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 (http://rbmartiniv.smugmug.com).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bridge to Prince Edward Island

We left the RV park a little after 9:00AM this morning but were NOT the last ones to leave.  That honor belongs to Stoney and Claudia.  It was a relatively short drive today.  Only 135 miles.  But we made a couple of lengthy stops, as did most of the others in the group.  The first stop was a visitors’ center with an observation tower just before we got on the Confederation Bridge linking Nova Scotia with Prince Edward Island (PEI).  The tower offered a fantastic view of the 12.9-kilometer (8 mile) long two-lane bridge so I climbed the tower, set up my tripod, and took several shots.

It is the longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world.  The bridge rests on 62 piers and most of it is 131 feet above the water with a 197-foot high section to allow for ships to pass beneath it.  Construction began in 1993 and was completed in May of 1997 at a cost of $1.3 billion (Canadian).  There is no toll when crossing over to PEI; however, there is a rather hefty one for the return trip.  I’m not sure how much it will be for an RV towing an automobile, but it is $44.50 (Canadian) just for a two-axle automobile.

It took about 10 minutes to drive across the bridge.  Fortunately the day was sunny and clear with no strong winds.  Once across the bridge we stopped at the Gateway Village shopping complex containing a visitor information center, liquor store, gas station, a couple of restaurants, and a gazillion gift shops.  Carol Ann and I went through a couple of shops, the visitor information center, and had a hamburger for lunch.  Dessert was, of course, ice cream.  I do believe that this country must run on the stuff.  I’m surprised that the Canadians aren’t as “hefty” as Americans.

We are staying at a KOA park in Cavendish, PEI, which is on the northern coast.  The island is only about 35 or 40 miles wide but a couple of hundred miles long.  This is the official end of the Fantasy RV Caravan Maritime Provinces tour.  After four nights here everyone will be starting out for homes all over the US.  Since leaving Nacogdoches, we have put 5,347 miles on the coach and we are 2,350 miles (without any side trips or detours) from home.  I suppose we will have driven at least 8,000 miles by the time we get home.


This evening a group of us will be going out to dinner followed by an outdoor concert at the College of Pipers and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada.  It will be Celtic music (obviously), singing, and “River Dance” type dancing.  Over the next few days we will try and see as much of the island as we can.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Boring Day

This morning we left the Arm of Gold RV Park in N. Sydney, NS for Elm River Campground just outside of Truro.  Even though we left at 9:05AM we were the last ones to leave, as usual.  The ride was a boring 190 miles along the Trans-Canada Highway.  We were at Elm River by 1:00PM with nothing much to do for the rest of the afternoon.  Later in the afternoon we drove down to the Bay of Fundy and on the way stopped at a raspberry farm where we picked a pint for $2.00 (they were $4.99 a pint in the grocery store this afternoon).  There was nothing really to see at the bay so we went to the grocery store for some essentials and ice cream.  This evening we had a drivers' meeting to discuss the drive to Prince Edward Island (PEI) tomorrow and then we played Cardo, a card game similar to bingo.  I won't bore you any longer as there is really nothing to report tonight.  We will be at PEI for four nights and then the tour is over.  We'll have to find our way back to the US on our own.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Alexander Graham Bell and Eddie Coffey

I rolled out of bed before noon. After all, today was a free day.  After dressing, eating a bowl of cereal, and checking my email I jumped in the car and took off for Baddeck, NS and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.  Carol Ann wasn’t interested in going so she stayed at the motorhome and stayed busy cleaning and reading (mostly reading).  The drive to the museum was a little less than half an hour through a light fog and mist.  Baddeck is a neat little town with a harbor on the Bras D’Or (Arm of Gold) Lake.  Most of the town is located on the main drag that is about half a dozen blocks of specialty shops and restaurants.  A real touristy kind of place.  The Bell museum is located on the east end of the town overlooking the lake and is very well put together.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped with many different varieties of blooming things.  Inside, the first exhibit is a timeline of major world events and Bells’ inventions and experiments during his lifetime.  Then there are three separate areas of exhibits about his development of the telephone plus other sound inventions and experiments such as manned flight and kites and hydrofoil technology.  There were also two or three video theaters and an exhibition hall with replicas of his airplane, The Dart, and his hydrofoils.  I enjoyed taking my time and reading the descriptions of his inventions and experiments.

