WHALE-WATCHING IN BAJA – A WOW!

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

You can read in magazine articles or see programs on TV about how whales can communicate with humans, but being among them brings it home!  It qualifies as a lifelong memory.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated  their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Driving down to Scammon’s Lagoon, where the massive grey whales breed, give birth and play, is … well, let’s just say “an adventure.”  To negotiate “the much-improved roads” for 600 miles from San Diego, California, takes patience and constant alertness.  More on the ride down in a moment, but we are here to pet whales, and that’s what we did.

A whale-watching launch (the locals call them “Panga”) holds eight tourists in seats along

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

the sides and three in the middle.  For those on the sides, there is a better opportunity to touch or even pet the newly born calves.  I set my cameras down long enough to stick my hand out and feel the skin on the nose.  Each of our crew who had the experience described it differently, but I didn’t hear anyone say anything other than it was a thrill.

Grey whales are incredibly large beasts.  When the mothers swim past the boat laterally, they just keep going, something like when those 18-wheelers whiz past your RV on an interstate – seems to never end.  The word for them is “mammoth.”   These sleek leviathans can be identified by unique spots that have formed from years of having barnacles on their backs.

I don’t want to spoil the moment for you when you get down here, so I won’t go into further detail about what you might see and feel.  I will dwell a bit on the sensation of realizing that you’re among mammals that seem to enjoy the chance to show off their calves to the travellers.  Mammals, like your dog or cat, interact with humans.  What may be hard to imagine is that these huge creatures of the sea are mammals just like us and relate to us.

Spectacular moment.  Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval.  One of my all-time favorite photos.

Spectacular moment. Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval. One of my all-time favorite photos.

The protected preserve in the vicinity of Guerrero Negro may be a one-of-a-kind town.  There are whale-watching tours throughout the world, but nowhere else that I know of provides an opportunity for people above the surface of the ocean to interact with these heroic-sized mammals.

Cirio and Cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert.  This area is called "The Rock Garden."

Cirio and cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert. This area is called “The Rock Garden.”

It’s a special experience, in which we are participating as members of a Fantasy RV Tours & Creative World Tours caravan.  As I sit in the lobby of a hotel/RV park writing this, I hear dozens of arriving travelers asking for parking sites and rooms no longer available.  I’m thankful that our part of the trip is to drive, eat and enjoy.  No problemo!

Most of the roads are narrow.  Making it more of a challenge is the lack of shoulders: veer

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

too far to the right and you’re struggling to get back on the blacktop.  Making the trip more interesting are military inspections and fruit inspection, none of which, for our group, was an actual inspection; it was simply a minor delay.  Two other delays were tolls and pest control spraying:  again, no big deal, but we shelled out pesos for the privilege.

A few bad spots in the road, lots of potholes to look out for, and miles of steep grades all made the drive interesting.  Easing the concern over safety and roadside problems were two Angeles Verdes, “the Green Angels,” a team of Mexican tourist department agents who stay with the caravan to keep us out of

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

trouble.  They are there to get us through traffic situations and make minor repairs along the way.  We have enjoyed their participation in some of the group functions.

There is lots to see on the route, from the unique vegetation like cardon cactus and cirios or boojum plants; the rock garden; the shanty towns; the ocean.  Since it is slow-going on the roads, we had plenty of time to get to know the landscape.

One other stop while in Guerrero Negro was the salt mines, actually the 42,000 acres of ponds and salt refining – largest facility of its kind in the world.  Definitely an educational experience only a short trip from where our whale-watching boats docked.

Looking ahead to the next chapter in this trip, we turn to the northeast of the Baja California Peninsula, pushing our rigs toward the Sea of Cortez, with the experience of seeing the grey whales in their southern habitat before they begin heir 6,000-mile swim northward.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

CANADA’S ATLANTIC PROVINCES – A WRAP-UP – PART IV

This entry is part 16 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

I’m going to wrap up this series about the Maritime plus Newfoundland-Labrador with a quick list of things that are indelibly etched in our minds.

Shuffin' Off

The poem above by David Boyd is what I consider symbolic of the way of life throughout most of these four isolated provinces that touch the Atlantic Ocean and its maritime arms.  It’s my impression that the people of this land are fighting valiantly to retain their independence and the lifestyle that has manifested for more than 400 years.  It’s a struggle.

David Boyd, the poem’s author, is a fighter – he has spent years and great energy preserving the historic fishing culture that generations in his family have enjoyed.  A tough, but very satisfying existence for the fishermen that, for many reasons, is losing out to a complex tapestry of current conditions.  David is the proprietor of the Prime Berth Heritage Centre in Twillingate, Newfoundland.  Go to the website www.primeberth.com for extensive information, more than I can explain in a blog.

TOWNS – I’m going to be brief, since I’ve written about all of these over the past four months:

A typical Newfoundland village hugging the bright blue waters

A typical Newfoundland village hugging the bright blue waters 

Twillingate, NF, was a favorite, a small town center of activity and interesting shops, plus the site of one of our favorite mini-hikes across from Peyton’s Woods RV Park.  It was also where we were introduced to Ugly Sticks, which I have written about several times.

St. John’s, NF, probably had more interesting sights than any other city.  I would call it a definite “must visit.”  (Not to be confused with St. John, NB, which was also interesting.)

Lunenburg, NS, with its seaside downtown and beautiful gardens, plus nearby beautiful Mahone Bay and the Blue Rocks.

Bonavista – Very interesting town with the St. Matthew’s Legacy, a typical Newfoundland small town with traditional structures.

Hikes — Maybe “strolls” is a better term, since we didn’t have extensive time to wander far and wide, but we did take mild excursions to immerse ourselves in the pastoral surroundings.

Cape Onion, NF. The grassy trail takes off from the historic and critically reviewed Adams House, bordering the shoreline and then ascending via wooden steps to a meadow high above the aqua-green waters pounding the rocks below.

Elliston and Spillar’s Cape, NF – We were the “early birds” arriving at the cliff across

Lighthouses -- like "exclamation marks" -- punctuate the thousands of miles of coastlines

Lighthouses — like “exclamation marks” — punctuate the thousands of miles of coastlines

from the island of puffins at Elliston, where we were treated to a show that included a puffin waddling five feet from Monique – an  absolute highlight of the entire six-month journey.  On recommendation from a tour-bus guide, we left there and went to Spillar’s Cape nearby for another puffin experience, plus a vista of better-than-postcard proportions.

A quote from a sign in a restaurant in Twillingate:  “And there you find yourself, Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, And oddly enough, It’s exactly where you want to be.”

The Louisbourg Fortress -- History where you can touch it

The Louisbourg Fortress — History where you can touch it

Events: Without a doubt, the Tattoo and Screech-In are at the top of our list, but we saw plays, and walked through museums, government buildings, forts, gardens and much, much more.

Other favorite memories – As part of a caravan, we were in different places almost every day or two, seeing different things in our own vehicle (we pull a travel trailer), in cars of newly-made-friends, on tour buses, from tour boats and a schooner, and walking.  Here are a few other topics that come to mind:

Just Another Pretty Moose

Just Another Pretty Moose

Creatures — Eagles, ospreys, moose, caribou, deer, a fox, and livestock grazing peacefully in verdant pastures.

Scenery – The Atlantic and other great waters; glacier-sculpted hills, rocks, lakes and rivers; fishing villages; icebergs (not many this summer), Jellybean houses in St. John’s, the Bay of Fundy.

