Dr. Doom and a fond farewell

Future Inn

Clean sheets, water pressure and Movies on Demand, am I in heaven?

You don’t realize how much you miss having space until you haven’t had it for five months. Even the Dog is impressed as he saunters through the lobby of the Future Hotel in Halifax to our first floor room.

Leaving the Grey Ghost in Phil’s hands involved stuffing various clothes and sundries into cloth shopping bags. Suitcases are a moot point when your house travels with you. We bring to mind the Beverly Hillbillies on vacation, dog bed draped over shopping bags with clothes spilling out, as we wheel the luggage rack through the lobby.

Halifax harbour

Back to Halifax, as least the weather is good

We rationalize the Grey Ghost’s troubles as a mini-vacation from our vacation, a few days in a nice hotel room, sight-seeing around the area and back on the road.
The Dog and I renew our love affair with Point Pleasant Park and The Dude renews his love affair with the poker game at the Halifax casino.

And then Phil called.

Phil is what we’ve come to view as a typical Nova Scotian, friendly, plain-spoken with a gift for the gab, in this case a point by point breakdown on the abysmal state of the underside of our fifth wheel and a less than heartening overview of the state of repair. He’s like a cheerful Dr. Doom, happy to find his opinion of the motorhome industry has been verified. The three days has suddenly turned into a week and even that is tentative.

Stanfield factory

When in Truro be sure to stock up on underwear, lots of underwear, just ask the Dude

We head for Truro to further explore the Bay of Fundy. The motel is a step down from Halifax, but we invested in a twenty dollar rolling tote bag from Canadian Tire so we can look fancy rolling up to the our room, which is sparkling clean with a typical motel configuration and a door that opens out into a parking lot.

Truro is in mourning for a female police officer recently murdered in Halifax. A memorial in front of the police office affords family members, other officers and members of the public a place to pay their respects. It puts our recent inconvenience in perspective.

The Fundy Tides are the draw in Truro. Tourists are directed to the Salmon River at the edge of town to view the tidal bore that occurs twice a day. It’s like watching a tide come in on a river that has been drained of water. Unfortunately we have come at a time when the tides are at their lowest level. Curses batman!

A hidden gem is Victoria Park. The Dude will confirm the grass in the park is perfect for napping and the other two members of the Meanderers that the park has great trails, two waterfalls and a plethora of butt-busting stairs.

Victoria park Truro

Truro’s Victoria part, this is the flat part before the stairs from hell

Though we don’t know it, our visit to the Minas Basin and the Five Islands area will be historic. A quaint lighthouse sits near the cliff on the basin’s edge, surrounded by fields of wildflowers. The tide is out when we arrive and we spot tiny bumps in the distance on the panorama of red sand. Binoculars reveal the bumps to be ATVs, parked while the drivers/oyster men dig in the sand. The sea arch, a large hole through one of the rock faces that comprise the Five Islands, is a famous area landmark. Er, let me re-frame that, the sea arch was a key landmark. Last week the arch collapsed. Not to worry, I’ve got some of the last pictures of it.

Minas basin

See that hole in the rock, it’s now just a pile of rubble.

Another call from Phil and more bad news, the axles need replacing. After sourcing every parts outlet in his 30-year repertoire, he locates them in Quebec but it will take time to have them shipped.

We’ve worn out our welcome in Truro and decide to head back to Halifax where we book at the Chebucto Inn. The reviews are mostly positive, though the surrounding area is given a less than glowing review. It could be charitably called industrial chic. The rooms are clean, food in the restaurant is good, and the surrounding area is a blend of condos, industry and Tim Horton’s. Have I mentioned that Tim Horton’s is a plague on the restaurant business? They are everywhere, like a donut and coffee-selling version of Walmart.

New and old Halifax

Halifax downtown, history meets condo hell

The days are spent walking the streets and along the city’s waterfront. I take the opportunity to visit a salon and shop at the Halifax mall as we wait for Phil to call.
When he does call it’s to inform us that despite his explicit instructions and measurements to suppliers, they managed to screw things up. He has to turn down other business while the Grey Ghost takes up his shop space. He’s makes a reference to the Grey Ghost as the trailer from hell.