That was pretty much my day except for stopping and taking a few photos on the trip back to the RV park.  Tonight we are having our drivers’ meeting and a group dinner.  Tomorrow we are off towards Truro (remember the “Tidal Bore”?) and our second stay at the Elm River RV Park, a distance of about 185 miles.  There are only about six days left on the tour before we start for home. 

Just got in from our meeting and dinner where we were surprised with entertainment by Eddie Coffee on the accordian and Rhonda Stamp on guitar.  Eddie is a singer-songwriter of Newfoundland – Labrador music who got his start in 1974.  Eddie and his band spend six months each year in the USA touring and performing free concerts at US military bases and veteran’s hospitals.  The show was a lot of fun and the music was infectious (I had to buy a CD).

One of the jokes Eddie told was about a Newfie named Tom who won $12,000,000 in the lottery.  Tom’s wife reminded him that when they were married he promised to take her to Spain some day and now that they could afford it she was ready to go.  Tom didn’t know anything about international travel and wasn’t sure how they would get there so he went back to the lottery office and asked the manager how he could get to Spain and what would he do about not speaking Spanish.  The manager helped him make his airline reservations and then told him not to worry about speaking Spanish.  All he had to do was speak slowly and distinctly (Newfies tend to speak very fast and are difficult to understand).  So Tom and his wife fly to Spain and check into a five-star hotel where they are put in a very fancy suite. 

Tom goes down to the bar and says, very slowly and distinctly, to the bartender, “I – would – like – a – rum –and – coke – please – sir”. 

The bartender mixes it and says, “Here – is – your – rum – and – coke – sir”. 

Tom finishes it and goes back to the bar and says, “I – would – like – another – rum – and – coke – please – sir”. 

The bartender mixes it and says, “Here – is – your – rum – and – coke – sir”. 

Tom finishes it and goes back to the bar and says, “I – would – like – another – rum – and – coke – please – sir”. 

The bar tender says, “Where – are – you – from – sir?” 

Tom says, “New – found – land”. 

The bartender says, “I – am – from – New – found – land – also”. 


To which Tom replies “If – we – are – both – from – New – found – land – why – are – we – speaking – Spanish?”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

The Beatles sang the song and we traveled the road today.  It was most definitely long and winding.  The big blue tour bus picked us up at 8:00AM this morning for a trip on the Cabot Trail, 187 miles (I was misinformed yesterday) of long and winding road, after we drove an hour and a half to the jump off point.  The morning was gray, foggy, and cool and didn’t improve until some time after lunch.  Bev, our onboard tour guide, spent the morning describing beautiful scenery that we could have seen had it not been so foggy.  That’s how it would be for at least the first half of the trek. 

Our first stop was a museum for facemasks worn on a holiday during Lent.  I suppose they would be something similar to Mardi gras masks but I don’t really know because the museum was closed when we arrived.  They knew we were coming but apparently decided to sleep in.  It was a small museum out in Podunk and it would have probably made their day (or week) had they not been closed.  After stretching our legs and grabbing a cup of coffee at a cafĂ© next door we got back on the bus and continued the foggy tour.  Our next stop was at a gift shop, which was also out in the middle of nowhere.  They did have free Wi-Fi, which gave me an opportunity to check my email.  Once everyone was ready we hit the road again, still unable to see very much of anything.   Next on the itinerary was an old Catholic church, built (I believe) in 1795.  It was quite large, capable of seating a couple of thousand people.  The first priest was buried in the basement.  I’m not Catholic so that seemed a little weird to me.  After a walk-through and some photos we were back on the bus and headed for lunch at a restaurant in Cheticamp.  Carol Ann and I some pretty good fish and chips.

After lunch we were on the road again.  We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks as we drove over the mountains.  Bev described what we should be seeing and we squinted into the fog and let our imagination run wild.  We did actually see something on that leg of the tour.  A moose!  Finally, after almost six weeks in Canada I saw one.  And not too long afterwards we saw another one!  I pointed the camera and shot through the bus window and, similar to the whale photos, I have photographic evidence that there are at least two moose in Canada but the photos are not very sharp.

We stopped at another museum.  It was a hooked rug museum (yawn).  I didn’t spend much time inside but they did have free Wi-Fi so I checked my email again before we left.

After the hooked rug museum the bus stopped for a while at the Keltic Lodge where we got some ice cream and walked around a bit taking photos.  By this time the fog was gone and the sun had come out.  As we were leaving the lodge we saw another bull moose, standing in the water.   Unfortunately, the bus driver didn’t see him in time to slow down so we had no chance at a photo.  That made three moose in one day.

