Sunday, June 30, 2013

What a difference a day makes

Today started cloudy again, but cleared up and warmed up as the day went on. It was too windy for boat rides, but great for touring around. We enjoyed Twillingate and area much more in the sunshine. It reached 27C today and sunny.

I had a nice chat with Skipper Jim , who said it wouldn't be pleasant touring today:

Nice hiking trails around a nearby lighthouse area:

Still camped near Twillingate

Much milder temps now (over 18C at 6am today) but cloud, wind and rain is putting a crimp on things we had hoped to do (like going out cod fishing). We enjoyed the north and west coast parts of the trip so much, but this area just isn't doing it for us, nice though it is.

We've booked our return ferry for Wednesday this week, and will be heading to Cape Breton when we get back to the mainland.

Friday, June 28, 2013

In Twillingate

Today was a travel day, as was yesterday. Last night we had a great camp spot in a little Gros Morne c.g., right on the Gulf.

Today we pressed on to Twillingate area. It's the long weekend, and camping is fairly busy (no problem having a choice of several sites though). We have another non-hookup site at Dildo Run provincial park for 3 nights. Nice view, and the prov park prices are hard to resist.

We camped on a non-hookup site at the previous parks too, including Pistolet Bay. It's working out ok, but means we have to limit our furnace use, as its fan is our biggest consumer of battery power. Some changes I made to the Tahoe last year have worked well for charging up the laptop and cell phones as we drive.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mooses and Slippers

We finally saw some moose! Nfld is supposedly crawling with them, but we had to have an afternoon nap yesterday so we could stay up and out late enough to see them I guess.

Later on we took a bumpy road into an ecological reserve, and saw some of these apparently-rare ladyslippers:

Cool again today, it finally got up to 9C by mid-afternoon. Nice though, not as windy, We're prepared for this kind of weather so we're still out and about. Any rain we've had has come overnight, very convenient.

Tomorrow morning we'll be heading south again, maybe staying in a Gros Morne park for a night, then on down to the Trout Pond area, and on from there to Twillingate. That's the "plan" anyway.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

L'Anse aux Meadows

Today mostly we toured the L'Anse aux Meadows site, where Vikings visited about 1,000 years ago. Not exactly dinosaurs, but a long while back.

The recreated main building was interesting. Walls about 6 ft thick. Layers of ceiling too, rated at about R100 insulation overall. Today was a nippy 9C high with a brisk breeze, and it was nice to get in the building where a fire (propane powered) was going:

Cathie the Viking strikes fear into the heart of...?

Some miscellaneous things we've come across. Lots of woodpiles at the side of public roads. People cut wood by permit through the winter, and stack it to dry for a year or so. The piles usually have their permit attached, and apparently theft isn't a problem. The wood has to be for personal use; most comes from blow-downs etc:

Small garden plots also show up beside the roads. Most are surrounded by short fences, as the moose and caribou like the garden contents too. The microclimates vary a lot, but tend to be a bit warmer inland, and the gardens are put wherever some decent soil is to be found or made. Often there are no homes visible in the area around the plots:

Bergs and whales

Yesterday was a good example of why we've made this trip! We took a boat tour in the morning, expecting to see icebergs and maybe a whale. We saw great examples of both. Then touring around by car we had some great views of more iceburgs and even another whale.

Apparently the transient whales are about 50 miles offshore right now, and will be following the capling in to this immediate area over the next few days.

This berg was grounded, so we got pretty close in the boat. Fairly unusual shape apparently, really pretty:

Same berg, different angle:

We had some amazing whale sightings from the boat too. Unfortunately we weren't able to capture them in pictures. A humpback whale entertained us by chasing its quarry right up on to the rocky shore a couple of times. Once it breeched (sp?), spectacular. Cath saw most of it, right out of the water before the huge splashdown. I saw the ripples.

