Canadian Provinces Caravan – Chapter Four

Every RVers Worst Nightmare

We departed Port Aux Choix on July 4th. We were on our way fairly early as we had a long drive ahead of us. I thought the engine had been running a little rough and had some intermittent oil pressure warnings. I had called a GM dealer in St. Anthony, near our next stop to take the truck to them and have it checked out. I had checked locally but couldn’t find any place to have it checked in Port au Choix. We were part of the way there when the engine made a grinding noise. I lost all power and coasted to a stop on the shoulder of the road. I couldn’t restart it. We put out our warning triangles, tried to call, but found we had no cell service. It was every RVers worst nightmare!

It was in this situation that I found out how friendly and helpful Newfoundlanders are. A local guy pulled over and asked if we needed any help. When I told him we didn’t have any cellular service he offered to drive me “up the road a bit” to see if that would help. About one and a half miles later I got service. I called the GMC dealer in St. Anthony and asked if they had a towing service. They did and they said they could have one on the way in fifteen minutes, but it would take over two hours for them to get to me. When I offered to pay the guy that gave me the ride for his trouble, he waved me off and went on his way. Meanwhile, members of our caravan were stopping or calling us on the radio to see if we needed help. One of our fellow travelers was also pulling a fifth wheel and he agreed to take Pat with him to the campground, drop off his trailer and then return to take our trailer to the campground. They went on their way and I waited for the tow truck. While I was waiting everyone in our caravan checked in with me to make sure we were okay. Tom and Lisa, our “Tail Gunner” team pulled in and waited with me until the tow truck had loaded my truck. During this time there had to be at least a dozen Newfoundlanders that stopped to see if we needed help.

Exploring the Viking Trail at L’Anse au Meadows

By the end of the day, we had our truck at the dealer being diagnosed; our trailer was in the Viking RV Park. Now we drove into St. Anthony for the Great Viking Feast Celebration.

The feast or “Leifsburdir,” was held at Fishing Point in St. Anthony. The venue was a sod building, large enough to serve as a banquet hall. All of the staff dressed in Norse attire. The feast was a buffet of Jiggs Dinner (a boiled dinner of salt beef, turnip, cabbage, and carrots.), roast beef, and rolls. Coffee, tea, and water came with the meal, but a cash bar was available. We were served a blueberry crumble for desert. Personally, I thought the food was very good. The challenging part of the meal was there were no forks. The Norse people did not use them, only a knife and large spoon. Our host, a Viking chieftain, instructed us on traditional Norse customs and various crimes and punishments that would be adjudicated that evening. Though advertised as a dinner theater, it was more audience participation. Participants of the feast would come forward and accuse others of wrongdoing. The chieftain would hear from witnesses and poll the group as to the appropriate punishment. It was a fun evening, especially after such a stressful day.

The next day, we car pooled to the Norstead Village. This is a non-profit museum about the first Norse settlement in North America. You may have noticed that I have used the terms Norse and Viking. They are not the same. Norse people are people who live in or come from Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). Viking is actually a verb meaning to explore, trade, or raid/pillage. The Vikings were seafarers. Norse people were generally tradesmen, farmers and herders. For example, if you were the oldest son of a blacksmith, you would train to be a blacksmith and inherit your father’s estate. If you weren’t the oldest, you would not inherit and probably go to sea to Viking as a member of a crew.

Leif Eriksson was the son of Erik the Red. He traveled from Greenland to discover North America some 500 years before Christopher Columbus. He established a settlement called Straumfiord – also known as Leif’s Camp – on a grassy terrace near present L’Anse aux Meadows. He used this as a base for exploration and trade in Newfoundland. This history was exciting for me because my great grandfather emigrated from Norway in the 1800s and the Wangen men have always been interested in our Norse heritage. Norstead has recreated that Viking base. It is both a village and port of trade. Norstead consists of a chieftain’s hall, church, and workshop with costumed staff who describe and demonstrate the daily life of this village. The main part of the village is a boat shed that holds the Snorri, a replica of a 54-foot Viking Knarr.  In 1998 with a nine-man crew, the Snorri replicated Leif Ericksson’s journey from Greenland to Newfoundland. In addition to learning about life in the village and seeing the living conditions and trades being demonstrated, we were able to try our hand at throwing a hand axe. I had never done this before, but sunk the axe into the target five out of six throws. I must have some Viking blood in me after all!

From Norstead, we made the short walk to the Norseman Gallery Café for lunch. A statue of Leif Erikson was nearby.

After lunch, we drove to the L’Anse au Meadows Historic Site – Land of the Vikings. This is a National Park (Parks Canada). Here we viewed a movie that made the case that humans had migrated from Africa to Asia and Europe. From there further migration took place to the Western Hemisphere. When the Viking, led by Leif Erikson landed in Newfoundland and met the Mi’kmaq tribe, that completed the circle of civilization. We had never heard that theory before and, while I’m not sure we embrace it, it was thought provoking.

While we had seen a re-creation of the Viking base at Norstead, here we observed the actual site of the base and learned how it was discovered by a Norwegian team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad. Parks Canada has built their own replica of the base and we learned more about the Vikings and their exploration of maritime Canada.

When we got back to the RV park, I had a call from the GMC dealer and was told they had ruled out some things, but were continuing to diagnose the problem and they should have more news the next day.

On Wednesday, July 6th, Two friends, Kevin and Cathy drove us into St. Anthony. We stopped at the dealer and I was told that they found the crankshaft was either cracked or completely broken and I needed a new engine. They told me they had found a 2015 engine with 111,000 miles on it and it could be there in 7 to 10 days. We discussed this and I asked them to get it ordered and get it done as soon as possible. I offered to pay for any expedited shipping. The four of us checked out a short trail and the lighthouse at Fishing Point. The dealer had a rental car for us and Pat and I picked up some groceries while Kevin and Cathy drove our bikes back to the RV park.

That night we had a nice campfire and I entertained the group. The next day we said good-bye to everyone and watched as the caravan departed the park. We definitely felt a bit lonely at that point.