There were no more stops before we arrived back at the RV park at 6:30PM.  We had been about three hundred miles in ten and a half hours for stops at a facemask museum (that was closed), a gift shop, a church, a hooked rug museum (that also had a gift shop), a restaurant, a couple of foggy overlooks, and a lodge for ice cream.  It was a bit tiring to say the least.


Tomorrow is a free day and I will probably visit the Alexander Graham Bell museum, which is located about 20 miles from the RV park. 




Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fortress Louisburg

We boarded the giant blue tour bus at 9:00AM this morning for a tour of Fortress Louisburg, a French fort and community from the 1740’s.  On two separate occasions the British took the fortress by siege and the last time they destroyed it completely, removing much of the stone for other building projects.  The original plans for the fortress were found in the 1960’s and the Canadian government undertook a 20-year project to reconstruct one-fifth of the original fortress.  Volunteer re-enactors dress in period costume to demonstrate what life was like for the French soldiers and civilians who once occupied the fortress.

The site was covered in dense fog when we first arrived, making photography extremely difficult.  By the time we left at 2:00PM the sun was coming out and the fog retreating.  When we arrived at our next stop, Louisburg’s Lighthouse Point, it was all blue sky and sunshine.  The original lighthouse was built in the 1730’s and the current lighthouse is the third one to occupy the site. 

We were back at the RV park in mid-afternoon so I managed to sneak in a nap before our “bag party” at 7:00PM.  A couple of weeks ago we were each given a brown grocery bag in which we were to place a $5.00 gift.  In the clubroom tonight we all sat in a circle with the paper bag gifts in the center.  Paul, our Wagon Master, gave each person a playing card (I had the four of diamonds).  From another deck he would draw a card, announce it, and the person holding that card would take a bag from the center, or “steal” one from another person.  Many of the items were gag gifts that resulted in quite a bit of fun.  I have said several times that we have yet to see a moose.  Well, the paper bag that I randomly chose from the circle contained a key ring with a small plush moose dressed in camouflage.  After making statements about not seeing a moose, I thought that my selecting a moose, in camo no less, was quite a coincidence.  But then I noticed an attached handwritten note that read, “There are moose out there.  They’re just camouflaged!”  It was like the gift had been intended specifically for me and I just happened to pick it out from the 44 paper bags.  Eerie.


Tomorrow we go on an all day bus tour of the Cabot Trail, which meanders for about 65 miles along the coastline of Cape Breton.  There should be plenty of photo ops if it isn’t foggy AND if they let us off the bus to take photos.  You know how I hate taking them through a window.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The MV Atlantic Vision


We eased out of St. John’s around 11:30AM yesterday.  There was no hurry as we only had 84 miles to drive to the ferry terminal at Argentia where the ferry, the MV Atlantic Vision, would be waiting for us.  Boarding would not begin until 3:00PM for the 5:00PM departure.  We had planned to stop somewhere along the way for lunch but didn’t find anything before reaching the terminal a little before 1:30PM.  We entered a short line at the entry gatewhere the length of our motorhome and towed vehicle was measured and the tag numbers of the motorhome and car checked off of the pre-approved list.  I was given a slip of paper with the tag numbers and length written on it and instructed to drive up to one of several booths.  We drove to the booth and presented this slip of paper along with our photo IDs and reservation number to the agent.  She checked her computer, confirmed the reservation and gave us boarding passes and key cards to our cabin.  She told us that the computer showed that we had prepaid for a length of 62 feet but it only measured 60 feet so we would receive a $140 refund!  Why didn’t I get a refund on the ride over to Newfoundland?  I guess the rig shrank two feet somewhere along the way.  Of course I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her.  Once all of that was taken care of we were directed to drive through a long metal building in which ferry employees with high-pressure hoses “rinsed” off the motorhome as we slowly drove through.  I was told this was done for agricultural reasons (apparently Nova Scotia wants as little dirt from Newfoundland as possible).  After the rinse (no blow dry) we were told to line up in row #10 of 13 or 14 long rows that were divided by solid yellow lines.  All of that took perhaps 10 or 15 minutes so we still had over an hour before loading was scheduled to begin.  Carol Ann and I went into the ferry terminal to grab some lunch but found the cafeteria closed.  However, there was free coffee (or tea) and your choice of all kinds of Tim Horton’s donuts and muffins (as many as you thought you could eat).  After two sour cream donuts and a cup of coffee I strolled into the gift shop and bought a Newfoundland T-shirt.  Since I have yet to see a moose I didn’t want one with a moose on it but every one of their T-shirts had a moose somewhere on it in some shape or form.  I wanted a Newfoundland T-shirt so had no choice but to get one with a moose.

