A Nova Scotia Family Adventure; Monsoon Edition

spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 1

The stage was set for an amazing time. I had just finished a marathon session of fabrication and modifications for our camper van "Boomer", the 2 year old and 4 year old had their babies dressed for the road, complete with bottles and extra dipes, and my wife was at the end of planning which spots we must absolutely see along the way. The route would take us through the northern corridor of our fine state of Maine into New Brunswick Canada. From there we wouldn't doddle as our sights would be set on the northern most tip of Nova Scotia in Cape Breton.

Cape Breton is a fascinating part of the world and for being as close as it is to our home state it is remarkable how different it is, both in landscape as well as culture. The area is populated by multiple generations of immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and the culture, food, music, and even the language is still maintained in this area. The landscape is raw with lots of opportunities for off-highway travel. Needless to say we were excited for the experience.

To get across the northern expanse of our home state requires around 4 hours and 300 miles of driving. Since we had littles on board these long stretches weren't going to be reasonable in single chunks. Packing on the 13th stretched into the late morning as I'd been up until 2:00am with last minute prep. Of course, it was raining when I awoke which would end up being a sign of things to come. The rain slowed down the process and we didn't hit the road until around 11 am.

We stopped briefly a couple hours north to visit a bunch of family and stock up on a couple last minute items. I discovered during the last of the errands that the propane tank I'd mounted up to the rear rack was expired and it wouldn't be filled. Luckily it still had maybe 1/3 of a charge so we proceeded with the hope that it would last the trip.

The real trip started north of the city of Bangor where the population disperses quickly and the "real Maine" begins. Given the hour, we didn't have a ton of time to explore, and with the weather it ended up being fine. We stopped in to Katahdin Iron Works briefly thinking we could get to our first camping spot from this route.



The washboard roads in this area were pretty bad...our first of many miles of such abuse.

ExPo as well as our local overlanding club Northeast Overland were represented right from the beginning...



The woman at the gate suggested we could get to Jo Mary Lake (our destination for the evening) from the KIW road network but it was a complicated trip. If the weather had been better and it was earlier in the day I would have taken this as a great challenge, but given the reality of our situation and the two hungry little ladies in the back seat, we backtracked and took the preferred route.



This navigation setup in its core form has been utilized in the van for years with great success, but this trip saw the addition of a Panasonic CF-18 Toughbook. The software throughout the trip was Delorme Topo 8 with all the latest updates. In the US this software works really well but we found it to be marginal in Rural Canada.

Camp Site #1 Jo Mary Campground.





The weather was looking pretty awesome for the extended forecast.



Of course I hadn't finished fixing a couple leaky door seals and brought the supplies to do it on the road. This ended up being a waste of packing space as when it was raining we couldn't fix the seals, and when it wasn't raining we were out enjoying the fact it wasn't raining. They spent the whole trip packed away. Lesson learned.

We had a lovely evening with a dinner of pre-made pulled chicken and pasta and settled in for an evening of rain tapping on the roof and restless sleep in anticipation of the adventure ahead.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 2

As forecasted, we awoke to rain tapping on the roof and a beautiful fog over Jo Mary lake. Since this was the first morning, our routine of breaking down the sleeping setup, breakfasting, cleanup, and finally getting underway was a bit clumsy. Given the earliness of the adventure it didn't bother us to be a little slow to get moving. During the daily morning engine warm-up I noticed a whirring sound coming from the general transmission area. I'm pretty keen with knowing my Boomer-speak and this was a new sound. At first I thought maybe we were low on transmission fluid but given the rain and the feeling of wanting to get moving, I pushed off a check until we got into town.
Jo Mary lake and the associated camping accommodations were off the pavement by around 6 miles. One thing to note is that you really should be carrying cash for any off-pavement camping business transactions. The chances of a place many miles down a dirt road having communications necessary for credit/debit card transactions will be limited. We found multiple instances (the first of which being Jo Mary Campground) where cash is king. Keep it in mind.
The ride into Millinocket (the nearest town center) was uneventful but we didn't end up stopping to check fluids. We pushed ahead to Houlton which is the boarder town where we intended to cross into Canada.

Whole Latta Rain.



We found a local O'Riley auto parts store and checked the transmission fluid and engine oil. The engine was down 3 quarts (out of 12) but this wasn't concerning since Boomer does consume a little oil during engine running and I hadn't checked it for....well....quite awhile. The transmission fluid check was far more concerning as multiple checks indicated some serious over-filling. Boomer doesn't get a whole lot of miles put on it every year and I think the last time I checked the transmission fluid was maybe 2013 some time. I had noticed during the initial leg of the trip that the transmission spent a lot of time in the 200-215 degree F range which is on the upper end of normal operating temperature. That combined with the distinct whirring sound during idling in and out of gear told me we needed to get this fixed before crossing the boarder. A quick discussion with the O'Riley service manager got me a collection container, a spot in the back parking area, and an offer for any tools I might need. Things were looking up.