The next several days were cold and rainy, so we didn’t do much except hibernate in our trailer. One day the weather cleared and we drove to the Parks Canada L’Anse au Meadows Historic Site and hiked the 2.2 km Birchy Nuddick Trail that circled the area and along the coast line. At one point in the trail, we entered an area called “Harry Youden’s Cove,” where we found a number of tiny gnome-like homes. We thought they were interesting and I wondered how hard it would be to build something like this myself.

The trail is very scenic and we stopped to eat lunch in some Adirondack chairs along the trail. It was a nice relaxing spot with great views.

On the way back to the campground we saw our first (and only) moose in Newfoundland.

The woman that owns the campground, Grace, was very nice and allowed us to stay in one spot while regular campers and RV caravans came and went. Another Fantasy RV caravan arrived in the park a week after ours departed. Apparently, they had already heard about our troubles and were sympathetic. The night before they left, I was able to play my guitar for a number of them who were sitting outside together. At least that was a nice break in the routine. Eventually we would wave goodbye to four different Fantasy RV caravans.

Our dealer, Woodward Motors, was expecting the new engine to arrive on Thursday or Friday. On Wednesday, July 13th, they put our truck on a ramp, lifted the cab off the chassis and removed the damaged engine. I contacted them on Friday and they didn’t have the engine yet. The service manager suggested that it might be the end of the following week before they could expect it. Not exactly the best news that I could have received.

On Saturday, Grace’s son, Cory, who was visiting from Alberta, invited me to go cod fishing with him and a couple of his uncles. I quickly agreed. They fixed me up with some boots and a heavy coat and we headed out into the bay. Cod fishing is definitely different. Because cod are bottom feeders they use a triple hook jigger. The hook is dropped over the side until it hits bottom, then raised about a foot off the bottom and you “jigger” the line, pulling it for a couple of feet and then releasing. When you feel a tug on the line you haul it, hand over hand, into the boat. That sounds easy until you factor in that the boat is rolling in four-foot waves and maintaining good footing is a significant challenge. We stayed out about an hour and our two boats caught about a dozen codfish. I offered to help clean the fish, but Cory’s uncles had their system and they cleaned those fish like an assembly line. I went home with enough cod for four servings and a smile on my face. Thanks Cory!

On July 12th, Pat and I drove into St Anthony to visit the Grenfell Museums. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell was sent by the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to improve the plight of coastal inhabitants and fishermen in Newfoundland in 1892. This was the beginning of a life-long mission for him. He began by recruiting two nurses and two doctors with a hospital ship and ultimately expanded it into a medical enterprise that included multiple “cottage hospitals” along the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador, a small fleet of ships, an orphanage and boarding school, and scholarships for medical training. This evolved into the Labrador-Grenfell Regional Health Authority. The Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony is an example of his work. He was knighted by the King George V in 1927. The Corner Brook Campus of the Memorial University of Newfoundland was named after him in 1979.

I am just in awe of men and women like Dr. Grenfell, Milton Hershey, Clara Barton, and others who started with little and developed so much in service to others. People like them should be role models for all of us.

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Canadian Provinces Caravan – Chapter Three

We rolled off the ferry in Port aux Basques in the late afternoon of June 30th. It had been a long, but easy crossing, about seven hours. Our first stop in Newfoundland was the Grand Codroy RV/Tent Camping Park. The park was located on a small lake that had an amazing sunset. It looked like you could see two suns at the same time.

The next morning we loaded onto a bus for a tour of Port aux Basques and the Codroy Valley. Our tour guide was one of the owners of the campground. She started giving this tour when a guide scheduled for an earlier Fantasy RV Caravan did not show up and she has been doing it ever since. She also publishes a small newspaper, the Codroy Valley Travelers Guide that highlights what to see in the area.

Our first stop on the tour was the Precious Blood R.C. Church. It didn’t look like anything very special from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. The Sanctuary was impressive! The pictures tell the story better than I can.

Next was the “My Dear Minnie Museum of Heritage and Culture.” This is the former home of Minnie White, the “First Lady of the Accordion.” After Minnie passed away, her son, Russell, and his wife created the museum to honor his mother. It also highlights his mother’s music and some of the region’s history. They sectioned off parts of the house as displays of a post office, a one-room schoolhouse, and the lumbering and wood working tools of the period.

Next up was the Railway Heritage Museum. I found this very interesting as they displayed many artifacts of the past, not just those relating to the railroad. There were hardhat diving suits, telephone and telegraph systems, household items, and navigational instruments. Of course, they had a train! The snowplow on the front of the train was impressive. The plow wasn’t powered but pushed by the locomotive and was as tall as any of the rest of the train. We even heard some local entertainment before we left.

After the tour of the museum, we went next door to the Seashore Café for lunch. I think they were somewhat challenged to feed a group our size, but they handled it well and the food was good.

After lunch, we traveled to the Rose Blanche (White Rock) Lighthouse. This is located on the neck of the Port of Rose Blanche, a small fishing village. This lighthouse was built in 1871 from local granite block. A storm severely damaged the lighthouse in 1939, it collapsed in 1957, and in 1999, it was restored. They actually recovered some of the original granite blocks from the surrounding water and reused them in the restoration – very impressive! There are trails to and from the lighthouse that offer scenic views of the area.

That night we gathered at the Fun and Music hut at the campground, where we were sworn in as honorary Newfoundlanders. A band was set up at the front of the room. We had all heard something about this ceremony, but no one really knew what we were getting into. The band played some traditional Newfoundland music and many of us joined in with clapping and foot stomping. It was great fun.

