From Florida to the Maritimes
French built largest fort in North America at Louisbourg NS
The Fortress of Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed fortification in North America.
While still three days away from boarding the ferry to Newfoundland/Labrador, we drove southeast to Louisbourg to see the historic old Louisbourg French Fort and lighthouse.
Other than driving through Sydney, there were a couple small communities we bypassed along the way and the countryside was mostly flat and empty. Late afternoon traffic was minimal as we drove through the little unincorporated town of Louisbourg, population about 1,000 to the fort visitor center.
The Louisbourg Lighthouse is on the site where Canada’s first lighthouse was constructed. This one is the fourth in a series to occupy the same site.
Like most of Nova Scotia, the French founded the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1773 on a spit of land across the harbor which would later be the fishing settlement of Louisbourg. The French probably chose this site because the harbor remains ice free during winter. In fact, the harbor was used to bring bodies ashore in April, 1912 from the Titanic which sank 400 miles east of Halifax, NS.
At the time of its construction in 1740 the fortress was the largest European fortification in North America. It was captured by the British in 1758 and the fort, which took 28 years to complete, was destroyed.
Today’s fort was studied for five decades and upon completion is now only one-quarter the size of the original construction but is still a huge, very authentic representation of the original. It is the largest reconstructed fort in North America.
Operated by Parks Canada, the fort offers tours, demonstrations and explanations of weapons,as well as, puppet shows and a museum.
French soldiers in full uniform march through the streets and conduct cannon firings while period costume town residents are doing the daily routines such as baking bread at a stone bakery, cooking over open fires, knitting socks etc., recreating life in an 18th century military town.
NEXT: Hiking the mountains of Cape Breton Island
Family emergency ends Maritimes trip
From Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes, our trip is abruptly ending—almost two months sooner than planned—due to a couple of family health emergencies at home.
The long-planned ferry ride to Newfoundland has been canceled and we are breaking camp and heading back to Florida. The 2,500 mile trip home will take about seven days.
We will overnight at campgrounds in pull-through campsites, keeping the tow car tethered to the RV and hooking up to water and electricity nightly, and sewer lines every two days. Averaging about 325 miles a day, which is manageable in an emergency but not our customary traveling lifestyle, should get us home within seven days.
Maybe some day we can pick-up where we left off and finally make that trip to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Originally posted 08/26/2011
Following the route of William and Kate
The farmhouse near Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write the popular novel “Anne of Green Gables.”
- We found by accident St. Mary’s Catholic Church on a rural road while driving between Cavendish and Charlottetown. The church sponsors the very popular Indian River Festival.
Aboard a British styled double-decker tour bus painted pink to help raise awareness and donations for breast cancer, we took a two-hour tour of downtown Charlottetown, PEI and that included the town’s historic structures and bits of historic information.
Most impressive was the Lieutenant Governor’s House, a large colonial-style home that sits on a hill overlooking the waterfront. It was here British royalty William and Kate stayed when visiting the island in July. The following day they received an official welcome at Province House and did a walkabout on Great George Street while thousands lined the route to get a glimpse, wave and take pictures of the newly wed couple. They also visited the small town of Summerville, located across the harbor from Charlottetown and later the north shore area of PEI which inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write the popular story of Anne of Green Gables.
The following day we followed the royal couple’s itinerary across the island to the central northern coast and the Cavendish area, driving 25 miles past thousands of acres of blooming potatoes, corn and wheat.
Ate an early lunch of fried clams and chowder on a seafood restaurant’s outdoor patio in the tiny fishing village of Stanley Bridge and watched as youngsters jumped off the popular bridge by the same name into the cool ocean waters.
We toured the farm that was the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book “Anne of Green Gables” at Avonlea and drove along the shoreline of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Prince Edward Island National Park with its unique sand dunes and red sandstone cliffs before taking a different route back to Cornwall through more scenic farming country.
Dinner was spoiled or at least delayed a bit with a double scoop of “moople walnut” ice cream at Cow’s factory just outside Charlottetown, voted Canada’s best and elsewhere as far as we’re concerned. Have tried the island’s chocolate covered mashed potatoes and found it surprisingly very tasteful but haven’t sampled the chocolate covered potato chips.