The Dog at Pleasant park

The Dog is a poser at Pleasant Park

Finally the wait is over and we pick up the Ghost with its new shiny axles, brakes, bearings and assorted paraphernalia, which Phil feels the need to explain in detail. Coffers somewhat depleted, we head for Fundy’s western shoreline, the money shot featured in brochures – New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks.

Grey Ghost’s tribulations are forgotten as we watch billions of gallons of seawater cover the sand in a ritual that is as old as the earth, rising 48 feet up the rock faces in the space of a few hours. Back at the almost empty campground, where we are parked on the ocean’s edge, we view a blood red full moon eclipse while sipping Bailey’s and hot chocolate.


Moon gazing on the Bay of Fundy

The lovely languid days of Fall have begun and as promised the east coast is a landscape of burnished red, orange and gold trees. The scenic Okanagan landscape has nothing on this area when it comes to Autumn colours. We spend a couple of days in St. John before finishing up the Canadian portion of our trip in the resort town of St. Andrews. Famous resort area is code for “seriously rich folks summered here”.

One of them was Sir William Van Horne, who oversaw the construction of Canada’s railroad way back when and is among the bearded men in waistcoats in the iconic famous Last Spike picture. Not content with building a railroad from coast to coast he turned his attention to his country estate on Minister’s Island, which is only accessible by road when the tide is out. To get to it we must drive “across the ocean floor.”

Cape Ediate stairs to Fundy

The high and low tide warning signs at Cape Enrage between Moncton & St. John

His family summered on the island, travelling from their Montreal home to the island mansion, where they entertained the era’s swells with sumptuous dinners followed by brandy and billiards. A Renaissance man whose landscape paintings decorate the mansion, Van Horne was a successful farmer, growing crops and raising prize-winning livestock on the self-sustaining estate. Or rather, overseeing the people who did the actual work. And he did it all without putting his head to the pillow for more than four hours a night. An antithesis to the Dude, he viewed sleep as a time-wasting bad habit.

Buffalo head Ministers Island

What is it with rich guys like Van Horne and their need to mount animals on their mantles, compensating much?

Thanksgiving at the Algonquin hotel was a trip back in time — elaborate table settings, beautifully embossed china, discreet décor, attentive waiters. I have decided yet again that I am meant to be rich. Make it so, Jeeves.

St. John Trinity

St. John NB great site for Halloween shenanigans

We are eager to begin the U.S. portion of our trip before the weather changes and the exchange rate gets any worse. For a political junkie like me, with our Canadian election season ending and the American one rolling into high gear, this is going to be fun!

Maybe we’ll see Trump or Hillary somewhere during our travels.

Hopewell Before

Hopewell Rocks, what we call the “real” Bay of Fundy. In a before shot

Hopewell after

Hopewell Rocks, an hour later, the tourists who made it up the stairs have quite the tale to tell

Next…Paging Stephen King

The Wheels on the Bus go round and round

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In French, Grand Pre means Big Trouble. Look it up

The intrepid Meanderers continue trail-blazing their way along the coastline of the Bay of Fundy unaware of the horrors ahead.

Hmm, a tad melodramatic perhaps but, hey, it’s how I felt at the time.

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The church at Grande Pre in happier times

But first let me step back to happier times. Having left the scallops of Digby behind we wind up the coast to Grand Pre, another (yawn) historic place with ocean side camping, yada yada yada.

After staying at many, many sites we get a vibe, a sixth sense about whether a campground is right for us. Grand Pre wasn’t. The site is crowded with year-rounders, permanent people who build porches and fences and put up hokey signs. I had visions of keg parties until midnight. Not that I haven’t participated in many a last call at the bar but I’ve got the Dude and Dog to think about.

