Road Trip Reading List

Many of you have written asking for a list of the 11 books I mentioned in the last post, that the four of us knocked off on our road trip. Here it is. I will leave it to you to figure out who read what!

A Man Called Ove: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove: A Novel

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow: Book 3 Part 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow: Book 3 Part 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, by Michael Meyer

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

Myself a Mandarin (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks), by Austin Coates

Myself a Mandarin (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks)

Of Earth and Sea: Laughter and Tears, by Roy Dwyer


OLD HARBOURS: A Fisherman’s Legacy, by Roy Dwyer

OLD HARBOURS: A Fisherman's Legacy

Old Harbors: The Turn of the Tide, by Roy Dwyer


The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments, by Andy Bannister

The Atheist Who Didn't Exist: Or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel, by Wayne Johnston

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

Orphan Train, by Kristina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

Happy Reading!

Newfoundland Road Trip by the Numbers

We returned safe and sound from our annual epic road trip on Monday. Here is how the trip unfolded, by the numbers….

Miles driven: 5390.7. We thought about driving around for 10 more miles, but that would have been cheating.


States/provinces traversed: 8.  In case you’re wondering which ones: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland.

Beds slept in: 13. Hotel beds, blow-up mattresses, sofa beds, and ferry bunk beds. You name it, I slept on it!


Ferry crossings: 4. We were on a huge ferry between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (16 hours), and a smaller one between Newfoundland mainland and Fogo Island (45 minutes).



Hikes on Fogo Island: 5


Stuffed animal trip mascots that my mom bought: 3.  2 puffins she named “Chip” and “Dip,” and Sable, a Newfoundland dog.


Books read (by all of us): 11.

Stops at Tim Hortons for coffee and donuts: no comment.

Fish and chips meals consumed: no comment.

Fleece jackets purchased: no comment.

Photos taken: thousands.

Fun memories: countless! (I broke my selfie ban to take this one.)


Related Posts:

Sunrise and Ferries

A Pittman Drinking Song

Newfoundland Names

Halfway to Ireland

A Night Crossing

Got Chips?

Road Trip! Back to Newfoundland

It’s time for another epic road trip! Having been so captivated by Newfoundland last summer, we decided to make a return visit, this time to the eastern side of the island.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 10.13.03 PM

Some people say we are nuts.

I say “guilty as charged.”

Another photo from last year’s trip for inspiration:

rose blanche lighthouse

Related Posts: 

Who is St. Louis and Why is He Laughing?

Road Trip Reading

A Former Fjord

Breaking Bread

The Newfoundland Pittmans

Newfoundland and 9/11

Farewell Newfoundland


Home at Last

And just like that our epic road trip comes to an end. We finally rolled back into town Monday evening after a LONG drive across northern Wisconsin. We drove 5655 miles (just 40 shy of what we drove on our  trip to Alaska 2 years ago) through 7 states and provinces.


It was a fantastic trip, and we all left a bit of our hearts in Newfoundland. I’m already plotting my return.

On our last day on the island we drove through the fog to visit the Rose Blanche Lighthouse, at the end of the highway that runs east from Port aux Basque. We were not disappointed.

rose blanche lighthouse

If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, do it!

Related Posts: 

Road Trip Reading

A Former Fjord

The Newfoundland Pittmans

Newfoundland and 9/11

Breaking Bread


Farewell Newfoundland


I have a thing for sunglasses. If the sun is out, I pretty much can’t function without them. So, high on the priority list of things to take on this 17-day road trip was a pair of sunglasses. Well, multiple pairs, actually, because I wouldn’t want to be caught without any. Before we left I gathered up all the pairs of sunglasses I own and made sure they were in a designated place in the car.

I suppose it’s good to be prepared, but perhaps this is a bit ridiculous!


Road Trip Reading

As of Friday evening, we have put 2500 miles between us and The Twin Cities. And that doesn’t include the 110-mile ferry ride we took today from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basque, Newfoundland.

You may be wondering how we keep ourselves occupied for so many hours in the car. We all like to read, so when we’re not enjoying the scenery, we usually have our noses in books.  Here’s our “road trip reading list:”

I am reading The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore, by Robert Finch. From the Amazon blurb:

“In these evocative sketches, stories and essays, nature writer Robert Finch explores the people, geography and wildlife of this remote but lovely corner of Canada. Beloved nature writer Robert Finch spent the greater part of a decade travelling around Newfoundland, the remote island “at the edge of America”. Between the icy cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean, the lush valleys and barren drifts, he collected intimate stories of birds, moose and foxes – and of the people who share their space. In detailed essays, he evokes a landscape of raw beauty.”