The “Screech In” ceremony began with the campground owners calling groups of us to the front. Pat and I were in the first group and we weren’t sure if that was good or not so good. We were all given rain hats and we began to worry. Our master of ceremonies, dressed in a full rain slicker and hat began by asking us to recite a phrase, “Long may yer big jib draw!” Of course, with his strong Newfoundlander accent, it sounded to us like he was talking with a mouthful of marbles. We did our best to repeat it and he was somewhat satisfied. Next, we had to eat a piece of Newfie Steak (a piece of baloney). That was not too hard. The next item on the agenda is that you are supposed to kiss the head of a codfish. Here they ran into problems. The codfish season wasn’t going to open until the next day and we would be gone. Also COVID protocols suggested that it would not be a good idea for multiple, unrelated people to kiss the same fish. Soooo, they had a large smelt and we touched it with our fingers. Oh well! We tried to hold to the tradition. The final step was to down a shot of Newfoundland Screech Rum and let out a loud screech. At the end of the ceremony, we were presented with a certificate and we were now all honorary Newfies!

On Sunday, July 2nd, we departed for our next stop, Port au Choix. Driving to Port au Choix was a bit of an adventure, the hills were steep and twisting. At one point the exhaust brake on the engine was revved up to 5,000 RPM. As we drove along the coastline to the Oceanside RV Park, it looked like the park was a spot on the shore in the middle of nowhere. Later we discovered the small fishing town of Port au Choix just over the next hill, so not quite the middle of nowhere but close. Port au Choix it is referred to as “The Fishing Capital of Western Newfoundland.” It has a population of 9,000 and has a large fishing fleet with a modern shrimp processing plant.

We were camped right on the beach. You could see the waves crashing on the rocks and feel the salt spray misting in the air. Most of us took some time to wash the bugs off our windshields and front caps of the trailers, as this campground didn’t prohibit washing. That night we gathered around a campfire.

The next day had only two scheduled activities. Our hiking friends, Randy and Kathleen joined us to go to the Parks Canada Visitor Centre and then hike some of the trails. The weather was brisk and the winds were blowing strong, but we took off from the Visitor Centre to hike to Phillip’s Garden (named for an assistant lighthouse keeper). It was an interesting hike that took us across some Limestone Barrens and other varied terrain. There are only a few places along the western coastline – where climatic conditions are most extreme – where the limestone is still bare. There are 29 species of plants that grow nowhere else in Newfoundland, and three species that grow nowhere else in the world. We saw a wide variety of plants. When we got to the shore, we climbed around on the rocks and did some exploring. On the return, we took a side trail on the Crow Head Loop. This was an interesting section of the trail as we descended in to a rain forest environment. Yes, there are rain forests in places other than the Amazon. Someone had taken the time to build some small houses and place them along the trail, apparently for decoration. We finished the trail and went back to prepare for our Independence Day celebration.

We met for an early dinner and traditional Independence Day fare, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and chips. The staff provided soft drinks and water and the Lion’s Club bar was open for business. We all stood and sang while I played the Stars Spangled Banner. I played a variety of patriotic music while we ate. One of our fellow travelers, Sis, was from Cuba and talked to us about the joy and value of living in a free country. She made the event more than special. Afterward, Kevin and Cathy played some patriotic numbers on their bagpipes. That was definitely an unexpected treat!

Next stop, traveling the Viking Trail to L’Anse au Meadows.

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Canadian Provinces Caravan – Chapter Two

Annapolis Royal, NS

After leaving Elm River, we had a pleasant drive to Annapolis Royal. En-route, Pat and I stopped at Grand-Pre’ National Historic Site. The Acadians migrated from western France in the 1630s. The territory they settled became known as Acadia. Due to the extreme tides of the Bay of Fundy, the Acadians used a system of dikes with one-way valves that allowed the seawater to flow out with the tide, but would prevent it from returning. Eventually the land was drained of seawater and the rich soil that remained was able to be cultivated. This rich land allowed the Acadians to grow a variety of crops for consumption and trading.

Unfortunately after all of this work, the French were driven out by the English. Over the many years, the French and British were engaged in one conflict after another. The Acadians remained neutral, but the British did not trust them and, between 1755 and 1762, thousands of Acadians were forcibly removed by the British and deported from the region. Some were returned to France, others relocated along the eastern seaboard of the American colonies. The largest group settled parts of Louisiana, and are now known as Cajins. In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his poem, “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadia.” Evangeline, more than a fictitious character, became a symbol of the history of the Deportation and an example of the resiliency of the Acadian people.

The Historic Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a 13-acre replica of the agricultural landscape of diking and desalination.

We camped at the Oceanfront Cove Campground, a beautiful, terraced campground overlooking the Bay of Fundy.

On Tuesday June 20th, we took a bus to Port Royal to visit a reconstruction of a 17th century French compound. In 1604, the French sent an expedition to the Port Royal region to establish a trading center. The compound we visited was the second compound created by the 1604 expedition; the first was on Saint Croix Island and was inhabitable during the harsh winters. In 1605, on the advice of Samuel de Champlain, they settled at Port Royal. The settlers traded with the local Mi’Kmaq (pronounced Mic Mah) tribe and developed a strong relationship with them. In the 1607, the expedition lost its financial backing and returned to France. When they returned in 1614, they found their habitat in ruins and returned to France. In 1939, Parks Canada rebuilt the habitat as a historical site.

From Port Royal we drove to Annapolis Royal to visit Fort Anne. Annapolis Royal was originally known to the Mi’kmaq as Nme”juaqhnek, the “place of bountiful fish.” In the 1600s and 1700s it was settled and contested by both the French and British. It was initially settled by the British with Scottish settlers in 1621. The Scots were evicted after a treaty in 1632 and replaced by French colonists from La Havre in 1636. From then on the community traded hands between the French and the British. Annapolis Royal was the capital of Nova Scotia until it moved to Halifax in 1749. After the Revolutionary War, slaves who had fought for the British in exchange for their freedom settled in the region. Today Fort Anne is a National Historic Site.

The highlight of our visit was lunch at the Sachsen Café and Restaurant. Here we were treated to a traditional German meal, we had authentic schnitzel with potato salad and sauerkraut. The food was great and Heidi and Dieter Claussing, the owners, told us all about the history of the place.

After lunch, we toured Annapolis Historic Gardens.

