Thursday, September 13, 2007

EPISODE NUMBER ELEVEN - CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA, NEW BRUNSWICK, MAINE

EPISODE NUMBER ELEVEN

CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA, NEW BRUNSWICK, MAINE


September 6, 2007 (Continued) Cape Breton and Nova Scotia

After spending far longer than I had planned at Louisbourg Fortress, I pushed on towards Nova Scotia, but just had to stop at Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond, Cape Breton. The singer Rita McNeil grew up in this house and has expanded it and turned it into a tea room where all of her many awards (including the Order of Canada) are on display. I was planning on stopping for tea, but balked at the prices and moved on.










After several wearying hours wending my way on an uneven road surface, I made it to the Wal Mart in Antigonish where I joined five others RV’ers to stay the night. It was quite surprising to get a knock on my door and find the person standing there was a man whom I had met at the Fraserway RV Centre in Halifax the week before! By coincidence, he and his wife were spending the night there as well, on their way to pick up his sister in Moncton tomorrow. They are from Alberta.

Ripley was terrified of the thunder and lightning overnight and quaked, no matter how much I tried to reassure her.

September 7, 2007 – Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

Up early to press on to New Brunswick. However, a Vehicle Compliance Officer pulled me over near New Glasgow to tell me that my tire was very soft and warned me it would blow. Tthe nearest gas station was about 25 km away, so I slowly made my way along the highway. When I got to the gas station, I discovered that the tire had indeed blown. This was the “new” used tire I had replaced in the Gaspe! The attendant directed me to Eastern Tire down the road, and they installed a new tire to the tune of $220. As I waited in the reception area, Ripley charmed all the staff in her usual “cute” fashion.

Earlier this day, as I drove along, I accidentally cut off a trucker as the pavement narrowed. I thought I had enough time to pass him on the left. In retribution further on down the road, he practically did run me off the road, cutting in front of me so that his back end would have struck my fender if I had not braked hard. A dangerous game to play.

After my expensive detour to get the new tire, I continued driving in a marathon effort to get south of Moncton before dark. I found a campground in Chocolate Bay. The receptionist was surly, the showers were filthy (there was just a hole in the floor for the drain), but my neighbours were four women from the Ontario cottage country region who were staying in a cabin there. They were having a wonderful time – lots of laughter, and we chatted for awhile. However, they were all smokers, so I couldn’t get too close for fear that my allergies would act up.

September 8, 2008 – Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy

After saying farewell to the four women at the campsite, I continued on down the winding road along the Bay of Fundy to the Hopewell Rocks, otherwise known as the Flowerpot Rocks, because of the shape caused by the erosion of the water over millions of years The Bay of Fundy has one of the highest tides in the world, if not the highest (I can’t remember), so it is possible at low tide to walk out among the rocks and to kayak around the rocks during high tide. There are warnings everywhere not to get caught out at high tide, with the times posted. I thought that the admission fee ($6.75) was a bit excessive when combined with the charge to shuttle you out to the rocks ($1.50 each way).


Down further on the path, I came across a viewing area where hundreds of shorebirds were gathering for their annual migration. They were practising their flight patterns, swooping and diving in perfect formation like a complicated ballet. I wondered how they communicated with each other to turn in perfect unison. There were literally hundreds of them and as they dived, they were like smoke disappearing, and then re-appearing as they flew upwards again. I wish I could have filmed it.

There is one thing that has struck me as I have driven through the Maritimes. There are so many trees! I don’t really know what I had been expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that much of the forests remain, although I suspect that this is secondary growth. Nevertheless, for the most part there was biodiversity, which is so important to the overall habitat of the wildlife there, rather than the monoculture that we often see.

From Hopewell Rock, I continued on the winding coast road through Fundy National Park, which provides facilities for camping, lodging, canoeing, etc. On one of the many hills, my warning brake light came on for the rear antilocking brakes. What to do? I was in the middle of nowhere, so I really had no choice but to press on until I got to Lepreau, a little village. Pulling off there, I found a small park beside a lovely waterfall. Sometimes it pays to have these divergences to find a little gem like this. While wandering around, I came across a couple from the nearby village of Hampton who had come over to attend a seafood supper at the local church. They arrived early, so took the opportunity to re-visit the Lepreau waterfall. Ripley and I lingered there for a couple of hours, in the hope that the brakes would cool down – and sure enough, when I started up the engine, the warning light did not come on.