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The Dog, is either enjoying the view on the Bay of Fundy or a laugh at our expense

We take a quick side-trip to Grand Pre’s historic Acadian settlement, a miniature version of the Acadian village we saw previously in New Brunswick, a mini-me of history. Post Labour Day weekend, the frantic tourist spots are winding down, and the best part is the half price sales have started in the gift shops.

three ducks

When I’m down Ducks and red chairs always cheer me up

Walking back out to the Grey Ghost, our first hint of trouble begins. There’s a strange smell in the air, like something’s burning. Fire is a huge concern when you’re pulling your house on wheels. The fire exits are tiny escape windows in the living and bedroom area (one of which you may recall I squeezed through to unlock the door in blog “Musing about Mishaps” in June.)

We check the Ghost inside and out and can find no hint of smoke or fire. We decide to drive for a while and check everything at that point.

Now GPS Gertrude always looking for efficiency has us winding up a secondary highway towards Truro, which we have determined is our new destination. The drive takes us through farm country, large swaths of land with the occasional house to break up the scenery. Not a great place to be if anything goes wrong (cue the melodramatic music).

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The Dude and one of our church parking lot helpers trade car stories, guess who’s stories are fake

I have taken on the characteristics of the Dog, opening the window to stick my nose out and sniff the air. What I smell is not good.

We pull into a church parking lot. You will recall that houses of worship are as ubiquitous as McDonald’s out here. Drive through a town with twenty houses you’ll probably find two churches.

Church parking lot

We didn’t meet Pastor Rick but the rest of his flock was very helpful to us

They are handy places, even for lapsed Catholics, spots to wheel the Grey Ghost around when you’ve made a wrong turn (thanks Gertrude) and make convenient stops for food, bathroom breaks and stretching. We spot Newport Baptist church, which thanks to Kevin Bacon, brings to mind a ban on dancing. Not to worry, we’re not in a dancing mood.

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A rustic bathroom break in the Bay of Fundy area

I get on the phone to CAA but given that it’s late afternoon on Saturday the situation looks grim. Being in bum-tooty Nova Scotia doesn’t bode well for proximity to a repair shop.

Cue the helpful country folk. A fifth wheel at the church is the most exciting thing that’s happened in weeks. Before we can say boiled lobster, three guys materialize from nearby houses to do what guys do best–point, discuss, ponder and point some more, all the while peppering the conversation with mechanical terms that might as well be a foreign language to the Dude, who nods gravely while fighting back tears. One strapping lad crawls under the trailer and advises that our wheel may have locked up, which doesn’t sound good despite his upbeat delivery.

The gentlemen go back to pointing and pondering until one of them advises that a fella they know has a shop close by and proceeds to call him. In fact, they make several calls, all in vain, looking for help.

The Dude’s cynical take on the human race aside, we’ve found along our travels that Canadians are kind. Perfect strangers are willing to go above and beyond to help out someone they’ve never met and will never see again. It renews my faith in mankind, with the exception of the clerk from hell in Quebec City. But I digress.

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While waiting for news on the Grey Ghost we stop in Windsor NS, known for a hockey museum and apparently this mural

Luckily a nearby campground has space. The site is essentially in the middle of a field, exposed and surrounded on all sides by the aforementioned year-rounders, but at this point we’d camp in a cow pasture.

Apparently Halloween has come early. Costumed children and adults roam the campsite in what we learn is a final blow-out before people shut up their units for the winter. Given the day we’ve had it seems appropriate.

Third lucky break is the RV repair shop that has left business cards at the campground. The Dude calls and books us in for Tuesday and so our relationship with Phil began.

Phil’s shop is close by and he will wait by the road to guide us in as it is set back from the street. We approach from the wrong direction, miss the entrance and whiz by Phil, continuing along the narrow road until we find a church parking lot to turn around in.

Phil’s full service shop at the end of a long dirt driveway looks even better to us than a church. A compact chatty Nova Scotian with encyclopedic knowledge of RV repair, Phil watches us pull in before calmly advising that we are missing a wheel.

“Must be back there in the ditch,” he says. “Thought it was a deer when I saw the movement in the grass.”

Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy travels & trailer breakdown 008

This doesn’t look good

The Dude and I stand in stunned silence, staring at our wheel-less axle, before the Dude mans up and accompanies Phil a quarter mile back along the driveway in search of Grey Ghost’s missing appendage.