The next day, Wednesday, we were on our own and Pat and I decided to hike a trail nearby to the campground. It was an interesting hike with a nice waterfall, rocky beach, and nice views of the ocean. During our hike we came across a memorial to the crew of a fishing boat that sunk with all hands in the nearby waters. It seemed like an appropriate place for such a memorial and showed the high esteem in which the crew was held.

Lunenburg, NS

Our next drive was a short 94 miles to the town of Lunenburg. We took our time leaving the campground and stopped at the Kejimkujik National Park. We were able to park at the Visitor Center and picked up a map of hiking routes. We hiked to a waterfall and explored other parts of the park. While on the trail we ran into Randy and Kathleen, another couple from our caravan who are also avid hikers. After focusing on kayaking in the Bay of Fundy, hiking was a nice break in the routine.

We arrived at Lunenburg and stayed at the Board of Trade campground. We had a brief orientation by the campground staff and they told us about a self-guided walking tour of the town. We picked up a copy and walked to few blocks into town. It was an architectural tour and we enjoyed seeing the variety of homes and other buildings and reading about their history.

The next day, we had the option of visiting Mahone Bay and Blue Rocks. After doing some online research, we decided that kayaking in the Blue Rocks area would be fun. After a quick breakfast we made the short drive to Blue Rocks. Rather than just visit the Blue Rocks, we decided to see them up close and personal. “Pleasant Paddling” allowed us to use their launching ramp. We launched about 9:30. It was a somewhat clear day, but the fog was coming in. The water was calm, a definite change from the Bay of Fundy. There were homes and fishing shacks along the shore we used as landmarks. As we paddled the fog became thicker. We paddled past a lighthouse (that was NOT operational) and headed north through the small rocky reefs. We thought we might see some seals basking in the sun, but the fog put an end to that hope. As we headed back the fog made it difficult to see any landmarks, but we didn’t get lost.

We were able to see many seagulls, some geese, a cormorant drying its wings, and a blue heron. The water was amazingly clear.

After about 2 ½ hours on the water and 6 ½ miles, we arrived back at the small harbor at Blue Rocks.

We returned to the campground, got cleaned up and walked into town to meet our group at the Fisheries Museum of the Pacific. After some presentations from the museum staff, we explored the exhibits. I was familiar with the Atlantic fishing industry, but still learned quite a bit about the fishing of cod, halibut, and swordfish. I finally found out where the Fleming Cap was. The Grand Banks and Fleming Cap was the site where George Clooney and his fishing crew went down in the movie, “The Perfect Storm.”

While exploring the museum, I discovered that many Norwegians were at sea when the Germans invaded Norway in World War II. All Norwegian ships were directed to head to the nearest Allied port. In Lunenburg, they established the Norwegian Army Training Camp to train Norwegians to join the fight against Germany.

Halifax, NS

On Friday, June 24th, we had a very short drive, only 52 miles, to the Woodhaven Campground, north of Halifax. The next morning we boarded a bus with a guide to tour Halifax. She had a running commentary as we drove and we picked up a lot of anecdotal information about life in Nova Scotia’s capital city. Our first stop was the Fairvew Cemetery. This was significant  because this is where many of the victim’s of the sinking of the Titanic are buried. One headstone was very interesting. If you remember from the movie, one gentleman dressed as a woman to get on board a lifeboat. That really happened, and apparently, he had such remorse he had a special headstone carved to honor one of the Titanic’s crew that had served him well. Of course, this act was a bit spoiled when he had his name also engraved on the stone so everyone would know he did it. Not exactly what I would call “selfless service!”

From the cemetery we drove to the Halifax Citadel, one of the defenses surrounding Halifax. The site had been well restored and was staffed by docents in period costumes. The docents conduct tours, changing of the guard, and firing of the “Noon Canon.” I enjoyed exploring the installation. It also houses the Army Museum that describes the history of Canadian forces serving their country in times of war and peace. They also had the Regimental Colors of the First Special Service Force, “The Devil’s Brigade,” a joint US and Canadian Army Unit that served in Italy and Southern France during World War II.

After touring the Citadel, we were dropped off at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. We had lunch on our own and Pat and I enjoyed lunch at The BG on the wharf. BG stands for Beer Garden. We had a pleasant meal and then headed back to meet the group at the Museum.

I love maritime history and I skipped the scheduled tour to start exploring on my own. The displays are a mix of military, industrial, and recreational maritime histories. The displays included the evolution of the Canadian Navy, the explosion of the ammunition ship, Mont Blanc, in Halifax Harbor, which killed 2,000 people, the commercial fishing industry, small craft, and others.

The next day, we took a bus into Halifax for lunch at the Prince George Hotel and to attend the Nova Scotia International Royal Tattoo. None of us knew a lot about the Tattoo, but we were all impressed – what a show! It centered around military bands and marching, featuring the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, Vancouver Police Pipe Band, National Band of the Naval Reserve, 36 Canadian Brigade Group Band, Heeresmusikkorps Neubrandenburg from Germany, the Jordanian Armed Forces Band, and others. It was non-stop action. The people who choreographed and managed the performance were magicians, not a single mix-up in the whole show.

On Monday, June 27th, we had a free day. We joined with Randy and Kathleen to tour Peggy’s Cove and hike a trail in nearby Polly’s Cove. The weather was foggy, very foggy. Peggy’s Cove was just overflowing with tourists. Peggy’s Cove has a permanent population of forty  people, but get thousands of visitors every year. It is a small fishing village, and commercial fishing is still on-going, but tourism is their number one industry. Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is a famous landmark for Nova Scotia.

After enjoying a picnic lunch at Peggy’s Cove, we made the short, two-kilometer drive to the trailhead. The trail was a typical trail until we got to the coast. From there we didn’t follow a defined trail as much as we went from one slate rock to another. Scrambling over the rocks like this was fun and a clear break from the norm. What a great hike!