We bypassed St. John, although it would have been nice to pay a call on Kim Meehan’s mother, who lives here. However, again I was pressed for time to get to Webb’s RV in Bangor, Maine on September 10th.

I had been disappointed not to have gone on a whalewatching tour so far, and was determined to do so at St. Andrews, the last stop in New Brunswick. Pressing on, we arrived at the Kiwanis campground right on the seacoast in St. Andrews. This is the first campsite I’ve stayed at that has been run by a service organization, and I thought what a good way to raise money for their charitable work. It was very clean and comfortable – and they had wireless. However, much to my frustration, I couldn’t get mine to work. I need the help of the Geek Squad to figure out what is wrong! Consequently, again I cannot answer my email or put up my blog.

September 9, 2007 – St. Andrews By the Sea

I wasn’t able to book a whalewatching tour for the morning, so I lingered at the campground until noon, and then drove five minutes into St. Andrews to find a nice shady parking spot on a side street. I always have to be mindful of Ripley being left behind, to ensure that she won’t get over-heated. By now she has become quite accustomed to me being absent for a few hours, and I always get a royal greeting when I do return. I left her with some treats and made my way down to the wharf.

I chose a catamaran to go out on the tour, and I’m glad I did because it was able to go out much further than the tall ship or Zodiacs and consequently we saw more whales! There were 46 tourists and three crew on the cat, Captain John and interpreters Gabrielle and Sarah. I quickly made my way to the upper viewing deck for the best view, despite the chilly weather. Heeding the receptionist’s advice when I made my reservation, to dress warmly, I fared much better than those who chose to come on the trip in shorts and a t-shirt.

Shortly after we left the harbour, we spied Harbour Seals sunning themselves on a rock shared with various gulls.

That was great, but we were all looking for whales. And, yes there was a huge spray, indicating that a whale was blowing out water and air before surfacing to breathe. A few Finbacks came up and we all vied for the best camera angles. They are the second largest whale, after the Blue whale and the average length is 60 feet-- an incredible sight when they breach. Their diet is primarily herring, krill and other small schooling fish and they are the fastest of the large whales able to sustain speeds of over 20 kilometers. There were too many boats crowding these whales, so our captain chose to leave and go further out.

We were rewarded with several more sightings of finbacks and one Minke whale, plus Harbour Porpoises and White Sided dolphins that followed the boat. The way to find the whales is to follow the birds that congregate around schooling fish.
Porpoise
We were taken out past Campobello Island, made famous as the summer retreat of President Roosevelt, and out to the Wolf Islands, far from the other whalewatching ships.
I struck up a conversation with a man standing beside me. He is a local from St. Andrews who brought along a visitor from the south. He told me of the efforts of their local environmental group to stop the U.S. installation of liquid natural gas ports across the bay. The Canadian government is apparently protesting this project on the grounds that the bay through which the ships would travel is Canadian waters. The U.S. thinks otherwise, so it will be interesting to see the outcome. This man told me that Prime Minister Harper had brought up the topic to President Bush at the recent summit talks.

After four exhilarating hours, we returned to shore, but along the way we were treated to the sight of a bald eagle in a tree on one of the offshore islands. The $42 cost of this trip was well worth it, and we all got our hoped-for photos of whales!

St. Andrews is just a short drive from the border town of St. Stephens, so I continued on, anticipating that I would have to show the health certificate and vaccination report for Ripley, and possibly having to give up her dog food, as my vet had told me of a new restriction about dog food being taken over the border. Imagine my surprise, then to have the customs officer confiscate my frozen dinners and last night’s leftover beef casserole! I thought the Mad Cow scare was over, but apparently not. He didn’t ask for Ripley’s papers, nor did he bother with anything else. If I had known of this restriction, I would have had the casserole for lunch before I hit the border! It had all kinds of good vegetables and sauce in it. Ah well.

So, the other side of the border lies the town of Calais (pronounced Kalus by the locals). I was pleasantly surprised to find that gas cost $2.86/gallon, or 81 cents/liter in Canadian dollars. It only cost me $60 to fill the tank. Why do we have to pay so much more in Canada???

As I entered Bangor, I got Maude, the GPS, to help me find my way to the Wal Mart. At one point I made a wrong turning, and Maude piped up “Are you tired? Perhaps you should rest.” That really made me laugh.

