A Tour of the Maritime Provinces
(August 5 to August 27)
You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page, or you can click on specific links in the text to get to the photos associated with that part of the travelogue.
Because this travelog covers three weeks of travel and is rather long, I have added subtitles to the text to break it up into sections that can be read over multiple sessions. I have also written a short Prologue for this travelog.
It seemed like almost every day provided something of interest or excitement during our three weeks in Newfoundland. We saw so many great sites along the way and, hopefully, the photos will do them justice. We saw icebergs (three of them); moose (lots, but it was difficult to get good photos); whales (several); interesting birds, such as the puffins (thousands); shorelines; mountains; forests; barren land; a very unique bus/camper; and we thought we might have found "Hobbiton". We visited the area where John Cabot landed in 1497, and toured a replica of his ship, the Matthew; visited the area where the Vikings landed over a thousand years ago, and toured a replica of a Viking village circa 1000 AD; participated in a Viking Feast; saw Linda "accuse" Norm and me in the Viking Court of ogling other women; got "screeched-in" to become honorary Newfies by having to eat like a Newfie, talk like a Newfie, drink like a Newfie, romance like a Newfie, and dance like a Newfie; and witnessed a dazzling display of the Aurora Borealis on one beautiful, clear, cool night. We fought off little nasty, blood sucking black flies in St. Anthony and Labrador that made Diane's face look like she had a case of the measles. We boondocked in a couple of great spots, especially the two incredible nights we parked on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And, of course, we continued to meet old RV friends and several new RV, and non-RV friends along the way.
Tuesday, August 5 - We usually don't leave on a travel day until sometime around the crack of 10, but we had to get up very early this morning, like 6 a.m., which is an unnatural act, to drive to North Sydney to board the ferry to Newfoundland. We left the campground around 6:45 and headed up the road towards the Seal Island Bridge. It was a pretty tight fit, but we made it across without a problem. When we got to the ferry location, we were surprised to see how many vehicles were already there and lined up to board, and we got there more than an hour early.
The ferry was a much bigger ship than the one we were on from PEI to Nova Scotia. This one held many more vehicles and had much more room on board. It was an interesting boarding process as cars, RVs, and semis loaded on both decks. The guys who loaded and unloaded the ship sure knew what they were doing. We grabbed some stuff to take upstairs to stay busy during the crossing, locked up the rigs, and went to find a place to park ourselves for the trip. Norm and Linda opted to sit in an area with airplane type seats while Diane and I set ourselves up in the cafeteria where it was cooler, had larger tables, was much brighter, and had an electric outlet handy to plug in the laptop.
At one point, Diane had gone for a walk and came back to tell me that entertainment was about to start in the lounge. So I packed up the laptop and joined her in the lounge after walking over to tell Norm and Linda about the entertainment. The act that performed during the crossing was Frank Taylor, a.k.a. "The Flying Scotsman". He was a singer/songwriter and he was very good. He had another guy with him (whose name escapes me) who played various whistles, the flute, an Irish drum, and an instrument that resembled a bagpipe, but without having to blow into it.
Frank was a Canadian who played in pubs, clubs, festivals, and other venues. He not only sang, but played guitar, and he picked it rather than just strummed chords. He also told some great jokes. His song repertoire included Celtic, Colonial, Contemporary, and Canadian selections. Oh, and did I mention that he also wore his Scotsman's kilt to add ambience to his performance? His Scottish accent, which Diane loved, made the music sound even better and authentic. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours. I hadn't bought a CD in quite a while, but we liked his voice and music, so we added this one to our collection.
The ferry crossing took about five hours. We set our clocks another half hour later (yes, a half hour later for Newfoundland time) and got ready to disembark. It was pretty cool how they unloaded the ferry to minimize any damages to vehicles. Rather than empty one long column at a time by having vehicles travel down a tight lane to the exit, they kind of empty the ferry from side to side with a couple of vehicles leaving from each column. That process helped minimize the chance that trucks and RVs touch mirrors. We didn't plan to drive very far today, so we headed up to the Visitor Center to get some information. However, the six big Monaco motorhomes that were traveling together got off before we did and, along with a few other RVs, filled up the parking lot. So we kept going until we spotted a large paved area off to the right side of the road with nothing in it. We pulled in and decided to park there for the night. There was a small sign that said no overnight parking, but it didn't seem to phase the one police car that Norm saw go by. By night's end, there were four rigs in the area.
Our first impressions were WOW. In just the first 11 miles we drove, we were awed by the rugged beauty of the landscape as we passed by Twin Hills and the Table Mountain. The parking area was at the base of the mountain and across the road was the sea, the Cabot Strait. What a great way to spend our first night in Newfoundland.
Wednesday, August 6 - Well, today was a first for me. I was mooned. Yes, the way you are probably thinking of being mooned. Last night, the fourth vehicle to pull into the parking area was a small Class B Westfalia van. He pulled up in front of our motorhome and then backed up a little towards our front end. This morning, as we were milling around in our motorhome, I noticed that the curtains that covered the rear window in the van were being opened. A woman peered out and made eye contact with me as I was up front near the TV and looking out the windshield. Some time later I was again walking towards the front of the motorhome and noticed the man had come out of the van and was walking around. I was saying to Diane that I wondered if the van had some kind of porta-potty as it would be hard for me to travel in such a vehicle without a bathroom. I barely finished my sentence when I noticed something white moving around in the van as the woman, clothed only with a top, prepared to sit down. It was obvious that the van had a porta-potty. She finished her business, got up, and milled around until she finally pulled on a black thong. Now, you might ask, why would I watch such a site? Well, why not? She didn't seem to care or she wouldn't have opened the curtain until AFTER she was dressed. Norm asked me if I had gotten any pictures. I didn't. In any case, I have now been mooned. What a province. I love it already.
We had discussed travel plans with Norm and Linda and we were in agreement that we would put in a couple of long travel days to get to St. John's and then slowly make our way back towards the ferry for the return to Nova Scotia on August 27. We headed out around 10:30 and thought we would drive until one of us had enough driving for one day. We ended up driving to Gander, which had us on the road about seven hours minus a stop for fuel and lunch. You may remember that Gander was the town in Newfoundland where many of the international flights returning to the USA from Europe were diverted on 9/11. People were stranded in Newfoundland for several days until the extent of the terrorist threat could be determined. The stories about how nicely the people in Gander treated all the stranded passengers were in the news for days after the attack.
The Colberts had told us about an Elk's Lodge in Gander where we could probably boondock. We found it, went in and asked if we could park overnight. The guy said we could stay as long as we wanted, but it would get busy on Friday with Bingo. We decided to modify our plans and spend two nights in Gander and tour Twillingate tomorrow. One reason for changing our plans was that the Greer's caravan would be in St. John's over the weekend and suck up a bunch of sites, so we decided to tour some other areas first and then go to St. John's early next week. It's great to have such flexibility.
The bar in the Lodge was open, so we all got something to drink before thanking the folks and getting parked in the back of the parking lot. It put us right behind an Irving fuel station that also had a Tim Horton's (think Dunkin Donuts plus) attached to it. We asked about places to eat and ended up walking a short distance to a Jungle Jim's for some Tex-Mex food, which was very good. After dinner, we walked back to the rigs and Norm unhooked his car for tomorrow's touring. One thing we have noticed is that it got VERY cool here at night, like mid-40s. But the two days we have been in Newfoundland have been gorgeous at around 70 degrees.
