Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Upper Sackville, NS
Monday and Tuesday were almost complete washouts as far as the weather was concerned. It started raining Sunday night and it continued on and off, sometimes heavy, through most of Tuesday. Yesterday, we took it easy, doing some reading and napping, and taking the dogs out as best we could between the raindrops. I was able to get the park’s Wi-Fi working well enough (just not consistently – lots of drop outs) to download some e-bills and update the finances.
For dinner, we had the rest of the rotisserie chicken from Saturday, done up in a quick sauce with spices, onion and garlic and some diced tomatoes, served with angel hair pasta and a nice Chianti. We watched a movie, “The Shooter”, with Mark Wahlberg, which was pretty good for a formula piece.
We learned today that we've been sideswiped by a tropical storm, which apparently formed overnight off the coast. And to think we came this way to avoid the tropical and monsoonal weather!
Today started with another downpour, so we were off to a late start. We wanted to give the new bread machine a try, but found we were an ingredient or two short, so we made a list and headed to the stores. I did some online research into fishmongers and found a couple in Bedford, just north of Halifax. We stopped at the local Visitor Information Centre for some local guides and at Wal-Mart to pick up the photos from the film I dropped off, and then headed to Bedford. We saw another Canadian Tire, and they had the fire ring Geri wanted so we picked that up. We found some nice Haddock and a few scallops at Fish Market International (clever name), and got everything else we needed at Atlantic Superstore. We didn’t eat before we left home, so we were a bit hungry, or grumpy, or both, but we got through it.
Dinner was good but a little difficult to manage with limited counter space due to the bread maker. We had a rather pedestrian Bordeaux that I’d picked up on the cheap at the New Brunswick store (it met our generally low expectations, so it was OK).
Within the space of an hour late today, the skies cleared almost completely. I was able to snap a couple of pictures of the sunset clouds over the coach (I’m trying to take one or two pictures of each place we park), and we sat outside for a while after applying the industrial-strength DEET. We’re in the process of getting a few things ready for tomorrow’s day trip west along the “Lighthouse Trail” toward Yarmouth. It should be a nice, relaxing day…
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Upper Sackville, NS
Another lesson revisited: when your neighbor’s 10’ away, don’t leave the bedroom window at the head of your bed open at night. Because it was pretty warm yesterday, we left the windows open last night. Unfortunately, the people next door planned on Sunday breakfast outside on the picnic table around 7:30 AM. They weren’t noisy or anything, it was just something we hadn’t been planning on. It didn’t keep us from second sleep, though!
Soon after we got up, it started to rain, then rain harder, then we heard thunder. Accordingly, we planned a “down day” without any touring plans. We made a grocery list, I did a hard drive backup, Geri did a virus scan; you get the idea. The rain stopped for a bit although the low clouds were still rolling in, so we decided to take the dogs for a walk before going to the store. The temperature was mild (72°F/22°C) but the humidity had to still be close to 100%. On a whim, I stopped in the office while we were walking to see if we could shift to a site that would allow us to at least get a TV signal. Surprise: they had a site we could move to that was supposed to be better. So, it was a fire drill to get everything stowed enough to move the coach, and then haul everything else in the Range Rover. It was only 100 meters to move, and we did it in less than ½ hour, but talk about working up a sweat! And – surprise – we caught an Internet signal as well. It’s weak, but at least we don’t have to rely on the park, which seems to be down more than it’s up.
After we moved (and cooled off), it was time to head to the store. I was able to get a sense for the food (Atlantic Superstore and Sobeys) as well as Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart, so we had options. We hit Wal-Mart first since it was the farthest away, and then worked our way back. We wanted to stop at Canadian Tire because we saw a portable gas-fired fire ring that some neighbors had at our last park that was really neat (copper ring with “fake” logs) and the owners (from Ontario) pointed us in that direction. The local store didn’t have any and the catalog had a much higher price than we expected, but it was an interesting store (our first visit).
We finished up our shopping and headed home, where we grilled some Costco filets that went well with a 1997 Meridian Cabernet that we’d brought from home. It was another peaceful evening, and it’s cooling off a bit (but still humid). We were watching the news out of NYC and it looks like we’ll be in the wet weather for a few days, but that’s OK, as we can always stand to chill for a few days. We’ll see what tomorrow brings…
Upper Sackville, Nova Scotia
Saturday was a travel day. We’d done most of our preparation work on Friday afternoon, so we were in pretty good shape. We finished up after coffee, and headed down the big hill from the campsite to the exit. It was just a big hill as when we went up! We hit it just right to get the ferry across the river, and we were on our way to Nova Scotia.
We went south on NB-177 to NB-7, then east on NB-1 to Trans-Canada 2. TC-2 took us to Moncton, where we had dinner the other night. We’d planned for a stop at the Costco for bottled water, and maybe a spot of lunch. We broke the cardinal rule of Costco shopping: “don’t go hungry”. We ended up getting enough stuff to last us for the rest of our time in Canada!
Once back on the road, it was a quick 3-hour drive to Halifax, following TC-2 to NS-104 to NS-102. We made a slight wrong turn, but were able to correct it with no problem, and were able to find the campground with no difficulty. They assigned us to a good-sized 30-amp water/electric site, with the only problems being the lack of space between us and the 5-er next door and the fact that the DirecTV signal wouldn’t come in at all. The park has free Wi-Fi (not the most reliable or fast, but free), but no TV was a concern.
We had picked up a rotisserie chicken from Costco, so I carved it up into two meals’ worth while Geri got the sides ready, and we had a nice dinner. We had one of the “cheap” (less than C$10) wines I’d picked up at the NB Provincial Store: “Naked Grape” Syrah. It was OK, fruity but not much else.
We put the iPod on for tunes, and relaxed for the evening. Geri stayed up late with a new book, but otherwise it was a really peaceful night.
Kind of a boring day in some ways…
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
It seems like just yesterday, but it was a year ago that we were in CT for Al’s (son-in-law) 50th birthday. Boy, how time flies! And Pat (Geri’s older daughter) will be 50 next summer. At least that’s it for the semi-century birthdays for a while!
Today was pretty warm again, with temperatures around 90°F (32°C). I went to the office around noon to replicate files and update the blog, and it was 30°C in there with a couple of new fans present. I complained about the power problems we’ve been having and got a little sympathy but little else. Apparently, the park is at the end of the power run on the peninsula, the cluster of sites we’re in is at the end of the run in the park, and the site we’re at is at the end of the run in our circle of sites. No wonder we’re short on juice!
After catching up on email from the week, we did a little packing in anticipation of tomorrow’s departure. We packed up the chairs and the screen room, but left the grill/stove for cooking. In fact, we did better than we should have, as Geri had all the cooking gear stowed before we made dinner! I grilled the chicken breasts I’d bought for yesterday (we were too hot to eat yesterday), and made fries from the remaining two new potatoes we had from earlier in the week. Geri made a nice salad, and we actually ate early for a change. We finished the rest of the Hungarian red wine we didn’t have last night, and had a nice Red Knot Shiraz from Australia with dinner.
We called Al to wish him a “happy birthday”, so we at least know we can make outbound calls. It’s been a fun week to be somewhat limited in the use of technology. Sometimes we wonder how we got along without gadgets. Weeks like this remind us.
By the time we were finished with dinner, the pups wanted to walk. Imagine our surprise as we went outside and realized that the temperature had dropped at least 10°F and it was actually comfortable outside. I opened the windows and shut down the A/C and generator and we’re sitting outside watching the sun set as I compose this. After about ½ hour, I realized that I’d left the pedestal power “off”, so I flipped the switch to keep the inverter/charger “on”. I’m really happy with how it’s performed this week, as we’ve had no interruptions inside the coach even though the EMS has dropped power due to low voltage numerous times.
As I type, the sun is once again setting over the St John River and the breeze is keeping the bugs at bay for a little bit anyway. I’m going to go chat with some of the “new neighbors”, as a couple of sites are now occupied. I made us two Al-tinis, so we’re in a pretty good frame of mind!
Friday, July 27, 2007
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
Today, it did dawn sunny. I know because we left the window shades up for air circulation, and the sun hit me I the face as it came up. It’s a little hazier than yesterday, and warming up fast. We’ve already had the power drop out (I measured one leg at 101 volts at the pedestal, so the EMS won’t even turn the power on at that low level) for a while, but at least two other rigs left this morning so we may get a few more volts for a while. I know we’ll be running the generator for most of the day, though.
I went down to the office around 9:30 to complain, but found that they don’t open until 10 AM. I’ll finish up the blog and pictures for posting, and head down there again later.
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
Today dawned sunny, without a cloud in the sky. Well, at least I think it did, because that’s how it was when I got up at 8:30. Since it was nice (and who knows how long that will last), we decided to take another day trip, this time up-river toward Fredericton, the provincial capitol. We started out heading east, away from the ferry, through some small towns along a bay in the St John River called “Long Reach”. At the end of the bay, we circled back to the west and picked up the formal scenic route, the “River Valley Trail” which follows the river north – duh.
Today’s drive was scenic, but not as dramatic as the coastal route. We went up along the river, crossing on a couple of ferries and a bridge or two, about a third of the way. I didn’t realize it until checking the map that the St John River tracks along the border with the US along the upper tip of Maine. I’m sure that Rick and Annette know this from their time at Loring AFB.
[Andy Rooney voice] – Did you ever notice how sometimes words and names have a way of popping up in multiple places? “Loring” is one of those. Rick and Annette spent several years at Loring AFB in extreme northern Maine, and Dave and Sandy Thompson’s place is in Loring, Ontario. Why is that? I’d like to know.
Sorry; I’m back. We decided to stop in Oromocto for lunch (we were looking for a McDonald’s with a sign out front saying “McLobster is back”, but didn’t find one). We found that Oromocto is home to a fairly large military installation, as every other street corner had a tank or cannon or some other piece of old field equipment parked there with flowers around it, and there were people dressed in fatigues and berets everywhere.
From there, we headed back home on TC-2 to NB-7, coming into Grand Bay-Westfield from the north for a change. As I said, it was a scenic, but not a “stop the car and take pictures” kind of route.
As the day progressed and we moved inland, it really started to warm up. By the time we were ready to head back around 2 PM, the temperature was in the low 90s (about 33°C), so we needed the A/C in the car. I was wondering if it would be cooler near the coast. Probably, but not where we’re staying! It was pretty much the same when we got back home, and it was quite warm in the coach even though we’d left the windows open.
We’ve been having low voltage issues all week when using the microwave, so I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty. I checked the voltage at the pedestal with a multi-meter and, sure enough, one leg was low and the other was high. When the least little load was applied, the voltage dropped like a rock, to right around 100 volts. This is way too low for the systems in the coach, as the electrical management system (aka “EMS” shuts things down at around 105-107 volts to protect the equipment.
The good news for us all week has been that the upgraded inverter has worked well. Whenever the voltage drops, it switches on instantly and picks up the slack from the battery bank. It’s so good that the clocks on the microwave and alarm don’t even lose blink. This has been OK up until today, since it’s been cool enough that no air conditioning has been required. Not today! I tried a few things (dropping the amps on the charger, hooking up to the 30 amp circuit) but no joy. So, I just fired up the generator and put all three roof A/C units on for a while. Everything worked flawlessly, just reinforcing the fact that it’s bad power coming in from the park. I can’t even see a distribution panel somewhere near us, so the wire runs have to be quite long. If they used aluminum wire and/or cheated with the wiring to simulate a true 3-phase circuit and/or “daisy-chained” the circuits for the sites instead of running them separately, it’s understandable why the voltage would drop like a stone when a load is applied. I checked a few empty sites with the meter and all were low, and I checked with the people on either side of us and they were both having A/C problems, so we’re just toughing it out. There’s no sense arguing with the Park about it since it’s a pretty cheap place (C$175/week for full hookup), although I’ll mention it tomorrow when I go to the office to use the Internet connection. We’re just at the end of a long wiring chain and everyone’s using their A/C in front of us. Since most of the sites before us in the circuit are seasonal, it’s likely that they’ll be taken care of before us transients. It’s just the way it is. Fortunately, we’ve got the generator, although I really don’t want to disturb the neighbors at night. Hopefully, it’ll cool off enough to allow us to sleep, and the power will stay on enough to keep the battery bank charged up!
Even though it was warm, there was a stiff breeze blowing in the afternoon, so we sat outside for a bit while the generator-powered A/C units cooled off the coach. The “big ass” recliner must have been a little too comfortable, as I took a good power nap until just about 7 PM! We opened some wine (Szekszárdi, a Hungarian red I found for C$10 for a 1 liter bottle at the Provincial store; light and fruity, and pretty good for the hot weather) and sat out at the picnic table until the bugs came out, then inside the screen room. I was composing for the blog and Geri was reading, but neither one of us felt like food so we just passed on dinner. We probably should do that more often!
Tomorrow, the plan is to stick close to home, hit the internet connection, and start packing up some stuff in anticipation of our departure on Saturday.
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
We planned on an early start and actually got on the road before noon, so I guess that’s doing pretty well, for us! We actually left a little after 10:30, and stopped in Grand Bay-Westfield (the official name of the town). Geri mailed some postcards at the local Canada Post, we filled up with fuel at the Irving, and picked up a bottle of gin at the local Provincial store. We’d packed lunch and treats for the pups, and headed south on NB-7. We went north on NB-1, getting off in western St John to avoid the toll bridge by using NB-100 through town. On the other side of St John, we exited the highway and started along the various country roads that make up the Fundy Coastal Route. It’s somewhat of a misnomer, since it makes a somewhat saw-toothed run inland 10-20 kilometers at times, but it was generally scenic nonetheless.
We made out first stop near St Martins, exiting the Coastal Route for a short distance to follow the shoreline for a bit. Geri had spotted a sign for the “World’s Best Chowder”, so that became the goal. Along the road, we came to a small harbor with a few fishing boats tied up to the wharf. As we got closer, we got a first-hand view of the impact of the Fundy tides: it was almost low tide and all the boats were sitting on the mud, still tied up to the wharf. As I was walking back from getting a few photos, I saw Geri crossing the road to a gift shop. When I looked back at the Range Rover, I saw Merlin standing in the back looking out the tailgate at me. I’d forgotten to close it when I got the camera out and Geri didn’t realize it was open when she locked the car. I was 100 meters away, but Merlin was good and just waited for me. I was waiting when Geri walked up and wanted to know how I got into the locked car! We looked around a little more at the several craft tents set up near the covered bridge, but there was no public restroom, so on we went.
A few kilometers down the road, we came to a pair of restaurants. Both were vying for customers with signage, but the second one was more direct – “World’s Best Chowder at Second Restaurant”. We pulled into the lot and found a spot to park. There were quite a few cars in the lot, but most people seemed to be walking on the beach, such as it is with lots of 2-4” rocks and no sand. Since it was low tide, farther out were mud flats, and off in the distance were sea caves of some sort.
Geri headed in for the chowder (the Loo was on the way in) and I took the pups for a quick rest stop as well. Once they were back in the car, I hit the men’s room and got the cameras out. I decided that it was a good time to use some of the film I had on hand, so I put the 28-70mm lens on the F6 and the 12-24 on the D200. I must have looked like Joe-Photo-Geek!
I got tired of waiting for Geri so I went inside to see what was keeping her. She was waiting at the counter for food, so I hung out for a few minutes, wondering how long it could possibly take to dish up a bowl of chowder. Much to my surprise and delight, she’d ordered me a lobster roll! We grabbed our napkins and headed to their outside patio for a table. The chowder (notice it didn’t say “clam chowder” had all sorts of seafood in it and was pretty good. I’m not the one to judge the whole “world’s best” thing, since I’m not a chowder kind of guy. The lobster roll got a solid B+ score. The roll was the proper kind (split-top) and it was toasted perfectly. The meat was very good, all body and knuckle meat, no claw and tail, and dressed very lightly with mayo. The only down sides were the inclusion of iceberg lettuce (not a lot, but enough to be annoying) and the fact that they were a little stingy on the meat (not a lot, but again just enough for points off). Overall, it was very good and a welcome surprise.
As we were finishing up lunch, I could see a lady sitting (some people plan ahead and bring their folding chairs along, as opposed to us who keep forgetting them at the campsite) near the parking lot with a small dog, so we decided to walk over with the pups. Walking on the rocks was a little hard (more for the dogs, but us, too), but we made it. The woman’s dog looked like a Yorkie but was actually a Silkie Terrier. It was a male about 12 pounds and behaved worse than Merlin. He was barking, growling and pulling, and the woman admitted that he didn’t get enough interaction with other dogs. We chatted for a few minutes, and the dog, “Buddy”, must have touched Maya where she didn’t like it, so she gave out a whelp and snapped back. Well, you should have seen Buddy calm down at that! We knew it was time to move on, so we wished them well and headed for the car.
Our route then took us inland before heading back to the shore. About 20km before we got back to the water, we entered Fundy National Park. This is a nice, compact little park, with lots of hiking trails (we passed on those because of the time required) and several side roads for exploring. We went down the road to Point Wolfe and got a few photos of another covered bridge, and then back past a couple of waterfalls noted on the park map. We’re not talking Niagara here, just a few brooks with nice cascades, but nothing particularly photogenic.
We exited the park in the little town of Alma, another little wide spot in the road with a few fishing boats still mired in the low-tide mud. We stopped for a few photos and more water and were on our way, even though there were several lobster joints in town. It was just too early (4 PM) for dinner – too bad). Our next stop was “Cape Enrage”, just a spit of land jutting out into the Bay, but there wasn’t much to see (and they seemed to want to charge admission at that), so we pushed on and turned northward to Hopewell Rocks. This is another paid tourist attraction, but was worth the price. There are numerous rock formations within 100 meters of the shoreline that are little “islands” at high tide, but towering rocks sticking up from the mud flats at low tide. Since the tide was still out (it was coming back in at this point), I was able to walk out on the flats and get some photos. The best part for Geri is that they have a shuttle (actually just “stretch” golf carts) that’ll take you down to the rocks and back for C$1.50 each way. This was a good deal for us since it was getting late, the tide was coming in, and walking, even downhill, can be a challenge for Geri. It worked out well, even for the pups who got to “guard the car” for an hour.
Here are some pictures from the day:
By this point, we needed to start thinking about food, since it was after 6 PM. I thought about backtracking to Alma for lobster, but that would have put us on 4-5 hours of back roads home. We pressed on along the Fundy Coastal Route to Moncton, a fairly large city in New Brunswick. We had a tourist guide with us and saw an ad for a steak and seafood place that looked like it would fit the bill. I was able to figure out from the maps and the GPS in the Range Rover how to get there without stopping and putting the address into the navigation system. We could tell that Moncton is a big deal because, as we were getting off the loop highway (a clue right there), we saw all sorts of shopping: Michael’s Crafts, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and – oh-my-gosh, Costco! The restaurant was between the loop (NB-15) and Trans-Canada-2. It’s a new place in a new hotel, and we decided that it would work for us (we usually don’t go for hotel food, but it was now 7 PM).
Much to our surprise, the hostess told us it would be a 15-20 minute wait! It must have been for a lack of staff (or she just didn’t like Americans) because there were plenty of open tables. We thought about leaving but didn’t have any other options picked out, so we headed for the bar to wait. Well, when we saw the guy down the bar from us eating, we checked with the bartender on food availability (a big “yes”) and quickly let Miss Snooty know that her services were no longer needed – in the nicest possible way, of course. Geri ordered a seafood platter and I decided to try a steak. The wine list wasn’t too flush, but a Hardy’s Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia caught my eye for the name: “Oomoo”. It was actually pretty good and we enjoyed it with our meal. The steak was on the small side and processed (a la Outback) but came out cooked rare and was acceptable for me. Geri’s platter was OK but nowhere near as good as “Secret Seafood” (a place we go it CT; long story).
I saved some steak for the pups and Maya ate but Merlin was just too nervous (as ho often is when we try to get him to eat or drink while we’re in the car). We walked them and hit the road for home. It was limited-access highway most of the way, first on TC-2, then NB-1 all the way to St John, then up NB-7 to Grand Bay-Westfield. It took about 90 minutes to go the 90 km of highway and 10 km of NB-177 through town, so we got to the ferry just at 10 PM. We queued up and waited for about 10 minutes, crossed easily, and we were home. All in all, another excellent day.
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
Today, we took our time getting started, since we didn’t have a specific plan or destination in mind. We knew we wanted to go back into the city of St John for some food shopping, particularly looking for some seafood for dinner. We’d read about the City Market in the various tourist guides, so we decided to go there. Warning: tourist guides are for tourists! We were somewhat disappointed with the place on several fronts. First, it was pretty small (about 1/6 the size of the Reading Terminal Market in Philly), with only three shopping aisles in a short block-long building. Second, there were more tourist-y stalls than food shops. There were two produce shops, two meat counters and two fishmongers and each pair looked pretty much the same, with the same goods at the same prices. Second, the selection on the food front was pretty weak. Nothing was organic, and most of the meat and fish (with the exception of the pork) looked less than fresh. In addition to the fish for tonight, I was looking for some good Canadian beef for later in the week, but nothing appealed to me (and if you know me, you know Ican be picky when it comes to beef).
We ended up buying a few things to tide us over. I picked up a Hake fillet and 2 crab cakes at one of the fishmongers (not bad on the price; out the door for C$5.25). Geri found new potatoes (great for fries; too bad we didn’t find steak!) at one of the produce vendors. We picked up some Italian deli from one of the better looking stands, and I grabbed a ripe tomato for sandwiches for tomorrow, but that was it. In the tourist traps, I saw an oyster shucking set (board and knife) that might have been interesting (now that Geri’s an oyster aficionado), but it was C$24.95 and felt like it was ready to fall apart. The one thing I know is that an oyster knife needs to be pretty sturdy, so it was a pass.
We stopped at the local shops in Grand Bay on the way home, but nothing seemed too appealing (other than the cinnamon rolls Geri picked up for breakfast – yum!!), so we headed home. I realized after it was 5:00 that we should have stopped in at the provincial “packie” for a bottle of gin so we don’t use up all the Hendrick’s on Gin & Tonics; we need to save that for Al-tinis. I need to get Al to pick us up some so we have a supply for the road post-CT.
I had a little time this afternoon, so I got out the postcard stock, and developed a customized front and back templates for printing our own cards. I developed the “back” in PowerPoint, to look similar to a commercial card with space for a message on the left and the addressee on the right. The template for the “front is simpler, with space for a photo, but selecting, enhancing, sizing, and placing the photo is a little more time consuming. I printed out a few (the paper stock is 4 cards per sheet) and we’ll mail them tomorrow at the local Canada Post location.
We decided to have fries anyway with the fish, and I thought I’d try the fish a little differently. I wrapped the fillet in foil with a little olive oil and sherry, topped with thin tomato slices and minced garlic. I cooked everything outside – because I can! The outside stoves and grill are turning out to be a good investment, since we use them a reasonable amount while we’re stopped for any substantial length of time. I sautéed the crab cakes as an appetizer, and then we had the fish, fries, and leftover snow peas from last night for dinner. The Hake was OK but not fabulous, the peas were OK but a little stringy, and the fries were fine. The crab cakes were the best potato pancakes I’ve had in a while (I couldn’t taste any crab in them). We had a Foxen Santa Maria Valley 2005 Pinot Noir that was absolute delightful. Foxen is one of the wineries on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail that runs from Los Olivos to Santa Maria in northern Santa Barbara County, near where Geri’s sister Kathy lives (Lompoc). We’ve been going by there for years, and finally stopped by for a visit early this year; we’re glad we did! Unfortunately, we’ve heard that the area has been impacted by wildfires over the last few weeks, and we hope the vineyards are OK.
As we were eating dinner at the picnic table tonight, we started hearing a tap-tap-tap noise. Merlin heard it as well, and started growling. He finally figured it out before we did: there was a woodpecker in the tree right over our head. I finished my meal and went for the camera, and he (or she) was still at it, so I got off a few shots. Here’s a link to a couple of shots:
Tomorrow, our plan is to make a day trip up the coast from St John to Moncton and back. We’ll need to get an early start (OK, an 8:30 start, but that’s early for us), so we’ll do some of the prep work tonight (getting the car ready, making sandwiches, having the coffee ready in the AM). I hope the weather’s OK. Today was generally cloudy all day but the cleared up almost instantly around 3 PM. We were all set for a nice sunset when a marine layer rolled in and created a cloud-fog obstruction by the time the sun was going down. Oh, well; there’s always tomorrow!
July 24, 2007
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
I copy photos from our digital cameras into folders organized by date. I’ve toyed with other schemes (e.g., by subject matter), but the labeling process can get cumbersome. I’m sticking with Google’s Picasa service for photo sharing for the time being since it’s free and relatively easy to use. Because of the file size of the photos from the camera (Geri’s pocket Canon S230 generates files about 800k-1.5mb in size and my Nikon D200 creates jpegs of 4-6mb), I try to resize them for posting online. This ends up being a multi-step process:
1) Using Adobe Bridge or Windows Explorer, I select the pictures I want to post and copy them to an empty “work in process” folder.
2) I use Adobe Bridge’s link to Photoshop to resize all the photos in one step to 1024x768 pixels. This is a relatively good size for online viewing (the originals are better for printing), and the automation is welcome since it would be tedious to change the size of each image one at a time.
3) Photoshop puts all the resized images in a new subfolder, so I then use Bridge’s “batch rename” function to change the file names to reflect that I’ve resized them.
4) I then use Picasa to organize the resized images into “albums” (Picasa’s term) where a basic description of what’s being shown can be supplied.
5) Once the images are in albums, I use Picasa to create a caption for each one providing a little commentary on the shot.
6) Once this is completed, the albums are uploaded to the Picasa online service. If I’m online, I usually do this as the albums are created; otherwise I just save them for a later time.
7) The last step is to clean up by deleting the working copies of the images in the “work in process” folder.
No wonder it takes so long!
Grand Bay-Westfield, NB
Today was a good day to spend at home. The weather was fair, and I mean that in the great-to-poor continuum, not forecaster-speak. It was generally cloudy all day, with a few very short peeks at the sun, which was fine with us. We took advantage of the day to stay home and get comfortable. In the morning, I finally got around to working through several days worth of pictures to select, resize and organize ones for online posting. I also caught up on email and took a quick spin through the financial files and reminders. Then, I headed down the hill to the park office, where they have a Wi-Fi connection. In less than 30 minutes, I was able to move some money around, update my Quicken files, upload photos for sharing, post several blog entries that were composed offline, and exchange all my Outlook email folders. I’ll do this again later in the week.
In the afternoon, we did a “campsite deployment”, putting out all the various things we’ll use this week. Since the site is pretty large (40’ wide by 80’ long, I’d guess) and there’s a nice grassy area with picnic tables in front of the coach, we decided to skip our usual patio setup (lights, rugs, etc.) and set up by the tables. I got the grill and stove out and set them up as level as I could, but they still need tweaking). We put the new “screen room” up in a grassy area, and I ran some of the rope lights around for an accent. Everything was fine until a Class C coach from Quebec pulled in next to us and wanted one of the picnic tables (apparently, prior occupants of our site had moved 2 tables here from other sites). Merlin and Maya Lynn didn’t particularly care for someone taking some of their lawn furniture!
For dinner, we grilled marinated pork tenderloin we’d picked up at Sobeys, with roasted red potatoes and snow peas. It went nicely with a Tres Picos Garnacha from Spain. This is a thick, fruity, make-your-teeth-purple wine that’s very food-friendly.
After dinner, we sat outside in the screen room until after 10 PM, which was very nice. It’s a pleasure to be able to sit out without getting eaten alive by the bugs!
Monday, July 23, 2007
St John, NB
Well, I spent some time this morning getting ready for a Wi-Fi session, which meant getting together all the emails I needing responses, the blog entries needing posting, and catching up on organizing some photos. Here are a couple of links.
From our time near Bar Harbor, ME last week:
From our day trip to Campobello Island, NB:
From the last few days near/in St John, NB:
St. John, NB
Today, we accomplished two things. First, we turned the coach around to be a “drive in” as opposed to a “back in” spot. This way, we have the front window pointed toward the view to the west over the river, and opposed to the campsite across the aisle from us (nothing wrong with the people over there, but the view is nicer over the river). Theoretically, this repositioning was going to allow the DataStorm dish to find a signal as well, but it was not to be. I think we’re too far north and/or east for a signal here, although it does it’s best to search for one. From the PC, I can watch the status of the search. The algorithm locks onto the first satellite it comes to, then calculates where it needs to be after identifying it. This works very well – if it can identify the first thing it “sees”. It kept finding things and rejecting the as “satellite unknown” and searched for over ½ hour. It normally takes 2-3 minutes maximum to lock on, so I stowed the dish for now. The campground office has a Wi-Fi connection (just in the store, not throughout the park), so I’ll try that tomorrow. I’m in “withdrawal”, though!
Our second accomplishment was to drive into St. John. We stopped at the Tim Horton’s on the way for lunch. It was Geri’s first time at Tim’s, so now she’s able to say she’s been there. We backtracked south on NB-177 to NB-7, then east on NB-1 into the city. Fortunately for me, I’d gotten out my little envelope of Canadian money that I started carrying years ago when I traveled north for w*rk. I needed a Loonie (or half of one anyway) to pay the bridge toll to get into the city. The EZ-Pass doesn’t work here – go figure!
We drove around the downtown area, which was pretty deserted on a nice Sunday afternoon, and then headed back west toward the local geographical attraction, the “Reversing Falls”. As the Bay of Fundy is known for the size of its tidal flows (purported to be the largest swing between high and low ocean tides in the world, but who knows), the Reversing Falls is created as the narrows in the St. John River drains and then refills with the tide. As it nears low tide, the “falls” (it looked more like “rapids” to me, but I do understand the marketing side) are full of white water running out into the harbor. About 3½ hours after low tide is the “slack period”, when things begin to reverse. After another hour or so, the rapids reappear, heading in the other direction. It’s quite neat to see.
As the tide came back in, we saw a flock of birds start to congregate, and a harbor seal was playing just below the main rapids. The birds (I asked later and was told they’re cormorants; they look like black ducks) were oblivious to the screaming seagulls trying to chase them away from their nests on the rocks. They gathered on the rocks watching the tide come back in, and took off flying low to the water, barely skimming the surface, until they dove under water looking for dinner (salmon, I was told). They returned up-river flying high, about 300’ up, in “V” formations like geese, gliding along on the wind currants for long distances. In formation, they looked like the jet fighters we see flying over our Arizona house!
After watching the falls reverse, we had dinner in one of the two restaurants overlooking the river. It’s apparently been there since the ‘50s (at least based on the old photographs on the walls), and so was much of the clientele. It was charming to see couples “dressed for dinner” and recognized by name from the wait staff. At one point, we concluded that we were the only ones under 70 years old in the area where we were seated. There was a lot of talk about who’d recently died and how nice (or unique, or well-attended) the funerals were. A pair of matrons came in and made sure the waitress knew they needed their beer right away; our kind of folks!
I ordered the small Caesar salad (it filled a whole dinner plate) and the lobster roll (it didn’t), and Geri had the seafood casserole with scallops, shrimp, and lobster. She won, but the lobster roll wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. Sure, it was pretty weakly loaded, but the meat was all picked from the body; no claw and tail meat was included. For those who know their way around a lobster, body meat is pretty good stuff (second only to the knuckles below the claws in my book) and time-consuming to pick, so an all-body roll is a big plus. The roll was the right type (top-split hot dog roll) and nicely toasted and the lobster was simply dressed with a little bit of mayo, but they layered it on top of that darn iceberg lettuce which overpowered the fresh and delicate taste of the lobster. Overall, a B- score.
After we got home, and walked the pups, Geri fed them and I promptly feel asleep on the couch for a nap. Later, we sat outside and watched another nice sunset (this one wasn’t as nice as last night; fewer interesting clouds for color and shape), but was nice just the same. Even though I’d used the industrial-strength DEET (left over from my trips to India), the bugs were starting to annoy us and the bats weren’t out yet, so we retired to the safety of the coach for a nightcap. Since we’re farther north, the last light of the sunset lasted until just about 10 PM (ADT), which is cool. Just about that time, we heard a freight train heading north toward Fredericton (the Provincial Capitol) on the other side of the river. We both laughed since, in our various travels, we’ve concluded that most RV parks are located near high tension lines and/or major highways and/or train tracks (many times multiples). One interesting exception was the park we stayed at near Bar Harbor, but that was right next to the airport and US Airways turbo-props and private jets flew right by us the whole time we were there.
All in all, it was a superb day. Now, if I can just find a network connection tomorrow…
Saint John, New Brunswick
After clearing the border, we had a nice ride up to Saint John. The weather was still generally gray, but the sun started peeking out here and there. We followed NB-1 along the coast, being careful to convert mileposts and speed limits to their metric equivalents (are they still mileposts if they’re measured in kilometers?) along the way. We changed our clocks to the Atlantic Time Zone (adding an hour to Eastern Time) as well. We exited NB-1 just west of Saint John and headed north on NB-7 and NB-177 through the little town of Grand Bay.
Imagine Geri’s surprise when we turned right and headed directly for the Saint John River. I thought I’d mentioned that the only way to get to the campground we’re staying at was to cross the river on a ferry. Well, she didn’t care for that at all! There are two ferries alternating back and forth at this crossing, and it’s free each way. “After hours” (I’m not sure exactly what the hours are), you ring a bell for the ferry to come and get you. Each boat holds about 15 cars (three columns of five cars each), so we took up quite a bit of room! No worries, though, since it wasn’t too crowded and nobody got left behind because of us. We pulled right into the center lane and the deckhand parked everyone else around us for the 3-4 minute crossing. The ferries are cable-driven, pulling themselves across on a 1+” cable that sags under the water and allows boat traffic to cross the ferry’s path.
We exited the ferry on the other side and checked into the very rustic park. We had an escort to our site (a guy on a quad registered in Texas of all places – I’ll have to find out more about that tomorrow) and it was a good thing since the route took us about ¾ of a mile from the office in a big loop to the top of a bluff overlooking the river. We’re probably only 200 meters from the office, just 100 meters higher! We had our choice of spots from among the 5 or so that were open in this little section. Since I still had the inverter on from lunch, I quickly raised the satellite dish to get a bearing on things before I parked. Unfortunately, after parking, there’s just enough tree interference to keep us from getting a signal. Tomorrow, I’ll play with it more to see if I can get online, otherwise we’ll be offline for the whole time we’re here. Ouch!
We’d used up all the food before the border crossing, so we took the ferry back to Grand Bay and hit the Sobey’s grocery store for rations. Geri made a terrific sautéed chicken breast with mashed potatoes and carrots, which we had with the last of the wine we bought in McKinney, Texas. The Langdon Unfiltered Cabernet was nice, with a lot of cherry fruit. It’s labeled “American” wine, which means that the majority of the grapes came from anywhere in the US! It’s not bad, though, for a regional wine.
As we finished dinner, I could see that the skies were clearing a little, so we went outside to watch the sunset. I ended up running for my camera, because it was quite nice, showcasing the river and the hills behind it to the west. The sun emerged below the primary cloud layer and added some nice colour (in Canada, get it?) to the skies. Our next door neighbour was out snapping a few shots as well; he’s shooting a D-70 so we compared notes for a few minutes. He’s from Vancouver Island, and used to sunsets over the Pacific.
As it got dark, we decided to walk the pups one last time for the evening, and ran into a couple who have a seasonal rental here. They have a super spot, with a good sized travel trailer that is built in with a large deck, lots of yard toys for their kids, and great views. Al would like their deck, complete with fire pit. They’re from Grand Manan Island here in New Brunswick, which is right near where we were on Campobello during the week. They own a hardware store there and are building a furniture store this summer, so it’s apparently good for Mom and the kids to get away during the summer. They’re quite nice and friendly, as we’ve found most people to be here in New Brunswick, so we’re off to a good start on our Maritime tour!
Saint John, New Brunswick
OK, so I didn’t get around to posting any pictures last night. Sorry! I just ran out of runway. We did most of our departure preparation last night, so we were ready to hit the road this morning. The lobsters from the guy in the park were boiled in seawater and actually came out a little bit undercooked to my way of thinking. It’s so easy to overcook seafood that this was a nice change of pace, but I’d have liked mine done just a tad more. And, when they advertised two “huge” lobsters with sides for $39.95, they really shouldn’t have delivered 1½ pounders to people who know better. All in all, though, it worked out well enough since we didn’t have to cook and cleanup was as simple as a walk to the dumpster. We finally had the bottle of dry rosé from Foley Vineyards in Lompoc that we’ve been carrying around, which was a nice starter.
It cleared up quite nicely last night and we sat outside until it was almost dark, with just enough light for the bugs to find us. We had a bottle of Sweet Cheeks Pinot Noir that I brought back from Oregon in March, which was a nice sipper. We finished off the evening with the rest of the grappa, so we were almost under the limit for the border crossing.
We were a little surprised to find this morning to be gray and damp, but so be it. We had “Merlin, the canine alarm clock” wake us up just before our scheduled time of 7:30, so we were up and ready to roll by 9:00. We stopped at the office to leave a forwarding address for our mail that hadn’t arrived. I’m a little worried about that, since it was sent Priority Mail from Texas on Tuesday and should have arrived on Friday. We certainly weren’t going to hang around and wait for today’s mail, so I asked them to forward it to CT, where we’ll stop on the way to Alabama. I’ll have to check with them on Monday, just to make sure.
Our route today took us north on ME-3 to US-1A, then ME-46 to ME-9, which we took generally east all the way to Calais. We topped off the diesel tank, and Geri whipped up the last of the burgers at a truck stop, and then we headed for the border. The US and Canadian checkpoints are at either end of a short (200’?) bridge that looks like something out of a spy movie (you know, where they exchange James Bond for some really goofy bad guy). The Canadian side had three lanes, and I felt comfortable with only two of them. Of course, it was the one with the wicked sharp turn that opened up for us, but I just sat there until one of the others became free. Even then, after passing through Customs, they made us pull over for inspection. We took up all of one whole lane coming out of the booth, so everyone had to drive around us while we were parked. The two nice inspectors spent about 15 minutes poking around in the coach before giving us a thumbs-up. They said, “The only thing we found was that your dogs are very spoiled. Have a good day”.
Two final reflections on Maine:
You know you’re in the boonies when the towns have no names. As we were driving up ME-9 between Bangor and Calais, we went through several places where the “town line” signs simply said “Twp 26” or “Twp 28” or the like. You’d think someone would have named the place by now, or maybe sold the naming rights (“Now entering Down East Septic Service”).
It must be nice here; they’re just dying to get in. I’ve never been in a place with more cemeteries than Down East Maine. I’ll acknowledge that we’ve done too much Interstate driving over the last couple of years, and that we’re fixing that. On the other hand, we must have been past 50 different cemeteries between Boothbay, Bar Harbor, and the trip up to Campobello Island. Most are relatively small (<200’ square) and some were downright tiny (like 2 headstones) and appear to be simple family plots (“Yeah, it’s a small family, so we just plant ‘em in the front yard over there by the old tractor”.) Many of the headstones are quite old, reminiscent of the old graveyard next to Trinity Church in NYC near where I used to work. It’s not something I look for, generally, but it was interesting enough to make note of the subtle difference in environment.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Bar Harbor, ME
On Wednesday, the weather started to turn wet, but we decided to stick with our plan of driving up the coast. I had a couple of objectives for this drive. First, it would give me a chance to test out the route that we’ll take when we leave here. Second, we’ll be able to visit Campobello Island, summer cottage of FDR.
We drove north from Trenton, and tried the route recommended by Streets & Trips. We quickly found ourselves on a narrow bridge with a 10’ width limit. Even though this should be OK for the coach’s 102” width, I’m not sure I want to go that way. We backtracked a bit and took another route north, but the road was pretty rough. Either way, we ended up on ME-9, which took us to Calais, ME, where we’ll cross over into New Brunswick on Saturday. We found a good truck stop right before town with diesel for $2.94/gallon, so that’ll make a good place to top off before we cross the border where process are well over C$1/litre and over $4/gallon with the exchange.
From Calais (doesn’t it sound like we should be in France?), we drove southeast, then east to the town of Lubec, ME. This place bills itself as the easternmost town in the continental US (as opposed to Eastport, which is supposed to be the easternmost “city”; consider the hairs split). Next to the town dock is a small bridge to Campobello Island, which is actually part of New Brunswick. I’d planned ahead, so we had our passports and the pup’s vaccination papers handy. The only issue with border crossing is that the dogs bark when we pull up to the window, so it’s hard to hear the questions from the customs officer. We made the crossing without any other difficulties, and drove the several miles to the Roosevelt Park. We toured the visitor’s center, watched a short film on the history of the place, and then walked through the “cottage”. Our friends Dave and Sandy Thompson have a beautiful lake “cottage” in Loring, Ontario, but even they don’t have 14+ bedrooms on the second level, complete with separate rooms for tutoring, servants, and writing. After looking through the house, I walked down to the dock to see the view from the water.
It’s interesting how memories can come rushing back with the smallest cue. As I was touring the house, I couldn’t help but feel that I was back in my grandparent’s house. The first cue was the aroma; somehow, it just “smelled” familiar. Second, many of the interior details reminded me of the grandparents’ places as well. This makes some degree of sense, as they were probably of a similar vintage (early 1900s).
Another reason for visiting Campobello is that there’s a family legend that my father’s father actually worked on the FDR yacht in the ‘teens. I don’t have anything to say one way or the other, and the level of detail available on the tour wouldn’t really shed any light on it, but it was fun to visit and imagine how things were circa 1918.
After the tour, we drove back over the bridge, check through US Customs (2-3 minutes), and drove to Quoddy Head Lighthouse for some photos. Of course, this is the "easternmost point in the US"). It was pretty foggy by this point, so I may have to do some Photoshop work on the images. I’ll post some later, though.
We then headed back home, returning on US-1. I thought this might be a better route for us on Saturday, but there are several construction zones with unpaved stretches and one-lane sections. I’m not sure how they’ll be on the weekend, but still have some time to make a final call on the route.
We headed for a highly rated “lobster pound” for dinner, but got there too late (they stop seating at 7:30 PM – go figure), so we just went to the next place ¼ mile away. We each had 2-pounders, which were pretty good – but not as good as Brown’s. :-) We shared a table with a family from Vermont, since it was raining pretty hard and the covered seating area (picnic tables with plastic tablecloths) was pretty full. We enjoyed the meal, and then headed home for a nice Alamos Bonarda wine from Argentina.
Yesterday was a “home” day, since it was raining all day. Geri made dog food in the morning, and then I started a pot of sauce (aka, “gravy” in Philly) with a recipe I’d found before we left Phoenix. It called for pork and sausage, with the pork being ribs. If I’d have read the recipe more closely, I’d have left it home (e.g., no San Marzano tomatoes here, no food processor or food mill to do the puree), but we had the ribs in the freezer and needed to use them up before crossing the border. It cooked all day, and came out pretty good in spite of the processing compromises. Near the end, you remove the ribs and pull off the bones and fat, and then add it back in. The recipe is probably a “keeper” but with some modifications.
For lunch, Geri made us some meatball grinders (what can I say -- more stuff that needed to be used) with a quick sauce. She’d bought the meatballs at Stew Leonard’s in CT while we were there, and they were pretty good. They’re advertised as “so good you’ll never make homemade meatballs again”. Well, they were good, but they’re not Geri’s!
Our mail came, so I spent some time going through things and updating our records and Quicken files. It’s a process we go through about once a month (whether we need it or not!), since we receive most bills online and pay everything electronically. I got through most of this batch in one sitting. I also made some additional reservations for post-Canada, and updated our directions so we know where we’re going. We called it an early night after a nip of grappa, and slept pretty well.
It rained on and off, sometimes pretty hard, during the night, and it was still pretty wet this morning. I finished up the finances, making sure that we have everything paid and all money moved as needed (I’m not sure we’ll have online access consistently while in Canada), so we’re pretty much set at this point. Geri did laundry today, as well. We do a lot in the coach, but once in a while it just makes sense to use a park’s facilities, when you have volume. She did all the bedding and more, so she got quite a bit done today.
In the mail, I got a notice for Jury Duty, so I called them to let them know I wouldn't be "in state" for the period they wanted me, which was the whole month of September! I filled out the paperwork like the Supervisor of Jurors said, and can only hope that I don't end up in contempt of court.
Tonight, we’re “ordering in”. Twice a week, someone sells lobsters in the park. They steam them for you to take back to your coach, at half the price of local restaurants. It’ll be a good deal for us, since we won’t have a mess to clean up tonight or tomorrow morning. It’ll also give me a chance to work on posting some photos tonight!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Bar Harbor, ME
Yesterday, we toured the remainder of Mount Desert Island, after I dealt with the latest installment of our saga with the State of New Jersey. I used their web site to request a description of how to handle our problem with our 2004 taxes, but got no response (one was promised in 10 days 3 weeks ago) so I called their tax help hotline. The message said everyone was busy – then just hung up on me. No queue, no “leave a message and we’ll (not) get back to you”, just “click”. So, I documented what I could and sent a formal response in the mail. I have until right before Labor Day to file a petition for a hearing, so there’s plenty of time. I’m just hoping that the auditor realizes how wrong he is and prefers to drop it instead of embarrassing himself. That’s wishful thinking, I reckon. “Into the valley of death”…
For this day trip, we circled to the southwest corner of the island. Geri saw a house that she thought was interesting, and she posted on that separately. We ended up at the tip of the island, near Bass Harbor Head Light. It was a nice day, so some pictures were in order. I walked down to the lighthouse and then around the other side to the rocks below it. Geri wasn’t up for the climb, especially the stairs to the rocks, so she waited in the car with the pups.
From the lighthouse, we headed east to the seawall area, where there’s a natural rock wall holding back the sea. This was also interesting, but signs were posted prohibiting taking rocks as souvenirs. L
We dropped the pups back at the park and headed north the Ellsworth to do some shopping. Geri saw a shoe store she wanted to check out, and we thought we might be able to find a portable “screen room” like those we’ve seen in various parks this year. The newer models are tent-like, with flexible external poles, not just the 4 corner poles like we’ve seen before. We ended up finding one for a discounted price at the local L. L. Bean factory outlet. After we looked through the store and came up empty, Geri asked the staff who couldn’t find one either, so they went to show us what it looked like in the catalog. Once I saw the labeling, I went back to the pile of boxes (it’s a factory outlet, after all) and actually found one. Since it was a returned item, there was a hefty discount. Good deal!
We then hit the local gourmet shop looking for dinner. We were relatively disappointed with the options, but did find a couple of things we needed. We stopped at the local Shaw’s supermarket on the way home, and picked up 2 nights’ dinner. We found some nice flounder fillets and a package of local crab meat, so we made stuffed flounder with mushroom risotto and peas. Once again, we had a great “campground meal”, this time accompanied by a wonderful Pinot Noir. This one was a Santa Rita Hills version from Alma Rosa on San Luis Obispo in Santa Barbara County in California. We’re on a mission to try as many wines as we can from the Santa Rita Hills AVA, so this was a real treat.
Today was a slower day, as we slept in (again!) and took it easy this morning. I put up the screen room, with Geri’s help, to make sure everything was OK. If it wasn’t, back to the store it would have gone. Fortunately, it was fine (even though the directions seemed to be incomplete), and we positioned it outside the coach for use while we’re here. The pups seem to like it, although they still try to bark at everything and everybody that walks by.
After a lunch of a terrific horseradish chicken salad that Geri whipped up, we decided that today would be a good time for visits to the local brewery and winery. As it turns out, even though they’re about 3 miles apart, they have the same owner. We started at the brewery, with a tour of the brew house and tastes of about 6 different beers. Interestingly, they also make root beer and blueberry soda. Geri thought they were the highlight of the tasting! I was a little skeptical of the beers when they said their claim to fame is their blueberry brew, but they were decent. We picked up a few bottles of the different brews to take back to CT with us, and some of the soda to drink on the way (Geri was right – they’re good).
From there, we headed to the winery. As it turned out several other people were on the same travel plan, so we saw some familiar faces. The wines were generally mediocre, but that was to be expected since Maine isn’t on track to be an emerging viticultural area. The Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, and Pinot Noir were not the worst we’ve ever had at a “tourist winery” but close. None of the fruit was local, and who knows where it came from. The two sweet wines were local, one raspberry and one apple. Ouch…
We stopped on the way home to order two lobsters to be shipped to Mom and Annette in Alabama. They’re the only ones in the family there who eat lobster; everyone else doesn’t know what they’re missing. We had them sent for Friday delivery, and called Rick to let him know they’re on the way.
For dinner tonight, we grilled a couple of burgers, cooked some home-made French fries, and steamed a couple of ears of local corn. We had a nice Napa Cabernet, from Screw Kappa Napa, which went well with the grilled flavors. Geri tried something different, with tomato slices and whole basil leaves under pepper jack cheese on the burgers. It was pretty good!
Tomorrow, our plan is to take a drive up the coast, so I’ll close it out for tonight. I downloaded the pictures from the last few days from the cameras, but haven’t had a chance to cull, reformat, and post them yet. Soon…
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Saturday’s drive up the coast from Boothbay to Bar Harbor was quite nice. Actually, we’re staying in Trenton, but most people would assume that’s in New Jersey so why be confusing. We’re staying at a new campground just before you get to Mount Desert Island (who comes up with these names, anyway), home to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
Even though the forecast for Saturday was mixed, the day was actually quite pleasant for the 3-hour drive up the coast. We backtracked along ME-27 to US-1 and headed “north”. I use this term lightly because we were generally heading east as much as north, into the heart of “Down East Maine”, and the road rarely runs straight in any one direction for very long anyway. In fact, for one stretch of about 10 miles, we were on US-1 North, ME-3 East, and ME-15 South – all at the same time.
We actually arrived at the park a little earlier than I thought, since I guessed wrong in resolving a perceived difference between what Streets & Trips (software) and Woodall’s (RV directory) had as the location. Imagine my surprise when we drove right past the park just seconds after I pointed out where it was to Geri on the GPS in the coach. Or, at least, where I thought it was. It turns out that S&T was right this time (it’s usually wrong if there’s a question). My only consolation is that there have to be a lot of people in the same boat, since they had a sign 100’ after the entrance telling drivers how to make a safe U-turn ¼ mile down the road.
Once we got parked and had the basics in place (power on slides out dish up), we hopped in the Rover and headed for Bar Harbor for lunch, as we were both too hungry to focus on more campground tasks. We had a nice ride into the little burg, and randomly chose a restaurant, Parkside, with outside seating. We just made it in time for lunch service before they stopped seating and I found a parking spot right around the corner, both good signs. The choice of outside seating – not so much. We hadn’t even ordered yet when I was heading back to the car to grab those “emergency sweatshirts” we bought in Hampton Beach. Suitable layered, we ordered a couple of glasses of Hess Select Chardonnay, and – what else – lobster rolls. This installment in the great lobster roll quest was another success, with a #2 finish at this point. The quantity was overflowing (beating even Red’s), but the roll itself was too soft, damp, and “doughy” and could have used some toasting. The lobster was nicely-dressed and the added lettuce and tomato were a good touch, although Geri thought it a bit much. The lobster itself had been boiled instead of steamed, not that there’s anything wrong with that, which imparts a different taste to the end product. Overall, well done but not quite Red’s.
Back at the park after lunch, we finished up a “full deployment” setup. This means that all the chairs and outdoor cooking equipment is in place and all the patio lights are hooked up. It’s not a tough or time-consuming job, but if we’re on a short stay or I don’t get around to it right away, it just seems like these things don’t get done as easily.
After a quick break, we put together a nice dinner of grilled steaks (the last of the Costco steaks we brought with us), with grill-roasted red potatoes and the rest of the asparagus we picked up in Boothbay. A cheap Yellow Tail Cabernet (gotta use it up before the border, no matter how much it cost) was the selection du jour, and it did us fine. For “dessert”, we had “Al-tinis”, a drink that Al concocted for us while we were in CT. It’s made with 2 oz Hendrick’s Gin, ½ oz Triple Sec, 3-4 drops of lime juice, shaken with ice and strained into the closest thing you have to a martini glass. One will help you sleep. Beyond that, you’re on your own. Good stuff.
Today, we did a driving tour of Acadia National Park, taking the “Park Loop Road” around the eastern side of Mount Desert Island to the southern tip, then back inland and up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. It was sunny with high clouds when we left the park, but by the time we got near the ocean, clouds and fog were rolling in from the south. The landscape reminded me quite a bit of the Oregon coast, with the same kind of rocky terrain and pine trees (everything except the soaring heights of the Oregon cliffs). I had a chance to walk along the shore road for a little bit and try for some photos, although the weather wasn’t exactly right for good landscapes. This was especially true from the Mountain, where I thought we were on Mt. Washington for a bit with 40+ MPH winds blowing. There are some beautiful views overlooking Bar Harbor to the east, Northeast Harbor/Southwest Harbor to the west, and offshore islands to the south – just not today with the clouds and fog. Today was more of a scouting trip for a trip later in the week, I think. I’ll sort through picture downloads later (probably tomorrow) and post some representative samples.
During our drive, we stopped for a quick snack (turkey sandwiches) in the park, which just reinforced how we need to do a better job of preparing for days like this. We have a cooler in the car and should have packed our own snacks, plus some things for the pups. Anyway, when we headed back to the park, we stopped at the local IGA grocery for tonight’s dinner. Suffice it to say, we’ll need to head to a real grocery during the week, but we at least found some quick comfort food: pork chops for broiling and garlic mashed potatoes. Since the rain started as soon as we left the store, tonight was another excuse to try out the micro-convection oven, where neither of us is completely comfortable. We had a passable experience, although I still don’t know how long to cook things and the oven doesn’t seem to know how to preheat. I didn’t kill us with undercooked pork (I hope) and we had a nice 2005 Bourgogne (Pinot Noir), so all’s good. It may be time for dessert, or another Al-tini (but probably not both). Accordingly, I’ll sign off for now…
Friday, July 13, 2007
No paraskavedekatriaphobia here. Who cares if it’s Friday the thirteenth? Not us. In our house, it’s just Merlin’s Birthday. The big dog is 9 years old today, and just as feisty as ever. A little slower up the stairs at times, but who isn’t at his age? Happy Birthday, Buddy!
Last night we ate well, which means we ate light. After a mid-afternoon lunch, neither one of us felt like cooking or eating when we got home. Since we had salad greens on hand and a chicken breast in the freezer, voila -- salad with grilled chicken sounded perfect. Accompanied by a cheap California Pinot Noir (Pepperwood Grove, actually not too bad for $5/bottle), it made for a nice late dinner.
Today dawned brighter than we’ve seen is over a week. There was no fog and the welcome sunshine was accompanied by a light breeze. We almost had our coffee out on the patio, except that we both got tied up online, Geri searching for new recipes and me checking to see how well our IRAs did in the market -- :-) -- and updating our Quicken data. I checked to make sure that Geri’s prescription refills made it to our mail service in South Dakota (they did) so we’ll get a mail shipment next week before we leave the US.
We took another drive today, this time out through the Southport peninsula. It’s rumored that Martha has a place there, but I think people are confused with Southport, CT, to be honest. Needless to say, we didn’t see her but we did have a chance to stop at the local public pier for a while. It was nice to snap a few photos and just sit for a while. We’ve noticed that “sitting for a while” is a popular activity at the vacation homes here. I reckon it’s the same as “settin’ a spell” in the South, and something to be savored. This is obviously a popular vacation hangout, as we’ve seen as many out-of-state cars as those from Maine. The majority are from New England plus New York and New Jersey (the latter surprised me, given the popularity of the “Jersey Shore”), with a good dose of Quebec representation. We’ve seen only a couple of plates from the Maritimes (they have their own vacation spots!) and from elsewhere in the US. That’s too bad, because it’s really nice here.
After our excursion to Southport, we headed back to Boothbay Harbor. We’d thought about doing a short tour boat cruise, but the skies have started to cloud up so we stopped in the local Coffee House and Wine Bar. OK, we didn’t have any coffee, but we had a couple of nice Cabs (St. Francis and BV), a California Mourvedre (Cline) that was decent, and a Spanish Tempranillo/Garnacha that was downright port-like. This was accompanied by a cheese plate that, while not labeled and sequenced correctly, was also decent. We just wished the place had an outside seating area; it was basically the first floor of an older colonial house just up the street from the main shopping district. They had paninis and some tapas-like offerings in addition to the cheeses, about 30 wines by the glass (no flights) and 6-8 beers (including Guinness on tap, if I’d been so inclined). Traffic was on the slow side, so it’ll be interesting to see if the place is still here the next time we come through (whenever that is).
After we got home, we lit the “bar” sign, mixed a cocktail (purging ourselves of another bottle that won’t need to make the border crossing to Canada, Tanqueray “Ten”) and sat outside for a while. The gathering clouds held off for a bit and the sun came back out. We’re parked next to a relatively new Prevost conversion by Marathon Coach (Marathon’s factory is right across the street from Monaco’s in Coburg, OR, right off I-5). For those who don’t know, Marathons are 1.5-2+ million dollar rolling mansions that make ours look trailer-park-ish in comparison. Anyway, their sides are polished stainless steel up to the mid-line, and very reflective. Since the sun was shining at just the right angle, we felt like George Hamilton getting a tan while we were sitting out, at least until the sun went back behind the clouds. We’ve only seen the “Prevost People” once in the 4 days we’ve been here, and that was only for a few minutes while they stopped by to check up on things. We’re assuming that they’ve just parked it here while they’re spending time on their yacht. After all, if you can afford a $2 mil coach, what’s wrong with another few $$$ on a boat? And we’d be right with ‘em if the damn PowerBall numbers came through… :-)
Tonight, we’ll continue to “live off the land” and eat away at things in the freezer. Geri had tucked away some pre-made tortellini with proscuitto and cheese, and we picked up some Rao’s sauce at the Hannaford’s, so we’re continuing to get ourselves ready for border crossing. We'll couple it with a nice 1997 Barolo from Pio Cesare that I've been saving for a good meal like this. Tomorrow, we’ll have the last of the steaks we brought with us, and we’ll be ready for seafood once we cross into New Brunswick.
Well, that’s it for today. I’ve uploaded a few of today’s snapshots at:
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Well, a front must have gone through overnight, because the weather is certainly better, at least for today. It’s hard to call it a cold or a warm front, though, since temperatures haven’t changed much. Today’s high might have been in the mid-70s, with a breeze off the ocean keeping things cool. As I sit here outside composing this post at 6:30 PM, it’s down to 71°F and dropping. At least it was fairly sunny today, after the morning gloom burned off.
I had thought about making a road trip today or tomorrow, driving inland around Sebago Lake, cutting west into New Hampshire to the Conway area, and then up to Mount Washington. It looks doable on the map but when I routed it out it was over 3 hours driving time. I decided to hold off for now, since we’re only here until Saturday AM and I’m not sure I want to commit an extended day for a side trip.
This morning, we finally got down to making some reservations for the Maritimes. We’ll stay a week each in St. John, New Brunswick, Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (4 weeks total). We may change things around a bit, as one of the places booked doesn’t have the preferred electrical connection available. This won’t be a huge issue as long as we don’t need air conditioning, as a 20 amp circuit can keep the batteries charged up and run the coffeemaker and TV. Worst case, we could probably run the generator, although most campgrounds frown on that. I’ll call a couple of times over the next two weeks to see if we can get upgraded if there’s a cancellation.
This afternoon we spent several hours exploring “downtown” Boothbay Harbor. It’s really a pretty small touristy area about 5-6 blocks long, with a few waterside eateries, a bunch of B&Bs and small hotels (many with themes; one is built to look like a tugboat), and several tour boat docks. Some of the boats are selling whale watching cruises, but it strikes me that this isn’t really the right time of year for that so a bunch of tourists are probably getting “skunked”.
We started with lunch and a brew, naturally. We ate at one of the waterside restaurants (“Gray’s Wharf”), sitting on the outside patio. It was quite nice, sunny and an appropriate breeze (refreshing but not chilling the food). Geri had a seafood sampler and I had a lobster roll. I’m thinking that I need to use this time to do the lobster roll survey and see if Red’s in Wiscasset is still the champ. Last year (or was it the year before?), we tested Elaine’s outside Newport, RI (good, but not Red’s). Today’s verdict: good lobster, well-picked and dressed oh-so-lightly with mayo (as opposed to Red’s which comes “naked” with butter or mayo on the side), slightly cheaper ($14 v. $16), and definitely a lot lighter on the meat (Red’s was falling off the roll on all sides). Advantage: Red’s.
After eating, I moved the car (2 hour parking limit) to a small lot by the water and we continued our walking tour. Geri picked up a couple of souvenirs (“It’s 5:00 Somewhere” twirlie things for us, Pat & Al, Melisa, and the Bowers), and we bought a neon “Bar” sign for the coach for when we entertain. I’m not sure how much use it’ll get but it should be fun when we’re at rallies and the like.
We took a drive later in the afternoon, through East Boothbay to a place called Ocean Point, where you can see a couple of islands, 2 lighthouses, and many boats and lobster trap buoys in the coves. It wasn’t really late enough in the day for good photo light, but I snapped a few anyway.
Before we started out today, I repacked my 35mm bag into the new backpack I got a few weeks ago. I’ve got some work to do because I expected more to fit in the backpack; I just need to find everything’s “place”, I suppose. I believe I’ll be keeping the shoulder bags as a complement to the backpack since, if I had to guess, the old bags will be easier to manage when we’re touring by car and making scenic stops along the way while the backpack will definitely be best when hiking any distance to a photo opportunity is involved. On the other hand, moving everything back and forth between two bags doesn’t seem like something I’m likely to do on a regular basis. We’ll have to see how this one works out…
In any event, here’s a link to a few shots from today’s batch:
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Yesterday, we had a nice, short drive from Salisbury, MA to Boothbay, ME. We left on I-95 and cut over to I-295 south of Portland, and then took US-1 through Brunswick and Bath (home to Bath Iron Works, a ship building company that used to be a client when I worked at Towers Perrin). We arrived early in the afternoon, and were back online quickly since I needed to follow up on the eBay sales. The remaining payments were made, so I needed to get things shipped (I listed with a 2 business day from payment target date). Fortunately, everything was packaged up and sitting in the back of the Range Rover. I used ups.com to generate all the pre-paid labels and find the nearest shipping outlet. I was able to get there before closing time, although I knew I was in Maine when I realized “you cain’t get theah from heah” on the way to the shipping place. Boothbay Harbor is a small town with narrow streets. Some are one-way, and most of them are actually marked as such. Others, you have to guess (no cars parked on your side and no street signs facing you generally means “don’t go here”).
Well, I’d printed out directions from the ups.com web site and things fell apart quickly when they tried to send me the wrong way on a one-way street. “No problem,” I thought as I backtracked and entered the address into the Range Rover’s GPS. “Oops,” I thought as the GPS wanted me to go the same way. At least I could see the target on the GPS map, so I angled toward it, only to come to the wrong end of another one-way street. I had to loop around again and figure out how to come back at it, but I persevered. I dropped off the 4 boxes and headed home (all one-ways in my favor this way).
We did a “full deployment” at the camp site, since we’re here for a few days, and hoping for some decent weather (more on that later). I’d taken out the last of the frozen NY Strip steaks (from Costco in Phoenix) the night before. We need to clean out the fridge and wine storage unit before we cross into Canada later this month. Meat is generally a no-no and booze is severely limited (1.5 litres/person), so we have our work cut out for us. :-)
On the way back from the shipping place, I stopped at the local Hannaford’s market and picked up some salad greens and asparagus to go with the steaks. We sat outside and relaxed with the last of the Yellow Tail Chardonnay before cooking the steaks. Since we have the equipment, we did all the cooking outside: Geri made pan-roasted red potatoes and sautéed asparagus, and I used the last of the mushrooms for a sauce, so we made a dent in the supplies. We had the last bottle of “Aureus” Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, which was another Costco find (we bought a case and haven’t seen it since). With “Luau Hawaiian Honey” ice cream for desert, we had a great “on the road” meal.
This morning, the weather’s been either fog, drizzle, or light rain. It’s supposed to lift later, but who knows. The forecast (for what that’s worth) for later in the week is better, as a front is supposed to pass – eventually, so we’re cleaning up odds and ends this morning (me updating the blog and Geri starting some laundry). We’ll head for a local lobster shack for lunch and kick back in the afternoon, I’m thinking. There might even be some “nappage” to be had, although we probably need to work on campground reservations for the Maritimes… :-)
This post will be delayed (for the first time in a long while, we have no Internet connection!) but I’ll compose offline.
We left CT on schedule Saturday, heading for Salisbury, MA. Well, almost on schedule, since I’d planned to leave around Noon and we got under way a little after 1 PM. This was no big deal, though, as I’d planned a later than normal departure and a relatively short hop for the day.
We did quite a bit of the departure preparation on Friday, so we had a relatively easy morning to say our goodbyes and get on the road. I was able to pack all the things I sold on eBay and get them ready for shipment as well. The good news: all the visors and window blinds were sold except for the two traditional Venetian blinds from the kitchen and bathroom. The bad news: everything needed to be packed up! I found the boxes I needed (primarily 6” x 6” x 48” long square ones for the blinds) at The UPS Store in Enfield. Two items were paid for quickly so I was able to get them shipped before we left. One set of blinds was going to Canada, and the buyer asked me to ship them USPS instead of UPS, so I printed out the pre-paid mailer/customs form and took it to the local Broad Brook PO. Well, the lady working there (she’s been there for years) just didn’t like the looks of me or my stinking package. “No, you can’t drop off pre-paid here”. “No, you can’t ship that to Canada”. “No, the postage is wrong”. She had to ask her supervisor every time she tried to stall me, and got overridden each time. Fortunately for everyone involved, both the supervisor and I chose to view the exchange as humorous as opposed to frustrating (easy for me, since I knew I’d already done it right from the online system, which would error out if anything was not to spec). Dropping off the other package at UPS was much easier (drop and go).
Anyway, I picked Salisbury as our first stop for a couple of reasons. First, it’s right on the way to Maine, where we’re headed. Second, it’s about 2.5-3.0 hours drive depending on traffic (which is more of an issue on a Saturday than you might think unless you’re familiar with the crowds heading to the beaches on the weekends). Third, we have a favorite lobster place, Brown’s, where we like to stop. Other than that, there’s nothing else per se we need to see in Salisbury, or in Hampton Beach, the local “hot spot”.
It was cloudy and rain was threatening when we arrived at Black Bear Campground. It was a pretty rustic park, much more so than what we’re used to, but easier to navigate than Rusnik’s where we stayed a few years ago with the “Learning-mobile” (Rusnik’s is where I learned not to hit curbside rocks with the front of the bus while making a sharp turn into the campground). Black Bear bills itself as “big rig friendly”, and we were indeed able to maneuver around OK. Most of the sites are for smaller, older rigs (tight, back-in, 30 amps) and there were a lot of seasonal units in place that you could tell hadn’t moved in years. There were also more travel-trailers and families with kids than we’re used to, but that’s to be expected sometimes. There were a few sites designated for larger motorhomes, and we had a nice 75’ pull-thru that was easy-in/easy-out. All of the roads were packed gravel and crushed rock, and the sites were mostly done in rough cut wood chips (aka “rustic”), so we had some extra work to keep the coach and the pups clean.
We did a “quick deployment” (just slide-outs and window awnings, no outside lights, grill, etc.) because of the weather and the fact that we were only staying a couple of days. Geri spoke with her son Mike by phone, and he told her that her son Peter was in Hampton Beach for the weekend, so we made plans to catch up with him on Sunday. We had a quick pasta dinner with a nice Chianti (no fava beans) and called it an early night.
On Sunday, we got a lazy start. The weather was variable, with the sun peeking out one minute and the clouds overtaking it the next, typical for New England. We headed to Hampton Beach to meet Peter around Noon, and got caught in a horrendous traffic jam. The main “strip” in Hampton Beach is only about 1 mile long and like many seaside towns, is a one way street with the “back street” a block in from the beach going in the other direction. Also like many other spots (think South Street in Philly), a popular activity is to “cruise the strip”. We’d been to Hampton Beach before, but we’ve never seen anything like the slow down we experienced. It took us over an hour to even get onto the “strip”! We parked at the first lot we found (robbery at $20/day but we took it) and walked the rest of the way. You know that the traffic’s bad when Geri, with her breathing difficulties, can make better time on foot.
We met up with Peter and his friend, Val, for lunch. The sky was threatening but we ate outside anyway and had a nice, light meal and a brew. After lunch, Peter and Val went to get their car and Geri and I went to buy “emergency sweatshirts” since the temperature had dropped 10° and the wind had increased 15 MPH while we were having lunch. Temperatures in the low 60s and a threat of rain is nothing new for this area. Why we didn’t plan better and go prepared for weather is beyond me; we know better. Anyway, now we have a set of cheap (2/$30) “Hampton Beach” hooded sweatshirts that will stay in the car.
Peter and Val finally arrived (they had to go 10 blocks, after all), and we fought the traffic to the end of the “Strip”. Traffic just disappeared where the turn for the back street is, just like magic. We took a ride north on 1A, the shore road, past some beautiful vacation homes. Some were older estates, with manicured grounds and an older feel. Others were newer, with a faux age to them. A few just looked out of place, but there’s no accounting for taste. All in all it was a nice ride until we got back to Hampton Beach, of course. Traffic on the back street was even worse later in the day, as weekend/day visitors joined in. We finally got close enough to where we were parked to hop out and walk the rest of the way. Peter and Val were planning to continue their drive south to Salisbury Beach, and the head back to CT on Monday.
We fought the “exit traffic” all the way back to the campground (which is right near I-95 and the I-95/I-495 junction) and relaxed for a while with the dogs and a glass of wine before heading to Brown’s for dinner. We waited until after 8:30 PM to leave, and traffic was gone by then. We got our first “lobster fix” (I’m sure there will be more to come on this leg of the trip!) with a 2-pounder for Geri and a 3-pounder for me. We like Brown’s because a) they steam the lobsters instead of boiling them and b) they serve clarified instead of melted butter. We benefited from our late arrival (there was a line out the door waiting when we went by around 5:30 PM), as we had out pick of tables and no wait. People thought we were “professionals” since we brought our own tools (they crack the shells but we like to bring our own crackers and picks to get all the good meat out) and we had a nice bottle of “Sweet Cheeks” Chardonnay that I brought back from Oregon in the spring. We ended up being the last ones to leave around 10:30 PM and they closed the doors behind us.
Monday morning brought the same variable weather, so we did some cleaning up around the coach in the morning. I made a “Dunkin’ Donuts” run for breakfast, and we got everything ready for our Tuesday departure. Just for grins, I connected the park’s cable TV and the darn thing worked. We’ve had problems with cable in the past, and I assumed that (eventually) I’d have to trace the coax and re-wire something. This wasn’t a priority since we usually have our DirecTV working. Now I need to figure out what I did right this time (or wrong the other times) if we need it again. Not all parks have cable, but it’s nice to have that option if we need it. It’s good to have the local version of The Weather Channel sometimes, since the satellite version doesn’t show local forecasts and radar.
We decided to head back to Hampton Beach in the afternoon for an early dinner, because we know there are a variety of food stands there. We decided to go into Hampton Beach “the back way”, heading north on US-1 then east on NH-101. Traffic was nil, and we found a $3 parking spot. There must have been a big exodus, because things were pretty quiet. We had a huge slice of pizza (every shop has “the largest slice on the beach”) that was really two “normal” slices and, as we were eating, the clouds darkened and it started to rain. We decided that it was a sign that we needed to get inside, so we went to “The Purple Urchin” and sat in the upstairs bar area for a brew. Geri had a Stella Artois and I had a local wheat beer; both were good. While we were sitting there, the wind shifted to the east and a heavy thunderstorm came through. Since the water was blowing 25’ into the bar area, we headed for a drier place to wait it out.
In the “it’s a small world department”, we chatted with a couple at the bar from East Hartford, CT, who were on vacation with their kids. Geri lived in East Hartford “BG” (“before George”), and we lived near there for many years. Since we were Internet/TV-deprived, we weren’t aware of the tremendous temperature difference across New England. While we were relatively chilly at 62°, temperatures in the Hartford area (about 120 miles away) were in the mid-to-upper-90s. We could have used some of that warmth!
After the storm let up, we headed for our next “snack”. Geri had a craving for fried clam strips and I had a batch of fresh-cut French fries. Just as we started to eat, the rain started again, so we quickly walked a couple of blocks to the nearest arcade and found a table among all the carnival games. Noisy, but dry. During the next break in the weather, we finished off our grazing up and down the “Strip” with a couple of fried doughs. We finished up just as the lightning started again, and we just made it back to the car before the rains came again, so we headed back to the campground to bail out the pups. Typical for New England, it hadn’t even rained at the campground, less than 5 miles inland. Since we’d already eaten enough, we just finished off the evening with a Yellow Tail Shiraz and some Key Lime Pie ice cream; oh, yeah!
On Tuesday morning, we head for Maine, so we pretty much got everything ready before calling it a night.