Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Prince Edward Island and car trouble

I have to go see more place and meet more people, the fire has been rekindled! I don't think I'll name the rig after Don Quixote's horse though. That's a bit over the top for me.

Trouble they say comes in 3's. I hope the latest one is the last.

About a month ago in Vermont the rig started to idle strangely and the local Ford dealer found a vacuum hose with a hole in it. 1 Day out of action and $300.

Last week in St John NB the rig sprang a leak in the radiator and the local Ford dealer replaced the radiator and a hose. 1 day out of action and $1000

We moved to Prince Edward Isle (PEI) and along the route found that the braking system in the Fiesta had been causing the brakes to drag. (Thru my own stupidity). Now we have very little braking and have to pump the brakes to get anything. The Ford dealer MAY be able to get to it today, but probably not. Another 3 days out of action and the bill is likely to be astronomic.


Luckily we set aside a large fund for maintenance when we set up for full timing thinking that an old RV might need lots of attention. The only real maintenance spending we did last year was 2 new tires for the rig so we are still (so far) within our budget. We'll have to top up that particular bucket over the winter when we're not moving about.

This mobile life is great IF YOU'RE MOBILE! If the rig breaks you can still use the car. If the car breaks then what?? Well renting a car is always an option and at least you can still run around and see/do things. So now we have a Dodge Grand Caravan for 3 days while we see the island. Not a bad driver, certainly shifts smoother than the Fiesta which this coming winter will be getting it's FOURTH transmission (Still under warranty) in 4 years. Did I ever tell you DON'T EVER BUY A FORD FIESTA!!

Rented wheels so we can keep rolling.
We had hoped to ride the ferry to the island and drive over the “Confederation Bridge” on the way back. Various sources say that it's cheaper that way as the ferry is free going to the island and you only have to pay on the way back on the bridge.
The Confederation Bridge
Balderdash!! Both the ferry and the bridge tolls are paid on the way off the island only so it doesn't matter which way round you do it.

Barbara wanted to ride the ferry, but one ship was out of service and RV's were being given last priority behind commercial vehicles so we decided to drive the bridge both ways. Still a pleasant enough experience.

We've heard a lot about PEI from fellow RV'ers and we're full of hopes. First stop was North Cape which is the northern most point of PEI, probably the furthest North we'll go on this particular journey and the closest to the UK we'll get for a while yet.

The North Cape

Quiet Little Fishing Villages
Lighthouses are big here and there are a bunch of real ones. Many more bunches of fakes ones too. I'm kind of collecting lighthouse pictures right now with a view to painting some. Every art gallery I see lately has lighthouse paintings for sale so there has to be a market.

Ann of Green Gables the famous children's book was set in PEI and written by a lady who grew up here. Visiting the house is almost compulsory and it's a National Park. Job done. It was OK but I thought a bit overblown.

A reproduction of the Green Gables House
(Original burned down)
The rest of the island is very pretty with nice ocean views and lots of seafood places to eat. We racked up 400 miles in the rental car, after all if we're paying for it we should use it. We've been all over the island and pretty much exhausted things to see.

We've eaten all the local seafood which is excellent! PEI mussels fresh from the "Farm" were really delicious and apparently 70% of all the mussels enjoyed in North America come from right here.

We're getting “Hitch Itch” again, time to move on the Nova Scotia I think.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The New Brunswick Coast

So much energy that we extended our stay an extra night to let us digest all the LOBSTAH.

The seafood theme continues
We're heading north again across the border and into New Brunswick Canada. We've heard so much about Prince Edward Island (PEI) from fellow travelers that I at least feel, compelled to go see what is so special about it. We also have friends that we haven't see in almost 30 years, they left San Diego and moved to New Brunswick at about the same time that we left San Diego to go to the Baltimore area. Lots of catching up to do.

Our first night was in Oak Bay, an OK park just off the highway, then on to St John where the campground is almost in the center of town in the public park. As we drove in to register a flock of RV's all wearing a distinctive yellow sticker and a number arrived. They were a “Caravan”. A group that has a Wagon Master to guide them and sort out difficulties. They all stay in the same park every night but travel at their own pace. Kind of a bus tour by RV. I'm not sure either of us would like that. We enjoy the challenge of finding our own way.

A challenge presented itself immediately. As I returned to the rig from the park office I saw a puddle of anti freeze on the ground and more pouring out from under the front right side. We drove to our allocated spot and set up. I pulled out a mat I keep for crawling under the rig for inspections, oil changes and small maintenance that I can do myself. The antifreeze was pouring out at the bottom connection to the radiator. Bottom hose maybe? The hoses are 17 years old in all likelihood, and after the vacuum hose failure in Vermont I strongly suspect it's time to replace as many as we can.