Later on we drove to a cove where a couple more bergs were beached. We ate our lunch in the little kiosk you can see here, just watching:

One of the bergs was shark-like (maybe a camel shark, with its two humps):

While we were there, the large front fell off with a crash and a splash:

Shortly after that, the berg rolled over about 90 degrees:

We watched the bergs for quite a while. Even saw another whale hunting nearby. We saw just the back of it periodically this time, as it came up for air.

Later again, we drove to a place we could see the same grounded berg  we saw from the boat this morning, from a different angle:

We sat and watched it for quite a while. It was a beautiful spot, and we heard a loud Crack once, so stayed longer in case it was going to calve. It didn't while we were there, but we'll be heading back there today to see what happened overnight.

The day was topped off with a lobster dinner at a little place just south of L'Anse aux Meadows. We'll be touring the L'Anse today, as well as looking for more bergs and whales.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camped near St Anthony

We had a really nice drive today, up the coast from Rocky Harbour, to the northern tip near St Anthony. Along the way we saw our first ever wild caribou right beside the road (although they seemed pretty tame, and basically ignored us):

A lot of the drive was right along the coast, but some was inland. Not too busy...:

And we got a closeup look at our first iceberg, off the north coast at Ship Cove:

It's hard to tell, but this is a miniature village that someone has built on a rock at Ship Cove. The berg in the background is real:

The same berg from a different angle:

We're camped in another provincial park, Pistole (or Pistolet) Bay, a bit southwest from L'Anse aux Meadows. The commercial cg we expected to stay at had no vacancies; thank goodness, in hindsight! We like this prov park, and you can't really beat the price. 2 nights, no electricity (the park has no electric sites), for $19.50 total. We already had the seasonal entry pass from the first park we stayed at, it cost $13 for the season. The rates are good to start with, then we 65+ers get 35% off those rates.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day tripping from Rocky Harbour to Western Brook Pond

One of the things that Nfld tourists like us have to do at least once is take the boat tour of Western Brook Pond, in Gros Morne Park. It's only 25 km from here, a beautiful sunny 20C day, so that's what we did today.

It's an interesting tour, as from the parking lot it's a 3 km "nature hike" on a trail through balsam woods and bog terrain (boardwalks as needed), quite pretty. This is just to get to the boat dock, where we actually bought our tickets. Breezy enough today that there was virtually no black fly issue.

Western Brook Pond was the core of the creation of Gros Morne Park Reserve back in the 1970's. It was originally a salt water fjord carved out by glaciers, but once the glaciers retreated, the land rose and shut the pond (would be called a lake most places) off from the salt water. Gradually the pond recycled to become completely fresh water. If you're at all interested in Gros Morne history, Wikipedia has a nice writeup here, along with several pictures:
Gros Morne National Park

The boat dock:

Lots of happy tourists:

The rock walls at the side varied, up to 2,300 ft or so high in places:

We'd like to spend more time around this area, but have to come back this way anyway, so decided to move up to the St Anthony area tomorrow. That's right at the northern tip of Nfld. We're told there is lots of iceberg activity going by there, so we'll be hunting some bergs, especially if this nice weather holds. 

Not sure what our wifi will be like there. Cell phone service has been spotty outside towns (in spite of Bell's optimistic coverage maps), and our Internet is cell-based. The campgrounds have had wifi too though, and even some of the fairly primitive camping areas in Gros Morne list wifi.

Oh and I should mention - our GPS maps did know about Cornerbrook, both the town and streets in it, so Garmin does know some Newfoundland towns exist after all!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Camped in Rocky Harbour

As we moved north this morning from our campground and on past Codroy Valley, the hills got higher and greener, and the temperature moved up. Codroy Valley was nice, but not really what we came here to see.

Not too much further north we came upon the famous Wreckhouse area. This is often mentioned in the weather news, as the contours of the area can focus winds and develop some high speeds. It's a flat area, exposed to the sea on one side and wrapped in high hills on the other.

We're camped for 2 nights right in Rocky Harbour. We did a bit of touring of the southern parts of Gros Morne this afternoon, and will take a boat tour tomorrow up the famous Western Brook Pond. There's actually a seafood shop in town, and we'll be cooking our own dinner tonight!

Here's the rocky harbour at Rocky Harbour:

Nearby Norris Point is also quite scenic:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day trip to Codroy Valley

We had heard some nice things about the Codroy Valley, so decided to tour it today. Not much interested us there, partly because attractions are just starting to open up in this area, and most are still closed. Other than that it's a nice drive mostly through a good farming area, a rarity on Newfoundland.

The Codroy Valley tour did include this lighthouse on the most westerly land in mainland Nfld, Cape Anguille:

It's been a beautiful clear day, up to 18C with little wind most of the time. Low humidity, which they tell us is normal here.

A note for you techies - GPS is almost useless here. Ours shows the main roads, but can't find any towns, camping, etc; and it's right up to date with the Garmin map updates. Luckily we downloaded several Newfoundland poi (points of interest) files from the web site before leaving, and loaded them on to the GPS. Even some of the tourism documents show long/lat for attraction location targeting, as finding an address does not work. We've had to dust off our old paper (gasp!) map-reading skills.

We did pass by the St Andrews golf course. We've been to the Scottish one of the same name, so Cath had to take a pic:

We had a nice seafood dinner later on, at Margaree (east of Port aux Basques); the waitress there said September is often the busiest Nfld tourist month, and that things are generally not fully operational until the beginning of July (which we sort of knew before heading here when we did).

That's fish cakes on the left and Halibut cheeks in the foreground. All was yummy! Partridgeberry pudding for desert. A nice little restaurant overlooking the water.

Tomorrow we're heading north to stay in Rocky Harbour (at the south end of Gros Morne park) for the weekend.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Touring to Rose Blanche

Today we took a day trip to a little dead-end called Rose Blanche, pretty much straight east from Port Aux Basques. A grey day with some fog to start, it cleared up in the afternoon.

Along the way we stopped at a well-cared-for cemetery. The flowers were artificial, but were a bright spot amongst the otherwise bare hills:

A little further on we stopped and hiked to a scenic waterfall. Can you find Cathie?

The fog created a mood in Rose Blanche:

We hiked up to a restored lighthouse at Rose Blanche:

The lighthouse toilettte:

On a road near our c.g. We decided to stop here and managed to turn around. We later learned this is an ATV trail!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Newfoundland

We made it to Terra Nova!  The ferry ride was pretty smooth. We were on the sundeck for the first hour or so until we got too warm, then moved inside. Lots of sitting rooms of various types. They had several TVs going inside, as well as a snack bar, and a sit-down diner section. Today's meal was roast pork or chicken, for $12.95. Sure smelled good, but we ate our sandwiches instead (don't you feel sorry for us?). It turned foggy for the last hour, but cleared up as we reached land.

Lined up. We loaded on to the ship on the far right.

Loading proceeded through a dropped section in front.
                                   The ship was easily large enough for the helipad.

Once on land at Port Aux Basques we stopped at the tourist info center. Mistake! We got trapped there by a herd of huge motorhomes and 5th wheels. We did get out eventually though, and are camped at J.T. Cheeseman provincial park for a couple of nights. We had a warm welcome from the local black flies! Cool and damp feeling, 12C.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Camped near North Sydney NS

After spending last night camped in Antigonish NS, we had an easy drive getting to North Sydney today about noon. We'll be taking the 11:45 ferry to Nfld tomorrow, so will have an easy afternoon today.

We stopped sooner than expected yesterday, as a nasty scraping noise had developed in a trailer wheel the day before. It got steadily worse, but things still seemed ok, no excess heat, and it was Sunday, so we carried on. By late in the day though, we decided to stop and see what we could do about it today.

Well, talking to one fellow in the c.g. in Antigonish led to another fellow camper, who pointed us at a tire shop right next to the c.g. They couldn't help, but pointed us to nearby Eastern Auto, where we had the trailer in being worked on by 8:30 this morning. 

Once the wheel was pulled I expected to see some damage, but we were real lucky! The brake adjusting wheel and spring had come off for some unknown reason (this was a brand new brake assembly I installed a couple of weeks ago), and the loose parts were rattling and dragging inside the brakes. All the loose parts were still there. Some cleaning up of the adjustment bolt, reassembled and good to go. No damage to other brake parts. Whew!!

It's a "soft" day today, drizzly but still mild, and little wind. Some fog interfered with our Cape Breton views though, so we're glad to see it clearing up now. The forecast for tomorrow sounds good for the ferry ride.

Here's one of the ocean-going ferries, I think the one we got on next day.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Camped at Les Jardins NB tonight

Well, a bit of a long day, but after leaving home right about 6am, we managed our Plan A, getting through Quebec today and into New Brunswick, camping at the traditional (for us) Les Jardins park by 8pm EDT (9pm Atlantic time). Les Jardins is a NB prov park, not far from Edmunston NB. It was a really nice day apart from the odd shower later in the afternoon, varying from 14C around the showers, to as high as 23C. Les Jardins is almost full, at least the electrical sites, lots of locals camping here for the weekend. We got a good site with 15 amp electric though, $25.20 seniors rate.

The newly-finished Hwy 30 (or Autoroute in Quebec terms) extension was great! Take exit 14 / hwy 201 from Hwy 20, stay on 201 right through to 30/530. To head east get on Hwy 30 Est (bear left), not to the right onto 530 Ouest. Then just follow this beautiful divided 4-lane (minimum) road up to 20 Est, and head on out east. Completely bypasses Montreal, no tolls, and the new road kept us out of the little places we went through last year on hwy 132 (apart from some urban-sprawl stuff on 201, on the way to #30; a small price to pay). Our GPS maps are up to date, but were still missing some of the more southerly parts of the Hwy 30 road.

ROUTE CORRECTION:  You can do the above, but likely the preferred option will be to just stay on #20 until it meets up with #30, and take #30 Est. There's a toll for the bridge that way, but it was only $3 for us with our trailer, $1.50 for cars alone, and it bypasses that miserable drive across #201. We came back that way, partly intentionally, and would go that way again. It still completely bypasses Montreal to the south and east.

I expected lots of black flies at Les Jardins, but surprisingly few have found us so far.

The cheapest Quebec gas is at an Irving station right at the Quebec/NB border, about 8 cents/litre cheaper than any other prices we noticed on the way through Quebec. When you're towing with a Tahoe you notice things like this.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We'll be leaving as planned

Judy's insisting we go as planned. She is getting good support from her kids and others, and there's nothing more we can really do for her right now.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sad news this morning

A neighbor couple, John and Judy, usually look after our mail etc when we're away. Sadly, John passed away in the wee hours this morning, peacefully in his sleep. We will be giving Judy whatever support we can.

So our plans may be changing over the next couple of days.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

*START* of Newfoundland trip, June 2013

This year we're hoping to get to Newfoundland (and back!). I say hoping because we've had some trailer issues to deal with this year.

Last year we had trailer braking problems, with a wheel locking up periodically. A new brake controller this year (our old one was was new in 1979) didn't fix the problem, in fact indicated a wiring error. Check all trailer wiring, especially grounds. Oops, the brakes on the front axle are mechanically shot, replace them. Rear axle brakes look ok.  Done. Nope, problem not solved. Talk to CanAm service in London. Check rear axle brakes a different way, Oops, they are no good electrically. Replace them. Two weeks later, All good now! Luckily the Napa auto parts place right in Flesherton had everything needed for the brake replacements, and good prices, and I was able to do the replacing.

Now we can focus more on the more usual trip prep. We made our ferry reservation, and have spoken to the weather gods. We expect to leave here bright and early this Saturday, and catch a ferry ride to Nfld on June 19.

We've decided to go via Canada, yet again. We really don't enjoy going through Quebec, but it's the quickest way to and from Atlantic Canada for us. It looks like the Hwy 30 extension that bypasses Montreal to the south is finished now, so that will help a lot.