Food – Lobsters, cod, haddock, salmon, crabs (depending on the seafood season), Poutine, Denair, fish & chips, Tim Horton’s bakery/coffee shops; a lot more that we either sampled or didn’t want to try.

For environmental concerns, coal mining has shut down, but a few miners are now sharing their experiences on guided mine tours.

For environmental concerns, coal mining has shut down, but a few miners are now sharing their experiences on guided mine tours.

I have to mention again that each of the Atlantic Provinces is unlike the others, except that they all have evolved around fishing and have histories that are linked with the explorations by Europeans, and therefore are somewhat similar.  Going to any and thinking you’ve seen it all is a mistake.

And finally, for the sake of those who qualified as Newfies, “Long may your big jib draw.”

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Ah, such fond memories!

Ah, such fond memories!

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

MY FAVORITE PLACES – A REVIEW – PART 3

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Our seven-week tour of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada included so much, such variety and so many memories that, if I told you about each and every place, each would lose its significance.  Therefore, I’m going to give you a brief synopsis of a few places that, in my opinion, you won’t want to miss while you’re there.  I’m sure all of these I’ve written about in past episodes, but I’m looking back in retrospect at the ones that stand out the most in my memory.

At the sea, at the sea, at the bottom of the sea -- The Bay of Fundy provides a low-tide spectacle

At the sea, at the sea, at the bottom of the sea — The Bay of Fundy provides a low-tide spectacle

FLOWERPOTS – We were able to see many views of the world-famous Bay of Fundy – this was the “fundiest.” Located at Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick, the Hopewell Rocks, also known at “the flowerpots,” are

interesting monolithic outcroppings visible in their entirety at low tide.  Six hours later when the water rises more than 40 feet they become tiny offshore islands.  The Bay of Fundy is probably the most famous attraction of the Maritimes, but there is so much more to experience.

THE TATTOO – I was expecting an evening watching a conglomeration of bodies

The Tattoo -- SPECTACULAR!

The Tattoo — SPECTACULAR!

marching around an arena.  Nothing more.  Those expectations fell far short of the spectacular show we witnessed.  Yes, the ranks-and-files did their thing, several times, and each time was a bit of a thrill with marchers wearing traditional uniforms.  There were enjoyable circus acts; vocal numbers by rich-voiced singers (both individually and in choirs); competition among military units; performing police groups, several thousand participants, lights, noises, music, and other sensory sensations to keep everyone entertained.  Officially named the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo held annually in a modern arena in Halifax, the 2014 edition will be July 1-8.  Better get your tickets early.

Dennis is definitely enjoying the fun. That's me at right, and I'm less joyful. I think the cod, center, is taking it all in stride.

Dennis is definitely enjoying the fun. That’s me at right, and I’m less joyful. I think the cod, center, is taking it all in stride.

SCREECHING IN — If you’re a C.F.A., you will become a Newfie when you kiss the cod at a Screech In.  Our caravan of 45 people whose backgrounds span the gamut from technology to farming, all sorts of folks with different assessments of what is fun – and yet, I doubt if any of them didn’t think the Screech In was A BLAST! Giving you the specifics of the ceremony would diminish the excitement, so I’ll just say that changing from a C.F.A. (we “Come From Away”) to a Newfie (Newfoundlander) is filed in our memory banks forever.

UGLY STICK CONCERTS — As we walked into the Prime Berth Fishing Museum, I glanced at the collection of broomsticks with tin cans on top and boots at the base.  An

I wasn't prepared to see Ugly Sticks at the center of the entertainment, so I shot this scene with my IPhone camera.

I wasn’t prepared to see Ugly Sticks at the center of the entertainment, so I shot this scene with my IPhone camera.

hour later when I saw the sheer joy in Monique’s eyes as she banged out an Ugly Stick percussion accompaniment to local Bill’s guitar-playing, I suggested that we buy one.  And when fellow-traveler Ron bought one, Monique proposed that they play a concert at that evening’s Fantasy Tours caravan barbeque and potluck. That was the start of something big and spontaneous.  We took turns thumping the Ugly Sticks, with even the most laid-back of the group movin’ his feet when forced to join the music-making.

After five more members of the troupe bought Ugly Sticks, the ensemble performed several times after that, including with a band that was playing at an RV park days later on Prince Edward Island, wishing that they had discovered this homiest of rhythm instruments earlier.  The band had never heard of Ugly Sticks, but I’m certain that by now it’s part of their selection of instruments.

Elizabeth LaFort's hook rug work is a delight.

Elizabeth LaFort’s hook rug work is a delight.

THE CABOT TRAIL – This two-lane road undulates as it plies its way on Cape Breton Island, on the northeastern part of Nova Scotia.  It goes on and on, embracing the coastline for mile after mile, and cuts across the interior.  We were aboard a tour bus, appreciative that our driver was contending with the steep grades and narrow highway.  We stopped at a shop in Cheticamp, where they make and sell masks.  It was much more interesting that we expected – Monique bought two to decorate for our Mardi Gras in California celebration.  The next stop was up the road at a museum featuring hook rugs and tapestries in the Elizabeth LeFort Gallery. Impressive!  Honestly, the ride was long and the scenery repetitive, but it’s worth devoting a few miles to the historic section of the island.

I NEEDED HER! — I’ve been an Anne Murray fan since the ‘80s.  Apparently she has

A few of Anne Murray's Platinum Records - Quite a collection

A few of Anne Murray’s Platinum Records – Quite a collection

other fans, too, based on the exhibition of her numerous platinum albums, as displayed in the Anne Murray Centre in Springhill, Nova Scotia.  I was absolutely amazed realizing the scope of her success, as shown by decades in the twisting galleries.

ANOTHER TIME IN ANOTHER PLACE — A Newfoundlandism of interest:  this province, which includes Labrador, is a half-hour ahead of Atlantic Time, which is an hour ahead of Eastern Time.  What I haven’t mentioned in this synopsis is the beauty, wildlife and history elements of what we experienced.  The Atlantic Provinces are much more than attractions, as I’ll try to convey in the next edition.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

P.E.I. – A SMALL ISLAND; A LOT TO SAY – MARITIMES PART 2

This entry is part 14 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

While a good percentage of inhabitants of the “Atlantic Provinces” [see Barbara and Tom Palmer’s Comment below] are closing up their businesses and preparing for the winter migration to the U.S. Sunbelt states, your excitement in visiting this easternmost Canadian turf next spring and summer can be building.  After 17,050 miles of driving, it may be a while before we return, and we have several other journeys in our plans, but the call to revisit the Atlantic provinces is certainly worth considering.

I’ll write more in the future about the specific places that were the most memorable in our seven weeks of caravanning to the “Maritimes Plus One.”  I think the best service I can provide in this blog is to mention briefly what were highlights for us – adventures that will stay with us for years to come, supplemented, of course, by photographs.

What stand out in our memory about P.E.I. - the pastoral scenery

What stand out in our memory about P.E.I. – the pastoral scenery

The last province on our RV expedition was P.E.I., or as it’s known to non-locals “Prince Edward Island.”   And, let me mention at this point that each of the four Atlantic Provinces has its own history, customs, and way of life.  The fishing villages are somewhat similar in many areas, although the fishing boats aren’t necessarily the same and they are out to haul in different catches – lobster, oysters, cod, salmon, haddock, probably others I don’t remember.  And fishing seasons, as set by the Canadian government, are a bit complicated for us outsiders and vary by provinces.  What I want to emphasize is that going to New Brunswick is not the same as going to P.E.I., nor is Labrador very similar to Nova Scotia.

