On the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Sunday, Sept. 6 & Monday, Sept. 7

As we were breaking camp Sunday AM, we heard a funny hooting like the beginning of a screech owl’s “ooo” that never got to the low trilling part. We stopped what we were doing to look up, and saw a long-necked bird flying away. Supposing it to (possibly) be a loon, and knowing nothing about loon calls etc, that was our best guess for the critter that made the ululation. It was strange and new and I’m so glad I heard it, even if I’m clueless about what made the noise.

Left the campground around 10:30AM Atlantic time for a leisurely start on our 4-hour trip to the Gaspé Peninsula and National Park in Quebec province. As we pulled out, several of those squirrels got together in the heart of their territory (where we were parked) and did a group happy dance.

Somewhere along the way, crossed the line back into Eastern time, but it took us a bit to figure out what was going on, since Jack started driving at 10:30, and the next time I looked at the clock, it was 9:50.

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The ride was beautiful though uneventful. We had eaten Muesli for breakfast, so it was a while before we were hungry again (tasty and lots of fiber), so we stopped in New Richmond for a snack, and we drove the rest of the way, landing at Parc et Mer near Mont-Louie (having gained an hour) at about 2PM.

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Took a couple of snaps along the way, because the mountains of Gaspé are quite interesting, and the coast road up along the Gulf of St. Lawrence was spectacular.

We were sandwiched between some big rigs without any privacy, but we were right on the water. As it turned out, this was a great experience for our first at a cheek-by-jowl RV place. Disturbingly, there was a burned out site up near the check in office — the RV that had burned was totally gone, and the corpse of the owner’s car was black and tire-less beside the detritus of the RV. A second RV was worked over pretty well by the (I imagine) incredible heat of the burn, but not reduced to nuts and bolts like the other one. Never found out what happened — really didn’t want to know, frankly.

Anyway, we raised some of our neighbors’ eyebrows when we raised our roof. And then we decided to skip lunch and have an early dinner of grilled lamb sausages in the Merguez style (heavily spiced with cumin, chili pepper and herissa, which gives it its characteristic red color and piquancy), a type of sausage popular in France, and brought west from North Africa and the Middle East. It was delicious, even though we’d not quite realized what we were getting.

Our "beach" and the view from our site at low tide.
Our “beach” and the view from our site at low tide.

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Looking out Roomba's east-facing window.
Looking out Roomba’s east-facing window.

Then the sun began setting and it was so completely glorious that I had to take many photos. I know you’re going to get tired of them, but there’s not much else to illustrate our Sunday.

When we arrived the tide was most definitely out, but after dinner, as we finished the Camembert and had another sip or three of Port, on our beach-bench in the dark, the tide was fully in. As the light dimmed, we watched the birds perched on the rocks until we couldn’t see them any more. And when we nested, closing all the curtains for sleep, the lapping of the water near our back window (where the head of our bed is) sent us peacefully to sleep with windows wide.

Monday: Awoke to low tide and (relatively speaking) few seagulls on the exposed rocks by our window. Had hoped for a good sunrise, so opened the blackout curtains to the east so we could check it out as it developed without getting out of bed. But there was slight color and the sun actually didn’t rise — cloud cover was extensive enough that there wasn’t much in the way of sunrise.

I got up at 6:30 anyway and headed up the hill for a shower (at a Canadian dollar coin for 5 minutes). But the place is really clean.

Today is Labor Day in both Canada and the US, so the long weekend is winding down, and several people packed up and left before we’d had breakfast. Mont-Louis is rather touristy, but we thought there might be a couple of cafés we would want to visit for frites or a sweet pastry.

As we sat with tea and coffee at our seaside beach-bench with our camp chairs, the rain began. We had been warned by neighbors that it got quite windy, so we had rolled up the awning before turning in last night, and as we never got any of the expected wind, we had unrolled it and set it up again this morning to sit under during the rain.

That was a mistake. As the rain came harder, the wind turned and was coming from the south-southwest — from the land. It felt like someone had a furnace running, the air was that hot. I honestly looked around to see if anything was afire (especially given the fire-related RV tragedy we’d seen at check-in).

In a matter of moments, at around 10A, we went from an outside temperature of 58 degrees to 73 degrees. I’ve never experienced that before. It was amazing.