We will be driving back across the Confederation Bridge tomorrow taking a couple days to cross Nova Scotia to North Sydney where we will board the ferry to Newfoundland and Labrador. To date, we have driven almost 3,000 miles in the RV from our home base in St. Augustine, Florida.
Many small fishing communities add to the charm and scenery of Prince Edward Island. This one is located on the Malpeque Bay area on the island’s north shore.
- Signaling the end of the season, hundreds, if not thousands of lobster traps are stacked neatly behind a row of buildings in a small fishing village on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Gearing up for Newfoundland ferry ride
Originally posted 08/25/2011
Getting U.S. meds filled in Canada is not easy task
Getting ready to board the pink double-decker tour bus operated by Gray Lines for a two hour tour through Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The buses were painted pink to raise awareness and raise funds for breast cancer.
Spoiled by national pharmacies that allow prescription refills at any branch in the country, we made another wrong assumption that refilling in Canada would be as simple as stopping at the next corner drug store.A mistake made before leaving Florida was the assumption that 90-days worth of prescription meds would carry us through this Canadian Maritime trip. Little did we know that the trip would last longer.
Two bad assumptions that proved costly.
Realizing that our trip would be extended because of RV repairs in New Brunswick and concerned that I would run out of meds, I decided to refill three prescriptions here on Prince Edward Island before leaving next week for Newfoundland. Surprisingly, there were no Walgreen’s or CVS pharmacies in the Provinces but there was a Wal-Mart in Charlottetown where we are currently camped.
The bad news came from a Wal-Mart pharmacist who said U. S. prescriptions cannot be refilled in Canada, and visa-versa. Okay, I’ll just ask my U. S. doctor to fax new orders for prescriptions. Politely, the pharmacist said I would have to get new prescriptions ordered and signed by a Canadian doctor which brings up another new bunch of problems; starting with getting in to see a doctor.
A local physician only a mile the Cornwall campground was not accepting new patients but passed along a list of three walk-in clinics in downtown Charlottetown. After taking my turn in the waiting room along with about a dozen other patients, a doctor reviewed the prescription bottles, asked the usual medical questions and obligingly wrote out new prescription orders. I paid the customary $60 office (rather than the $20 co pay) visit because the physician here does not file for payment through U. S. insurance companies. I took the prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy for filling and expecting to pay the $15 prescription co-pay, heard more good news: Canadian pharmacies, at least this one, does not file insurance claims with U. S. insurance companies. Ouch.
Confederation Players dressed in period costumes provide a walk through tour in the historic downtown section of Charlottetown, PEI.
It was necessary for me to pay $350 up front for the meds, $60 for the doctor’s office visit to get the prescriptions, save all the paper work and file for reimbursement upon return home.
With another assumption that the insurance company will reimburse the expenses, we won’t see that $410 again for at least six months. Double ouch!
Since the day was almost shot, we found a section of Victoria Street closed to traffic and a restaurant with street-side seating and ate pan-fried oysters from the popular Malpeque Bay area farms. Just before closing, we did a self-guided tour of St. Dunstan’s Basilica, a beautiful cathedral, on Great George Street.
We would later learn that Charlottetown has more churches per capita than any city in Canada.
Tracing William and Kate’s visit to PEI
Originally posted 08/23/2011
Blown away by the scenery at Prince Edward Island
Working for tips, a couple of talented street artists use pastels to draw a picture on the sidewalk along the waterfront at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
It is early August when we cross Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, Canada and drive east onto Prince Edward Island (PEI) where visitors are visually treated to a pastoral welcome that defines and sets this province apart from the others: lush green fields,
Talented young performers dance Celtic style for vacationers at free afternoon concerts along the Charlottetown waterfront.
well-manicured farms and rolling countryside.