The rain stopped just long enough for me to pop one of the cooler lines and have my lovely assistant start the engine allowing the transmission to pump down the excess fluid. I opted to dump a majority of the fluid and swap for new stuff. Of course, when I refilled the transmission I over-filled again. If anybody out there knows how to fill a partially primed transmission with the CORRECT amount of fluid the first time I'd be very interested to learn the technique. The C6 transmission running in Boomer requires checking the fluid while the engine is running....so you fill, check, fill some more, check....overfilled....drain a bit....fill again....gah!!



In the end, we got "close" but still a bit overfilled. I was satisfied enough as the whirring was gone. A grateful handshake with the store manager (along with the receipts for gallons of transmission fluid, many quarts of Mobil 1, and a slick fluid transfer pump) and we were off toward the Canadian boarder.

Our boarder crossing was uneventful. I had expected at least a cursory inspection of Boomer from the stone-faced crossing guards, but they looked over the passports, asked a couple generic questions, and we were good to go. As we entered the boarder we turned off the cell phones with hopes of finding a Canadian SIM card for a spare GSM handset we brought along. That errand would have to wait until we got into a larger town down the road a bit.





Entering into Canada was a steady climb. Boomer isn't fast on a flat road, and the climbing we did for maybe the first 50 miles was tedious. We were running with emergency flashers for half the time due to the 8-10% grades on the large interstate system coming into Fredericton. Luckily the transmission was running a bit cooler with the reduction in fluid and we were averaging 180-200 deg F except for the long hills where we were still topping out around 230F.

Before entering Canada my wife did a quick search for a destination for the evening. We weren't expecting much, and we got everything we expected. It was a noisy wet spot, but they had hot showers and we were the only people there, so it was fine.



While parked for the night I attempted to seal up a couple weeping leaks in the front quarter lights in the topper. Silicone is great unless you're trying to fix a leak in the rain. I did my best and the repair ended up holding for the remainder of the journey, but I was soaked in the end. The kiddo wouldn't share the umbrella. We did mac and cheese for dinner since it was easy to prepare indoors in the rain.

It was a long stressful day so we packed it in as the daylight dwindled hoping for sunshine and smooth running for day 3.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 3

The sound of rain pounding the roof awoke the family around 7. Luckily the efforts with the caulking gun the evening before had been successful so my sleeping bag didn't get damp overnight. It's the little things that make the difference.

When registering at the campsite I had noticed the office also served as a diner, craft store, and museum. Given the weather and the desire for some sausage and eggs, we opted to delay our start with a sit down meal. The owner of the place was also our server and she was very fond of the girls. After a delicious meal and good coffee we took a look around. In the back was a cluttered but well-stocked automotive memorabilia museum. They had a bunch of neat old original signs, a beautiful chevy and a fully restored Ford 9N tractor. If the items were for sale I would have spent some money that day.









Once we were finished browsing it was time to dump the holding tank, fill up the water tank, and hit the road. The rain had eased a bit so the chores were easy. Our first destination of the day would be Moncton so we could acquire a SIM card for our phone. I really wanted to stay off the major roads if possible and we found a scenic albeit bumpy route which brought us into town.





Along the route Boomer started to do a strange acceleration / deceleration surge routine that was brand new. I had fueled up outside of Fredericton so the first thing that came to mind was bad fuel. I was running from the rear tank and hadn't fueled the front, so I swapped tanks and it seemed to smooth out again. We arrived in Muncton without further issue but the surging had me concerned. At the visitor center there I was able to hop on the computer and everything I read suggested there was air in the injection circuit. This air could be coming from the return lines, from the water/fuel seperator, lift pump, or possibly from a broken / cracked pickup tube within the fuel tank itself. Since the rear tank was giving me fits while the front tank wasn't, it seemed the most likely culprit was the pickup tube in the rear tank, especially since we had just traversed a bunch of horrible roads which jostled things terribly.

Given the jostling, I felt it might be a good idea to find another fuel filter since the tanks may have worked up some sediment. Enter Canadian Tire.



I had never been to a Canadian Tire before but had heard mythical tales about it. They are all true. It is like a mix of Napa and Sams Club. I wish I had more time to poke around but we were between storms and had miles to put on to the Nova Scotia boarder. I found a fuel filter which they brought behind the counter for checkout. I also picked up some fuel hose, some additional small hose clamps, and a tarp. There wasn't time to do anything in the parking lot with any of this stuff so it got stashed in the box for later.

We then found a local Virgin Mobil dealer to help us with our Canadian communication. Immediately it was clear we had a problem. The handset I brought along was an old AT&T unit and it didn't occur to me that a locked phone wasn't going to work. They actually directed me to another booth that specialized in phone unlocking, but the $50 and 1 hour wait were a no-go. Additionally, to get a SIM card they wanted to basically set me up with a no-contract service which still requires credit checks, downpayments, etc. I just wanted a simple "pay as you go" kind of thing. They did have "burner" phones where you could pay as you go, but were only set up for local service and where we were headed, the long-distance rates would have been brutal. Only after returning to the states did I realize that I could have paid a nominal fee (certainly less than a burner and associated per-minute costs) to have our primary phones temporarily enabled for international calling and data. Next time this is what we'll do. I'd be curious to know how others deal with this, as traveling without a good means of communication is tricky. Canada actually had more pay phones than I have seen in the states in the last 20 years, but half of them were out of service and weren't conveniently located along our route.

