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  1. After our three day stay at L'Anse au Claire we set out on a drive across Labrador. We had some idea of what we faced but only the journey would really tell us what was ahead. I had queried numerous people about the nature of the road and received many different assessments. Depending on personal perspective and the vehicle being driven the same road may get widely varying descriptions. That was certainly the case for the road from Red Bay to Goose Bay. Labeled as the Labrador Coastal Highway, it connects coastal villages from L'Anse au Claire to Goose Bay via road routes. This is a recent development. These villages have historically been connected by boat and ferry. A few of the villages have airfields and all are accessible by helicopter today. Leaving L'Anse au Claire, Labrador on Saturday morning, we drove north on NL Hwy 510. As in our previous trip north from L'Anse au Claire we drove about 10 miles in dense fog. Then suddenly the fog was completely gone, the sun was shining. Once we reached Red Bay the paved road turned to gravel. We were facing about 328 miles of gravel road. The road started out very wide, probably 40 or 50 feet wide. We were able to meet vehicles without getting too close together. The gravel was small and the road was smooth as a gravel road can be. There was nothing to reduce dust however and we generated our own tail of dust as did every other vehicle on the road. With a large vehicle there is almost no speed at which you won't raise a dust cloud. Dust would plague us for the entire 328 miles of road. About 30 miles from Red Bay the road began to narrow. Just 95 miles into the gravel we encountered our first challenge. We had a flat tire. I'm going to describe this flat tire as a lucky flat tire. The tire monitoring alarm sounded just as we were passing the road to Charlottetown. I slowed immediately and pulled into a clearing at the roadside. It was the outside dual on the drivers side. We got out, heard the leaking tire and immediately disconnected the toad. Once that was done I backed the motorhome into the clearing to get it completely off the road. Then I set out in the toad to the fishing village, Charlottetown, just 12 miles from the motor home. Reaching Charlottetown I drove almost all the way through town before finding the general store. I went in and explained my situation. A conversation between two ladies and a young man resulted in the name of the person in town who could fix our tire. The young man said he would lead me to Ivan's place of business. He did so and introduced me to Ivan. While I was talking to Ivan, he was on his way back to work. Ivan had several reasons why he couldn't come right away to do the job but as soon as his daughter returned with his truck he would come fix the tire. He said about two hours. I returned to the motor home trusting that Ivan would show up sometime in the afternoon. Two hours later Ivan pulled up next to the motor home and proceeded to fix our flat tire. It was a 1 1/4 inch metal screw that punctured the tire. Before leaving us, Ivan advised us that the next place to get off the road would be just before we crossed the Paradise River. He seemed to be encouraging us to continue on to that rest area. He also advised us that we could get internet access at any of the highway department garages along the route. You see what I mean when I call the flat tire a lucky flat tire. Being 4:00 in the afternoon now and only about 150 miles for the day we decided to take Ivan's advice and continue on to the Paradise River. The ride was uneventful until about 20 miles before the rest area. Those last 20 miles were extremely rough, potholes and large rocks dotted the surface. We drove slowly and still gave the rig a good shaking. We reached the rest area about the time the sun set. We had now completed 150 miles of our gravel road challenge, We had driven about 200 miles since leaving L'Anse au Claire that morning. During the day we have been accompanied by a variety of vehicles from large trucks to small cars. Traffic was never heavy. Many times there was no traffic in sight and other times we might meet several vehicles in a row. Cars and large trucks were able to pass us relatively quickly so we never had a group of vehicles in trail for very long. The scenery along this section of road was typical of what we had seen in Newfoundland, lakes and forest. We saw many a small camper parked in the brush alongside a lake. Usually there was only one camper, as if people preferred to be the only person at that lake. If you love to fish, this must be near ideal. There were roadcuts that indicated the glaciers had been here. We saw numerous cuts through eskers, deposits of water worn stones that were from rivers that flowed within the glaciers. When the glacier melts, it leaves these are snake-like ridges and the road cuts through them show the rounded boulders and gravel of water born rocks. Charlottetown was located on one of may fjords along the Labrador coast. Goose Bay is at the western end of the largest of these fjords on the eastern coast of Labrador. Along the way we were seeing a great deal of road work. Much of the work seemed to be widening the road to match the roadway we started on. Being so remote, the rock for road construction and repair was being quarried on site from the roadcuts, hauled to a nearby rock crusher to be processed to size and then hauled back to the site where needed. We saw mine size trucks and equipment, much beefier than the typical road repair equipment we see in the US. In most places traffic was stopped by a flagger and the delays weren't too long due to the sparse traffic. I believe I mentioned the flies which are abundant and quite a pest in Labrador. Many of the flaggers wore fly nets covering their head and neck area and had gloves on so that there was a little skin as possible exposed.
