Thursday, July 29, 2010


After our long day with the ferry and because it was getting dark we stopped at the Arm of Gold Campground in North Sidney, NS and just crashed for the night. I think it gets its name from the fact they charge an arm of gold for one night. Oh well, we were exhausted and not willing to search for a boondock site. We were still not on the mainland as Cape Breton is an island and we decided to do one more island province, Prince Edward Island. Be careful if you go there as they entice you with a free ferry ride or bridge crossing (yes you can get there on a bridge) but charge you to get back to the mainland, so don't spend all your money. We stayed at the Bayside RV Campground in Oyster Bed Bridge.

The 70 minute ferry ride from Caribou, Nova Scotia to Wood Islands, PEI is free. Until 1997 the ferry was the only way on and off the island. The ferry is farther east than the bridge and the fare is more expensive so plan accordingly.
After checking in we learned the campground was right by the Oyster Bed Speedway and we should not plan on going to bed early on Saturday. We decided if you can't beat em you might as well join em so we went racin. It was a fun night with four different classes of nonstop action. The feature for the night was a 100 lap Enduro race with young racers in any type of car that would run. It was a real hoot watching them fly around the track as their cars literally fell apart.
We celebrated our third anniversary on the road sitting outside with a dinner of fresh PEI seafood. The locally raised mussels were grand and we had seafood every time we dined out while here.
Scenes of PEI. The thing that first strikes you about PEI is how colourful it is with the fishing camps, flowers, farms and forest set among the red dirt roads and fields. In many places the fields run to the edge of the sea.
PEI has many beautiful lighthouses along the shore. They are all the traditional white and red. Clockwise from the top left are the lights at Wood Islands, North Rustico Harbour, New London Bay and Cape Egmont.
We visited Green Gables National Historical Site the home that was the setting for Lucy Maude Montgomery's book Anne of Green Gables. The home was her cousins and has been restored and decorated as it was in the book. The barn has examples of what life would have been like during that period. There are two excellent videos about the book and the author who went on to write twenty novels. Top right is Lucy Maude's birthplace in nearby New London. Even though neither of us had read any of her books this was a interesting stop to learn about the author and the book which we purchased.
We found there are many areas of PEI that are Acadian historical sites and since we learned so much about the influence of these French people in Cajun Louisiana we visited the Acadian Museum in Miscouche to learn more. The museum tells the story of their expulsion from PEI by the British and the efforts to save their language and culture after many of them returned in the 1800's. Each year the museum highlights one important aspect of the culture and this year they had an exhibit on hooking rugs. They knew of the work of Warren Perrin, the attorney we met in Erath, Louisiana who wrote a history of the expulsion and received an apology from the queen for this historical injustice.
Another interesting PEI stop is the Maisons be Bouteilles in Cap-Egmont. The houses are the work of Edouard Arsenault who started erecting these buildings in 1980. There are more than 25,000 bottles used in there construction making Edouard one the the most enthusiastic early recyclers. There are three buildings; a house, chapel and tavern and the huge 13 foot bottle at the entrance. The grounds are also beautifully landscaped as he was also an avid gardener. This is a stop that I'm sure would be even more beautiful on a bright sunny day.
A trip on the Confederation Bridge is not for the faint of heart, but it is plenty wide and you are on the other side in about twelve minutes. The 13-kilometer bridge is the longest in the world that travels over water that gets covered with ice. The bridge, which is 120 feet above the water, is an engineering marvel as the giant piers are just sitting on the bottom. Using the ferry to travel one way and the bridge the other is a great way to explore different parts of this beautiful little island.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our Third Aniversary

July 24th marks three years of fulltime retirement and travel. Just a few stats on the years:

THE LIST......................................YEAR 1......... YEAR 2........YEAR 3
Motorhome Miles..........................10,666............8,481...........9,070
Average Miles Per Day........................29.14..............23.23.........24.85
Average Trip.......................................142.21............160............162
Gallons of Diesel Fuel.......................1375.21..........1083.27....1173.05
Average Cost Per Gallon........................3.80..............2.79..........3.11
CRV Miles.......................................11,792..........12,834.........11,949
Bicycle Miles.......................................405.................91.............149
Camp Sites............................................75.................53................56
Average Nights in Each.........................4.9................6.9................6.5
Number of Frosty Nights......................5.........too many............fewer
Number of Windy Days.........................?................120++.........fewer
Number of States(Provinces)..............23(0)...............19(0).........17 (5)
National Parks & Monuments...........30+................23+................11
Blog Posts............................................105.................77.............100
Days of Exercise (Jim).......................200..............195................173
Days of Exercise (Nanc).....................243..............261................234
Number of haircuts (Jim).................0......................0....................0
Old & New Friends & Family.......Priceless........Priceless.........Priceless