So with a bag of parts and no cell phone, we headed out of Muncton toward Nova Scotia.

We arrived at the Nova Scotia visitor center around 4pm local time (Atlantic Standard BTW) and picked up some information on our intended route as well as camping accommodations for the evening.

The visitor center was beautiful and looked over a bay scattered with windmills.





Boomer had a chance to dry off a little as we got some info.





Inside I met a couple guys on BMW's from Indiana. They had just been to Meat Cove the night before and had nothing but rave reviews. I didn't envy their mode of transportation and they said they'd been driving through rain all week. I didn't ask whether they were on ExPo or not but I suspect they are.

We headed just a bit more Northeast for camping at one of the many Canadian Provincial Parks we would end up staying at. These facilities are very nice and relatively cheap (~$25 cad / night). We happened upon one of the last available spots and set up camp...in the rain....again.



We were running out of in-camper meals so it was time to break out the grille. If this grille setup isn't big pimpin than I don't know what the hell is.



We had a shower facility right nearby so the girls were able to get cleaned up and we settled in for the night.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 4

Holy Smokes!! Sunshine!!!

The day started right. We had a quick breakfast, made some coffee for the road, and sat in front of the campground office for a bit checking e-mail off their wifi connection. Boomer was still starting poorly from either tank which had me a bit concerned. Once it was going we were ok, but clearly there was badness happening somewhere. I did a little more research while connected to the interwebs and decided the issue wasn't the tank but from air entering the injection circuit somewhere else. The likely culprits were a couple damp return couplings on the injectors, so I decided that after the days' activities I'd pop the doghouse and have a look.

We finally buttoned things up with the internets and hit the road around 9:15. After driving for a couple hours it was time to get fuel. We happened to be in the town of Pugwash and I stopped into a hardware store to get some additional bits and pieces just in case I found a cracked hose during the planned fuel system inspection. They didn't really have what I needed / wanted and I inquired whether there was some sort of chandlery (boat parts store) or the like in town. Pugwash was an old fishing village with a working waterfront. The woman at the counter just laughed. Not good.

She suggested the nearest parts store was 75 or so miles down the way. We were headed in that general direction so I wasn't too concerned. I found diesel a few minutes later toward the perimeter of town and stopped to fill up. While parked, a guy drove up to get fuel and we started a conversation about the van. Turns out he was having similar surging issues with his old 7.3L IDI truck so we compared notes. I realized just before he had pulled up that I had FORGOTTEN the fuel filter behind the counter at Canadian Tire!!! Luckily I also didn't pay for it, but now I was without a filter and Boomer was acting a little worse as we drove along. I relayed this frustration to my new acquaintance and he said he'd bought a filter at a Napa not 15 miles down the street. This was strange since I was just told by the woman at the hardware store that there wasn't a single part store for 75 miles. Anyway....I thanked him for this great information and we parted ways.

Off to Napa.

I found the parts store without any problem and they indeed had a filter. The guy behind the counter offered any tools I might need and a space in the dirt lot to swap out things. Did I mentioned the people up there are super duper nice?



Of course a hand tight filter 2 years ago is now a glued-on filter. No amount of swearing helped.

I popped my head back into the shop and bought a strap filter (he offered to lend me one, but I thought it best to have a filter wrench on board). While in there I also decided to buy a back-up electric lift pump since I really wasn't sure what was going on and the further we got in the trip, the less frequent the opportunity for parts.

The strap wrench didn't budge that filter. Back in I went and they lent me just about the biggest set of channel locks you've ever seen.



That did it. With a quick purge we were all swapped over and running again.

Down the road we went in search of a beach for a lunch break. On the way we happened upon a Lavender farm which all the ladies in the van had to stop at. It was actually quite beautiful and smelled great.





These are moments that define fatherhood.



Once everybody had their fill and we'd scared as many frogs as we could in the pond, we headed toward the ocean.

There was a great provincial day park at the end of a windy road. After getting lost for awhile due to some bad directions and a finicky GPS, we finally found it. The trouble ended up being worthwhile as the beach was a beautiful spot for some food and water play.





With the kids fed and exercised we hopped back in for the last leg of the day with a final destination in Cape Breton. Crossing over the Canso Causway onto the island of Cape Breton was pretty neat. You drop in from the highlands down into a valley, water on one side and huge cliffs on the other. There was some sort of mining operation happening which I never got the scoop on....it was huge.





A quick stop at the visitor center afforded us some great maps and a recommendation for a campsite in Whycocomagh about 45 minutes away. We popped back in Boomer for the last leg of the day and eventually found ourselves at the Whycocomagh provincial park. We picked a spot (there is a strange routine at campgrounds in Canada...you drive around to find the site you want, then come back with a list of your top 3 and they assign from there) and settled in.