  2. It has been almost a month since we finished our trip to Newfoundland and Labrador. I needed the time between the trip and this post to put it all in perspective. We had a wonderful interesting and sometimes challenging trip through Newfoundland. On the 22nd of August we took the motorhome on the ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Blanc Sablon in Quebec. While waiting to board the ferry we were treated to a very interesting event. A moose swam across the bay from the far shore to St. Barbe. After shaking off some water the last we saw of the moose she was strolling into St. Barbe. It was quite a long swim but there wasn't a hint of panic or tiring, she just kept stroking away until she reached the shore. The trip across the Strait of Belle Isle was interesting. The ferry was tacking against the current all the way across and it was noticeable in watching from the deck as we approached the landing at Blanc Sablon. We were to learn later that many shipwrecks occurred in the area due to the strong current. I enjoyed watching sea birds and the villages on the Labrador coast. Once we reached Blanc Sablon, QC, we drove north about six miles to L'Anse au Claire, NL. We stayed at an RV park associated with the Northern Lights Inn in L'Anse au Claire. The park was very humble, utilities were at the rear of the coach, the surface was gravel and our 40 footer was by far the largest vehicle in the park. We were happy to have full hookups and internet service. We traveled north to the Point Amour Lighthouse one day and enjoyed climbing the Lighthouse to the top for a great view of the coast. Stories of lighthouse keepers are most interesting and this one was no exception. The lighthouse owner bought a Ford Model T which was the first vehicle in Labrador. There are pictures of the lighthouse keeper and his family and other items from the late 1800's. The lighthouse itself has walls constructed of local stone and has walls that are six feet thick. The next day we drove north to the Red Bay National Historic Site. The drive was quite instructive. We had been socked in fog all night long. Driving north we drove out of the fog about 5 miles north into bright sunlight. The road meanders north from one bay to the next. Between bays the road goes up and over high hills. Each bay hosts another small village. Red Bay is a small town and the site of 16th century Basque whaling camps. Recent excavations on land and underwater resulted in discovery of a large ship for transporting whale oil back to Europe. There was also a small whaling boat known as a chalupa recovered. That chalupa is on display in the welcome center. Imagine a chalupa that has been on the bottom of the bay for close to 500 years. Artifacts from the camps and the large ship are on display in a visitors center. The archaeological work that was done is amazing. We took a boat across to an island that was the site of several whaling camps. Walking a trail we saw the remains of various buildings or shelters where whale blubber was rendered and whale oil was put into barrels for shipment. Before leaving Red Bay we drove north just a few miles north to scout out the next part of our trip. From Red Bay north toward Goose Bay there is a single road, the Coastal Road. The road is entirely gravel until you reach the area of Red Bay. The final 20 miles into Red Bay are paved. If all you want to do is see a little of Labrador I would recommend that you take the toad to Sablon Blanc and stay at the Northern Lights Inn. The Inn looks quite nice and has a restaurant. Another possibility would be to take a tour which would include bus transportation to the tourist sites mentioned above as well as a stay at the Northern Lights Inn. We wanted to do more than this so we brought the motor home over on the ferry. After three days in L'Anse au Claire we set out to see the rest of Labrador. I'll describe that journey in my next posting.
  3. That is a place I have wanted to go. You have a 40' and I a 45', will there be a problem for me? On roads and campgrounds? Do you reserve ahead, before you go? Thanks Carl Carl asked a good question so I'm going to answer it with this post. I've seen a few 45's on the road here. We've been able to find places to stay without a problem though the number of places with full hookups is limited. The standard is 30 Amps with water and a dump station. There may or may not be wifi and signal strength when they have wifi varies considerably. In many cases, you have only one choice of where to stay but we've been able to stay where we wanted almost always. We've found parking spots in cities a few times, Wal-Mart two nights in Clarenville, Royal Canadian Legion two nights in Deer Lake. We've also stayed in roadside pull-outs, one paved, one dirt/gravel. Visitors centers are common stopping spots for the wifi and parking is generally good but not always. Some visitors centers will allow overnight parking but most simply don't have enough room for that. We have found RV parking spots that aren't large enough for our rig but usually there are few places used and we've been able to park across several spots or park along a curb. In a few cases we've called campgrounds a few days ahead and been able to get a space reserved. The one area where this didn't work was around Gros Morne in mid-August. It's a popular National Park. We got a place to stay right on Bonne Bay for the first few days of our visit right in the heart of the park. When we wanted to relocate on the north side of the park all the close parks were filled. We found a place with full hookups about 30 miles north of the park and made that work. As in the US, you will find the National Park Campgrounds unsuitable for large RV's. We tried in Terra Nova National Park and there were sites that would have worked but they were all occupied. We pulled into several sites but slides and trees were a problem so we gave that up. That park didn't have any close private parks to stay at so we ended up taking on short day hike and went on our way. You will likely find yourself staying with the campgrounds that are near the Trans Canada Highway as the smaller roads on the peninsulas are narrow, no shoulders and in places pretty rough. We tried a few of the peninsula roads with the motor home and managed OK but it takes a lot of patience. Those roads are better done with the toad. There are many beautiful harbors and interesting places to see on these peninsulas. If you don't travel them, you miss much of the beauty of Newfoundland. Now in Labrador we are in a park just north of the Strait of Belle Isle ferry landing in Blanc Sablon. The park was full Thursday night, last night only a couple of small vans. The space is small and we are parked into the regular roadway with just enough room for traffic to pass. It was the best space available at the time. Someone had the space on the end of the row which was on a curve and would have been no problems. This park is gravel, pick your own spot, first come, first served. The parks here are gravel or grass and you may find tree limbs and maneuvering a problem in some. Others are wide open and not a problem. We haven't found any campgrounds that would be classified as a resort type parks in the US. The ferries here are all capable of handling large vehicles. They have many trucks on each ferry run. We did make reservations for our ferry trips. For the ferry from Nova Scotia we made reservations months ahead. For the ferry from Newfoundland to Labrador we called a few days ahead and got a space without a problem. I would not hesitate to come again. You will find yourself in the company of many smaller campers in most cases but hey, you drive what you've got! Had to laugh on ferry to Blanc Sablon we were in line with a small van camper and I noticed the license plate was Switzerland. I struck up a conversation with the driver on the trip across the strait. He laughed saying, "Our campers are like our countries. US is big, Switzerland is small."
