Two More Battlefields and Home!

We’ve been gone over seven weeks.  When we first planned this trip and looking at it through the filter of two years (17 months under way), it didn’t seem long enough.  Now that Contessa is “headed towards the barn,” we’re both anxious to get there! That being said, when we pulled out of Watkins Glen and headed due south, we were anxiously anticipating a few days with Nephew Jim, who would be meeting us in Harpers Ferry, WV.  The trip fit perfectly into our 3-3-3 plan, as we drove 287 miles, got in by 3:00p and were staying three nights.  Jim arrived in time for dinner that evening (Thursday) and we laid out a plan for our two days together.

PA - Fog
Interesting Fog Bank as we drove down US 15 thru Pennsylvania!

Brother Rik (Jim’s Dad) had given us a book on Harpers Ferry, so we arrived at the National Park entrance with some knowledge of the history and significance of this quaint town.  Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River and is now literally on the point of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

In 1859, Harpers Ferry was a booming town with both the rivers and major rail transportation.  Radical abolitionist John Brown of Bloody Kansas led a doomed raid on this small industrial town intent on seizing the arms at the Federal Arsenal.  With these arms, he was convinced that African Americans, both free and slave, would follow him in an insurrection.  After fighting with the townsmen and local militia, Brown and his men were soon captured by US Marines, led by Army Colonel Robert E. Lee.  Some historians contend that this was the battle that ignited the “Civil War” and certainly, the storied trial and hanging of John Brown  ignited the passions of many.  However, the “War Between The States” was a conflict on States Rights (Southern View) vs Unity of the Federation (Northern View) until after the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, when Lincoln published the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the States of Secession.

In the 1850s, Harpers Ferry was in its heyday. However, due to its strategic location, it changed hands often during the war.  The town fell under the authority of 28 different commanders and for the most part, Union troops occupied the town. The years of war brought devastation of the homes, lives and businesses of this town and a staggering blow from which the industrial town never fully recovered.

The town today is a beautiful blend of well-kept residences, National Park historic sites and lovely shops & pubs.  We spent a delightful day touring the town and savoring a beautiful day more like mid-September than late August.

St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church – an Active Parish in Harpers Ferry

The Appalachian Trial comes right thru Harpers Ferry
& A Young Gentleman Repairing Gravestones as quite interesting

Early Saturday morning, our destination was the Antietam National Battlefield just north of Sharpsburg MD, some 25 miles to our north.  In the fall of 1862, General Robert E. Lee was having tremendous success against the Union forces, but at great expense to the people of Northern Virginia.  Lee felt it was crucial to take the war onto Northern soil for several reasons; 1) he believed Lincoln would be forced to negotiate once the Yankees felt the direct price of war, 2) both France and Britain were close to “supporting” the Southern desire to secede and a victory on Northern soil would likely cement that support, 3) food for soldiers and horses as well as munitions and supplies could be secured with victories, and 4) he felt that Maryland would support his efforts, as they were a slave state being “forced” to remain under Union control.  At the same time, Lincoln was anxiously awaiting a victory, as his Cabinet had advised him to delay his Emancipation Proclamation until such time as the Union was seen as “winning” rather than as a “desperation announcement.”  As well, the mid-term elections were looming and he was very concerned about the “will of the people”, who were weary of the war and might lean to the democratic candidates who were much more tolerant of slavery.

As we did in Gettysburg, we arranged for a private guide, who spent almost 3 hours with us.  This is, in our opinion, the only way to get a real insight into the facts – political, economic and personal – of these hallowed grounds.  Both National Park employees and the Licensed Guides have such a passion for painting a picture of the events, treasuring the history and guaranteeing we left with both a reverence for the commitment of the soldiers and a resolve to do everything in our power to prevent such bloodshed again.

In one day, September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam became and remains the single bloodiest day in American history – 23, 110 men were killed, injured or missing.  Union forces numbered in the 80,000s and Confederate soldiers about half of that number.  Six generals would lose their life that day as men and boys, green recruits and those seasoned in battle, fought in three major battle areas from 5:00a until dark.

The landscape where Battle Raged – “The Cornfield” were the first of the battle began

The “Sunken Road”  and “Burnside Bridge” where the second and third phases of
the Battle was fought.  

The National Cemetery – 4,400 identified and 1,700 unknown Union soldiers are buried here
The last interment was a local US Navy soldier killed when the US Cole was attacked 

The following day, neither side chose to commence thefighting – and on September 19, Lee led his army back across the Potomac to Virginia.  His first attack on northern soil had ended in defeat.  It would be nine months before he attempted it again, this time in Gettysburg.

Sunday morning, we departed Harpers Ferry, WV – Jim back to Virginia Tech to complete his Masters’ Degree and Contessa and The Toad headed for “the barn.”  We arrived home mid-afternoon, Monday, August 28.  It has been a great trip, we’ve learned a lot about the RV life and Contessa, visited with many friends along the way, experienced places we’ve longed to see – and with our trips to Gettysburg, Fort Adams, Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Tompkins in Sackets Harbor, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, we have been

NY - Sackets Harbor (1)

Well Fort-ified!

The Great State of New York

With all the miles and all the different states & provinces, we made more overnight stops in New York than anywhere else on this adventure.  We had spent a considerable amount of time here during our Great American Loop adventure in 2015 on Ivory Lady and knew some of the breadth and depth of this Great State.  When people say “New York”, it conjured up the “City” which is so far removed from the rest of the state in so many ways.

The vast major of major highways run north and south in New England, driven in large part (we assume) by the mountain ranges and associated valleys that also run this direction.  Our choice when departing Ashland NH to Lake George NY was to travel a couple hundred miles out of our way, or take the “scenic route” on secondary roads.  As we were traveling on a beautiful day and a relatively short distance (172 miles) and with consultation with Cousin George, we elected to head south on I-81 and then go across country on Route 11, avoiding the northern Route 4 which would have been beautiful but much higher elevations.  One thing we have learned about Contessa, she LOVES to go downhill – at a speed we would rather not encounter!

NH - Sailboat is Faster!“Honey, we’re going up hill so slow even a sailboat can pass us”

It was a gentle and uneventful trip, until the last six miles, when traffic at one intersection had us backed up for 15-20 minutes.  Then, to avoid the remainder of the back-up, Captain Bill decided to turn right on US9, which took us directly through Lake George Village – a mega tourist town on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Finally escaping the traffic, we headed north to Adirondack Camping Village.  Unfortunately, when we booked the reservation, the instruction to approach from the north rather than the south (our chosen direction) was not provided, so the 150 degree turn with Toad was EXTREMELY problematic.  So, there we are, blocking the entire entrance and having to do an immediate detachment of the Toad while on the apron of the highway.  Fortunately, we have gotten very competent in coupling and decoupling the Toad and the three cars trying to get into the campground behind us blocked any traffic risk.  Once decoupled, Captain Bill was able to back-up Contessa and complete the turn.

NY - View from my bedroom window“Nice wooded and level site – this is the view from our stateroom”

Sunday morning, we ventured into Lake George Village, attended services at St. James Episcopal Church (where we would return later in the week), made a trip up Prospect Mountain, explored the town and then enjoyed a dinner cruise of Lake George that evening.

Great views of Lake George from Prospect Mountain

Top left is our boat, bottom pic The Sagamore Inn

We were off early the next morning in The Toad to explore Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain.  Built by the French in 1755, Fort Carillon (as she was named then) was the site of the bloodiest battles of the French and Indian War.  British ultimately capture the Fort in 1759, but not before the French blow up the powder magazine during their retreat to insure the British cannot gain access to the munitions stored there.  The British rename the fort “Ticonderoga” – and Mohawk Indian word meaning “Land between Two Waters.”  Situated between Lake Champlain and Lake George, it was a crucial control point from northern invasion.