It is hard to believe we have been On the Road for three years. It seems like we have done and seen a lifetime's worth of things in that short amount of time. In the past year we have been on all three coasts, Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic. We did more dry camping and used Walmarts and rest areas for overnight stays a number of times. It sure is a money saver rather than paying for park facilities you don't need. We stayed in 56 different places and averaged $571 a month which is a little less than year two and under our goal of $20.00 a day. We also spent one night on a ferry. This year we had stays of a month or more at five different places which usually helps to reduce costs. In year one we only had one month long stay and in year two we had three. This slower pace has given us a chance to more thoroughly explore an area. We drove in 21 states and stayed in 14 while adding New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine as new stops. We also added five Canadian provinces, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

We started the year meeting Rick and Denise for a week in Vancouver, BC then spent a month exploring the Olympic Peninsula. There we got to hang out with Marty and Allan & Sharon. After that we spent another week with Dave & Kazuko and their family before heading slowly south. Mother nature continues to provide the best shows with Yosemite, Crater Lake, seeing whales in both oceans and getting up close to an iceberg ranking at the top. Another highlight was sailing on San Francisco Bay with Erin and having him show us around that beautiful city. We had a great holiday season with Richard & Valerie. Starting the new year with them and other SKPs in Pasadena at the Rose Parade HOP was fantastic. We wintered in SoCal and Arizona where we got to visit with Linda Rocks and Dick & Joan Morgan, spend a week in the desert at Q with many SKPs, got together with Allan & Sharon and had Rick & Denise and Tom & Georgie visit from back East. We went back to the Texas Coast to see 07 mates Mark & Renita, Howie & Norah, Bob & Molly and the happy hour group at Watersedge. On the drive across Texas we got an email from Mike and Loretta so we changed plans and had a great two day visit in Uvalda. We returned to Betty's in Abbeville, our favorite park, and had a great month meeting old friends, Marvin, Al & Joyce, Ollie, Emile & Raymonde and making new ones, Omer & Sylvia, Jean Paul & Celine, Tony & MaryBeth, Ken & Barbie and many, many others. We then headed north to WashPA for five week's of doctors, dentists and dear, dear friends and family. We did a quick drive through New England and have been in Maritime Canada for six weeks. The time in Newfoundland and Labrador was great.

Not all has been peaches and cream as we learned what a turbocharger is, how expensive rubber can be and that if you are not constantly vigilant trees will attack your rig. There have been more “minor” problems with the motorhome then expected. I guess that should be expected as every time you drive it is like having your home in a tropical storm (we don't go hurricane speeds) during an earthquake. These inconveniences are really not that different from the problems we had when we owned a stix and brix, but they do tend to be much more expensive to repair. Another bummer was Nanc having her knee scoped as the recovery time involved has limited the length and number of hikes we took the last couple of months. Getting old is not for the faint of heart but we are not letting that deter us.

Our written in sand plan for year four is more time in Maritime Canada, Quebec (where we will visit Jean Paul & Celine) and New England, another Yanni wedding in August (in Cleveland, not Jamaica) and then a month in WashPA wrapped around a trip to Indiana for the Escapade. We have reserved a month on the Outer Banks in October and November and are going to winter somewhere in Florida. We are returning to Betty's for Mardi Gras and in April we have tickets for the NCAA Final Four in Houston. During the summer of 2011 we hope to fill in those Midwestern states that are missing from our map and attend the Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming. We also need to work on those cycling miles. Still so many more miles to travel and places to see.