Twillingate - The Kittiwake Coast
Thursday, August 7 - There was a Tim Horton's right outside our front door, so it was hard to resist going there for some pastries for breakfast before heading out for a day of touring the Twillingate area. After breakfast, we drove through town to find the post office where our mail should be waiting for us next week when we come back through Gander. Then we headed north up along Route 330 towards Twillingate. The views were spectacular and I'm not sure I can put it into words so, for a change, I think I'll pretty much just let the photos of the Twillingate area speak for themselves.
We traveled up Route 330 towards Twillingate and passed through some postcard pretty towns, such as Hillgrade. What a picture. We also passed through the towns of Virgin Arm followed by Dildo Run.
Bonavista - The Discovery Trail
Friday, August 8 - It was a beautiful day for a drive today as we made our way to the Bonavista Peninsula about 2 1/2 hours away. Everyone we spoke to when we were researching this journey said we had to visit Bonavista. There weren't many options for campgrounds in the area. One campground had a 30 foot limit, another had a 25 foot limit. I found Paradise Farm Trailer Park that said they took big rigs, so I booked the two rigs into that park for the weekend. Initially, we thought we'd head straight for St. John's, but we knew there would be a caravan there, so we decided to wait until it left. It turned out that it didn't matter as there seemed to always be caravans in the main RV park in St. John's, Pippy Park. We just decided to go ahead and visit Bonavista before heading to St. John's.
We drove along Trans Canada Highway (TCH) 1 until we got to Route 230 and then headed north. Along the way we passed a motorhome coming south who seemed to be waving, except that I read his wave more like a "wave off", a negative wave. Norm and I had been communicating on CB channel 5, so I quickly switched to channel 19 and heard the guy trying to raise the Dutch Stars. I answered him and he asked if we had ever driven the road before, and I told him we hadn't. He said it was a very bad road in spots as we got closer to Bonavista. Well, it was pretty rough in spots, but it certainly wasn't any worse than I-10 through Louisiana and part of Texas. Unfortunately, I lost him on the CB as we were moving in opposite directions. I wanted to ask him where he stayed. I found out that he was in Paradise Farm because I told this story to the owner and she knew who it was and described his motorhome.
Paradise Farm Trailer Park was the remnant of an old farm with some RV sites around an open area. We got two side-by-side level sites. The only "problem" was that even though it said "big rigs welcome", the power was only 15 amps, so that kind of faked us out. But it wasn't a problem given the weather had been nothing short of gorgeous with cool nights and warm days. We had been using the furnace to warm up the rig in the morning and didn't need the air conditioner during the day because we have mostly been out touring. We got set up and drove into Bonavista to find the lighthouse and "the dungeon". We drove right to the tip of the peninsula and visited the area around the lighthouse, which provided some spectacular coastal scenery. There were several whales feeding off shore that were clearly visible to the naked eye, and a better view through binoculars. After watching the whales and taking lots of photos of the coast, we headed to Dungeon Provincial Park to find the rock formation known as "the dungeon" which were rocks that were listed as more than 600 million years old.
We stopped at the market to get some groceries and then went home to grill the cod that we all bought in Twillingate yesterday. Another great meal prefaced by an aperitif of kir. After dinner, Diane and Linda went for a walk while Norm washed his car, which I had done as soon as we arrived, and I went to practice some golf shots with my wedge in the open field. I got into a conversation with four guys who are in the campground, two of whom were Newfies. The other guy, Normand Laurier, was from Montreal. He was interested in spending a month in Florida next winter and asked me about places to stay. I told him about some places he might consider. We agreed to stay in touch and I told him I would help him research it when I got back to the USA and had access to the Internet again. It's so great to keep meeting new folks on the road.
Saturday, August 9 - You may remember an interesting day I wrote about in the last travelog when we found Ray and Earline Greer at a campground in Baddeck. Well, today turned out to be even more interesting.
We started our day with breakfast at the Baie Vista Restaurant in Bonavista. While we were eating, two couples came in and sat down at a table next to us. I actually had to do a double take because I thought the guy was a double for Fuzzy Zoeller, the golf professional. After a while, I started a chat with them and found out they were from St. John's and had come to Bonavista on the Fuzzy double's 45-foot Bayliner boat. He and his wife picked it up in Stuart, Florida and took it up as far as North Carolina before hiring someone to take it to Newfoundland. He said he wasn't yet retired, but could come and go as he pleased as his sons ran the business he owned. I asked him if anyone ever told him he looked like Fuzzy Zoeller and his wife said it happens frequently. We had a very nice chat about boating up the Intracoastal Waterway.
After breakfast, we went home for a short time and then started out on what ended up being a roughly 140 mile, 7 1/2 hour drive around the Bonavista Peninsula. We headed south on Route 230 towards the Trinity area where the film "The Shipping News" was filmed. We drove through several towns along the way and detoured down just about every arm off the main road and stopped often for photo ops. At one point, we found that we had run out of paved road, but I kept driving onto the dirt road. Then we came to a cross road and had no idea which way to turn. It seemed like we should be going straight across, but that looked like a narrow one-lane road. It wasn't. As we were slowly driving down the "road", a man and woman came into sight around a curve. I stopped and rolled down the window and said, "We're on a hiking trail, huh?". They laughed and said that's what we were on, but the road was a short way down the trail. We kept on going as the brush cut the trail down to less than the width of the car. Sigh. Nothing a little wax won't fix. ;-) We did finally extricate ourselves from the trail and onto a road, and then back to Route 230.
We followed Route 230 until it met Route 235 which would take us back north on the west side of the peninsula with more arms off the main road. We checked out every arm except one as we made our way back up towards the town of Bonavista. As we were traveling north, I saw a white object in the water ahead and down below us. Having been told that it was too late in the season to see any icebergs, none of us thought that's what it might be. However, it was an iceberg. Not a huge one, but an iceberg all the same. We drove down into the cove in Summerville until we found a spot to take some photos. It was pretty cool to see an iceberg. We saw some photos of some huge icebergs from years past and some of them were like city skyscrapers.
Just as we turned onto the road to go find the iceberg, a Country Coach motorhome with Texas plates was off to the side of the road. Diane spotted the Escapees RV Club decal on the back of the motorhome, so we pulled up along side and honked the horn to get the driver's attention. We said we were all also Escapees and also full-timers. We pulled off the road and got out of the car to meet our fellow RVers. After hugs all around (an Escapees tradition), we introduced ourselves and chatted about our travels. These folks were Martha and Gene Merryman, formerly from Greensboro, North Carolina. They had been in Newfoundland for six weeks with probably another four weeks to go before leaving. The interesting thing was that they were spending the entire summer touring Newfoundland and had only been a very few days in campgrounds in six weeks as they love to boondock and kept finding places to do that. Gene referred to themselves as "loose chickens" and they just find places to stay. That kind of travel isn't for everyone, but there are a lot of folks who thrive on that. For some, it's a financial thing and boondocking saves money on campground fees that then allows money for other activities. For others, it's the challenge of the hunt for places where they can boondock. I've mentioned before that we do a little boondocking, but not much. We will probably do a bit more of it from time to time, but we like to be in campgrounds with full hookups.
The Merrymans told us about some great places where they had boondocked in Newfoundland, and some stories about some of the people they've met along the way. Part of this meeting that made it all the more interesting was that they knew Nancy and Bob Colbert, the folks we met, and that Norm and Linda already knew, at Seal Cove on Prince Edward Island. Another small world story. It was all a chance occurrence that we met the Merrymans today. I was thinking we would cut across the peninsula a bit north of where we ran into them, but Diane had read about some places to the south, so we went in that direction instead. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have met new RV friends and fellow Escapees. What a great lifestyle we have.
