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Cycling the Confederation Trail

by Anna Karpinski

Near Elmira (photo: Anna Karpinski)At the first blush of morning light we ride our bikes out to the trail. A thin fog lays low across rolling green fields and a bright orange sun rises up over the treeline. Purple and yellow wildflowers glisten with dew at our sides and birds serenade our passage.

Stretching for 273 km from Tignish to Elmira, the Confederation Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) network scheduled for completion on July 1st 2017. When finished it will span 23,000 kms from the Atlantic to the Pacific, crossing all of Canada’s provinces and territories. The TCT will be the longest trail of its kind in the world.

While many parts of Canada are working to complete their portions of the trail, the Island’s leg is ready to go. It is fairly flat—an ideal spot to get biking legs in gear.

My sister Vera (a two-time Ironman finisher) and I (a 5K run for fun finisher) take five days last summer to ride the PEI portion of the trail.

We set out from Tignish and within a few minutes all trace of town life slips away. The path is overcast in a hundred shades of green and the sun dances on the leaves. Not another soul around. It’s just the birds, the trees, the chipmunks and us.

At our first detour at Tim’s in O’Leary, we grab an afternoon coffee. Our bikes loaded with panniers and water bottles spark people’s curiosity about where we are going.

“Riding the trail,” they say and smile. “I’ve been meaning to do that. How is it?

“It’s amazing,” we say.

“Many people out there?”

“Just us so far.”

“I have to get my bike out of the garage,” they add and walk away wishing us a good ride.

This scenario repeats itself a dozen times before our trip is over.

We spend our mornings riding in pristine nature through shaded woods, farm fields, and crystal clear bays. In the afternoons we leave the trail behind, check into a hotel, explore the area and look forward to dinner.

We stay at the Jacques Cartier Suite at the Rodd Mill River, at Slemon Park, an army base converted to a hotel, at the luxurious Rodd Crowbush Golf Resort, at the beautiful Inn on Bay of Fortune and at the bright yellow East Point Beach Motel.

Each hotel is unique and offers different things to their guests. But landscape on the island is the star and the hotels we stay at and restaurants we eat at, all exhibit a great respect for the nature that surrounds them.

At the end of our trip, with our legs a little stronger and our minds a little clearer, we receive a free tip-to-tip certificate from the tourist center in Elmira stating we completed the 273 km trail ride in PEI. Now there is only 22, 272 kms left to explore.

Clippers and clips

The Barbershop Sessions at The Humble Barber

by Anna Karpinski

(photo: Anna Karpinski)Before PEI’s honky-tonk troubadour Nudie (full disclouse: my partner) heads out to the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, he visits the Humble Barber, Summerside’s coolest new barbershop. First a haircut, then a video shoot.

Sean Aylward, proprietor and barber of the shop, and Brendan Henry, graphic designer and videographer, are working together to create The Barbershop Sessions. They have been inviting local and touring musicians to sit in the vintage barber chair for a haircut or straight razor shave and then perform a set in the shop. Shakey Graves, Dave Woodside, Scott MacKay and Gordie MacKeeman and the Rhythm Boys are some of the performers on the Sessions to date.

Nudie is one of eight Canadians invited to play Nashville’s legendary venues this year during the Americana Music Festival. Sean, a young man with a classic barber’s gift of gab, casually discusses music with Nudie while Brendan shoots around the chair documenting the cut and the conversation. Instead of the usual barberspeak of sports and politics, they go over the finer points of tailors, hair pomade, California, the process of songwriting and where the name “Nudie” comes from.

The shop is airy and bright with high ceilings and tall windows. The classic red, white and blue barber light hangs next to a table with coiffeur’s tools immaculately arranged. Vintage turn table, acoustic guitar and vinyl records deck the room. Mirrors, a diploma and graphic art posters decorate the walls. Boutique grooming supplies and books on the art of living are laid out for sale. It’s the kind of shop that makes you slow down and appreciate the finer things in life.

Looking good after the barber’s handywork, Nudie sings two original songs followed by two cover versions, pointing out the fine acoustics of the room when he is done. Brendan quietly circles the room recording the session.

To view The Barbershop Sessions or book your next haircut, visit the Humble Barber on Facebook. As James Brown said: “Hair is the first thing. And teeth the second. Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he’s got it all.”

To check out Nudie’s new cut and hear him play the tunes he entertained Nashville with, be sure to join Nudie at The Trailside Cafe in Mt Stewart, November 14 at 8 pm. For tickets visit or call 902-394-3626

Surfing Lessons at 50

Fulfilling a vow on a wave

by Anna Karpinski

Surf School (photo: Anna Karpinski)A few years back, I vowed to learn to surf before turning 50. Then in a blink of an eye, there was only 6 months left to make good on my promise. 'One day' phrases start to sound sad instead of inspired if not acted on. At almost 50, 'one day I will learn to surf' has to transpire into a lesson or never be mentioned again.  So I started researching the best place to learn how to surf, got a couple of unexpected credit card increases, an Air Canada seat sale popped up and yada, yada, yada, I was headed for Costa Rica.