North Sidney, NS

On Tuesday, June 28th, we made the longest drive of the caravan so far. We stayed at the Arm of Gold Campground. This was one of the nicest campgrounds we have been in. There were large, open sites, with full hook ups. The only thing lacking was some trees. There is a nice walking path with the fanciest outhouse I have ever seen. They also have a barn with a large meeting room on the top level and a lounge area, complete with two hot tubs (as you would find in a hot tub room in a hotel).

Wednesday morning we had a bus ride to the Fortress of Louisburg. As with many of the places we visited, Louisburg traded hands between the French and the British several times. The last time the British left, they burned every structure to the ground. Parks Canada has spent several million dollars to rebuild, not refurbish, but rebuild about one-fifth of the original fortress and town. What a trip back in time! Docents in period attire staff the fort and operate the shops, bakeries, and taverns in the town.

After a tour and wandering on our own we were able to enjoy lunch together at the L’Epee Royale. The “owner” greeted us as though we were in the 18th century and served a meal authentic to that period, including eating your entire meal with one large spoon.

The next morning we were up early and traveled in a convoy to the ferry terminal in North Sidney to travel to Newfoundland. It was quite the operation, we had prepped our vehicles to make sure we were in compliance with all regulations, such as no propane turned on, automated generator starters turned off, etc. We made sure our fuel tanks were full as prices were even higher in Newfoundland than in Nova Scotia, as if that was possible (sigh!). The crew did a great job of shoehorning our big rigs and commercial vehicles on board, and we hung out in the passenger lounge during the crossing.

Newfoundland, here we come!

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Canadian Maritime Provinces Caravan – Chapter One

Pre-Caravan – Bar Harbor, ME

We arrived at Hadley’s Point Campground in Bar Harbor, ME on Monday, June 6th. When we left Key West in mid-March, this was our ultimate destination. We were scheduled to meet the RV Caravan with Fantasy RV Tours here to continue into the Canadian Maritime Provinces on June 9th. On Tuesday we drove to the Acadia National Park Visitor Center and then onto to the trailhead for the North Ridge Cadillac Mountain Trail. This was a neat hike, starting in pine forest and then breaking out into more open, rocky terrain. As we climbed the mountain, the scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean became more vivid. The route was marked by stone cairns and blue paint blazes on the rocks. We made it to the summit and enjoyed a colossal view, just breath taking! I love hiking in places like this! After we had taken enough pictures, we descended back to the trailhead. It was certainly a faster trip going downhill, but I wouldn’t call it easier.

It was a good thing we climbed Cadillac Mountain on Tuesday, because Wednesday was a very rainy day. However, throughout the day we would get breaks in the weather and enjoy clear skies for a short period. I was able to take advantage of this to begin washing the trailer and making sure our tire were at the proper pressure.

We join the Caravan – Bar Harbor, ME

Thursday, June 9th, we left Hadley’s Point and made the short drive to the Narrows Too Campground to join the caravan. We checked in with our Fantasy RV Tours Wagon Masters, Bill and Anne. Bill measured the combined length of our truck and trailer (important information for our two ferry crossings) and they issued us all of our paperwork, nametags and hats.

All of us (There are 25 rigs in the caravan) spent Friday making our final preparations, grocery shopping, finishing washing the trailer, and adjusted our loads.

That evening we gathered for a lobster dinner, courtesy of Fantasy RV Tours. It was a great meal and good camaraderie with our fellow travelers. A good beginning for this adventure.

St. Andrews, NB

On Saturday, June 11th, we began our journey. We crossed the border near the city of Calais, ME. We are always unsure how border crossings will go. A few of our rigs were randomly pulled over for a physical inspection, but we were fortunate to answer a few questions and be sent on our way.

Our first stop was the Kiwanis Oceanfront Campground in St. Andrews, New Brunswick (NB).  As per our instructions, we called our Wagon Master on our portable radio on our way in and they met us to guide us into our site. It was an easy back in with a great view through our living room window of the Bay of Fundy. After we set up, Pat and I spent some time wandering through St. Andrews admiring the homes and shops.

That night we all gathered at Bill and Anne’s RV for a campfire and pulled pork sandwiches for dinner. Another traveler, Fred, had his guitar and the two of us entertained our fellow travelers. Several asked us how long we had been playing together, and we told them “about twenty minutes, so far!”

The next morning we had a bus tour of St. Andrews that included the gardens. The town has a unique history as a “Loyalist” town. It was largely populated after the Revolutionary War by families that were loyal to King George III and migrated across the bay from Maine to the small town of St. Andrews. This greatly expanded the population and changed the culture of the town. Many of their homes were literally rolled to the shore on logs, rolled onto barges and off-loaded in St. Andrews. Many of these homes still exist today.

The next day, Monday June 13th, we drove to Ministers Island. You can only access Ministers Island over a sand bar at low tide for 5-6 hours. The island is called Ministers Island because one of the first Anglican ministers built his home there and the name stuck. Later Charles Van Horne, the builder of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, established a summer home on the island. This “cottage” is more like a small estate. It has a two-story barn and a 50-room home. The island has been acquired by the Province of New Brunswick and is operated by The Van Horne Estate on Ministers Island Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the nature and history of the island.

St. John, NB

On Tuesday, June 14th, we departed St. Andrews and drove 72 miles to St John, NB. Here we stayed at the Rockwood Campground.

One of our goals was to kayak in the Bay of Fundy. We had kayaked in Kachemak Bay in Homer, AK, which has the second highest tidal change in the world. The Bay of Fundy has the highest and we wanted to paddle there as well. We contacted a local kayaking shop and the owner gave us some great advice as to where we would be able to launch and have a good paddle. After an afternoon of off and on rain, we launched about an hour before low tide from the Irving Nature Area. We rode the tide out, and we had a light tailwind. We explored the area below some cliffs where we compared where we were in relation to the high water marks. They were easily twenty-five feet or more above us. We turned toward the shore and felt little to no tide. I think what incoming tide we had was canceled by the headwinds. We were rained on for about ten minutes but that passed before we made it to the beach.