When we visited the lighthouse yesterday, we saw a menu in the craft shop for the Skippers Cafe in Bonavista. One of the menu items was crab au gratin, which whetted all of our appetites. So it was a no-brainer that we would eat dinner tonight at the Skippers Cafe. We all ordered the crab au gratin and it was delicious, and they weren't skimpy with the crabmeat. It cost an incredible $8.99 Canadian. What a price performer. We'd probably pay upwards of $18 in the States for such a dinner.
Between the drive down a hiking trail and meeting the Merrymans alongside the road, it was a fun and interesting day.
Sunday, August 10 - Today was our last day in the Bonavista area. We were blessed by three days of gorgeous weather. Diane and I were up early and went to the N&N Restaurant up the road for breakfast. After driving to the post office to mail some postcards, we decided to go back to the campground via Route 238 and through Elliston and Maberly. It turned out to be one of the best areas for photo ops.
Elliston calls itself the root cellar of the world. More than 130 root cellars have been documented in the Elliston area. The oldest known cellar was built in 1839 and was still in use. The people who settled the area grew their own vegetables, mostly potatoes, turnips, carrots, and cabbage. Root cellars kept a constant, cool temperature year round. Except for the cabbage, which was usually pickled, the vegetables were stored in root cellars for use through the year until the next crop was harvested. They also stored meat, fish, and dairy products in the root cellars, but for shorter periods. Diane and I both had the same thought as we looked at a couple of root cellars - that we had found Hobbiton, the home of the Hobbits.
I had seen a couple of ladies walking up the road with a nice looking Sheltie. On the way out of Elliston, I saw them sitting up on a porch, so I stopped to comment on the nice looking dog. They asked if we had gone out to Bird Island to see all the birds. We didn't see a way out there. The ladies told us where to park and how to walk out to see the birds, mostly seagulls and puffins. What a great view. There were thousands of birds. We also saw several whales off in the distance.
The sun wasn't right for some of the photos I took, so we decided to go back later in the day. We told Norm and Linda about the area, so we went back out there with them. After getting lots of photos, we went into Bonavista to try and get a photo of the Matthew, the replica of John Cabot's ship. Then we went back to Skippers Cafe where we ate last night. We all wanted to try the Fisherman's Brewis (pronounced "brews"). It's a meal made up of fish, usually cod, boiled in water and then hard bread added to the mixture to soak overnight. Then fried pork fat is put into the mix and served warm. It had the consistency of stuffing and was very tasty. It went very well with cold beer.
Diane and I wanted to visit the Matthew, so we went back to the campground with Norm and Linda to pick up our car and go back into Bonavista. Giovanni Caboto, know today as John Cabot, landed in Newfoundland in 1497 after making a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a small ship named the Matthew. It was said that he shouted "O Buena Vista", or "Oh Happy Site", when he spotted land. Bonavista became one of the most important towns in Newfoundland thanks to the great fishing and sealing grounds in the area. The Matthew Legacy Incorporated built a replica of the ship to commemorate the landing. The ship was started in 1997 and completed in June 1998. Our tour guide was a young gal named Mandy and she really knew her history. We learned a lot about the ship and what life was like while traveling on the ship.
St. John's - Northeast Avalon
Monday, August 11 - I think we have only traveled in the rain less than a dozen times in the more than three years we have been full-timing. Today was another one of those days. It rained almost all the way to St. John's, along with fog. In some spots, the visibility got down to only a couple of hundred yards. That meant a slow drive in some areas.
We stopped at the Irving Big Stop fuel station in Goobies to fill up before heading into St. John's. Some inconsiderate fool parked his truck in a no parking zone right in front of the diesel pumps. It happened to block my ability to pull away from the fuel pump. They paged him several times, but there was no response. So there we sat for 15-20 minutes waiting for this guy to move his truck. Finally, I thought I might be able to get the motorhome out, but only with people watching both sides. I was just starting to move it when the guy came out to move his pickup truck. A guy who was helping me saw that it was a very annoying situation. He came over and gave me a CD and said it was him and his family. His name was Bugs Greene and we chatted for a few minutes. He told me that he performed on the Caribou, one of the ferries that sailed between North Sydney and Port-aux-Basques. I got to listen to the CD and it was excellent. We sure were hoping that they might be on the ship for our return to Nova Scotia, but it sounded like we would be sailing after Bugs ended his tour on the ship. In any case, it was very kind of him to offer me the CD. A good samaritan, indeed.
We finally got into St. John's, which was bigger than we thought it was. The city is touted as the oldest settlement in the western world, although I think the folks in St. Augustine, Florida might just tend to disagree with that assessment. Pippy Park is in the middle of the city and had a couple of golf courses and a campground. This was one of those cases where if you don't plan, you don't get. In an effort to be loose and flexible, we didn't call for sites until a few days ago and we were only able to get a water/electric site for two days, and then two days in their overflow area with no hookups. They charged $16 for the no hookup sites, which was pretty much a ripoff considering it was $20 for the water/electric sites. But they were the only show in town, so they can charge whatever they like.
Given the weather wasn't so great, Diane and I thought it would be a good day to go find the movie theater and see the two movies we wanted to see. It was another Empire Theaters movie house with stadium seating and decent sized screens. We saw S.W.A.T. and Freaky Friday and both were good.
One of the great things about Pippy Park is the communication center that had one phone jack available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That allowed me to get our website updated and send up the photos and travelog for PEI and Nova Scotia. I loved it.
Tuesday, August 12 - Today we drove downtown with Norm and Linda and walked around for several hours. We started at the harbor where Holland America's Rotterdam had just arrived for a day in port. That dumped about 1,000 people on the streets for the day. We walked along the harbor and down to the battery area. After a walk up towards Signal Hill, we turned back towards town. It was very interesting to see how they use color on the houses in Newfoundland, and it was very evident in St. John's. It's also a very hilly city with some hills reminiscent of San Francisco's hills, but not as long. We had heard that the people in Newfoundland were very friendly and we have found that to be very true. They are very willing to chat which, as you know, is right up my alley. :-)
Diane and I had been wanting to go for Indian food for a while and we noticed there were two Indian restaurants on our path. We selected the Taj Mahal Restaurant and had a great meal. Then it was back to the campground.
Wednesday, August 13 - It was a very nice day to drive up to the Signal Hill National Historic Site to visit Cabot Tower and get a view of the city from up high. We stopped at the visitor center to get some information and then drove to the top of the hill. It was originally known as the Lookout and had been used for signalling since 1704. The hill had long been used for defense, observation, and communication. It protected the harbor from the 18th century through World War II.
The tower was constructed in 1897 in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's landing in Newfoundland. There was a great exhibit describing Guglielmo Marconi's historic wireless reception on December 12, 1901.
The view from atop the hill was spectacular. In one direction you look down on the city across the harbor and can see the huge Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The entrance to the harbor was via a narrow opening known as "The Narrows". If we had known the Rotterdam was leaving yesterday evening, it would have been great to get a photo of it passing through the Narrows.
The Johnson GEO Centre was on the way down the hill and we decided to go inside. It turned out to be a great couple of hours touring this multi-media site devoted to the geology of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Centre was actually built into the rock of Signal Hill with some of that rock visible inside the Centre as we descended to the exhibit level below ground. It has been determined that some of the rock in the hill was as old as 550 million years, which made it older than the Rocky Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, the first dinosaurs, and the first land animals.
