Girl’s East Coast Roadtrip, Bottomed Out Oil Pan & Brushes with Buddhism

7 Jul

My Brushes with the Buddhism
Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 4.42.22 PMI have though always had an affinity to, an attraction to Tibet culture, colors and Buddhism. It was never front and center in my mind, but there lingering…

One summer my best friend and I were deciding what we could do together for our vacation. I suggest Road trip! I’d already lived out west, so I suggested, “Girl’s East Coat Road trip!” Final destination: Peggy Cove of course. The Holy grail of anyone’s east coast road trip! Just to set the scene, we had 10 days and were kinda wing’n it until I my friend arrived to pick me up and handed me 20 pages of Google map quest sheets with instructions from Toronto, with stops at major tourist attractions ending at Dalhousie and Peggy’s cove. I didn’t think she was really-truly “into this trip” until that point. I wanted to have some fun and good times. While I was putting gas in the car, my friend was sorting some things in the trunk of her Sunfire. I’m thinking, ok, she’s uber organized on this front- which was grand – but, tell me, will she have the capability to ver of course and have some fun. Next thing I know, while she’s headface into a pile of clothing, bags & camping stoves, she abruptly flings out something and throws it at me

“Hey – Catch!”

“Hey – I’m pumping gas here.”

I catch it. Cuz I can catch. And then she throws something else at me that’s glowing flourescent.

“Ahhh= Only 2 hands here Lady!”

I managed to catch it too. A flourescent orange water gun. I’m confused.

She looks at me. I flip the hot fuchsia sparkled book over to see the cover.

Cameron Tuttle’s book, “Girls Guide to the Open Road”.

“If were going to be doing anything out of there, then we’ll need these!”

She pulls another flourescent water gun from the back of the Sunfire.

I’m smiling so intently that she is finally getting this. Getting IN to it.

“What are these for? So we can shoot each other in the car like you’re pissed off at your car since we’re going to be in it for 10 days?”

“No” she grabs the book. “Didn’t you read?”

“Chapter 5. Page 47. Shoot Water pistols at construction workers on the Highway.”

“Ha! I lost it. I think it was the largeScreen Shot 2014-07-06 at 4.48.51 PMst, longest funniest laugh of the whole trip. We recorded everything. I still have the “Thelma & Louise” travel log. Although, she looks swiss, so I think we re-named our selves, “Gretchen and Helga” or something like that – only better looking of course. ‘Never saw so many heads turn at Tim Horton’s drive-ups through rural east coast at 6am every morning let me tell you. I learned not to communicate with my friend before a couple minutes after her fist sip of coffee. In fact, as I recall, I think I leaned to wait until it settled in, and she’s breathe a sigh of

“Thank God” and say,”Ok. Now what? I’m caffeinated.

Many hilarious stories to share about this road trip. I’m going to tell a kinda cute story of getting lost on a mission.

My friend is a vet, and one of her goals of the trip ( I ask people what their main desires or intentions are for a trip to appeal to everyone and ask for it to happen!). He 100% response was,

“Gotta sea whales. Whales. Yup. Must see whales. Whales must see.”

We had already been on the road trip for several days and many happenings. We left our last site and goal of the day was to take a trip on a Schooner with the prime goal of being able to see the whales. Two motion sick pills, some crazy-schooner wind hair and $80 later – no whales. My friend was not a happy camper.

“I’m sorry you girls didn’t catch any whales. You know, if you really want to see them, you should go to where the locals go.”

“Oh” my friend was intrigued.

“Yah, if you really want to see them, try secret beach. No tourists, usually you can catch whales there. No guarantee, but usually.”

We got directions and headed there right away. It was only 20 minute drive. The instructions were kinda sketchy, “Two fields this way, second unmarked road on the left” kind of a deal. We drove down the road we thought was the road to the secret beach. About half way down, feeling and hearing the high-grass hitting the underbelly of the car, I said,”

“I don’t know if this is the right road.” I saw a roughly painted sign staked into one of the trees fly by.

“Maybe you should slow down a bit. I think I passed a sign that may have said parking. You really couldn’t tell as the car tracks that made this “road” were to overgrown with tall grass it was crap shoot if we were really on a road or not.

