Happy 20th Anniversary

July 12

Before we depart from La Jolie Rochelle, our breakfast on July 12 was enhanced by an unexpected visitor. No one knew exactly where our feline friend came from nor who might be its humans. But it wandered through and around the trailer for a good while before disappearing as mysteriously as it had appeared.


Janet also wandered into the river to take a photo of her Alto on site. I wish I’d done that, too. Nothing is so unfortunate as an opportunity not taken.


Just to have some fun, as we were leaving we saw Jim with a cartop carrier packed with “noodles” of all colors. He and Jack have a running joke about how much Jim loves noodles—he’s the one that gave us the idea to use them to keep folks from tripping on awning guy lines. We felt that Jim needn’t purchase any additional noodles (no matter the use to which he put them) if he used the space in an entire cartop carrier to haul them everywhere.


From La Jolie Rochelle, our group departed in a scattered way aiming at an interim “rally point” that was close to the 20th Anniversary Celebration in Sainte-Marie, outside of Quebec City and near the new Safari Condo factory in Staint-Frederick. Individual owners collected ourselves—after breaking camp and, for those who needed to, visiting the campground’s dump station—in a neighborhood in the small village of Scott, that our guide Jim had selected—a place where 16 Alto trailers with their tow vehicles could assemble to await a 1PM sharp en masse departure to the Celebration site.

This was important because if a group of friends wanted to all camp together, all had to arrive at the parking lot-cum-campsite at the same time. That was what we wanted, so we parked for a while along a crescent road in a quiet neighborhood until all had arrived, and then we began our short trek to the Celebration site (the Caztel Center ice hockey rink [among other uses]) in Ste.-Marie.

As luck would have it, while we lined up on the crescent road, Jack and I met new friends, who had been unable to join us at La Jolie Rochelle. But since they were going to attend the Celebration, and because they’re from Ottawa and are friends of Jim, he included them in the “arrive with this group” gathering. I say lucky because they parked on the crescent directly behind us, and we kept that configuration along the way—we called it a Conga of Snails—to the parking lot. Alex and Christine shared our “open space” as our trailers were arranged door-to-door with one parking space between us. 

Snail Conga
Group Arrival

As it happens, they had one of the “old style” awnings and paired theirs with ours. Using a small grass embankment behind the trailers, and with some additional poles and guy lines, WE HAD SHADE!! Which was a good thing as the lot temps reached the high 80s that day, and rose to the 90s the next day.

Roomba and Tow Vehicle
Augie also enjoys our shade

So the single factor about this entire adventure we were dreading the most was completely removed from the equation. What tremendous luck. And they are delightful folks who share many of our own interests, as do many Alto owners, we have found.

Friends to the right
Friends to the left
View from our Big Front Window

After registration and continuing to set up our site, we all went back downhill to the Caztel Center for the evening’s kickoff events, and on display was the very first Alto trailer ever built by Safari Condo. They discontinued the “signature” yellow several years ago, and you can see the plastic windows have since been replaced with glass. And today’s Altos are significantly larger than #1.


There was a craft beer tasting event and welcome that evening, with the “grand illumination” following at around 10:30P. The beer, from a regional craft brewery called Frampton Brasse, was quite good. And while the presentations were mostly in French with some translations, and while they made the Nadeau family happy, some of us were left in the dark about what was going on. But our Australian friends who stayed with the group at La Jolie were publicly honored and thanked for not only coming from the farthest distance, but also because they have been great helpers to the company in selling and answering questions about the trailers from some of the potential buyers down under.


The pre-gathering materials encouraged all trailer and conversion van owners to “light up their Safari Condo” in whatever way they chose. We had our “blue moon” lights charged and ready to go, plus pulled out the “disco light” and we had a big gathering in the parking lot—sharing drinks, nibbles, and stories until midnight.

The evening turned cool, thank goodness, and the sleeping was fine after a big day.

July 13

The Caztel Center’s facilities (and charging stations, and air conditioning) didn’t open until 7A, so we started our morning sipping our beverages in our chairs outdoors, watching the “camp” awaken.

At some point Mark and Angela came by and expressed an interest in taking a bike ride, so we began setting up for that after a quick brekkie. We got away around 9:45, and another Alto owner and rider who’d made his own recumbent electric bicycle joined us. After filling our water bottles at the Center, we headed steeply downhill to the route. On the map (apologies for the poor quality of the pic) and apparently close to the Rivière Chaudière is the paved bike path indicated in green (opposite side of the river from Sainte-Marie). We headed northerly from Sainte-Marie back toward Scott, because Mark had heard that there was a beautiful, very French patisserie with excellent coffee in Scott. Of course, we went.


