Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wandering around Maine

We'll visit some more friends meet some relatives from UK, and enjoy the journey.

Our last couple of weeks in Maine are completely unplanned, we're kind of killing time until Barbara's brother comes over in October. This has led to a couple of very nice “Finds” such as the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland and a pretty campground in Newport Maine that we picked because it was cheap and fairly close to a Country Fair we saw advertised.

We stumbled across the lighthouse completely by chance. I saw boats in the harbor through some trees and turned off to take pictures. Barbara noticed a sign for the lighthouse on the little side road we'd stopped on. We drove into a little park and saw way out on a long breakwater the light and keepers house. It was a really long breakwater, ¾ of a mile each way we later discovered. No vehicle access and all big fairly uneven blocks of granite mined locally back in 1881.
Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
So we got exercise and some nice pictures of the light and passing sailboats.
A good day for sailing

Our next chance event came because we had TV to watch!

For us that can be a big event. We gave up cable TV and all the subscription channels about a year before we left San Diego on our adventure. We both agreed that there was nothing worth watching on network TV and despite having 200 channels we usually just watched PBS! We found that we could get broadcast TV (Over The Air or OTA for short) on a cheap plastic antenna from COSTCO. We threw away all the boxes, dishes and junk that came with satellite TV and hit the road.

Which has been pretty good for us, we carry DVD's for when we can't get an OTA signal and dive into charity shops every chance we get to restock them and trade in the old ones.

Anyhoo, we haven't had a decent signal in a while but when we moved to Rockland we could get about 5 channels and could catch up on PBS shows we like. Then up up came a blurb about a Country Fair in Unity Maine not far from where we were. We found a cheap campground using our favorite app “RV Parky” for $30 a night in a nice park on a lake. It was so nice we decided to stay to the end of the month.
Perfect reflections on the lake
Our Grand Kids would love this playground
Which finally gets us to the Country Fair!

Super folk music and fiddle music at the fair
Presented by MOFG or more properly the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners it is an all Organic event held outside Unity. The place looked small but every time we turned a corner we found more and more things. We had a really nice time listening to folk music, enjoyed organic hot dogs and fries. Wandered all the usual Country Fair stuff like the craft contests, garden show, vendor area, food court, then when we intended to leave we stumbled on the livestock area.
Other State and County Fairs we've been to have these areas but usually they are where people bring livestock to be judged in a show-ring. This one was different as they had displays of working horses and a first for us Oxen teams! 

We extended our stay by another hour or so just watching those and wandering the stables.

The big draught horses reminded me of growing up in Birkenhead. When I was little my dad delivered bread door to door with a big black horse. He'd stop at home for lunch and the horse would wait outside. He used his massive hooves to kick holes in the roadway. We always seemed to have our own private pothole outside!

All in all a very nice day out, and the weather stayed nice until we got back to the rig. Then the Autumn arrived with a bang, the temperatures dropped and the rain came down.

Clearly it's getting time to head south soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thoughts on leaving Canada

And the baby? He was buried as number 4 with a special headstone but no name, but in 2007 using DNA evidence he was final identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin. None of his family survived the sinking. They were never found.

We have come to the end of our Canada trip. It happened quite suddenly. One minute it seemed we were making plans to see this or that then the next minute we were discussing where to stop when we got to Maine, what we were missing about the US and when to empty the fridge for defrosting before we get to US Customs. (No vegetables or uncooked meats allowed).

Blam!just like that the end came.

It felt almost like the end of a vacation. That feeling that you must leave this behind and get back to the real world. Funny really because it wasn't a vacation, just a side bar to our bigger adventure.

So what have we missed about the US? Being able to buy alcohol in a supermarket for one thing, the Provinces in Canada have Liquor Control Boards and the government runs the outlets. Virginia has something similar but only for “Hard” liquor. Not only do the governments run the stores but in doing so they eliminate the competition and charge top dollar for it. They also control what gets sold and there is some AWFUL beer on the shelves. We're pining for a bottle of Negro Modela, our favorite dark beer and a decent microbrewery with a good brown ale.

Breakfast biscuits! We like throwing a couple of them in the microwave when the morning is cool. They don't stock them in Canada. Apparently everyone is on an all waffle diet up here because the stores stock very little else. My goodness, we've had to resort to scrambled eggs and bacon sandwiches at times!

We've been using Barbara's T-Mobile phone for calls, texts and WiFi in Canada and it's worked out well up until a week ago. I installed Google photo on our phones and Google Backup on my laptop. What I didn't realize was that Backup starts backing up all photos on your hard drive every time it finds an WiFi signal. It gobbled up all our data for the month in a couple of days so we've been limping along on public WiFi at campgrounds and malls etc., As soon as we cross the border we can turn our ATT phones back on and have TONS f data to play with.