After dinner the girls went to get cleaned up a bit so I broke into the doghouse to have a look. The filter installed earlier in the day didn't end up being the silver bullet so I needed to dig deeper. Sure enough there were 3 wet injector return caps. I didn't have the means to disassemble this part of the engine and even if I did, I really didn't want to.



So instead of breaking into it, I degreased the offending components and got out some RTV in hopes of a bandaid solution.



Everything in that picture was used in this repair. Everything.

I then went for a shower and we all packed it in for the day. Good sleeping weather.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 5

We awoke once again to sun which is always a good thing. Morning prep went without much of a hitch as we were starting to get a routine established.

Morning Routine:

1. Wake up with the alarm @ 6:45am
2. Poke children until they wake up
3. Crawl out of bed, fold up sleeping bags and upper bunk cushions
4. Push back upper bunk to "run mode"
5. Pack upper bunk area with all sleeping bags, privacy curtains, clean clothes bags, dirty clothes bags, pillows
6. Secure upper bunk area with cargo netting to prevent children from being bombed with dirty clothes bags
7. Fold up rear gaucho
8. Start Coffee
9. Exit Boomer, roll up awning
10. Police campsite
11. Prep for breakfast
12. Eat Breakfast
13. Turn off propane @ tank
14. Start Engine for warmup
15. Contain children in their seats
16. Head out.

Having to set up and take down the sleeping areas every night was a bit of a drag but with a rig the size of Boomer this is an unavoidable reality. It was considerably better than having to set up tents, cooking facilities, etc, so the complaint is only skin deep.

Today was the day we entered the Cabot trail. This loop circumnavigates the island of Cape Breton and was our end goal. Technically you can drive the Cabot trail in 4.5 hours but from all accounts, plan on 3 days. We heard about a music festival at The Gaelic College in Saint Ann and thought we'd check it out. Saint Ann happened to be the enterance to the Cabot trail so it was a convenient stop.





The college was absolutely beautiful and the music festival was scheduled to start a few hours after we arrived.







Instead of waiting around we decided to explore the area a bit and return later in the day to hear some local music. We proceeded down the Cabot trail and eventually stumbled upon a really neat metal sculpture shop.



The proprietor, Gordon, is a crusty old fella but truly passionate about his craft. His tools are a mixture of purchased and handmade equipment and his art is inspired by the natural forms this beautiful area provides him. His steel is all recycled either from industrial / farming equipment or from the sea. We had a great little chat about metalworking, the intricacies of MIG welding stainless steel, and how beautiful rusty metal can be.

www.ironart.ca



He turned us onto a hike just down the way which he thought the kids would enjoy. We thanked him and headed down for some lunch and a little exercise.

Down a bumpy dirt road we came across yet another provincial park (these things were everywhere!) with a couple hiking trails. One was a 3 mile loop to "the big falls", with the other being a 1 mile hike to "the little falls". We opted for little.



Of course, I forgot ALL of my fishing gear when we were packing so the signage for Salmon hit a sore spot. We packed some water and the camera and set down the well maintained trail. At the end of it we discovered a beautiful little falls with a couple guys flyfishing for salmon in one of the many pools.









They ended up catching a couple beautiful landlocked salmon...maybe 15"?

On the walk back up we got to talking with the two fellas and they said the Coyotes in the area were pretty large and rather dangerous. There was a loop road I wanted to ride on the way back to the festival and they said it would be fine as long as we didn't venture by foot into the woods too much. Apparently a girl had been eaten by coyotes a couple years prior in the same area I wanted to explore.

Gulp.

We hopped back into Boomer and, given the hour and the ominous warning, headed straight to the music festival. The show ended up being worth the wait and the kids danced their pants off.



Eventually it was time to head out. Exiting the parking area we came across this old Ford RV with roots similar to Boomer...they were from way out west and their rig looked more battered than ours. I decided the few little issues we were having probably paled in comparison to the stuff these folks have dealt with along the way.



We were headed to Ingonish for the night and had a bit more driving to do. Ingonish is at the head of the Highlands National Park and getting there was some very steep climbing. Luckily Boomer was behaving after the RTV treatment so we were able to ascend the 15% grades without much trouble....in 1st gear....all the way.





Unfortunately there weren't any half-way stops to get a picture of the slopes we were dealing with. There were signs everywhere for falling rocks and for trucks to use the lowest possible gear.



The landscape really started to change and we were getting very excited for things to come.



We pulled into Ingonish around 6pm and found what would end up being the sketchiest campground of the trip. It was all fine enough, just loud due to its proximity to the road and the sites were tightly packed. We ended up settling in next to a family from New Jersey traveling in a neat old Westy. We chatted with them quite a bit and the girls took a liking to the little tiny dog "Lady". Rain was coming back in so we did sausages on the grille and then buttoned everything up for the incoming deluge.