Too big a job for me to do in a campground. I looked on the camp map, they usually have a local RV place advertised on there somewhere. Sure enough they did, and a phone call had them recommend the local Ford dealer in St John-  Downey Ford. Yes they could get us in the next day at 8.30 am.

St John Harbor Light Downtown
We went off and explored the Fundy Trail, a scenic route that opened out eyes to how much wilderness there was here. Miles and miles of forest interspersed with little villages made up of Victorian Era farm houses and the inevitable wooden church. So picturesque.
A hundred wooden churches

Acres of Victorian gingerbread
The REAL Light House
Glimpses of the rugged coastline along the way, little towns and fishing villages. We stopped at St Martin and I took a hundred pictures of the lighthouse, the old stores, the fishing boats, covered bridges, lobster pots. I have a whole slew of painting to do now! I must stop somewhere for a couple of weeks and make sketches, start some new work.

The Village of St Martins

The tourist Light House

2 Covered Bridges

St Martin is a small town with outstanding character.
I'm laughing at myself writing this. I've come over all literary! 

At the Lobster Fest Rally there was a table full of books. It's an Escapees tradition. Borrow a book, donate a book. We did both. One book was there every day. “Grapes of Wrath”. 

Of course I'd seen the movie but being educated in the UK it wasn't required reading for me. After a day or two I decided that I ought to read it and picked it up. I devoured that book, became an Okie for the few days it took me to read and I wanted more. I searched the online library we use and the only other Steinbeck novel that was immediately available was “Travels with Charlie”.

Who knew Steinbeck was an RV'er! He traveled for 3 months in a truck camper with his dog (Charlie) in 1961. He even traveled the same areas that we are traveling! His descriptions of the area before Interstates and before the tremendous environmental cleanup are riveting. So excuse me if I wax eloquent occasionally.

I have to go see more places and meet more people, the fire has been rekindled! 

I don't think I'll name the rig after Don Quixote's horse though. That's a bit over the top for me.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lobster Fest's

A trip up the Mt Washington Auto Road was great too with almost perfect weather and amazing views.

The road to Maine was definitely NOT Interstate! Rt 2 winds and twists, climbs and dips thru the White Mountains, just the way we like it! We found ourselves outrunning a thunder storm in Augusta Maine before stopping at the Rockland Elks Lodge.

Rockland Elks large camping area
A big property (32 acres) with 30 amp electric for 4 rigs and 15 amp for a dozen more, the camping area was busy due to the Maine Lobster Festival which just happened to be the weekend we arrived. Better yet Sunday is the free day being the last day of the event so we took advantage and explored the show grounds which are right at the harbor.

A Baseball fan LOBSTAH

We indulged in Lobster rolls, you can watch them boil the lobsters and just seconds later they are ready to eat! Talk about fresh. I'm still drooling thinking about them.

We also drove up the coast to Searsport where we camped with the motorcycle camper 11 years ago. This place was so calm and serene, with the waters of Penobscot Bay lapping against the seawall right next to the tent. We had to come back.

Our Motorcycling days at Searsport Shores RV Park

This was our RV in 2005
The prices have risen immensely since the last time with some sites being $90 a night, but we have such great memories of here that we made reservations for 3 nights at the end of September on the way back from Canada.

After 3 nights in Rockland we drove further up Rt 1 to Ellsworth Maine. Rt 1 follows the coast and there are delicious glimpses of the super Maine scenery. We're so high up in the RV that we can see over the hedges that block the view from the Fiesta. A quiet winding road, Rt 1 was free of traffic all the way.

The Elks Lodge in Ellsworth is right on Rt3 that goes directly into Acadia National Park and to Bar Harbor. This is a major tourist area and parking in Bar Harbor was at a premium but we lucked out and found free 2 hr parking right outside a nice seafood restaurant. MORE LOBSTAH.
Quick get more LOBSTAH the Downing's just got here!!
After wards we drove to Bass Harbor and did some rock scrambling to see the the lighthouse

On again to Hermon ME where we checked into an Escapee Rally being held by the North East Chapter. The name of the rally? LOBSTER FEST!! 

Our friends from Shanty Shakers, Bruce and Sue and Marty and Peggy were there before us and welcomed us to the event. Soon we felt right at home and started meeting more new friends thru this great Escapees organization.