  4. By mid-August we had been in Newfoundland for three weeks. Our final week we explored the Northern Peninsula. This is the large peninsula on the western coast of the island. The peninsula is defined by the Long Range Mountains which run the length of the peninsula. At the southern end of this area is Gros Morne National Park. We stayed for two nights at a campground on Bonne Bay while exploring the southern portion of the park. The campsite was a parking lot type campground which doesn't sound exciting except that, parked nose-in, we were looking out the windshield at Bonne Bay just 15 feet away. Bonne Bay is actually a fjord, a glacially carved valley which is flooded with seawater. So we had beautiful scenery right there. We visited the Discovery Centre just a few miles from our campsite. There we learned about the key points of interest in the park and picked up information on ranger-led hikes. One of particular interest was the Tablelands Hike. The Tablelands are a series of flat topped mountains which are made of peridotite, material from Earth's mantle. The mantle is the layer of Earth that lies just below the crust. These mountains were pushed up in the collision between continents. Gondwanaland (now mostly Africa) and Laurentia (now mostly North America) collided forming the supercontinent Pangea. In the collision, Laurentia was pushed down under Gondwanaland. When the continents separated as the Atlantic Ocean began to open between them, a portion of Earth's Mantle was dredged up and became the area called the Tablelands. We took the hike and walked on Earth's Mantle. It isn't the only place in the world where you can walk on the material of the mantle but as our guide pointed out it is the only place where you can park your car and walk off the parking lot onto Earth's mantle. The next day we moved to the north side of the park for another two days. To get from the south side to the north side was about 70 miles as we had to go around Bonne Bay. On the way to our campground which was located north of the park, we had reserved a boat trip on Western Brook Pond. Pond sounds like a small body of water but that isn't the case here in Newfoundland. They call this body of water which is 14 kilometers long, 525 feet deep, a pond. It is a fjord that is cut off from the sea. At one time sea level was higher and the water was salty but now it is fresh water. This is a glacial valley and has all the characteristics of glacial valleys everywhere. It has a broad flat floor with steep valley walls. We couldn't see the floor but we sure saw the valley walls. There were waterfalls and towering cliffs through almost the entire trip. The trip started with low clouds, see the photo with this posting. During most of the trip we had beautiful sunlight but as the trip was ending in late afternoon the clouds once again closed in on the mountain tops. Either way it was a spectacular boat ride. We spent another day visiting the official Visitors Center for Gros Morne. Gros Morne means high mountain and the mountain that bears that name is the second highest in Newfoundland. Newfoundland was glaciated and glaciers destroy mountains so the second highest mountain in Newfoundland is less than 3000 feet above sea level. By the way, the rocks of mainland Newfoundland are part of the Appalachian Mountain Chain. The rocks of the Long Range Mountains, of which Gros Morne is one, are part of the Canadian Shield. The Canadian Shield is the northern portion of Canada which has some of the oldest crustal rocks on Earth. Leaving Gros Morne National Park behind, we drove north on a road that hardly shows up on road maps of the area. Our GPS only shows this road at the highest resolution. It is the newest highway in Newfoundland, having replaced a gravel road only ten years ago. So if you're looking at a map of Newfoundland and it shows the only road that goes up the Northern Peninsula as a small road, it is the equal if not better than many of the roads on other peninsulas. In fact, in some ways it is better. There are a few scenic pull-outs and some picnic areas, many of which are RV friendly. This is in stark contrast to some older roads which were strictly for getting from point A to point B, no funny business like stopping to look at scenery or having a picnic. As with all the roads in Newfoundland as you get near the end of the road the pavement becomes progressively worse! Still, it was all suitable for RV travel. We stopped along the way to do some hiking and see Thrombocites at Flower's Cove. Thrombocites were one of the few life forms that left any evidence of their existence in Precambrian time, more than 600 million years old. These were single celled communities that grew in warm shallow seas. They look like a pan of biscuits, one round topped mass next to other round topped masses. One mass was about six to eight feet in diameter and the whole collection could stretch out to 50 feet in diameter. In places these large groups were adjacent to another large group. We saw similar features in Australia last year, Stromatolites are also single celled masses growing in warm shallow seas. In the Australian example, they were still living. The Thrombocites were fossils, now rock masses that replaced the original living cells. Near the northern tip of the Northern Peninsula we pulled into Viking RV Park. We spent two nights here while exploring L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Park. This park encompasses an area where evidence of Norse settlements was found only a few years ago. Parks Canada has done a wonderful job of preserving and interpreting this site. The evidence is quite clear and the interpreters do a wonderful job of communicating the nature of the evidence and the nature of the Nordic settlements. Over 1000 years ago, the Norse visited and lived at the site. They discovered North America 500 years before Columbus discovered America. They didn't stay, returning to Greenland and eventually to Iceland and Norway. The entire tip of the Northern Peninsula celebrates this Norse connection. We booked a dinner theatre program, in St. Anthony, billed as a Viking Dinner. Our last night in Newfoundland was spent enjoying a sporting good dinner. A variety of seafood and game served up buffet style with a bit of wine and some Viking bluster made for a fun and interesting evening. On our way home we were rewarded with our first sighting of moose. We had been told on the boat ride that there are four moose for every square kilometer of Newfoundland. In a month of roaming The Rock, as they call it, we had seen nary one. This night as we drove back to our RV Park we were challenged by one large cow as she wandered onto the road. I stopped before we hit her at which time she looked startled and fled into the brush at roadside. Just before reaching the campground we encountered a bull moose in the middle of the road. He decided to run down the yellow stripe so we pursued him at a respectful distance. Louise tried to get a picture through the windshield but couldn't so I took the camera and handed her the steering wheel. I held the camera out the window and took a number of pictures as she steered the car. We were traveling slowly which was fortunate, I've got the camera out the window, Louise is laughing uncontrollably at the sight of this male moose jogging down the highway in front of us. He eventually departs the road to one side and I stopped to regroup. As I'm handing the camera back to Louise, looking in the mirror I saw the moose come out of the brush and dash across the road and into the brush on the other side. Like a chicken, he simply wanted to get to the other side! The next day we packed up and headed for St. Barbe where we would catch the ferry to Blanc Sablon, Quebec and then drive to L'Anse au Clair, Labrador. After topping off the fuel tank in the motor home we lined up at the ferry terminal. Shortly before the ferry was ready to load I noticed that many people were looking out into the water between the dock and the beach to the north. I expected to see a dolphin or a whale but it wasn't that at all. There in the water was a moose swimming across the bay. So our final, good bye moose was swimming in the bay and then having made it to the beach was walking into the town of St. Barbe! As we crossed the Strait of Belle Isle and the shore of Newfoundland faded into the distance I felt a wisp of regret, leaving such a beautiful and interesting place. It had been a great month and I was wishing it could last longer. We had been treated so well and there was so much more to see. Perhaps we'll be able to return another summer.
  5. Newfoundlanders wouldn't call it the outback, that's an Australian term. I'm referring to the places that are as far from the TransCanada Highway as you can get in Newfoundland. As with the outback of Australia, the connections to the modern world fade quickly and the natural world and early history emerge. We found some wonderful places on our way to the tips of a few of the fingers of land that are so common in Newfoundland. Leaving the capitol city, St. John's, we traveled to Placentia and stayed in an RV park near where the long ferry to Newfoundland makes its landing, Argentia. It isn't far from St. John's, just 98 miles, about 160 kilometers. The park had full hookups including 50A electric but no wifi. There was a visitors center less than a mile away where we stopped each day to connect and get our updates on things personal and business. It's an inconvenience that cuts into our exploring and sightseeing time and thus the number of things we can see during a day. Hint for the Chamber of Commerce, Internet is essential for tourists. It is true for us retirees and I can't imagine our grandchildren going anywhere they can't tap into the internet. Placentia is located on the western side of the Avalon Peninsula. If you don't have a map, picture the Avalon Peninsula as a big W. The first stroke of the W is where the Avalon Peninsula attaches to mainland Newfoundland. Each of the remaining strokes make a separate and unnamed peninsula, south, then north, then south again, and finally north. That last one is where St. John's is located. Placentia is on the lower portion of the first downstroke. It was a convenient base for our exploration of that peninsula. History here begins with Basque fishermen who came for the cod. They were followed by the French and the English so there were forts built because at the time each country was struggling for dominance of that part of the world. We toured the old French fort, Fort Royal, and learned of the hardships of early life on the island. The French eventually ceded the area to England and the English occupied the fort for a short period of time. They abandoned the fort in 1811 as England prepared to invade the United States in the War of 1812. We drove to the southern tip of the peninsula on another day and visited the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. The road down the peninsula was in poor condition (a charitable description). The had occasional markers out for "bump ahead" and "potholes ahead" which made us laugh. We never figured out what made them select certain bumps and potholes for signage. They could have put a sign on the road leaving Placentia indicating bumps and potholes next 60 kilometers! We dodged and bumped our way along, arriving at Cape St. Mary's about noon. Every birder knows that the best birding is early in the morning but we were here near noon. Still, we headed down the trail to the overlook to see birds. What a grand surprise we received. We were treated to magnificent views of nesting birds. The most spectacular were the Northern Gannets (see the photo with this posting). I fell in love with these birds when we first saw them on one of our first trips after we arrived. We got just a few distant glimpses as they were flying by but they were extremely graceful fliers and quite beautiful in binoculars. Since then we have watched them diving headfirst into the ocean to catch fish. Not just diving into the ocean, plunging vertically from a height of 30 or more feet into the ocean with hardly a splash. Now we were looking at their nests. These are pelagic birds, birds that spend most of their life at sea. They only come to land to nest, before returning back to the sea. Here they were with their fuzzy chicks, covering every possible spot on a large rock just off shore. We viewed them with binoculars and a scope that I tote around for just such occasions. There were gulls also, the Black-legged Kittiwake. These are also pelagic, spending most of their adult lives at sea. The young were old enough to practice flying and were particularly entertaining. They must learn fast. They will be flying away in the next month and they won't return to land for three years. We also saw Common Murres. How common are they? They are so common that they are hunted here in Newfoiundland. The natives call the Turres and they are allowed to hunt them here in Newfoundland because it is a traditional game bird here. We saw thousands of them on the cliffs, each tending a nest, raising a single chick. The Common Murres are also pelagic and rarely seen from land except when nesting. Leaving Placentia, we drove northeast to the peninsula which makes up the middle of the W. We found a park near Green's Harbour. It was a large park and we got a pull in spot. Yes, we pulled into the spot, the utilities were on the proper side then. When we left we backed out of the site. The site had at one time been occupied by people who stayed there as "permanent" renters. They had fixed up the site so it was much nicer than any of the others in the park. It was easily the nicest site we had anywhere in Newfoundland. It was level, paved with a clean dark red rock and surrounded with small trees but they were well trimmed and presented no problems. We had full hookups and no wifi. There was internet access at the office, a short walk from our site. Still not the convenience of relaxing in the motor home using the internet. From Green's Harbour we went south to the town of Dil--, yes, I know, but that is the name. It was named for one of the town founders. That's a name that would be changed today! The Di-do Dory Grill had been recommended to us so we had to give it a try. They had easily the best fish and chips I've ever had. The cod was spectacular and the fries were quite good, not greasy. Traveling north up the west side of the peninsula we stopped at Heart's Delight to visit the Cable Station. Heart's Delight is where the first trans-Atlantic Cable came ashore. We saw the actual cable and its successors on the beach and in the building. There was a short movie introduction and then we toured a massive display of the equipment and history of the cable station. Incoming Morse Code messages were received here and transmitted on to the rest of America. The first successful cable came ashore in 1911 and the station closed in 1965. For 54 years, this was a hub for communication between Europe and North America. This museum far exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone. Its displays touched on the impact of the business on the community, to women,s employment in Newfoundland and the history of communications. At the northern tip of the peninsula we walked among old rock fences that the first settlers used to mark their fields and pastures. The community of Grates Cove was representative of many fishing villages we have seen. Small roads branch off to houses that dot the hillsides. The amenities are few. There is a post office in most every village. A few have service stations which double as the grocery. Most of these villages have only housing. All have a dock or series of docks. The larger ones have a fishery were fish are processed and shipped to market. There isn't much for tourists in these towns other than their picturesque nature. We left the Avalon Peninsula traveling north toward Gambo. We had already explored the Bonavista Peninsula and Terra Nova National Park so we continued past them. At Gambo we turned north on Highway 340 and this time took a different approach. We decided to take the motor home on the loop around the Gander Peninsula. We had seen part of this peninsula making a day trip out of Gander to Twillingate. This trip rewarded us with wonderful scenery which is much better seen from the high seats and single glass windshield for a panoramic view. I don't think that I have mentioned the amazing presence of water in Newfoundland but everywhere we travel there are lakes, ponds, bays, harbors, and thousands of puddles and wet bogs. Water is literally everywhere, fresh water, bog water, sea water. In fact Newfoundlanders have a variety of humorous songs. One of my favorites is... "Thank God We're Surrounded by Water." Look up the lyrics on the internet, you can even find a link to a You Tube version of the song. I finally found a copy on an album, Good Work... If You Can Get It!, by The Government Rams. We heard this in the -ildo Dory Grill but the waiter couldn't identify the group. So our journey from Gambo north to Newtown was highlighted by lakes, ponds and other bodies of water all with scattered boulders from glaciers dotting the shallow waters. In Newtown we stopped to drive through town. With forty feet of motor home and a car in tow this is always a risk but we found a wonderful spot to pull off in the only loop in town. That turned out to be where the history tour of Newtown started out so we signed up and took the two hour tour led by two rosy cheeked young men. We saw an old school house complete with old classic school books, a fishing shed with tools for cleaning fish and two houses belonging to several generations of a fishing family. We found a spot to pull off near Musgrave Harbour to spend the night along the roadside. By the afternoon of the next day we were in Deer Lake on the western side of Newfoundland. Deer lake would be the jumping off point for our next great exploration, Gros Morne National Park and the Northern Peninsula. We laid in provisions, food and fuel, after a good nights sleep on the Royal Canadian Legion parking lot in Deer Creek. By ten o'clock we were on our way.
  6. We left Gander, Newfoundland, on Friday, July 31 on our way to St. John's, NL. Along the way we passed through Terra Nova National Park. We spent several hours at the visitor's center and did some hiking around the area. We had hoped to stay in the park for several days to do further exploration but there were no spaces suitable for us in the campgrounds. They do have some spaces that we could fit into but they were already taken so we continued on late in the afternoon. Coming into Clarenville just south of Terra Nova we stopped at the visitors center as it looked like a good place to spend the night. Pulling into the parking lot we noticed a sign prohibiting overnight parking. We decided to ask if they had suggestions for places to stay. It turns out there was a Walmart less than a mile from the visitor's center. We asked about things to be seen in the area. Clarenville is located at the inland end of a long peninsula. This is typical topography for Newfoundland. We find that we are exploring Newfoundland one peninsula at a time. In this case, we parked the motor home at Walmart and took the car to explore the peninsula the next day. Driving down the peninsula is always a slow process. There is one road, it goes through towns and speed limits are slower. The roads are rough in places and speed limits for the roads tend to max out at 80 KPH, about 55 MPH. Get off the main road and things go downhill rapidly. Potholes, dips, broken surface and just plain gravel and dirt roads are the rule, not the exception. Anyway it takes a while to get anywhere on these peninsulas. We set out on Saturday morning for a coastal hike, the Skerwink Trail, a 4.5 kilometer loop out of the town of East Trinity. Billed as one of the most beautiful hiking trails by Travel and Leisure Magazine. It lived up to its billing. The coastline is mostly seacliffs with sea stacks in many locations. Sea stacks are just sea cliffs that have been eroded away, separating them from the mainland. They are isolated pillars standing just off the coast. The trail skirts the edge of the cliffs so there is a constant scenic view of the bay, the coastal cliffs and the sea stacks. We spent a good four hours on the trail. I'm taking pictures so the time required to travel is directly related to the quality of the scenery. On the trail we encountered a number of other hikers. One of the first groups to catch up and pass us was another retired couple, residents of the Toronto area. They recognized us a hikers, not just tourists out for a walk. We visited for a while and they tipped us off to several other hikes that were musts in Newfoundland. They also mentioned a location where we could see Puffins. It wasn't far from where we were so we put that on our list, one more thing to do today. Following the hike we set out immediately for Elliston. Remember what I said about secondary roads. The road to Elliston was 15 kilometers of all the things listed above, continuously, never any good pavement, creeping along we were the Butler bobbleheads. Once in Elliston we had to find the exact location to see these Puffins. After a missed try a friendly gentleman gave us directions and we found the trail head to the Puffin viewing area. The trail led out toward the sea over one potential sea stack and then another before we finally ended up on a third about-to-be sea stack to be looking out at an actual sea stack. On that sea stack, the top covered with grasses and low plants, there were Puffins. Several hundred Puffins. This was a rookery. Puffins are pelagic birds, they spend most of their lives at sea. They are here on land only briefly to raise a chick and then they will return to the sea. Their nests are burrows, deep underground, up to six feet below the surface. That is where the egg is laid and the Puffin chick stays there until big enough to fly. Even at that the gulls and other predators will get most of the chicks. The few that survive will spend their next four to six years a sea before they return to land to breed and raise a chick. So here we are, gazing across about 100 feet of air at this Puffin rookery. Their antics are quite entertaining, they walk funny, they fly as if they are hummingbird wannabees. Their short stubby wings are a blur. When they land they are quite entertaining with their red feet dangling as if they are stretching out for the land all the time the wings are beating like crazy. Their bills are beautiful in their breeding plumage, a blue vertical stripe accents the red tip of a massive bill. It is really a very strange looking bird which makes it even more interesting. Another visitor to the site told us that if we stand back toward the center of the area they would land on our piece of real estate. We backed away and in just a few minutes we had Puffins within ten feet. Now that was a real nice look at these amazing birds. I took pictures, clicking them off as fast as possible. I had to stop now and then to wipe the moisture off the lens as the humidity was very high and everything was moist. It is late in the day and fog is starting to form. One memory card is filled with Puffin pictures, pop in the next one and take more pictures. One bird is walking directly toward me. I keep zooming out with my telephoto to be able to get the entire bird in the picture. I finally gave up, it was cold, breezy and damp. My hands were getting stiff from the cold. We hiked back to the car carrying with us some great pictures of Puffins. These pictures were more than I would have ever thought possible. Driving on into Bonavista on Saturday night we used the last light of day to locate a statue of John Cabot at the place where he landed in 1497 and wrote in his log book about this new found land. We snapped pictures, using flash to get enough light for a good picture of us. The statue remained too dark for detail until I took pictures of it by itself. Then we found a Subway shop in a quick shop and picked up dinner for the road. An hour and a half later we were back at the motor home. We slept in on Sunday morning. Walmart didn't open until 10:00 and we were on our way shortly after that. Since then we've moved on to St. John's and are in the campground in Pippy Park. Today, Monday, we had an appointment for a Puffin and Whale Boat Tour. We did some additional hiking in the morning, got lunch and then arrived before the appointed time to check in for the tour. Setting out from Bay Bulls, we saw about five whales, humbacks, a mother and calf swimming together in the bay. Then we turned our attention to the Puffin rookery in the Witless Bay Ecological Preserve. This a group of five islands lying just offshore. Each of the islands hosts thousands of breeding birds. There are many different species, Puffins being only one. Throughout the trip we are seeing Puffins flying, resting on the water, diving to catch fish. As we approach one of the islands you can see Puffins flying in the air, hundreds of Puffins flying in the air. It is like watching the activity around a bee hive only these are birds. It reminds me of bats at Carlsbad Caverns if you have ever witnessed that phenomenon. Not as many, not quite as thick as the bats. There are Puffins everywhere. On land there are thousands. Unlike the previous experience we are on a rocking boat. The chance to get good pictures of individual Puffins was yesterdays experience. Today we are seeing a different aspect of Puffins. The activity of a monster colony of Puffins is amazing to witness and something that we saw on a much smaller scale the day before. Isn't it amazing, my best Puffin pictures are the result of a casual conversation we had with fellow hikers we met on the trail. We don't stop and talk with many hikers, I'm sure they also pass by many groups without more than exchanging pleasant greetings. We sensed a common interest and that led to a conversation, which led us to see Puffins up close. And Louise, my lovely Louise, will hike until she can go no more than go further to see the Puffins and stand in the cold offering assistance with equipment as we work as a team to experience the wonders of nature and get these amazing pictures.