After leaving Signal Hill, we worked our way through the city towards the Basilica for a closer look. It was a very large church with twin towers. It's position in the city made it all but impossible to get a photo from such close range. It was just before 5 p.m. and we just did get inside for a short walk through the church. The Basilica is also a National Historic Site. It was built as a cathedral and consecrated in 1855. In 1955 it was raised to the rank of minor Basilica. We then drove down the hill to the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, but it was just closing up for the day. It wasn't quite the impressive structure as the Basilica, but it was quite large. It was completed in 1885, but was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892 that ravaged the city of St. John's.
Thursday, August 14 - Today was pretty much a do nothing day. Norm and Linda got up very early to drive to Cape Spear to see the sun come up. It's supposed to be the most eastern point in North America, so people watching the sun come up at that point would be the first ones to see it. Hec, I don't even like to get up to play golf early in the morning, so getting up to be the first to see the sunrise wasn't high on my list, and Diane usually sleeps later than I do. We chatted with them when they got back and they enjoyed watching the sunrise, along with another couple who were there. So the four of them were the first to see the sun come up on the North American continent today. Diane and I slept in, as usual, and then we went down to the Avalon Mall for tea and cappuccino and some grocery shopping. The rest of the day was spent working on the website and puttering around the motorhome.
Diane and I took a walk around the campground after dinner and saw a big red bus coming up on our right. We thought it was a strange color for a motorhome. When we got up close to it, we saw that it was not a motorhome at all, but a sort of hybrid camper/bus. We found out it was owned and run by a German company, Rotel Tours (http://www.rotel.de). It was registered in Alaska, but we learned that it is mostly based in Montreal. German tourists fly into Montreal and then go on a month-long trip in the vehicle. Take a look at the photos. It had three levels of sleeping compartments plus a section with bus type seats for when it was on the road. Very unique and interesting.
A few more words about Pippy Park. It was a pretty nice campground right in the middle and above the city. It is frequented by caravans that seem to control and dictate what happens in the park. When I called to make a reservation, I was told all we could get were two nights with water and electric and two nights in the overflow area. I told the gal on the phone that would be fine. However, when we got to the park and registered, the gal in the office said we could only pay for the two nights in a serviced site and then pay for the overflow at the time we are ready to move, and there was no guarantee that we could get into the overflow area. This was because there might be a chance we could stay in the serviced site if someone canceled. On the way out to the mall this morning, Diane and I stopped to check and found out that no one canceled. Then we were told that a caravan was moving to the overflow area to make room for an arriving caravan and folks were being told to leave the overflow area. Well, that didn't make us very happy. We drove back to tell Norm before heading to the Mall as we had until 1 p.m. to move somewhere. Norm went to the office while we were gone and the supervisor was there and told the gal to let us move to the overflow area. That was yesterday. Today I went down to pay for tonight and it was not a problem. However, the gal in the office turned away two people in front of me on line who wanted to get into the overflow area. The thing was that the caravan had moved to the overflow area and there was still room for a couple of small rigs to get in there. They don't have any system for the overflow area. It's just a gravel road around a grassy area that people come and park any which way they want. There was also grass around the edge of the road for rigs to park. They really need to mark some spaces so they can efficiently get rigs in there and to also know how many they can fit in the area. So the lesson for St. John's is to plan ahead and get a reservation of you want to camp inside the city. The other options are several miles away and well outside the city.
Friday, August 15 - This morning I went down to the office to pick up a newspaper before leaving St. Johns and noticed a Roadtrek Class B coming towards me. It was the same Roadtrek we had seen in the Seal Cove Campground on PEI. He stopped and we chatted for a while about their travels. They were Bill and Rose Markello from Canton, Illinois. Small world.
Unlike our drive into St. John's, which was in dense fog for some of the way, our drive out of the city was pretty clear. We drove to Gander which was where we, and the Paynes, had our mail forwarded. We figured we'd overnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot, which was a pretty small lot. When we got here, there were already several rigs alongside the edge of the lot, so we parked in the adjoining lot of the Dominion store, although there were signs saying no overnight parking. While Diane and Linda went into the Wal-Mart, Norm and I walked to the Post Office to pick up our mail. On the way, we saw the Leo K's Restaurant, a BBQ place. We immediately started drooling for a BBQ dinner and decided that's where we'd eat. It wasn't the best BBQ I've had, but it satisfied a yen for BBQ.
Our time in Newfoundland is speeding by as our last week on the island province will soon be here. We'll probably drive to the Irving Big Stop in Deer Lake tomorrow to get positioned for about a week of touring the Viking Trail up to St. Anthony and then back to Rocky Harbor in Gros Morne National Park. It's there that Diane will have her best opportunity to see Bullwinkle.
The Road to St. Anthony - The Viking Trail
Saturday, August 16 - Our target today was the Irving Big Stop in Deer Lake, about 200 miles from Gander, where we thought we would overnight in the parking lot. We got to the Irving station and fueled up. The fuel light on our motorhome was shining red for the last 100 miles of the trip, which always makes Diane nervous. Actually, we could easily go 200 miles when the light comes on solid. Fuel is not cheap here at 77.6 cents a liter. I put in a record 84.8 gallons for $249.05 Canadian, which was about $180 US. That makes it about $2.12 a gallon.
We all decided that it was too early in the day at 1:30 p.m. to park the rigs, so we opted to start our drive up the Viking Trail towards St. Anthony. We had planned to arrive there on Tuesday for three nights, but changed it to arrive on Monday because we knew Ray and Earline Greer would be there with their caravan and we wanted to visit with them to see how they were doing. The Merrymans told us about some boondocking sites along the way and we found the greatest site. It was a large dirt area on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You will see how magnificent it was when you check out the photos. We parked the rigs and took out some chairs to sit and look out into the gulf as the weather was perfect. Diane made up some caprese (tomatoes with mozzarella cheese) and we all snacked on that along with some wine. How much more perfect could it get?
After dinner we took a walk into the little town of Parson's Pond where there were lots of Paynes. We stopped in Paynes Grocery store and Norm chatted with the owner about the Paynes in the area. The Payne Shopping Center, actually just a store that sold lots of stuff, was closed. We walked back to the rigs in hopes of seeing a great sunset over the gulf, but the clouds appeared and there was no sunset to see. Instead, we headed out around 8 p.m. to do some moose hunting to see if we could find Bullwinkle for Diane. We saw a couple of cars along the road, so we stopped. And there he was. Bullwinkle. Off in the distance to the left. HOWEVER, before we could get the binoculars out, all we were able to see was the top of his rack. Sigh. So close. We continued on and saw nothing and turned around to head home. On the way, I spotted something shining in the headlights off to the right, so I stopped and aimed the lights into the brush. There in an opening was a cow moose and a young moose. It was dark so we weren't able to get a photo. We will continue our search for a good look at a bull moose.
I knew that Ray and Earline were in Rocky Harbor and their caravan would pass right by where we were parked tomorrow morning. I suggested that we all make up letters to spell out "HI GREERS" and put them on the motorhomes.
Given the nice driving day and the spot we found to park overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I'd say today was a pretty great day.
Sunday, August 17 - Another interesting day and, like the other interesting days, it focused around the Greers. I was up fairly early this morning. I got up and put the night shade up just in time to see three rigs go by from the Adventure Caravan that Ray and Earline were traveling with. The RVs in a caravan usually break up into small groups of three to four rigs and go off at different times so as not to clog up the highways with 18-20 RVs. I saw a couple of other groups go by and then, one time when I was outside, I saw a group coming up the road. This time they pulled into where we were parked, lead by a Dutch Star just like the ones we and the Paynes were driving. I went over to chat with them and found out they knew Ray and Earline. I got mixed information as to whether they were leading or trailing the caravan today, so I decided to leave the letters up on the motorhome for a while longer. Then a little while later while I was sitting at the dining table I looked out and saw three rigs go by and, yes, lead by the Greer's Dutch Star. Bummer. If I had seen them coming, I would have gone outside to wave.