Rains that chased us across the unforgettable eight-mile-long linking bridge have ended and help to showcase fields of blooming potatoes, corn, soybeans and wheat. The drive along the island’s interior to Charlottetown, our destination for the next four days, is only 55 miles. Without even seeing the picturesque coastline, we are already blown-away by the scenery and realize once again that we will be sleeping with the RV windows open under one of Martha’s handmade quilts.
It is no wonder England’s William and Kate chose to stop here on their recent nine-day royal tour of Canada. During our stay in Moncton, N.B., we enjoyed hearing first hand stories of the royals visit from camping neighbors who were invited to meet and shake hands with William and Kate.
The KOA campground at Cornwall, located on the outskirts of Charlottetown, fronts on large lake but unfortunately all the waterfront sites are taken and we are assigned a grass site in a large open field.
Getting to our site required taking a loop road and confronting a low hanging limb brought down but still hanging high in the tree from the previous night’s thunderstorm. After a campground employee was unable to reach the limb from ground level, I volunteered to climb on top of the RV with a chain saw and cut the limb while Martha, grounded and shaking her head, rightfully protested.
With the limb successfully removed, we drove through the campground to our site in a grassy field which is still wet from previous rains and start the ten minute set-up process.
The tow car is disconnected, water, electricity and sewer lines are all connected and the two slides are extended. However, the hydraulic jacks which extend from underneath the RV and onto the ground for leveling, sank into the wet soil about six inches leaving the RV sitting on a slant.
We drove into Charlottetown and found a lumber yard, purchased four pieces of 2″x12″ planks of wood and more importantly, happened upon a nice brew pub in an historic old building a few blocks off Charlottetown’s waterfront. The pub was a former convent and served a thick, dark beer that I compared to Valvoline which drew a blank stare from the bartender.
An hour later and with darkness approaching, we are back at the campground where the driver, fortified with a pint of Iron Horse Dark, is privileged to crawl underneath the RV onto the wet ground and place one plank under each of the three leveling jacks to provide a hard surface for the jacks which promptly leveled the RV and considerably straightened its inhabitants as best it could under the circumstances.
NEXT: Kate and William and the Hughes’s slept here
Originally posted 08/21/2011
Rain, wind on eight mile bridge to Prince Edward Island tests RV driving skills
It’s raining and windy again. Not a good thing as Martha would say.
At least half of the last week spent cooling heels waiting for the RV to be repaired were wet days. Some were very wet.
That’s behind us now as the ailing Green Knight has been released from the RV doctor in Moncton, New Brunswick and heading for Prince Edward Island with the Hughes’s behind the wheel.
It takes two people to drive a 40- foot RV pushed along by a 15-foot tow car. Add a three foot tow-bar and the rig is 58-feet long and rivaling the length of a semi-truck and trailer. The only qualification needed to drive this outfit is gray hair, stiff neck and a Medicare card in the wallet. I have all three.
Getting to Prince Edward Island is going to be exciting (my definition) and downright scary (the passenger’s declaration).
Ahead, amidst the blowing rain and fog lies the two lane eight-mile long Confederation Bridge, the only land link between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Due to the rain and fog as white as cotton, visibility on the S shaped bridge is only about a mile, giving it the appearance of floating on water and driving into a cloud. Spooky.
The Green Knight’s air bag suspension system already provides a “floating feeling” similar to a Greyhound bus. Combine that feel of floating with the appearance of driving into a cloud and Martha said the scene was straight out of a Hitchcock movie. Turning around, however, is not an option. Once on the bridge, the only option is to keep going.
She was unaware that this bridge at the highest point is 197 feet high or 27 feet higher than Jacksonville’s big Dame Point Bridge. She refuses to drive across that bridge and might have cancelled this trip had she known.
Martha shouts for me to slow down as drivers wanting to reach the 45 mph speed limit pile up behind the RV. We are only a few miles on to the bridge when the road ahead goes higher. It appears to level off a bit then goes even higher, probably reaching the 131 feet height of most of the bridge. At 12 feet high the RV provides a wide-open unobstructed view through the big windshield that sends Martha out of the passenger seat and onto the couch behind the driver’s seat. She has her head down, her eyes closed and talking continuously about nothing in particular. She could see the highest part of the span ahead—the 197-foot navigation section for big ship traffic.