On Wednesday morning, when we met our bus, we were pleasantly surprised to see our same bus driver, Charles, from the tour in St. Johns. Our guide, Gary, was a native of St. John and gave us a wonderful tour of the area. We visited the Martello Tower, that was built to defend the city during the War of 1812 but it was finished until 1814, after the war. We also spent some time in the St. John City Market (making a post-COVID comeback), and the Container Village (a shopping area made from old shipping containers). Gary did a great job and was very entertaining as well as informative.

One of the interesting sites was the Reversing Falls. At low tide the St. John River flows into the Bay of Fundy and looks like a normal river. However, at high tide, the Bay is higher than the river and the flow reverses itself and runs from the Bay into the river.

That night we gathered for a campfire and “Mountain Pies” made with pie irons on the campfire. While everyone was preparing their pies I entertained them with some folk music. Everyone seemed to enjoy both the food and the music!

Hopewell Cape, NB

On Thursday, June 16th we drove to Ponderosa Pines Campground in Hopewell Cape, NB. The tidal change is even greater in this part of the Bay of Fundy and we wanted to paddle it at high tide. The Fundy National Park and Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park would not let us kayak from their parks unless we were with their guided tours, so we found a site to launch in the town of Alma. We dropped our trailer at Ponderosa Pines and backtracked to Alma. We launched about an hour before high tide. The winds were higher and we had a delightful time fighting the incoming tide and the one to two foot waves created by the headwinds as we paddled out. We paddled through a small harbor that earlier in the day had been bone dry with ships braced on cribs to keep them from rolling on their sides. We found a small channel along the shore and found shelter in the calm water. We decided we were close to the tide change and rode the rest of the high tide back to our launch point. By now the winds had increased and, at times, we were surfing on three foot waves – what a ride! After we pulled our kayaks out and loaded them back on our truck, we treated ourselves to ice cream cones at the Takeout Grill.

We drove a very bumpy road back to Ponderosa Pines (our third trip on that road in one day!) to check back in with our Wagon Masters and finish setting up.

On Friday, we drove to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park. There we were met by a park ranger, Ada, who gave us a tour of the ocean floor. As we walked on the beach, we were told that at high tide the ocean surface would be about thirty to forty feet above us. Ada described how the seaweed we saw didn’t grow from the sand and mud but directly from the rocks on the floor. The mud flats that were farther out in the bay provide a food source for migratory Sandpipers. Clams and other such crustaceans don’t do well because the tides are so severe. We went to the visitor center where she showed us a time-lapsed video of the tide change. After that Pat and I had some lunch and went back to see the beach and saw the difference and how much faster the tide was changing here, compared to St John and Alma.

Elm River, NS

On Sunday, June 18th, we drove to Elm River to see the Tidal Bore. A tidal bore occurs when a tide rolls into a river at the head of a bay. The ocean floor becomes shallower and the sides of the river funnel the water. This creates a small (sometimes big) tidal wave that rolls upstream. After setting up our campsite, we car pooled to Truro to see the wave. Unfortunately, it was not that big and a bit of a letdown. However, it was interesting to watch one inspired soul as he used the event to surf the wave up the river.

Next Stop – Annapolis Royal, NS

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Visiting the Big Apple – June 2022

We found a lovely campground near New York City, Croton Point Campground. It is a Westchester County park on a peninsula in the Hudson River. The sites are nice with electric, water, and sewer hookups, it appeared that most were 30 amp and some 50 amp service. They are good-sized sites with level gravel pads. There are walking trails in the park and a bicycle trail that follows the Hudson River. It was a hilly area and challenging for bicyclists, but we had several enjoyable rides while we were there.

There is a train station two miles from the campground and we took advantage of that when we went into New York City to go sightseeing. On Wednesday, May 25th, we hiked to the train station (all of our clothing, etc was in backpacks) and took the train to Grand Central Station where we transferred to the subway to Lower Manhattan.  We booked a room at the Holiday Inn – Financial District for two nights. It was centrally located for the sites that we wanted to visit.

Do you remember the Blue Bloods episode when Jamie and Edie had to patrol in the NYPD’s energy efficient patrol car? Well, it must be a real patrol car because we saw it parked right across the street from our hotel!

We were able to check early when we arrived and, after a quick unpacking, we walked to Battery Park to catch the Staten Island Ferry. We had no intention of going to Staten Island, but the ferry ride gave us a viewing of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the NYC skyline. What a great introduction to New York. On our way back to the hotel, we had our picture taken beside the Wall Street Bull. We chose to be at the head, some others preferred to rub another part of the bull’s anatomy.

We had an early dinner at a pizza place next to the Holiday Inn, changed clothes and took the subway to Broadway to see a performance of Hamilton. What a great show! The cast and producers did a professional job and we enjoyed it all. I thought I knew quite a bit of history about Alexander Hamilton, but this performance inspired me to study our first Secretary of the Treasury in more depth.

On Tuesday, we took the 10:00 tour of the 911 Memorial. As we arrived Marines from the Amphibious Assault Ship “USS Bataan” were completing a unit run to the Memorial What an inspirational sight! Inside, the exhibits did a marvelous job of telling the story, including the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. They also described the build up to that day with the story of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. I was struck by how quiet it was throughout the tour. There was a low murmuring as families and groups commented to each other in low tones, but nothing more. Instinctively, everyone recognized the solemnity of the Memorial.

From the 911 Memorial, we walked to Battery Park to board the tour ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The National Park Service is in the process of moving the museum displays from the base of the monument to a separate museum building. Because you need to purchase a separate pass to go to the top of the pedestal, there wasn’t any crowd at all in old museum. It was interesting to see how the statue was developed and constructed and the timeline for it all. From the top of the pedestal, we had great views across the Upper Bay and Lower Manhattan. At one time, it was possible to climb interior stairs to the head of the Statue, but those days are long gone. After we toured the new museum (kind of a letdown after seeing the old one), we re-boarded the ferry to go to Ellis Island. What I liked best about the new museum is that the original torch is on display.

