This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

St. John's, the Oasis

(Written July 23, 2013)
Hallelujah!  The work on our motorhome has been completed and we have it back at the RV park.  They were finished before 5:30PM and we were back at the RV park about 5:45PM.  The cats were more than ready to get out of the bathroom but it will be a day or so before they forgive us.  The three cats are Goblin (black medium length hair), Pumpkin (orange medium length hair), and She Kitty (white short hair).  Goblin and Pumpkin were rescued on Halloween, hence the names to match their colors.  They were never socialized properly to anyone but Carol Ann and me so they will usually hide when anyone else is around.  She Kitty was bottle fed as a kitten and is very sociable.  She loves everyone.  She is also the most vocal while Goblin and Pumpkin are very quiet, as you may expect.  When I opened the bathroom door to release them from their prison She Kitty was the first out and yowling at me (I’m sure she must have been calling me names).  Pumpkin stayed on his blanket for perhaps 30 seconds, not sure if it was safe to come out.  I didn’t see Goblin at first.  She is almost as wide as she is long (loves to eat) and had wedged herself behind the toilet in an attempt to hide.  I thought I might have to pull her out but she finally managed to extricate herself and walk off with a little bit of her dignity intact.

The guys at Toromont Power Systems (CAT) on Kenmount Road in St. John’s told me earlier today that they would finish the job today even if they had to stay over (and there was one hour of overtime on the invoice).   Two mechanics, Kevin and another whose name I didn’t catch, were put on the job immediately.  Eddy, the Lead Hand (I believe that is Canadian-speak for foreman or supervisor) kept me advised on the progress.  Dwayne also called me a couple of times with updates.  I wish I knew all of their names but my brain is like a sieve when it comes to names.  I do want to say that finding Toromont Power Systems in St. John’s had to be the equivalent of a person dying of thirst finding an oasis in the desert.  These Maritime Provinces are sparsely populated and many of the towns and villages only have the basic necessities as far as services and supplies.  St. John’s, with a population of 120,000 is the largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador.  If it had not been for Toromont being here I could have ruined the engine and would have really been up the creek.  It was stressful enough as it was.  I’m just glad it’s over and done.  I’m still amazed that I called Toromont only yesterday afternoon and the work was all done by 5:30PM today.  That is what I call service.  Oh, almost forgot.  When they gave me the first ball park figure on Monday afternoon one of the guys held out a brand new CAT ball cap and asked if I would like to have one.  I replied "Yes, for $2,000 (the first estimate) I think I should get one!"  "Oh," he said.  "The cap is extra!"  And then we all laughed.  Some might think it just another CAT ball cap, but mine has a Canadian maple leaf on it, which makes it special.  

The repairs were more expensive than expected and it was a shock when I saw the total, just under $10K, on the bottom of the invoice.  The tax was 13%!  The repairs involved replacement of the HEUI (not “Huey” as I thought I heard) pump, six injectors and fuel pressure regulator plus flushing out the oil system and replacing the oil and oil filter.  Some say I could have had it done for less in the states.  So how was I supposed to get it there?  It was something that had to be done.  End of story.

On the tour this morning we went out to Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America.  Standing at that spot meant that every other person on the North American Continent was behind me!  That was kind of weird.  From that location we did see some whales but I had to use my 300mm telephoto lens handheld (without a tripod) so the photos aren’t tack sharp.

As we left Cape Spear, our tour guide pointed out a small tower-like structure situated on a promontory across the bay and told us an interesting story about it.  During WWII, there were a lot of US troops around St. John’s and a lot of aircraft, both US and Canadian, were in and out.  The Canadians would fly over this structure and assume that the Americans had built it because it was near the American installation.  The Americans would fly over it and assume it was a Canadian structure.  After the war was over someone decided to go and take a look at this mysterious building and were somewhat dumbfounded to discover that it was a German weather station!  The Germans had come in at night by submarine and set up the station around which they erected signs in English and scattered around empty American cigarette packs and candy wrappers so anyone coming close would assume it was an American structure.  The Germans knew that convoys left Newfoundland and Nova Scotia when the weather was good so the weather station was established so their agents at the weather station could send radio messages to alert the U-Boats, which would then be waiting for the convoys.  I wonder what the allied losses were as a result of the assumptions made by both the Canadians and the Americans.  Someone must, or certainly should, have really caught hell about it.

Next we went to Cabot Tower, a high point that overlooks the city of St. John’s and its harbor.  Its construction was begun in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s North American Landfall and the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign.  I know that in an earlier blog about Point Amour Lighthouse in Labrador I said that Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal there.  I was mistaken.  There was indeed a Marconi station there, but it had to do with the transatlantic cable, which came later.  The first transatlantic wireless signal was actually received by Marconi at Cabot Tower on December 12, 1901.

After returning to the RV park with our motorhome this evening I heard laughter and looked outside to see a crowd gathering in front of one of our group’s motorhomes.  Larry shouted at me to bring my camera and when I got out there I found them laughing at a couple of pieces underwear that were hanging out to dry on the front of the motorhome.  Someone was playing a practical joke on the couple, which shall remain nameless, because they always hang their laundry outside to dry.

(Written July 24, 2013)
This morning I awoke at 6:30AM, which is highly unusual for me.  Normally, it would require a pry bar to separate me from the bed that early in the morning.  However, this morning it only took a cold, damp breeze in my face.  The source of this unpleasantness was the open window on my side of the bed.  It was raining and a brisk wind was blowing a light mist through the screen into my face.  I closed the window and then thought, "Oh, shit", we are going out on the whale-watching boat this morning.  I was told that the boat is enclosed and it goes rain or shine unless the water is too rough. I'm not sure what their definition of "too rough" is, so the morning could get interesting.  I'll let you know.


Croft Randle said...

Robert, I think you might be able to claim a refund of the sales taxes you paid. I found this form on the Internet, not sure if is the right form or not. They talk about getting your receipts "validated" before leaving Canada. I am not sure how or where this is done but perhaps at Canada Customs as you are leaving Canada. Perhaps they handle the refunds there as well. It looks like you are entitled to a refund of tax paid on any item/service over $200.

Robert & Carol Ann Martin said...

Sorry for the delayed reply but I appreciate the information. I will most definitely check that out.