Diane and I had decided to take a walk into Parson's Pond. As we crested the hill in town, we saw some RVs a little ways in the distance down on the main road, including the Dutch Star that stopped earlier where we were parked. That could only mean someone had a mechanical problem. I noticed another Dutch Star between two RVs and was positive it was Ray and Earline's motorhome. We started to walk in that direction when it started to rain, so we walked back to the motorhome to get the car and getting soaked in the process. We quickly changed clothes and drove over to see if the RVs were still there. They were but, as things would have it, Ray and Earline left a few minutes before we got there. We found out that a truck pulling a fifth wheel had blown a plug shortly after leaving the area where we were parked. We asked if there was anything we could do given that our car was unhooked. The tailgunner for the caravan had arrived and said they were able to call for a tow truck to take the pickup 108 miles to Corner Brook for service. Some nice folks in Parson's Pond told them they could park their fifth wheel in a spot in the town until they could return to get it.
It turned out to be a rather nasty, rainy day. We took a ride anyway and went up to Port au Choix to see the National Historic Site that was in the town. On the way, we stopped at the Arches Natural Scenic Attraction for some photos. By the time we got to Port au Choix, it was downright cold. We were looking for the National Historic Site and missed a sign. When we saw the Anchor Cafe, it seemed like a good idea to go in and get a cup of something hot. As we walked inside, the first thing I noticed was someone singing on the TV. It turned out to be from a video of Bugs Greene, the good samaritan who helped me out of a tight fit at the Irving station in Goobies. He is well known in Newfoundland. The desserts looked pretty inviting, so Norm and I had Screech Cheesecake and the ladies had pie a la mode.
We finally found the visitor center at the site we were looking for and spent some time watching the film and then looking at the artifacts. Then it was back home where it had to be at least 15 degrees warmer in Parson's Pond than in Port au Choix.
Given that we hadn't been able to get a satellite signal in Newfoundland, it hadn't been possible to get the news when I want, or check on the markets, or watch any shows. All we got was a max of three TV stations, one of which was in French when we were able to get it. Mostly we just got CBC. I am not that avid a golf fan that I have to watch every tournament every week. However, I would admit to an obsession for wanting to watch the four golf major tournaments each year. I knew that the fourth one this year, the PGA Tournament, would be on while we were in Newfoundland, and it was this weekend. I missed Thursday's first round and settled for reading about it in the St. John's newspaper on Friday morning just before we hit the road for Gander. I got lucky in Gander because there was a mall attached to the Wal-Mart that had a Radio Shack. I figured they would have TVs turned on, and they did. I asked the guy if he could put the golf tournament on so I could see who was leading. He was nice enough to do that, so I got the scores. I returned just before they were ready to close to get an update (Newfoundland is one and a half hours later than Eastern time). Saturday was a day without any contact with the outside world as we parked along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. However, after we returned home from Port au Choix, I was determined to find a TV to see what was happening at the tournament on the last day. Diane spotted Parson's Pond Club as we were driving through town, so we returned there to see if they had a TV. Hallalueah. A TV, and a color one, and the few people in there were watching the tournament. It was a very small screen, but it would do. So Diane and I got something to drink and some chips and watched some of the tournament. The fun part was chatting with the other folks in the bar. They were quite interested in the two motorhomes that were parked down the road overlooking the gulf. So even with the lousy weather, it turned out to be a pretty good day.
The only downside was that the Paynes noticed that their refrigerator decided to stop working. They were packing it with ice to keep the food from spoiling and we offered for them to store any food in our refrigerator until they could get theirs fixed, which might not be until we get to the Newmar dealer in the Halifax area in about 10 days. Norm checked all the connections and fuses and they were all working OK.
St. Anthony - The Viking Trail
Monday, August 18 - What an incredible day it was today. We hooked up with Ray and Earline; ran into Barry and Terry Klein in the campground; ran into Bill and Rose Markello who we saw on PEI and then again in Pippy Park; attended a Viking Feast and became honorary Vikings; saw Linda "accuse" Norm and me in the Viking court of ogling other women; and ended the night with an incredible and dazzling display of the Aurora Borealis (aka, the Northern Lights) with Mars very bright in the night sky. Where should I start?
The nasty rain and cold of yesterday was gone. It was overcast, but not nasty, as we headed out for the roughly three hour drive to St. Anthony. The views as we drove mostly up along the coast were magnificent. We arrived at Triple Falls RV Park just south of town. It was a nice park with water and electric sites. We started getting settled into our sites when I saw a lady approaching our rig. It was Terry Klein. The American Eagle motorhome next to us looked familiar, but I didn't place it as the friends with whom Terry and Barry were traveling. After hugs all around, we must have chatted for about an hour about where we've all been and what we had seen and traded tips for upcoming locations we would visit. Norm and Linda came over and we introduced them to Terry and Barry.
No sooner had we finished chatting with Terry and Barry there was a knock at the door. It was Ray Greer. We knew the folks from the caravan were probably out touring when we arrived. They had just returned and Ray came over to say hello. We spent some time chatting about life in a caravan and places they'd been to, and vice versa. I told Ray about the Payne's refrigerator and he told me they had a problem like that a few years ago and it turned out to be a leak in the ammonia system that drives the refrigerator. Norm checked and that seemed to be the problem as there was yellow residue outside in the area that provided access to the cooling system. We walked down to chat with Ray and he confirmed that the yellow residue probably meant a leak in the system.
A while later I was walking up to the office and saw a RoadTrek Class B coming in. It was the Markellos. Bill, Rose and I all laughed as I told them "we have to stop meeting like this". We chatted for a while and then they went to set up in a site that was across from ours.
We had reservations for the Great Viking Feast at the Leifsburdir or "Leif's Camp", a reconstructed sod hut overlooking the ocean at Fishing Point. The caravan folks would also be there that evening, so it promised to be a fun evening. It would give us a taste of Viking life around the year 1000 A.D. The highlight of the evening was the Viking Court.
Norm and I knew Diane and Linda were up to something when the guy at the visitor center in Port au Choix pulled them aside to talk about the Viking Court. After several cases were judged by everyone with votes entered by banging on the table, the chieftain called Linda up as an "accuser". She accused Norm and me of "ogling other women". The chieftain then asked if she had any witnesses to back up her accusation and she called Diane up who, of course, backed up Linda's story. Then she called up Ray and Earline who had no clue they were going to be included in the skit. Earline backed up Linda's accusation with some funny lines. The chieftan then asked Ray what he had to say and he said "Norm was his kind of guy". Then the chieftan called me up to account for the accusation which, of course I denied along with a side comment to Norm that we did "see some nice ones in St. John's, eh?". The chieftain had some fun with me when he asked if I was "rich". I said yes, and caught on to what he was doing. We had a funny interchange about being "Rich", but not "rich". You had to be there, but the crowd enjoyed the skit. ;-) It was a fun evening.
Our slave for the evening was Egil who served us our meals and drinks. The menu included moose stew, cod casserole, roast beef, jiggs dinner (corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots), baked salmon, squid fried rice, cod tongues, capelin (think dried smoked sardine) and, for dessert, partridgeberry flatbreads with bakeapple sauce and whipped cream. It was all delicious, except maybe not everyone particularly cared for the cod tongue or capelin.
