This trip, like the previous one, was completely unanticipated. On Wednesday, 18 May, I wrote the following Facebook post:
I was absolutely shocked and greatly dismayed to learn this morning of the much too early passing of a great-hearted man, Jimmy MacInnis. Along with the entire musical community of Cape Breton, I owe him so much for his tireless support of the music and the musicians. The West Mabou family dances have been a mainstay of my Saturday nights when I am in Cape Breton and I have missed very few of them over the years; he has kept them going year round, a feat no other venue has matched. He has given a chance to many younger musicians to play for the West Mabou dances, for it is the dance that underlies this music and without which it would die, and it has been a joy to see them get the timing right and perfect their craft as they interact with the vigorous dancers on the floor. The established and great masters of the music return frequently to play there and the talented dancers on the floor, both the young and the mature, are simply amazing to watch. It has been a great joy to me to attend these dances over these many years. I am not a resident of the community, but I have also heard much of Jimmy’s contributions to its daily life in areas not involved with the music. And, when I got in a bind having stripped a lock nut in the dark on a wheel that had gone flat, it was Jimmy who, on his day off and out of the kindness of his heart, worked for over two hours to get that wheel off so I could finally put the spare on, refusing any recompense and insisting I come up for lunch afterwards. Kindness to relative strangers is a distinguishing mark of nearly all Cape Bretoners, but Jimmy always went the extra mile. His passing leaves a great hole in the fabric that makes up any community; my sincerest condolences to Margie and the rest of the family and to the community. He is a legend whose fine work will, I am sure, endure.
Given his importance to Cape Breton’s music community, of which I have gradually become a part, if only as an enthusiastic listener, and his great kindness to me personally, I felt duty bound to pay my respects to him. I left on Thursday and returned on Wednesday, making this the shortest trip I have taken to Cape Breton.
My usual mode of writing these accounts is to take brief notes as the day transpires and then edit, expand, and assemble them all into a coherent post. On this trip, most posts were written and posted on the day described. The exceptions are Friday’s and Sunday’s accounts, which were posted on the following day, and Monday’s account, which was posted on Wednesday after I got home. As they appear here, the posts have been only very slightly edited, with typos corrected and some telegraphic sentences given proper subjects.
I regret that I do not have any photos of Jimmy in my collection, so I am unable to include any here. Two taken by others that I shared at the time to my timeline on Facebook can be found here (Jimmy is at the far right) and here (Jimmy is second from the left).
Thursday, 19 May — Jackson to Calais
Once again I find myself in Calais on the way to Cape Breton for another celebration of a life well lived that ended way too early. After a decent night’s sleep, I left home at 5h25, got caught up in slowdowns at The Oranges (New Jersey) and at the Tappan Zee Bridge, had breakfast at the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown (Connecticut), stopped for a twenty-minute rest at the Willington (Connecticut) rest area, stopped for gas at Yarmouth (Maine), had another twenty-minute rest at the rest area outside Bangor (Maine), filled up again at Baileyville (Maine), and got to the International Motel in Calais at 17h30. I had supper (broiled haddock au gratin) at the restaurant next door. I have decided I will attend the Maryvale dance tomorrow night with Rodney MacDonald and Allan Dewar; it’s a venue I've heard a lot about but have never been at, so I'll be spending tomorrow afternoon at Cape George and the night in Antigonish. I will drive on to Port Hood on Saturday. Now, ’tis time for bed after a long day of driving.
Friday, 20 May — Calais to Lower South River
I slept in this morning as the drive to Antigonish is about five and a half hours, so there was no need to rush. I had breakfast at the restaurant next door to the motel and crossed the border shortly after 9h30. It was a lovely blue sky spring day in New Brunswick; the leaves on some of the trees were just starting out, but most trees were still bare. I made Amherst (just across the Nova Scotia border) at 12h45 and had a chef salad at a family restaurant off Exit 4. The skies were pretty much clouded up by the time I left there, though sun, sometimes filtered, kept making it through. I got to Arisaig Provincial Park at 15h30; I was there once before on my very first trip to Cape Breton and remembered it as a place of great beauty, as it still is. I didn’t do the trail, which I’d hiked the first time, but had forgotten the richness of the fossil record visible from that trail, reminded of it by an interpretation building I don’t recall from that trip. A lot of trees have been killed by the spruce bark beetle and a good number had been taken down, opening up new vistas of the coast. The grass was green and the dandelions were out in force. It was lovely just sitting there soaking in the views and resting from the drive. Afterwards, I drove down into the harbour, which I hadn’t done that initial trip, and enjoyed the coast from there. By the time I got to Highway 337 in Malignant Cove (named for the British warship HMS Malignant, which sank in nearby waters in 1774), it was too late to get out to Cape George, so I followed Highway 245 to Antigonish, locating the parish hall in Maryvale where tonight’s dance is to take place along the way. I drove to Lower South River, where I got gas and my motel room for tonight.