In May 1775, just six weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord ignite the Revolutionary War, Generals Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture the fort’s small British garrison, and renamed her Fort Ticonderoga.  This was a strategic win for the American forces, as it provided essential artillery, especially cannons, to continue the revolution.  During British rule, the Americans were not allowed to have foundries or facilities to manufacture arms that could be used in an uprising.  In December, 1775, Henry Knox and his group of men move 59 cannons (almost 60 ton) some 300 miles across the frozen lake and over the Berkshire Mountains to Boston.  With the British being unaware of this artillery movement, they woke one morning in early March; saw the battery of cannons and Boston was saved from British capture.

While General John Burgoyne forced the American evacuation of Ticonderoga in 1777, the losses incurred during that battle was a significant component in his surrender to the American forces at Saratoga Springs NY. It was one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

Fort Ticonderoga played only a small part in the War of 1812, as the British forces were thwarted further north in Plattsburgh, preventing the advancement of forces.  Following that war, the Fort was no longer the site of military personnel and fell into disrepair.  Local residents, perhaps understandably at that time, appropriated materials from the fort to build homes, barns and public buildings.

In 1820, merchant William Ferris Pell purchased the fort and adjoining 546 acres.  He had a fence erected around the fort and is credited with the first act of preservation in the United States.  He and wife Mabel built “The Pavilion” as their summer home along the shore of the Lake Champlain.   In 1909, their grandson, Stephen Pell and wife Sarah initiated the reconstruction of the fort, with the Officers’ and Soldiers’ barracks and walls being massively repaired and ultimately, the magazine (destroyed by the Americans prior to evacuating the fort during the conflicts.  Today, it is the home of tens of thousands of artifacts.  We felt this Fort rivaled our experience when the Four Amigos were so impressed with Fort Mackinac, which saw the first conflict of the War of 1812.

NY - Ticonderoga - Mt Defiance (1)A trip up a winding dirt road with deep ruts took us to Mt. Defiance, where there was a great view of Fort Ticonderoga, with another 80 miles of Lake Champlain to the north.  We reflected that earlier in this adventure, we had toured Fort Adams in Newport RI – where Forts Ticonderoga, Sumter (Charleston SC) and McHenry (Baltimore MD) would have fit on the parade grounds with room to spare!

While we often see or hear of events occurring just before or just after we’re in a location, this time we hit it just right.  On Wednesday evening, we returned to St. James Episcopal Church for the first evening of the two weeks of the Lake George Music Festival!  In its seventh season, this event brings together professionals and current students or faculty, or alumni from many prestigious institutions.  Our evening of chamber music featured artists from Yale School of Music, The Julliard School and the Royal Academy of Music as well as the New England Conservatory.  It was simply breath-taking music and an evening we will not soon forget.

The next morning, we headed Contessa west, but rather than take truly secondary roads, we headed south to the New York Thruway.  It was such fun revisiting (if only as we drove past) many sites The Four Amigos had traversed along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal in the summer of 2014.

While we were stuck on the Erie Canal in late June and early July, we had visited many of the sites of The Thousand Islands, including Clayton NY and its Antique Boat Museum and the Boldt Castle.  But we had not seen the eastern shore of Lake Ontario nor Sacket’s Harbor.

Beach at Brennan Beach RV Park – and a Glorious Sunset from the Beach

Sacket’s Harbor was a real surprise to us, but we have marveled on how much of the War of 1812 we have explored during our Loop and now our Land Cruise.  Sacket’s Harbor has the largest deep water harbor on Lake Ontario, and was a key military post for the American forces.  As well, the Navy Yard there was responsible for providing the ships necessary to protect and command the Great Lakes for the United States.

In the early weeks of the War, the British had seized control of the Great Lakes. In September 1812 U.S. Navy Captain Isaac Chauncey was ordered to assume command of naval forces on Lakes Ontario and Erie with the directive to “…use every exertion to obtain control of them this fall.”  Within three weeks he had directed and brought 149 ships’ carpenters, 700 Seamen and Marines and some 100 cannon, along with a good quantity of muskets and other supplies, to Sacket’s Harbor where there was already a small navy yard.  In May, 1813, British forces from Kingston Ontario crossed the Lake to Horse Island; on May 29, they attacked the American forces defending the harbor and Navy Yard.  While they were unsuccessful in their attempt to take Fort Thompkins, many of the Americans had retreated (per plan) to Fort Volunteer across the harbor.  Lack of effective communication had many believing that Fort Tompkins and the Navy Yard were about to fall to the British, so they set fire to the munitions magazine and the ships under construction.  Fortunately, the General Pike was so new in construction that the wood was still green, so while damaged, it was not destroyed and was able to be completed over the next months. It ruled the Great Lakes for the remainder of the War.

On Friday morning, we “land-cruised” around to the south shore of Lake Ontario for a planned weekend with dear friends from Marathon who summer in Sodus Point.  When the Four Amigos were stranded in Brewerton NY for 4th of July, 2014 with high water in the Erie & Oswego Canals, we were rescued by Dave & Sue Williamson and spent a few lovely days with them then.  So, an opportunity to route through Sodus Point on this journey could not be missed!  As well, Rosemary Thomas lives literally “just down the street” – so we were able to spend great times with all of them – dinners in their homes, walks on the beach searching for sea-glass and “wishing stones”, a cruise down the Lake to Fair Haven, and a lovely road trip to neighboring towns and visits with Dave & Sue’s sons & families.

Top left is Dave & Sue’s home – with literally thousands of sandbags that have been there since May attempting to stem the high waters from reaching their home!  Below that, Dave & Bill are solving all the problems of the world!  The bottom left is the Lighthouse where both Sue and Rosemary are extremely active leaders.  The center bottom was the view from our coach during our stay at South Shores RV Park!

On Monday, we turned Contessa south – to the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York.  At first blush, the number of wineries along the shores of the 11 lakes that comprise the region seem to rival the California wine country. Wineries opened in New York in 1976 following approval from the New York Legislature. Having spent such an idyllic time in Sonoma last summer, we chose to spend the majority of our time in the region visiting the Corning Museum of Glass, the Town of Corning, Watkins Glen State Park and the Village of Watkins Glen.

The Museum of Glass was exceedingly well done with major beautiful exhibits and a wide array of glass blowing demonstrations.  Corning Inc (formerly Corning Glass Works) created the museum in 1951 as a gift to the nation on their 100th Anniversary.  It is dedicated to the art, history and science of glass with a collection of more than 45,000 glass objects, some over 3,500 years old.  Downtown Corning has been recognized across the country for this focused effort to revitalize and empower the entrepreneurial spirit of business.  It was a lovely walk across the Chemung River and lunch at Hand & Foot.

The demo areas were superb – and the pedestrian bridge across the River had a full size maze to navigate!

The Watkins Glen State Park was rated one of the Top Three State Parks in the US in 2016 – and it did not disappoint.  Rain and a cold front came through last night, so the hike this morning was spectacular!  Glen Creek has poured down the glacially steepened valley side for 12,000 years, leaving 19 waterfalls and cascades, some of which you walk behind on the gorge trail.  We spent about two hours, walked some 7,000 steps and climbed 24 flights of stairs – truly an amazing experience!

With such a beautiful day, we couldn’t resist an hour aboard the 1934 Stroller IV cruising the southern waters of Seneca Lake.