This was an evening at Camp Wal Mart, to economize. Again, there were several RV’ers parked in the lot overnight. I looked into a cell phone, as my Canadian phone will not work in the US. It looks as though the best deal is Tracfone. I can make international calls at no additional cost, and it is a pay-as-you-go type. I bought 800 minutes, good for one year, so I’m all set now.

It is raining heavily, and the generator is sputtering and turning off, so lights out early.

September 10, 2007

I noticed quite a difference in the quality of the road as soon as I started on my way to Bangor. Even on the secondary road that I had to take, it was smooth sailing all the way. And my brake warning light has not come back on. Whew! Maybe the sensor is not working properly.

I duly showed up at Webb’s RV in Bangor at my appointment time of 1:30, only to find that the part for my fridge that was ordered a month ago when I was in Halifax was not there! After some hemming and hawing, and checking everything out, I was told by another staff member that it had not been ordered at all. He put the order in and asked me to return on Wednesday. So, I am having an unscheduled stopover here.

This gave me an opportunity to go into the library and get online to check my email and work on my blog (Episode Eight) to add photos. Each photo has to be downloaded separately into the blog, and then dragged into the proper spot, so it is quite time-consuming. However, I was limited to only one hour, so I did not finish.

I made my way back to Camp Wal Mart and decided that I needed some entertainment. The mall nearby had a movie theatre, so I took in The Bourne Ultimatum. Having arrived at the theatre too early, I made macaroni and cheese in the parking lot. The movie was a good action entertainment.

Back to Wal Mart overnight.

September 11, 2007

Many places observed four minutes of silence in remembrance of 9/11.

My water tank is empty. My generator is working better now that I leave the door open. I made the decision to go to a campground and chose Pumpkin Patch in nearby Hermon because they honour the 50% discount of Passport America. It turned out to be the best campground I’ve been in so far. The place is spotless and efficiently run. The sites are large, with grassy spots between sites and plenty of trees. There is a dog walk around the perimeter, and the family restaurant just outside the gates offers a 10% discount on food.

And they have wireless! And it works!!

Tonight I took in another movie at Movie Magic. On Tuesdays they charge $1.00 admission to all the first-run titles, so I chose to see Hairspray. Popcorn and a drink cost $3.00. You can’t beat that—and the movie was great. Very funny in parts. I had no idea though, that the theme was really about integration.

September 12, 2007

At 1:00 p.m. I returned to Webb’s RV and Dennis installed the eyebrow board in no time. He is originally from Biloxi, Mississippi and moved to Bangor last year. He said it was very difficult for him to make friends here, as people are not very outgoing in Maine.

I’ve decided to remain at Pumpkin Patch for another night because it is very relaxing and it will give me an opportunity to catch up on my blogs and email. The Wireless is $1.00 extra per day, on top of the $15 I pay for the site.

It’s always interesting to buy the local papers to read what is of interest to people in different regions. Here at the moment, the TV crew of Extreme Makeover are building a new house for a local family. The radio and newspapers have extensive coverage, and have put out appeals for volunteer carpenters and drywallers, since it rained heavily on Monday and they are a little behind. The family will be returning from Disneyland on Sunday, and the house is supposed to be finished by then. I have managed to see the show a few times, and it really is quite something in the way they can build a house and furnish it in a week for a worthy family. It seems they get thousands of requests and they research the people thoroughly before determining whom they will help.

September 13, 2007

I’ve decided to stay another day here at Pumpkin Patch, and treated myself to a breakfast in the family restaurant. After traveling over 4,500 km in the past 5 ½ weeks, I feel weary. So, I spent the day re-arranging some of the things in the RV, patching up a crack on the bumper, and putting together my stereo, between doing laundry and walking Ripley in the back fields.

I learned how this park is kept so well-maintained. The owners allow some of the campers to stay for free in exchange for their labour. That’s why I’ve seen so many people bustling about mowing lawns, watering plants, digging holes, cleaning the washrooms and manning the front desk. Good idea, and one that I will look into myself further on down the road.

I still haven’t decided which route I will take when I leave here tomorrow, but will probably head along the coast, to avoid the more mountainous routes. But before I do, I’ve made an appointment for a 15-minute chair massage in the morning. I truly miss the therapeutic massages that I had when I was home, and am looking forward to relieving the pain in my shoulders and neck.

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