And gas for less that $4 a gallon! Although it has dropped in price this week. The past 2 weeks in the run up to Labor Day weekend gas went up from 99c a liter to $1.07 a liter which is just about $4 a gallon. We've kept the tanks low on the rig and the Fiesta, just enough to find a gas station on the other side of the border.

Oh before I forget, we miss cash back at the grocery store too. They don't seem to do that up here so we have been pounding the credit and debit cards. They don't take Discover cards here either so we can't get as much cash back on it either.

Finally we've missed the Elks Lodges. We love to stop at them and visit. It's a real friendly organization and we feel like we're visiting friends when we go into one. We'll have to visit lots over the next coupe of months.

So we're not criticizing Canada, just comparing it to what we've grown used t in the US over the past 35 years. We've enjoyed the people. The Gaelic and French languages. Different customs and values. The scenery and atmosphere in the different regions. We've enjoyed the experience, but the autumn leaves ARE changing and it's making us want to move south. Like the geese and the ducks, we've got the urge to fly south for the winter, and like them we're not intending to do it all in one long trip but to stop and graze along the way. We'll visit some more friends meet some relatives from UK, and enjoy the journey. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Except on that twisty turning super little stretch of coast road!

They say that all good things must come to an end. Whoever “They” are!
In this full time RV life things just move on. We're moving on, heading slowly South back towards the US Border and Maine.

The year is winding down, it's mid September. When we were in the higher areas of Cape Breton Island last week we noticed the very first yellowing of leaves. The beginning of fall, autumn to our European friends.

Where has the last year gone? Looking back in the blog I see we were around Yellowstone and Durango this time last year.

Those memories seem so faded.

Time to make new ones!

A stop I have wanted to make is Halifax NS. My youth was spent on the shores of the River Mersey. I remember in the 50's and 60's sailing on a ship called the “Royal Iris” which did cruises down the Mersey Estuary. There were masts of wrecked ships sticking up out of the water. I was told the ships had sunk there as a result of the terrible convoy battles in World War 2.

Liverpool was the headquarters for North Atlantic Command. The actual control center is still intact and open to the public.

We knew many families who had relatives in the Merchant Navy during the conflict, Merseyside back then was a major port. When I was an apprentice in the shipyard stories would be told about Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, torpedoed ships and the tragic fate of the crews.

The other end of the convoy system was Halifax NS, the ships would gather there then sail with their naval escorts across the Atlantic to face U Boats and storms.

Admiralty House and Canadian Navy Museum
By chance we had visited Sydney NS which was the gathering point for slow convoys. Halifax was for fast convoys with ships capable of maintaining more than 7 knots. The statue dedicated to the many sailors who lost there lives sailing from Sydney was very moving. The convoys didn't stop for survivors, that would make them a bigger target, the men on rafts and in lifeboats were left behind. If they were lucky a small corvette might pick them up. If not they perished.
This dining room held over 100 ships Captains for convoy briefings
Halifax has several major stories connected with it The city was founded to provide a jumping off point to drive the French from Canada. It became the main British naval base in North America. The Canadian navy was founded here. World War 1 and 2 saw convoys leaving from here. Many immigrants came to start new lives thru Halifax.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Museum is housed in Admiralty House in the Naval Dockyard. Currently the building is in some disarray due to renovations and a ton of documentation they have received lately. It's still a fascinating place that shows how the RCN grew immensely between the start of WW1 and the end of WW2 then shrank back down again. 

The ships plaques fascinated me and the bells too. Haunting to think about all those ships and their crews now faded into history.

The Atlantic Maritime Museum is across the city from the Navy Museum and is also well worth a visit.

Models of Steam Ships

Sailing Ships

Ships figureheads in the Atlantic Maritime Museum

A couple of major events are of note.

The Halifax Explosion 1917

In December 1917 a ship called the Mont Blanc caught fire after a collision in the harbor. The crew fled and left the ship to drift upriver with the tide. The ship was loaded with ammunition and it drifted into the north end of the city then exploded. The explosion was the biggest explosive event prior to the atomic bomb.
The ships ½ ton anchor was blown 2 miles from the explosion and huge chunks of the ship fell all over the area.
These pieces of the Mont Blanc flew over 2 miles.
The town was torn apart, fires started, 1950 people were killed. That night a blizzard hit the area. People buried under debris froze to death, survivors had nowhere to shelter.

More people died in this one event than in the Great Fire of Chicago and the Great Earthquake in San Francisco COMBINED. Many times more people.

The Titanic Disaster

Everyone has probably heard of the Titanic and is familiar with the tragedy. What isn't generally know is that although the survivors were taken to New York the dead were brought to Halifax.,_Halifax,_Nova_Scotia

The reason for that is that Halifax was the closest port to the disaster site and there were 3 cable laying ships in port ready to go when the news broke. They sailed almost immediately but it took 3 days before they arrived at the scene.