More amazing still: the mid-day temperatures varied between 88 at the high and 70 — you could feel the wind, which raged from 5 or 10 MPH to probably 40 MPH during the day, blow alternately hot (from landward) to chilly (from seaward). If the sun went behind the clouds, the temps dropped like a bowling ball.

Early on, we had rolled the awning back up (in the rain) to save it from the swirling, gusting wind, and secured it against the roof with the velcro straps intended for that purpose. Later, when the rain stopped and the wind was obviously not going to get any better, we took it completely down, put the grill back in its stowage, moved the picnic table back to where we found it, and packed up the “footprint” we use under the awning to keep our feet cleaner.

Not sure if our neighbors felt like the wind was too tough to bear, or if they were going to be leaving today in any case, but the place was ours except for a single rig several sites upwind of us. We sat and listened to the wind and the surf and the seagulls the entire day. It was very relaxing, except for those gusts of wind that rocked Roomba alarmingly.

The rain held off for us to do some beachcombing, if you can call what’s in front of us a beach, but you had to step carefully, as a gust might knock you unbalanced. One such gust forcibly removed Jack’s glasses.

While we sat on our beach-bench, we both saw one or two whales in the Gulf. Perspective is a funny thing on the sea. We could not tell if they were far away and big, or closer and small. They appeared to be not very big, and there were definite contrasting colors on the upper and lower bodies. We decided they might have been Minke whales, as they definitely had a white-ish underside.

Our wi-fi here at the trailer is good enough that Jack googled whales to find out which one might be found up here, and while orcas could be here, this is not their favored stomping ground. While Minkes can be regularly found here (the photo on the site was one in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), identification is still tricky because, on the other hand, Minkes rarely breach, and we saw these or this one breach at least twice.

We had the windward windows all open, because, when the sun shined, it was very hot inside. We couldn’t put the awning back up to provide shade, and our scuppered neighbors who’s rig was so big it provided needed shade to the southwest of us were gone — so we were opening and closing, venting and not-venting, wiping blown dust off the countertops, etc. all day. Sometimes we felt the ceiling fan set to exhaust was doing okay, and other times, it sounded as if it were straining, and the lid was being buffeted too much for comfort, so we’d shut ‘er down.

Lunch was a Genoa Salami sandwich on ciabatta roll with Havarti cheese and lettuce, and Jack ran up to the “fast food” place in Mont-Louie and grabbed a bag of frites to go with. We ate inside to keep grit from landing on our food.

Around 4PM the forecast rain finally arrived with a vengeance. We had been outside for a while, watching the birds, reading our books, and watching the weather come down all along the Gulf shipping lane, far, far away (we also saw an enormous freighter out there).

So when we could see the rain approaching from the south, we rabbited inside and nested. We have an inside manual fan we can use, but we thought to turn on the fan only on the AC, and that kept it tolerable inside. At about 5PM it was sheeting with rain and we could no longer see the mountain we’ve been taking photos of for two days. The temperature dropped like a stone from 88 to 64 degrees outside, and inside we enjoyed a pleasant 74 degrees. Not a drop of rain hit the leeward side of Roomba. It’s the strangest weather I’ve ever experienced.

So glad we weren’t in a tent. Hoo, boy!

We read our books and played card games on our devices. I did some dishes left over from earlier. Finished a couple of narratives for the blog.

We’ve also been listening to Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, the first book in his historic trilogy, when we’ve been driving. So we cranked that up and listened to more of that tale for a while. By about 6PM the wind had nearly stopped completely, thank goodness. But the rain continued to fall — at least it wasn’t blowing horizontally.

We started dinner around 6:30P: beef in a red sauce over cheese tortillini. We made up some garlic bread and had a salad with it. Of course, accompanied by red wine. I’m afraid I might get used to living and eating like this . . .

Early night, not quite so necessary to cocoon for privacy, but the lights in the campground are plentiful, so we judiciously cocooned for comfort, turned off the fan, and went to bed with the temps in the 60s, the wind quieted down, and the rain behaving itself as it should.

We’ll continue our coastal drive in the opposite direction (south) tomorrow, headed to Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, about a five hour drive. Hoping the rain will have ended as forecast when we have to hitch up in the AM.

Riding Prince Edward Island

Friday, August 28: Riding PEI
We left Charlottetown via van/trailer to hit a good entry point to the PEI National Park’s paved bike/multiuse trail. We began at Dalvay by the Sea, a National Historic Site. Upon arrival we were encouraged to go into the mansion, now a resort originally built/owned by Alexander McDonald. McDonald was born in Scotland in 1833, but immigrated with his family to the US, where he entered the oil business.

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Following a series of wise mergers and acquisitions, he became president of Standard Oil of Kentucky in 1892. He built Dalvay as a “summer house” and get-away for friends, business acquaintances, and family. Alexander Graham Bell had already built a summer home in Cape Breton, and the same construction company built Dalvay.

Built in the architectural style known as Queen Anne Revival, it was well suited to summer inhabitation due to the interplay of many design features. Those who stay there can see the changing light and shadow patterns as the sun moves and alights upon different elements.

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McDonald died in 1910 and left $15 million to his granddaughters. The inheritance had disappeared by 1930 due to mismanagement by their father. A former employee of the McDonalds acquired Dalvay by the Sea, and during several subsequent exchanges of ownership the furniture all disappeared. The provincial government was interested in having Dalvay become a part of the park system, and ownership was transferred in 1937, when PEI National Park was created. The Park Service has since restored, renovated and re-opened the summer getaway.

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We had excellent weather and rode the beautiful coastline bike path. It runs along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and many of us took the time to walk through the dunes (in designated areas) to overlooks and beaches to get the breezes and the views. While the bike pathway is majority flat, there are some long climbs, and of course, we had a serious headwind all day. But none of our group were deterred, and we really had an excellent ride of about 35 miles.

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In a quaint place called Rustico, we stopped at the Farmer’s Bank museum for our lunch. Rustico was an enclave of Acadians who had been exiled from Nova Scotia by the British, and to get themselves out of poverty, they pooled some resources and began the Farmer’s Bank, the forerunner of today’s Credit Union concept.

The Farmer's Bank Museum is in a gorgeous setting near the bay.
The Farmer’s Bank Museum is in a gorgeous setting near the bay.

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The Docet House, a reconstructed period home, is similar to those the Acadians lived in when they came to PEI, historians say.
The Docet House, a reconstructed period home, is similar to those the Acadians lived in when they came to PEI, historians say.

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The handwriting reads: The farmer is the man who really creates wealth. He is the nourishing father of the body politic: from him the baker gets his flour, the weaver his yarn, the shoemaker his leather, and the butcher his beef . . . take his bank from the farmer and you will be throwing him into the rapacious clutches of the usurer, that social blood sucker who holds in misery that class worthy of respect, the farmers.
The handwriting reads: The farmer is the man who really creates wealth. He is the nourishing father of the body politic: from him the baker gets his flour, the weaver his yarn, the shoemaker his leather, and the butcher his beef . . . take his bank from the farmer and you will be throwing him into the rapacious clutches of the usurer, that social blood sucker who holds in misery that class worthy of respect, the farmers.

The Board of Directors of the foundation supporting the Farmer’s Bank Museum got together to hire an excellent storyteller and chef to serve us a traditional PEI soup, sandwiches on homemade bread, cornbread with homemade molasses and/or whipped honey, fresh veggies from the chef’s garden, and we topped it all off with a blueberry cinnamon cake with locally-made ice cream on top. It was splendid, and gives one’s heart a boost to know you’re helping a worthy nonprofit. The chef came out and regaled us with stories of his family, of the customs of PEI, and his background as a hotelier. He was a hoot!

We made our way, partly on busy roads (Rt. 6) and partly on bike trails, farther west from there to Cavendish, our overnight stop, and our hotel (Kindred Spirits) was within walking distance to the Green Gables Heritage Museum — the author of the wildly popular young adult series of books involving the fictional Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, was born and died in Cavendish. She drew inspiration for the fictional world Anne lived in from her experiences as a child, living with family on an idyllic farmstead with red woodland pathways, like the Green Gables Heritage place.

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Jack and I chose not to accompany the group on a tour, as neither of us had a childhood mythology that included Anne. So we lubricated our chains and got some rest before we all gathered again for a happy hour and pizza party in the “rumpus room” of the Gate House at Kindred Spirits. We played pool and ping-pong, and had a lovely time telling tall tales and getting to know one another better.