First, we headed past Scott to get about 10 miles in before heading back. The path was a bit confusing because there was some construction and we were worried because we could not read the signs very well. But it was all paved and we only had to creep past a couple of vehicles along the way, until we began down the shoulder of a busy road headed toward a couple of interchanges with the very big #73 highway. At the second interchange we returned to Scott and paused briefly at a pretty church with a lovely steeple and very unusual wrought iron steps.

At last we found the pastry shop and stopped there for a long time to enjoy not only the delicious eclairs, cake and coffee, but also the lovely setting.

We rode back toward the Caztel Center feeling somewhat heavy, but energized. It was around 2PM when we finally got back, after getting slightly lost along the very busy road directly below the Caztel Center (we over-shot our turn uphill). It was in the 90s by then, and if we had not had shade to sit in I might have returned to Scott to sit by the river on the lawn under the trees again.

Bike stats: 

  • Ride time = 1:43
  • Stopped time = 1:47
  • Miles = 22.3
  • Average speed = 13MPH

We rested and then spent the evening entertaining friends and being entertained by friends, sitting in the middle of the parking lot once the sun set. Michele and Claudette came by with nibbles and wine and whiskey, and that became our dinner. 

The Celebration activities include a Beatles show and lots of our group was assigned to the Friday night show, while we head to it on Saturday night after the group dinner. I guess the auditorium where the show was to be held would hold only half of our group of 700+ individuals (in 350 Safari Condo products Altos and conversion vans [condos] together).

I shall report on those final activities (and a Sunday breakfast for all) in the next post.

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.

Powhatan State Park, Virginia

April 26 & 27, 2017

Our hope to be taking one good bike ride on Wednesday, April 26 before leaving Belle Isle was dashed by the weather and timing. Rained off-and-on overnight, and was still spitting when we got up. Tried to wait it out, but decided to simply go ahead and break camp to head toward Powhatan State Park without a ride.

Of course, it cleared up around 11, but we were already in full stow-and-pack mode, so we continued. Oddly, we left sun and headed toward clouds — not our usually MO, since our philosophy while traveling is “If it rains, leave town.” We were headed from sun into apparent rain on our transit day (also Jack’s birthday).

Completely uneventful ride to Powhatan State Park, except for the sighting of “creepy French fry guy” at an old diner or beer joint along the way, leering at traffic while standing next to an old phone booth.


We also noticed a sign for a local, Goochland County craft brewery, oddly called Lickinghole Creek (like a local physical creek near which it happens to sit). Liked their logo and figured we’d head out to check them out sometime during our stay.


Set-up was fine (site #5) as we were the only people in the park. Even the camp host was “off duty.” And those earlier clouds had also abandoned the joint by the time we arrived, around 3.



Powhatan State Park, sort of between Farmville and Richmond, is brand, spanking new. They have the most modern, private, and sensible bath house I’ve ever seen anywhere — every toilet and shower is its own lock-able room, all are unisex, and a couple for handicapped even combine toilet, sink and shower in one room. There is a laundry and two dish-washing stations. Oddly, though, the bath house for our 29 sites is the only one on the property, I think, although I’ve not been down to the group camping area. The dump station is pristine and has four offload ports.


There is tons of room for expansion, and I anticipate there will be a third canoe launch area into the James River, and a whole separate campground at some future point. Already there is a huge playground/picnic area, a nature programming center, an area and story board of a preserve for tree restoration (and the newly-planted trees, too, of course); and still lots and lots of wide open spaces.

But on Jack’s birthday, we simply settled in, built a fire, enjoyed a simple dinner and hit the hay early. Hoping we will have an opportunity to prepare a special birthday dinner before we head home on Monday.

April 27

Roomba’s awning faces east, so got a good AM shot on the 27th.

A bit of backstory is required here. Through Facebook and various other means, Jack and I keep in touch with some of our rugby colleagues from our William and Many days (and Jack’s contacts continue through his post-W&M career, too). Anyway, from one of my blog posts, a fellow women’s rugby player I’ve known since the late 1970s got in touch and asked about our Alto trailer. We had also hoped to see her in Williamsburg this Saturday, but she’s continuing her  40-year involvement with women’s rugby by coaching a W&M Sevens team that is headed to a national tourney this weekend, and will be away.