The western coast of Costa Rica has over 37 beaches marked for good surf and each of those with plenty of reputable surf schools. What I soon discovered is that trying to choose a good surf school in Costa Rica is like trying to find a good beer in Belgium.  Though they may vary in style, they are all good. All you need to do is just start drinking.

With that resolve, I chose Mal Pais for my destination. The area is actually made up of the fishing village of Mal Pais with two perfectly crescent shaped beaches to the north of it called Playa Carmen and Playa Santa Teresa. Both with magnificent waves rolling in all day long.

For the first three days I looked into surf shop windows and admired all the surfers from afar. I was transfixed by one young man playing in the waves like Fred Astaire dancing on a flight of stairs. He made it look so easy and I found it hard to imagine myself like that. Closer to shore, I studied the beginners, standing up for counts of three to ten seconds, catching a straight ride in. That would hopefully be me soon.

On day four, I took the plunge and walked into a surf shop. An adolescent, with wind blown hair, took my $10 deposit and signed me up for an 8 am lesson the next morning.

There were three in the class. A man and a woman who had taken lessons before and were both well under 30 and myself. We practised the jump up onto the board on the beach and then carried our boards into the water. The instructor, a nice guy from San Jose who had been surfing since he was 7, helped carry my board out to the waves.

Okay, get on. We'll catch this one, he said nodding to an oncoming wave. I'm not ready, I thought and there was the wave and the wave kept coming. Time slowed down. You can do it, hop on, he said. So I did. Start paddling, he said. So I did. Okay, go, he yelled and shot the board out.

I felt the wave pick the board up. I hesitated for a few seconds and then jumped up. Two seconds later I was down. But what a great two seconds! The strength of the ocean beneath, rushing forward all smooth and powerful. Even the fall was fun, all slow motion with soft foam rumbling in my ears. I shot out of the water, grabbed my board and headed back out.

Good, he said. Try to move in one motion. Hesitation kills the ride. It's all about going for it, he added. We waited for three consecutive waves to pass. Best to catch the ones coming in single, he said. Then out of a flat surface a solitary perfect wave rose up where before there was none. (A wealth of lessons to be learned right there: faith, patience and full commitment to the task. I imagine mustering these three would help improve most pursuit in my life.)

By the sixth ride I was looking for waves on my own. My eyes on the horizon, a foolish permanent smile on my face.

“Can you feel it?” he asked. I nodded and my age melted away. I was a person, at any age, loving what I was doing.

Something in the Water

A group portrait and video of Prince Edward Island musicians

by Anna Karpinski

Anna Karpinski lines up her subjects for Something in the WaterThe idea to photograph a group portrait of Island musicians was conceived, as many things are, at the kitchen table over a couple of beers. We were talking about music and I was commenting on how I wanted to do a photography project on the music scene here on the Island. It seemed to me that good things were happening, people were writing songs, making CDs and touring noticeably more than when we first moved here 8 years ago. My husband suggested a photograph like “A Great Day in Harlem.”

“What’s that?” I asked. He proceeded to educate me on this iconic image.

The image was organized and taken by Art Kane for the cover of Esquire magazine in 1958. He invited jazz musicians, representing three generations of jazz history, to gather on 126th street in Harlem at 10 am for a group portrait. His biggest fear was that many would not show up at such an early hour since most musicians played until  3 or 4 in the morning. To his surprise 57 musicians came out: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, to name just a few. The second challenge was to get the musicians to stop talking long enough to organize into a group because most were friends who had played together at one time or another and were too busy catching up to pay attention to the photographer.

Not much has changed since 1958... My biggest fear was that many musicians would not show up to stand outside on a freezing February afternoon. To my great surprise 76 musicians gathered for the photograph. And just as Art Kane warned, they were all too busy talking to pay attention to the photographer. Everyone was gathered in Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre, drinking coffee and catching up. I was trying to get them to move in front of Province House but could not be heard over the conversations bouncing off the walls. After many failed attempts, a group of people next to me voted Mike Dixon as loudest voice in the room and his holler got everyone outside just in time to catch the good sunlight.

Mille Clarkes shot film footage as everyone naturally assembled into a group pose. When I looked through my camera lens the scene was incredible. Everyone stood looking straight ahead smiling and joking amongst themselves. There were musicians from younger bands like Boxer the Horse and Racoon Bandit standing together with long-time players like Chris Corrigan, Chas Guay and Scott Parsons. Katie McGarry, new to the scene, stood with Meaghan Blanchard, Colette Cheverie and Cynthia McLeod. Tim Chaisson stood behind Allan Dowling who was beside Ian Toms and Glen Strickey and so on and so on.  It was a magical moment; a crowd of passers-by started to form to watch the proceedings.

The photograph and documentary film, both entitled Something in the Water are being exhibited at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery as part of the Warming Up exhibition curated by Pan Wendt. The exhibition runs from April 2 until June 19. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on April 2 at 7 pm.

A great thanks to all the musicians who came out for the shoot and to our sponsors, The City of Charlottetown, The Buzz, The Island Media Arts Co-op and Music PEI. A special thanks as well to Ryan Wilson for assisting on the photo and Adam Perry for assisting on the filming.

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