From Halifax, the plan was to get back home by the 15th of July. I would go southbound to Lunenburg, spend about an hour there, and head west to Digby to catch the ferry to go to either St. John, New Brunswick, or Bar Harbor in Maine USA, whichever left earlier when we arrived there.
Lunenburg was indeed a picturesque town. It is a major fishing town and Canada’s largest secondary fish-processing plant. It was named after the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg who later became King George II of England. It was one of the first British attempts to settle Protestants in Nova Scotia to displace the natives. The British brought more than 1,400 protestants from French and German speaking areas of Europe to populate the site. Their influences are still evident in the architectures, languages, and cuisines found here today. It is a UNESCO heritage site.
When we drove into the town, the narrow streets were full of parked cars, and didn’t look like I would find a spot for my 29-foot motorhome. On the ocean-side main street, I asked a fellow monitoring a reserved spot where I could find a place to park my dinosaur. He said, “Turn around, and I’ll get you a spot.” I turned my beast around a bus-designated zone, and he cleared the blocks on the street beside the sidewalk to let me in. Apparently, the reserved area was for loading tourists on horse carriages. He was in charge of making sure no one parked there. I thanked him for letting me park there. I reached out to my wallet to pay him some money, and he said, “No, I’m doing this for your daughter. Go enjoy yourselves.” His name was Larry. I learned that he had come from Toronto originally. He had survived a major car accident, and was told by the doctor that he could never walk again. He told me that he was the first patient in Canada to have his arteries removed from the thigh to replace the damaged ones in the heart (if I can remember correctly). He had also lost his son. He said he liked helping others for this reason. It was so refreshing to meet a person like that … a rarity these days.
Kip and I spent an hour walking around admiring the colourful houses and the paraphernalia the folks added on them. We had a nice meal at a restaurant deck facing the ocean. The Fish (haddock) and Chips was sumptuous. Both Kip and I are generally not fond of fish, but we eat them clean.
Although Lunenburg was very pretty, it was another ocean-side town like Halifax or Vancouver. I was expecting to see huge rocks, hills, and open seas like I had imagined. I guess I didn’t quite hit that part of Nova Scotia.
Click the image below to see Lunenburg through my eyes.
I drove about 4.5 hours to Digby to catch the ferry. On arrival at 7 pm, I found the terminal deserted. There were some cars and trucks parked, but not a single sole was in sight. I drove to the nearest motel and asked if the ferries ran at all. The clerk told me that Digby-St.John ferry ran only at 11 am and 5:30 pm, and that tomorrow’s 11 AM-run was fully booked, and that I should try for the 5:30 one. The ferry would take 2 hours to cross to the St. John, New Brunswick. The one running from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor USA didn’t operate until July 19. Since I needed to get back home by the 15th (to prepare for my trip to Asia on the 18th) I couldn’t afford to lose a full day to catch the next day’s ferry. So, I decided to drive all the way up north and loop around the ocean to go south to St. John. That was a bad decision because it took me 24 hours (including a night of camping) to get to St. John. I could have relaxed and stayed in Digby and saved on gas, and get to St. John at the same time with the ferry. Well, that’s always a part of the experience when traveling to unknown territories. Better planning would have saved me the trouble as well. Some of the faults lie in the dependency and trust of the GPS. In the old days, I would have sat with a map and planned out the whole trip beforehand.
We camped at Highbury Gardens at Canaan, Nova Scotia at 10 pm, and took off around 11 am the next day. I dumped all the vegetables and meat from the fridge knowing that they couldn’t be taken across the US border; just hated throwing food away. When we reached St. John, I got Kip to search for a campsite on Google, but there wasn’t any nearby; they were 30 min north of it. I didn’t want to drive out of our way. So, we ended up crossing the Canadian-US border instead. It was a good time to cross because it would have been busy earlier on Friday or Saturday morning. There was only one gate open. There was only one car ahead of me, and none behind. The young US immigration officer was very friendly. He asked how many days we were going to be in the US. I said, “Three.” He responded with disappointment, “Only three!” I told him that I needed to get home by the 15th, otherwise I’d stay for a longer period. He did a quick search inside the motorhome, and wished us a safe trip back home.
Hilltop or Hillbilly Campground?
We found a campsite at Robbinston, Maine called Hilltop Campground. It was full of Canadian party-animals. They all had beer in their hands having a good time. There was a hall where they sang Karaoke all night. The owner, who was a lady in her 70s, was shaking her booty like a teenager. It was good to see folks enjoying themselves the old-fashion way rather than sitting in front of a TV, computer, or smartphone. Somehow, I couldn’t see myself partying anymore. I pondered how I have changed. I used to be such a fashion and party buff, but now, like to dress down and stay to myself. I guess I can say that I’ve done it all, and now want the change.