On the way home, Norm wondered if we would be able to see the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). The sky was clear and when we got home and out of the car, we could see this incredible display of what looked like lights dancing across the sky. Off in the distance was an arch of light that looked purple with spikes of light emanating from the arch. We stayed out watching the lights for over an hour before calling it a night. We were up later than we should have given that Diane made plans for us to get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow to go out looking for moose.
Tuesday, August 19 - We got up and out by 5:30 to go moose hunting. The people who told us when and where to go, which was along Route 432, were right. We saw more than 30 moose, both cows and bulls. The bulls were a good size, but none were full grown bulls with a big rack. So we still have to see if we can spot Bullwinkle before leaving Newfoundland. It was hard to get really good photos because none came out in the dawn light, and the lighter it got, the quicker the moose headed for the bushes.
We stopped for breakfast and decided it was early enough to go visit L'Anse aux Meadows (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Norstead. L'Anse aux Meadows is a National Historic Site. It wasn't until 1960 that Norwegians Dr. Helge Ingstad, an historian and explorer, and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad, an archaeologist, found some ruins that turned out to date to around 1000 A.D. and was inhabited by Norse. The excavations proved that a Viking expedition of some 70-90 people landed on these shores under the leadership of Leif Eriksson. They called the land Vinland because of the wild grapes that grew in the area. It was thought that L'Anse aux Meadow was the first place in North America where ore was smelted to produce iron. The Vikings didn't stay very long as tensions arose between them and the local inhabitants who outnumbered them. The Vikings left the area never to return.
Although we opted to not go down to the archaeological diggings, we did watch the movie and looked at the artifacts that were on display. We opted, instead, to just visit Norstead, which was a recreation of what a Viking village may have looked like around 1000 A.D. It was just down the road from L'Anse aux Meadows. Norstead was created in 2000 to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Vikings arrival on the North American continent. We walked down into the village and visited the sod huts of various sizes. First was the boat shed in which was a replica of the Snorri which retraced the Viking voyage across the North Atlantic from Greenland. Then we went into the chieftain's hall where the dining and sleeping quarters were located. Some Viking women were there cooking flatbread that we got to sample. Then we visited the church and workshop. The Vikings were Christians. By the time we were done walking through the buildings, the trader had returned from lunch to show people how to throw an axe into a wall of logs. It was fun, and not all that hard once he told me how to do it correctly.
Inside the long house was a young couple and I struck up a conversation with the guy. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) from Quebec. We had a nice chat and will probably trade email notes in the future.
Wednesday, August 20 - Well, today was the day we became honorary "Newfies". But first.....
A minivan pulled in last night and parked in a site across from us. I went out to chat with the couple this morning after seeing the lady holding out her hand feeding a bird. The bird loved raisins and all she had to do was hold out her hand and the bird would eventually come down to feed. We had a long chat after I told them that my father grew up in Cabano in Quebec. They were Roch and Carmen Dupont from Mascouche, Quebec near the city of Montreal, but Roch grew up not too far from Cabano, so they knew the place. They were crossing into Labrador tomorrow and then boarding a freighter for a two-day trip along the coast of Quebec to where they could get off with their minivan and get on a road for the rest of their trip home. Pretty cool.
Bill and Rose left today to head down to St. Barbe to catch the ferry tomorrow to Labrador. I saw them leaving and went out to say bye and we'd probably see them again. They would be on the same ferry as we would be on next Wednesday back to Nova Scotia. I told him where we plan to boondock near Table Mountain the night before.
It was an overcast, cool, and sometimes rainy day. A good day to do nothing. Norm and I went to town to the library to do email and other things on the system. We were each able to get a computer terminal for a couple of hours. Diane and Linda went shopping and to a tea house for afternoon tea.
People who are not Newfies are known as CFAs (Come From Away). To become an honorary Newfie, one must be screeched-in. The CFA must demonstrate that they can eat like a Newfie, talk like a Newfie, drink like a Newfie, romance like a Newfie, and dance like a Newfie. First you have to eat some Newfie food, such as a capelin, bologna (or maybe a peppermint knob), and lassie bread, and then wash it all down with a shot of Newfie Screech, which was actually 95% alcohol dark rum. We didn't do it at Trapper John's in St. John's, so we figured we would do in in St. Anthony at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall. They had Newfie Night every Wednesday during the summer months. It was also necessary to talk like a Newfie and make a toast before downing the screech. To demonstrate that you can romance like a Newfie, it was necessary to plant a juicy kiss on the lips of a real cod fish. YUK! And that was one ugly cod we all had to kiss, and slimy, too. Then we all had to dance like Newfies, which meant dancing a jig to the music provided by the band. Of course, this is all done in front of a bunch of locals who enjoy watching CFAs trying to act like Newfies. It was a fun evening and we all had a blast becoming honorary Newfoundlanders.
Labrador - Coastal Drive
Thursday, August 21 - On Tuesday, the caravan that was in the campground left around 5 a.m. to drive to St. Barbe for a ferry ride to Labrador. That meant they had to get up somewhere around 4 a.m. to get ready. That would never have worked for us. None of us likes to do such an unnatural act when there are alternatives, like catching a later ferry, which was what we opted to do. The ferry ran at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. Unfortunately, by the time we decided which day we wanted to go to Labrador, the ferry was booked at the times we wanted to travel, which was 1 p.m. over and 6 p.m. back. However, we found out they only reserved 75% of the capacity and left the rest for first come, first served passengers. It turned out we had no problem getting on either ferry. And who should be there boarding but that unique red camper/bus that we first saw in Pippy Park in St. John's
We met Roch and Carmen at the terminal and on the ship where I had the opportunity to introduce them to Diane, Norm, and Linda. While waiting for the ferry, Norm and I met Derrick Sheppard who was on vacation and returning home to Churchill Falls with his son. We had met a guy in the St. Barbe RV parking area who had come across Labrador from Labrador City to St. Barbe. He told us about Churchill Falls. It was a company town with one of the world's largest underground hydro generating stations producing 5,225 megawatts of power, most of which was sold to Quebec. The guy told us about a huge building that pretty much housed the entire town of 650 people. We spoke to Derrick, who was a science teacher in the town, about life in such a remote and cold place. He and his family had lived in Churchill Falls for more than 15 years. We also spoke about our RV full-timing lifestyles, which he found quite interesting. What I find interesting is that people find our lifestyle so cool when they also have a very interesting lifestyle. We thought the DuPonts putting their car on a freighter for two days was very cool. It's something Diane and I have talked about in the past. Norm and I gave Derrick our cards and got ready to board the ferry.
It was very interesting watching some big trucks come off the ferry. It was a drive on, drive off ferry, which meant you went in the front or the back of the ship and off the other end. The process seemed to be go into the bow of the ship in St. Barbe and the stern in Blanc Sablon which, by the way, was in Quebec at the border with Labrador. It was a pretty tight fit getting in or out of the bow of the ship as compared to the stern. Norm and I both agreed that we were glad we decided not to take the motorhomes to Labrador on this ferry. The trip across the Strait of Belle Isle was about one and a half hours and not very interesting other than being on a big ship.
We disembarked in Blanc Sablon and drove up the road to L'Anse au Clair to find the Northern Light Inn. The place had rooms plus several cottages across the road. Linda handled getting a place for us to stay in Labrador and it was hard to find a place. They were either full, or the line was busy, or no one answered the phone. She found a two bedroom cottage and the price was great at $85 for the cottage for the night. We checked in and went across the road to check it out only to find that it hadn't yet been cleaned. We returned to the office to get them to clean it and then headed to Moore's Handicrafts just down the road. Diane and Linda learned about the place and we ended up getting t-shirts and leaving some garments to have a Labrador scene embroidered onto them.