P.E.I. settles on our minds as luxuriant greenery, pastures, farmland, rolling hills (most of the provinces also have grassy rolling hills).   But this, the smallest of the provinces, has a serenity we appreciated more than other places.  Our caravan schedule included much ado about “Anne of Green Gables,” one of the most popular books of teenage girls for over a century.   Monique read the book prior to arriving there and passed it along to others in the coterie, all of whom seemed to enjoy it.  Monique and I visited the “Green Gables” house that was the setting for the novel and attended a play loosely based on the book in the mini-metropolis capital city of Charlottetown.  Charlottetown is a beautiful, historic place, bedecked with voluptuous hanging flower baskets.

Can you believe, I intended to wrap up this series in this blog, but I haven’t even finished with P.E.I.?   I hadn’t mentioned playing golf on one of the greenest of courses, a few hours of enjoyment much greater than the normal frustration.  I felt it was a good day on the course since I only lost one ball and had 35 putts.

Not to be forgotten from our week on Prince Edward was meeting Brian MacNaughton at

Bruce & Shirley MacNaughton Welcome Diners at P.E.I. Preserves

Bruce & Shirley MacNaughton Welcome Diners at P.E.I. Preserves

the P.E.I. Preserves Co. near Cavendish.  Soon after our tour bus pulled into the parking area, a sprightly, kilt-clan MacNaughton hopped up the steps and quickly gave us his rollicking version of his winding course from when his first restaurant failed to when he began selling jars of preserves featuring Grand Marnier, Champagne and other unique ingredients to some of the classiest stores worldwide.

A few minutes later we were enjoying one of the best meals of our caravan trek in his P.E.I. Preserves restaurant.  After dinner we sampled preserves and other treats made in that same building, and finding things we didn’t know we needed to buy in the gift shop.  If you like mussels, this is the place!

After the caravan concluded and our new friends dispersed — some north to the Gaspe Peninsula, others to Quebec and beyond, and others to the U.S.  – we spent a few days on the northwestern part of the island mainly “chillin’” and reveling in the pastoral serenity of that off-the-beaten-trail area.  Starved after driving for hours one day, we stopped at Randy’s Pizza at a remote intersection on the French-speaking Acadian region (also called Region Evangeline) and ordered a plate of “donair” to go.  We didn’t know what it was, and we’re still not sure, but it’s something like a meat pie.  Yes, we would order it again, unlike our experience with poutine in Newfoundland, which didn’t excite our palates.

The Bottle House with the Lighthouse Overlooking Egmont Bay

The Bottle House with the Lighthouse Overlooking Egmont Bay

Most notable place to us on our freelance drive was “The Bottle Houses,” a cluster of three small cottages made with bottles encrusted in mortar and built on land that includes the Cape Egmont Lighthouse.  Adding to the spectacle are the colorful gardens interwoven among the buildings.  It’s worth driving the extra miles to the town of Cape Egmont to see the creative construction by Edouard Arsenault.

A FEW P.E.I. SCENES [FROM TOP]: In anticipation of the opening of the lobster season the next day, fishing boats were lined up and loaded with traps; we entered the Acadian area, also known as the Evangeline Region; the setting for the novel “Anne of Green Gables”; our travels were punctuated with opportunities to make music with Ugly Sticks (as demonstrated by Roger, Sarah and Jean); Donair, featured at Randy’s Pizza near nowhere; and the bridge from Nova Scotia to P.E.I. is the longest span over the Atlantic Ocean.

A FEW P.E.I. SCENES [FROM TOP]: In anticipation of the opening of the lobster season the next day, fishing boats were lined up and loaded with traps; we entered the Acadian area, also known as the Evangeline Region; the setting for the novel “Anne of Green Gables”; our travels were punctuated with opportunities to make music with Ugly Sticks (as demonstrated by Roger, Sarah and Jean); Donair, featured at Randy’s Pizza near nowhere; and the bridge from Nova Scotia to P.E.I. is the longest span over the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ll save a few more memories for the days ahead.  Meantime, there are a couple of interesting comments below:

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

 

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

COMMENTS TO RECENT BLOGS

From Barbara and Tom Palmer (and Shelby the border terrier) — Hi Barry and Monique, We have really enjoyed your travel blog – but one thing that is driving me crazy is your inclusion of Newfoundland and Labrador as part of the Canadian Maritime provinces. We are also full-time RVers who spent the summer of 2011 in the Maritimes and Newfoundland – and rest assured, the Newfies we met did not consider themselves part of the Maritimes (New Brunswick, PEI, and Nova Scotia). Nor did the Maritimers we met consider Newfies to be part of the Maritimes.

As you undoubtedly know by now, Newfoundland was an independent country until 1949 when it confederated with Canada (with a bare majority of Newfies voting for confederation); is there any way you could work that bit of history into your future posts? We really need to give Newfoundland credit for providing space and hospitality to US forces during the second world war – the US built a number of antisubmarine and naval warfare bases (as well as the Air Force base in Gander) in Newfoundland to protect the northern Atlantic from the Germans. Also, although it’s clear to us outsiders that they really could not have survived as an independent country, many Newfies are still uneasy about being Canadians!

Sorry you had to disable the comment section in your blog – we enjoyed seeing what others had to say!  Did you kiss the cod?

Barry’s Response — I find your note absolutely amazing.  In all our pre-planning and in our three weeks in Newfoundland and Labrador, I had never heard or seen anything that explained that NF/LB are not Maritimes, so I looked it up on Wikipedia:

“The Maritime provinces, also called the Maritimes or the Canadian Maritimes, is a region of Eastern Canada consisting of three provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. On the Atlantic coast, the Maritimes are a subregion of Atlantic Canada, which also includes the northeastern province of Newfoundland & Labrador.”

There are so many highlights from our trip; we appreciated each province for its own character.  Newfoundland, the largest, probably offered more variety.  Everything you mention in your comment is true.

As for the comments, that was disabled by the Web folks to combat the incredible volume of spam coming through.  I find that use of the web more distasteful than my experience of kissing the cod!   Thanks for the geography and history lesson.

From David Harrison — I do enjoy your blogs, but after reading the comment on the “far north” region of my country, I think you should buy yourself a globe.   The Canadian Maritime provinces are on the same latitude as southern France and north-central Italy.  Do keep the blogs coming, though.

Barry’s Response – You’re also right … BUT, as mentioned, many Maritime people go south for the winter for warmth.  In France and other European nations, the south of France and Italy are destinations where travelers go to avoid the cold, dreary weather.  Latitude doesn’t seem to have much to do with climate – looking up from the lower 48, it’s still the “far north” to me.  I do appreciate you comment.

MORE ABOUT THE MARITIMES – PART I

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

The Canadian Maritimes (a.k.a. the Atlantic Provinces) are special places.  While we still consider our Alaskan trip “The Trip of a Lifetime,” we will long cherish our seven weeks in the Maritimes.  It’s not simply that we visited so many interesting places on this trip … it was much more than that.  Yes, almost every view of the blue Atlantic and its inlets was spectacular, but even that could make one blasé after weeks of peering over stunning rocky cliffs and driving along winding seaside roadways.  No, our appreciation went much further than that to include memorable events; sampling Maritimes food; being where the earliest of American history actually happened; getting at least an introduction to and a brief understanding of the unique people who populate this far-north fishing and agricultural region; plus, we toured with people who bonded into a fun troupe of travelers.