Marty and Peggy asked us along on a trip to Bath Maine to visit the shipyard there. We were glad to go along. We visited the Elks Lodge first, then took the boat tour of the Kenebec River to see the lighthouses and get a close up view of the latest Navy ships, the DDG 1000 class “Zumwalt” destroyers. These are often called the Stealth Destroyers, being shaped so as to deflect rather than reflect radar beams. I worked on these occasionally over the last 20 years of my working life. My company was the lead on the initial design for the class.
Lighthouse on the Kenebec

DDG 1001 Stealth Destroyer
We must have done things right lately as we missed the heavy rain which ended when we arrived, started after we got into the museum on the way back from the cruise then ended again as we exited the museum and went for dinner at a nice local restaurant (where LOBSTAH was on the menu)!

Saturday we got up ready for the highlight of this rally. LOBSTAH! We've eaten lobster every way we could except for? Plain old lobster. The Escapees Chapter 3 asked us back when we registered how many we'd like so we signed up for 2 a piece. Today we take delivery! I watched as they got the giant steamers up to the boil then filled them with 3 ice chests full of fresh caught lobsters. Then they covered them with sea weed and let them cook.

Quick grab a LOBSTAH

Cooked and ready

Bruce and friend
It takes a LOT of lobster to feed 50+ people and they had leftovers! Plus you could sign up for clams too! Lots of fresh corn, various salads. Did we ever eat.

Luckily Barbara left room for champagne and desert! (Just).
It took all our energy to stagger back to the rig for a nap!! So much energy that we extended our stay an extra night to let us digest all the LOBSTAH.

A final note:
I'd like to say that no Lobsters where hurt making this document. (They were dead when we ate them). Further Lobsters do not scream when they get cooked, otherwise we would have gone deaf from all the noise this past couple of weeks!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

New Hampshire

We seem to have been at the rally for weeks but now it's time to move on. We're heading further north and east towards Maine and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I can hardly wait!

Being that we are going North and East it's only natural (for us) to go South and West first! Barbara mentioned that in all the vacations we'd had in Vermont we'd never been to the southern end of the state. Bennington and Brattleboro here we come!

It was a little tiring getting behind the wheel the first day, I'm out of practice after a week sitting still! The rig didn't see to like it either, with an erratic idle every time we stopped at a light, making me shift it to neutral every time.

Maintenance time! I just changed the oil and filter myself but I've never changed the fuel filter. I don't even know where it is! Some research online indicates a special tool is required to change it. We have an appointment at Brattleboro Ford which is conveniently 3 miles from the campground Hidden Acres RV Park. 

Meanwhile we explored Brattleboro and Middleton, both picturesque towns with nice Victorian age buildings.

Vermont seems to be full of churches! I swear there must be more per head of population than anywhere we've been to. On some small streets in very small towns there can be 4 churches! Luckily they are all well kept and varied in design.

Brattleboro Ford got the work done in a day, the problem turned out to be a rotted vacuum hose which had the idle all over the place. I had them replace the fuel filter too which I have no clue as to when it was last changed. Parts cost $30. Labor?? Lets say there was no change from $300!! Still if they lasts another 17 years like the last parts did we'll be happy, and to be honest with me changing the oil and filters and doing my own chassis lube, this rig has cost us almost nothing in maintenance for the last 2 years.

On completion we spent a happy evening at the Eks Lodge, and camped next to the “Carriage House” there. 

The Carriage House at Brattleboro Elks Lodge
All very upper class, especially as the Lodge, which is BIG, was once a private house. 

But still it's on to New Hampshire. Breaking our own guidelines we drove 120 miles of Interstate before heading east to the White Mountains for a 3 night stop in a commercial campground in a pretty little town called Twin Mountain that seems to consist of a few houses, about 12 Hotels/Motels and 3 campgrounds! We're at Tarry Ho campground and it's a really nice spot on a river with excellent facilities, including a pool, for about $30 a night.

Two days touring the White Mountain put us back in our Full Timer mood and we searched the area for a campground for when we return here at the beginning of October to meet Barbara's brother Stuart and his wife Linda. They are coming over from UK on a fly/drive vacation to see the fall leaves. We found a nice one near Lincoln called Lost River Campground. It has a brand new section away from the main campground that looks like it will be really nice.

The Lodge at North Conway NH
 A trip up the Mt Washington Auto Road was great too with almost perfect weather and amazing views.

The Summit of Mount Washington
The Cog Railway

The "Photo Op" at the summit