Persistent and gusty winds are pushing broadside against the RV but the rain has slowed. Keeping it on the road is not a problem, just a nuisance. On top of the span I told Martha I could finally see the other side of the Strait and the end of the bridge. She would take my word for it, without a peek. I speed up to 45 miles per hour on the downhill, probably to the cheer of trailing motorists, and the road flattens again as we approach the Prince Edward Island side of the bridge.
The eight mile trip took about 15 minutes. We pulled into the Welcome Center which also included several blocks of restaurants and retail shops and unwound with a bowl of seafood chowder, shared a lobster roll sandwich and fried clams. It was here that we were introduced to the best ice cream in the world–Cow’s. It was already judged Canada’s best before winning the world title.
During the next few days, we will sample a half dozen of their varieties and agree with the voter’s selection. It was special ice cream.
More about the bridge: In the old days (prior to 1997) Prince Edward Island, the smallest of the Canadian Provinces, was only accessible by ferry and air. It took nearly a century of debate before deciding to build a “fixed-link” across the North- umberland Strait, eliminating the costly government-run ferry system between PEI and New Brunswick. Some locals opposed the new bridge because of ecological reasons as well as a general concern for its impact on island lifestyle. Life on an island is certainly more isolated and less impacted than every day life connected by a bridge. It is presently the longest bridge in the world to cross ice-covered salt water and built at a cost of $1.1 billion. One of the longest continuous span bridges in the world Confederation Bridge replaced a three-hour ferry ride.
Next: Following the footsteps of William and Kate Originally posted 08/18/2011
Climbing the world’s largest lobster in Shediac
Large stacks of wood outside a fish smoke house in Cap-Pele, NB. The small community has numerous herring processing plants and a large commercial fishing fleet. The smell of smoke from the herring drying plants is evident throughout the community.
Cooling our heels for a week in Moncton, New Brunswick awaiting repairs to the RV, is easy when the temperatures are in the 70’s and Canada’s beaches and lobsters are nearby.
It’s only about 20 miles east from our campsite to Shediac, the self-proclaimed and deserving “Lobster Capitol of the World” and home to the world’s largest lobster. The lobster earning the world’s largest title is not real—it’s a sculptured creature perched on a big slab and overlooking Northumberland Strait.
The town’s connection to the lobster industry is further promoted by the annual lobster festival in July which we missed by a few weeks. Lobsters are on the menu of most every restaurant in the town of about 6,000 people. After stopping for a lobster roll sandwich, we drove northeast from Shediac a few miles to Pointe du Chene and briefly visited crowded Parlee Beach Provincial Park which hosted a concert by the Beach Boys back in the 80’s, according to Wikipedia.
We drove north on a highway out of Shediac and enjoyed the waterfront scenery and small communities before heading back to Moncton.
Two friends from Quebec are driving through Moncton on a return trip from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia arrived today at Camper’s City. We met them last year in a South Carolina campground. They planned their trip to Prince Edward Island to coincide with the visit of English royalty William and Kate.
The following day the four of us drove south to the Bay of Fundy area and visited picturesque Cape Enrage and its 1847 lighthouse. The area derived its name from a dangerous reef that extends into the bay, causing turbulent water conditions for boaters. The Lighthouse and its adjacent buildings were rescued from demolition by a group of high school students from Moncton.
From Cape Enrage we drove about 15 minutes south to the small fishing community of Alma and ate fried clams and seafood chowder at a waterfront outdoor restaurant during a thunderstorm, complete with lightning and rain.
With plans to boil our own lobster supper, we visited one of several lobster shops in the small town of about 300 people, and bought four 1.5 pound live lobsters and returned to Moncton’s Camper’s City campground.
A pavilion provided cover from the steady rain and a dry place for the cooker. Twenty minutes later four steaming hot lobsters were removed from the pot and our first home-cooked lobster supper was served.
The lobster-clam feeding spree continues.