For the next two weeks The Meanderers’ journey will be spent in various hotel and motel rooms from Halifax to Truro and back to Halifax with various side trips sans trailer. The routine includes daily conversations with Phil about his efforts to find parts, have said parts shipped from Quebec, have said parts reshipped when the wrong axles arrive, have said parts welded and welded again when the first weld is measured wrong. By the end the Dude is overheard consoling Phil, who has come to regret answering that first phone call.

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Phil may be wishing he had posted this sign when the Meander’s came to call

The Grey Ghost was a challenge even for a man with a 30-year resume in RV repair. He cites manufacturer’s axles not up to the load, points out scored bearings whose scars are mute testimony to shoddy servicing and indicates worn tires that resulted from spindle nuts improperly tightened. At the end of the day, someone was looking out for us. With almost 15,000 kilometers travelled we broke down only minutes away from the one guy in the area who could help us out.

Next…Hello again Halifax and Fun in Fundy

Peggy and George – a love story

A piper at Peggys

A wee Piper on the shores of Peggy’s Cove (not actual life size)

Peggy’s Cove is one of those impossibly photogenic places. You know the type–quaint clapboard houses nestled on the rocky shore, weathered boats snugged up against the dock, colourful buoys and netting lying carelessly on the ground. I picture the townsfolk rising each morning and hurrying to stage the area before the tourists hordes arrive.

View of Peggy's Cove

Having finished staging the town, the townsfolk scurry back into their twee houses on the Cove

It’s a working town I’m told. All those boats ply the sea for a living. Forget the twee shops with Peggy’s Cove paraphernalia, the folks who live here year-round can’t survive on the tourist trade. They fish and live in tiny little houses heated by heaps of wood you see surrounding most places in Nova Scotia.

As we circumnavigate we run into yet another picturesque village, Yawn…..

Our plan (such as it is) is to circumnavigate the coast of Nova Scotia ending up in The Bay of Fundy, which we know only as the place with those weird rock formations and a tide that rises hundreds of feet each day. (Editor’s note: the Dame is given to wild fits of imagination, Fundy tides average around 46 feet.)

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Lunenburg home of the Blue Nose II and a World Unesco historic site

We end up in Lunenburg, which, sorry Peggy, has our vote for the most photogenic town we’ve seen. It’s also on the UNESCO heritage list. (Take that Peggy!) Oh, and it’s home to the Bluenose II, that iconic, multi-sailed wooden racing yacht on the Canuck dime. The original was built and launched from Lunenburg in 1921.

Blue nose prow shot

The Blue Nose II former racing ship, working fishing vessel and now tourism magnet

Our first order of business is to hire a carriage to take us around. The town is so old-school they still use horse and buggy. (Editor’s note – the Dame exaggerates, there is one horse and buggy for tourists.)

George has a snack

George has a snack before the unfortunate shovel incident

The problem with horses is they have needs that can’t wait. Our sojourn is delayed as George, our good- natured equine engine, feels the earth move, so to speak, and plops down a steaming mound of recycled hay as our group of six giggles in the carriage behind him. A further delay ensues as our human guide whips out a shovel and black garbage bag to hide the evidence.

Pink Lunenberg house

Colourful homes are everywhere in Lunenburg, Pepto-Bismol the shade of chose for this former Sea Captain’s home

Load lightened we move on, past former sea captains houses topped with widow’s walks, where fretting wives would gaze out to sea waiting for the ships to come home. George patiently clomps up and down the streets, so used to the route that he automatically stops at a large water barrel placed in case he needs a pick me up.

Lunenburgians take the UNESCO label seriously. Houses in designated areas have plaques that outline the pedigree of the home–who lived there, what they did for a living and the year the house was built. The circa 1700s houses, with their brilliant colours, impeccable trim and window treatments, shamefully look better than the Meanderer’s circa 1980’s abode. The only designation our Kaleden house is getting is least likely to be sold by a drive-by.