Friday, July 23, 2010

St. John's and a Ferry Long Day

St. John's, the oldest city in North America, is the capital and the largest city in the province. You are still very aware that you are on an island far from the mainstream and mainland. There are the same number of TV stations we had in other places on the island, two. But it is a beautiful city with plenty to keep you entertained.
One place for both views and a some culture is The Rooms, the newest museum. The building is designed like the fishing rooms we have seen throughout our visit. We did not visit the museum but we went to the cafe on the fourth floor for lunch, great fish chowder, just so we could take advantage of the view.
From the top floor of The Rooms you have a great panorama of Signal Hill, the Narrows, the harbour and most of the city
This shows how tight the Narrows are as we watched this tanker come into the harbour.
These are a few of the vividly painted houses in the city. Can you find Nanc in the pic?
Since we landed on the Rock everyone said we had to experience George Street as it has more bars per meter than any street in the world. You can easily see this is true as the street is only two blocks and every building is a bar. On Tuesday we went there for supper and wondered what all the excitement was about as many places were closed. We returned another night for some music and found a few more people. Finally on Saturday we took a nap and went downtown at 8:30 for supper and music. That night we got a little hint what the real scene must be like. When we were leaving at midnight ALL the bars were open and the streets were getting crowded. Oh well, I guess we are just to old for the after midnight scene. From the little action we saw the saying in the pic sums up George Street.
One must stop on my list was the Quidi Vidi Brewing Co. in Quidi Vidi Harbour. They produce great local beer that is only available at a few places away from the Rock. The tour starts with the guide talking about how the company started and explaining each brew as we sampled a small taste. Next everyone selected the one beer they wanted to drink as we toured the brewery. 1892 was my favorite with Eric's Red a close second. They also brew Iceberg beer that is made with water from bergs. I found it to be cool, clear and refreshing, a good hot weather beer.

On Monday left St. John's and drove less than a hundred miles to the Argentia Sunset Park near where we planned to catch the ferry at 3:30PM Thursday. The town of Argentia is no more as it became a US military base in 1941 until it closed in 1994. This is where Roosevelt meet Churchill in 1941 before we were in WWII. The visitors center has an excellent display on this meeting as well as the negative and positive affects of the base.

When we were at the visitors center they suggested we check in with the ferry because one of the boats (surprise, the Smallwood we came over on) was having mechanical problems again. When we checked they said a smaller, slower boat, the Lief Ericson, was now sailing this route, but on a delayed schedule. The Tuesday boat that was to depart at 5PM would be leaving at eleven and our boat on Thursday would also be late because crossing times are now 18 hours rather than the regular fourteen. We were undecided about what to do and after checking again on Tuesday afternoon and learning the departure time was now 1AM we decided to wait until Thursday. Two hours later Teresa from Marine Atlantic called to tell us the Thursday trip was canceled and we should get on the wait list for Tuesday unless we wanted to drive the 600 miles back to Port aux Basque. We opted for the wait list and checked in at 4:00 and began the WAIT. FINALLY at 1:30 Wednesday morning we were told we could get on this sailing. We loaded at 2AM and departed at 3AM. We arrived in North Sidney at 9PM only 14 hours behind schedule and 29 hours after checking in Tuesday afternoon. It was a very long day made worse because the change of schedule meant the sleeper lounges we had reserved were no longer available, thus we had quite a restless night with the fog horn sounding the entire night near where we “tried” to sleep.
The Lief Ericson waiting in the fog to load.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Exploring the Avalon Peninsula

We did a couple of road trips from St. John's to explore more of the Avalon Peninsula. One was on the Irish Loop Drive south along the Atlantic Ocean, Trepassey Bay and and then north along St. Mary's Bay where we toured the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland and visited a couple lighthouses. The other was the Baccalieu Trail along Conception Bay with stops in Cupids and Harbour Grace.

The Colony of Avalon was started in 1621 by Sir George Calvert who later became Lord Baltimore of Maryland fame. The colony thrived through the 1600's until it was destroyed by the French in 1696 as part of the ongoing dispute with the English over Newfoundland. For the last twenty years archaeologists have been doing a dig at the site. It is the best place we have visited for being able to watch the ongoing excavation along with viewing the results of the past twenty years.
This is the cobblestone floor and part of the walls of the mansion house at Avalon. The wood shows where walls that have collapsed would have been.
Here you can watch the archaeologists at work. There were at least 25 people working at various phases from digging, to cleaning, to cataloguing items. These people really do dig their work.
This is the original waterfront with the walls of a warehouse and the paved street. The new buildings in the background are built on top of the site. The neighbors have been very cooperative in allowing the dig to happen on their property. In some sections after the artifacts were removed the site was recovered as they were in people's yards.
Some of the 1,000,000 plus artifacts that have been found here.
They also have built a 17th century kitchen to show a typical upper class home.
The Ferryland Lighthouse
This light is a short walk from Ferryland. You can purchase a picnic lunch at the house. It comes complete with a blanket so you can kick back and enjoy the view of the ocean while eating your lunch.
The Cape Race Lighthouse at the Southeastern tip of Newfoundland has the strongest light along the Atlantic Coast. There was a Marconi wireless station here that received the distress call and communicated with the Titanic as it sank. To get here was a 25 mile round trip on gravel road across a treeless tundra. We saw three pods of whales feeding not too far off shore which made the trip worthwhile.
Cupids, Canada's oldest British colony, is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. The flag is a replica of the one flown a hundred years ago for the 300th anniversary. There is an archaeological dig going on here that we did not visit.
In Harbour Grace the S.S. Kyle has been grounded since 1967 when an iceberg pushed it to its present position. Top is Nanc with Amelia Earhart who flew from the airstrip (right) here on the first successful solo trans-Atlantic flight by a woman.

