OUR FAVORITE STOPS IN THE MARITIMES — Part I

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the seriesThe Canadian Atlantic Provinces

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

Members of our Fantasy RV Tours caravan, who joined us from literally the four corners of the Continental U.S. and many places in between, have now split up to return home or begin another adventure. We remain on the vibrant green pastoral Prince Edward Island to see a few more things before heading westward, with our travel trailer virtually filled with a 1) wide variety of keepsakes; 2) our external hard drives brimming with photos and, 3) our heads still savoring vivid memories.

We have parked our rig for at least one night in 21 campgrounds and on one 16-hour ferry ride, and seen, I would estimate, 10,000 memorable sights. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but 100 of those were lighthouses, another 101 were coves hugged by classic fishing villages with colorful little houses, 1,000 were beautiful ponds and lakes … need I go on?

I’ll have more about the experience as time on our trip allows – we have lots of driving ahead of us – but for now, I’m chomping at the bit to tell you about Twillingate and Bonavista, both on the “big island” of Newfoundland. And as I began to prepare this blog, I realize that just a word or two about each thing I want to write about is too long for one blog, so I’ll divide it into two, and then add some more spots after that.

We walked along the shoreline into the hills soon after arriving at Twillingate

We walked along the shoreline into the hills soon after arriving at Twillingate

We began our assault on Twillingate by wandering out of the campground, tromping across a narrow isthmus and climbing a hill bordering the Atlantic coastline. Below the cliff were a myriad of seabirds and blue-green waters at which we have marveled numerous

Cleaning the day's cod catch in their "stage"

Cleaning the day’s cod catch in their “stage”

times on this trip. On our way back “home,” we wandered into a “fishing stage,” a little shack in which seamen store some of their gear and prepare their catch of the day for selling or eating.  These rugged individuals, still wearing their typical Atlantic Ocean fishing gear, were joyfully cleaning the cod from a large bucket when Monique and I walked in, each with a camera in hand. They immediately turned the conversation to us, without stopping their work, and proved to be like everyone else we’ve met on this excursion, both friendly and interested, with a touch of joviality thrown in.

We got to know Twillingate fairly well by walking and driving around town and doing touristy things, like visiting a winery and premium chocolate outlet, finishing our stay there by attending the “All Around the Circle Dinner Theatre,” which is best described as the Newfoundland version of the old TV show “HeeHaw.” It’s local humor; yet, I think that the 42 or so of us on the caravan would describe it as very entertaining.

The Prime Berth "Stage"

The Prime Berth “Stage”

I’ve saved the best two Twillingate events for last. I was not looking forward to visiting a fish museum. After going there, I recommended it to everyone I met. The “Prime Berth Heritage Museum” is the creation of David Boyd, a life-long fisherman, a fishing guide, and a collector of memorabilia, which he explains and demonstrates, He’s also a pretty good poet (I bought his book of poetry). You’re probably still not sold on going to a fish museum, and rather than trying to sell you on it when in Newfoundland, I’ll just say, if you don’t go there, you’re missing a treat.

An enjoyable moment for Caravan members in the Fish Museum

An enjoyable moment for Caravan members in the Fish Museum

And one more thing. After hearing David’s buddy, Bill, play the ugly stick, I picked one up in the gift shop run by David’s wife and bought one for Monique. That ignited the fuse that caused the explosion that became a highlight of our journey, ugly stick concerts.

The first Ugly Sticks concert. Three more followed.

The first Ugly Sticks concert. Three more followed.

Seeing Monique with one, Ron bought one, and George, and Jean and Stephanie and Carol … well, actually, Carol bough two of them.  They played those ugly sticks that evening and at every opportunity after that, including with a band in Nova Scotia, where most of the folks had never seen one and others didn’t realize how much fun they could be. Ron suggests they apply for “America’s Got Talent.”

We capped it all off with a visit to the Long Point Lighthouse, where there’s a charge to enter and go to the top. It was there that we got to see our third iceberg of the trip, and while miles offshore, it still captured our imaginations as its two peaks disappeared into a plateau of ice. We also spotted the dorsal fins of a few humpback whales. Since we’d

An iceberg looms out in the Atlantic, soon changing into a plateau of ice

An iceberg looms out in the Atlantic, soon changing into a plateau of ice

been in dozens of lighthouse by then there was no need to look at the surrounding vistas from any higher than the cliffs on which we walked, so we took off along the bluffs in one direction, stopped to munch on fruit bars, retraced our steps and went onward to extend our hike. At every turn there was beauty in all directions. We are still cutting slices off the chunks of fudge bought there – “Buy 1 pound; get a ½ pound free.” Too good a deal to pass up, an excellent, good-tasting energy food.

We did all this and more on a three-day stopover. Multiply that by the 21 stops on our caravan tour, and you’ll get an idea of what we’ve experienced. Stay tuned for our visit to the Root Cellar Capital of the World in the next edition. Obviously we continue to be the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved

Our Alaska Trip Part XXIII More Travel Observations

This entry is part 25 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 19, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments   ·

This is the 23rd in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

From the “Small World Department” of the RV blog come these two coincidences from recent days.

While in Anchorage we visited the Alaskan Heritage Center, which is an excellent way to The Bobbitts - 9504learn about the cultures of tribes and clans in the state.  In one of the replica habitats, Bob Babbitt got into a discussion with the young presenter (I think he said his name is Sean). Bob mentioned that he did his internship in dentistry on the Ft. Defiance Navajo Reservation in eastern Arizona.

Athabaskan Native Sean

Athabaskan Native Sean




The young man, an Athabaskan native, said to Bob, “Maybe you know my mother.”  He did indeed know her.  Aurelia had been a dental assistant in his office during that residency.  It just so happened that she was there that day visiting her son, which brought about a surprise reunion.   His mother now works with the public health service in Alaska.

And the second coincidence concerns my long-

We met RVnet follower Margie Goodman in Anchorage

We met RVnet follower Margie Goodman in Anchorage

time friend Sam Casey, a veteran truck-camper RVer and a representative of Signtronix along the East Coast of the U.S.  Sam established an internet friendship with Margie Goodman of Anchorage, who recently bought an RV and plans to travel to the East Coast.

 

Sam mentioned to her that he has a friend traveling in Alaska who is writing a blog about his trip.  Margie replied that she has been reading a blog written by a guy who is on an Alaskan caravan.  The coincidence of two people thousands of miles apart who had never met being linked to us is incredible.

Today we delved deeply into the history of the Homer area at the Pratt Museum.  Some excellent displays, but we were magnetized by presentations on video and audio that kept us listening for at least an hour.  Then we visited the cabin at the museum, where we listened to a resident who had been here since 1954 telling visitors about the hardships people endured years ago homesteading before there were services and roads.

Sunday we joined about a dozen members of our group catching a charter boat to the tiny village of Seldovia.  We departed the Homer Spit in the rain on a two-hour trip across Kachemak Bay to the 265-population Seldovia.  Once a Russian fishing village and later the center of the halibut industry in Alaska, now it is about 10 businesses that cater to boatloads of tourists.

On the way over, “rafts” of sea otters lounged on the balmy bay watching over numerous, varied flocks of sea birds.  If you’re coming this way, plan to stay a few days in Homer to take in all the beauty and history this area has to offer.

The Historic Boardwalk in Seldovia, "I'm Otter Here" and Swarms of Seabirds Watched Us Go By

The Historic Boardwalk in Seldovia, “I’m Otter Here” and Swarms of Seabirds Watched Us Go By

While we were enjoying our cruise, another group from our caravan was out catching the limit of halibut on a very successful fishing trip.

Tomorrow we hookup for a long drive to Palmer, looking forward to new adventures.

Shot Taken from the Boardwalk -- Too Peaceful to Ignore

Shot Taken from the Boardwalk — Too Peaceful to Ignore

Now for an update from the Yukon Highways and Public Works site [I’m including this to give you a sense of how you can keep up on conditions ahead and behind you]:  Highway 9, the Top of the World Highway, motorists are advised that the Taylor [Top of the World] Highway in Alaska is now open from the Yukon/Alaska border through to Tok. There will be a pilot car operating from roughly MP 81 to MP 91. Expect delays. There is no camping or stopping on the Taylor Highway between Chicken, MP 67 and the Boundary/Taylor Wye, MP 95, except in designated BLM campgrounds.

RV.net reader Dave had mentioned that he was expecting to get through Sunday following a pilot car.  Since WiFi in the area is intermittent, we can assume he hasn’t been able to report further.  However, he did email to say, “The Taylor and Top of the World Highways are now open, with a pilot car escort through the bad sections. Come to Chicken and Eagle, Alaska. They need the business!”

In normal times, I check facts and spelling fastidiously.  That’s difficult on this trip, so if you see errors that need correcting, please use the comment section to get the correct information out to readers.

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

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXIII More Travel Observations”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 20th, 2010 12:33 am  
You know, I was thinking about you today as I was mowing my lawn in between the Alaskan raindrops, and I wished something for you.
I wished that you had come to Alaska last summer. It was 70 degrees and sunny for months on end. No rain. Beautiful, blue skies. We were actually able to have a September with no rain as well, and it was so warm we actually got to see the leaves change and stay on the trees. They usually fall off so fast we don’t get to see the colors very much. I felt like I had taken a trip to the East Coast for one fall.
The year before, 2008, was exactly like this summer. Beautiful May, then rain rain rain rain rain one sunny day rain rain rain overcast overcast overcast….UGH.
I felt sorry for you today, and I do wish so much that you can come back someday soon and enjoy a real Alaskan summer. It is a crapshoot, but I do hope you’ll be able to experience that.
I know your trip has been beautiful and life-changing, but this I wish for you. And I am sorry for the weather you’ve had to experience this year.
Hope it clears up for you on your way back to the Lower 48. You’ll love Palmer. The mountains are breathtaking. And the Glenn Highway on the way back is amazing! Mount Drum in Glenallen. ….WOW.
Enjoy everything to the fullest.
Lynne

▪.  Nancy Giammusso on July 20th, 2010 5:00 pm  
In your last blog you mentioned some people turned back instead of taking the Taylor Highway. Was that due to severity of road conditions or because of heights and narrow roads with no guardrails. My husband has a problem with heights but we so look forward to taking this trip when I retire in 2 years (he is already retired) but if there are dangerous drops and scary heights we may have to think twice.

▪.  Sharon on July 21st, 2010 8:24 am  
While in Homer, I would highly recommend a trip to town and the Homer Brewery. They have some really good tasting brews there at fairly reasonable prices. When we were there last summer we did not stay on the Spit, but at a wonderful small RV park across from the lake.

▪.  Walter Chledowski on July 21st, 2010 8:47 am  
Good morning to you Barry and Monique and all others reading this Blog,
I have been reading and following your progress through Canada to Alaska and I have enjoyed every minute of it. It makes for a great coffee break reading. I live in Grande Prairie, Alberta, which is about one hour’s drive, east, from Dawson Creek. My wife and I are planning a trip to Alaska in 2012. Since I am reading these blogs on my office computer, I have not saved any of your information. Would it be too much to ask you if you could make available your writings, some time in the future so that I could save it all on my home computer and give my wife a chance to read it also? It appears that you have had much fun and enjoyment on this trip, and I would like to know if we could join the caravan in Dawson Creek, the next time it travels north? Many people from the Lower 48 travel through Grande Prairie and we get to meet them and enjoy their stories too. We met a couple, in St. Joseph Catholic Church, three weeks ago, retired ranchers from Montana and asked them to join us for Brunch. They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful time we had. Hope to meet up with you folks some times in out travels. Safe travels and enjoy these beautiful countries of ours.
Walter

▪.  julie on October 31st, 2011 6:02 pm  
We are new owners of a 40 ft Allegro bus, never had a RV before. My husband wants to take a trip from Florida to Alaska but not through Canada. We have been there. [Hope you figured out a way to do that!] 
Please give me your experiences and what time of the year is best. I will follow this blog is very educational and fun, we have no friends that have RV’s

Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts

This entry is part 6 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 17 Comments

This is the first part of a two-part article, No. 32 in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Until you actually get on the road and enter the Canadian Northwest and Alaska, you can’t appreciate the distances involved — or the grandeur.  We made this trip knowing there was a lot to see, but maybe just as important to us was to check “Alaska” off our list of states we’ve visited as RVers.  Boy, what an eye-opening experience!  It’s a long way up there with lots of rough driving, but we now know we have to return.

As I drove over the past two-and-a-half months, Monique jotted down a few thoughts to include in our articles.  Here are some that we haven’t mentioned or didn’t emphasize enough.

Taking Pictures — I wrote an article about photography for RV.net earlier this year called “Keeping a Visual Record of Your Travels.”  [http://blog.rv.net/2010/05/keeping-a-visual-record-of-your-travels/]  In it I asked, “Why take pictures?  Are you looking to keep memories alive?   Are you planning to give a talk to the Kiwanis Club when you get home?  Or is there a big bodacious dream of having your pictures published in a tabletop book or in magazines?  These are all good reasons to keep a camera with you and snap pictures.”

During our Alaskan trip, I took about 10,000 pictures, which I downloaded into my laptop.  Then I deleted about a third.  Then I looked again and deleted about a third of those.  The remainder is the collection we want to keep as memories of the adventure.

A year ago, I bought a good camera that uses interchangeable lenses, having been spoiled from my days of using my company’s camera before I retired.  A few weeks before this trip I “invested” in a real lens to capture what I expected to be exciting wildlife, scenery and cultural experiences.  It undoubtedly has been worth the cash outlay.

Last week we met what locals called the biggest black bear they had ever seen.

He's a monster

He’s a monster

We estimate he’s seven feet tall, and we found tree scrapings 8’4” off the ground.  This is not a fellow you want to get close to, but you also don’t want to miss the shot.  With a 300-power zoom, I stood 75 metres (we are in Canada) away and we now have a clear digital memory to look at when I’m too old to hitch up the ol’ Bigfoot trailer.

We still use our little camera, especially when the “big lens” monster is too much for a situation; however, Monique won’t let me forget that one of my favorite, most scenic shots of the two-months in Alaska was taken with that little camera.   Additionally, I took one shot with my cellphone camera so it would look very touristy.  Unfortunately, it also came out looking professional.

I need to mention one more important thing concerning photography.  An external hard-drive is not expensive.  It plugs into any USB port and allows you to copy files, including pictures, onto a hard drive to keep separate from your computer.  I backup everything twice onto external hard-drives: one for the trailer; the other to keep in our truck.  It does take resolve on my part to spend a few minutes copying everything, compensated by the peace of mind it brings.

Cash — Visa, MasterCard and cash are the most accepted forms of payment throughout British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  Even many of the U.S.-based chains don’t take American Express and Discover Card.  Banks with ATM machines are easy to find and eager to dispense Canadian currency from your American account.

One disadvantage (or advantage) of relying on plastic in Western Canada is that the businesses don’t always have electricity, so when you find an ulu you just have to buy, maybe you’ll have to try to find it in the gift shop in the next village … that gives you extra time to think about your purchase. At cafes you might not have that option, so if eating is important to you, it’s a good idea to have cash available.  The exchange rate is close enough now that it’s not worth the time thinking about it.

In the past week we have stayed at two B.C. provincial parks that did not have a host/facilities operator.  We didn’t see anything about writing a check, so we ended up putting cash in the envelope – all Canadian $ except a $10 U.S.  Plus, $4-$5 for the “sani-dump” charge (in loonies and toonies)

When we arrived at outposts that put a higher than usual price tag on everything, I gladly paid the tab and told them “Thank you.”  After all, we were happy it was them living 200 miles away from everywhere and not us.  Having services available where and when you need them is worth a few extra dollars.

Music – Having music available is important to us, particularly on those 200-mile treks through the wilderness.  We have XM in our truck, giving us a great variety of music, news, comedy and talk programs.  However, as you get further north and the mountains tower higher and higher, the XM/Sirius satellite is left behind over the horizon.  There’s programming for 20 seconds and then lost signal for a minute, and it gets worse until there is no signal at all.

Local stations are sparse except in major cities, and even then music choices were not to our liking when we did get reception.  My preference is classical, which I never found on our trip, even on public radio, but we’re open to just about any music.  We mainly kept the radio off and didn’t want to play a recorded book that would distract us from the scenery.

If you want music, we suggest having your MP3 or I-Pod by your side, or if you have room for CDs, stock up for the duration.

Fishing – I haven’t had a chance to try out my new rod & reel; thus, I’m not the person to write about fishing.  I can say that our caravan group went out three times on charters, of which two were duds.  The other time they maxed out.

While in a First People community in B.C., we were nearby when we saw a well-appointed fisherman buying salmon from the local natives.  “I got a flat tire on my truck, broke my rod, got a cracked windshield and didn’t get a bite.  At least I can take something home,” he explained.

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

Scenes from a Hike In British Columbia

We’ll have more of these random thoughts when we have internet again.

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

Comments

17 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXXII-A Some Final Thoughts”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on August 16th, 2010 10:19 pm  
We like to use debit cards instead of credit, and unfortunately the Canadian banks gouge you with a fee for using them. We experienced this in both the Yukon and B.C.

And there’s no XM or Sirius in Alaska, either.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:34 am  
Lynne: when I use my debit card in the US, Europe or Asia, banks there gouge me with fees too. This isn’t unique to Canada, it’s pretty normal anywhere in the world.

▪.  GK on August 17th, 2010 7:35 am  
This has been a fantastic series. Very informative and very entertaining. Up until this, I didn’t really know what to expect going North, and this has piqued my interest. Thank you for having along on your adventure!

▪.  Bryan on August 17th, 2010 4:47 pm  
We like to use debit also but the US banks gouge you with a fee every time you use it. We have experienced it in almost every state in the USA.
We have enjoyed your blog on Alaska and our country. We Thank You for taking us along and being so informative.

▪.  Tom Smith on August 17th, 2010 4:48 pm  
Gouge…gouge….gouge…. Was what they did illegal? No it was the cost of doing business. We have become a society of whiners. 
If you don’t like the charges from banks…start your own
As pointed out in the article, when they came to a place that was expensive, they paid the bill, said thank you, and moved on.

▪.  Bill Amick on August 17th, 2010 4:56 pm  
I want to go too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

▪.  Dick Boak on August 17th, 2010 5:26 pm  
I too have enjoyed your blog very much, I have travelled extensively in BC as I am a resident and want to make one small clarification in this part and that concerns your comment about “Western Canada communities not always having electricity” I think you mean Far North-western communities, as I have yet to come across a BC or Alberta community without electricity, they may not take plastic but that is because of the expense to the business in small communities.
I think the best way to describe a Canadian experience is to say that you won’t notice a big difference from an American experience of which we have had many.
Cheers and many happy travels.

▪.  Lynda Begg on August 17th, 2010 6:13 pm  
Thank you for sharing your trip experience with the rest of us. As Canadians, we love to have you here, even if you are passing through. We, in turn, like to frequent your country in the fall and winter to get away from rain (here on the Coast) where I live or snow (in the other parts of BC). It would be great to follow you on another trip, so keep us in mind as you travel! Good health and safe driving.

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on August 17th, 2010 6:27 pm  
@GK: We live in Alaska, and I’ve never seen these fees here, but when we travel across the border, we start getting charged for them.
@TomSmith: Not whining. Just letting people know they might see some extra fees if they use a debit card in Canada. Illegal? I have no idea.

▪.  Tom Smythe on August 18th, 2010 7:55 am  
We enjoyed reliving our experience last year, as well. Also, the part where you said you would be going back is exactly how we feel  
Fees from the banks has been a sticky issue with me for a VERY long time. If you think about it, ATM’s save banks money since you’re not talking to a teller and the machines are available 24 hours a day (some locations). Yes, the machines cost $. But, it’s the price of remaining competitive. Even so, they find it in their hearts to charge us extra to use them. Still, there are still a few banks that don’t gouge their customers. 
Likewise, spending US dollars via credit card in a foreign country should be a plus for the banks since they make money on the exchange. Still, they find a way to charge us again – for the ’service’. Cost of doing business? Maybe. From our experience, we’ll go elsewhere to do money exchanges (since our BoA exchange carried a pretty steep fee for the service) and carry local cash whenever possible. It requires planning ahead – something we’ve gotten better at.  
All-in-all, Alaska was the best trip we’ve ever taken. We loved every minute of it!
tom

▪.  William Robinson, Jr. on August 18th, 2010 9:02 am  
How does one, in these days, carry 5K in cash. I now worry when I carry more than a hundred bucks !! I’m serious, how do you do it? There are RV fires, thieves, and general paranoia on my part. Robbie

▪.  Duane Mattocks on August 18th, 2010 9:27 am  
I have enjoyed your experience. My wife and I made a similar trip in 2004. We did not go with a caravan, we soloed. It was a trip of a lifetime. I too had recently retired and spent 2 years planning our trip. We pulled a 19′ travel trailer with a 2002 F250 Truck. We had only small problems, a tire to replace, and a valve handle that broke on our black tank. Helpful people along the way helped us when needed. I would like to go back again; however, doubt if that will happen as each year we get older our strength decreases. I had a small digital camera, but have several beautiful photos, I found that taking pictures of wildlife with this camera was a waste of time as only you can tell where the animal is in the photo. We were gone for 3 months with a whole month in Alaska, the rest was in Canada and the lower 48. We live in PA with family scattered in Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

▪.  Suzanne McWhirter on August 19th, 2010 3:54 pm  
What about bringing your dog with you on a trip like this? Would it be a problem?