The kids were getting pretty tired at this point and we dealt with a couple meltdowns, but in the end all was good and we got to sleep as the sun finally set below the western horizon.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 6

We had an early start to the day in anticipation of the Cabot trail and Meat Cove....our most northern point of travel. Before heading out we needed to backtrack a bit into town for diesel and a hardware store. The evening before I had an issue with the quick disconnect propane fitting on the grille. It was leaking a bit when the hose was plugged in, and then when you removed the hose the female fitting was STILL leaking propane. We ended up getting through the evening but with the amount of time left on the road I needed to find a solution. Hardware stores in Cape Breton seem to be all owned by the same outfit and none of them are very good. I did find a couple pipe fittings which would allow me to cap off the offending component, and then I bought a small 1lb bottle of propane to get us through the rest of the trip with the grille. The quick disconnect would have to be shelved until we returned home. We were going to have breakfast on the road but I was craving waffles for whatever reason so we stopped at a little cafe for breakfast goodies.



After we filled our bellies with some great strawberry waffles it was off to find a beach with pink sand. My wife had stumbled upon a reference to it online during planning but once we got close nobody seemed to know anything about it. She ended up discovering the spot from a local and we headed over. It was overcast and sprinkling, but the girls had their hearts set of swimming.





They got a few minutes of cold water splashing in before it started to rain again so we packed it up headed up the coast toward Bay St. Lawrence. Along the way were a number of sea-side stop locations and with the ocean as worked up as it was that day, we had to stop a couple times to check out the madness. There is a raw beauty with an angry sea against sharp rocks. The ocean has no respect for anything.







We got to the beautiful fishing village of Bay St. Lawrence awhile later. This is a true and honest a representation of a fishing village as I've ever seen.





We were actually in Bay St. Lawrence in persuit of a trail to Money Point which is the TRUE northern most tip of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. We talked with a local fisherman who said we could get there by ATV, but the route which used to be accessible by 4x4 has been overgrown for years. This was a little disappointing, but we found another dirt road which brought us along a beautiful coastline just up from Bay St. Lawrence which satisfied by appetite for some dirt.





Once the road died out we turned around and headed toward Meat Cove. The road to Meat Cove is around 5 miles of dirt which, depending on who you talked to and what they were driving, was either good or bad. As we approached the dirt section of the route it began to rain again which turned the road surface into a mud slick very quickly. The road is very windy and has some rather steep (15%) sections. I kept to 2WD but did utilize 1st gear for both ascending and descending the worst sections





We arrived to the Meat Cove Campground around 3pm and I went to the "office" (read: garden shed) and met the proprietor of the establishment. He was burning insense and clearly was enjoying some greenery when we drove up. Being a very friendly fellow, this was all part of the flavor of the place and I found it comical. Once again we were instructed to have a look around and pick a spot. It was early enough in the afternoon that few locations had been taken. The descent into the campground isn't for the faint of heart, especially in the rain. Before I took the plunge we put the rig in 4L. There are spots on the bluff where this wouldn't be necessary, a couple of which were already taken by a Westy and a couple other 2WD rigs. Where I wanted to go clearly wasn't for those without the right equipment.....4' from the cliff edge looking right out over the cove.





The approach into the site was actually from the right of the picture above and was down a very steep (~30 degree) portion of the hill. I can't express how glad I was for the brake upgrades I'd completed prior to the trip. Brake failure here would have meant death. Period. Only after we were settled in our spot did we see a secondary route which would have been a bit less precarious. Bah....road less traveled is the name of the game. As we dropped in and positioned there was a crowd was watching. I guess they were having a hard time believing Boomer was getting down into the prime camping spot. The owner said the only rigs that usually park down there are small 4x4 pickup trucks and Subarus who are tenting.





After getting settled the rain let up a bit so we decided to take a walk down to the beach. There is a trail from the campground but the wetness of the day encouraged us to follow the road. I'm glad we did, as the campground trail was cut off by a raging stream cutting the path in two.





While exploring the beach the rain really picked up again, so we headed back up to dry off and get a meal ready. I did some repair work on the propane system to cap off the quick disconnect and we grilled some chicken. The girls entertained themselves for awhile with Legos.



Just as the chicken was finishing up a gigantic thunderstorm rolled in over the mountains. We ate to the crack of thunder and the flash of lightening. Sitting on the edge of a cliff in a lightening storm had me more than a little worried, but I made sure we didn't have anything grounding us and we all stayed inside for the duration. I also brought the CB antenna down for the evening ;) We weren't able to get Boomer completely level at this site and the 5 degree list threw us all for a loop all evening. We settled in that night to the sound of crashing surf, rain on the roof, and dreams of toppling off the edges of cliffs.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 7

I'm not sure how to describe waking up to sun shining through your window directly across from your pillow, with the first view being a blue ocean blanketed by a blue sky, waves rolling in and a single seagull gliding on the updrafts at the edge of the cliff. Meat Cove. Astounding beauty in a part of the world that seems to have forgotten time and place. One of the big hopes while at Meat Cove was the spotting of whales down in the cove. We read multiple accounts of such a spotting and really really wanted to see it in person. The way we positioned the van in our campsite was mostly due to security of the children as I didn't want them to step out the side door and be looking out over a cliff. As a side benefit, the observation windows on the driver side looked out directly over the cove and ended up being a gazing window for the little ladies both during the dreary evening the night before, and then again in the morning.

