Cycling And Rain

July 21-22

Rains came overnight while we were at The Pinery, but it was spit-and-stop for a while, so we took down the bikes anyway and headed to the “long ride” that we’d driven last night to get to the sunset beach. Much of the trail was bike-only, through the pine savannah and appropriately named the Savanna Trail. 

It was both on- and off-road, with at least 12 km along a little-used (badly paved) one-way loop road. The non-paved lengths were mostly packed sand for a really lovely multi-use path. We started getting thoroughly wet as we found the Visitors Center, and took some shelter in there, looking at the kid-friendly displays (it was a great center to initiate “citizen scientist” interest in the younger set). 

I found that most of the “leaflets three leave them be” plants around the sites (and through which we had to high-step to get to the shared pedestal for power) are NOT in fact, poison oak. There is, however, lots of bona-fide poison oak and ivy interspersed amongst these taller, woody-stemmed bushes.

Which turned out to be “fragrant sumac” (rhus aromatica) described as a harmless cousin to poison ivy. The info at the Center said that the bush grows where sand dunes have stabilized, has aromatic foliage and bright red berries, and is the most common shrub in the oak savanna. Fragrant sumac grows up to 5 ft. tall and is food and shelter for countless birds, mammals, and insects. I took a couple of photos of the two plants, both found around our campsite:

The rain became more insistent as we waited, so we retired with our bikes to a nice little gazebo next to the VC, and played on their wifi for a while, checking emails etc.

Then we just had to go on. The rain let up a little, but as we rode, it got heavier and just as I was about to ask Jack to carry my camera, it abated a bit. 

Still, you’re going to be as wet as you’ll ever get within the first half-hour of riding in the rain, so we carried on, and scooped the long paved loop to and along the beach parking areas (but we could not see any water from our vantage, as the dunes are substantial between the road and Lake Huron). 

Just where the one-way road ended (near the end of the beach access points) the Savana trail headed off-road into the woodsy area, and what a great ride that was. We were nearly the only ones out in the drizzle, so we really pushed the speed along the trail, and hit some rollers that were truly fun and exciting to alternately fly down and push up, keeping our speed pretty steady, but still getting a great workout. It was like bicycling along a roller-coaster track.


The rain finally stopped and we got back to the campsite hoping that by hanging our wet gear (including gloves and shoes) in the screen house, at least some of it would get dry.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 54 minutes
  • Stopped time = 1:10
  • Distance = 10.5
  • Average speed = 11.6MPH


Then Jack put a “potlatch” dry rub on the salmon steaks we’d bought in town on Friday, the 20th, and we grilled it up, with asparagus and mushies, and heated up half of the remaining frozen mac-n-cheese from our HALS party. Yum! And Jack dug out the Solo Stove from the truck and we had a lovely fire during and after our meal. 


The rain chased us under the awning a few times, but let up enough for us to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful fire.

Unfortunately, the rain kicked into high gear after we cleaned up from dinner, and kept up through the night and into the 22nd, and really swamped the area. Where a gentle, intermittent rain was able to soak into the sand pretty readily, the steady downpour we experienced created vast lakes of puddles, especially in front of the bathhouse (which, by the way, had too few toilets, showers, and sinks — at least in the women’s side — to accommodate all the adults and kids swarming the place). That also made the campground quite loud, overall, with many screeching and wailing children. Of course, it was a weekend, so I guess we should have expected that.

So we tucked in during Sunday the 22nd. I took some time to ready the backlog of blog uploads, and we went up to the Visitor Center again to take advantage of their robust wifi, and hung out there for a long while.

Returned to Roomba to crank up our next movie: Dunkirk. It was really good, although somewhat confusing in terms of the time frame because the 3 stories that come together in the end are not told chronologically. But once we caught onto the actors playing each major role in each of the three separate stories, it became more clear. But among the focal points near where all the stories intersected was a British mine sweeper that gets bombed by a German bomber, so we had to watch that happen several times, which was not pleasant, but was a bit of a triumph when the stories merged. I’d definitely recommend it, and I might even see it again, knowing now what I was unsure of then.

Our “goodbye Canada” meal was another grill meal. On the same shopping trip on Friday, we’d found turkey thighs—unfrozen, farm-raised, and fresh—and Jack put a bit of Bicentennial Rub (Penzies) on them, and they were delicious!

Every November, we think we need to eat more turkey, but in the states (at least in VA), if it’s not October or November, you cannot find un-frozen turkey—much less turkey pieces. 

So this was a real treat and super easy and yummy. I actually think I liked the turkey more than the salmon (but don’t tell Jack I said so).

We had another campfire in our super Solo Stove, and headed to bed as the embers glowed red.

One final note: Before we left The Pinery, some locals said we HAD TO VISIT a place called Tobermory, north of The Pinery, on the Bruce Peninsula. I place that here with the hope that a reader or two, heading that way might schedule it; and also so we won’t forget, because we will be back in that area again in the future.



The Pinery on Lake Huron

July 20-21

It was, indeed, a very long drive. We managed to get away by about 6:30A and caught some breakfast as our first stop, and took several other rest/fuel/food/driver-change stops.

We followed the directions given to us by Jim and Jen and Chris, taking route 7 quite a large portion of the way west: destination The Pinery, on Lake Huron (pronounced like the tree: PYE-nuh-rie).

We got past Toronto without problems, and then went slightly off track and hit some slowdowns as the 407 transitioned to the 403 near Burlington and Hamilton. I navigated us off the 407 too soon by about 7 clicks, and we got into some late-afternoon, pre-rush hour traffic.

Once we got past that, however, and once we jiggered through and around London (a poor, gritty looking place) we managed to arrive at The Pinery around 5:30P. It had been a very, very long day, and I was particularly pleased to see that our site (#280 in the Dunes section) was a pull-through.

While we had discussed doing a “minimal setup” upon arrival, because we were both so tired, we actually did the whole shebang, with screen house and everything.

Went to bed quite early after a quick re-heated sausages dinner, and stayed asleep until nearly 9A—close to a 12-hour sleep.

We headed into the totally-touristy town of Grand Bend for groceries and lunch, and found a place by a marina called Smackwater Jack’s Tap Room. Not as compelling as its name, Smackwater Jack’s had a nice shady waterside deck, but VERY expensive menu. 

We might have known what was coming by the very few patrons at 1:30P. We sat for a very long while before a waiter (not ours) gave us some water; and then a longer time until our waitress came so we could ask about their beers. She was clueless about what they served, only pointing out that this or that was quite popular. She kept asking what we normally like and order, and when we pointed out (again) we like ales and IPAs, or British-style brews, and also told her we were from Virginia, she immediately forgot what we’d said in favor of telling us she visited the states frequently. Doh.

There are quite a few interesting visitors around the dunes savannah (a pretty interesting ecosystem, we learned at the Visitor Center, which is a great place to learn more as well as having incredible wifi) including chipmunks, an entire crow family complete with begging branchers (loud), osprey crying above, and more black squirrels (which are quite bold and brave).


The clouds began to roll in so we were reluctant to take down the bikes before tomorrow, with the hope that it would be less likely to rain then. Instead of biking we drove out to the sandy beaches (there are rocky and sandy beaches, evidently) and watched the sunset over Lake Huron. While there was plenty of sand at this part of the beach, there were tons and tons of very interesting rocks, too. As the sun set, everything began to be bathed in red.

National Geographic has reported is one of the best places from which to watch sunsets in the world. I took many sunset pix, grouped below, if you’re interested. Or you can skip them if you’ve seen too many sunset photos by amateurs in your lifetime. But it was extraordinary. And fun.

Naturally, I picked up and brought back to camp pockets-full of really keen-looking rocks! My mom will be so pleased. Whenever I travel and find neat rocks, we split the cache and add them to our collections. So mom, here are a few of the ones I picked up from the shores of Lake Huron. We will split them up when I get back.


Hit the hay early again after a chicken salad and cold cut “leftovers” dinner and slept well again. Hoping for a good “every left turn” bike ride tomorrow.


Ottawa, Ontario

July 16-17

What we had imagined would be an easy drive to Wesley Clover Parks Campground just outside of Ottawa turned into a very long day, indeed.

First we snailed along behind a road painting machine for a very long time (although the view along much of our 5MPH pace was quite nice).


Then we had to hit downtown Ottawa, where repaving was happening. The notices of construction were totally inadequate, and untold numbers of busses, trucks, and cars were backed up for miles trying to fit into one lane. It was hot and tedious and frustrating. And we were so very tired.

But we made it to Wesley Clover, which is an enormous park, a huge part of which was being used for the biggest horse show I think I’d ever seen. Tents and arenas, stalls and cross-country courses, multiple tons of horseflesh and riders and grooms absolutely everywhere. And campers, trailers, and other horse-related vehicles abounded.

Happily, this made for a very quiet campground — while there were a lot of folks sleeping there, most got up around dawn to head back to the horse show and ready their charges for whatever events went on that day. I wish we could have managed a walk-around the show, but we simply ran out of time.

We were in Cluster #1, section C, site #3. The C loop in the cluster was intermingled cabins and campsites, and it was a very small and quiet grouping. The facilities were small, but there were so few folks using them, it was no problem to get a shower or a toilet whenever we got to the bath house. We unhitched so we could use the truck to get around, because we had several obligations set up during the Safari Condo anniversary event with our Ottawa Altoistes.

After doing laundry Tuesday morning near the main gate of the campground (and seeing some black squirrels nosing about) we loaded up the bikes on the truck’s hitch-rack, and headed into the city to see Jim and Dale. 


They have a lovely in-city home with an undivided back yard that they share with 3 of their neighbors. Parking beside their Alto in the driveway, we got ready to cycle around the city for a sight-seeing tour.

Stopped at an outdoor tap house around 5P for a bit of refreshment.

After a delightful dinner at The Clarendon Tavern, during which we were amused by a father who deposited a second, soundly-sleeping child on its mother’s chest—see pix below), we headed to Parliament Hill for the night’s light show. It was a beautiful evening and the show was fun (narrated history of the province and the country), ending with a rousing rendition of “O Canada,” which many in the audience joined in singing.

I don’t have a super camera for low light, but here are a few pix of the scene on Parliament Hill as the sun set, the moon rose, and the light show itself.

Then we rode back to Jim and Dales’, picked up our truck and headed back to Wesley Clover.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 1:15
  • Stopped time = 7:20
  • Distance = 11.6 miles
  • Average speed = 9MPH


La Jolie Rochelle

Arrived Tuesday, July 10 after about a 3-hour drive to Saint-Raphël de Bellechasse, easterly from Quebec City. There (with a bit of hunting) we found Camping La Jolie Rochelle, a simply wonderful private campground along a beautiful babbling river. 

It was hot by the time we were able to get in and, with tremendous help from our host—he actually backed Roomba into the tight spot opposite a serious stone wall—we set up our Alto in site #13 of a long string of Altos of all stripes, model numbers, colors, and ages. We joined a mini-rally. I was seriously relieved that I did not have to back Roomba into that spot.


Our grassy site was simply excellent, right on the river embankment, even sandwiched among everyone else, some of whom we knew from the rally we attended last year, some from shared Alto travels, and some only virtually, via Facebook. So it was really fun to put some faces with names we knew from the Altoistes FB group.

After setup, I shared a beer with Alto friend Jim, and realized I needed more beer. So Jack and I headed out to scope the area for a grocery. We found a lovely place called “Marche Traditions” and it was surprisingly good for a small grocer with only two checkout lanes. Full of good veggies, cheeses, beer, wine and everything in between. We got some go-alongs so we would not starve while camped in a parking lot for the Anniversary Celebration (which begins Thursday), and of course beer and wine to share and consume.

Roomba is at the right of the photo, with the awning that has the blue noodles on the guy lines.

The evening was a “gathered meal,” or one in which everyone brought to a central location (six picnic tables pushed together beside the pool area) whatever they were having for dinner anyway, and if one chose, bring something to share. If nothing in the cupboard to share, no worries. We all just ate together, and it was a very fun evening. We had gotten some desserts pre-made from the Traditions grocer, and they seemed to be a big hit with the group, although I did not have one.


This is a pic from our picnic site of a few of the Altos gathered here.

Before and after we ate, we were able to tour one of the Alto model 2114s, an extra-long Alto version — the first than many of us had seen, and I think about the 11th ever sold (they had just been released earlier this year). 


Also, another Altoiste who goes full time using a Safari Condo conversion van to pull an older yellow Alto rolled in to join us.


A campfire was built and many gathered around it into the night, but I cocooned in Roomba to read and get my eyes closed by ten. Jack stayed with the group until about 11, but I did not wake up when he got in.

On July 11, I arose early (6:30) to find the temps had dropped to 40 degrees outside. With an extra shirt and long pants, I carried my tea outside and watched some gulls preen and dry themselves on some rocks in the river shallows. 


I watched them for a long time before Jack got moving.The sun came over the trees and enlivened all sorts of life including a pair of kingfishers that flew above the water upstream and out of sight. 

After breakfast, we sat and read and visited and chatted with fellow Altoistes until plans began to come together for a bike ride. Mark, Richard, Jack and I ended up headed to a paved bike path that my understanding is was once a rail bed, now converted to a bike trail. In full, it is 70 km, paved the entire way.

We started by driving what seemed a long way to begin at “P7” in Armagh. This had been the rail station, and off the parking lot was a cafe/snack stand. We started at 1:30 and rode outbound about 12 miles, and turned around to come back for a total ride of 24 miles in 1:38 of ride time (we paused a few times to drink water and decide whether or not to continue).


Along the route I saw a female pheasant, likely near her nest, just standing beside the trail. We also saw a goshawk zip past along the timber line near a gravel road, and saw many Monarch butterflies. We also heard but did not see a red-tailed hawk soaring above somewhere.

The trail was very nice, fairly straight and pretty flat, and it was a good ride. Richard is a serious cyclist so he kept our pace up, and I averaged 14.6 MPH over the duration.

Richard peeled off at Route Principale, on our return and somewhat close to the end of the ride, to take the main roads back to the campsite via a more direct route than we’d traveled to begin. Mark, Jack, and I stopped at the little cafe to grab an ice cream and some more water.


Upon our return another 2114 had arrived. The family we have often camped with in the past “traded up” their 1723 for the larger 2114 to better accommodate their family. They came straight from the pickup at the factory to our little gathering, and moved that beast into their site with the Caravan Mover, with a little help from their Altoiste friends, since they’d never used one before.

A few of us gathered to share beverages at our campsite, and we talked to Cynthia and Gail—Alto owners from Australia here for the Celebration—for a long time, sharing stories and once again, putting faces with names we’ve corresponded with for years over the internet.

A simple meal after our showers, and more Alto friends, Michele and Claudette, whom we met for the first time in April when we were camping at Virginia Beach, arrived and we shared a glass and slapped mosquitoes together as the sun set.

Everyone is looking forward to the celebration activities tomorrow, so we (mostly) hit the beds early, although a hearty few sat by the campfire again into the evening. 

Into Canada

Our trip to and stay at Selkirk Shores State Park (July 8) on the New York shore of Lake Ontario was uneventful. We off-loaded our bikes upon arrival to see what the “beach” might be like, and to check out if there was any cycling of note.

Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing of note — nothing to recommend this State Park for any of our future or our friends’ travels.

Possibly, it was because it was the Sunday of the weekend after the Independence Day holiday, but the place was full of trash. It looked beaten to a pulp, and none of the sites or the campfire rings had been cleaned in quite a long while. I never saw a camp host or a park ranger of any stripe. There were out-of-control kids screeching everywhere, and we didn’t even want to put down our outside “rug” because our site was so grody. Unidentifiable greasy spots everywhere, broken shards of who-knows-what on the “platform” and in the grass, bits of candy and cigarette wrappings hither and yon — it was seriously unkempt and dilapidated. Even many of the paved roadways around the picnic, camping, pavilion, and boat launch areas were pitted, pot-holed, broken-up, and useless as pavement.

Every site was chock-a-block to the next, without even a hint of privacy, even to the point of sharing the electric pedestal between every two sites (many of which were inconveniently situated in poison ivy and oak). The “platforms” for a trailer or tent were four cement squares arranged together to form a box, and many of the slabs were broken and heaved away from their partners.

The “beach” was okay, I guess, with a lifeguard and everything. But to one’s left peering to the southwest was a nuclear generation plant that was particularly ugly. Up to the right it might have been pretty, but we would have had to cross the beach to see that direction. Re: screeching children above.

We rode down to the boat launch area, and through a couple of picnic areas with pavilions, and there were tons and tons of people everywhere. So the place is popular. But definitely not our cup of tea.

The bath house was on the seriously elderly side, and not clean at all. I can take old facilities if they’re kept as clean as possible despite having old fixtures, etc. This was not that.

We read that the place was originally built as a CCC camp back in the 1930s, and one can imagine the well-to-do of Syracuse coming “to the shore” to escape the heat of the city. And I admire the effort to re-purpose and keep up infrastructure. But this place — at least the camping areas — is not keeping up with the minimum necessary maintenance.

Instead of sitting outside, we cocooned for our simple meal of re-heated shepherd’s pie, and decided to watch our first movie on the road from my laptop. Hidden Figures is a very very good flick. We enjoyed it immensely. 

We staged everything for an early departure on Monday, July 9, and were rolling out of Selkirk Shores by 6:40A. Not only did we not want to stay a moment longer than necessary (all this for just $45/night!!) we had a long drive to get to Camping de l’Ile in Roxton Falls, Quebec, Canada.

This is a place we’d discovered on our very first trip to Quebec to see if we wanted to purchase an Alto or not (of course, we did) and we were tent-camping in a lovely, shady, grassy area of this private campground. It was so nice, and the people so friendly, we decided to hit the ground there, beside a nice river (home to the falls, we assume).

Getting here from Selkirk Shores took us about 8 hours because we stopped for a while and a bit of wifi for breakfast, and then again for lunch (possibly 1.5 hours in stopovers) and there was a significant stoppage along the highway as our “faster” route AROUND Montreal merged back into the through-Montreal road. Never did figure out what the holdup was, but that added every bit of a half hour to the journey. 

But we finally arrived, and we’re right beside the river, surrounded by folks speaking French (two groups of which have already taken a tour of Roomba); the breeze is blowing fresh (although the mud in the river — or possibly a nearby farm using manure for fertilizer — is a bit stinky) and the temps are cooling to the low 80s. We have electric and water in Site #4 (although for one night and with our onboard jugs of water, we did not hook up the hose or filter). This arrangement is tight like Selkirk Shores was, with no privacy between the sites, but they’re bigger, and many trees shade each site. On top of which, it’s much more quiet and we can hear the river babbling to us at our back. It’s just a nicer place in nearly every respect (and has private showers that are clean and well-kept, as well as excellent wifi at the sites).


I had forgotten, however, that to take a shower here, you need Canadian dollar coins. There is no heat control, no faucet control, just the meter. One dollar lasts a long-ish time, mind you. But be sure before you head to the shower rooms (each private with a toilet and sink also) that you have one or two dollar coins with you.

We fixed the second of the two Delmonico steaks we’d purchased at Pete’s Meats, the same way we’d done it our last night at Bald Eagle, with Gauvreau’s Compound melted on the top again. Accompanying was the last of our lettuce, a chilled can of green beans, topped with pecans and cheese for a salad, and good old fashioned grits from our “emergency stores.” We’d tried to empty our fresh and leftover foods before crossing the border in case they had a problem with some of the stuff in our fridge (they didn’t, even though the crossing fellow was a bit of a prat).


Our view during dinner.

Sometime around 7 o’clock, in the town of Roxton someone had an accident that took out a power pole, so the campground was without any power at all for the evening. We had still been running our air conditioner, so we switched to the fan, and stayed outside for the evening. 

Lovely evening with an exceptional sunset.


Although going to sleep was a bit hot in the high 70 to 80 degree range, we slept fine and the next AM the power was back on. The worst of it was that there were no lights in the bathrooms, so we had to remember to carry our headlamps with us — the toilets still flushed, though.

We arose early on Tuesday not for any rip-snort need to get to our next stop, but so we could have sausage rolls for breakfast and leave enough time for the grill to cool before we wanted to leave mid-morning.

Next stop: La Jolie Rochelle, site 13, where we’re likely to see an Alto friend or two before the Big Rally at Safari Condo.

Reunited with Roomba

Friday, September 4 & Saturday, September 5
Left the Halifax Airport Holiday Inn by 8-ish to head to East Gore for Roomba. Had received a note from Sue that she and Jim were still away, but that Jen was likely there.

Hooked up and shifted things we hadn’t needed during the bike tour from storage in Roomba back to car, and were ready to leave when we both wanted a pit stop. We used the supplied key to unlock, and Jen had been inside the whole time we were working. Sat for a moment with her to catch up and thank her and then we headed up the u-shaped drive to the road and began our 7 hour trek up to Sugarloaf Provincial Park, New Brunswick.



Stopped for a chicken/ham Cesar salad to carry with us for dinner, and got a couple of pre-packaged sandwiches and a bag of chips, with a couple of bottles of water to eat for lunch in the market’s parking lot.

Not much to say about the route except, there being no “straight line” between East Gore and Sugar Loaf, New Brunswick, it was a long but pleasant drive. Arrived at about 6:30 PM and quickly set up camp and had a few hours to relax and eat before nightfall.


Spectacularly, there were NO BUGS at all! But we were evidently in the epicenter of a colony of those feisty red squirrels, and they gave us unrelenting chatter and reproach the entire time we were there, for two nights. So much so that I worried they might chew the solar connectors on Roomba’s roof (but they didn’t, thank goodness). Certainly, they ate their pine cones directly above our awning, plates, picnic table, etc. and dropped all the chaff disdainfully on our heads.

Sugarloaf, even though it’s a Provincial Park, it is primarily a ski resort. In the summers they have lots and lots of mountain biking activities: chair lift to the top and ride down; trails for all skill levels; a dirt bike course; and a lot more. It’s an excellent place to stay, and we had a great site — even though it was obviously a very popular place, and although we were between two big rigs, it didn’t feel crowded or busy. As the evening waned, we had a “wee dram” of the single malt Jack had bought to share with the bicycle pack a few days ago and that was sublime. So we cocooned and had a great night’s rest.

Next day we figured we’d go explore and see if we could pick up something to grill and some breakfast fixings, plus a wine store stop was definitely in order. Campbellton, the burgh the provincial park sits next to, was no great shakes. There was a nice bridge that led across a small bay, river, or inlet and suddenly we were in Quebec province. There was a nice park on the other side of the bridge and I took a photo or two, but not much to see beyond that, other than the mountains.




Still, I picked up a replacement pair of slippers for indoor Roomba use (you might remember the deluge en route up to the bike tour where my slippers were soaked and we declared them a total loss), and we did our grocery and wine shopping. As it happens, we were in a store that was offering a “tax free” day on all food supplies, so the place was mobbed.

Nevertheless, we got some goodies and decided on grilled hamburgers with Havarti cheese, replaced our pre-bike-tour mayo and mustard (this time the horse radish was included with the mayo rather than the mustard), and got some other staples — and for good measure, drove to a liquor store to stockpile wine for the next few days. We realized that we were shopping and getting ready to camp during the US and Canada celebration of the working stiff: Labor Day. We weren’t sure the liquor stores would be open on the Monday holiday.

It was an excellent evening. I spent a long time sketching on my iPad (since I could plug it in, since artwork really drains the battery), and Jack did some laundry and hung it out for a while. The red squirrels were quite bold and aggressive, running very close to where I sat and chittering nonstop at our intrusion. A couple of them were either playing or vying for victuals, and chased each other nearly right under my chair. I tried to run one or two off by throwing rocks at them, but they remained undeterred.

Cycling North Mountain
Cycling North Mountain
Blue Roomba and Soobie-Do.
Blue Roomba and Soobie-Do.

We had also picked up some firewood to burn, and started the burgers and the fire about the same time, around 6:30P. Accompanied by some store-bought potato salad, and with the burgers on ciabatta rolls, with a fresh tomato and some of the leftover salad from yesterday, it was a perfect meal. The Camembert we had left out to soften came out next and we watched the fire die with a sip or three of Port, and a cheese/cracker dessert. Perfect.

View of the fire from inside Roomba's circular window.
View of the fire from inside Roomba’s circular window.

Blomidon Provincial Park, Nova Scotia, Canada

Friday, August 21: VERY long day today, and we did a lot of stopping along the way to add to the overall 5.5-ish hours from New River to Blomidon. But, boy-howdy, was it worth it. Blomidon Provincial Park is a very special place.

But I’ll get to that in a moment.

We stopped for a long time in St. John, bought our phone chip and took a long time with their wi-fi to set up our prepaid plan. Every other soul in the entire mall was also online, it seemed, so the speed was glacial. I didn’t get the opportunity to upload any blog posts and figured I’d wait until I got to a dedicated wi-fi at a Tim Hortons or someplace before I gave a go to uploading photos.

 Anyway, the drive was quite lovely, but our heads nearly exploded when we made our first Canadian fuel fill-up. Granted, the US dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar, but their fuel is spectacularly high. 
The sign means that it’s nearly a dollar and eight cents PER LITER up here. If there are 3.5 (ish) liters to our US gallon, that’s ~$3.78 Canadian dollars per US gallon. Grant the currency conversion and we’re still at something like $3.25-$3.50/gal to the US $2.40/gal.

And we’re always in a headwind or a crosswind hereabouts, so our mpg has crumbled to 16. We had been rather smug about getting in the neighborhood of 18mpg towing Roomba, but not up here and through the northeastern US mountains, I’ll tell you.

But it is what it is.

Anyway, it was a lovely drive up past Moncton, and then down toward Truro, skirting the Bay of Fundy and into Nova Scotia. We switched drivers about every 2 hours and took the hypotenuse of the triangle to avoid getting into Halifax during their Friday rush hour, to head along a smaller road #14, halfway between Truro and Halifax, headed southwest to Windsor.

There is an entire peninsula jutting into a northern part of Fundy that forms the Minas Basin, and there’s not much out that peninsula except the Blomidon Provincial Park and Scots Bay. The very tip of the peninsula is called Cape Split. About halfway to Scots Bay is what folks call “The Lookoff” and it’s a high bluff from which you can see quite an enormous portion of the Minas Basin.

But, as we learned, if you go up Rt. 358 (the only “real” road to access Scots Bay) slightly too far past The Lookoff, you just cannot get to Blomidon. We discovered this by getting ourselves right up to Scotts Bay and the end of 358, where we turned around, and a very nice young man stopped his car, waved us down, and said, “It looks like you need directions.”

He set us straight back toward The Lookoff, but prior to that we had to take a gravel road called something like Smith Mountain Rd. He said that would T at a paved road and we go left toward the Provincial Park.
I’d mapped the route by then with our Canadian iPhone, and that nav system wanted us to turn off Smith Mountain Rd. onto something called Green Branch, but there was not only no turn – we would have headed into a pasture with a bank of bee hives sitting there. 

It was another of those “hypotenuse of the triangle” shortcuts, and I’m very glad we continued on, as we saw the other end of the “green” road once we were on the paved road, and it was nothing more than a pasture track. Roomba would not have been pleased to bounce along that baby.


Somewhere on top of that bluff is the Park Campground.
Overlooking the Minas Basin, fed by the Bay of Fundy

We climbed and climbed and finally got up to the check-in station, and it’s on a very high bluff and the wind was fresh and the view was spectacular. The information about Blomidon Provincial Park says: “From the front lawn of the Park Office you can see five counties.” No doubt.

I took some pix, and as Jack was checking us in, and a few folks were walking to the Office from the campground, and one of them said, “Oh, another Alto!” I said another Alto? and she said, “Yeah, we have a 1743 sitting right down there in site #2.”

And the world gets smaller still: She saw our license plate and asked where in VA we were from and when I said “Meadows of Dan,” ready to explain to the usual blank look where MoD was, she said, “Get outta here.” And when I asked if she knew it, she said “We’re headed down to Meadows of Dan next month.”
Turns out, she picked up her 1743 in October of 2014, and has been living on the road in the Alto ever since. She happens to travel with a fellow who is brother to acquaintances of ours, who themselves live across the street from our very good friends, Jack and Martha (with whom we spent a few days at Virginia’s own New River State Park Rail Trail earlier this August).

Wow. Mary (?) and Mike are very friendly folks and she has been up here to Blomidon in the distant past and had always wanted to come back, and here she is, at the same time we are experiencing it for the first time. 

We compared dates and it looks like we’ll be back from our trip while Mary and Mike are down visiting his brother in MoD, so we might get to see them again. We made noises about sharing a meal while we’re here in Blomidon, but I don’t know if our schedule will allow that – but it would be fun. They have a cute airdale-type dog called Riley and he makes me miss my sweet doggies back home.

We had an easy set-up (site #62 – notes to self: 1) try to get a site up on the bluff where the wind moves more; 2) not next to the pit toilets) and poured ourselves some refreshment, and walked back to the Office to watch the darkening of the “five counties” from the bluff. The moon rose and the sight was just magic – overcast, but just enough sun to light the sky as it set to our backs. The bluff looks eastward.

Notes on the campground for fellow campers: There are nice bathhouses scattered around, plentiful water faucets for filling jugs, and a “community center” with a fire pit outside that anyone can use to get out of the weather or meet up with friends, etc. Our site is well-secluded from our neighbors’ and there’s a big open field across the drive from us, empty now, but ready to take campers if they want a sunny, breezy spot with no privacy at all. Site #1 is enormous, just on the bluff but protected by a nice bank of trees, and we saw a camper using a Chuckit with her dog to give exercise in the open space around that site. 

There are no hookups here, but the dump station does offer a potable water hose for filling tanks, if you choose. We didn’t choose to do that this go-round. 

Our site is secluded, but open to the sky, so if there’s sun, we’ll get solar charging to keep the fan and ‘fridge going. Hoping for sun tomorrow.

Hiked back to our site to the chewings of major mosquitoes, and had a sandwich at 9:30 PM. We had made noises earlier about grilling those sandwiches, but we were too tired to bother. It was a very long day, indeed.

The forecast for our stay here is 50/50 for rain, and the radio weather reports said Halifax was socked in with fog, so we’re unsure if we’re going to have great weather or not. But again, it is what it is and this is such a lovely place, we are happy no matter what the weather gods throw at us. 

New River Provincial Park, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, August 20: The expected rains never fell while we were at Mt. Blue SP Campground, although it stayed hot and humid. Awakened to very close air and overcast skies, but no rain. 

Wanted to get an early start on a long day (our last for a while in America), so we skipped breakfast and were headed out by 8A. 

Nothing remarkable to note about the early drive, but when we were outside of Bangor, off the I-95, we found a sweet cafe called Vittles where we got a big breakfast at about 10A. While we were there, we also got fuel, and switched drivers.
 All along our drive through Maine (and also some of VT and NH) we were seeing “Moose Crossing” signs and alerts for traffic. And we wanted to see a moose somewhere not too close to the road or the Roomba. But alas, we didn’t see much wildlife at all — not even much in the way of flattened fauna on the roadways. But I did capture this photo of a couple of moose on a building.

We had no trouble at the border crossing at Calais, Maine. Contrary to our worries, the border officer didn’t ask about any foodstuffs we might have along with us at all. Just firearms, alcohol (we’d finished all the wine and beer we’d had over dinner at Mt. Blue), manufactured goods, packages we might leave in Canada or picked up from strangers in the US, and a bit about our vacation.

Our first stop at St. Stephen in New Brunswick (the Canada entry city from Calais) was Atlantic Superstore, an enormous grocery place halfway between a Big Lots and a WalMart Superstore. The primary reason for our stop there was to find a place to buy a KooDo phone chip for our unlocked iPhone, plus a prepaid call and data plan.

The very friendly folks there didn’t have any chips for Apple products, but they steered us in the correct direction for both a Bell telephone place and our equivalent of an ABC store, where we could find wine and beer.

The Bell folks were not helpful at all, and our friends at the Atlantic store had said there was a KooDo mall kiosk in St. John, the next city along the route we would be taking tomorrow to Blomidon State Park in Nova Scotia. So we decided to wait a day to get navigation and phone calling.

The liquor store had a very good selection of wine but a dismal micro beer choice. Lots and lots of the “big name” American beers, in cases and pallets. And a moderate choice of imports (Stella Artois, Heineken, Fosters), and of course, Molson’s — but nearly nothing from American or Canadian micro breweries. 

I got what I could (Goose Island IPA) and we carried on to New River Beach Provincial (State) Park, along Rt. 1 near the Passamaquoddy Bay, off the Bay of Fundy.
Lots of water along the way, and we really loved our campsite (#12) and the amenities (electric only, but great bathhouses and really delicious water). The entire place was surrounded by fragrant fir trees and mosses on the ground, heritage rose bushes and sea-side grasses. Even though there were lots of people there, we felt nicely private. 

We hiked down to the beach, across a small road from the camping area, even though the fog had rolled in and socked in the entire view. Got the Bay of Fundy tide times, and I wet my feet in the Canadian waters.
Sitting back at camp we were scolded by a wee fiesty red squirrel, eating pine cones on his “picnic bench” about Roomba roof level in a nearby tree.

We’d definitely come back to New River and try to spend some time here in the future.

Tomorrow is the DAY

Long but totally uneventful drive up to Quebec, where we will have a personal tutorial about our new trailer tomorrow AM.

First night was in New York, in a community near New Paltz (Highland) and we stayed at a nice hotel that was slightly too close to a major road, called The Atlas Hotel. Quite friendly, accommodating, clean, and inexpensive. Right up the road was a diner that had lots of cars around it called the Gateway Diner. And, they served beer and wine.

Got on the road quite early this AM, stopping first at the Dunkin Donuts right across the road for a large coffee (and there might have been a pastry with cinnamon involved) and drove up quite close to the border of US/Canada, where we refueled and changed drivers. 

Jack got us through customs and it was a pretty straight shot up and around Montreal and then forth to Quebec. We have been listening to Terry Pratchett (“Snuff”) the whole way so far, and we are nearly done with the story (only about a half-hour to go as of tonight).

The weather had cleared as we headed north into upper NY, even though there were enormous leftovers of snow on the cliff faces along the roadways as we went past (through?) the Catskills.  We woke up to gray again this AM even though it was relatively warm — and it started raining as we neared the border and headed north and east in Canada. When we got to our hotel for tonight, it was rather cold and the wind had come up. Where the temp was in the low fifties, it had a definite “feel” of mid-forties. Chill.

Coming up the highway, we drove past the Safari Condo plant (where we were last year when we met our Blue Roomba, and where we are headed tomorrow for our training session) and went about 5 km farther along to the hotel. JUST as we were passing the place, an enormous semi passed us and totally blocked out our view of the Safari Condo lot! We hoped for a glimpse of our intended, and we got a quick view of one of the conversion vans (and possibly a fixed-roof 1743?) before we were blocked totally from seeing anything at all. 

Kharma. Saving the best for the appointed day/time.

Happily, there’s a sports bar and a restaurant here in the hotel, so we don’t have to get back into the car and drive for the evening meal. Quite ready to be out of the car for a bit today.

Brought the bikes into the room with us this time — last night, in the motel situation we enjoyed in Highland, we backed the car with bikes attached right up to our room’s door, and we had no worries that anything would happen to them. Here, at the Hotel Bernières, we were encouraged to bring the bikes in rather than leave them on the car in the parking lot. Our room is an interior one on the first floor and our window does not overlook the car park.

Oddly, the sports bar here did not offer any beers made locally — and only Molsen (made in Canada) that even had the ‘feel’ of local. So we had something made in Italy that was the tastiest of the lot (they were kind enough to let us taste a couple of the brews on draught), though we sorely missed our humble DogTown Road House in Floyd and their variety of micros on tap. 

9:30 AM TOMORROW MORNING we start the hands-on Roomba Tutorial. Unsure if either of us will sleep much tonight, but I hope so, because our brains have to be clear bright and early, to begin that steep climb up the learning curve to camper trailer ownership!