Monday, July 19, 2010

To the Edge of the Continent

The drive to St. John's, as with many road trips here, had a bit of everything with the thick fog being the worst. Getting to Avalon, the Eastern most area of Newfoundland, you must cross a section where the cold waters of Trinity Bay are only about ten miles from the warmer Placentia Bay so the fog was very bad for about 25 miles. At least traffic was light and we were on the TCH so the road was in good shape. The closer we got to the city the clearer it became. St. John's is the capital and about a third of all Newfoundlanders live in the area. We are spending a week at Pippy Park which is right in the city and a bit expensive, as are all urban campgrounds, but is well located for exploring the entire Avalon Peninsula.
The fog was as thick as Newfoundland pea soup.
We attended the tattoo at the Signal Hill National Historical Site. There was a unit of His Majesty's Royal Newfoundland Regiment, a artillery unit and a fife and drum band. They paraded and then had a mock battle to reenact the 1762 battle with the French that was the last of the Seven Years War. This was the last of four times that the French had captured St. John's in the 100 plus years of dispute over fishing rights. It was a grand show and very worthwhile.
Atop Signal Hill is Cabot Tower that was built to celebrated the 400th anniversary of his landing and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The Hill was used by the military from the 18th century through WWII as a harbour defense. Signal Hill is the place were Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal in 1901.
The city and harbour. The harbour is well protected from the Atlantic but is not very large. The downtown starts right on the water and climbs the hill giving great views as you walk. Because of the hills and water the city streets are very hard to follow. There is no grid and the names seem to change from block to block. For someone who grew up driving in Pittsburgh this is not a big deal but it can be confusing.
The Narrows is the entrance to the harbour. It is so narrow that during wars a chain was placed across it to prevent the enemies, French, American, German from sailing through it. There is a great system of trails on and around the hill (and the entire city). Parks Canada has a GPS you can use that not only directs you on the trails within the park but also gives you historical information at stops along the way.
Looking from the hill out into the Atlantic. In the foreground is Fort Amherst on the opposite side of the Narrows and in the background 11km away is Cape Spear, the Eastern most point of North America. You can see why the hill would be a good place to "signal" the city about approaching ships.
There are two lighthouses at Cape Spear. Left is the original 1836 light, the oldest in Newfoundland and right is the newer light built in 1955. There is also a WWII coastal defense battery that was manned by both Canadian and American troops. This is one of several places where the US had bases in Newfoundland during and after the war. Newfoundland, the oldest British colony, was not part of Canada until 1949.
Here we are again living on the edge, of the continent that is. As the crow flies we are about 3500 miles from LA on the other side of the continent where we started the year and only about 1900 miles from Ireland that we both swear we could see in the distance. We really did see a whale not to far off the coast.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Actors, Cellars & Puffins