Next: The Green Knight is back on the road
Originally posted 08/11/2011
Music, movies and mud while waiting in the Maritimes
The Green Knight and its downtrodden passengers are parked in a Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada campground and waiting for an appointment next week with the RV doctor. Disappointed at having to cancel ferry reservations for Newfoundland/Labrador and backtracking more than 200 miles from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to Moncton to find a doctor willing to fix the ailing land beast, why not add a little more misery to the moment—it’s raining to beat the band.
On a higher note and speaking of “the band,” dozens of RV’s and tent campers are arriving at Camper City campground in preparation for this weekend’s big U2 concert. It is the last of a 200 concert world tour for the Irish rock band and its popular lead singer Bono. Rain is forecast for the concert which will be held in an outdoor uncovered amphitheatre. Woodstock with clothes on? Likely since most of the concert goers we have met are middle-aged U2 fans dating back to the mid 80s when the group went international. Crowds of about 85,000 people are expected at the concert, which coincidentally, is the population of Moncton.
It’s a good day to take in the last Harry Potter movie, find a bookstore that sells Starbucks coffee and curl up in a corner with a good book.
That’s one nice thing about this campground; it’s close to town and lots of things to do on a rainy day. Following the movie we found a Chapter’s book store and Starbucks in nearby Dieppe. Chapter’s is Canada’s answer to Barnes & Nobles.
Life is good. At least it has been so far.
Originally posted 08/10/2011
Trouble on the road halts Newfoundland trip
After driving 90 minutes back to New Glasgow, the RV dealer looked at the bunched-up gasket hanging inside the Green Knight and admitted they did not have the expertise to remove the slide and replace the seal. A phone call to a Halifax RV dealer produced the same answer. The problem can’t be fixed in Nova Scotia. Ugghh.
Our U. S. cell phone plan does not include international calling which eliminates our phone internet connection and the ability to gather information and phone numbers of other dealers.
After driving to a nearby Wal-Mart and buying a 200 minute international phone calling card, we proceeded to a McDonald’s and connected to the free wifi. Over a quarter-pounder with cheese, fries and a soft drink, a repair shop in Moncton, New Brunswick was located and the owner said he could fix the problem.
Left without options, we backtrack another 130 miles to Moncton; we were there a week ago. Our ferry reservations to Newfoundland for the RV, tow car and two passengers were cancelled. Efforts to reschedule will be made when the RV is repaired. Several campground reservations in Newfoundland were also cancelled.
We arrived shortly before dark at Camper City; a big campground centrally located in Moncton and went about the routine of hooking-up water, sewer and electrical lines into the campground system. Both slides are extended and 50 amps of electrical service powers the electrical goodies inside the RV, including a couple of roof air conditioners.
Homemade cheese purchased from an Amish farmer in Lancaster, Pa., is shared with our camping neighbors from New Hampshire who share some “must-see” info about Nova Scotia.
A well-worn collapsible propane barbeque grill is hauled from the RV’s storage area and homemade bratwurst sausages bought at a Truro, Nova Scotia farmers market are cooked for supper.
During the night we awoke to drizzling rain. Fears of a water leak around the slide were unnecessary as the rain fizzled out. The RV interior remained dry.
We break camp the next morning and drive about five miles to the repair shop and receive both good and bad news: Yes, he can fix it, but not for seven days because his repair shop is booked solid.
The RV is returned to the campground, hooked again to the campground facilities and another week is added to our stay. We spend the day cleaning the RV, doing laundry and catching up on emails.
Martha fixed dinner: a pot of cranberry beans, pork tenderloin and sliced tomatoes picked green and now ripe from our home garden. It feels like home although we’re almost 3,000 miles from St. Augustine and still headed north and east; at least we will be when the Green Knight is patched-up.
A camping friend once told me not to be in a hurry. “You are retired,” he said. “You have the rest of your life.”
Originally posted 08/08/2011
Ferry trip to Newfoundland appears iffy
(Above : A freighter leaves Linwood Harbor on the northern end of Nova Scotia.)