I’ve written much about our tour in the 16 blogs posted during our 48-day caravan, but before mentioning a few places that stand out vividly in our minds, peppered with some of my opinions and editorializing, TIME OUT! After being on the road without a “bricks & mortar home” for much of the past seven years, we have returned to the little wooden mountain cabin bought a little over a year ago.  Honestly, this is our first time experiencing the rigors of moving all the necessities needed for six months on the road and having to find places in a 1,000-square-foot cabin built in 1937 without luxuries like adequate closet space.  But we know that when we head out again on our journeys through North America, it will be reversing the process.

I mention this as my excuse for taking so long to tell you more about the wonders of the Atlantic Provinces – and if you’re just tuning in, specifically we’re talking about New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the merged province of Newfoundland-and-Labrador.

Now, on with the show! Prince Edward Island, the smallest of the provinces, claims to have 90 lighthouses.  Larger Atlantic Provinces have at least that many, so you’d think we’d get bored with seeing another along the route.  Holding true to being “the Never-Bored RVers,” we snapped photo after photo of lighthouses (also called “lights” and “heads”) almost every day of the journey.  It’s not that each is different:  mostly, they are stalwart reminders of days when men went to sea in ships without guidance systems, many never to return to their wives awaiting familiar sails on the horizon.  And I want to add that we were still drawn to the lighthouses even after having seen dozens along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. in the spring.

LIGHTING THE WAY -- Clockwise from top left, St. John's Newfoundland; Peggy's Cove; Across from the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Nova Scotia; and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

LIGHTING THE WAY — Clockwise from top left, St. John’s Newfoundland; Peggy’s Cove; Across from the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Nova Scotia; and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

It took several weeks before the significance of the history of these far-away lands became an important element of our travels.  It was honestly confusing trying to sort out all the wars and skirmishes that, as our trip continued, fell into place.  For us, it brought history to life.  The war of 1812, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, planting of flags by the Norse, the French, the British, the Portuguese, the Scots, all on soil inhabited by native tribes for hundreds of years – I won’t say we have it all clearly in our minds, but as our travels continued, the torment inflicted on hard-laboring fishermen and farmers by one, then another, played out as a continuing drama from place to place.

Names of New World explorers whose deeds and dates we forgot as soon as our history exams were over (if not during) kept cropping up, again adding color to that thread of history.

Young John Cabot welcomes visitors to see the recreated Matthew's Legacy. More understandable history under one roof than a whole schoolhouse.

Young John Cabot welcomes visitors to see the recreated Matthew’s Legacy. More understandable history under one roof than a whole schoolhouse.

Monique, being from France, and me, a South Louisiana native, took special interest in the Acadians, the French settlers who sailed across the sea to make a new life for their families, only to have it taken away violently when the British wanted to establish a stronghold in the lucrative fishing grounds.  The French returned; they left; the Scots came … well, my abbreviated recall of all we learned (and the accuracy of it) can’t be appreciated as well by reading without walking the land.

I fear going off on a tangent – it’s all part of the Maritimes we found so special – so I’ll end this segment here, except, I have two messages to you.

1)  Now that I’m on solid ground with a comfortable working space, I will do as long-promised.  I will start posting all my past blogs from blog.RV.net, along with new writing on my website ontopoftheworld.bz.  As soon as time allows, Monique and I will begin sifting through photos from our seven years on the road to post our favorites on that site, beginning with the Maritimes.

And 2), I know that when most RVers hear the word “caravan,” they immediately think, “That’s not for me.”  Monique and I had that opinion before our Alaska trip, but the advantages made us realize we could do and see more in the Maritimes if we signed up for a second caravan.  I’ll have another blog soon to give you the plusses and minuses of going with a caravan.  I’ve never seen any articles about it, except for mine, so I think it’s worthwhile mentioning it again.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

NEWFOUNDLAND PART I AND LABRADOR

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

The red building at right is a "stage." What we call piers are "flakes" up here.  Fishing villages are quaint to tourists, but it's the way of life that has been going on for 400 years for the locals.

The red building at right is a “stage.” What we call piers are “flakes” up here. Fishing villages are quaint to tourists, but it’s the way of life that has been going on for 400 years for the locals.

I wrote this at least a week ago, but haven’t been able to post it because of weak or non-existing Internet. If the Maritimes weren’t relatively remote, I don’t think it would provide the charm and sense of adventure we are experiencing.  But because of that remoteness, we are subject to the whims of the territory, which means having to endure intermittent availability of communications, the erratic level of electrical services in RV campgrounds and inconveniences of not always being able to shop for essentials.  It’s all part of the experience of being somewhat off the grid.

Now, to pick up where I left off.

I’ll begin with a comment from Terry Reed: “Labrador was sort of on my bucket list too, but I can see now that I’ve read your description, that I should lower my expectations and maybe just do more exploring in Nova Scotia.”

We have visited enumerable lighthouses during this trip, but each one has its own fascination for us. When we can't get to one, we feel like we've missed something.

We have visited enumerable lighthouses during this trip, but each one has its own fascination for us. When we can’t get to one, we feel like we’ve missed something.

My response: As for Labrador, Monique and I can understand why, from my write-up, that you may want to avoid Labrador.   We only saw a small section as part of our caravan.  We checked our map and see that the route beyond Red Bay, our most northern stop, is gravel for 338 kilometers (about 200 miles) to Cartwright, and from there it seems to be blacktop.  Maybe that’s the challenge of Labrador travel.  You might want to do more research before scratching it off your bucket list.

Terry’s comment brought up an interesting question — Why come to the Canadian Maritimes? For us and most of our Fantasy RV caravan troop taking this 48-day tour of the Atlantic Provinces, it was basically because it’s here, or really beyond everywhere else.  I asked our group for other reasons they joined this tour and got several responses.

Three said they were here to research their family heritage.  Tim is aboard because he went as far as Halifax, Nova Scotia, on an earlier trip and was interested in seeing more.  Perhaps my favorite was from Chet, who explained that he had spent his working life within four walls and he wanted to see more of the world, which he and wife Ann have

A young bull moose poses for us.

A young bull moose poses for us.

done, traveling recently to Tibet.  He likes the idea that they are in a land where there are wide-open spaces, where he can see new things and meet new people.

I like that. Why spend the time and money just to say, “I’ve been there.” Maritimes inhabitants, from what we’ve experienced, are calm.  They fish and have a highly developed sense of community.  It’s comforting to find a civilization that is willing to fight the elements and put up with a lack of shopping centers nearby to maintain their traditional lifestyle.

They know from television that there is an outside world that is different; but, at least in the coastal areas where we have been, they cling to a life that revolves around maritime occupations – oh, and, of course, tourism.  There is unmatched beauty in the blue-green waters that send powerful waves to lap upon the rocky shores.  The villages tucked along remote coves have changed little since their settlement 200 or more years ago.  Come to the Maritimes to observe, to learn, to breathe.  It’s worth the visit.

Over the past couple of weeks, the appreciation Monique and I have of the Island Province of Newfoundland has grown immeasurably.  I want to devote the next blog to some of the unforgettable highlights of our recent Atlantic Provinces travels.  Since it’s part of my somewhat offbeat writing style to enlighten blog readers with information not readily available elsewhere, I want to talk about water.  One tour guide told us you can’t be anywhere in Newfoundland further than 50-miles from saltwater.  We crossed the province a few days ago and realized that he is right.  With that in mind, I’ll inform you of where to find that saltwater.  Visitors see coves, inlets, bays, fiords, harbours, tickles, arms, bights, reaches and sounds, and they all seem to be the same thing.  And that’s not including

Moon Jellies are common this time of year.

Moon Jellies are common this time of year.

straights, and freshwater ponds and lakes that seem to make up half of the landmass here.

I’m eager to talk about some of the sights and activities we have unexpectedly enjoyed, like the fishing heritage museum and Spillar’s Cove.  We are certainly not bored these days,

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

COMMENTS FROM PREVIOUS BLOGS:

From George and Marilyn Swisher. We enjoyed so much your trip in Newfoundland and Labrador.  In 1999, we traveled with a caravan called Yankee RV tours out of Maine.  Many of things you experienced we also experienced on our caravan, such as moose stew and becoming Newfies. We drove personal cars in Labrador, and had a time element to be there since the ferry from Labrador to Newfoundland would not be available for us if we missed it for 3 days.  Thanks so much for your writings.

From Ann Crume: Barry, We will be traveling a few weeks behind you into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. What are you using for Internet and cell phone service?  … Thanks for all the information on your blog. I’m not very good at keeping mine up-to-date.

My response: If I haven’t mentioned this before, I will say that you need to talk with your phone service carrier about their international plan, and, believe me, it can be confusing.  I have a temporary phone plan through AT&T, but had originally set up Internet service also.  I cancelled that because I didn’t want to figure out the system and I could get Internet in most Maritime towns and, at least to some degree, in campgrounds.

From Ray: I like your work in keeping us (old RVers) up to date. Thanks.

 

ACROSS THE STRAIT OF BELLE ISLE

This entry is part 6 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Labrador (LB) and Newfoundland (NF) merged into one province in the 1980s, primarily to

The Point d'Amour Lighthouse, overlooking L'anse aux Morts, where many ships went aground

The Point d’Amour Lighthouse, overlooking L’anse aux Morts, where many ships went aground

save money since it doesn’t seem to be a complicated area to govern.  Looking at Labrador on a map, it looks like an eastern appendage of Quebec Province.  It shares the Canadian mainland with Quebec, as opposed to having to take a 2-hour ferry ride across the Strait of Belle Isle or hop a plane to reach it from Newfoundland.  Culturally, however, NF and LB are very similar (pardon my use of abbreviations; those are long names to repeat).  I found it interesting that the ferry landed in Quebec, but a few minute after boarding our Prevost bus, we were in Labrador.

We toured LB on a day that started out dreary, turned rainy and climaxed with sunshine as we

Just to give you an appreciation of the size of the ferry, this is a Kenworth 18-wheeler exiting,

Just to give you an appreciation of the size of the ferry, this is a Kenworth 18-wheeler exiting,

climbed the stairs to the ferry’s seating level for the voyage back to NF.  Labrador is a province with a dwindling population, as the younger generation tends not to return to live after going away to college.

Fishing is still the leading employer as it has been for 500 years.  The wealth of the area is from minerals and natural resources, and from those industries the province fares well.  Many local men travel to the oil patch of Alberta Province to earn enough money to get them through the year back home.

Two interesting comments from Frank, our tour guide.  Years ago the only bank in the lower coastal area was taken over by the Bank of Montreal, which later shut it down.  The locals came together and opened their own credit union, which is flourishing.  A true example of their pioneering spirit.

Frank also explained that the government built the roads in the 1960s “and hadn’t been back since.”  In other words, the blacktops could use some repair.

The cove-hugging town of L'Anse-au-Loup

The cove-hugging town of L’Anse-au-Loup

 This visit was a bucket list item for me.  Its remoteness has stimulated my imagination; yet, I found out that it’s not a lot different from other small-town rural areas, although the coastline with its numerous coves, outlined in clear blue-green water, and villages of mostly white rectangular houses is picturesque.

LOST & FOUND IN LABRADOR — As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Newfoundland and

Found at the bottom of the inlet was this 400-year-old Norse chalupa

Found at the bottom of the inlet was this 400-year-old Norse chalupa

Labrador residents say “everyting.”  After spending several hours in the company of our Labradorean tour guide, I now realize that the sound of the letter “H” is an elusive thing.  Frank misplaced the “h” in “tunder” and “tirty,” as in “We haven’t had a tunderstorm in tirty days.”  Good news!  I found those “h”s in the month of H’ugust, the Mighty H’eagle River and H’animals that roam the province.

Our impressions of LB were formed after seeing it primarily from a bus window for a few miles we traveled along the coast.  Inland are the big cities of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City, which, from the sounds of it, are towns rather than metropolitan.  To reach them would have taken two days on narrow roads, with probably not a lot to learn.

The idea of touring in a 70-passenger bus is, no doubt, a turn-off for most RVers, as it is for Iceberg - 3531us.  It does have advantages, though including being able to see the countryside without having to concentrate on the bumps in the road ahead and, of course, the fact that you’re not paying more than $5.00 a gallon to see similar scenes for mile after mile.  We learn as we go along, stopping at the significant and interesting spots like lighthouses, museum and nature centers, as time allows.

If you’re looking for new experiences, Labrador is probably not the place you need to visit.  I sense that the best reason to go there is to get a feel for the laid-back attitudes of the people there.  No rush, no conflict, no real excitement that I could discern.  It’s more of a step into a slow-down culture that deserves more than a few hours to absorb.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved.

CONFESSIONS OF CONTENTED TOURISTS

This entry is part 1 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

We are one of 22 RVs that met near Bar Harbor, Maine, and are now on Atlantic Time in New Brunswick, Canada.  Welcome to our caravan [don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour to Atlantic Daylight Time].

After our orientation social, the planned tour began in earnest with a bus expedition to one of America’s most renowned national parks – the only one on the East Coast – Acadia in Maine.  Acadia National Park is representative of the Maine coastal areas, heavily forested and featuring views of beautiful harbors.  While not a great deal different than what we saw along the Maine coast for the past few weeks,, we were taken by the ingenious road system.

What I personally most appreciated was the tour bus ride through the park with narrative by Heather, a very involved and cheerful local resident, who not only filled us in with tales of historic significance but included less-than-vital information that made the two-hour outing entertaining.

For those of you who may say, “Bah, I’d rather do it on my own,” I’d like to share one of “the Never-Bored RVers” recommendations.  Take tours!

HOP ON THE BUS, GUS

View from atop Cadillac Mountain

View from atop Cadillac Mountain

In almost every metropolitan area we visit we look for a bus tour.  We’ve done dozens and only found one that wasn’t worth the cost – and that was because we chose a small company with a small van that restricted our viewing.  The information recited by guides on these excursions is usually fascinating, peppered with behind-the-scenes yarns and legends that increase our appreciation for the town.

For instance, I wasn’t expecting much in Chicago, but the boat trip on the Chicago River led by a member of the American Institute of Architects was memorable.  In Washington, D.C., we took the “D.C. after Dark” tour.  In New Orleans, we visited many of the innumerable landmarks getting filled in on the Crescent City’s rich history (my hometown, and I still learned).  Acadia came more alive when we boarded the tour bus.

What we remember from these tours six months down the road may be very little, but we leave having a good overview of each place, its character and virtues.

Acadia National Park:  the only national park formed from parcels donated by private landowners (including the Rockefellers, the Macys, the Astors and many more, whose names we have already forgotten); the longest stone bridge in America; 50 miles of carriage trails restricted to non-motorized uses; originally Lafayette National Park; a view of five “porcupine islands” just off the coast of Mt. Desert Island; and the highest peak, Cadillac Mountain, which is named for the same man who created the family crest that is emblazoned on the cars named after him – lots of information that enriched our visit there.

Speaking of ANP, it’s located on Mt. Desert Island, pronounced by locals as “Mt. Dessert,” which is closer to the original French, and named that because the hill tops are bald … or deserted … a result of scouring by glaciers and the fact that soil doesn’t stay on granite peaks.

Acadia is adjacent to Bar Harbor, where many visitors walk the land bridge to Bar Island across from Bar Harbor, but only at low tide.  Miss the tide change and you’re on the island for 12 hours until the next low tide.

IN THE PROVINCES

A perfect spot for a bit of rest -- in a Kingsbrae Garden art piece

A perfect spot for a bit of rest — in a Kingsbrae Garden art piece

Here’s an interesting tidbit learned on today’s tour of St. Andrews by the Sea.  The New Brunswick Province saw its population grow dramatically when Massachusetts’ residents loyal to the British king left the newly independent America.   Our tour today included a stop at the local courthouse, where portraits of King George and his family grace a wall opposite that of a huge portrait of Queen Victoria.  Queen Elizabeth’s continence hangs above the judge’s bench, a symbol of her ultimate authority.

Our group began the day with a bus tour of the picturesque small town with plentiful history before having lunch at Kingsbrae Gardens.  We followed that up by walking through the 27-acre grounds featuring clever sculptures and more than 2,500 varieties of trees, scrubs and plants set in a landscape of resplendent colorful arrays.

Built before 1810, this is one of the historic homes along Water Street in St. Andrews by the Sea.

Built before 1810, this is one of the historic homes along Water Street in St. Andrews by the Sea.

While most of our group returned to the oceanside campground to spend the afternoon as they wished, Monique and I chose to take an additional hour exploring the gardens before walking about five blocks into the downtown area to tap an ATM for Canadian dollars and to experience the local hospitality.  We were not disappointed.

One often-asked question is about crossing the border.  We were questioned at the Canadian Customs Station for less than two minutes and sent on our way.  As far as I know, none of our 21 fellow travellers had their rigs searched.  I wrote about Canadian currency on our 2010 trip through western Canada on our way to Alaska.  I’ll probably touch on that topic and metric speed limits again as we continue on our 48-day journey through the Canadian Maritime (or Atlantic) provinces with Fantasy RV Tours.

Kingsbrae Gardens was at its best for our visit

Kingsbrae Gardens was at its best for our visit

Tuesday had been one of bright sun with oppressive heat.  We returned to our trailer just as monstrous gray clouds that followed us from town erupted in bolts of lightening with rolling thunder.

We’re definitely the “Never-Bored RVers.” Wednesday is a travel day.  We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

 

 

OUR ALASKA TRIP Part I – North to Alaska

This entry is part 1 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 9, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 20 Comments

This is the first in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska.  As the hundreds of commenters to these blogs will attest along the way, each of the 36 entries has value, not only to travelers and future travelers, but for those who just enjoy learning about RVing to Alaska.

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

We’re hitching up and leaving tomorrow for Alaska.  It’ll be our first trip there and our first time traveling as part of a caravan.

This escapade all started four years ago at Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina.  We asked a camper about the Alaska sticker on his map on the side of his motorhome.  We were pretty new to camping, and Alaska seemed so remote.

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans' Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

Barry & Monique, left, meet Adventure Caravans’ Wagonmasters Ken & Carole, right, and Tailgunners Spense & Madi

Since then we have gotten into conversations with maybe 250 or 300 RVers about their trips to Alaska.  All but one thought it was about the greatest thing they had done with the RV, but none – zero – had signed up to be part of a caravan going there, with the exception of a Good Sam Club “wagonmaster” in Key West, Florida.

We had planned to head north from Key West this spring to visit the Maritime Provinces of Canada, but Monique suggested that we should veer left at Tampa and set our compass for “The Last Frontier,” Alaska.  That was at the end of 2009,

We bought “Milepost,” the bible of RV travel to Alaska, and Monique started poring over its 800 pages to map out our route and stops along the way.  During the process, a neighbor mentioned that there was a wagonmaster in the camp, so we sought him out and spent an hour hearing about the benefits of caravanning.

Over the next two months, we continued to gather information from the Internet and kept asking RVers about their Alaskan adventures.  All of them said, “Go!” and none of them had any problem doing it on their own.

Week after week we waivered, until I finally said, “Let’s just do it.”  With the caravan, we don’t have to worry where we will camp, we’ll have advice each day on what’s worth seeing and what to skip while on the road, and we won’t have to hassle with getting tickets to boat excursions along the way.  And since all the extra attractions are pricey by our standards, this would eliminate the decisions of whether to spend the money for a boat trip, a show or other offering that would heighten the experience.

What we didn’t want was to be one of a line of ducklings following mother duck 7,000 miles.  That’s not what a caravan is.  Each day we can go on our own or join one or more other members of the group.  It’s very flexible.

I’ll write about the company we signed up with, Adventure Caravans, once we get on the road.  We didn’t really eliminate any company in our research.  Our decision was made based on the length of the trip (58 days) and the stops along the way.

Our first social -- getting to know each other

Our first social — getting to know each other

Sunday we met Ken & Carole, our wagonmasters, and Spence and Madi, our tailgunners (they follow the caravan to help anyone having problems).  For the past three days, we’ve been getting ready for the long journey and spending time getting to know the other members of the caravan.  When we link up with a few more RVs, we will have 18 rigs, plus the two staff motorhomes.

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

Spence, right, guides me and fellow Caravan Member Larry, left, in putting protection on the front of our truck

Thursday we depart from Soap Lake, Washington, heading for our first stop, Oliver, British Columbia.

In the days ahead, when internet service is available, I hope to share our experiences with you so that you’ll join us in our excitement without being so detailed that we take away the discovery that lies ahead when you make the long trek north yourself.

I just ask that you wish us fair weather and paved roads …

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

20 Responses to “North to Alaska Part I”

▪.  Jerry X Shea on June 9th, 2010 4:42 pm 
Have fun. We went for 4 months last year. So much to see, we still did not get to see everything. Homer and Seward are a must. Keep your camera handy. The animals do not “pose” for pictures – you have to be quick to ge the shot.
Check out our trip at http://www.jerryandmarynorthtoalaska.blogspot.com

▪.  Carol & Wayne on June 9th, 2010 5:09 pm 
What an adventure. I will watch for your posts! We are travelling across Canada later next month (July) and then end of August head up to Alaska, so am interested in what you encounter. Not sure I like the pic with putting up guards on your truck, sounds like there could be damage to truck and trailer, so keep us informed on that…. Have a safe trip, and awesome weather……

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on June 9th, 2010 5:10 pm 
What I’d like to know is what the total cost at the end of the trip was including fuel and everything. I recognize that number would be different for different people but a ball park number would be nice so I could decide if it was even feasible for someone like me that lives on a fixed income.
Kurt

▪.  susan on June 9th, 2010 5:42 pm 
Wow…this is something we are thinking about in a year or two.
Will look for your posts.
Enjoy your adventure!!
Sue

▪.  Leah Vercellono on June 9th, 2010 5:46 pm 
Have a WONDERFUL trip–am turning green with envy! We have “done” Alaska four times and would go back in a heartbeat (medical issues prohibit travel now). Our last trip was in the motorhome and we were gone three months–what a wonderful experience. We saw different areas each trip and still didn’t see everything, but met some great people along the way. That trip was in 1993 and gas up there at that time was $2.67—boy now we would jump for joy to see that on our pumps down here! Every town, no matter what size has a museum and you can find great souvenirs at many of them. I collect ornaments from where ever we go and got some really unique ones. If you are in Fairbanks during the Eskimo-Indian Olympics (July)–don’t miss them. Their contests are completely different from what we have and so interesting. Couldn’t get over how many of the contestants were from Barrow. And yes, one trip we flew up to Barrow–what an experience. Did a tour of the Pribloff Islands on our first trip (out in the Bering Sea)–quite interesting, but wouldn’t want to live there. Eat LOTS of salmon—there is nothing like Alaskan salmon. The Discovery RiverBoad cruise is a must see–you learn a lot about Alaska there. And the museum at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks–don’t miss the gold exhibit!! This is one of the best museums ever. If you are in Homer–lots of artists there. I got a watercolor of a baby otter–just love watching those little clowns. Will be looking forward to your posts about your trip–oh and take your bathing suits incase they stop at the Hot Springs in BC!! Such a fascinating world we live in and so fortunate to get out and see beyond our own boundaries. Hugs,
Leah
PS–the next year we did the Maritime Provinces and loved that trip also–were gone almost three months.

▪.  Dennis L. LEE on June 9th, 2010 6:09 pm 
Think all of you will have a great time. We do camp, but haven’t taken on quite a large experiment yet. Yea for you all and God Bless
Dennis

▪.  julie rea on June 9th, 2010 6:34 pm 
Oh, looking forward to reading of your travels. Want to attempt it next summer. Are you taking any pets? Want to know how they do. Mine have travelled to Mexico with no problems. Will your caravan be on any ferries?

▪.  rrrick08 on June 9th, 2010 6:40 pm 
You will love Alaska. We RV’d w/ a caravan 2 years ago. Glad we did the caravan as we had no idea what to see or do by ourselves in such a huge state. The caravan was worth it to us as we saw a lot and had quite a bit of free time to explore on our own as well. Always figured we could go back again some day and see the areas that we want to see more of. Have fun, you will also enjoy 24 hours of daylight. Quite different.

▪.  Gary Underwood on June 9th, 2010 7:05 pm 
Looking forward to your posts. We went thru the same thought process – i.e. go it along or do the caravan or put together a mini caravan of our own. We have tried the latter for three years and just can’t get it going so we too put down the bucks and leave from Dawson Creek, BC on June 30. Good luck to you folks and have fun!.

▪.  Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:01 pm 
You’ll love your trip but a caravan…? We did it twice on a motorcycle, by ourselves…
So many folks think you need so much ’stuff’ – there are so many places/businesses to stop along the way if you need something (food, automotive) or whatever…
August, 2009 we rode from Whitehorse, YT to Skagway, Alaska, USA – awesome, beautiful…
Fairbanks area, look for the pipe lines – I thought they were all underground but that’s not the case…
Pictures and stories (blogs) are on our website… Have fun and enjoy all that you can – don’t put it off… 
Three months ago my husband passed away so I’m going to become ‘one of you,’ an RVer…

▪.  Peggy on June 9th, 2010 8:07 pm 
I’m new here but love reading what you all have written… See where my website wasn’t posted – it’s: http:/triglide.multiply.com
Again, enjoy and have a wonderful time…

▪.  Jim Hammack on June 9th, 2010 8:33 pm 
I will be looking forward to your post. My wife and I have made two cruse/land tours and have talked about going back at a slower pace with the RV.
I too would like to know the difference (cost wise) between doing it on your on or with a caravan. With the initial layout of ~$5000, I’m wondering just how much of this is the (included) cost of the campgrounds and tours. It seems like the campground across from the McKinley chalet (abt a mile from the entrance to Denali park) runs abt $35/night.
from what i saw of fuel prices, in Fairbanks this last fall, they ran abt $1/gal more there than Louisiana.
What I would like to find out, from someone that has done it both with and without a guide, is was the guided tour worth the cost?
I am really interested in finding out what your experiences are.

▪.  Jerry Vitale on June 10th, 2010 12:40 am 
Taken off from Mesa AZ on the 16th of June. If you come across a 1995 Vectra give a “say hey”! We’ll be crossing at Sweet Grass Montana. Plan on making all of 300 miles a day.

▪.  Steve & Mary Margaret on June 10th, 2010 5:05 am 
We plan to retire in 3 years, looking at Motorhomes for the last 3 years and can’t wait to get on the road. In the US, (and I include Alaska!), there is so much to see. I have read books and followed RV.net every day. I feel that all I need to do is to buy the RV and off we go. OK, I do know there is still a lot to learn by experience, but I will start off will a lot of knowledge. I plan to follow your travels to Alaska. Enjoy, be safe and hope to meet you on the road.
Do you have a Blog to follow ?

▪.  Peter and Terry on June 10th, 2010 5:21 am 
Have fun!
We met Ken and Carole on an Adventure Caravans Twin Piggy Backs tour of Mexico in ‘07, which unfortunately isn’t available anymore.
Ken showed us the rings of Saturn on his telescope at Playa Santispac.
Ask them about the campfire and the outhouse that night!

▪.  Robert & Nina Windle on June 10th, 2010 8:25 am 
I’m sure you will have a great time on your Alaska trip. We went there on our own in 1995, the year I retired. We have talked about going again. The rate of exchange in Canada is not as good as it use to be.
I noticed You are touring with Adventure Caravans. We have taken 4 trips with them. (Maritime, Sunshine Coast, Rose Bowl, and Cabo San Lucas), our favorite was the Maritime trip, but they all were great adventures.
Hope you have a safe & fun filled trip.

▪.  Chuck & Marci on June 10th, 2010 6:05 pm 
We are looking forward to doing some long RV trips in the near future, and after taking a cruise to Alaska, couldn’t wait to travel up there in the RV. We ran into a gentleman at the Flying J Truckstop, and while just “visiting” over the pumps, got into a conversation about Alaska (we had noticed Alaska plates on his vehicle). He made a comment to only take an RV to Alaska if you’re preparing to trade it in soon after the trip as “the roads up there will tear it up.” Does anyone have experience with this?

▪.  Dennis & Chris on June 10th, 2010 7:46 pm 
We rode our Harley from Michigan to Alaska in 07 and had the trip of a lifetime. It’s beyond anything you would expect. Watch for animals large and small everywhere. Enjoy yourselves. I look forward to reading your blog.

▪.  rich on June 10th, 2010 8:05 pm 
we plan to travel to Alaska from pa next year. Taken a southern route to Alaska then a northern route back home We plan to spend six months on the trip trying to see all we can on the way out We are also planning a land and sea cruise.

BARRY’S NOTE:  every question and lots more will be answered along the way, if not by us, then by readers who commented.  Stuff you won’t find anywhere else about traveling to and in Alaska.  You’ll read about good roads, bad roads, rigs, adventures, scenery, pets, medical care, facilities, gas/diesel, RV parks, First Nation natives and much, much more.  So, don’t touch that “dial” – plenty of fun, fascinating information coming your way in this series.]

Our Alaska Trip Part III Camaraderie

This entry is part 3 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 11, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 14 Comments

This is the third in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

In yesterday’s article, I waxed prosaically about how Monique and I enjoyed the opportunity of stopping along our route to Canada to see sights that appealed to us, while staying within the guidelines set for us as a group.

Lots of folks told us we didn’t need to spend the money for an escorted caravan to Alaska.  They could be right.  Today, however, we began to really appreciate the investment we had made in our caravan.  All the members of our group climbed aboard a tour bus this morning for visits to two British Columbia, Canada, wineries.

Now, had we not taken in the wineries as we stopped in the Town of Oliver, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  We’ve been to several others on the East and West Coasts of the U.S.  But it was another opportunity for enrichment, not to mention tasting some surprisingly good wines.

Vineyard 6684

We learned that the Portuguese vintners who ran many of the 27 local wineries in this, “the Wine Capital of Canada,” were aging, and settlers from India arrived to buy up their vineyards.  They have the advantage of large families that work together to make it a viable business.  But the rest are owned by native Canadians or corporate bottlers.

We also learned that the grass between the rows of grapevines keeps the soil moist, with IMG_6668the help of earthworms, irrigation and ever-improving viniculture practices.  We found out that the climatic warming trend is helping the grape crop, and that the longer days here (we have almost 16 hours of daylight now) mean better crops.  You couldn’t get out of there without realizing that owning a winery is a very risky business.

And most of all, we enjoyed the chance to taste wine with some fun people.  The camaraderie of our group was the best part, and we would have missed out on it had we whizzed past these wineries.  This amounted to attending two shows.  At the first, Walter Garinger of Garinger Brothers Estates Winery told us more than most of us could ever remember about the world of wine-growing, from its history in British Columbia and France to the uncertainties of the marketplace.

A few minutes later we were at Silver Sage Winery, where owner Anna served us tasteTasting Wine after taste of a wide variety of fruity wines, while entertaining us with witty observations, such as, “If you can’t find anything you want to watch on the 176 channels on TV, take a bottle of this wine out of the refrigerator and you won’t miss TV.”  The lesson here is without being part of the tour we wouldn’t have known which wineries to visit.

Next, Monique waited patiently behind a long line of RVers ready to pay for produce at a fruit stand with the best variety of items.  How do you know where to stop if you don’t have someone to guide you?

If there is a negative, it’s that we won’t be around long enough to become oblivious to the constant pow, pow, pow of cannons going off to protect the valuable cherry crop across the road that is ripening now.  After the cherries are ready, pears, apricots and then apples are ready for harvesting. We understand the cannons continue from spring to early fall to keep birds from destroying crops that fill thousands of acres of rolling hills in the shadows of a jagged ridge paralleling the highway.  Incidentally, this is the northern tip of the Sonoma Desert, where the arid land has been turned into gold.

Cornucopia 67086In response to several comments, we have often heard about how you can plan to trade in your rig when you get back to the states because the roads in Alaska eat them up.  Yesterday we had two broken windshields reported in our group and both were acquired on paved, smooth roads on the U.S. side of the border.

Our Adventure Caravans Wagonmaster Ken Adams preaches that most of the damage comes from going too fast and following too close.

At this point I want to make a suggestion.   We travel at 55 to 65 mph, depending on the highway (I am considered a speed-demon by many of our fellow travelers, who maintain a 48-52 mph pace).  Our truck and trailer combination is about 50 feet long, not very easy for traffic to pass.  When I realize a vehicle has moved into the passing lane to come around, I assess the situation and slow down if I see any chance of danger ahead, like a hill or a curve.  I am particularly eager to help motorcyclists, who stand a greater chance for problems.

Tomorrow we have one of the longest drives of the 58-day trek.  That means less time for sightseeing, but we’ll keep looking for places of interest to write about.  (All this traveling can get in the way of telling the story.)

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Comments

15 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Camaraderie Part III”

▪.  bbwolf on June 12th, 2010 4:44 pm  
Excellent log. Thanks again for today’s post.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 12th, 2010 5:03 pm  
Once you get farther north onto the Alaska Highway, your speed will drop down much slower. In many areas you will travel about 45 mph because of the condition of the road and because of the dust clouds. Anything faster is bound to do damage to your RVs. I don’t think I would want to be in a caravan on the Alaska Highway because of the dust.

▪.  John Ahrens on June 12th, 2010 5:50 pm  
Stan, I don’t know when you were last up there, but when we went to Alaska, as far as Whitehorse, in 2004, the road was paved with no dust all the way.
Barry, thanks for the travelogue. I am enjoying it. 
When we went to Alaska in 2004, we got one rock chip on our windshield when a van pulled in front of us and threw a rock as we were exiting I-5 in Bellingham WA.

▪.  Robin Potter on June 12th, 2010 6:25 pm  
Thank you so much for sharing your trip. Alaska is on my bucket list – not on hers yet but I’m working on it and your blog may well help!

▪.  Sheila Allison on June 12th, 2010 7:42 pm  
while sitting on the side of the road in a parking lot at Muck a Luk Annie’s, the foretravel bus was hit with a rock by an 18-wheeler breaking the windshield. This was on the road coming south out of White Horse. After we got home we really found out how to travel on their roads and how to protect the tow trucks and campers. If your travels take you to Portage for the train watch out how you load on the flat beds. We ended up with a 20 ft gash down the side of the RV. This was from a bar that was bent the wrong way. Instead of leaning out it was leaning in. It was a wonderful wild trip. Expensive but well worth the money.

▪.  Bob on June 12th, 2010 8:19 pm  
Thanks for the great report. We’ve been planning to take that trip for a few years now but family plans keep interfering. In 2 years it’s MY trip and the rest of the family can sit tight!!!!!

▪.  Gerald Kraft on June 12th, 2010 8:25 pm  
We are on our way back to the lower 48. 1 cracked windshield, 2 rock chips, and a lot of fun.

▪.  Dennis & Chris on June 13th, 2010 6:30 am  
In ‘07 we traveled the Alcan and found it to be great most of the way. Some construction and a section of some sort of gravel but overall we were pleasantly surprised. We were on a Harley by the way.

▪.  Frank & Terrie on June 13th, 2010 9:36 am  
We are loving your adventure. Could you also map out your journey so we can see where you are as you go along? This is also a trip we would like to make with a caravan if possible.
 [Note:  My response later.]

▪.  Garry Scott on June 13th, 2010 10:16 am  
HI There, I am following you from ENGLAND UK as i own a Monaco diplomat 36′ here in the UK and have always wanted to do the Trans Canadian highway from east to west coast then on to Alaska. Therefore am watching your blog with great interest, please put in all details as you can, be careful and have a great time, Best of luck Garry.

▪.  Harold on June 13th, 2010 11:28 am  
We’re on our 4th RV trip to Alaska, 2001, 06, 08, 10, ever year the roads get better. The dust clouds mentioned above are due to road repairs. Our trip in May found only 12 miles of road repairs. 8 miles on the Cassiar, and the rest after Beaver Creek before the Alaskan border. We’ve come alone every trip, and enjoy every mile. Don’t put it off too long.

▪.  Les on June 13th, 2010 11:34 am  
Hello, thanks for the updates. A couple of suggestions, if you could put in your title line “post 1, post 2, post 3, etc., it would be easier for people to keep track of your adventure. How are the people with cracked windshields getting them replaced? Does the caravan wait for you if you have mechanical problems?
 [more on this later, but the answer is it depends on the problem] Have a great time.