Since we changed our original plan to arrive in Powhatan SP earlier than expected, we invited Pep and her partner, Lisa, up to see Roomba. They accepted, and we set up a time for their arrival on Thursday. Pep said she had a final practice that afternoon with her team before their departure Friday, so they arrived early and we did some catching up, met their lovely pups, Bella and Rugby, and toured and talked about Safari Condo, Altos in general, and our model (R-1713) specifically.

Rugby wants to come into the back seat as we drive to lunch.

Then we went off to lunch in Goochland proper, at a  placed small but crowded with locals called the Courthouse Market and Grill. Yummy sandwiches, burgers, onion rings, fries . . . very tasty and easy. More talk and catching up and rugby was enjoyed by all (with the possible exception of Lisa, who is not an “ex-rugger”).




It was a great time to be with them and I think we all had a great time, and they might sally forth from their summer home in Maine to Quebec and check out the Safari Condo operation, possibly sometime this summer.

After their all-too-early departure, and with many good wishes for a safe and successful tournament to Pep and many good wishes for further Alto exploration to Lisa (as I am, she is a layout person so we had some brief talk about magazines, etc., and as she cuts back on her teaching career, seeks freelance work in the print design field), we said our goodbyes.


Tribe Rugby!

Shortly thereafter I donned my cycling gear and left Jack lounging in the shade with his blues blasting from the Blue Bose Bluetooth and did a couple of circuits of the campground.

The two canoe launch areas are steeply downhill from the campground proper, offering more climbing practice than we’ve been able to experience to date on this trip, so I did those two downhill speeds and uphill cranks twice.

James River from Canoe Launch Area C


Cycling stats: Rode for about an hour and a half; 16.8 miles; average speed 11MPH; fastest speed 31MPH. Here’s the interesting stat: 500 feet of ascent (that’s a cumulative total). It is significant because all of our ascents to date along the flatlands of the Eastern Shore (with the exception of our ride through Assateague, which barely made it to the 100 feet mark) could be counted in the tens of feet, with a couple of our rides logging zero feet of ascent.

Thinking ahead to the Tour de Floyd ride, I was glad to get a bit of climbing practice into the training mix. And the canoe launch areas were quite nice, with skid launching areas, and one with a pavilion, and trail access to a canoe-in camping area (that I did not go down the trail to visit). Launch area A even had boat racks and trailer parking.

This is a very nice campground altogether, although all the signs prohibit swimming in the James River due to swift water flow, underwater obstructions, and steep drop-offs. Seeing the water speed past, I could imagine the dangers — even of being in a boat — of swimming.

Canoe launch with steps on either side of a boat skid to the James.

Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec


Tuesday, Sept. 8 & Wednesday Sept. 9

Looooong drive from Parc et Mer/Mont-Louie to our destination: Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, and another private campground nestled beside the St. Lawrence Seaway, La Demi-Lieue, or the Half-League. It is right on the water, apparently on a spit of land, so the sub-head for the signage was “Bord du Fleuve” (or “La Bordure du Fleuve”), which means something like “edge of the river, or edge of the spit.”



We thought it would take about 4 hours, but we made several stops along the way, hoping to find a really good grocery store, and either a wine store or a grocery store that had a robust selection of wines — but we kept hitting “big box” places with no deli or butcher sections, and nearly no drinkable wines.

I’ve about given up on finding decent beer in Canada. The only micros I’ve tasted that are worth their salt don’t sell anywhere except their own breweries and/or towns, or only by the keg. Evidently, Budweiser is a very popular brand (and of course, Molsen’s) because I could get any variation on the theme in enormous quantities. *sigh*

Next time we come to the Maritime provinces, we’re headed to wherever we can find a beer called “Butcher Block” by a brewery called Tadamagouch (or similar). We had that on the first night of our bike tour, at the Five Fishermen restaurant in Halifax and it was the best of all we tried along the way. Also, I hear that, on the south shore of Nova Scotia is a beer called Boxing Rock that I have to try.

Next time.

Anyway, it was a totally lovely drive along the coast road. The clouds had risen by the time we hitched and got away, just misting the high mountains. We enjoyed some sun along the way, and I took some snaps from the car.

Later in the day, the clouds came back and it got quite chilly out, but didn’t rain. We could see major changes in the landscape as it moved away from the mountainous Gaspé region, south into more agricultural land. Busy little sea-side (or by this time, perhaps it’s better to say river-side) towns dotted the coastline.