After organizing the van a little, I headed up the hill to get some pictures of the magnificence.









On the way back down the hill I stopped by a very well equipped truck/camper combo and met Dan and Pat. They are from Idaho and spend lots of time on the road. They aren't members here but Dan had visited when looking at reviews on the camper he would eventually buy and outfit. They have spent years traveling from their home base down to Baja and all around North America. Very neat people and I invited them to pop in when they find themselves traveling through Maine in the coming months. They were in no hurry.

After heading back down to Boomer we breakfasted and then got ready to pack up. The girls were still scanning the horizon for whales without success. The ascent out of the campsite was rather uneventful, with yet another crowd gathering to witness Boomer climbing the bank and making a hard right hand turn to get back to the more formal road surface. The night before, I had tried to reduce our lean by emptying the passenger side airbag. It did help a bit, but I forgot to reinstate pressure before we set off. I had only a little front driver side wheel spin when exiting the site, and had I filled the bag (thus applying more pressure on that front driver side tire), we would have climbed out without any slippage whatsoever. Sometimes having a 10,000 lb rig is good.

Only sometimes.

Dan and Pat beat us out of camp and had gone down to the beach for a little kayaking. I wanted to get down to the beach as well, and even though I got the slightest eye-roll from my co-pilot as we descended, I was happy as a clam.



Driving on a beach was something I'd always wanted to do. Check.

We headed back towards Bay St. Lawrence as my wife had seen some signs for a whale watch boat. We had no idea what the schedule would be or whether they were even running, so we headed over without much expectation.

Luckily they were running and the boat was to leave in half an hour. Great Success. The girls were very excited (as were we) and the boat captain was happy to have a beautiful day and a boat full of paying passengers. There were weather warnings on the radio for high winds and associated seas for the late morning and afternoon so we left the harbor with the expectation of being bucked around a bit.

Our first leg took us back up the coast past Meat Cove. We spotted some eagles and amazing rock formations. This whole area is the result of glacial activity millions of years ago. As you look at the rock and sedimentary layers of their formation, it is astounding to think that the layers we were looking at originally sat horizontal but due to the force of the glaciers, were now vertical. Amazing.





Once we hugged the coastline for maybe 10 miles, we headed out in search of whale. About 20 minutes they started appearing and we were right in the middle of them for maybe 75 minutes.









I've lived around the sea my whole life but have never done a "whale watch". It was a profound experience to have such massive creatures literally within reach, gliding like ghosts under the boat. Terrifying and Thrilling. My respect for nature and for all of the creatures that comprise it is very deep. Combine that with the power and grace of a rolling ocean and it is an experience that can change you.

We eventually had to bid farewell to these graceful behemoths as the wind was growing and the swells were rising. We headed back to the harbor at a good clip with salty smiles.



Boomer was waiting, feeling maybe a little miffed at being temporarily abandoned for aquatic pursuits.



We got off the boat and thanked the captain for such a wonderful adventure. Lunch in Boomer and then we headed south and west for the first time in over a week.

The rest of the afternoon was spent continuing our counter clockwise path around the Cabot Trail. Around 4:00 we neared where we thought would be our camping destination....a privatly owned campground which we'd been following signs for the last hour. Unfortunately we just couldn't locate it. You'd drive down a road with signs for the campground and not see it. Turn around, see signs for the same campground pointing where you'd just been. Still didn't see it. We were all tired and there was some frustration starting to peek out. We ended up ditching this site for another campground 10 miles down another road.

You know how sometimes serendipity happens?

Well, the "make do" campground we ended up finding was just that. When we first drove up it appeared to be a rather disgusting RV park. Being late in the day and already rather grumpy, I wasn't pleased but figured it would do for the night. I got to the office and told the office attendant that I didn't need any hookups and would prefer a quiet site away from the ruckus if possible. I was directed down a small dirt road.

This is what we found.







I wouldn't say it rivaled Meat Cove, as the sites were drastically different. I will say that what I thought would be a complete disappointment of a campsite ended up being a member of the "Top 5" of all time. The ocean wasn't like anything we have in Maine. The whole package reminded me of maybe Oregon or Washington State...very Pacific. The waves were crashing on a beautiful sandy beach and we were one of the only ones on the peninsula.







We explored the beach for awhile before getting back to Boomer for a dinner of mexican rice and tortillas. After cleanup the clouds started breaking and we were graced with a sky which my photography skills just couldn't do justice.







It quite literally drew a tear.

Awhile later a squall came through and the rain line skirted the shore. We never got wet.