We went back out to the motorhome, which by now was surrounded by other vehicles.  I chatted with a group of Canadians who were sitting out in lawn chairs between two campers.  They were from New Brunswick and were returning from a two-week holiday.  Finally, an announcement was made over the PA system for everyone to return to their vehicles for boarding.  Loading the four garage decks of a ferry does not happen real fast.  It was probably 3:30PM before we drove onto the ferry.  After shutting off the engine we set out plenty of food and water for the cats, cracked a few windows, and opened the two overhead vents to make sure they would get fresh air.  We told the cats we were sorry for leaving them overnight, locked up the coach, and got in the elevator for deck 8 and our cabin.  The cabin had two single beds about three feet apart.  They were both against the walls of the room with a bedside table and window between them.  There was a small closet and a desk on one side of the room and the bathroom on the other side.  The shower in our motorhome is larger than the shower in the cabin.  We also had cable TV, something we haven’t seen since leaving the states five weeks ago.  Unfortunately, it was Canadian TV, one of the very few things (black flies head the list) that I dislike about Canada. 

After putting our stuff away we went exploring.  I have never been on a cruise ship, but this ferry must have been very much like a somewhat smaller version of one.  There were eleven decks which housed not only the vehicles but also cabins, movie theaters, bars, restaurants, a card room, internet room (the internet was so slow that I could not use it), kennels, a small “casino” (just a few machines), health club, and sauna.  As we explored I couldn’t believe how smooth the ride was even though there was a strong wind making white caps on the water.  Then I realized that we had yet to cast off from the dock!   It was so foggy that you couldn’t see much beyond the railing of the ship and I couldn’t help but think about the icebergs we had seen earlier in the trip along with the graves of the Titanic victims.

A short while later the ship left the dock and the buffets were opened.  We had been given vouchers for dinner and helped ourselves to some very good food.  There was roast beef, ham, pot roast, pork roast, and bacon-wrapped cod plus several vegetables, salads, and desserts.  After dinner we returned to our cabin and turned on the TV.  The Discovery Channel came on and it was Shark Week!  Great.  Now I had great whites to worry about along with the icebergs and fog.

It didn’t take long once we were out in the Atlantic before the ship began to pitch and roll.  The ocean was rough but the ship was big.  I sat up in my bed to write this and the rocking and rolling motion never stopped.  We had a fairly big window but it was useless because of the fog.  It was like looking out of an airplane window while flying through a cloud (and experiencing a little turbulence).   I went to bed hoping to be rocked to sleep to the music of the lonely foghorn.

Our ETA in N. Sydney, NS was 10:00AM.  We would have time to get some breakfast and hopefully see something other than fog.  The RV park was only 3 miles from the ferry terminal and we would be there for 4 days.  It is the same park (Arm of Gold RV Park) we stayed in the night before boarding the ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.  I don’t remember if they had Wi-Fi but hope to get this posted from somewhere tomorrow

I awoke at what was a very early time for me.  It was around 6:00AM and daylight.  The ride was exceptionally smooth, the fog almost gone, and the ocean calm.  We hadn’t hit an iceberg or been eaten by a great white so I tried to go back to sleep.  I was up and getting dressed when the alarm went off at 7:00AM.  Carol Ann was still a little woozy from the ship’s motions last night so I went down to the breakfast buffet alone.  It was a good breakfast and I ate my fill, drank coffee, and chatted with some of our group that was also having breakfast.  At 8:30AM we were given the “one hour warning” that we would be docking at 9:30AM.  I met Carol Ann back at the cabin and after getting our clothes packed we went down to the lounge area and waited with the rest of our group.  Once the ship was secured at the dock we were instructed to return to our vehicles and be ready to off-load.  She Kitty was waiting for us in the passenger seat and welcomed us back when I opened the door to the motorhome.  The other two were nowhere in sight.  Carol Ann found Goblin in one of her hiding places and pulled her out but Pumpkin was still in hiding.  We were one of the first to drive off the ferry, behind two other motorhomes from our group.

Since the RV park was only about 3 miles away we were parked before 10:00AM.  We then began searching for Pumpkin and found him in the cabinet behind the DVD player.  It is 10:30AM now and the motorhome is set up and the car unhooked.  The remainder of the day is free but it is overcast and damp with light fog and right now we don’t really know what we will do today.