We also noticed a thinning of the St. Lawrence, and could finally see land on the opposite side.

The village closest to the campground, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, is very attractive and quaint looking, with lots of quirky sculptures sitting around and nice signage for shops and cafés. But it was close to 6PM so we didn’t stop.



We snagged a simply lovely site at the edge of a small inlet (site #33) and there are few enough folks here that we could use the empty site next door (#31) to pull Roomba up parallel to the shoreline, rather than the normal perpendicular. Our awning faces the water, and there are big rocks that might need exploring in the AM.




A near neighbor is an Alto owner — Benoit and Gisanne (?) who live nearby, we guess, in Quebec province. They really lucked out on obtaining their model 1743 (fixed roof): they’d put in their order with Denis Messier at Safari Condo this past June, and had put down a deposit. Then they saw one up for sale in the classifieds, and they were something like the fifth caller. The seller had used it once, didn’t like the trailer part and wanted a VR-self-contained (conversion van from Safari Condo), and was selling his brand new, 2016 – 1743 model for the price he paid. They agreed (rather than wait for their own to be built in 18 months), and made the purchase after seeing it.

Denis refunded their deposit and a 1743 has a new happy home, while the new owners are extremely happy. The seller remarked that there had been 10 additional calls after theirs, and he could have sold it for much more than what he’d paid. They realized they were very lucky, and were loving their new baby. This stop was their third trip in their new trailer.

In a larger town en route called Rivière-du-Loup we had found a really great IGA grocery store and got shrimps to grill and a nice white wine to accompany. I fixed some cous-cous and we had a salad with it. Had also gotten a nice wedge of Morbier cheese, but we were pretty beat and only sat outside in the dark watching the lights on the waterway until we finished the wine. Then we hit the hay.

Wednesday: Heard rain on Roomba’s roof so we stayed abed longer that usual, finally getting up around 7:15. The overcast was spotty, so we enjoyed some sun as we leisurely took our breakfast: grilled sausage patty sliders and OJ. Yum.


The rocks in front of our home beckoned, and so I took a scramble across them. The tide was out, but even then, I had to roll up my pant legs to wade into the water rounding one rock-tumbled edge. Saw some fish trapped in a pool along the way, so I figured the tide would rise at least to their level.





I was right. by about 3PM we saw high tide and it was submerging most of the grassy “beachfront” we were enjoying from our “veranda.”

Long before high tide, however, Jack was watching the forecast, which was for deteriorating sunshine and higher winds. We wanted to get into St.-Jean-Port-Joli for lunch and a look-around, so we rolled up and stowed away the awning, brought the grill inside, and closed down most of the windows and hatches (no more destroyed slippers for me, thank you very much).

We drove into town, visited their IGA (these are excellent grocery stores in Quebec, by the way) anticipating making our lunch before we leave in the AM and eating sandwiches along the way, to save stop-time. Afterward, we parked the car and walked around a bit, and found THE MOST EXCELLENT café for lunch.


Hard to tell exactly what it was called, but I think the name is The Robin Hood, although the sign is as below. We stared at the posted menu for a while, picking out a word here and there, and then just decided to go in.

The waitress didn’t have much English, but the cook did, so she came out and explained their specials board. I ordered the “Mexican” omelette, and Jack had a grilled ham and cheese and leek soup.

Wow. There was a hint of maple syrup in the leek soup, which added a very special edge to the flavor. My omelette was fluffy and chock full of sautéed veggies, all cooked to perfection and topped with cheese. Why it was called Mexican, I never could guess because it wasn’t spicy or full of ham or beans or anything one might expect. Fresh bread was served with the soup and my omelette, and we had a grand lunch.

The predicted weather was obviously rolling in so we headed back to Roomba as the wind picked up. The rain held off for a while, and then came for a short shower, and just when we thought it might be over, we saw it rolling in from the west with the risen tide. It was pretty spectacular, raining horizontally and blowing all around.

After the squall, the clouds stayed as the sun set and our end of the campground suddenly was crawling with photographers and lovers and dog-walkers to see the truly spectacular sunset. Even when everyone had left, the miracle of nature wasn’t done yet, and we enjoyed a second sunset as the sun reflected off the clouds. It was truly awesome.






We did sit outside after our dinner of leftover pasta and enjoyed the Morbier and Port. The wind was calming and the temperatures rose a bit and it was a splendid evening, indeed.


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.






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.



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.




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.

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!