I then drove back into town and had dinner at Gabrieau’s, where I had the seafood chowder sous croûte and the seared scallops with snow crab risotto. Both were very innovatively cooked and presented: I wasn’t greatly taken with the grape tomato halves the chowder contained and found it much too milky to boot, but otherwise good, and surmounted by the lightest pastry in a dome I can ever remember having; the risotto was superb, moist and full of very fresh al dente peas and tiny bits of chewy asparagus along with chunks of snow crab meat and pan-seared scallops.
Afterwards, I drove back to Maryvale, where I wrote much of this post to this point. The venue is much larger inside than it appeared from outside, with a fine wooden dance floor and a slightly raised stage for the musicians, tonight featuring Rodney MacDonald on fiddle and Allan Dewar on keyboards. Colin Rankin replaced Rodney on fiddle for the fifth square set and was joined by Junior Fraser on guitar, who stayed on for the sixth square set when Rodney returned on fiddle. Colin is far too modest about his fine playing—I thoroughly enjoyed his square set; I have heard him only once before and was very taken with his playing then too. Six square sets were danced with 10, 14, 12, 16, 16, and 14 couples each; a waltz set followed the second and fourth square sets, getting 6 and 8 couples, respectively. The dancers, many of whom I recognized (a number of Cape Bretoners had driven over for the dance and others I had seen dancing at Piper’s Pub cèilidhs in Antigonish), were talented, enthusiastic, and vigorous, shaking the building with the force of their steps, and drove the players to produce some fantastic music, including some great tunes I don’t hear often enough. Although a family dance, there were no youngsters out on the floor (the few in the audience left early), though a good contingent of young adults took part in all the the sets. It was a full house and a friendly crowd too, as I met a number of folks who came over and welcomed me to their hall and I had a chance to chat with some dear friends from the Antigonish area. And unusually for square dances, “tea” was served during the break, and what a variety of delectable goodies was on offer! I was good, sticking to the sandwiches except for one small chocolate confection I couldn’t resist (and was glad I hadn’t!). The Maryvale dances occur once a month and are put on by Colin and his wife. I’m normally in Southwest Margaree on Friday nights, but will certainly try to get to another at Maryvale—definitely check them out if you don’t already know of them.
Full of the wonderful music, it was a short drive back to Lower South River on a beautiful moonlit night, where, tired, I was soon fast asleep. What a fantastic start to the 2016 dance season!
Saturday, 21 May — Lower South River to Port Hood
I arose about 8h to a very lovely morning and had the continental breakfast that came with the motel room. Then, I drove on to Cape Breton, crossing the causeway bridge at 9h33, and continued on to Port Hood, where I got my room for the next three nights, for I leave for New Jersey Tuesday morning. I drove up to the parking area above Port Hood Day Park by the kiosk for the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail and completed and posted yesterday’s account. I paid a quick visit to a friend in Port Hood and drove up to Rocky Ridge for a longer visit with dear friends there. It became progressively warmer during the afternoon, reaching +25 (74) around 15h and making me a bit uncomfortable in the flannel shirt I had chosen this morning. I then drove to Whycocomagh and, via Portage Road, to Iona and thence via the Grand Narrows Highway to the 125 and it to Gabarus Road and it to French Road, a community about a third of the way south between Marion Bridge and Gabarus, where Adam Young was having a three-day long housewarming celebration in the new house he had built and into which he moved earlier. He has a beautiful home situated on a lovely lake, with a magnificent view of the lake from the windows; it reminded me very much of an Adirondack lake home, but done in modern architecture, not rustic. A grand piano sits in the living room by the windows, a room that will, I am sure, be the site of some epic Cape Breton house parties over the coming years. I met some of his relatives and friends and we had a good chat. I wish Adam all the best in his new home and am sure he'll have many years of pleasure enjoying his view and sharing it with friends.