“No , no we’re good. I’m going to keep going.”

The trees and grass were tall and thick and you couldn’t tell where we were going.”

“I don’t think it’s  good idea. You have a low car. It’s not really an off roading car. It’s not a jeep.”

She kept driving. “No – I think this is go….”

“KA-BOOM…crash…ta-ting, ta-ting”

“Shit! That doesn’t sound good.’

“Nah, We’re good. She pulled into a rivet that looked like cars had parked there at some point in the last..year.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 4.50.04 PMWe parked the car. Hiked a shot trail that opened up to the beautiful ocean, set down our mexican blankets popular at that time and caught some rays. No whales.

“We’re leaving!”

“We’ve been here like 20 min.”

“There’s no whales, We’re leaving.”

“Don’t you just want to take a break for a bit?”

“No. Whales. Mission.”

“Ohhh K. How exactly do you expect to find them now?”

“Don’t know. Lets go to the car and I’ll figure it out.”

At least she was “wing’n it at this point.”

We got back it the car, head to the road.”

“Aren’t we near the Cabot trail?”

“Yes. close.”

“We’ll go there.”

“But it’s the afternoon. It takes forever to take the trail.”


“I gotta tell you. I’m open to this, but I’m bagged. I’m not sure i can navigate. I really need a knap.”

“Fine. No worries.”

We headed out on the infamous Cabot trail. We drove all the way to one side mock whatever!  I’m sure at times with the road trip music blaring that we had mixed. Song of the road trip? George Michel in Wham, “Wake Me Up Before You  Go-Go!” We were reliving out youth. Come on.

I fell asleep. She looked for whales while navigating the windy Cabot trail.

When we go to the end. She turned around and went back.

“No whales?”

“No whales.”

We were on our way back. She was disappointed as I was when I found out we couldn’t have a campfire on account of the dryness meter and potential for forest fire on the provincial park sign. I felt for her, but I was relieved to be venturing back to the campsite.

“We better head back. We have to find site, set up camp before dark and dusk it coming.”

“Yah, I know. I guess so.”Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 5.14.12 PM

We headed back on the road. Not for long. I was trying to keep my eye lids open to help steer the car from the passenger seat, but couldn’t. I felt the car do a 180.

“Whatttt are you doing?”

“I have a hunch!”

“Uhuh. Yes, go on.”

“I just got  hunch, about this road we passed. I’m going to take a look-see. Wasn’t you that told me trust my hunches, listen to my intuition, often our first instinct is correct, and not the fear statement that stops it after? Yadda yadda yadda….”

“Yesssssss. That was me.”

“I saw a road back there. I’m going to it. Besides didn’t you say you have to go the washroom?”

“Yes, yes, it’s fine. Go.”

We drive down the road or UP the road as it were. The road began to swivel and take a turn, as it climbed and climbed and climbed, it wrapped a wide bend, as we approached the top, we could see the ocean on our right. We stop before we get to the top of third road that seems to be going no where and has no inhabitants on it, held only by the ocean at its side. Before getting to the top we decided to stop. There were so many tall grasses with beautiful wild flowers of all kinds blowing in the wind – you know when you see a field and wish you could just dive in and float there before hitting the ground? We got back in the car.

“All right. I give up! No whales. I tried. I’m ok with that we can try tomorrow. Should we turn around and go back down? This road isn’t leading anywhere.”

You could feel the relief in the car of friend letting go of  her mission to have a whale sighting.

“Nahh. Let’s keep on, we’re going up, so it mush come down on the other side and hit the highway.”

We continued up and then the wildlife and the road seemed to be coming to a halt. The road literally stopped at the top of the hill and went nowhere. Odd? How does a a road end with no official end? How is it a road? Why was there no sign that said dead end? We got to the top. Stopped. Looked around. Looked at each other and thought, “this is odd.”

‘This is kinda weird actually.”

I got out of my side of the car and shit the door.

She motioned me that it was too loud. I motioned her that who was it going to bother, there’s nothing around us with my hands. We looked around again, looked at each other. Then our eyes came to meet a large sign that wasn’t in english, red with gold lettering. Our eyes met – enlarged. We laughed confused.