As we approached Ellis Island, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to be an immigrant arriving from Europe to settle in the United States. My own Great-Grandfather, Ollie John Wangen, migrated from Norway and passed through Ellis Island, before settling in Ludington, MI. We entered the Great Hall where newly arrived immigrants would be interviewed; they were then sorted into groups for further processing. They were given medical examinations, and hospitalized if necessary. Then onto legal examinations to insure they were legally allowed to enter the U.S., if there were questions, they would go before a Special Board of Inquiry. Once they passed these hurdles, they had to show that they had adequate funds, a sponsor, and a destination where they could find employment. If all of this worked in their favor, they were granted admission. If not, they were rejected and returned to their home country. The steamship line that brought them to the U.S. was required to give them return passage.

After returning to Battery Park, we stopped at Suspenders Pub for dinner before going back to our hotel to give our feet a rest.

We realized that we were in New York City during Fleet Week and the USS Bataan was available for tours. In the morning we checked out, left our backpacks with the hotel, and took the subway back to Broadway were we walked to Pier 88 to visit the USS Bataan.

The Bataan is an amphibious assault ship, which means she is like a small aircraft carrier and cargo ship combined. She can carry part of a Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team, discharge landing craft from a ramp on her stern, and fly helicopters and other aircraft from her flight deck. The Marines and aircrews were giving demonstrations of the equipment and explaining how they operate together.

We stopped at Times Square where there was a Fleet Week display. I took the opportunity to play underwater Tic-Tac-Toe with a Navy SEAL – I won! On our way back to the hotel, we ran into some of the Bataan’s Navy crew on the subway.

All good things must end, and we took the subway/train back to Croton-on-the-Hudson, and hiked back to our campsite. What a great trip!

On Sunday, we drove to the United States Military Academy at West Point to attend services at the Cadet Chapel. Our son, Scott, graduated from West Point in 1998, and it seemed fitting to go to church there while we were so close. While we were sitting at the start of the service, the chaplain invited everyone to turn and greet each other. The people in front of us turned around and we all stood there, staring at each other, recognizing and yet, not recognizing each other. Then the light bulb came on and we recognized neighbors, the Kirchen family, from DeWitt, MI, where we used to live. Their daughter, Paula, was also a West Point graduate and they were back for a visit. This world is getting way too small!

After church, we drove to the West Point Cemetery. One of Scott’s classmates from the Lansing area, CPT Steve Frank, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we visited his grave.

We relaxed and generally enjoyed our time at Croton Point and on June 2nd, we drove to Milford, NH and stayed in the driveway of some friends from Key West, Ray and Harriet. It was an interesting experience to back our 38-foot fifth wheel up Ray’s steep, curving driveway, but we made it and we spent a nice couple of days hanging out with them. Some other Key West friends who live nearby, Ken and Susan, joined us for dinner and good conversation.

On Saturday, June 4th, we made a short drive to Freeport, ME – home to LL Bean Outfitters! If you are coming through southern Maine, this is almost a “must do” activity. After we set up our RV at the Cedar Haven Family Campground, we drove to the LL Bean Flagship Store. The entire area around LL Bean has turned into a retail bonanza. There are now all kinds of stores just waiting to sell you all kinds of neat stuff. We did get a couple of shirts and a pair of pants, but when you live in an RV, you only have so much room. There was a neat looking MacDonald’s where we had lunch, there was nothing different about the food, but the building was special.

On Monday, June 6th, we headed to Bar Harbor, ME to join an RV caravan to tour the Canadian Maritimes Provinces, that was the reason we drove this far in the first place.

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Visiting the Chocolate Capital – May 2022

If you have ever enjoyed a Hershey Chocolate Bar, then this is a place you should visit. Hershey, PA is truly the Chocolate Capital of the World. We had no idea what we would find in Hershey, but we were not disappointed.

We stayed at the Hersheypark Camping Resort. This is a part of the Hersheypark system. We were there prior to the summer season and the park was very quiet. The park is well maintained, but a bit old. The sites were not on an angle, which always makes backing into the site more of a challenge. The camp store had plenty to offer and we were able to purchase discount tickets for other Hersheypark attractions.

We were told reservations at the Hershey Chocolate World would not be necessary during our stay and they were right! There was plenty of room to park and no line for the Hershey Chocolate Tour. This is the only free activity and it replaced the previous factory tour. It was so good, we stayed on the ride for a second run. As with everything we did, we got free chocolate at the end of the ride.

We decided to take the Hershey Trolley Works Historic Tour. This trolley tour took us through the City of Hershey. You may have heard about “company towns” where workers rented homes and had credit at company stores. This was not the case in Hershey. Milton Hershey established his Chocolate Factory in Derry Township and literally built the City of Hershey around it. He built homes that his employees could purchase. He built schools, libraries, hospitals, and more. He encouraged entrepreneurship, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, were invented by one of Hershey’s employees and Hershey supported his work and partnered with him. Hershey eventually purchased the Reese Candy Company, make Harry Reese a rich man.

Hershey and his wife did not have children. In 1910 he created a school for orphans, beginning with four students, and, later, underprivileged youth. The Milton Hershey School is free for students and is funded by a trust containing most of Hershey’s fortune, valued at about US$15 billion, making it the wealthiest U.S. private school. Nearly half of the trust’s money comes from its controlling interest in Hershey’s chocolate company. This school provided full time room and board from kindergarten through high school. In 1918, Hershey put most of his fortune—including his share of his company’s stock—into a trust for the school, valued at $60 million altogether. The story of the Milton Hershey School is truly inspirational.

Of course, we were given chocolate samples throughout the tour, Reese’s Cups, Hershey Kisses of multiple flavors, finishing with a full sized Hershey Bar. What a sweet trip!

The next day we split up, with Pat going to the Hershey Gardens and I toured the Hershey Story Museum on Chocolate Avenue. A quick note – the street lights on Chocolate Avenue and Park Avenue are in the shape of Hershey Kisses.