Bottom left is Hector Falls, dropping 165 feet – it is the third highest waterfalls in New York State

Seneca is the largest of the 11 lakes, extending from Geneva NY at the north to Watkin Glen at the southern tip.  Fed by a plethora of creeks (including Glen Creek) and springs, approx. 324,000 gallons of water enter the Lake every minute!  While Watkins Glen is known for its International Speedway and scenic beauty, the major employers in the town are US Salt and Cargill, both mining salt from 1800’ to 2400’ below the surface of the lake.  To mine the salt, there are two wells, each 500’ deep.  Water is injected into one well shaft, which forces the salt & brine up the second shaft.  From there it is transported by a series of pipes to holding tanks, where it is processed for 24 hours while removing foreign particles from the salt.  It is then moved into large evaporation tanks and the pure salt that remains is packaged under various labels as table salt, water softener pellets or livestock salt lick blocks. The volume of production was amazing – US Salt alone ships between 12 & 14 ton of salt each day!

We’ll have a fire in the fire-pit tonight and prepare Contessa for an early departure tomorrow.

Back to the USA – and Days Savoring New England

As we drove thru the Nova Scotia countryside, we savored our eight days in this idyllic land and promised ourselves we would return.  The people were absolutely delightful, the landscape a gentle blend of mountains and oceans, and the weather was glorious – we felt truly blessed.

It was an easy travel day, and while the mileage was more than we “normally” do, it was all on the great Canadian highways.  We departed Martin’s River early and traced our steps back thru Halifax then headed north to our return to New Brunswick.  Along the way, we passed the highway exit for Stewiecke, Nova Scotia, touting “halfway between the Equator and the North Pole!”  Our stop for the night was on the north side of Moncton, with a pull-thru site at a campground less than a ½ mile off the highway.

One component of land yachting vs. sea yachting  —  there are very defined “quiet times” at campgrounds, so even though we might be ready to roll at 6:30a, we wait until the normal 8:00am end of quiet time to fire up the diesel engine.  That is exactly what we did the next morning and were on the highway long before 8:15a – headed for the US and a couple of nights close to Bangor, Maine.

Chris, owner of the KOA Campground, was entertaining and obviously totally committed to making his facility a great experience for everyone.  He and his wife have owned it for five years, after spending 31 years near Ft. Myers, Florida.  We enjoyed our stay – and will reconnect with them in December, when we will all be at KOA Madeira Beach at Christmas!

One of the many things we enjoy is a “road trip” (to some known as a “Fishcapade”), when we head out (by toad/car) without a timeline or destination.  The adventure and the thrill of the find is a great part of the freedom we are enjoying so much.  We headed, amazingly, to the coastline in search of a real Lobster Pound.  And, boy, did we hit the jackpot!

ME - Young's Lobster Pound (4)

Belfast, Maine is a quaint town with a healthy downtown commerce (read tourist) with vibrant harbor and waterfront area.  American Cruise Lines brings the “American Constitution” a 175 passenger ship into Belfast as one stop in their seven day adventure of the Maine coast.

 

Across the harbor from the town and waterfront is Young’s Lobster Pound.  A beautiful day provided the setting for a crowded dock & deck at Young’s – the lobster salad was fresh and crisp, the grilled haddock was simply mouth-watering and the potato salad was out of this world!  We had a leisurely lunch, a few stops at must-see shops and were home by late afternoon, ready to prepare for an early departure the next morning.

Our original travel plan took us on secondary roads of Route 2 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont.  We had encountered an issue with the air brakes on The Toad (Jeep) when we pulled into our site in Prince Edward Island.  While it wasn’t an issue with the topology of the Canadian Maritimes, we were hesitant to take Contessa up and down (especially) narrow mountain roads without the brakes on the Toad.  We’ve said all along the plans are made to be altered – and with a bit of research, more than a few phone calls and some assistance from our Camping World in Hendersonville/Asheville, we got an appointment at the Camping World in Chichester New Hampshire for 9:00a Wednesday morning.  Out of Bangor nice and early Tuesday, we took the southern route back to Portsmouth New Hampshire and then across to Chichester, arriving by early afternoon.  We checked in with CW to reconfirm our appointment and then headed for Great Meadow Campground, less than a mile away.

NH - Oyster - A Buck A Shuck

Can’t Resist A Buck A Shuck!

Bright and early, we appeared at Camping World.  Kass checked us in – confirmed that we were waiting for the vehicle and the cell numbers were correct – and The Toad went into the work bay by 9:00a.  There is only so much wandering around the store, sitting in the lounge and touring campers a person can do – and we’d wander by the Service Deck about every 20 minutes in hopes of finding Kass and getting an update.  Finally, at 12:20p, she’s at the desk and then the dreaded words – “Oh, the technician wants to speak with you”.  Turns out, the tech had identified the problem within 5 minutes of the Jeep being in the bay and had asked Kass to contact  us.  There is a “break-away” switch that applies the brake if it detects the toad has broken away from the coach.  This plug had been pulled out of the socket perhaps 1/8” – but being newbies and without any documentation or troubleshooting materials, we missed it.  So the tech had been waiting for us for three hours and it’s now 12:30p, so he had to go to lunch before he could connect the toad with the coach and test his theory.  Six hours and $170 later, we had learned a few valuable lessons!

Fortunately, our destination was only 46 miles away – and Ames Brook Campground was by far the most beautiful site we have seen on the entire trip!  The owners are pleasant and run a tight ship.  When a site is vacated, a young man on a golf cart arrives within 5-7 minutes.  He clears any debris, trims any bushes or grass, blows the site clear – and it’s ready for the next guest.  All the sites have tree line barriers between them, the wi-fi is strong and reliable and there’s  a good combination of seasonal and transient campers.

NH - Ames Brook Campsite (2)

Ames Brook meandered through the Campground and right behind Contessa

We love the Lake Region of New Hampshire for so many reasons.  Dear cousins, George and Cherry Tyler live in Laconia, the lakes are beautiful (Squam Lake was the film site for On Golden Pond) and the plethora of wooden boats (ChrisCraft, Garwood and Hacker) are  all close to our hearts.

Thursday, we headed around Lake Winnipesaukee to Wolfeboro enjoying the views and vistas.  As we drove up Route 3, Bill thought he recognized a “memory” from years ago that we promised ourselves we would check out on the way back.  The town of Wolfeboro, named for British General James Wolfe, is a haven for boaters and water lovers during the season.  With a natural harbor, Wolfeboro was a center of commerce when transportation relied on water for goods and services, as well as personal travel.  As every town is want to do, they have a “claim to fame” and Wolfeboro’s claim is they are “The Oldest Summer Resort in America” as some of the country’s wealthiest and most prominent families of the Northeast (Boston, Philadelphia and New York) would vacation here.  As well, many influential international visitors have enjoyed the peace and tranquility, including such names as Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco and French President Nicolas Sarkozy quite recently.  A trolley tour of town, a delightful lunch at the Wolfeboro Tavern, a visit to the Wooden Boat Museum (imagine that!) and a stop at the Butcher & Seafood Market completed a delightful day.

Amazingly, we remembered to check out Bill’s “memory sighting” on the way home – and sure enough, and much to our surprise, it was the quaint roadside motel complete with tiny restaurant that we had stayed in 16 years ago when we visited the region during the Antique Boat Show then held in Weirs Beach (it has since moved to Wolfeboro).  When we stopped for pictures, the owner came out and chatted with us – and invited us to return for Saturday morning breakfast, as her husband would be cooking!  It was superb!

NH - Yankee Trail Motel Route 3 (2)

But what Bill had first seen was the street sign up the road from the motel.  We love to check out the interesting names of roads as we traverse the backroads of our beautiful country.  This one has always been our absolute favorite!

 

Cousin Cherry had had cataract surgery on Tuesday, so we were thrilled that she was up to a road trip on Friday and George was a willing chauffeur!  They joined us at Contessa for a tour and then a scrumptious lunch at The Common Man.  It was so good to “get a visit” and we look forward to seeing them this winter on Anna Maria Island.

Our last stop in the region was the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in nearby Holderness.  It is a ¾ mile walk with animals native to this area, including mountain lions, bears, birds of many species and fish of the waterways.  It is truly an outstanding place for learning for young people and a joy to encounter at any age.  These animals have been injured or for some reason cannot survive in the wild, if released – a loving and safe environment for them.

Then it was back to Contessa and prepare for the next leg of our Journey, which will include stops in four locations in the State of New York while avoiding the City!

 

Nova Scotia – Canada’s Ocean Playground

We all were excited about taking the ferry from Wood Island, Prince Edward Island, to Caribou, Nova Scotia. The opportunity to save a couple hundred miles of travel while experiencing a different mode of travel all sounded great.  The only downside was Contessa & The Toad needed to go on the larger 9:30a departure, but even with many attempts, we could not get Loyal & Bonnie on that crossing, so they left Thursday afternoon in order to be “on time” for the 8:00a crossing on Friday. They would continue on to Bras d’Or Campground on Cape Breton and Contessa & Crew would catch up in the afternoon.

Knowing that the one thing you don’t want to do is miss the ferry that you’ve paid for – and another was not available for a couple of days, Contessa headed out at little before 7a on Friday morning.  With guidance from Loyal, we stayed on TransCanada Highway rather than the “shorter route” – and pulled into the Ferry Terminal right at 8:00a.  At least we’d be able to take a picture of Loyal & Bonnie’s ferry departing and be one of the first in line for our 9:30a crossing.

NS - Ferry from PEI (2)

Much to our amazement, they motioned us onto the ferry, as it had not “closed the ramp” – and we drove right on, followed by two large semi-trucks!  We sure enjoyed surprising Bonnie & Loyal, making the 75 minute crossing together and continuing our travels in tandem!

 

Contessa & The Toad on the Ferry!

Cape Breton is a phenomenal region of northeast Nova Scotia, with Bras d’Or Lake (French for “arm of gold” likely referring to the sun’s rays on the fingers/inlets of the lake) taking center stage.  With 424 square miles of partial salt & fresh water, maximum length of 62 miles, width of 31 miles, depth of 942 feet and 621 miles of shoreline – she is one beautiful lady!  The map below shows the sheer size of both the lake and Cape Breton (the upper right third of the province), which appears to connect to the mainland, but is really connected with a single two-lane road known as the Canso Causeway.

NS - Cape Breton Map

We were camped along the northeastern shore south of  Baddeck (baa deck’), which was centrally located for our 3 day/4 night stay in this part of Nova Scotia.  After settling in, we decided to run up to Baddeck to check out the town and ended up staying for dinner.  The “find of the day” was Big Spruce Oatmeal Stout (beer) on tap from a brewery just outside Madou, some 40 miles over on the western shore.

With Monday forecasted to be the day of sun, we elected to reserve that for the Cabot Trail and hit some other sites on Saturday & Sunday.  Saturday morning we made a bee-line for the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, as we had heard it was a “don’t miss” opportunity – and we were not disappointed.

The Museum was named a National Historic Site in 1952

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland in 1847 and immigrated to Brantford Ontario Canada with his parents in 1870 at age 23, after both brothers had died of tuberculosis and the parents feared for his life, as well.  Bell’s father, grandfather and older brother had all been associated with elocution and speech to assist the deaf (his mother was deaf) and Alexander continued this pursuit.  While we knew he was the inventor of the first commercially viable telephone (patented in 1876), we were amazed at the depth and breadth of his explorations.

After getting his parents settled in Ontario, he accepted a position in Boston teaching his father’s method for Visible Speech, which substantially helped many people afflicted with hearing loss.  As well, he took on private tutoring, including Mabel Hubbard, daughter of one of Bell’s early financiers, who had been deaf since age 5 from effects of scarlet fever.  AG (as he referred to himself) and Mabel were married in 1877 when she was 19, and together they raised two daughters (as well as having lost two children in childbirth).

One summer, as they had been prone to do for several years, they were traveling to Newfoundland for a summer holiday, when weather forced their vessel into Bras d’Or Lakes and Baddeck Bay.  The topology, weather and community reminded him so much of his native Scotland, that they remained there for that summer and purchased a home before they returned to Washington DC, which had become their primary home.  Over the years, they spent more and more time in Baddeck and consequently built Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic for “beautiful mountain”), a 36 room stone mansion on the 600 acres they purchased in the late 1880s.

Here Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, worked on aviation (resulting in the first powered flight in Canada in Baddeck), hydrofoils and optical telecommunications. AG followed in his father’s footsteps as the second president (though not one of the original 33 founders) of the National Geographic Society.  His son, grandson and great-grandson have also led this amazing organization.  One interesting fact – Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.

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Beinn Bhreagh – the Bell home that remains as a private residence within his family, therefore is not open to the public

The Oatmeal Stout and the Kitchen Party Pale Ale from Big Spruce Brewery were calling our name – so off to the brewery we went for a food wagon lunch and some local entertainment.

As impossible as it seemed, while haddock, scallops, mussels, lobster and cod were in great supply, our search for fresh clams came up empty-handed – but we had a lovely ride to the northeast end of the island to North Sydney in search of fish markets.  We were searching for fresh clams to augment Bonnie’s planned Pasta & White Clam Sauce for dinner  — it was fabulous without the fresh clams and we completed the evening with a laughter-filled round of Five Crowns.

Sunday dawned crisp and cloudy as we headed out for services at St. Ann’s Presbyterian Church.  We received a warm and hearty welcome from the 12 parishioners (including the minister, organist and 2 choir members) that were in attendance.  The Church was founded in 1820 by a ready-made Congregation of Scotch Presbyterians who arrived from Pictou, Nova Scotia aboard “The Ark”.  Led by Rev. Norman MacLeod, they had intended to sail to Ohio (?!??!), but after some days of sailing and the crew having a successful day of fishing in St. Ann’s Bay, they decided it must have been providential that they stopped there and determined to go no farther – they had found their Promised Land, less than 200 miles from their origin.

MacLeod was a determined and unyielding individual resulting in an ever-increasing conflict with the “established Church”.  He was described as a very complex person, going to extremes in his attitude and activities – from harshness to kindliness – there were no in-between emotions with him or concerning him.  For 32 years, he led the St. Ann’s congregation and therefore the parishioner’s lives.  The community encountered continued hardship with harshness of winters, land not being as productive as it was hoped and famine appearing inevitable.  In 1852, he and some of his flock of ~140 people set sail aboard a new vessel, first to Australia and then on to New Zealand.  They made it further on their second try!!

A lovely little countryside church on the side of the road.  Loved the Scottish plaids in the pew seat covers!

Having enjoyed the brewery on Saturday, our Sunday afternoon destination was the only single-malt whisky distillery in North America.  How could we possibly not visit it!  Opened in 1990, with a distillery, inn and restaurant, it has a distinctive Scottish flare to the buildings, the equipment and the personnel.  The inn & restaurant were intended to provide income in those first 10 early years until the single malt could be bottled and sold.  As is often the case, turning a vision into a reality is more difficult and costly than anticipated, so in 1994, it was sold to a local couple who continue to own and operate this lovely spot.

It can’t be called Scotch, because it is not made in Scotland, but it is an excellent single malt whisky!  Our lunch was delightful and the music by local young ladies (and a local gent upon occasion) was energetic, so say the least!

Monday was everything the weatherman had promised – and we set off to “do the Cabot Trail”!  The trail is 186 miles around the northeast end of Cape Breton Island, called one of the world’s must-see sites by Travel & Leisure Magazine.  The trail offers spectacular coastal views, highland scenery and warm Celtic and Acadian hospitality, along with amazing artisans in quaint shops along the way.

NS - Gaelic CollegeOur first stop was the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, founded in 1938 as an educational non-profit institution, offering year-round programming in the culture, music, language, crafts, customs, and traditions of the immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland. Currently, students are able to choose to study from over ten traditional arts, including fiddle, piano, guitar, step-dancing, and piping, highland dancing, weaving, and of course Gaelic language.  It is one-of-a-kind in North America and people of all ages come to learn and improve their talents and skills.  We were thrilled that Bonnie was able to order fabric of her Scottish heritage, the Hanna tartan.

As we wound our way through small towns and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, each vista was more spectacular.  Walks on the beach (yes, a real beach) and a picnic lunch were delightful.  Even the myriad of road construction challenges and delays could not dampen our enthusiasm for this amazing gift of scenery and weather!

And one cannot come to Baddeck without enjoying their Lobster Supper!  Along with “all you can eat” mussels and seafood chowder, it was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Our time on Cape Breton had come to an end – and off we went for a day’s travel to Mahone Bay, in southwestern Nova Scotia.  Campgrounds that can handle Contessa are few and far between – and are often found down narrow roads littered with potholes and obstacles.  We have been concerned about the curb side drive axle tire since we first brought Contessa to North Carolina in May.  Entrance into Rayport Campground in Martin’s River did the tire in – but what a blessing that we were planning to be there four days, which gave us time to find a replacement tire and have it installed on-site without impacting our plans!

We had to make the most of our limited time in Mahone Bay, as Loyal & Bonnie were leaving after two days, so off to Halifax we went early Wednesday morning.  It was quite a shock to our system to be in a town of 400,000 people, having enjoyed the solitude of small towns and clean air for weeks.  The city was teeming with people and the Visitor’s Center one of the least helpful we have ever encountered.  Regardless, we made our way to the Maritime Museum and an amazing display on the explosion that rocked Halifax, Richmond and Dartmouth.

Halifax is the largest deep water port in Atlantic Canada and is the home to the Canadian Navy.  As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies, and munitions across the Atlantic Ocean to support the Allied troops. On the morning of December 6, 1917, the Norwegian vessel “Imo” left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City.  At the same time, the French freighter “Mont Blanc,” its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions–2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun cotton–was forging through the harbor to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic.

At approximately 8:45a, the two ships collided in what is known as The Narrows – a less than 1 kilometer wide passageway between the inner and outer harbor, setting the picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the harbor of the peril of the burning ship. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05a in a blinding white flash.

The massive explosion killed more than 1,800 people, injured another 9,000–including blinding 200–and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away, and the sound of the explosion could be heard hundreds of miles away.

Several times in history, Halifax and its residents have “stood the test when tested” – not only with this horrific explosion, but also in the rescue and recovery efforts of the Titantic and of SwissAir 111, which crashed into the Atlantic just 5 miles off shore in 1998, killing all 229 passengers and crew aboard.

No trip to Nova Scotia is complete without a visit to Peggy’s Cove – and especially so for Bonnie with having a sister, Peggy!  While the sun had shown strong and warm all day, the fog and wind had overcome the lighthouse and surrounding village.

Our trip to Lunenberg on Thursday was just enough for all of us to be saying – we needed more time and must return “someday.”  St. John’s Anglican Church, built in 1754 and extensively restored following a fire in 2001, took our breath away.  It is the second oldest Protestant Church in Canada and is magnificent in its Carpenter’s Gothic architectural style.

The restoration cost $6.2M – only about $2M was covered by insurance.  The remainder was funded by grants and over half by the residents of Lunenberg!  The blue ceiling & stars above the chancel is how the sky would have looked over Lunenberg on the First Christmas Night and the birth of Christ.

Unfortunately, Blue Nose II was out cruising with the Tall Ships – so we could only see museum material regarding this replica of the famous fishing  and racing schooner Bluenose, built in 1921 in Lunenburg.

NS - Lunenburg - Blue Nose Museum (3)Under the command of Angus Walters, she came a provincial icon for Nova Scotia and an important Canadian symbol in the 1930s, and was nicknamed the “Queen of the North Atlantic”. The name “Bluenose” originated with a strain of local potatoes which are blue through and through and became a nickname for Nova Scotians from as early as the late 18th century.  We toured the Maritime Museum, had a delightful lunch at the Rumrunner and then it was time to return to the campground for Loyal & Bonnie’s departure.  The car was quieter during that ride than at any time during our two weeks together.

 

By 2:30p, they were on their way to Yarmouth to catch the ferry on Friday morning to Portland, Maine for a visit with friends on their way back to Michigan.  We all had a fabulous time together and look forward to more time together in Marathon right after the first of the new year, if not before!

Contessa and The Toad both got a good washing on Friday – which they both sorely needed.  A day around the camp was relaxing and yet a bit tense, as the tire company did not arrive until almost 5:00p to install the new tire.  As we were planning to head out on Saturday morning to begin our journey back to the States – and the campground didn’t have room for us to stay – we were thrilled when Morgan arrived!

So, we were ready for an early morning departure – off to the next adventure through New England.

To PEI – the Smallest Province

Loyal and Bonnie headed down the one-way dirt road from our “hilltop” campsite first – to waylay anyone attempting to head up the hill as we came down. A challenge with Contessa and The Toad being hitched (64’ long) is – you can’t back up and you can’t maneuver out of other people’s way too much!  We arrived at the base without incident, only to discover they only had one ferry running again, so it took us about 45 minutes to get both motorhomes across the St. John River and on our way to Prince Edward Island (PEI).

PEI - Confederation Bridge (1)Entry onto PEI can be accomplished by bridge or by ferry – we would arrive via bridge and depart via ferry five days later.  The Confederation Bridge is an amazing feat of engineering – longer and much higher than our infamous Seven Mile Bridge, this one is 8.3 miles. Begun in October, 1993, it was completed May 31, 1997 and PEI was officially “connected” to the mainland for the first time.  The majority of the bridge is 120’ above the often icy sea level; however, at its highest point, the Navigation Span, the bridge reaches almost 200’, allowing large sea vessels, including cruise ships, to navigate under the bridge between its piers.

Having purchased a Truck GPS to purportedly assist in better routes for large vehicles, we were once again routed the long, narrow route rather than the direct, wider route to Pine Hills RV Park, but we got a great tour of the countryside. The sites are lovely, wide, clean and we are parked next to each other for our five night stay.  An evening of settling in and dining at home would serve us well for the marathon of the coming days.

Having determined our chosen Charlottetown tour would not be available on Monday, we elected to head north that day to Cavendish and the Anne of Green Gables Museum.  Author Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on October 30, 1874, Maud’s mother died when she was but 21 months old.  In those days, a father did not rear his children without a mother, so she was left in the care of her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill.  Living as an only child of an elderly couple, she spent much of her youth developing a wild imagination.  “Anne of Green Gables” is the fictional story of Anne Shirley, an orphan sent “by mistake” to an elderly brother and sister who were seeking a boy to help with the farm chores.  The book is loosely based in the home that is now the museum, owned by cousins of LM Montgomery’s grandparents and a place she loved to visit.  She wrote this, her first book, in 1905, but after receiving many rejection letters, she stored it away in a hatbox.  Two years later, she re-read the story and decided to submit it again for consideration – this time it was accepted by Page Publications of Boston and upon its publication in 1908, became an immediate best seller.  Maud went on to write 20 novels, 19 of them based on Prince Edward Island.

Along the north shore of PEI and close to Cavenish is the Prince Edward Island National Park – a lovely site for our picnic lunch and views of the red dunes.  In several of the inlets were “fields” of oyster farms.

Tuesday morning dawned cold and damp, but it did not dampen our spirits or our plans.  First stop – a horse drawn wagon tour of Charlottetown by owner, Sarah.  It was a unique and colorful way to be introduced to the city and to this delightful province.  Sarah, originally from Calgary, came to PEI fifteen years ago to start her business, having fallen in love with the idea and horses when she was 19 and “ran away” to Victoria to “find herself”.  She and her husband now own eight Percheron horses, which are gorgeous draft work horses. We gained a real appreciation of both the city and the province, which remains approximately 49% Protestant and 48% Roman Catholic.  Back in the day, the segregation was by personal choice – not by legislature.  People chose to live, study, work and marry within their faith – even to having two universities in Charlottetown, St. Dunstan was Catholic and is now the University of PEI while the College of Prince Edward being Protestant is now Holland College.  Today the segregation is much less evident

The small boat & snowshoes on the right are made and used by the first priest to deal with the challenges of reaching his large parish!

St. Dunstan’s Basilia (where the University got its name) is the fourth cathedral in Charlottetown.  Named for St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, the first church was built on this site in 1816.  A second, larger wooden cathedral was built in 1843.  With fire being such a risk to structures, the first stone cathedral was built in 1896.  But, alas, just six years after the Cathedral’s dedication, on March 7, 1913, the Cathedral was destroyed by fire!  Inspired by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the reconstruction of the interior and repair of the walls was done with the finest materials and craftsmanship to fashion an elegant English Gothic interior that far surpassed the original cathedral in magnificence, completed in 1919.

Confederation Centre located beside Province Hall, celebrates the conference held here in 1864 where John A. Macdonald, George Brown and George-Étienne Cartier representing Ontario and Quebec gained agreement from representatives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI to join together to create the Confederation of Canada.  There were two driving forces behind this decision – the fear that the United States would continue to gain strength and potentially invade the British territories as well as the British Government pushing the territories to become a “Super Colony” that could self-govern and coincidentally cease to require funding from the Mother Country. Macdonald went on to become the first Prime Minister of the New Dominion of Canada.  PEI, while originally committing to become part of the Confederation, did not find the terms of union favorable and balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States.

By 1873, the financial tides had turned on PEI and Prime Minister Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism, negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Dominion Government of Canada assumed the colony’s extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony’s absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation on July 1, 1873

1885 photo of Robert Harris‘ 1884 painting, Conference at Quebec in 1864, to settle the basics of a union of the British North American Provinces, also known as The Fathers of Confederation. The original painting was destroyed in the 1916 Parliament Buildings Centre Block fire. The scene is an amalgamation of the Charlottetown and Quebec City conference sites and attendees.

PEI - Charlottetown - Beaconfield Mansion (8)Robert Harris, artist, and his brother William C Harris, architect, had a strong and lasting impact on Charlottetown.  We toured Beaconfield, designed and built by W.C. Harris in 1877 for James and Edith Peake. Beaconsfield was one of Charlottetown’s most elegant homes and stands as an enduring symbol of Victorian elegance.

 

PEI - Charlottetown - Beaconfield Mansion (13)Featuring the finest in materials and craftsmanship, it was also equipped with all the latest conveniences of the day. The Peakes, unfortunately, were destined to enjoy Beaconsfield for a very short time – a time filled with triumphs and tragedies.  James lost his fortune made in wooden sailing shipbuilding with the introduction of the steamship and was forced to surrender their home to the mortgage holder just five years after completion. James left PEI and spent the rest of his life in British Columbia, working as a butler in a gentleman’s club.  His wife chose to remain in Charlottetown with their two surviving children (they originally had six) – she lived in a modest house provided by her wealthy father and outlived all of her children.

Just around the harbor from Beaconsfield is the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion.  As it is still used by the sitting leader, it is only open to the public in July & August.  Although we were there during the “available hours”, we could not gain access, but thoroughly enjoyed both the view and the gardens.

Confederation Centre also houses one of only two National Art Galleries in Canada and hosts a delightful collection of Canadian artists in every imaginable medium.  The docent was a hoot – and we enjoyed her expose’ on the obsession of many toward LM Montgomery, whose original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables is on display in the Gallery.  She shared that just a few days ago, there was a “tea” held atop the grave of LM Montgomery – and she shook her head in amazement!

Connecting with friends is, as you can tell, a great part of this adventure we are on.  None was more special than our pre-arranged dinner with Liz Fuller and her niece Melissa for dinner!  Liz is an active member of our St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Brevard and it was so special to spend a few hours at the Olde Dublin Pub with her during her vacation with Melissa, who is from northwestern Iowa.

After much laughter and many hugs, we parted on the steps of Confederation Centre, as we all had tickets for the Musical “Anne of Green Gables”.  This production has run continuously for 53 years!  The production was exceedingly well done, the voices spectacular and yes, some of us did shed a tear – while others in the group expressed it was really a “girl’s show”!

Wednesday had us heading to North Cape and the northern most point of PEI and of the Canadian Maritimes for us.  The lighthouse is a functioning Aid to Navigation and as such cannot be toured by visitors.  The landscape is stunning, even with the Canadian Wind Energy explorations and plethora of wind turbines.  We shared a delightful lunch at the Wind and Reef, which had been recommendations as a #1 restaurant by the young lady at the Visitors’ Centre in Charlottetown.  Note to self – when the docent is from that area and she is rightfully proud of her hometown of Tignish, take her recommendation based on location, not on exceptional food!  Regardless, we had a lovely time and visited with our server, Donna, who has spent her life on the northern coast of this beautiful far-away place.

 

PEI - Acadian Museum (2)On the way to North Cape, we visited the Acadian Museum in Miscouche.  Acadian comes from the Indian word “acadie” (a-ka-dee’) meaning ‘peaceful place’.  A few of the French immigrants, being deported following the British Conquest of Acadia in 1710, made their way to the western frontier of PEI, while most were sent back to France, fled to Quebec or found their way to Louisiana.  Over time the word has been applied to the region also known as the Canadian Maritimes, but the French Acadian descendants protect their heritage, their language and their flag (adopted in 1884) with vigor.

After searching high and low for sea glass artisans, we finally found a lovely little shop on Thursday morning only a few kilometers from our campground and the four of us spent a hour with the proprietor and her husband – learning how to wrap the precious glass with 20 gauge silver wire.  We each came away with a lovely little piece of jewelry and delightful memories.

We then made a quick run out to Orwell History Village, which has been lovingly maintained and is still worked as a producing farm since its construction in 1895.  The General Store housed a family of 9, plus a dressmaker in rooms over the store.  Until its purchase by the Historical Foundation in 1972, the building was inhabited by its second owner, a photographer, who used the store area for his studio, but all the furnishings, cash registers and cabinetry work is original. The one-room schoolhouse operated with a single teacher to cover grades 1-10 until 1966, when the province implemented a consolidated school system.  During most of its operation, the school-teacher could only be a single lady – and she would have to give up teaching should she get married.  If a student wished to continue their studies, they would need to be recommended to one of the two universities in distant Charlottetown, some 25 miles away.

Back to Pine Hills RV Park, so Loyal and Bonnie could pack up and head out.  We were both taking the Northumberland Ferry from Wood Island PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia the next morning.  Unfortunately, there was not room for both of us on the 9:30 crossing (recommended for Contessa & Toad due to size), so they were booked for the 8:00a crossing.  With an hour plus trip and needing to be at the ferry at least 45 minutes before departure, they elected to move to the Provincial Park less than a mile from the ferry landing.

Off they went – with all of us anticipating a reunion at Bras d’Or Lakes the following afternoon!

The Canadian Maritime Provinces – Here We Come!

With great anticipation, we departed the Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park Region for New Brunswick – destination Saint John.  In addition to the thrill of the Maritimes was the knowledge that we were connecting with great friends, Loyal and Bonnie Eldridge with their motorhome.  Last summer, the four of us spent a delightful 10 days in San Francisco & Sonoma Valley, complements of the Marathon Yacht Club Educational Foundation Auction, at the home of Steve Schultz & Ruth Olson.  When you find great travel companions, one opportunity leads to another!

The crossing into Canada was uneventful with a friendly Customs Agent who made a quick review of our “personal stores” and sent us on our way.  Truth be told, we had way more libations than allowed, but he bid us good day, have a great holiday – and don’t tell everyone on Facebook!! By early afternoon, we were boarding the Grand Bay Westfield ferry to transport us a thrilling 5 minute ride across the St John River to the campground. There is a recurring theme here – the advertising seldom is indicative of reality!  The ferry ride is quaint, but the promotion of sites on the river became a steep climb up a dirt road to the “hilltop” which had no view.  Regardless, Loyal and Bonnie arrived shortly after our arrival (three days from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), our sites were close together and we rejoiced in the beginning of another adventure with them!

 

View from Contessa as we approached landside, top right is the St. John River as we crossed, bottom right shows the deckhand managing traffic around us

St John is THE port city for New Brunswick and as such is a bustling metropolis.  Located on the Bay of Fundy, they and their neighbors encounter some of the most amazing tides in the world. The Reversing Falls was a “must see” – where the St John River empties into the Bay of Fundy – with such powerful tides that the incoming tide “changes the direction” of the river with a fluctuation of near 20’. The first morning, we viewed the mouth of the river at high tide and promised ourselves we would return for low tide.

 

The cormorants would fly down river and tide up the in-bound tide!  The second picture is a view from the observation deck – bay to the right flowing into the St. John River effectively reversing the tide to where you can almost “see” a waterfall.

On June 24, 1604, St John the Baptist Day, French Explorer Samuel de Champlain landed at the mouth of the mighty river.  In honor of the day, he proclaimed that the river and the harbor be named “St. John.”  Years of turmoil between British and French allegiance culminated in 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht ceded French Acadia, including the St. John River Valley, to the English.  However, today, New Brunswick is the only bilingual province – Quebec is French, the other seven provinces are English and New Brunswick alone is bilingual.  We met two elementary teachers – one who is striving to get a full time teaching position after seven years of “substitute teaching” because she is not bilingual and the other who purposely went to a French only University even though she was reared English, so that she could position herself for hire.

At the end of the American Revolution, in 1783, 14,000 American supporters of the British arrived in St. John.  Known as “The Loyalists”, their settlements were incorporated by Royal Charter into the City of St. John – Canada’s first city.

The architecture is quite Victorian and, other than the waterfront that succumbed to a fire in 1877 is in amazing condition.  The City Market has been in continuous use since 1876 and is believed to be the oldest common-law market in Canada.  The structure, according to local lore, was built by out of work ship-builders – and the interior roof supports are clearly reminiscent of a ship’s hull with 16” x 16” beams. Loyal was drawn to Billy’s Seafood Market, where the proprietor himself was in the Market waving his Oyster Flag – yes, that very night was Oyster Night and “2 Bucks A Shuck”.  An easy decision to make a reservation!

 

As we strolled through the city, we found huge bollards (used to secure sea-going vessels to the dock) more than a block away from the water’s edge.  This is the result of both the water levels receding over the last 200 years and the huge docks used before the technology of cranes that were filled in to make a more appealing waterfront area.  The docks are now across the river in what is now the industrial part of town.

Billy’s was a real treat with six types of fresh oysters on the half shell – four from Prince Edward Island (PEI) and two from New Brunswick.  The only obvious solution was four of each – and collectively rate them for future reference.  The winner – Daisy Bay from PEI!  As we dined on scrumptious halibut stuffed with snow crab, a couple was seated directly behind us.  We struck up a conversation and, lo and behold, while she is originally from New Brunswick – they now live in Cashiers, NC about 30 miles from us!

 

Loyal and Bill opted for the New Brunswick Museum, highlighting St. John’s shipbuilding and lumbering industries – building those huge wooden sailing ships with hand tools!  The Natural History exhibits offered full-size models and skeletons of whales and mastodons.

Saint John - Moose & Friends (2)

The only Moose we’ve seen – so far!

Bonnie and Jann spent the morning with a revisit to the City Market, where they purchased a $3 paper bag of dulse (highly recommended by the couple last night at dinner).  Dulse is a regional delicacy of dried sea weed, similar to the kelp beds of the Pacific Northwest. A small sample made it clear that while locals might enjoy it, it was not for Bonnie or Jann – but rest assured, Captain Bill loves it! The morning was completed with a lovely art gallery with a wide array of regional art of many forms.

As planned, we met for lunch again on the Boardwalk – yesterday was the St. John’s Irish Pub and today was Duffy’s.  We heard bagpipes calling us – and found them at the end of the Boardwalk. We thoroughly enjoyed their music.  We’re blessed to be in Canada this year for their sesquicentennial celebration.  We will benefit from Canada 150 throughout our time in the Maritimes, with grand celebrations and free admission to all National Parks!

Then we were off for a boat ride of the harbor but the main attraction was the Reversing Rapids – a highlight of our time in St. John.  As we boarded the boat, a flotilla of paddlers descended upon us – they had been paddling the St. John River for seven days and the bagpipers were there to welcome them.

 

We had timed the ride toward low tide, when the fresh water from the St. John River rushes into the saltwater of the Bay of Fundy.  The vortex created by this phenomenon can span 21’ with a 6’ deep whirlpool.  Our small boat was buffeted by the current as we were regaled with stories by the Greek Captain and Canadian Mate.  In one tidal rotation (high to low and return to high), enough water will flow through the mouth of the St John River to fill the Grand Canyon TWICE!

 

The harbor tour component of the trip was quite informative, with both the Captain and Mate sharing their personal frustrations and concerns for their country, province and city. Irving Petroleum has a huge refinery on the shoreline and even a pipeline and station well out in the harbor to accommodate vessels too large to enter the port.  The mate shared that the “owners” were the 13th largest land owners in the world, but would not share who the ultimate owners were!  Unfortunately, the wealth of the conglomerate does not translate to personal wealth of the residents, as homeless and hungry children numbers are increasing exponentially here in St. John and New Brunswick.

A return by car later in the afternoon to the Reversing Rapids showed the dramatic change at low tide from the high tide experienced the morning before.  While at the park, we met one of the paddlers that we had seen earlier in the day on our boat tour. She was almost in shock seeing the rapids, as they had surely waited upstream until slack tide to cross this very spot!

Highly uncommon for us, we returned to the same restaurant for the second night in a row.  The food was so good, the service impeccable and the enticement for a “Dinner and Comedy Night” too great to resist.  We even had the same table at the window – and then made our way to Yuk Yuks just a few blocks away for an evening of laughter and entertainment.

Tomorrow we’re off to Prince Edward Island.

Maine-ly Perfect!

Having bid our dear friends “Adios” until Marathon next winter, we did what we always do – get up and get going early. Well, at least until we had Contessa and The Toad Hitched!  There is a comfortable routine, and supporting checklists, to make sure all systems are go and the final step is to check the lights and that the arms on the Blue Ox hitch lock in place. Left turn light good, right turn light good, no brake lights – check it again, left good, right good, no brakes lights on either vehicle. Our neighbor Gary (campgrounds and marinas are very similar in the friendliness of our neighbors) had been admiring Contessa and immediately said – “Where’s your fuse panel”.  Sure enough, after some searching of the schematic, F28 Brakes was located and the 15 amp mini-fuse was blown.  Pull out the spares – yep, have 5, 10 and 20 but no 15!  “No problem”, says Gary – “I’ll get you one of mine.”  He returns with sheepish grin on his face – he has 5, 10 and 20 and no 15. A quick call to the Advance Auto Parts, disconnect The Toad, run down to Middletown (6 miles away), get two packs of 15 amp fuses, install the errant fuse and away we go.  Now Gary has spares and so do we!

Timing is always a consideration, but never more so than planning to go around the inner belt (I-95) of Boston.  Even with the delay with the brakes, we were “right on time” for mid-morning on Friday.  We hoped it was the sweet spot between rush hour and the evacuation of Boston to the Beaches for the weekend.  The trip was much more pleasant than we anticipated, except for the little bug of a car that attempted to wedge himself into a line of stopped traffic exiting the interstate.  He only got his nose in and his back end was sticking out into our lane – right in front of us doing 60 MPH.  Amazing, Captain Bill was able to swing into the outside lane and miss the bug by at least an inch or two.  I suspect the driver is still shaking!

Our first destination in Maine – Old Orchard Beach – is known as the “Coney Island of Maine” and is aptly named with a quaint little town, tourist shops, carnival rides on the pier as well as a lovely beach. Wild Acres Campground is certainly that – wild and 75 acres of winding roads and tents/campers/cabins among pools, playgrounds, zip lines, BMX tracks and every imaginable entertainment.  Our site itself was quite lovely – except for only have 30 amp power and the view from the front window of the trash dumpster!  Fortunately, the weather was so perfect, we didn’t need the air conditioning, so 30 amps was manageable.

Saturday was a gorgeous day for a visit to Portland Head Light and Fort Williams on Cape Elizabeth and a walk on the scenic cliffs.  We then turned The Toad toward Portland and enjoyed a walk down Commercial Street on the waterfront and a delightful lunch at Portland Lobster Company (imagine that!)  Back home for a leisurely evening and campfire to cap a perfect day.

Just inland from Old Orchard Beach is Saco and a welcoming Trinity Episcopal Church, where we enjoyed services Sunday morning.  Leaving Contessa to the noise of the campground, we headed just north of Portland to the amazing hamlet of Falmouth ME to connect with friends made during our Great American Loop.  We met Lesley & Lance at Utsch’s Marina in early June, 2015 in Cape May NJ.  They had been traveling for several days with Tom & Peggie Perrotto – and while Tom & Peggie were not in our marina, Lesley & Lance pulled in with “Aeolian” – a sister ship to our first boat home, “Golden Dawn”.  They had purchased her that winter and were taking her home to Maine – we so enjoyed our tour and reminiscing about the years spent on Golden Dawn, including riding out Hurricane Hugo in Charleston on her and meeting life-long friends, Larry & Nancy Weir.

Maine - Handy Boat (4)Lesley is the Dockmaster and Lance manages the launches for Handy Boat Marina – one of several establishments on the Bay that together provide the second largest mooring field on the New England Coast.  It was a gorgeous day – which evidently had been few and far between this season, so the marina and Dockside Grill were swarming with people.  We made a quick stop at the Portland Yacht Club, which was literally next door, which had been home to dear friends Art & Tricia during many of their years here in Maine.  While the waterside (and parking lot) was teeming with people, there was not a soul in the Club.  We had a superb lunch visit with Lesley and Lance on the patio of Dockside Grill – and look forward with hopes of reconnecting at their home in Franconia NH on our way back through in early August.  With all the goings-on at the marina, we were so appreciative that they were able to carve out two delightful hours to spend with us on this glorious Sunday.

Monday morning, Contessa and The Toad got hitched and off we went – Destination Trenton ME to explore Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor.  One cannot visit the coastline of Maine without a stop in Freeport, the home of LLBean!  With prior planning, we stopped at the Visitors’ Center right off the interstate, disconnected The Toad and found our way to Brewer’s Marina.  Mark and Denise Gillespie aboard “Island Office” had docked there about an hour earlier,  We met Mark and Denise also on Year 2 of The Loop, first at the fort in Oswego NY in early July.  We were all in a single marina awaiting weather to cross Lake Ontario.  Over the course of the coming months, we reconnected along the Trent Severn Waterway, The Bustards in Georgian Bay, along the coast of Michigan and many others.  It was great to have lunch and a visit – and, of course, some shopping time at LLBean!

It was so appropriate to have our picture taken at the marina with Mark & Denise, blueberries abound in Maine – even Blueberry Flatbread at Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen Restaurant.

We were back on the road at 2:45p and into Narrows Too Campground at 6:00p.  Didn’t make our mantra of 3-3-3 (3:00p arrival) with the stop, but it was well worth it to connect with Mark & Denise.  And we did adhere to the other two 3’s – less than 300 miles and we were staying three days.

During our last two days of travel, Contessa’s chassis air conditioning which we use when underway (not to be confused with the roof top units for living) had been blowing hot air – which wasn’t much of a problem here in the northern climes, but would be essential upon our return to New York and home in August.  After some calls with local RV service providers, we were directed to seek a solution in Bangor, some 55 miles northwest.  We located Mike at Bangor Radiator, who does that type of work for the largest RV service center in Bangor and he agreed to see us on Wednesday (our second day for Bar Harbor area) at 1:00p.  With that settled, we set out to enjoy what would be our only day of recreation – and recreate we were going to do!  We drove the scenic roads of Acadia National Park, attempted a bike ride on the carriage paths (what were we thinking – it was Parkman MOUNTAIN!) and discovered Northeast Harbor.  Northeast Harbor is a quaint town on the southern coast of the island with lovely (read expensive) gift shops and art galleries.  Christopher Smith’s bronze sculptures took our breath away and we were thrilled to meet the artist.  As is often the case, the first question he posed was “Where are you from” and our rely of “Western North Carolina” prompted him to share that his daughter has gone to Camp Illahee in Brevard for eight years.  The look on his face when we told him that was our hometown was priceless.  We shared a delightful chat as we told him how much we enjoy Brevard – and his artwork!

A quick cruise through Bar Harbor and a stop at one of many local pubs had us longing to be back at the coach for a relaxing dinner & evening.  A stop on the way at Down East Lobster Pound for a dozen fresh oysters for our first course was a real hit.

As we parked the car, we noticed R&R Automotive directly in front of us – a source for air in our drive axle outside tire, which was reading a bit low.  We decided to call them first thing Wednesday morning in hopes of addressing the tire pressure on our way out to Bangor.  Again, we were thrilled with such a positive response to our need – “just come by on your way out and we’ll take care of it”.  After advising the office that we were leaving (and leaving The Toad) but would be back, we pulled out about 10:30a, allowing plenty of time for the tire and then the 1½ hour ride to Bangor.  Randy (owner of R&R) was pleasant, efficient and thorough in his investigation of the tire.  We continue to enjoy the easy way of life and the willingness to chat about anything and everything as we meet new people.  We settled up on his services and mentioned that we were headed to Bangor for the air conditioning.  “Well,” he says, “I do that type of work – if you want me to take a look at it and save you the trip to Bangor.”  How could we pass that up?!?!

Not only did he have the expertise, he enjoyed explaining every aspect of his analysis, location of the various components of the air conditioning and the results of his findings.  He quickly ascertained the only issue was the need to recharge the unit – which he could do right after lunch.  We quickly agreed, called Bangor and thanked them profusely for being willing to help us – and had a light lunch aboard Contessa while Randy went to lunch and secured the proper gauge from Napa Auto Parts to complete the job. So, by 2:00p, we were back at the campground, Contessa settled in for another evening and we had a bonus afternoon around Acadia National Park!

Off we went to find Bass Harbor – having been enticed by Cousin John and a picture of him & wife Trudy there during a visit some years ago.  We found what we think is the same spot, but while they were in heavy muk-luks, we sat on the patio in the glorious sunshine for our afternoon respite.

As we enjoyed the sun on the back deck, with a glass of Blueberry Ale, the fog rolled in and then back out!

A drive back thru the park and a stop in Southwest Harbor for a lobster cracking device got us prepared for a second visit to the Down East Lobster Pound – this time for a 2¾ lb lobster fresh from the docks.  Captain Bill smiled all evening as he cracked and dined on the luscious tail – and saved the claw meat for omelets and lobster roll sandwiches later in the week!

A fire in the firepit was the perfect end to our bonus afternoon and successful day. Tomorrow we head to Canada!