Quechee Gorge Near Woodstock, VT

This is not the Woodstock of 1960s music festival fame.  That one is in New York.  We are so near to this small town that all our travels pass either through or on the north side of their river. We also stopped at Quechee Gorge which is known as Vermont’s Grand Canyon and it is 165 feet deep.  Went back the next morning to get a better shot of the fall color but hard to do since it is so deep and narrow, but here it is!  We asked the store owner there about the impact of the storms last September from Hurricane Irene.  They said the level in the river rose 60 feet in 3 hours.  Now that is a lot of water in this area.  The damage to covered bridges, farms, roads and buildings is evidenced everywhere and we where able to get some shots of the Taftsville Covered Bridge which is still closed.

On Thursday we drove 35 miles through the Killington Ski area into Rutland to verify whether we could park the rig closer for us to work there next week.  After driving north, south, east and west we could not find anything without a long daily commute, so returned to our campground and made other arrangements.  We will relocate within this park, stay here then drive to Rutland, and stay in hotels for 3 nights, leaving our trip out of here on Oct 5 an easy retrace back into Portland, ME.  Not sure why there is a problem with RVs in Rutland but not even room to boondock in their Walmart parking lot.

Wandering over to Vermont

On Wednesday, Sept. 26 we left Portland heading to Rutland, VT.  Our research showed few campgrounds in that part of Vermont so we made the decision to stop in White River Junction/Quechee, VT at the Pine Valley KOA.  This campground is owned by a former CEO of Baja Boats and his wife and they run a nice efficient park.  A clean, well maintained and quiet place to stay next few days!  We set up then drove 4 miles to one of our favorite places for a late lunch.  The place is called Firestones and serves the best flatbread pizza using fresh, local ingredients.  It is baked in a large old brick oven and has a great flavor.  After lunch we drove 10 miles into Woodstock which is touted as one of the prettiest small towns in America.  It was first settled in 1768.  Although the Revolution slowed settlement, Woodstock developed rapidly once the war ended in 1783.  Waterfalls in the Ottauquechee River which runs through the town, provided water power to operate mills.  Factories made scythes and axes, carding machines, and woolens.  There was a machine shop and gunsmith shop.  Manufacturers also produced furniture, wooden wares, window sashes and blinds.  Carriages, horse harnesses, saddles, luggage trunks and leather goods were also manufactured.  By 1859, the population was 3,041.  (Interestingly enough the pop. in 2010 was 3,048)  The Woodstock Railroad opened to White River Junction on September 29, 1875, carrying freight and tourists.  Laurance and Mary French Rockefeller built the Woodstock Inn in 1892 and also had the village’s power lines buried underground.  The economy is now largely driven by tourism. Woodstock has the 20th highest per-capita income of Vermont towns as reported by the United States Census, and a high percentage of homes owned by non-residents.  The town’s central square, called the Green, is bordered by restored late Georgian, Federal Style, and Greek Revival houses.  The cost of real estate in the district adjoining the Green is among the highest in the state.  The seasonal presence of wealthy second-home owners from cities such as Boston (less than 3 hours away) and New York has contributed to the town’s economic vitality and livelihood, while at the same time diminished its accessibility to native Vermonters.  To protect their beautiful ridgeline views, the town adopted an ordinance creating a Scenic Ridgeline District in order to protect the aesthetics and the views of the town. It was updated in 2007.  In 2011, North and South Park Street and one block of Elm Street won an award for great streetscape by the American Planning Association’s Great Places in America program.  It is really neat to see.  While there we went to the local grocery and picked up ice and few items and they carry Shurfine products just like stores back home!

Back to the USA

We returned to the Pumpkin Patch RV Campground on Thursday, September 20 and settled back into a nice quiet spot.  On Friday we went to Hannaford’s Supermarket and bought all the groceries we would need for several days.  Since we were hungry for Mexican food we located some corn tortillas and fixed homemade enchiladas,  Heavenly!  Then did a weeks laundry nearby.  It is the time of the year for cooling down in Maine and occasional showers so we can not plan much outside without a rainjacket! On Sunday we went to Friends Mike & Cheryl for dinner then retrieved all our “goodies” which were left behind before traveling to Canada.  While out on Friday we received a call from another client so our plans have made a minor change.  We checked out of Pumpkin Patch on Monday heading to Portland and Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA Campground.  While there we celebrated my birthday wih brunch at Bintliff’s American Cafeand then dinner at David’s on Monument Square downtown. Yea, no cooking today!  Portland has been a busy port since the 1650s. In 1820, Maine became a state with Portland as its capital. In 1832, the capital was moved to Augusta. In 1851, Maine led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes.” The law subsequently became known as the Maine law, as 18 states quickly followed. On June 2, 1855, the Portland Rum Riot occurred.  On June 26, 1863, a Confederate raiding party led by Captain Charles Read, entered the harbor at Portland and the Battle of Portland Harbor ensued, one of the northernmost battles of the Civil War. The 1866 Great Fire of Portland, Maine of July 4, 1866, ignited during the Independence Day celebration, destroyed most of the commercial buildings in the city, half the churches and hundreds of homes.  More than 10,000 people were left homeless.  In 1853, upon completion of the Grand Trunk Railway to Montreal, Portland became the primary ice-free winter seaport for Canadian exports.  The Portland Company manufactured more than 600 19th-century steam locomotives.  Portland became a 20th-century rail hub as five additional rail lines merged into Portland Terminal Company in 1911.  Following nationalization of the Grand Trunk system in 1923, Canadian export traffic was diverted from Portland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing marked local economic decline.  Since then tourism has added a big boost to the local economy.  Portland’s downtown area is a typical harbor town with lots of activity and restaurants on the waterfront and all the rest of the town uphill.  Many one way streets and angled intersections with narrow streets and parked cars on one side make it not an easy drive.  Most frustrating thing we find is the lack of sign toppers on corners indicating street names, so it really is guess and by golly where you are going.  Okay if you lived here all your life, but??!  It is a nice town to visit and we always enjoy the Casco Harbor ferry ride. 

Into Saint John, NB & our last stop

On Wednesday, Sept 19 we drove into Saint John with our destination being the campground at Rockwood Park.  This is one of the largest urban parks in North America and has a great camp area with full hookups.  We actually were on a hill overlooking the city and harbor.  We set up then drove into town and worked our way around the harbor to see some of the lobster boats and small homes where the fishermen live.  This is us on the small dock by a large stack of lobster traps.  Did you know lobster traps weigh 85-150 lbs each?  Each fisherman has a permit for 300 traps. Bet they have sore shoulders at night!  Saint John (pop. 70,000) is the only big city on the Bay of Fundy and has lots of industry, hotels, and docks where cruise ships off-load passengers for day trips. Since the weather was getting a bit drizzly we had to hurry to catch some of the sights and get pictures. Once it began to drizzle harder we went back to the Park and had lunch at Lily’s Cafe in the Visitor Center. Nice place with a view out onto one of several lakes in the park.  Kinda neat as it was raining and windy outside.  Next morning we set out to go see the Saint John City Market downtown and then go to Costco.  This is the first Costco we had seen in many states as Maine does not have one at all and actually the Atlantic Maritimes have about four. Wonder when and if this will change?  The City Market dates back to 1876 and was built in the style of an inverted ship with hand hewn timbers and dovetailed joints in the ceiling and actually covers an entire city block.  It has fresh vegetables, fish, meats, prepared foods and even a coffee bar.  It was clean and amazing to see a place in continous business for almost 140 years.  There were two criuse ships in the harbor so foot traffic was a bit heavy in town. We drove around awhile looking over the city then decided to go back and get ready to leave for home and the USA.  As we drove east Friday morning on Hwy 1 towards Maine, we noticed miles of high wire fence being built along the highway.  A quick bit of smart phone research determined it was wildlife fencing to keep the moose off the highway.  Seems as if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Transportation Department have built about 324 miles of this fence to protect drivers.  They say that there are over 300 accidents a year with moose collisions. Actually we saw more moose signs in all these north eastern areas than we saw moose.  Our moose score = 0  Guess we were lucky!

Sussex, New Brunswick

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, we left Woodhaven Campground north of Halifax, NS after 3 nights heading back into New Brunswick.  We made it to Sussex where we stayed in Town & Country RV Park which is built around an old active drive in theater where they actually show movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  We could not figure out the attraction for this place since all the 100s of RVs were sitting here unoccupied until we discovered that this is the Balloon Capital of New Brunswick and we had just missed the Atlantic Balloon Festival held on Canadian Labor Day weekend.  They rent these places all year to have a place to see the balloons!  This started in 1985 and has grown to include a huge craft fair and antique auto show & shine with over 500 cars from all over.  The bandstand also has continous entertainment for 3 days! Next we made a quick run into town for fuel & few groceries at Atlantic Superstore (which I think is related to Tom Thumb as they carry President’s Choice products).  Then we got a good night’s rest before heading into Saint John the next day. We keep finding these places where over 30,000 people come all at one time.  Thank goodness our timing has been just off enough to miss the huge crowds.

Lunenburg, a Real Treasure

Monday, September 17, found the Traveling Basenjis in Lunenburg, NS located on the south shore of Nova Scotia at 44°22’35.38″ N and 64°19.07’25” W.  This small port town was founded in 1753 and incorporated in 1888.  It has a storied past as it was founded as a Protestant town inhabited by Germans and raided nine times by the Catholics in the early years.  During the War of 1812 three residents purchased a privateer schooner and used it to raid American ships which were then brought back to Lunenburg.  Lunenburg has a long history of building wooden sailing vessels and ultimately served as seaport for “Rum Running” to organized crime in the USA during the Prohibition.  Enterprising Canadian fishermen would load barrels of liquor off larger ships at sea and deliver it to smaller American craft just outside the 12 mile international limit.  A “Banana Boat” sunk off the coast of Louisiana sparked an international event resulting in the United States ultimately paying damages to the Banana Boat Capitan and crew.  As per a sign in Lunenburg “It paid better than fishing and provided a boost to the Town’s economy during the great depression”.  When the US Coast Guard’s presence made the Canadian fishing boat insufficient, the craftsmen in Lunenburg developed a “Banana Boat”, a faster, lower profile boat designed to elude the American Coast Guard.  Their shipbuilding skills still exist as the Bluenose II, 240 ton sailing craft, is being restored in Lunenburg since 2010 and is due to set sail again within this year.

A smaller wooden sailing craft with beautiful lines; the Norseboat is currently constructed in Lunenburg and sailed and shipped around the world.  We were able to go inside the shop and visit with the builders.  They just returned from a trip to Newport, RI for a show.  Check out their options:  http://www.norseboat.com/Swiss_army_knife_of_sailboats%21.html

We saw a large tanker truck on one of the docks and discovered it was waiting for a shipment of salmon, which the driver called a product of Marine Agri-Culture, and said he would take on 2 large cargos of salmon to be taken back to New Brunswick and processed. About 60% of the worlds salmon production is cultured. Cultivation takes place in large nets in sheltered quiet waters (fjords, bays) or in tanks on land. Most of the cultured salmon come from Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada.  Amazing!

Lunenburg was designated a UNESCO site in 1995 (Check out links http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/741 & http://www.explorelunenburg.ca/)  Approximately 2/3 of the community has retained its original architectural flavor.  Many of the homes and buildings have plaques describing the house and listing the original owners name and year constructed.  This time of year there is a flurry of paint brushes as the lower humidity allows the varied colors to be applied to the homes quickly before winter moves in.  An exceptional building is the “Academy” originally constructed at a cost or $40,000 in 1895.  It has been destroyed twice by fire and rebuilt.  It was constructed by local families originally as an academy to assure an education superior to what “one room schools provided”.  Lunch on the harbor at The Grand Banker provided the Leader some Broiled Scallops and I had Butternut Apple soup and a great salad. Yum!

A carriage ride with Becky provided a glimpse of most the streets, homes, churches, parks and shops in town.  “Charlie” the draft horse who had spent his first 8 years as a Mennonite work horse, now wears padded hoofs and knows his way about town quite nicely.  The Traveling Basenjis even wanted to check out his new gig.   Then it was back to the rig to prepare to leave this area and return to New Brunswick.

The Halifax Citadel

Sunday, September 17, after a good rain the night before we did some chores around the house and some laundry then set out for The Halifax Citadel.  This large fort which rises above the harbor on a dirt embankment was built from 1828-1856 by the British in the shape of a six pointed star using large blocks of quarried stone.

View of Halifax thru one of the cannon ports!

Her function was to deter an overland assault on the city and dockyard.  This site had been continuously used as a fort from 1749 so the position was well established.  When British North America became the Dominion of Canadian in 1867, Halifax was recognized as an important port and the fort was used by the Royal Navy and Canadian military through two World Wars and until 1956 when it was declared a National Historic site.  We entered through the main gate past a Regimental Guard and were able to spend our time walking and climbing all the areas that have been designated for specific uses.  There are costumed soldiers in kilts, carrying weapons that they fire for demonstrations and cannons placed on the parapets looking over the city and harbor.  They actually fire the cannons periodically.  They have two masts which are used to fly flags which signal ships in the harbor or on land.  One room is shown as school room and the soldiers and their children were both educated here.  They have a museum upstairs in the barracks and coffee shop set up in the original dining hall.  It was neat to talk to the soldiers as they have been versed in the history of the fort and could answer most questions.

After that we located The Keg Steakhouse about 4 blocks away and had prime rib for dinner before returning to the RV.  Yes, this is the same Keg we have near us at home!

Halifax & the Maritime Museum

On Saturday, September 16, we met with new friends from the past campground who actually live in Manitoba & Quebec, Canada and are travelling here in RVs.  They are in their 50s and retired and were amazed to hear our ages and adventures.  After they left, we headed back into Halifax for the Atlantic Maritime Museum on Lower Front Street and lunch at Salty’s.  This museum houses a big collection of Titanic artifacts and a great collection of some of the largest ship models anywhere.  The museum chronicles the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917 where two ships carrying explosives collided.  One ammunitions ship caught fire then drifted into the docks where it exploded destroying a large part of the harbor killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000.  Pieces of metal and a cannon barrel weighing over 1,000 pounds were found over a mile from the scene.  A map in the museum shows red dots for all the shipwrecks around this part of the Maritimes and they say there could have been over 20,000 or more since they have been keeping records.  Rough, rocky coastal area and bad weather here during the winters with lots of wind!  They even show how and why they hanged pirates here.  Poor guy!

We ate lunch at Salty’s which is not related to the really great one near Portland, OR.  We sat outside and watched the boats and ferries come and go while we ate.

Fish and chips were OK but a bit greasy for our taste.  Do not like driving the Halifax area at all, as traffic is heavy at all times, even on weekends and the two lane highway in and out of town zig-zags through residential and commercial districts.  Streets are narrow with parking allowed in some areas in the right lane (you never know when), pedestrians have the right-of-way, lots of people walking since parking and fuel (diesel over $5/gallon US) is expensive and not readily available and many streets downtown are one way but not easily identified.

There are lots of large apartment communities all over town and many of the older Victorian homes have been converted into multi-family homes.  Our large truck is an oddity and hard to maneuver amongst their tight streets and parking lots.  Many people here are driving newer small cars and whip in and out in front of you, worse than Boston or LA area.  (The Leader almost “T-Boned” one turning into Walmart.  It was so small the lady driver could not see over the hood of our F-250.)  We had to access this area to see the Museum and visit the Citadel.  Halifax is a very cosmopolitan city which is evidenced by the churches we passed.  One is the St. Gebriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church with a congregation of about 30 started in an old Anglican church in 2011.  Another is the Diman Lebanese Centre and then there is the Islamic Community Center right up the road.  There are lots of Baptist Churches here as they drove all the Catholics out years ago sending them to Louisiana.  But some Anglican churches remain in the area.  Even saw a young man throw down his jacket and kneel to pray to Allah while his veiled wife and 2 sons stood nearby before entering the Museum.  Must have been that time of day!

Although a cosmopolitan city, Halifax is complete with Costco, Walmart, Home Depot and McDonalds.  What it does not have is Pinch, Mexican food and more reasonable fuel pricing.

Into Nova Scotia & Halifax

On Friday, September 14,  we left Ponderosa Pines which was a pretty old campground needing lots of maintenance.  We never had the promised WiFi or TV connections, so after two nights we were outta there.  We left Hopewell heading up Hwy 104 to Moncton, NB (pronounced Munkton – not sure what they do with the “O” or where they get the “K”) where we picked up Hwy 2 again and entered into Nova Scotia.  The Visitor Center there had great WiFi so I was able to attend to some business and catch up on email.   We drove into Truro and stopped for lunch at Saltscapes Restaurant and General Store.  The owners of this restaurant had to have been in a Cracker Barrel Country Store at some time as the whole place is quite similar.  The menu reflects local tastes and there are lots of items on the walls gathered from Nova Scotia, including old tins, pictures and antique signs.  Outside are colored Adirondack chairs instead of rockers!  Truro had just experienced some flooding from heavy rains in the past 3 days but we did not see any of it as we passed through.  Our destination for the night was Woodhaven Campground near Halifax.  We were driving on Hwy 102 and as we got closer to the city the traffic got heavier.  This campground is a bit better than the one before but also old and in need of updating.  At least we had a long pull thru space with trees dividing us from the neighbors on either side and we had good WiFi and some local TV stations.  After we set up, we jumped in the truck and headed into Halifax for a quick trip to pick up some liquor.  In Canada all spirits are sold at one place and here it is called a NSLC Store (Nova Scotia Liquor Commission).  Son-in-Law Warren had requested we purchase a rare (in Texas) & hard to find bourbon, John’s Private Cask #1.  They had three bottles total and they now have only one left.  Only 9000 bottles are released each year and each has its very own serial number.  What a way to sell bourbon!  The Pack leader has been looking for Pinch Scotch since we left Idaho and is finding none – he now experiences withdrawal from both Pinch Scotch and Tex Mex food.  Norman (the Garmin) took us on a twisting, circuitous route into the harbor area down by St. Mary’s University where we found our store.  We saw so many young people with tattoos, piercings and odd outfits we actually were shocked that so many may have escaped San Francisco or New York.  Sad testimony for our young people!  One young grocery checker had 5 piercings in his lips, one on the bridge of his nose and large Batman discs inserted into his ear lobes.  UGHH!  Traffic was almost at a standstill heading out of town as it was 5 PM.  Then we came back to this part of town for a quick stop for few groceries and then home.  Whew, another long day!

Hopewell Rocks, the Tide & Stinky Basenjis

The next day dawned clear but then we had a slight delay as the Traveling Basenjis discovered a Canadian Critter called Striped Skunk or Civet Cat.  The Leader had opened the door at first light for their outing and they promptly rushed headlong into a BIG STINK!  So our day started with baths for both girls (and for the record they still hate baths!) Apparently Maggie was the leader in this attack as she got a lot more of the stink than Tia.  Wish we had known about this mixture to use:  Mix 3 oz hydrogen peroxide with couple tablespoons baking soda and couple teaspoons dish soap.  Wash them down and leave on for 5 minutes then rinse well. We just used doggie shampoo. Once we got them dry and ate our breakfast, we left for Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park which was close by.

We wanted to be there in order to catch the high tide about 10 AM.  Hopewell Rocks is the location where the highest tides in North America are seen.  Actually all of the Bay of Fundy experiences these tides but at Hopewell Rocks you can actually walk on the ocean floor around the Flowerpot Rocks at low tide and that was our goal.  The time span between low and high tide is 6 hours and 13 minutes.  The high tide came in and we got pictures then left the park to drive over to Alma, NB, a small harbor town with lobster boats, inns, B&Bs, and small restaurants.  It is also the home of Kathy’s Bake Shop, home of the finest sticky buns (a large cinnamon bun) in New Brunswick.  Of course we had to purchase two of them for our next breakfast.  We found a place for a quick lobster lunch (Collin’s Lobster Store, not very good since fall/winter lobster season does not open until October 15th so lobsters are not “fresh”) and saw the lobster boats sitting up and waiting for the tide to come back in.  Then we headed back to Hopewell for low tide by about 4 PM.  When we walked out on the viewing platform, we were amazed!  It actually is true about the tides and we did go on down and walk in the area that a few hours before was under about 35 feet of ocean.  Nature is amazing!  Back to the RV to do some laundry after the stinky episode and fix dinner then to bed for us all.