The Hershey Story is the story of Milton Hershey. It is the story of a man who started with nothing and revolutionized the worldwide chocolate industry. If it wasn’t for Milton Hershey there would have been no milk chocolate. As inspiring as Hershey’s story is, the development of the City of Hershey and the Milton Hershey School was more so. Not only did Milton Hershey build a self-sustaining community in Pennsylvania, he did it in Cuba. Hershey created farms to grow cocoa beans in Cuba and created the town of Central Hershey in Cuba, modeled on the city in the U.S. Milton Hershey provided free public education for his workers’ children. Just as he did in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Mr. Hershey built and furnished the school building before donating it to the community. This community excelled until the farm was nationalized under Castro and degraded from there. A sad end to another great story.

On May 19th, we hooked back up and headed to Croton Point Campground on the Hudson River in New York.

By the way, this is an actual Hershey Bar that is sold at the Hershey Chocolate World. Way too much chocolate for me!

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Aberdeen, MD and the War of 1812 – May 2022

From Fort Belvoir, we had a relatively short drive to our next stop, Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG), north of Baltimore, MD. APG offers two small RV parks. Marylander RV park and Shore Park Travel Camp. Marylander is the older of the two and has campsites, with no other facilities. Shore Park is the newest (2016) and has a bathhouse and laundry room, and a boat launch. It has 24 RV sites and 5 cabins. It’s a nice, quiet park with plenty of opportunities for walking and biking. As a proving ground, there is always some kind of testing going on and we heard ( and felt) several large explosions while we were there.

After so much sightseeing in Washington we took is easy and spent a lot of time relaxing and taking advantage of the free laundry. It seems the farther north we go, the more we have to spend for fuel. We discovered that WaWa has a phone app that gave a discount of 15 cents per gallon for a period of time. I suggest for anyone traveling the eastern states to check this out. Fuel prices are still painful, but this made it less so.

One day we drove to Fort McHenry in Baltimore’s harbor. It was during the siege of Fort McHenry, that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that became the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner.” There is a nice visitor center that tells the history of the fort and the 1814 siege, and there were several Ranger-led events. At 10:00 am each day is the exchange of flags. During the first night of the siege, the U.S. forces flew a small “storm” flag because they were in the middle of a storm as well as under cannon fire from the British fleet. As the dawn came, the defenders, as a sign of defiance, lowered the storm flag and replaced it with the largest flag they had, a huge flag the measured 42 x 32 feet. Every morning park volunteers and Rangers, assisted by visitors perform this same flag exchange.

On June 18, 1812, the new United States declared war against Great Britain. This was due to the British policies that interfered with American trade, and their policy of capturing American seaman and pressing them into the British Navy. For two years, the conflict raged in the Great Lakes region and in the Gulf of Mexico. To bring the war to the center of the nation and to distract forces from Canada, the British waged a war in the Chesapeake Bay. They occupied Tangier Island and raided towns in Maryland and Virginia.

On August 24, 1814, the British defeated a force defending Washington and burned many government buildings, including the Capital and the White House. A few weeks after withdrawing from Washington, the British headed to Baltimore. They landed a force at North Point and marched toward Baltimore.

It is easy to see why the British had to subdue Fort McHenry to get close enough to support British troops approaching Baltimore from the north. Baltimore’s defenses were too strong to be defeated without naval gunfire support and the British fleet would have been shot into splinters had they tried to sail past an active Fort McHenry. Unable to defeat the defenders at Fort McHenry the British withdrew their forces from North Point.

The defeat at Baltimore, coupled with the American victory on Lake Champlain, signaled that the end of the war was in sight. The British ultimately agreed to this at the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.

From Fort McHenry, we rode our bicycles to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It was an interesting ride, the last part along the harbor shoreline. We stopped at the Visitor Center and got some great advice of what to see and do from a volunteer. My focus was on the Four Historic Ships and the lighthouse that are displayed in the harbor basin. The ships are the USS Constellation, The Coast Guard Lightship Chesapeake, the submarine USS Torsk, and the Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was in active operation until 1948, but was later moved to the Inner Harbor.

The USS Constellation is an 1854 sloop of war and the last sail-only warship built by the Navy. The LV116 Chesapeake was built in 1930 and was one of the most modern lightships of its time. It was added to the  Historic Ships collection in 1982. The USS Torsk was commissioned in 1944 and was the only submarine of its class to see service in World War II. The Torsk joined the Historic Ships in 1972. The USCG Cutter Taney (WHEC 37) was berthed at Honolulu Pier 6 during the Japanese attack on December 6, 1941. She fired on Japanese aircraft as they flew over the city. In 1986 she was decommissioned at Portsmouth, VA and joined the Historic Ship fleet. The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was built in Chesapeake Bay in 1856 and is one of the oldest lighthouses in existence.

The foundation that manages these ships does an outstanding job keeping them in good shape.

We rode into the Little Italy neighborhood and had lunch at Amicci’s. This is a quaint restaurant with a series of small dining areas, so you can feel secluded, even on a busy day.

After lunch we rode to Federal Hill that overlooked the Inner Harbor. During the Civil War Federal troops fortified this hill to maintain control over a population that largely sympathized with the South. It is now a green space and site of many community events.

We did a lot of relaxing and riding our bikes around the post. We enjoyed generally good weather and it felt good to kick back and take it easy.

On our last day we drove into nearby Havre de Grace. During the Revolutionary War, the small town was known as Harmer’s Town. It was visited several times by General Lafayette, who commented that the area reminded him of the French seaport of Le Havre. It had originally been named Le Havre-de-Grâce. Inspired by Lafayette’s comments, the residents incorporated the town as Havre de Grace in 1785.

We visited the local lighthouse. I am a lighthouse fanatic and if there is a lighthouse in the area, we have to see it! The Concord Point Light was constructed in 1827 and is the second oldest lighthouse still standing on Chesapeake Bay. The Coast Guard decommissioned the light in 1975, but it was not transferred to the City of Havre de Grace until 1977. While the city owned it, little was done to maintain and restore it until the Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse formed in June 1979 and took on the task of saving and restoring the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters.