Sunday, August 30, 2009

8/30/09 Hello from Plympton, Massachusetts. Some RV friends, Bob & Nancy Colbert, used to live nearby and are currently staying on the property of friends here. They arranged for us to stay here too. It has been about 1 1/2 years since we last camped with them so we had a happy reunion upon arrival about 5 days ago. It is a beautiful wooded area and we have been using the down time, and Bob's assistance, to do some RV repairs. The first thing Bob fixed was the towing lights on our car, which were failing to work on the right side every time we hooked the car up to the RV. One of the big repairs has been replacing our front TV. It crapped out while we were in Newfoundland. Thank goodness we had Bob's help to get our old TV out because that sucker weighed a TON!! Then we went to Costco armed with the measurements of the hole that was left between our upper cabinets. There was only one 32 inch digital TV that fit those measurements, a Sylvania, so we bought that one. Now we are waiting for the mounting arm which we ordered on line to arrive tomorrow so Bob & Elaine can finish the TV installation. It has a very good picture, weighs a lot less than our old TV, and we don't have to install a converter box.
Yesterday was my 65th birthday, and we knew that because Hurricane Danny was going to be passing by, heavy rain was expected. So on Friday, which was sunny, we four took the boat from Plymouth across the bay to Provincetown, on Cape Cod. As we left Plymouth, we got a good picture of the Mayflower II, a replica of the Mayflower which first landed here in 1620.

The ride to Provincetown took about 2 hours and it was fun to be out on the water and looking at the homes and beaches on some of the many islands.

As we approached Provincetown, we could see the very tall tower in the center and the waterfront:

P-town, as it is called, in a very picturesque and artsy small town with interesting architecture, eclectic shops, and lots of good restaurants. There are rainbow flags everywhere, symbolizing the widespread acceptance of diversity. There is also a very large Gay population here. There are about 3500 year-round residents and 50,000 residents during the summer. Quite a difference! Since we took the boat over and had no car to explore in, we took the trolley all over the town, past the beaches and national seashore, and past many expensive and elegant houses.

Here is an example of one of the homes:

Then Bob and Nancy treated us to a delicious lunch at Bubala's, and we ate on the outdoor terrace in front:

After lunch we explored the town some more, going into the library to see the ship that has been built inside it:

Outside there was a cute sculpture entitled "Tourists", so I convinced Bob & Elaine to pose in front of it:

Nearby some of the shops were painted in a very different and artsy fashion:

By the time the boat was leaving to return to Plymouth, there were heavy clouds overhead and we were afraid we would have rough seas on the journey back. But it wasn't too bad, and the rain held off until later that night. It rained a lot in the night and all the next day we had heavy rain, so we hung around the RV and did some trip planning. Today the weather people on TV said we had 3 inches of rain yesterday!
Today the weather was much better so Bob & Nancy drove us around Boston in their car, showing us some of the major landmarks, such as the Kennedy Presidential Library, the waterfront, and some of the neighborhoods. On one of our previous trips here we had walked the Freedom Trail, so had already seen most of the historical attractions. We had a nice lunch on the waterfront, and got caught in all the traffic created by the St. Anthony Feast Festival in the Italian district.
As soon as our RV projects are completed, we will be proceeding on our explorations of the East Coast.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

8/23/09 Hello from Portland, Maine where it currently is raining so hard I can't believe that we aren't being washed right off the blacktop parking lot here at the Elks Club!! It has to be because hurricane Bill has recently passed here and although the eye missed us, some of the side winds and rain have definitely hit this area. Earlier today our friends Kathe & Deborah drove us over to the coast (only a few miles away) to see some of the effects of Bill. Hundreds of people were over there watching big waves crash into the rocks along the shore. It was sunny and warm with no hint that heavy rain was coming.
There were lots of big waves but I didn't catch a very big splash:

Here is a picture of us at the Portland Head Light:

Besides having a nice visit with our friends we are waiting for our first mail delivery since early June. We have also been shopping at Sam's Club and one of the most complete supermarkets we have ever been in: Hannaford's. After the slim pickings in Newfoundland stores, and the high prices for everything they do have, everything in this market looks fantastic and seems like a bargain! In Canada, chicken costs more than almost every other meat and was often over $3.98 a pound. In Hannaford's yesterday it was 69 cents a pound. Quite a difference!
We have also been taking advantage of the availability of lobster here in Maine. Dinner last night was a lobster feast and although these are soft-shelled, so they aren't exactly jam-packed with meat, they are still delicious. And because they aren't full, they cost only $3.99/pound.

Prior to coming here, we stayed in Ellsworth and spent 2 days hiking in Acadia National Park. Luckily, the weather was mostly nice when we were there. It was fairly hot and humid but after complaining all summer about how cold and rainy Newfoundland was, we certainly weren't going to complain about hot weather! Here are a couple of pictures of us hiking there:

It is a very beautiful park but rather small and we were there during one of the busiest times of the summer, so it was packed with people. It is always much nicer to go to these kinds of places after school has started again.
If our mail comes tomorrow, we will head south to visit Nancy & Bob Colbert in Massachusetts. They have promised to show us around Cape Cod. Other RV friends might be in the area at the same time. More on these happy reunions in the next post.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

8/15/09 Today we greet you from Pictou, Nova Scotia. It is good to be back here because it is so much warmer! Yesterday it was about 30 degrees Celsius here (about 90F) and we are wearing shorts, tank tops, and sandals for the very first time this summer. The Hector Festival is going on here so we came for some good Highland music and yesterday afternoon we got in on several hours of it. Tonight we have tickets for the closing concert, which will feature many different performers on fiddle, harp, guitar, mandolin, Celtic drum, etc. I'm sure it will be quite good. We are parked in a great boondocking spot here right on the waterfront with water views out both sides and a nice breeze.
We returned on the ferry on the 13th with Chris, Billy & Marianne, the Boomer friends we have been connecting with off and on all over Newfoundland. The night before, we all parked in line at the Ferry terminal and had a happy hour in our rig with gourmet cheeses and escargot, followed by a spaghetti feed and chocolate brownie cake for dessert. Yum. It was the farewell feast because we are heading back to the USA (Maine) while they are staying to explore Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for a few more months. The day before catching the ferry, we did a beautiful drive along the south coast to the only granite lighthouse in Atlantic Canada, called Rose Blanche. It was a sunny day and we stopped in several of the small towns on the way to do some hikes. This part of Newfoundland appears somewhat barren with low growing shrubs and plants covering the very large rocks and rocky cliffs. But there are ponds all over the place inland, and on the other side of the road terrific coastal views.
This is a picture of the coast, looking back towards Port aux Basques where the ferry terminal is:

Here is a picture of me on one of the hikes along the coast:

This is a picture of a typical village along this coast - nearly every house if built with access to the water:

Here is Elaine on the short trail leading to the granite lighthouse. You can see how rocky it is:

And here is the actual lighthouse:

There were many, many shipwrecks along this coast before lighthouses were built and also before modern navigational aids. One of the hiking trails we did was dedicated to George Harvey, a man who saved more than 200 people from 2 shipwrecks in the 1800's.
Our last post left off at Port aux Chois, and from there we returned to Gros Morne National Park to do some hiking and sightseeing. The big tourist attraction there is Western Brook Pond, which is a huge inland fjord carved out by glaciers millions of years ago. There is a boat tour which takes people all over the fjord but we have done those in Chile and also Norway, so we skipped this one (which was expensive), and just did the 2 mile walking trail out there. The day we were there the air was very hazy, so we didn't get good pictures. Here I am with the mountains and fjord behind me:

We also explored the southern part of the park, on the other side of Bonne Bay, which was a beautiful drive to several very picturesque communities right on the water, and also an area called the Tablelands. This is where the Earth's mantle has been upthrust to form yellowish brown and flat topped mountains which are very barren but dramatically different from all the other mountains around there. Some of the oldest rock on earth is available for geological study here.
Another thing we did was attend a performance at the Gros Morne Theater Festival which goes on all summer at Cow Head. It was 2 men and 2 women performing traditional Newfoundland music as well as some of the songs which developed when Newfoundland was voting to become part of Canada. They used to be their own country and it took 3 votes before they decided to become a Canadian province and even then it was very close at 51% to 49%. That happened in 1949 and to this day Newfoundlanders fly their own flag more often than they do Canada's, and if they fly both flags, the Newfie flag is much bigger!
Cornerbrook is the second largest city in Newfoundland (at about 20,000) so we stopped there for supplies, and then moved on to Stephenville. There used to be a very large US military base here and we were able to park right on the rocky beach near the airport and the golf course which used to be part of the base. They also have a theater festival all summer, so we attended a play called "Variations On a Nervous Breakdown", which was surprisingly a musical. We enjoyed it. While here, we drove what is called the French Ancestors Route, all around the Port aux Port Peninsula. The area used to be French because they owned the fishing rights all along this coast until 1904. Again we found a wonderful hiking trail all along the coast and headlands and it was a beautiful day.

There was also a short trail to a waterfall:

And around the other side of the peninsula there was a community where they really got into "yard art":

Thanks for traveling with us through Newfoundland! The next phase of this journey will be exploring the East Coast of the USA, and visiting friends along the way. If you are currently in the East and want to get together with us, please let us know!

Monday, August 03, 2009

August 2, 2009
Hello from the west side of Newfoundland. This is the most visited part because the short ferry from Nova Scotia takes people to Port aux Basques, on the southern end of the west coast, so most people take that one. Also, the 2 biggest tourist attractions in Newfoundland are on the west coast and both places are UNESCO world heritage sites.: Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows, a former Viking settlement from 1000AD and the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America. That is where we went today. We planned it for today because the weather man said that a high was coming in and there should be good weather all over the entire island today. Well, it started out foggy and cold, but we went anyway. At least it wasn’t raining! We have been having frequent rain which has been somewhat killing our enthusiasm for spending a lot more time here unless the weather improves. Also, the so-called attractions are starting to become repetitive: fishing villages, scenic coasts, aboriginal sites, etc. So we are anticipating that we will be here probably 2 more weeks and then take the ferry back to Nova Scotia.
One great thing about Newfoundland is that there are lots of scenic places to boondock. In Deer Lake, our first night in the west, we happened upon a fishing access site just below the power plant where we spent the night. There were about 4 guys fly fishing in waders from the shore and one guy fishing from a boat, right in front of us. They were fishing for Atlantic salmon because the season just opened up. The amusing thing is that there were about 20 cars parked watching them! I’ll bet only in Newfoundland is fly fishing a spectator sport! Several of the men caught one so we could see them and they are a lot smaller than Pacific salmon. But we learned at a Visitor Information place that Atlantic salmon don’t die after they spawn, as Pacific salmon do. They have to be hardy fish to switch from being in fresh water to going back to salt water several times in their life span. Yesterday we purchased an Atlantic salmon and had it for dinner tonight. It didn’t have nearly as much flavor as Pacific salmon, in our opinion.
Gros Morne National Park is a spectacular place, but we have only seen a small part of the northern section of it so far. Upon entering the park, the road takes you right past the East Arm of Bonne Bay. This is a fjord so the water is very deep and cold and because there is a sill at the entrance to it from the sea, the sea water and fjord water don’t mix very well. There are many different marine organisms that live here because of the huge variety of water depths and temperatures and the variances in salinity. It is also very scenic but we couldn’t get any good pictures because of the mist.

We spent some time at the Visitor’s Center gathering information and looking at the exhibits while waiting for the mist to clear up. When that happened, we drove to the nearby town of Rocky Harbour but it was having quite a bit of fog. Then we drove to Norris Point, just as the mist was clearing and the sun was coming out so we got some good pictures from an overlook.

Since the weather was going to be bad the next day, we decided not to stay but to move on up the peninsula and do more exploring and hiking here on our way back through here when we decide to head for the ferry terminal at Port aux Basques. So we used the rest of the sunny afternoon to drive along the beautiful coast line, which is along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One of the stops was at Arches Provincial Park. Here glacial action and erosion has caused a huge limestone formation, which used to be on the sea floor, to develop big arches in it. The formation is so big that only half of it is shown in this picture:

Our boondock spot for the night was at Parson’s Pond, on a cliff overlooking the ocean near a picnic area. Here is a picture of Parson’s Pond:

The next day we headed up the peninsula and cut across to Roddickton, on the east side because a huge storm was supposed to be coming in. Roddickton is on the water but quite a distance from the coast because it is on a long inlet. We parked right on the public wharf there so we had a great view of the inlet in front of us and the town cove was behind us.

Yes, a storm came in and dumped a lot of rain, and we had some wind, but not the 60 knot winds that were predicted. The next day we knew there was going to be good weather so we planned to explore all day. First we went to the Underground Salmon Pool. This is a place on Beaver Brook where the river has cut a path under some rocky cliffs and salmon swim into it and spawn there. There are a few developed hiking trails so we had a good hike through the forest and also along the river. The water was a really dark brown color because of tannin in the water, which is very common here, so it was hard to see the salmon.

Next we drove a gravel road to a small fishing village called Conche. There is a wonderful overlook just before the outskirts of the town from which it is possible to see quite a lot of the triangular-shaped peninsula, which has a huge protected bay in the middle. There is an interpretation center in Conche which describes a lot of the history of the French Shore, which is what this area is called because the French held legal ownership of the shore and fishing rights until 1904. But it was a beautiful, sunny day and we wanted to hike instead. Tried to hike to the headland, but we kept losing the trail so we gave up and did the boardwalk trail over on the shores of the inlet.

Then we drove to another small fishing village called Englee. This was also a picturesque fishing village with several inlets and lots of hiking trails. But by now it was overcast and late and we had done our allotted hiking miles, so we just looked around and headed back to the rig.
Yes, another storm blew in and we had seen what we wanted to see in the area so we drove north to St. Anthony. On the way we saw 2 moose crossing the road but luckily, they were way ahead of us. St. Anthony is one of the biggest towns in the northern peninsula but there still isn’t that much there. One attraction which made it worth the drive was visiting the Grenfell Interactive center and also the Grenfell Home. Dr. Grenfell was one of the earliest pioneers to bring medical care to the fishermen who first seasonally lived in Labrador and northern Newfoundland, and later to the communities which developed there and also to the Indian communities, such as the Inuit. He established things like orphanages and cooperatives as well and when he retired, he left a huge medical and social assistance network which eventually was sold to the government for $1. It still is in operation today. He did lots of fundraising in the USA and all over the world and also wrote lots of books helping to bring attention and help to this very neglected part of the world. What an immense contribution he made here!
Late that day we drove up towards L’Anse aux Meadows and stopped in a small town just off the main road to boondock on a cliff overlooking a small picturesque cove littered with islands. It was actually in the library parking lot. The next day, just as we were getting ready to head for the UNESCO site, a mama moose and her baby ran right across the lawn of the houses down below us. The actual L’Anse aux Meadows site is almost as far north as you can get in Newfoundland and has excellent exhibits at the visitor’s center as well as replications of the buildings that the Vikings built there in the year 1000AD. It was a Norwegian couple, Helge and Anne Ingstead who figured out from Scandinavian sagas that the Vikings must have had a settlement in North America and they set out to search for where it was. They searched all over Labrador and northern Newfoundland and asked local people everywhere if they had found any hint of ruins and finally they met George Decker, a resident of L’Anse aux Meadows who told them about the suspicious depressions and mounds there. Here are some today, after they recovered the excavated site to protect the ruins underneath:

They spent years excavating them and discovered artifacts that indicated conclusively that they were Norse. Parks Canada took over after that and did more excavating and then rebuilt some of the structures and installed the very excellent visitor’s center. Here is a picture of the reconstructed building with 6 foot thick sod walls:

We took a very informative guided tour and also learned a lot from the costumed interpreters that they have on site in the reconstructed buildings.

Here is a picture of the inside of part of the building:

Just down the road there is another reconstruction of a Viking seaport called Norstead, which sounded a lot like a small amusement park, so we didn’t go to it.
Just as we were leaving, we ran into Chris, Marianne and Billy who were arriving to see the site. So we had a happy reunion with them and got some travel tips from them as well as giving them some from the places we had been since we last saw them. They had just taken the ferry to Labrador the day before and didn’t really think it was worth the time, expense and trouble, so that helped us decide not to go.
The last time we were with them was when we were all parked at the Wal-Mart in Grand Falls-Windsor. A guy from CBC radio stopped by to see if he could interview all of us for his show called “Tourist Talk”. So he came in and asked us all some questions about touring Newfoundland and the next morning we heard it on the CBC. I guess that makes us all “celebrities” here!
August 3, 2009
This morning, we drove into Port aux Choix where there is an interpretation center for the 4 different types of indigenous people who have lived in this area for the last 4500 years, and also some hiking trails that go through the various types of plant areas they have here. So we did 2 of the hiking trails and then learned about the Archaic Indians, Groswater Indians, Dorset Indians, and Beothuk Indians. There was an interesting movie about them and a few exhibits but we didn’t think this visitor’s center was nearly as good as the Grenfell one or the L’Anse aux Meadows. The best part was finishing the hiking trail before the rain came.
We are heading back to Gros Morne now to do some hiking and enjoy the spectacular scenery there.