  7. After our successful visit to the Harrisburg Cummins Coach Care Facilities, we traveled north into New York. We made a stop at Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. For two baseball fans, this was a fun stop. So many great stories. The memories come flooding back. From there we drove through southern Vermont and New Hampshire to the Atlantic Coast. The road was slow and we encountered some rain and low clouds but the scenery was still beautiful. There were numerous places where a spot to pull off the road would have been useful but the locals simply see the road as a way to get from one place to another. The weekend of July 17-18-19 we were parked in Hampton, NH while attending the Blaisdell Family Association Reunion. Louise is a descendent of Ralph Blaisdell who immigrated in 1635. We visited the original landing site at Pemaquid Point in Maine one day and enjoyed several days of family history and stories. Following the reunion we drove north to Houlton, ME and spent Monday night at Wal-Mart in preparation for crossing the border the next day. The crossing into New Brunswick was easy, just a few questions and we were on our way. Having been to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia several times we buzzed right through both provinces, arriving at North Sydney in the early afternoon on Wednesday, July 23. We had reservations on the ferry to Port aux Basques the next morning. I hooked up the utilities and we charged batteries overnight and emptied and filled the tanks so we were ready for travel the next morning. We arrived for the ferry and lined up. Unlike many travelers, we had all the comforts of home while waiting for the ferry to load. We were one of the last vehicles loaded but ended up third in line in front of the door to exit the ferry at our destination. We had a very calm crossing, weather was clear until we reached Newfoundland. The crossing to Port aux Basques takes about 5 1/2 hours and we left and arrived right on time. Arriving at 6:00 p.m. and being first off the ferry meant that everyone wanted to pass us so we pulled off at the visitors center just outside town for a short stop and then resumed the trip. We found a large paved lot about 15 kilometers north of the ferry landing and spent the night. To our east were the Table Mountains, shrouded in clouds. Between the mountains and our spot was a beautiful lake. To our west across Trans-Canada Highway 1 we could see the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was a beautiful spot to spend the night. There was a hiking trail and we explored the trail which led toward the coast. The next morning we continued north to the town of Stephenville. We spent two nights there enjoying some hiking and learning some of the local history. There is a strong French presence in this area and a WWII US airbase. We enjoyed an evening hike along the bay looking at hoodoos, weathered rock that looks like snowmen, one round rock on top of another. The next day we drove around the Port au Port Peninsula that lies to the west of Stephenville. There was a bread baking demonstration in a community park near the point at the end of the peninsula. We spent a good part of the afternoon exploring that park, watching birds and discovering new flowers and plants. I added Gannets and White-winged Scoters to my bird list. After a dinner stop at the Sisters Dream School in Mainland (on the peninsula) we returned to the Zinzville RV Park. Leaving there we continued north and east toward Corner Brook. This is a large town with few RV parks. The only one with facilities had none available so we continued on down the road hoping to find a place to boondock for the night. We had hoped to spend several days in that area and do some hiking. There were no good boondocking spots and not a single place to turn around. The road ended at Cox's Cove where we finally found a place to turn around. We decided to stop for lunch on the parking lot where we turned around. Louise wanted to walk around town and went to talk to a woman who was painting her fence next to the parking lot. We were parked in front of the community center and wanted to make sure we wouldn't be in the way for an afternoon event. The lady assured us it would be OK. We walked from one end of town to the other in about ten minutes. I enjoyed taking pictures of the homes. Many were delightfully decorated and kept in top condition. We stopped to get ice cream in a convenience store and had a nice conversation with the owner. At the far end of town trucks were loading containers of fish. The trucks explained the horrible condition of the road on the way into town. Returning to the motor home we thanked the lady who was still painting her fence. We talked for while and in discussion, she asked if we liked haddock. With a yes, she was off to the freezer to get us a meal of frozen Haddock! With no good pull outs for an overnight stay we returned to the highway and drove north to the town of Deer Lake. Here we found a spot to stop near the highway and spent the night. There was a grocery nearby and we stocked up on needed supplies before continuing on to the east toward St. John's.