The wind was picking up so I ended up pulling in the awning for fear of it being dismantled during the night. The wind rocked us to sleep as if we were on a boat.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 8

Blustery and Cold. This was the name of the game at the start of day 8. The wind was howling and we kept ourselves inside Boomer for the duration of the morning routine. We took advantage of the dump station at the RV section of the campground before hitting the road. We were planning on a little backtracking to visit the Larch Wood factory in East Margaree and thoughts of the trip home were starting to creep into our heads.

http://www.larchwoodcanada.com/

These cutting boards are amazingly beautiful. We settled on a 16" cutting board which we picked from their factory store selection. The rain had come back in and our second stop of the day, the Margaree Fish Hatchery, got dropped from the itinerary. We briefly discussed an alternate plan of winding our way down the coast to Yarmouth and grab the ferry home, but a quick call for pricing and a calculation for fuel savings vs. ferry passage put us back to the original plan. At Margaree, the Cabot trail changes to the Ceiligh Trail (pronounced Kay-Lee), so we hopped on the Ceiligh (Rt 119 I think) for a trip along the cost toward the Canso Causway and beyond.

This part of the route was very hilly and we traveled through another highlands section on the way. The rain was steady and we kept to 1st gear for the steep ascents and descents to be easy on the transmission and the brakes.





In one of the table lands we happened upon a large Mumma Moose and her Baby. They were grazing on the side of the road and we slowed down as they started lumbering into the woods. My wife tried to catch a picture...



If you can see the moose in there, you're doing better than I am. Unfortunately the kids were napping and they were NOT happy to hear they'd missed the sighting of a moose.

We exited the highlands and had a remarkable drive along the shoreline.





Around lunchtime we rolled through Judique and stopped at the Celtic Music Interpretive Center to see if there was anything going on. Once again, we lucked out and discovered there would be live music at the cafe over the lunch hour. We got a table, ordered some delicious sandwiches, and ate to the sound of Fiddle and Piano. It was great. We met a few really nice people in the parking lot on the way out. One was a local who, had we been planning to stay longer, would have taken us under his wing and showed us everything he loved about his home town. We also met a couple traveling from Tennessee in a 4 Wheel Camper.



They had owned the rig for 8 years and bought it factory direct. He had nothing but rave reviews for the camper and they were going to be traveling for the foreseeable future. Neat Stuff.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the road making miles. We ended up staying at the provincial park in Amherst where we'd stayed on day 3. We weren't psyched about staying at the same place twice, but there is only 1 road into and out of Nova Scotia, and Amherst is just too convenient. No pictures of that campsite since we literally stayed at the exact same site as before. While at camp, we met another family from our home town who were just setting out on the same adventure we were finishing up. Turns out they live not far from us, and our girls take swim lessons at the same pool.

Small world.

Tomorrow would be a very very long drive as we were intent to be over the Maine Boarder by nightfall.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 9

We had an early start due to the miles we'd need to put on. The GPS was telling us around 250 miles, most of which being quite slow. Our route would take us across the Nova Scotia / New Brunswick boarder through Muncton, then turn toward the coast along the Bay Of Fundy toward Calais ME. The first leg of the trip was rather uneventful to Muncton. Boomer had started misbehaving again and the throttle surging was tiresome. The problem that once was isolated to the rear tank was now rearing its ugly head on the front tank, but with less severity. I had devised a temporary band-aid solution which had been working well over the last 4 or 5 days. This was more of a procedure than a fix, as it involved popping the hood with the engine running and purging the filter head schrader valve of air until solid fuel came out. It was messy and I was getting tired of continually being bathed in diesel. We didn't capture any pictures along the Bay of Fundy mostly because it didn't really speak to us. Things were looking a lot more like our home state, and the need fo r capturing the landscape just wasn't pressing. The roads along 114 which go through the Fundy National Park were pretty terrible, and whatever was mildly broken in Boomer causing all of the air to enter the diesel injection circuit was now getting far worse. The rear tank was completely useless and the front tank required constant throttle adjustments. The 6.9L International didn't sound happy and was making lots of bad injector sounds. We didn't allow this to slow our progress too much, though the need to stop and purge the filter was now an hourly affair.

At one of the "purge stops" we happened upon a blueberry stand which was remarkably busy....

Gawkers.



For lunch, we got off Rt 1 and found a neat covered bridge to explore.



Then back in the van for more miles.



We approached the boarder and decided we could make our way into Maine before nightfall. The crossing back into Maine was uneventful though pulling out of the guard station under a cloud of black smoke and acceleration due to our injection issue was not my proudest moment.

A quick stop at the Calais visitor center got us information on a State Park in Cobscook Bay about 30 miles down the road. The driving was miserable, but the roads in the states are considerably better, so we made it there in one piece, added some water to the water tank (bone dry), and found our spot. It was beautiful and private. There was a playground on site so the kids burned off some energy while we tried to stay awake.

The evening was warm and dry so we broke out the grille, sausages and spaghetti with smores for desert.



The reality that this was our last night was not lost on anybody. There was no sense of joy at being close to home as we all just wanted to keep going.

Restless sleep.

SG
 
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spencyg

This Space For Rent
Day 10

The final day.

