Eagle, Nova Scotia, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016


In Baddock, Nova Scotia, Adventures East Campground had super slow internet and no satellite reception. But the beautiful coastal views and being able to go see puffins and eagles made it all quite bearable.

We have seen whales and lots of seals in California, but we have never seen puffins. When we were in Maine, we inquired about a wildlife boat tour that promised puffin viewing, and were told it was too late in the season to see any.

However, we were excited to learn that puffins were still around Nova Scotia, and that we could see them from a boat tour that left from St. Ann’s Bay.  

The Donelda Puffin boat tour was advertised in a promotional booklet I picked up at the Visitors' Desk on the ferry over. We called ahead, and were told that yes, there were puffins still on and about Bird Island. The tour cost was reasonable, about $38+tax USD each, for seniors.

Although it had rained during the night, Saturday dawned with only a bit of overcast, and by mid-day the sun was burning off the surface fog.

The boat seemed old but well painted. The 24 or so seats were pretty full.  After a cloudy start, the sun came out in full force, and the 40 minute ride out to Bird Island was smooth.

Our guide Donelda began by talking about the birds we would see.

Suddenly she stopped, and said to look out to the left because an eagle was coming to catch a fish.

What? How did she know this? Well, it turned out that the eagles knew the tour boat, and knew she would toss out fish for them to catch!

Going in for the catch:
taken with Merikay's point and shoot Sony RX-100,

Away he goes with lunch in talon: taken with Craig's Nikon D3 and Tamron 28-300mm lens.

He caught it, and soon there were three other eagles coming for a free lunch as well. Wow, I was so excited. They were so close we could see every feather. 

We passed a lot of really interesting rocky shores.

Once out at the Bird Islands we saw lots of different kinds of sea birds and seals. 

Puffins are very small, quick birds. We saw some in their hole-in-the-cliff nests, but without a monster telephoto lens it was impossible to capture decent pictures.

There were many of them bobbing around in the water like little black rubber duckies, or zipping away in flight. The above two images are the only ones we took that were worth sharing. 

But pictures or not, the experience of seeing them was wonderful!

There were many other birds on the Bird Islands. But again,  although we were close enough to see them, we were too far away for really good photos.

Nesting Gulls

Two Razorbills in their nest

Cormorant sentry

There were also many eagles on the island. Our guide did not seem to like the eagles here, because she said they were preying on the young of the other species. 

Some of the seals seemed interested in our boat, while others were just lying around on the shore rocks.

As we drift in and out of gift shops I always look at the socks on sale. It has been awhile since I have seen any that made me happy!

Puffins and lobsters, how good is that!

We met two other Alfa-owner couples in Baddock, but we left the morning after they arrived.

We are now 60 miles southwest in Linwood Harbour Campground. Happily we have good Wifi and full hookups, but despite a treeless location, our Direct TV cannot pick up a signal.

And cool breezes are blowing in the windows.  

[From Craig] The satellite TV situation is interesting for a techie like me.  DirecTV worked in New Brunswick and on Prince Edward Island.  In our last campground near Baddeck Nova Scotia, the dish simply couldn't see the DirecTV satellites at 99, 101, and 103 degrees west.  Today in Linwood (60 miles SW), the dish pretty much completed acquiring the 3 satellites, but the DirecTV receiver had problems receiving most channels within a few seconds.  I hope that we will receive DirecTV again at our next stop near Halifax.  I'll let you know.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ad Hoc Alfa Gathering in Baddock, Nova Scotia

We came home on Saturday and discovered two other Alfas had come to the same park.  

Dick and Trisha Albritton and their friends the Sims are also touring Cape Brenton.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Thoughts about Full Time Life, and going to Nova Scotia

This post is being published from a Tim Horton's Coffee Shop. Great coffee, good donuts, and free Wifi.  Yay Canada!

We took the ferry over to Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island on Thursday, and then drove almost 200 miles to a campground in Baddeck, NS.  The day was long, but we managed with few difficulties.

Our Friday adventure was to drive the 186km loop called the Cabot Trail. Although there were long stretches of just forest or farmland on both sides of the road, the vista points overlooking the rugged coastline were breathtaking.

The pictures in this post are from our drive around the loop. They speak for themselves.