Dog at the Pub

Just a random shot of The Dog leaving the pub on a day trip to Mahone Bay NS

Lunenburg golf course beckons from across the Bay. An interesting course if you like hitting balls blindly over hills while waiting for golfers from other tees to hit across your fairway. The one lane track leading to the course makes for an interesting game of chicken on the way to the clubhouse. The views of town across the bay make up for the inconvenience. Oh, and it has a cannon on the course in case we get attacked on the ninth hole.

Lunenburg skyline

View from the golf course, for this we can forgive the golf ball dodging fairways

Taking our leave , we head around the coast and make a side trip to Shelburne, settled by British Loyalists after the American Revolution, along with a large contingent of blacks who fled the U.S. in search of a better life Surprise, surprise, the land they were given was sub-standard to that given to white Loyalists.

Unlike Lunenburg, Shelburne has a “down on its heels” feel to it. The historic waterfront is well-kept but almost deserted when we arrive on a sunny weekday. This leads to the inevitable ice-cream stop, because as you know, sunny day equals ice cream. My new favourite is vanilla with salted caramel and licorice swirls with almonds. Shelburne, I think I love you. (Editor’s note – The Dame’s love is fleeting.)

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New word learned in Shelburne – Dory – meaning small, incredibly over-priced boat

Gorged with dairy, we finish the day in Yarmouth, not to be confused with Dartmouth which is across the Bay from Halifax. Yarmouth’s claim to fame is lobster fishing and a ferry to Maine.

Our campground, about 12k outside town, is weekend home to half the population of the surrounding area, and their cousins and in-laws. We are literally the only non-Nova Scotians in the park. They are a friendly bunch, inviting us to join a game of ring toss which appears to involve throwing metal washers into containers and drinking copious amounts of the beverage of your choice. The winner is determined by whoever is standing at the end of the game. (Editor’s note – all participants safely left the playing field after the game)

Giant beer can

All that remains from the Wharf Rat Rally is this giant beer can

The Dude’s insatiable appetite for all things scallop, leads us to Digby, self-proclaimed scallop capital of Canada. It’s also the gateway to the Bay of Fundy, of the aforementioned tides of doom.

Wharf rat rally riders

Rally Rats escape Digby

We arrive at the end of the long weekend and the Wharf Rat Rally, Canada’s answer to Sturgess, a massive mélange of motorcycle enthusiasts billed as Canada’s largest two-wheeled party. Given the number of bikes we passed on our way in, it lived up to its billing. Boomers with expensive topped out Harleys, trikers with grandma on the back, serious bearded riders with sleeve tats, posers with sleek foreign bikes, designer sunglasses and harness boots and biker club wannabee’s, leather jackets emblazoned with logos vaguely hinting at a Sons of Anarchy vibe, roared past on their way back to civilian life.

Digby campground overlooks a peninsula where we get our first look at the impact of the tides here. Every six hours the tide goes out leaving a barren landscape of sand and waterlogged plants. How anything survives in the salt water is amazing.
A day trip down the peninsula to Brier Island gives us a taste of the fickleness of coastal weather. We start out in a mixed bag of cloud and sun and end up at the ferry to the island in a thick pea soup fog and temperature drop of over 10 degrees. Turning tail we head back to Digby.

Dry docked boat Digby neck

Wow, somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do

The Dude, who has never met a nap he didn’t like to take, decides to sit out a day trip to Annapolis Royal, which is fine with The Dog, who has never met a car ride he didn’t want to take. Our first leg of the day trip is a photo-op at the Point Prim lighthouse, which in my mind is secondary to the wild rock formations which surround the place.

Stilt house in Bridgewater

Bear River where a deck party can turn into a water party real quick

Photos snapped, sniffing and leg-lifting over (for The Dog, to be clear) we head up coast to Annapolis. Of all the cities/towns we’ve visited with military backgrounds, this town has the historic cred. Attacked thirteen times throughout its tumultuous history, it has morphed into a peaceful quaint little town. The remnants of Fort Anne and its earthen walls are all that remains. Oh and the cannons, can’t forget the cannons.

George into the sunset

George clops off into the sunset

Next….The real Bay of Fundy and the Incident….