It was a beautiful morning. We did our normal routine and got ready to head out.





The cove in front of our site was calm and there were loons calling to each other down on the bank





We would first backtrack along Rt 1 to Eastport, a small fishing community just off Passamaquoddy Bay (think back to Disney's "Pete's Dragon"). The area is beautiful and we wanted to check out the down-town area after hearing there had been quite a resurgence in the artist community in the last few years.

Sure enough, Eastport is a thriving little town and it was fun to walk around the shops and peek into the galleries. We stopped for some pastries at a little cafe while looking over the working waterfront.





There was a strange ferry or skow off in the arbor....it may have been the ferry between New Brunswick and Eastport. Not sure I'd want my rig on there during any sort of weather.



On our way out of town we stopped at the famous Raye's Mustard, one of the last stone ground mustard manufacturers in the US. If you're a fan of mustard you should go out of your way for some Raye's. Luckily on this trip, we didn't have to.



Boomer was really acting up and I was starting to wonder whether we would make it home. The ride between Eastport and Bangor was around 2.5 hours with very little stopping, so I figured we'd at least make it to a larger urban center before I needed to do anything.

Well, we were rolling along for around 2 hours when we hit a LLLOOOONNNNGGGG line of traffic which was the result of a traffic accident many miles ahead. I had purged the injection circuit about half an hour prior to hitting the mess of stopped cars and thought we'd be ok.

Wrong.

After 10 minutes of sitting, Boomer started idling poorly, missing, surging, and generally was "on its last leg". There were 2 lanes of traffic and we were, of course, on the inside lane. We signaled a truck in the other lane to let us merge before we turned into a secondary cause of traffic congestion. As Boomer pulled to the shoulder it died. Damnit.

I popped the hood and had my wife crank the engine while I hit the purge valve. Nothing but air. Eventually I got fuel and Boomer started again. We merged back into traffic and the same thing happened not 2 minutes later. Big trouble. We happened to be stopped on a shoulder which connected to a dirt road. I checked the GPS and it said the road led to some side connection streets which should redirect us around the worst of the mess. I got Boomer started again and we headed down the road. As long as the throttle was up the injection circuit seemed to be able to keep up with the incoming air. Unfortunately, the GPS didn't tell us that the back half of the road hadn't been.....finished.

Around we turned and got back into traffic. We died 2 more times before I finally just started holding the idle at 1500 RPM in neutral, and then popping it into gear temporarily when we needed to move forward. This kept us with traffic and allowed us to make forward progress over the next half an hour of stop and go movement.

When we finally got to a side road which would get us back to my folks house we took it. Boomer had very little power up over the hills on the way but we made it, and the engine died as we rolled down the driveway of my parent's house. Relief.

At this point I was just glad to be in a spot where we were safe and where I knew I could really dig in to see what the heck was going on. While the kids were playing with their grandparents I started ripping and tearing. The doghouse needed to come completely out which required the removal of the passenger seat.





I poked around a bit and found a wet return line hose and lots of diesel-dampened cast iron. I disassembled the questionable bits and we headed into town to find some parts.

Of course, they didn't have exactly what I needed, but I found a couple pieces of hose which I could make do with. We got back to the house and I made my repairs. Boomer started with a few cranks, I purged the filter bowl and then waited to see whether the repair would hold the air.

No Love. Still tons of air coming in, and within minutes of purging the bowl, Boomer started hesitating and bucking again at idle.

At this point I had to assume the return line circuit was not to blame and that I needed to direct my attention elsewhere. Thinking back to what I'd read when this issue first started appearing in Muncton NB, I located the stock water/fuel separator on the frame rail. It seemed to be in good shape and wasn't leaking or showing any signs of faulty operation. Given my situation, I was willing to try nearly anything, so I got out another piece of hose and short circuited the separator. Now the lift pump was drawing fuel directly from the tank instead of pulling it first through this little frame-rail mounted device. A few more cranks of the starter and Boomer fired up. I once again (for literally the 50th time that week) purged the bowl. Immediately I noticed far more air and fuel flow than before and the air purged very quickly, turning into a solid stream of fuel. I let the engine idle for a couple minutes and hit the schrader valve again. Solid Fuel. I gave it another 5 minutes of idling and repeated the purge. Solid Fuel.

Bingo.

I don't want to talk about how 2 minutes of work fixed a problem that had plagued our entire trip.

I reassembled the doghouse and seat, cleaned up, packed the tools, and we loaded up for the final leg of our journey.

2 hours of very pleasant driving later we were home. The adventure was complete and we were safe and sound.

This was the first true long-duration adventure we'd had in Boomer since we took ownership 8 years ago. It has changed the way we now think about how we want to travel and already are having dreams of new destinations.
 
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Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Ths is already a fantastic write-up, and you're only to Day 5!

Bookmarking for sure!
 

plainjaneFJC

Goofball
Love the pictures, especially your campsite overlooking the beach and ocean. The van definitely has that been there/done that look about it, which is kinda nice.
 
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