Cabot Trail - St. Lawrence Bay

Recently someone commented on how far we had come since the beginning of my blog. Not just in distance, but in experiences, and they suggested I write about how we felt about it all.

Well, in a nutshell, we both are very happy that we made this choice in our lives. It is coming up on three years since we put the house on the market and moved into the Alfa. I for one have never regretted that move, and I don’t think Craig has either.

Water on the rocks, Cabot Trail

Has everything always been wonderful? No. But then who can say that about a three year period in their lives? All I can say is that we have had ten times more good days than bad. The technical problems and trip planning have stimulated our minds in a way no house-bound retirement existence could. (Occasional grinding noises.)  We have both discovered much about material things that we don’t need, but at the same time how important small personal touches can be.

Home is where you park it!  When the slides go out and the levelers go down, we are home. We like having our own familiar bed each night, and being able to cook most of our own meals in our own kitchen.

Cabot Trail - Green Cove, the farthest East we have been in our RV (60 W)

Our marriage? Nothing is perfect. We are not perfect. I would say that living in an RV, 100% of the time, concentrates everything. We are both far more aware of the other's moods and feelings. Although we may be quicker to get pissed about something, the anger dies down much faster than if we had more space. Who would have thought that after fifty years we would both have to still work at it? But we do, and so far it is working more often than not. I’m happy when he is happy, and he is happy when I’m happy. What more can you ask from life?

As beautiful as it is, like our marriage, the Cabot Trail is always being repaired!

A funny thing happened to me at a gas station in Whycocomagh, NS: Craig was driving the Alfa, and as is our routine, I hopped out when he pulled into the station to verify where the diesel pump was and to guide him in.  There were other cars at the pump, so I was just waiting our turn when gentleman in a red shirt, who was filling up at the other side of the pump island, said: “I’m glad you enjoyed the Hopewell Rocks.”  What? Who was he? I quickly ran through my memory of people I had met in recent parks and at the Rocks, and came up empty. I did not recognize him, so I asked: “Who are you?”

His name was Wayne. He explained he had read my blog, and knew Al from Bayfield!  Wow, small world!  What are the odds that I would meet someone who had read my blog, at a gas station in Nova Scotia?  Small world.  Love it!

Have you met friends you have never met before?

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Bit more about Prince Edward Island

Our last three days on Prince Edward Island were a mixed bag of activities.  

On Monday we went into Charlottetown for the afternoon.  It is not big, but there is some industry and some buildings of historic interest. First we went to the Beaconsfield Historic House, which  was built for a man whose wealth was from the sailing ship industry.  When steamships took over the seas he went bankrupt.

I don’t know why I like to tour these homes, but it feels like it gives us a look into the lives the rich lived in the past.

Another interesting place in Charlottetown is St. Dunstan's Basilica.  

Craig said its cross shape reminded him of Notre Dame in Paris.

I liked the ceiling.

Our final stop in town was one I had taken from the itineraries of two different "Caravan" companies. I confess I have their catalogues and have used them as source for interesting places in the Maritime Provinces.

The Cows Creamery Ice Cream Factory Tour promised to be yummy, but was a real bust! Their movie was a promotional about their Tee Shirts, and the tour was a hallway with three windows.  One was into the teeshirt printing room, one was into a room with inactive machinery and the third was into a cheese storage room. 

There were no "free samples", not that that mattered. Basically it was a draw to get people into their store to buy rather fun teeshirts and ice cream, which by the way we did!

It was worth the admission price: $0. If you want good ice cream stop by, but if you want a factory tour, forget it!

Tuesday we drove the Alfa 47 miles to Northumberland Provincial Park, which is very close to the dock of the ferry that we’ll take Thursday. The only downer is there is no wifi of any kind, but we found a hot spot at a Visitor's Center about a mile away. 

Wednesday was another “drive around” day. We did most of the “Points East” loop along the coast. One of Craig’s goals was to visit one or two distilleries. We were disappointed in the one that said they did potato vodka because they have shifted their still to Halifax.  All they had in PEI was a sales room.

The second distillery did not do potato vodka at all.  Their spirits are made from liquid mash they import from mainland Canada. But we tasted and bought some of their product anyway. 

Their still was operating, and we got to hear about the process.