I then drove back to Iona, this time via Morley Road outside of Marion Bridge to Highway 4 to Highway 216 through Eskasoni and Castle Bay, a considerably shorter route than the one Google used to route me to French Road. Morley Road, a gravel road, was in pretty decent shape for this time of year, but I took a couple of bad spots rather faster than I should have, hitting bottom in one of them, and I encountered some occasional washboarding. Highway 216 is in very fine shape from East Bay to Eskasoni and a beautiful drive along East Bay with fine views of the Bras d’Or Lake. In and past Eskasoni, the road is in much less fine shape, though driveable.
At the Frolic and Folk Pub in the Iona Heights Inn, the cèilidh had been underway for about an hour by the time I arrived about 18h. Friends invited me to sit with them and I had a good chat with them and with several other friends also in attendance. Today's music featured two treasures of the Cape Breton fiddle, Howie MacDonald and Brenda Stubbert, each of whom played about an hour while I was there (sadly, I missed most of Howie’s first hour). It was the first time I had heard Brenda play alone in a few years and, although complaining of a sore arm, she was as fabulous as she always is. And Howie was absolutely marvellous, choosing tunes I dearly love and playing them as only he does, rich and lush and with perfect timing. With Hilda Chiasson’s great accompaniments, the music simply couldn’t have been better! What a great way to celebrate National Fiddling Day! (Cyril MacInnis of the Big Pond area, who posts video clips as the Cape Breton Music Media Historical Society, filmed today’s cèilidh, so keep an eye out for his future posts of parts of it. It was a pleasure meeting him and telling him how much I've enjoyed his fine work.)
I had dinner during the cèilidh; they had sold out of haddock, so I had the shrimp and scallop appetizer that came with a sensational dipping sauce, a “sweet chili sauce” I was told when I asked, that was very spicy from the chili pepper seeds one could discern in it; I also had the “cèilidh fries”, large and thick French fries with a very tasty coating. The two dishes made an excellent meal indeed.
After the cèilidh, I drove back to Port Hood where I wrote this account of today’s activities. It's a lovely, still warm, moonlit Saturday night and it seems so strange not to be at West Mabou. In spite of a good helping of the day’s great music, I’m still beyond sad that the West Mabou Hall is silent tonight. And so we mourn and grieve and try to come to grips with this dreadful loss.
Sunday, 22 May — Port Hood
I arose just before 10h after a good night’s sleep, making up for the shorter night on Friday. It was a less warm day, barely breaking +20 (68) and generally cloudy with some sun shining through. I had my favourite breakfast at Sandeannies, a very busy place at 11h15 with a line out the door at one point. After breakfast, I drove down to Little Judique Harbour and, after admiring the views, turned around and came back to Harbourview and then drove the Hawthorne, Mabou, and Dunmore Roads, enjoying the quiet, timeless beauty of Cape Breton’s backcountry, a balm for a sorrowing spirit. Yesterday’s warm weather brought visible changes to the leaves—the taller trees are now showing big buds, some of which have started to unfurl into leaves; many of the smaller trees and brush are now in leaf. Another few warm days and Cape Breton will be green again!
After getting changed into my suit, I drove out the Colindale Road to the West Mabou Hall and passed through the receiving line, offering my condolences to Margie and Peter and other members of the family. By the time I left, the line stretched out to the road, which was lined with cars on both sides for a considerable distance, the parking lot being full up.
I went on to Dalbrae, where a celebration honouring the 50th anniversary of Fr Angus Morris’ ordination and his retirement was in full swing in the gymnasium. A dinner had been served earlier and, when I arrived, various remembrances and presentations were being given, including a new tune Rodney MacDonald made for the occasion and played as part of the presentation. I passed through the receiving line and thanked Fr Angus Morris for his music and his service, though I don’t believe he remembered me. I got a commemorative CD with some of his playing and visited with several friends afterwards; it was especially great to see Joey Beaton, Fr Eugene Morris, Frank MacInnis, and Burton MacIntyre, all founding fathers of the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association along with Fr Angus Morris. Later, Betty Matheson collected several members of the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association to play some sets, directed by Eddie Rogers and with Betty Lou Beaton on keyboard.
I left then and returned to the motel where I got changed out of my suit and into more comfortable togs. By that time, it was too late to make the cèilidh in Judique with Donna-Marie DeWolfe and Allan Dewar, which I was sorry to have missed, so I drove to Brook Village for their annual spring dinner, checking out the roads I'd be driving tonight after the Glencoe dance; the Upper Southwest Mabou Road was in excellent shape to and beyond Moran Road and generally OK from there to Long Johns Bridge, but with some dandy potholes at several points; the Glencoe Road was fine to the top of “Mount Glencoe” and poor descending to the Parish Hall.
The dinner at Brook Village was excellent: turkey and all the fixings. Unlike many other such dinners, this one was served on china, which somehow improves the taste. They must have had a legion of dishwashers to clean up! Cars lined the road on either side and the parking lot was full. But the dinner was superbly well organized and I was seated in an amazingly short time given the number of folks ahead of me in line. It was great to chat with those I regularly see at the dances as I ate. I have heard for years of these dinners, which take place in the spring and fall at times I’m not normally in Cape Breton. Highly recommended!
After dinner, I worked on this post to this point. I then drove back to Mabou for the parish concert most ably organized by Melody and Derrick Cameron as a further celebration of Fr Angus. Emceed by David Rankin with Nick MacDonald on sound, it begin with remarks by Peter Rankin in honour of Fr Angus, including a humorous story and a recollection of a sitting of Fr Angus and his fiddle for a painting Peter made. Coisir an Eilein, directed by Fr Allan MacMillan with Sandra Gillis on keyboard, gave us two Gaelic songs with the audience joining in on the choruses. Bonnie Jean MacDonald, whom I get to hear far too rarely, on fiddle, and Hilda Chiasson on keyboard, next played an air/strathspeys/reels set that was simply fantastic. Lionel LeBlanc sang a John Denver song, accompanied by himself and his wife Margaret on guitars and his daughter Ashley MacDonnell on bass and both on backing vocals; Ashley and Lionel on guitars sang a second folk song. Lynn Morris, a relative of Fr Angus, played on keyboard a tune she had composed for him. Rodney MacDonald on fiddle, accompanied by Margie Beaton on keyboard and David Rankin on guitar, gave us a great set of tunes beginning with the one he made for Fr Angus and followed it with strathspeys and reels. Rodney and Margie then played for a noticeably taller Stephen MacLennan to step dance—what an amazing talent he has! The Campbell sisters on fiddle, keyboard, and guitar played a fine set of jigs in a minor key. After explaining the tunes’ associations with Fr Angus, Dawn and Margie Beaton on dual fiddles with Hilda Chiasson on keyboard gave us a beautiful set beginning with The Cuckoo and continuing with strathspeys and reels. Joanne MacIntyre and her four sons first gave us a Gaelic song in which she sang the verses and the boys the choruses; on the second, the lead passed from one son to another and the set ended with a lively puirt a beul; what a talented family! Cullin MacInnis on fiddle with Hilda Chiasson on keyboard played a fine group of tunes. With Kenneth MacKenzie on fiddle and Hilda on keyboard, the Young Mabou Dancers danced a square set figure in tribute to Jimmy MacInnis. Kenneth, Keith MacDonald, and Kevin Dugas on highland bagpipes with Hilda on keyboard, played a grand set and a second one to which David step danced. KC Beaton, accompanied by her daughter Siobhan on guitar, gave us a Gaelic song; she has a fine voice, the first time I’d heard her sing. Kenneth on fiddle with Hilda on keyboard played for a Scotch Four danced by Dawn, Margie, David and Rodney, that closed the great show. Mabou’s bench of talent is incredibly deep! If you ever have a chance to attend a parish concert in Mabou, take it! I had intended to leave for the Glencoe dance at 20h30 and was stuck fast to my seat until it was over. Kudos to the fine performers, to Melody and Derrick for organizing it and making it run smoothly, and to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers who made it such a success!
I was strategically parked, so I beat the traffic rush and made it to Glencoe where a set was underway when I arrived about 22h. Four more square sets were danced, three to the great music of Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton and one to that of Joe MacMaster and Betty Lou. Those sets ranged from eleven to sixteen couples each in two groups; although the hall was not full, it was nevertheless a good-sized crowd with many excellent and vigorous dancers and a goodly number of both youngsters and young adults, always great to see. One waltz set was danced. A larger than usual number of fine step dancers answered the call too: Siobhan Beaton; Amanda MacDonald; Stephen MacLennan; Lewis MacLennan (only the second time I've seen him step dance and making amazing progress); Jimmy MacIsaac; Elizabeth MacInnis; Hailee LeFort; and David Rankin (I hope I didn’t forget anyone). It was the first Glencoe dance of the year and the first time I’d been present for the first dance. Great evening!
Light rain was falling as I left the Parish Hall; I got back to Port Hood about 0h30 and was tired out, so quickly went to bed and fell asleep instantly.
Monday, 23 May — Port Hood
I arose at 8h to mostly grey skies and, because Sandeannies was closed, had breakfast in my motel room, thanks to the gift of muffins from a dear friend, supplemented by car food (fruit, tea) and orange juice from the convenience store. I then got into my suit and drove to Mabou, where I arrived early. I sat in the car until more people were present, when I went into the church and took a seat in the back. It was my first time inside St Mary’s, a very beautiful and impressive church whose interior is in white and maroon with pillars decorated with tartans, I presume of local families. The church was soon packed, with many standing in the back; while we waited for the mass to begin, Howie MacDonald played some gorgeous airs on fiddle and the West Mabou youth choir sang. Lots of beautiful music embellished the service, much sung in the lovely voice of KC Beaton. At the end of the service, the massed fiddlers (I didn’t get an accurate count as they were seated some distance from me, but other observers reported between twenty-five and forty) from all over the Island and well beyond played slow airs as the attendees filed out. A kilted piper, Rankin MacInnis I believe, played outside in front of the church as we exited. It was a beautiful service and the huge number of attendees reflected the high esteem in which Jimmy was held by all.
It took a long time for the cars parked around me to depart and open up enough room for me to make it back to the road. I then drove to the West Mabou Hall for the reception. Several tables were loaded with sandwiches and finger foods and sweets contributed by the families of West Mabou and many were the reminiscences shared of the impact Jimmy had on us all as we ate. Most of the fiddlers I saw at church were present at the hall and eventually, as many musicians as could fit on the small stage in the hall (for a dance, one normally sees only two or three players or four at the most, but today a powerhouse of fifteen squeezed into its confines) began playing in unison; soon a square set, led by Margie and Peter, was being danced between the stage and the tables of food, a vigorous dance with everyone stepping through the figures in great style—the building was rocking with the powerful playing and the rhythmic feet. When the square set was over, another large group of musicians replaced those on stage and launched into a great set of step dance tunes, which brought many fine step dancers out to dance in Jimmy’s memory; I took no notes, but there had to have been well over twenty and of all ages—it was surely the longest step dance sequence I have ever witnessed. A third group of musicians took the stage and played another long set of fiddle tunes, but these were for listening. One of the master fiddlers present related to me how she had grown up musically in this hall, being given the opportunity to perfect her playing because Jimmy knew how important it is to give young players a chance to play and learn both from the experience itself and from the dancers; although she spoke only for herself, many of the other players present this afternoon could have made the same point: no better motivation can be found for driving a musician to learn than playing for dancers, who ensure by their feedback that the player gets the timing right. The way this afternoon transpired also reminded me in many ways of the celebration that took place in Rollo Bay after Peter Chaisson’s passing last summer, where the musicians assembled in a huge group and played the evening away for the large crowd of listeners as well as for a square set: music is a balm that soothes the heart and dance is its living expression. Jimmy loved them both and no more fitting tribute to him could have been found than this afternoon’s music and dance.
After the music ended, I visited with others and then made my way back to the motel, where I changed into more comfortable clothes and relaxed, nearly falling asleep in my chair while reflecting on the afternoon. I then drove to Mabou and had supper (haddock and a salad) at the Mull, after which I returned to the motel and got the car packed up and ready to leave early in the morning. I completed and posted Sunday’s account and was in bed and asleep by 22h, getting a good night’s rest in preparation for the long drive back.
Tuesday, 24 May — Port Hood to Lewiston¹
I arose a bit before 5h15 and again had breakfast in my room, as Sandeannies is still on winter hours, i.e. closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fog covered Port Hood Harbour and a thick and tall dense fog bank towered over St Georges Bay; it was +9 (48) when I left the motel at 6h02. The sun was shining on the Creignish Hills as I reached Judique, but the fog remained immobile on the water and reached inland at the Strait of Canso. I crossed the causeway bridge at 6h31 and as soon as I started to descend the other side of the big hill above Aulds Cove, the fog cleared and it was a beautiful drive to Antigonish, though the fog was so high out on the Bay that it looked like a new range of mountains out there. From Antigonish to New Glasgow, fog was over the inland areas as well as the water; it got progressively thicker and lower from New Glasgow to the Cobequid Pass, where it was pea soup and dangerous driving. I stopped to rest at the tolls for a quarter hour, but the fog was resolute, so I continued carefully on my way. Once down out of the highlands, it became a nice day again with about half cloud cover and half blue sky and a bright sun. Neither the Cape Breton nor the Nova Scotia mainland highlands are yet green, though considerable progress has been made, but from the New Brunswick border west, the mountains are now clearly green with the vast majority of trees in full leaf (on the way to Cape Breton, I ran out of leafed trees east of Bangor). I stopped again for gas at Salisbury and got a sub for the car. Some smattering of fog returned west of St John, but it wasn’t troublesome. I passed the US customs at 12h56; the officer recognized me and questioned my frequent border crossings, but otherwise the interview was perfunctory (the question of fruit didn't arise, though I had an apple and a pear which I had brought from home lying on the front seat in full view). I stopped to put my passport away and switch currencies at Baileyville, just outside Calais, and then headed across the Airline, where the blue sky disappeared and I ran into some sprinkles that caused me to put the wipers on briefly. My last stop was at the rest area west of Bangor. I arrived in Lewiston at 17h21 (976 km (606.5 mi)).
I took a brief rest, during which I discovered that Anita MacDonald and Ben Miller were playing tonight at a house concert about an hour south of Bangor; I knew that was to happen but didn’t realize that today was the day. Drat!
I had dinner at the Pepper and Spice Thai Cuisine establishment a couple of minutes from the motel; it is currently rated #20 of the local restaurants, but it's been a good while since I ate Thai food, so I picked it anyway. I began with Tom Yum Seafood, a peppery broth filled with scallops, shrimp, and calamari pieces; it was excellent. I then had the Yum Talay, a spicy seafood salad, again with steamed shrimp, scallops, and calamari, but this time mixed with onions and scallions tossed in a spicy and sour sauce topped with cashew nuts and served with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers; another excellent choice. I finished it off with a spicy pad Thai: country-style rice noodles stir fried with egg, chili paste, ground peanuts, bean sprouts, and scallions covered with tofu and mixed vegetables (baby corn ears, broccoli, carrots, onions, green beans, and snow peas); also an excellent choice, but the helpings of all three dishes were so large I took what I didn’t eat of this last dish with me for dinner tomorrow night. In short, an excellent find and I will definitely stop there again.
Then it was back to the motel where I wrote this. I will soon be in bed for the shorter but busier drive tomorrow, again leaving with the first light. Monday’s account will be delayed at least another day. Sorry.
Wednesday, 25 May — Lewiston to Jackson
I left Lewiston this morning at 5h54 in fog, mostly above the road except in Portland, where it impacted visibility to a degree, but not dangerously. The fog continued through eastern Massachusetts but disappeared where the I-495 turns south at Littleton. Thereafter, it was a lovely blue sky day, sunny and bright. It was +9 (48) in Lewiston, +18 (64) in Hartford, and +32 (90) when I arrived in Jackson a bit past 14h, after a detour to the post office to pick up my held mail. Traffic was noticeably lighter on the I-495 around Boston than usual and fairly light elsewhere as well. I took a long break, nearly an hour, in Newtown (Connecticut), where I had lunch (still full from last night’s Thai dinner, I skipped breakfast), a large antipasto, at the Blue Colony Diner—there must have been half a head of lettuce under the huge pile of meats, cheese, and other vegetables! Delicious and filling! I stopped again for gas in Colonia (New Jersey), though I could probably have made it home on what I had. A change in the roadway at Interchange 129 on the Garden State Parkway confused me and I misread the sign, so I ended up driving south on the Parkway instead of getting on the New Jersey Turnpike as I had planned. I got off at Holmdel and came home cross country, taking a few minutes longer than normal. All in all, a quiet trip back. Thanks to all those who entertained at the events I attended, helping to distract me on a very sorrowful occasion.