The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore

Next up is Standing Into Danger, by Cassie Brown. From Amazon:

“In the snowy predawn of February 18, 1942, a convoy of three American ships zigzagged up the North Atlantic toward Newfoundland, heading for one of the worst disasters in naval history. The ships were under radio silence to protect their position from the threat of German U-boats. A storm was raging, visibility was zero, and the currents had turned wildly unpredictable. With only unreliable soundings to guide them across the jagged ocean floor, all three vessels ran aground on the sheer rock coast of Newfoundland.”

Standing Into Danger

Then…The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel, by Wayne Johnson. From Amazon:

“A mystery and a love story spanning five decades, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an epic portrait of passion and ambition, set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland. In this widely acclaimed novel, Johnston has created two of the most memorable characters in recent fiction: Joey Smallwood, who claws his way up from poverty to become New Foundland’s first premier; and Sheilagh Fielding, who renounces her father’s wealth to become a popular columnist and writer, a gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow on Smallwood’s life and career.”

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel

My brother-in-law is reading the novel The Shipping News, by Annie Prioux. From Amazon:

“Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair…features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.”

The Shipping News

My sister is reading Orphan #8: A Novel, by Kim van Alkemade. From Amazon:

“In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.”

Orphan #8: A Novel

And finally, my mom is working her way through The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown. From Amazon:

“For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.”

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

We all put our books down this afternoon as the ferry pulled into Port aux Basque so we could get our first glimpse of Newfoundland.

port aux basque newfoundland

port aux basque

It was a great ferry, except for the fact the air conditioner was broken and today was one of the hottest days they’ve had in these parts all summer.

The Cabot Trail

Today we drove the Cabot Trail, which winds through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island. Since there are no words adequate enough to describe the beauty, I’ll let a few photos do the talking.

Cape Breton

In a province known for its lighthouses, this is the first one we’ve seen. Much to our delight we discovered that it is now an ice cream shop!

Cabot Trail

How’s that for an awesome ribbon of highway? One of the reasons we drove 2000 miles to Nova Scotia was to drive that road. It did not disappoint.

Ingonish, Cape Breton

All the villages on the cape have gorgeous churches. This was our favorite, in the village of Ingonish Ferry.

Who is Saint Louis and Why is He Laughing?

One source of entertainment on a long road trip like this is noticing the interesting place names along the way. You can often get a tiny glimpse of the history of a place based on its name. A few years back I was traveling in New England with a friend from southeast Asia and she was surprised that nearly all of the towns we drove through were named after towns in England. “Well, it isn’t called New England for nothing,” I reminded her.

Driving across Quebec the past couple of days has added a degree of difficulty to the endeavor in that all the names are in French. Fortunately, many towns have the French word for city (ville) or lake (lac) or river (rivers), so we could sort of figure them out. And since the province is predominantly Catholic, many are named after patron saints — Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Dominque, Saint-Bernard-de-Michaudville, to name a few.

But the best name we came across today, and maybe the best name ever, is the delightfully named town of Saint Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!

Yes, you are reading that correctly — there are not one, but two (!) exclamation points in that name, and here’s a picture of the sign to prove it:


My sister, ever the photographer, had her camera ready to snap the road sign as we drove by. We of course scampered over to The Google to find the story behind the name. Might he be the patron saint of comedians?

In 2012, Ken Jennings (of Jeopardy fame) wrote an article for Conde Naste Traveler about this humorously named town. Here’s what he has to say:

  • Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! is a small community of 1,300 souls located on the Trans-Canada Highway in eastern Quebec, just 20 miles north of the Maine border. Toponymists—collectors of funny place names—have long prized Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! as the world’s only town to boast not one but two exclamation points in its name.
  • Today, Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! celebrates its unique appellation with a monument in front of the town church, and many visitors stop to take photos of its unusually jovial road signs. But locals tell different stories about the origins of town’s overachieving name. In the most common version, “Ha! Ha!” is what French trappers said when they founded the town, an exclamation of joy and awe at its beautiful surroundings. By other accounts, it’s a corruption of the Huron word ahaha, meaning “road.”
  • The truth seems to be simpler: In the 17th century, a “ha-ha” was a word for an unexpected obstacle, like a hidden trench in a garden. French writer and horticulturist Dezallier d’Argenville wrote in 1709 that a trench like this “surprises the eye upon coming near it, and makes one laugh, Ha! Ha! from where it takes its name.” (Well, I’m not sure I get the joke, monsieur, but I also don’t find Jerry Lewis as funny as your people do.) The “ha-ha” in the case of Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! is nearby Lake Témiscouata, apparently a deep and formidable obstacle for early travelers in the region, who had to portage around it.

Apparently Jennings is somewhat of a geography nerd (or wonk) and has written a book for and about such people, titled Maphead, Charting the Wild, Weird World of Geography Wonks. I’ve already added it to my wish list!

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

And if you find yourself driving across Quebec and in need of a good laugh, be sure to stop in Saint Louis du Ha! Ha!

Related Posts:

Quebec: A 17th Century Town

Changing of the Guard

For the Record

Road Trip: St. Paul, MN to St. John’s, Newfoundland