boxing. He was a close friend of playwright George Bernard Shaw, who used him as the model for the chief character in “The Doctor’s Dilemma.”
Chichester had been both a practicing physician and a professor of chemistry before joining up with cousin Alec in the Volta Laboratory.
I also learned that Bell’s rival inventor, Edison, was more-or-less a “professional” inventor, while Bell did it for the pleasure of it: “With his telephone based prosperity, Bell was free to pursue his ideas as he pleased. He was not a professional inventor like Edison. He was a very independent amateur, experimenting for the pure joy of gaining knowledge. Bell was always more interested in possibilities than in realities, and he tended to lose interest when an invention reached the stage of commercial application. His boyish curiosity and imagination led him down all sorts of unexpected paths.”
“In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, and apparatus to record and play back sound. It was a public sensation. The novelty, however, was short-lived. Quality was poor, the records were short, and they soon wore out.
“In 1981, the Volta Laboratory began experiments to include the phonograph and, by 1887, they had brought it to the stage where it could be commercially exploited. Their invention, called the graphophone, was a marked improvement over Edison’s machine. It recorded sound on wax cylinders rather than tinfoil, resulting in higher quality and more accurate sound . . . the graphophone was a commercial success, providing the basis of the modern record industry. Anxious to pursue other interests, the Volta Associates disbanded their laboratory shortly after.”
Other interests that included aviation. Bell was very interested in the physics of flight, and began his experiments with kites (the Center holds a series of kite-making workshops for children throughout the visitation season). His experimentation eventually led to the first powered flight in Canada, right in Baddeck. On the fateful day (Feb. 23, 1909), school classes were cancelled and businesses shut down so the entire community could watch the experimental flight. Spectators rejoiced when the Silver Dart lifted into the air and then landed safely, although the flight was cut short because of a broken fuel line.
More than 30 additional flights of the Silver Dart were conducted during March of 1909 before a fatal crash ended Bell’s endeavors in aviation.
The Center was very interesting, and the setting at the edge of Baddeck was a lovely place to wait for everyone to finish up.
This is where we parted with Bruce and Linda, who did not need to stay at the Halifax Airport Holiday Inn, as they were driving straight to New Brunswick. We all said goodbye and piled into the Freewheeling van like sardines (Gaye and Woody had been riding with Bruce and Linda during the day, and at this point, they, too had to pile into the van) for the final 4-hour drive to Halifax.
The first half was mostly silent as folks tried to sleep and we kept the windows open so it was quite loud inside the van, making conversation difficult at best. I kept my eyes peeled for moose sighting, but alas, saw none.
We made one final pit and leg-stretch stop at a Dairy Queen somewhere in Nova Scotia, and everyone re-connected with their suitcases and we, with our bikes and car, and headed to dump everything in the rooms before heading across the street to a restaurant where we had our final group dinner.
After which, we all said our final goodbyes, as some were hitching a ride on the 4AM shuttle to get to their flights. Sad to say “so long” to the pack, but also looking forward to our adventures with Roomba in New Brunswick and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.