When I was in Algeria more than few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting and exploring the Sahara Desert. Throughout this fantastic voyage, we had the privilege of meeting “Tuareg” people and would eventually be invited to share a cup of tea with them. The Chief of this nomadic tribe was quite the entertainer but most importantly he would teach me a lesson that I would never forget for as long as I live.
In their dry hot world, “water” is considered the most important resource that man can have in his possession. Although they do consider it more precious than gold, they will never hesitate to share whatever limited quantity they have and this even with their sworn and worst enemy. “It is the rule of the desert,” our gracious host had commented, “that nobody should ever have to go thirsty.”
That’s what I was reminded of last Wednesday afternoon when I received that phone call.
The person at the end of the line was inquiring as to see if “Baisley Lodges” accommodated “motor homes”. I told the individual that although we were not a registered “RV campground”, if he was stuck, we could most likely find room for him. He replied that the problem was that they were really low on water and needed to fill up their tank so to carry on with their trip. “Not a problem,” I said, “We have lots of water and if you do drop in, we’ll fix you up. I then asked him if he knew where we were located to which he replied that he had us on “GPS” and would be on our doorstep in about half an hour.
I knew something was up when the “dog yard” started barking like banshees. Usually, they make no fuss if a car pulls in but I guess they were flabbergasted and impressed at the same time to see this huge monstrosity of a camper pull in front of the Bunkhouse. Out came this gentleman who with a friendly smile, extended his hand and introduced himself as “Harold”. We exchanged greetings at which point he explained that he was worried as to how he would exit the property as he was pulling a “pick-up” truck containing two scooters and two bicycles.. “Not a problem”, I told him, “this driveway is a large “U” shape road and you won’t have to back up your “train”. Still puzzled about how he was going to manage this, I told him to follow me and we walked down the road by the “Wood Shop” so that he could see what I was talking about.
Of course and this would be no surprise to anybody living out here, it started raining again and like usual it was a flash flood type of downpour. We took shelter under a car porch where my soon to become new friend was explaining to me that they were from Vancouver, but in the state of Washington. They had left the West Coast in December 2010 on a cross North-America tour and were now on the return trip towards back home.
As quick as it appeared, the rain eventually stopped. We unrolled his and my hose and started filling the water tank. This was going to take a while as the “Workhorse” was quite thirsty so I decided to show them the place and escorted Harold and his wife down the “Puppy Trail”. By her reaction when we walked by the barn, it was obvious that “Linda” was a “dog person” who enjoyed sleddogs. For some reasons, these people felt like old friends coming for a visit, so one thing led to another and next thing you know, they’re staying overnight and we’re sitting in the “Bunkhouse” with our feet up, polishing off a few bottles of wine. I eventually found out that they were not in a rush to go anywhere fast so I suggested that I take them on a day trip aboard my boat, the “River Wolf”. “What’s there to see?” Linda asked. “Well,” I explained, “the Madawaska River was an important thoroughfare in the early “1800s”. Part of the then baptized “Halifax Route”, it was used by British soldiers who would travel from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Quebec City, Quebec. It was part of a strategic river system that they used when going from the “Bay of Fundy”, up the St-John and Madawaska rivers and across Lake Temiscouata to end up portaging 50 miles to the then called “Wolf River” (Rivière-du-Loup). From there, they would continue their journey, via the St-Lawrence Seaway.
After explaining that on our trip we would have the occasion to visit old growth “White Pine” tree stands dating back as far as 18th century, Harold was kind of keen on this idea. Visiting the “Blockhouse” in Edmundston also appealed to this history buff. But what was to seal the deal was when I told them that if they wanted to, we could even stop in at the “Botanical Garden”. Linda, an avid gardener, jumped at this opportunity to extend her stay in this area for a day longer.
The next day was a perfect sunny day to go out on our expedition and everybody enjoyed what this beautiful river had to offer.
Meanwhile, in one of the cottages, I had been hearing somebody playing a guitar for the better part of that week. I’m no expert but whoever it was, the individual was superbly good. Anyway, by pure coincidence, Fran suggested that we end a perfect adventurous day by having a Barbecue at the “Gazebo”. While I was cooking nice thick juicy steaks on the open fire, this “cottage” individual and his wife joined us at that location where they started to talk to our guests from out “West”. The more I looked at the person, the more I seemed to recognize him. Of course, the guy on TV had a mustache but this man standing in my yard sure did look like him. On a gut feeling, I piped out and asked, “Hey did you happen to sport a mustache a few months back? Aren’t you that guy that studied classical guitar music for five years?” Somewhat embarrassed that he had been recognized, he blushed, smiled and said, “Yup, that’s me.” Little be known to us, we were in the presence of the great “Jazz & Blues” guitar player by the name of “John Boulay”. Down to earth and not one to consider himself more famous than anybody, John and his wife Lyne excused themselves and allowed us to have supper. They later returned and put on an impromptu concert for everybody. During a more than wonderful performance that lasted over an hour and a half, Lyne with her flute and John on his acoustic guitar played on to the enjoyment of the gathered crowd at the “Gazebo”.
The next morning, “John and Lyne” were to receive glorious reviews from everyone and this was to be most emphasized from our far away friend, Linda. Tears filling her eyes, she eventually managed to explain that out of her “4000 mile Trek” across the United States and Canada, she had not experienced anything as memorable as her stay at “Baisley Lodges”. She thanked everyone for making their time with us so fantastic and as she put it, “This was the highlight of our trip that we will remember it for the rest of our lives.”
Eventually, it was time for everybody to depart so each and every one said good-bye and went their separate ways. I watched them all leave, once again satisfied that I had again succeeded in making a stranger feel at home in this part of the country we affectionately call, the “Legendary Republic of Madawaska”. = -)
To Harold and Linda and of course “Trixie, the Jack Russell Terrier” with an attitude, have a safe trip back home and yes we do expect you and the grandchildren for Christmas in 2012 for their “Sleddog Adventure”. It will be nice to get together again for another chit-chat.
To John and Lyne, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for what you did. Once again, your kind gesture proved that we’re quite the friendly and generous bunch out here. Hell, who goes out of his way to put on a free concert for complete strangers. My best guess would be, good folks from New-Brunswick.
Peace on Earth to One and All!!! And remember, together, we can make a difference.
By the way! Linda and I had a heated conversation as to how much water should cost in this part of the world. I did end up winning this argument and let them have it for free. However, unknown to me, I was to eventually find out that this “dope peddling grandma” (inside joke) had left a generous donation with Fran so to help out with the feeding of the “Canadian Snowhounds”. Oh well, just another day at “My Slice of Heaven”!!!