Among the highlights of this three month trip from Florida to the Canadian Maritimes, is the 14-hour ferry ride from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. At least two weeks, maybe longer, is planned for the Newfoundland portion of the trip.
We have become accustomed to traveling without a schedule—taking it one day at a time, we like to say.
The only absolute place we have to be on a certain day is the date we sail along with the RV and the tow car on the Newfoundland bound ferry. It’s a huge multi-decked ferry, capable of hauling big RV’s, semi-trucks and buses along with passengers. Reservations were made two months ago, assuring a seat and a parking spot on the ferry.
We are camped in a small but pleasant campground with about 25 camp sites in a little “burp” of a town near Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. North Sydney and the ferry are about three hours away. We will arrive at North Sydney two days ahead of the ferry sailing date and stay at a campground only 15 minutes from the ferry dock.
My traveling companion, sometimes referred to as my first wife of 45 years is a retired first grade teacher who is in charge of trip planning. She works on our travel itinerary like she’s putting together daily lesson class plans for a bunch of six-year-olds; very meticulous and detailed. Only on a long interstate highway where she is assured the driver will not miss a turn will she drag out the knitting bag and put away the maps. She knows where I am every mile of the trip, the next fuel stop, the next rest area, etc. All I have to do is keep The Green Knight between the ditches. She does the rest.
Distance traveled, whether mileage or kilometers, are measured; travel time predicted, truck stops planned far in advance for fueling, campgrounds reviewed and selected and reservations made and duly recorded for every day of our trip. It’s the teacher who is responsible for this two nice day cushion in tiny Linwood, Nova Scotia.
This trip will probably cover 6,000 miles before we return to Florida and with each mile driven in this big lumbering house on wheels, comes the opportunity for mechanical malfunctions. Hence, the two days cushion before boarding the ferry.
Well, the inevitable has happened.
A weather seal, or gasket, on one of the RV slide-outs has failed. The “slide-out” is an extension that opens on the sides of the RV and expands the interior space; makes a crowded space seem more like a nice apartment. The seal keeps water from leaking into the RV’s interior. The Green Knight has two slides—one of them a so-called super slide that is 29 feet long. It’s the super slide that lost its rubber slide gasket. When the slide goes out, big bunches of the rubber gasket is visible inside the RV. There is no tight seal between the slide and the RV; an open invitation to rain. And naturally, it rains a lot in this part of North America, particularly in August and September.
Fixing the seal will require a 60-mile trip back to New Glasgow to the only RV service center capable of making the repair in Nova Scotia.
If they can’t fix the problem, we may have to park the RV and proceed in the tow car and tour Newfoundland without the Green Knight. Not a big deal, but certainly not the way we wanted to see the country.
We have two days before boarding the ferry. If the RV can be repaired in two days, we can drive the distance from New Glasgow to North Sydney and make the ferry boarding schedule.
It’s a wait and see situation right now.
In the meantime, we may be able to stay in the RV inside the service center parking lot at night while repairs are made during the day. Otherwise, we’ll head for a motel.
Our camping neighbor is a middle-aged couple from Cape Breton Island. He’s a lobster/crab fisherman during the season but also owns a couple other businesses in Nova Scotia and is taking a few weeks vacation in Linwood. Noticing my small step ladder was too short for a close-up inspection of the malfunctioning gasket, he produces a long extension ladder then finds the name and phone number of the RV dealer in New Glasgow. He doubted if anyone else in Nova Scotia could fix the problem. Fifth wheels and pull behind trailers are extremely popular in this part of the country. Few locals own Class A motorhomes.
Later in the afternoon, he knocks on the front door and presents us with a couple two and a half pound lobsters, steaming and fresh from the boiling pot. What a surprise. He caught us speechless and pleased that we had passed up a pricey $40 lobster dinner earlier in the day at a local restaurant.
Here was five pounds of cooked and ready to eat lobster with claws so large they would barely fit between the jaws of shellfish crackers. My goodness, what a neighbor!!
NEXT: Plugging an unwelcome leak in The Green Knight
Originally posted 08/05/2011