  8. On our way through New Brunswick we encountered a toll road. I pulled up to the toll booth and asked what the toll would be for us. The man in the booth said it would be $5.25. I asked if he could take US money and he said yes. I handed him a $5.00 bill. He punched that into his register and laughed, "It looks like I owe you 75 Canadian pesos." I laughed as I took the change and replied, "Gracias." He laughed. Yes my friends, the US dollar is riding high against the Canadian "peso." The exchange rate as I write is $1.00 US to 1.30 Canadian. A car wash for $10 Canadian shows up on the credit card bill as $7.71 US. Four nights in a campground billed at $124.00 show up on the credit card bill as $96.06 US. I am afraid that if that rate of exchange continues many of our Canadian friends may not show up at Sandpipers this winter. From their viewpoint this is a powerful stimulus to stay home or find another country for their winter resort. Our weather has been constantly rainy and cool. Today we had light rain most of the day and temperatures haven't made it out of the 50's all day. The Canadians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and here in Newfoundland are referring to this as the year without a summer. We come north to escape the hot Texas weather but this is exceeding our expectations. Speaking of cool, we've seen just a few small patches of snow on shaded spots on some of the higher elevations. There was a wasp in the cockpit as I was driving on Monday. We were headed north and west from the town of Deer Lake toward Gander in the north central part of Newfoundland. Now I'm not afraid of a wasp, not panicky afraid, so I asked Louise to go get the fly swatter. It was in my side window and there was no good way for Louise to get to it. I'm not going to start swatting until I'm certain of killing it. So, as we approached the small town of Springdale, we saw a sign for a Tourist Information Center at the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 390. We pulled in, I dispatched the wasp and we decided to go into the visitors center to gather some information. There were three young ladies at the desk and we asked them about several items, including where to see icebergs. They perked up with the mention of icebergs. They informed us that we could see an iceberg at King's Point just 15 miles from the visitors center. They said no one had seen any icebergs lately, the season was over. I wondered if this was the chamber of commerce line to get people to come to King's Point. Louise was really excited about the possibility of seeing an iceberg, so we decided to go see for ourselves. We were told we could leave the motorhome parked at the visitors center and take the car. It didn't take long and the car was free and we were on our way. I had no idea what to expect. King's Point is located at the end of a long narrow fjord, a channel scoured out by ancient glaciers. How in the world would an iceberg make its way all the way down this long (10 miles) and narrow (1 mile) channel? As we came into King's Point the speed limit dropped and our expectations soared. Coming over a small rise in the road we could see the water of the fjord. There along the far shore was a small but distinct chunk of ice. I thought this surely was a small bit of ice someone had lassoed and towed into the fjord just to hook unsuspecting tourists. A moment later the real iceberg came into view. Towering over the buildings of the town it sat just off the near shore having run aground. Now this is not the iceberg that sank the Titanic, this one is a small but still impressive piece of ice. Keeping in mind that most of the ice is below the water level, it is really impressive. In fact, I just looked it up to confirm my memory and indeed, about 1/10 of the ice is above water level. We drove to a point where we could get a good look at the iceberg and I began taking pictures. We walked from pier to pier getting closer and getting more pictures. What an amazing sight this was. The ice glistened in the sunlight. There were deep blue lines of clear ice through the iceberg enhancing its appearance. As we were leaving the last pier a man mentioned to us that if we followed the road up the hill we would find a gravel parking area where we could get a good view of the iceberg. We hustled back to the car and drove up the road to that parking area. There was one car there and we backed in next to them. We were now closer to and above the iceberg. Seeing from this angle one part of the iceberg looked like the tail of a whale. Examining the iceberg through binoculars we could see cracks and lines that weren't visible to the naked eye from this distance. I studied it from top to bottom and took dozens of pictures with my telephoto lens. After about 50 people had come and gone we decided to go get some food. As we drove down the hill to the restaurant Louise said that she saw a boat that had been out by the iceberg. We had asked another boater if we could get a ride out to the iceberg. He said he would be glad to do it but his motor was broken. Indeed the cover was off the motor so that wasn't going to work. As we neared the restaurant Louise saw the boat coming into the dock behind the restaurant. I stopped the car and she got out to see if they would be willing to take us out to get a close look at the huge hunk of ice. When she returned with a beaming smile I knew the answer. They were stopping to get lunch themselves so we ordered food also. As soon as we finished eating we joined them in the boat. They were Tracy and Troy. Tracy was a native of King's Point now working in northern Alberta. Troy works in the public works department at King's Point. They took us to the iceberg and slowly circled the beast at a distance of about 30 feet away. We could see water pouring off the iceberg as it melted away. As impressive as it was from a distance, it was even more amazing up close. We circled the iceberg three times slowly before heading across the fjord to the smaller piece of ice we had initially seen when we came into town. It was a small piece that had broken off the main iceberg the day before we arrived. When it broke off the iceberg rotated, This happens when the top or one side becomes lighter and then the ice will float with a different portion above the water. It is not uncommon and is one of the dangers that an iceberg can pose. The small piece was impressive in its own way. After we had a good look at it, Tracy showed us the ice they had captured on their first trip out. They decided to bring in more ice so we could have some. There were several dozen small chunks of ice in the water so we drew up beside a piece about six feet long and two feet wide at the widest point. With a gaff Tracy pulled the ice toward the boat while Troy maneuvered the boat. Now pulling on a piece of bobbing wet ice is no easy task. It constantly slips away and the least missed attempt to bring it in can instead push it away. Once it is captured, Troy chipped away, breaking small chunks off as Tracy scooped them up with a net. Once the hold was topped off with ice, we were on our way back to the dock. We gathered up our ice prize, thanked Tracy and Troy for the experience and exchanged contact information so we could exchange pictures. We extended an invitation to come visit us in Texas when the snow up north became too much to bear. Now what do you do with ice from an iceberg? Well, the only decent thing to do is chill a nice cocktail. When we got back to the motor home we broke into the liquor cabinet and chipped up some of the ice. One of the first things we noticed about the ice is that you could see hundreds of air bubbles in even the smallest piece. Louise and I knew that these bubbles contain air which was trapped in the ice many thousands, perhaps even millions of years ago. Scientists have captured this air and analyzed it to give us long-term baselines for the carbon dioxide content of the air on earth long before people were able to impact the makeup of the air. These samples establish a history of changes in the CO2 levels in the atmosphere as well as concentrations of other gasses. What I hadn't considered is that the air trapped in the ice is compressed. Just as the fluffy snow that fell was packed into dense ice, the air was squeezed into a smaller space. So now as the ice melts, the air pops out of its frozen container. You can feel it if you put a piece of ice on your tongue. So we had snap crackle pop drinks. There is a supply in the freezer that may last us all summer if we can keep it from evaporating away in the freezer, ice does that you know. And it all started with a wasp in the cockpit! We had to stop at just the right time. I guess I should have thanked the wasp instead of killing it.
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