These are two of the view points we stopped at:

At the easternmost point of PEI, the sea looked very cold and a bit on the rough side.

This sandy beach was adjacent to farmland.

If you ever get a chance to visit this pleasant island, give yourself lots of time to just relax! We were there for six nights, and could have stayed longer.

This is our last post from PEI. I am publishing it from the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Visitor Centre in Nova Scotia. Wifi at our current park is very weak, and I don't know when we will be connected again. Today, Friday, we are driving the Cabot Trail, and if it doesn't rain tomorrow we will take a Whale- and Puffin-watching boat tour.

The weather is great, in the 70s with scattered rainy days. I hope all of you who are down in the States keep cool during the heat wave!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sunday Drive to the Potato Museum

When I was a child, my parents and I would often take long Sunday afternoon drives. Usually my four older brothers and sisters were off doing their own thing, but since I was the youngest, I went along. Gas was cheap then, and going for a drive was just something people would do for entertainment.

Craig and I do that as well. We call it exploring, but it has the same feel. On Sunday we headed out to explore the Northwest part of Prince Edward Island.

I found a listing for a Potato Museum in one of my resources. It was a bit of a drive, but fun and educational.

Farming and processing potatoes are among the primary businesses of PEI. Of course there is also oyster production and fisheries, but the potato is king.

A branch of Craig's family tree perhaps?

I love potatoes. When I was a child, no supper was complete without potatoes, and along with bread they were the one thing we could always have more of.

They were the food of the poor. My mother told stories about growing potatoes in a field adjacent to their home when she was a child, and how they stored enough to feed the family throughout the winter. 

At the potato museum we learned about the history and development of potatoes, and how they went from a strange tuber from the Incas, which was fed to slaves and the pigs, to a staple food crop. Although there are 4000 actual varieties, including some inedible wild ones, all the potatoes we eat fall into seven kinds.

So, how do you build an exhibit of all the ways a potato crop can be ruined and make it interesting to someone other than a potato farmer?

This long row of little coffins each contained (a model of?) a potato showing the damage caused by some pest or disease, and information about how to prevent it from attacking the next planting. Often the treatment included planting other crops in the problem field for at least three years. 

Of course there were exhibits of old farm machinery and of new technology advancing the safe storage and distribution of potatoes.  All in all, it was a very good little museum, and deserved its place on the "Best Things to Do on Prince Edward Island."

What is Prince Edward Island like? As tourists we really only get an overall impression of a place. We do not know what the everyday problems or joys of the people are. The people we meet are usually employed in the tourist industry, or are on vacation. 

My general impression of the parts of the island we have seen is that it is very rural. There are many, many small (probably still family owned and run) farms. There are some large industrial farming concerns, and they probably function in cooperation with the smaller operations. We did see some very large fields, but most were smaller and divided by tree lines.

I always look at the condition and style of houses as we travel. I noticed large, well kept clapboard homes, as well as many smaller single story places.

At the same time I saw dozens of very old, empty, decaying house, barns and other structures. Often there was an empty house on the same lot as a newer home. I learned in Nebraska that often farmers will move to a nicer home in town and still work the family land. I assume it is the same here, and the empty houses just haven't been taken down. Hermit crabs come to mind: when they outgrow one shell, they just abandon it and move on to a bigger, better one.

PEI is a beautiful place. It has not been spoiled by tourism or chain attractions, and is very welcoming to strangers.

On our way back to camp, we stopped at a beach and took a walk. 

The tide was low and there were people out swimming. Craig tested the water and said it was not very cold.

The sea is an amazing sculptor. These sandstone cliffs have been here a long time, but the life-guard told us they had lost over ten feet in the last year due to erosion. 

When we saw this sign, I said:
"We're not in Kansas anymore Toto!"

Most signs we saw in Canada were in both English and in French.  This stop sign is on a little island that is First Nation land. 

Our Sunday drive was long, but it was a good drive.

We finished with a nice meal of fresh oysters (for Craig) and a dish of the best seafood chowder I have ever had, at a little roadside cafe called the "Red Door". 

I end this post with a few of the pictures we took at the Brackley Beach, on the Saint Lawrence Bay just up the road from our campground.

Sunset, always my favorite time of day.  

What is yours?