Two other neat towns near Bonavista are Trinity and Elliston. Trinity has several well preserved buildings and a theater company. Elliston bills itself as the Root Cellar Capital of the World and is a great place to get a really close view of puffins.
We heard on the local news that when there are a lot of lupins they are going to have poor summer weather. Well guess what, when we arrived on June 18th we saw no lupins but by the time we were coming south from the Northern Peninsula they were everywhere. The weather has been all over the place with highs ranging from 42 to 82 with rain, clouds, fog and sun sometimes all in one day. We only had one day that was a total rain out and the weather has not prevented us from doing and seeing what we have wanted.
Several of the buildings in Trinity. The town has become a popular place for Mainlanders and Americans to purchase or build summer homes. The winter population is only about thirty. It was a neat place with all the old buildings and newer homes built to conform with the older appearance. But it does have an artificial feel to it compared to Bonavista, where most of the old building are still being used.
A great way to see Trinity and to learn a little history is to attend the Pageant, a walkabout play with ten scenes in different locations throughout the town. The Rising Tide Theatre also does several indoor productions from June to October. We enjoyed the play a great deal.
Elliston has over 130 well preserved root cellars, some that have been in use for 165 years. Before refrigeration the cellars were the only way to keep root vegetables through the winter. They were used year round to keep perishables from spoiling. They were mostly built with local materials but one did have the roof supported with a steel beam salvaged from a ship wreck.
What is it that would bring out the big lens on a cloudy day? Well, it is the puffins. One of our goals while in Newfoundland was to see a puffin and here we saw hundreds. Puffins generally are found on islands just off shore so it is difficult to get an close look at these beautiful unique sea parrots. We did see a few near the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse but they were all pretty far away. On our first visit to Elliston we were told many would land on shore on days when the weather was not very good. So we returned on a dreary afternoon and sat in the drizzle and waited along with the big cameras. I was almost afraid to show my little thing.
This one came and sat on the edge for few minutes as if posing for us. Puffins are excellent swimmers and divers that breed from the Maritimes south to Maine.
The puffin in the foreground is on shore while on the island just off shore there were hundreds more. Puffins raise a single chick in a burrow or rock crevice with a grass lined nest. They were flying down to the water to get capelin, the same fish the whales eat, to bring back to feed their chick. It seemed like one would fly for food while the other stayed back to protect their chick from the ever present gulls.
These two landed together and seem to be entertaining each other. They are very comical when they fly with their dumpy bodies and their short little wings flapping like crazy.
This is a good place to see them even if they don't land on shore. Puffins are members of the auk family and look like a bird put together by committee with penguin bodies, murre wings, duck feet and parrot bills.
Nanc relaxes in a puffin chair after a long day of puffin watchin.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Good View of Bonavista

The entire coast of Newfoundland is made up of many peninsulas and islands. All these add up to almost 18,000 miles of shoreline. Our plan was to spend as much time as possible along the coast so we had to pick and choose which areas would be best to visit. We decided early on that we would not have time to explore much of the southern coast in the RV. Traveling to Twillingate was a 120 mile round trip from the Trans Canadian Highway (TCH). We next went to Bonavista, a 150 mile out and back trip from the TCH. The roads on these excursions off the TCH are often narrow and not as well maintained making the drive a little more intense. We stayed at Paradise Farm Trailer Park and discovered that in Canada a trailer park is not what it is in the states but is just another name for a campground.
Typical of most of the roads on the peninsulas, very narrow, no shoulder and in poor repair. But with beautiful scenery and very little traffic. The main road, that we used to return to the TCH, was in a little better shape.
The 35 foot tall Cape Bonavista Lighthouse began operating on September 11, 1843. The masonry tower rises through the center of the surrounding keeper's house. As with other lights that are now provincial parks, it has been restored to reflect the way it appeared in 1876 when Jeremiah White was the keeper. The flues for the fireplaces in the house were built into the tower. The signal flag room has the flags used to communicate with ships at sea. The day we were there it spelled out warm. The light was different than others we have seen. It just reflected off a polished parabolic background. There was no Fresnel lens in this one to increase the power of the light.
Cape Bonavista is also were it is believed Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot to most Americans and Canadians) landed in 1497 aboard the Matthew. Cabot claimed the New Founde Lande for England making this their first possession in the "new world". Cabot along with four ships disappeared on a second voyage.
In 1997 to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery, a replica of the Matthew sailed from Bristol, England to Bonavista to mark the occasion. The queen was here for the event. The locals then decided they wanted their own replica so one was built here along with a boat house where it spends the winter. The doors open, the ship with it's masts is pulled inside, it is then lifted out of the water. The boat house allows the ship to be toured year round in any weather. Even though it was raining when we were there they would not put it inside for us. They said getting wet would make the experience more realistic. It is hard to believe that people sailed across the Atlantic in a wooden ship that was less than 100 feet long.
The Mockbegger Plantation was the home of F. Gordon Bradley the first federal minister when Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949. Bradley was a fish merchant and the home reflects his wealth. It is restored to the 1939 era when they had electricity but still no indoor plumbing.
Bonavista has many large wooden buildings dating from the late 1800's to the middle 1900's. The largest building is the Loyal Orange Lodge. The building to the left is the boat house for the Matthew and the yellow building is the courthouse. Even the movie theater was built with wood. It was a very beautiful little town.
Not far down the road is Port Union, the only union built town in North America. It was built by the Fishermen's Protective Union to give them a better option than dealing with the fish merchants. It was way ahead of its time as it had electricity in 1918. It included a branch railway, shipyard, factories, salt fish plant and retail stores. The whole thing was the brain child of Sir William F. Coaker, local publisher, activist, businessman and political leader.