Then we drove to L'Anse Amour and the Point Amour Lighthouse for a walk around the grounds. We stopped at the Sea View Restaurant in Forteau for dinner. Diane and I couldn't pass up the caribou retadine. It was ground caribou meat wrapped inside a think slice of caribou. We had never eaten caribou, but it was delicious.
When we got back to the cottage, it had been cleaned and we settled in for the night. Diane and Linda got Norm and I to play a game of Boggle, which they both did much better at than us guys. I think one of the highlights of the short trip to Labrador for Diane and Linda was the bubble bath. They went to the local market and bought some bubble bath and both enjoyed a long soak in the tub while Norm and I worked on our websites.
Friday, August 22 - Labrador covers more than 200,000 square miles and is mostly unspoiled wilderness and frontier. However, for all its size, there are only about 30,000 people who live in Labrador. It has mountain ranges with some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. It is home to more than 700,000 caribou, the largest caribou herd in the world.
It was an overcast day today, but it would be our only day in Labrador, so we made the best of it. We went for breakfast at the Sea View Restaurant and then drove up to Red Bay about 60 miles north. It used to be a large Basque whaling village at one time. While we were in the restaurant, a guy came in to order some takeout and we struck up a conversation. He was on vacation from Churchill Falls with his family and had come inside with his daughter. When he mentioned that he was on his way back to Churchill Falls, I told him we had met someone on the ferry who was on his way back there. Thinking that in a town of 650 people, they might know him, I mentioned Derrick's name which immediately drew a response from the young girl that he was her science teacher. What fun. I actually expected that response. Small world. They would all be on the 7 p.m. ferry from Cartwright to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
We stopped a few times along the way to take some photos. At one point, we just rolled down a couple of windows, which turned out to not be a very good idea. We had seen little black bugs in St. Anthony that seemed like annoying gnats. They weren't. They were little blood sucking, nasty black flies. They didn't bother me or Norm very much and were more of an annoyance, but they were biting Linda and, especially, Diane. She got bit so many times around her face and neck that it looked like she had a case of the measles. We didn't notice the bugs when we opened the window, or even when we got out and walked to a wooden bridge to take some photos, but they were there in abundance at the bridge and then in the car. We must have spent the next 15 minutes swatting these little critters as they landed on us or the windows of the car. It seemed like they were never ending. One theory was that maybe they were reproducing in mid-air with a gestation period of about 15 seconds and growth to blood sucking adulthood in less than a minute. ;-) When we got to Red Bay, I asked the saleslady in the gift shop what you call those nasty, blood sucking little black flies, and she said "that's what you call them".
Did you know that the only paved road in Labrador was the road to Red Bay? That's where the Trans Labrador Highway becomes a gravel road for about 600 miles separated by a 12-hour ferry ride. One can drive to Cartwright where you would have to take a car ferry to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. From there it was possible to drive across Labrador to Churchill Falls and on to Wabush and Labrador City. Given how barren the landscape was between Blanc Sablon and Red Bay, I'm not sure I'd want to drive 600 miles on a gravel road. There was mostly brush along the road with some trees that weren't much taller than five or six feet. As we got away from the shore and a little inland, there were some taller trees, but they were very spindly. We stopped in Red Bay at a restaurant and gift shop, and then drove a bit up a dirt road where a shipwreck was visible from the shore. While the area was being excavated, underwater archaeologists found a wreck that was believed to be the San Juan. It sank there in 1565 with a full load of oil. The ship was mostly out of water and was now being preserved by Parks Canada.
There wasn't much else to do, so we headed back to the ferry for a late lunch, or lupper as the gals liked to call it. I ordered the Coquilles St. Jacques, a scallop meal baked with cheese and potatoes that was delicious. Diane, Linda, and Norm found a new delicacy, taters poutine. Diane and I first saw this meal served in movie theaters in the other provinces we were in, and also in food courts in malls. It was a plate of french fried potatoes that was then covered with melted cheese and gravy. It was sometimes served plain or sometimes with chicken or chili. They all ordered the chicken poutine. It was delicious. We all wondered why some American entrepreneur hadn't tried to market this meal via the food courts in USA malls.
While waiting for the ferry, we saw a big white object in the distance. It turned out to be a very big iceberg. Too bad it didn't wait to come by until we were crossing the straits so we could have gotten an up close look at it. We looked at it through the binoculars and could see that it had three big points on it and was flowing south.
We got a few seats around a table up in the lounge area overlooking the bow of the ship, which didn't buy us much as the weather was overcast and rainy during the crossing. A man and woman sitting next to us asked us where we were from and we told them we were touring the Maritimes and had been in Newfoundland for a couple of weeks. They were from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and just starting a one-week vacation. When we told him we were just in St. Anthony, he told us they were from Quirpon. We knew that town as we had gone through it on the way to L'Anse aux Meadows and Norstead. When I told him we had tried to find Skipper Hots in the town, but missed it the first time through, he told us he was quite familiar with the place.
We disembarked from the ferry in St. Barbe and drove up the hill to our motorhomes. It was a nice one-day visit to Labrador but, other than an adventure across what is known as the Frontier Circuit, there would be no draw to return. But we all agreed we were glad to have crossed over the straits to see it firsthand.
Gros Morne National Park (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) - The Viking Trail
Saturday, August 23 - Another rainy day, but probably only the fourth or fifth since we started our journey through the Maritimes. We had about two and a half hours to drive to Rocky Harbor and the Gros Morne RV Park in the Gros Morne National Park area for the next three nights. We saw a caravan on the road and were lucky to be in front of it so we could check into the campground before they all arrived. We would have full hookup for the first time since we got to Newfoundland. Linda and Diane did laundry in Pippy Park in St. John's at the laundromat and the laundry was piling up. They were both looking forward to getting laundry done over the next three days before going back to Nova Scotia.
As we were getting set up, the 20 RVs from the caravan started to arrive, one after another. After getting the motorhome set up, Diane and I drove to the market to get some stuff and then a short drive around Rocky Harbor. Along the way, we saw Java Jack's and decided a tea and cappuccino sounded like a good idea.
Sunday, August 24 - The western region of Newfoundland, known as the Viking Trail, is forested, mountainous, and also barren along the route from Deer Lake to St. Anthony. The Long Range Mountains are the northern extension of the Appalachian Mountains.
The weather wasn't cooperating as well as it did for most of our journey. Yesterday was a rainy drive to Rocky Harbor and the forecast for tomorrow was for a cloudy and cold day with a chance of rain. Luckily, today was a very nice day for a boat ride. There were a few boat tours in the area. One was into a fjord at Western Brook and the other was a tour of Bonne Bay. We had heard from several folks that if we were to do only one boat tour, it should be the I'se da B'ye tour on Bonne Bay, so that's what we did. We had a very nice two-hour tour of different parts of the bay. Our tour guide, Wayne Parson, grew up in Woody Point, one of the villages on the bay and gave a great narrative of the surrounding area. His stories were very interesting. He was also very good at finding eagles up in the trees, including a nest with two young eagles. We also saw several small whales feeding in the bay.
It was after 4 p.m. when we finished the boat tour. It had gotten quite cloudy and there wasn't enough time to go onto any of the hiking trails due to the risk of not finishing before dark, or having bad weather come up suddenly. On the way home, I mentioned that Diane and I had scouted out the area the day before and found a seafood market with some great looking fresh seafood. We decided we could grill out in the covered eating area in the campground, so we went to the market and bought some fresh salmon and whitefish filets. When we got back to the campground we saw that the caravan folks had already set up to use the eating area. There wasn't much wind between our two motorhomes, so we decided to set up a grill there and eat in our motorhome. The sun came out, the wind died down, and we ended up having some great grilled fish along with some great fried potatoes that Diane made and green beans from Linda. Naturally, we started with an aperitif of kir, and ended up eating outside.