They retrieved bodies, of which only 1 was floating without a life vest. It was a baby boy about 2 years old. The seamen who had the terrible job of retrieving the bodies were apparently deeply disturbed by the body of the child.
The child's shoes preserved in the Atlantic Maritime Museum
Not all the bodies were brought back to shore, because of lack of room some unidentified bodies were buried at sea. 333 bodies were retrieved, some are buried in other cemeteries. 121 lie in Fairview Cemetery.

White Star paid for headstones. The ones with just a number and date were never identified. The ones with a name on the top were identified from personal effects at the time. The ones with a name on the front were identified later. The bigger headstones were paid for by relatives and have more information.


A headstone paid for by Bruce Ismay.

And the baby? He was buried as number 4 with a special headstone but no name, but in 2007 using DNA evidence he was final identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin. None of his family survived the sinking. They were never found.
Finally identified after 95 years

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cape Breton

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

The other attraction here in the “Maritime Provinces” is the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Naturally we've never been before and so have no idea what to expect. It's been fun exploring.

Cape Breton Island is joined to the mainland by the Canso Causeway. Airplane nuts (like me) probably know that the Canadian Built version of the PBY “Catalina” flying boat in WW2 was called the “Canso”. Now I know where the name came from!

The island isn't huge, you could drive around it in a day. The center of it is the Cape Breton Highland National Park and there are no roads thru it. So it's coast road or stay home. But the coast road is where you'd want to be anyway. More rugged than PEI and so much more scenic in my opinion, most of the island is unspoiled by commercialism. The main industries appear to be fishing and tourism.

Baddeck Harbor 
We decided to split our visit into two pieces. For the first part we'd stay in the south east of the island and drive north on the trail to the National Park at the top, then return the same way. That way we could take our time and get to know the little towns along the way. We stayed in Baddeck at the Cabot Trail Campground which is a Good Sam club park with excellent facilities and free WiFi.

One thing that grabs your attention straight away are the road signs. Instead of English and French like many areas of Canada, they are English and Gaelic here. There is even a Gaelic University. Celtic stores and restaurants abound.

Why? Well the area was settled by Scottish and Irish people who spoke Gaelic and their descendants still do. Listen to the locals talk in their natural accents and you'd swear you were in Ireland. I find it completely fascinating.
Ingonish Beach

Life is slower in Cape Breton. People drive UNDER the speed limit. They stop and let people walk across the road. There's no rush to get you out the door when you've finished your meal. The park guides want to tell you everything about the place IN DETAIL!

For a big city boy like me it's taken a little getting used to. One day I rebelled and drove the Fiesta down the 60 miles of the twisty road well over the speed limit (which is 50 mph). I even overtook several people! I know, I'm bad. Still sometimes I miss the motorcycle, and I just know how much fun that road would have been on a bike.

Twisty Roads and nice scenery
For as much as I'm beginning to hate the Fiesta for it's lousy transmission, I have to say that it does go around corners surprisingly well.

The second part of the visit we had decided to move the rig to another Good Sam park on the north west side of the island in Cheticamp. The Plage St Pierre Campground. Not quite as big or well equipped as the one in Baddeck but still nice and much less expensive. No WiFi though and very full for the Labor Day weekend. "Plage" means beach in French and this park has it's own private beach. There was nobody on it even on this busy weekend.

The boardwalk to the beach
Plage St Pierre on the Labor Day weekend
We went into the town of Cheticamp to shop and get a feel for the place. To our delight this side of the island is Acadian. The Acadians are descended from the French and everywhere we went we had that musical language surrounding us. We tried a local bar the “Doryman Pub” and got talking to Real the bartender. He told us about the area and the music and language associated with it.

Of course the Acadians explored the whole of North America some of them settled in Louisiana. “Acadian” became corrupted and the descendants now answer to the description “Cajun”. They speak the same quaint form of French.

Our daughter Sally when at college was studying French. She spent a semester in Strasbourg France as part of her major. She was intending to teach French in High School when she graduated and as part of that she had to spend time in a High School French class. Unfortunately she and the current teacher had a dispute. She pointed out that he was teaching Canadian French which is quite different from modern French. Real thought that was very amusing! He called modern French “Parisian French”

The Red Shoe Pub
So, apart from breaking speed limits what else have we done? Pretty much the same as we've been doing for several weeks! Eating seafood, visiting fishing villages and lighthouses. If you don't like any of those things you might want to stay away from here.

Sunset on our last evening in Cheticamp
There are whale watching and Puffin watching trips if you'd like to try them, or rent a kayak if that appeals?

Us? We're slowing down to match the locals, taking our time and settling in. Visiting the local watering holes, a distillery, eating out, stopping at all the overlooks.

Except on that twisty turning super little stretch of coast road!