“Where the heck are we?”

“I’m a little confused. Actually kinda spooked.”Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 4.44.28 PM

“Oh it’s fine. We’re fine. Look there’s a building. Maybe they have a washroom we can use.”

We start to walk over to the white barnyard building. Not long after, a shadow appeared. Out walked a bald headed man, cloaked in a long merlot robe. Erin and I looked at each other. ” Geezuz – Where are we?” we thought to ourselves.

We were honestly a bit put off in the beginning. Are we at some cult? And I immediately realized, we’re fine.

“Can I help you?”

“Oh – sorry, we didn’t mean to disturb you. I guess we kinda got lost on this road. We’re looking for a washroom.”

“You are welcome to use ours. Please come.”

We walked towards the large white house on the cliff. Really it was bigger then a house. The monk gave us direction for the washroom.

“We don’t typically allow visitors outside hours, or to go through the home. We have many monks here now on a residence retreat. It’s ok though.”

My friend went to find the washroom.

“Where are we?”

“Would you like a tour? You are at Gampo Abbey. This is a Buddhist monastery in the Shambhala tradition.”


The young monk walked me around. I entered the kitchen and there were a couple monks playing cards. “Monks play cards?” I thought to my self. What a silly question. All they’re missing is a couple cold ones on this kitchen table and they’re any Jim or Joe playing cards.

“Would you like to see where we mediate?”

“Sure. Ok.” I was expecting a pretty drab, basic room with cushions on the floor. Quite the contrary. He lead me into this room and opened the door. Breathtaking. The entire room was was set on the backdrop of the ocean and dripped in brass and gold Buddha statue and flags. Lovely Merlot cushions lined up. Some three pillows high. Actually looked comfortable!

My friend returned and I went in. When I came back out, the same monk approached me.

“You said your friend was looking for whales?”

“Yes. Big time. She’s on a mission.”

“Tell her to go around back, to the cliff side. She will see them.”

My eyes lit up. I thanked the monk, and flew outside to find Erin to tell her to go to the cliff side to see the whales.

I couldn’t find her anywhere. I decided to venture to the cliff side. I saw her standing on the edge looking out to the sea. The wind and the ocean waves hitting the shore are so loud, we had learned that there is no point yelling as your voice doesn’t carry. I walked closer to her. Her gaze was set out onto the ocean. As I gazed out to look I kept walking towards her. When I close, her eyes met mine briefly and we spoke in silence. I looked out again to the ocean and there was a whale with it’s tail flapping wide behind. Goose bumps ran up and and down my arms. There was another whale and another, my friend couldn’t continually point to the amount of whales that were diving up out of the ocean and back down again. There was an entire whale pod giving that seemed to be our very own private performance. My eyes teared and so did hers. We watched the show in awe.

The Backstory: When Trungpa Rinpoche visited the site that overlooks the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on Cape Breton Island a double rainbow appeared in the sky. Gampo Abbey is a Western Buddhist monastery in the Shambhala tradition in Nova Scotia, Canada. Founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1983, it is a lineage institution of Shambhala and a corporate division of the Vajradhatu Buddhist Church of Canada.

Under the spiritual direction of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the spiritual head of Shambhala International, Gampo Abbey is guided by its abbot Thrangu Rinpoche and its principal teacher Pema Chödrön.

Gampo Abbey is named after Gampopa, the first monastic in the Kagyü lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Gampo Abbey’s guiding teacher is the well-known author, Buddhist nun, and teacher Pema Chödrön.

Three-year retreats at Söpa Chöling are done in English, in three segments with breaks in between. This schedule was designed by Thrangu Rinpoche to make the retreat more accessible for people with family and career commitments.

Six groups of retreatants have completed the three-year retreat, a total of 56 individuals. The seventh cycle of retreats is currently underway.
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fingerprint • July 6, 2014, The Dali Lama’s Birthday
• Midnight
• On Deck: Kate Bush, “Running up that Hill”
• Bamboo writing, night sky and banana cream pie

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