There was a phone jack in the laundry room, so Norm and I were able to use our calling cards to dial an Earthlink number to do email while Diane and Linda played Boggle. With only one station available on the TV via the antenna, there has been lots of time for me to keep up to date with the website so I can get it uploaded sooner than I usually do. It has also afforded me the opportunity to turn on the stereo and put the two big CD carousels in random play mode and listen to selections from some of the 300+ CDs we have in the motorhome.
Monday, August 25 - The forecast for today was for temperatures no warmer than 13 degrees Celsius, about 56 degrees Fahrenheit, so we didn't do much today. A good day to hang around and get caught up on laundry and working on photos for this travelog. As you can see, there are lots of photos as it has been hard to figure out which ones to not put on the photo pages.
Tonight was essentially our last night to do something in Newfoundland. Our tour guide from the boat tour yesterday, Wayne Parson, played in a five-man band called Anchors Aweigh, and they were playing tonight at the Ocean View Hotel about a mile from the campground. Diane and I drove over around 9 p.m. to catch a couple of sets. They started playing at 9:45 and stopped at around 11:45. Wayne stopped at our table to chat for a few minutes before going on stage and I asked him how they managed to get two big boats into the landlocked fjord, Western Brook Pond. He told us that one of the boats was brought in on a sled across the frozen bog in winter, and the other one was lifted in via a huge Sikorsky helicopter in three sections and then reassembled.
Anchors Aweigh was terrific. They played traditional Newfoundland songs that had an Irish sound. Wayne played rythmn guitar, as did two of the other guys. One guy played bass, and one of the guitar players also played banjo. The final guy played accordion, and he was a real character. He was fun to watch play the smaller of the two accordions, and he was the central character for a song that had to do with seven old ladies trapped in a lavatory. He put on a dress and then an appropriate hat for each of the seven ladies as the verse was being sung by the others. He was a hoot. We bought one of the their two CDs when we left. Wayne told me they are working up a website, and it will be linked to from the BonTours website (http://www.bontours.ca).
The lounge was packed considering it was a Monday night. There was a group of young folks there from Parks Canada, about 8-10 young gals and two guys. I'm not sure what the occasion was, maybe end of season celebrating, but they were having a great time and it was fun to see them all up dancing what looked like some sort of jig. It reminded Diane and me of the times we used to go out every weekend to see our friends, the Goodtimes, and dance until the wee hours of the morning. We had a good time and it was a marvelous way to end our three-week journey in Newfoundland.
Tuesday, August 26 - We woke up to nasty, rainy, windy weather as we heard the caravan rolling out around 8 a.m. There were a couple of caravan rigs left in the campground when I heard a scream of "stop, stop, stop". I could tell it was a panic yell. I looked out the window and saw two ladies and a man sort of running around an American Eagle motorhome, and then I noticed that someone was lying under the front end of the motorhome. Apparently, the jacks wouldn't go up and the tailgunner for the caravan was under the rig trying to get the jacks to go up while the other guy was inside his motorhome trying to get the jacks to work. Suddenly, the jacks started to lift which made the motorhome drop. It came straight down within inches of the tailgunner's chest. By the time I got dressed and outside to see if there was anything I could do to help, they had started the engine on the motorhome, which filled the air bags and lifted the motorhome up so the guy could get out from under it. A very scary experience to say the least.
Unlike caravans that dictate departure times, we were in no hurry to leave as all we were doing was driving to the Port aux Basques area to stage our rigs for the ferry tomorrow morning. We have to be there by 7 a.m., so we wanted to get as close as we could so we didn't have to get up at some unnatural hour. Although it was very windy, we decided to drive to the spot where we boondocked the first night in Newfoundland to see how the weather was down there.
Wouldn't you know that just after we got on the road out of Rocky Harbor we saw a big, beautiful bull moose on the side of the road. He was so close. But we were going about 50 mph and there was no place to pull over to try to get a photo. At least Diane got to finally see Bullwinkle. Several people told us about the great boondocking site at the old SAC base in Stephenville, so we wanted to swing over there to check it out. We found it along the shore line and it surely would be a great place to boondock provided the winds weren't too strong. They were pretty gusty today and we weren't sure what the winds would be like at the boondocking spot down near the ferry, which was known as "wreck alley". The RCMP has been known to close that portion of the road in extremely high wind conditions.
When we got down to Port aux Basques, we were quite surprised at how different the weather was just 100 miles south of Stephenville. It was calm and warm. We parked the rigs and settled in for the evening.
Wednesday, August 27 - Now you would think that we might have an uneventful morning for a change given that all we were doing was driving to the ferry and boarding. Not so. Yesterday it was the guy trapped under a motorhome, today it was an eventful boarding process. But first, even getting ready became an event. Diane had set her clock for 6 a.m. but it didn't go off. I jumped out of bed when I heard a diesel engine start and said that Norm must have already started his engine. He hadn't, but it was a tractor trailer that had parked next to us during the night. It was 6:18. We got up and got ready to go in a record 12 minutes. ;-)
We drove to the ferry, which was about a 20 minute drive and there was a short line at the booths. There were already lots of vehicles lined up ready to board, including a Tracks to Adventure RV caravan. We paid our money and then pulled up to some folks who were doing an agricultural inspection. Apparently, there were two diseases in the potato crop in Newfoundland and you weren't allowed to take potatoes off the island. If the diseases managed to get to PEI, it could have caused a big problem with their potato farms. So we gave the inspector the three potatoes we had left and moved into line 16. The entire RV caravan boarded first and then they waved us on with Norm and Linda following. They held me up on the loading ramp to the lower level and I could see that they stopped Norm back at the entrance to the ramp. There was a lot of discussion amongst five or six guys who were doing the loading and then I could see Norm turning away from the ramp, which meant they were putting their rig on the upper vehicle deck. One of the guys came up to my window and asked me to back up the motorhome to move to the upper deck. I told him I wouldn't back up the motorhome with the car hooked up. He left. Another guy came over and asked me to back up the motorhome and I told him I wouldn't back up the motorhome with the car hooked up. He said "can't you just back it straight up?". I told him I wouldn't do that, but we could unhook and then back up the car and the motorhome separately, and then hook up the car again. He asked how long that would take and I told him only a few minutes, so he asked us to do that. We did that in record time, too.
For you RV wannabes and newbies, and non-RVers, other than "maybe" backing up a motorhome with a car hooked up for just a few feet, it is NEVER a good idea to do that. If the front wheels of the car should turn, and they can turn quickly and without warning, the front end of the car could be ruined as the tie rods could break. We were told that by the instructors at the RV Driving School we attended at Life on Wheels back in 2001, as well as lots of very experienced RVers.
So here we sit on the MV Caribou on the way back to Nova Scotia after a fantastic three weeks touring Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no doubt in our minds that we want to come back and spend an entire summer in Newfoundland. We will now head to the Halifax area to see if the Paynes can get their refrigerator repaired, and for me to get a part to fix the electric side of our hot water heater that decided to quit after the rough ride down to Rocky Harbor from St. Barbe. We'll tour the Halifax, Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg areas. We found out we can stay in the Newmar dealer's lot over the Labor Day Weekend, so we'll use that as a base. Then we'll drive up and around into New Brunswick and down to the St. John area for a few days before ending our nine-week journey through the Maritime Provinces.
Until next time.....safe travels.
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