Kip and I strolled around the campground the next morning to enjoy the scenery. The other campers, beer in hand, were already setting up for the night’s party, the Annual Decker’s Night. They even had T-shirts printed out for the event. The guys told me that there are four decks in the campground; they will begin partying at one deck, and move to the others one-by-one, and party until 4 am in the morning. They urged us to stay, but I had to decline since we had lost a day already from missing the ferry.
Click the picture below to see images of the Hilltop Campground.
White Birches Campground
By the time we ate breakfast and packed up, it was noon before leaving the campground. One pleasant discovery was that the gas in the US was half the price in Canada. It would cost me CAD$140 to fill half the tank in Canada, but fill it fully in the US for the same. The cost of camping was about the same; so overall, it cost me less to travel through the US.
There were many campsites on the road to Lancaster, New Hampshire. We stopped at about 20:30 at a campsite named White Birches in Sherburne because we could see the large playground it had for children. We were given a very nice spot under many trees. It had a large fire pit made up of rocks. Although the premises didn’t stock food for cooking, it provided a menu from a nearby restaurant that delivered. I ordered spaghetti with meatballs and buffalo chicken wings for dinner, which was half decent. My tiredness was catching up to me, so we crashed out earlier than usual.
In the morning, we walked around this 30-acre campground to see the surroundings. We swam in the pool, and Kip played in the playgrounds.
At noon, while we were having our leftovers from last night, we were reminded that the checkout time was 11 a.m. This was the earliest checkout time we’ve encountered in the whole trip. The owner said that it was the normal time for RV camps. By the time we packed up, it was 1 p.m; I didn’t quite like getting rushed out.
Have Gun Will Travel
To make it in time to get home on Monday, I planned to reach Watertown, New York by the end of the day. So, I headed towards Burlington, Vermont to catch the ferry to Port Kent, New York. To make sure I didn’t run into the same problem as I did at Digby, I stopped at a Rest Area in Vermont to asked someone if the ferry ran and where exactly to take it in Burlington. When I approached a parked car, I was given a dirty look. The driver didn’t even open his window when I asked him for the information. He just said that the ferries ran. Then I went to another car to double-check, and I got the same treatment. I tried to get some specific from him as to where the ferry was, and he was very vague with his reply; however, I got enough information from the two to put the right information in my GPS.
I guess people in this region are quite paranoid. The last driver didn’t even look at me when he spoke. I thought about it and said to myself that I should be more careful. This fellow may even have had a gun pointing at me behind the door. He looked like a retired cop. If I had made any sudden move, I may have been a goner. In the US, one just have to feel threatened to justify shooting a man.
When I got to the Burlington ferry, the ticket lady asked how tall my motorhome was. I couldn’t remember exactly how tall it was, so I said, “Eleven feet or six inches more.” Then she called a fellow to come measure it. A young man came with a long L-shaped stick to measure it. He had a passenger eyeball it from a distance to see if my air-conditioning unit cleared it. The man shook his head. The lady said that the ferry’s clearance was eleven feet three inches. I asked how I could get to the New York side. She said there was another terminal at Grand Isle that ran roofless ferries. It was 30 miles north. So, I had to drive there to catch the ferry. It took 40 minutes to get there, and ride the ferry for only 15 minutes; and it took another 40 minutes to get to Port Kent. I lost about 2 hours taking this route. The Burlington ferry took 2 hours to cross. I would have gotten some rest and saved on gas if I had gotten on it. I guess I’m not so lucky with ferries.
I drove non-stop for 8 hours, only pausing to top the gas tank. I had planned to camp somewhere near Watertown, but couldn’t find any signs for campsites. I didn’t want to use the phone to google for information to save money on roaming charges. It didn’t occur to me that my GPS had such information. Kip asked me to search my GPS. As I was saying that it didn’t have such information, it dawned on me that I should look in the Lodging list. On my last day of travel, I discovered that it did. I kicked myself for it.
I found a KOA (chain campground) 10 km away. We pulled in at 9:45 pm, hoping that it wasn’t closed. We were so happy to see office lit with lights. We were greeted by a young couple. I told them how we had lost some time missing the ferries. After registering, I asked what was the checkout time. Brain said, “One PM, but you can take your time.” Then I asked how much for the night; he said, “No charge.” I must have heard wrong, so asked again. He repeated, “No charge.” I was knocked off my pants. “What? Really?” “Yeah, enjoy yourselves,” he said. Then he said that he was locking up now to go home, and gave me his cell number in case I needed something later. What a redeeming feeling for Americans … and fellow human beings when you meet people like Brian; especially after running into some uptight ones.
The next morning, Kip used their indoor pool and played with some children there. We met an old camper from Pennsylvania with a pet goat named Lucy. He said he had 17 goats that grazes his land. Lucy was just 3 weeks old. Her mother wouldn’t feed her, so he’s taken the task of bottle feeding her. He walked her in a leash and talked to her affectionately. You meet all kinds of people when you travel.
Before leaving the campground, I wanted to thank Brian again for his kindness and offer him an open invitation to visit me at my home if he ever came to Canada; however, he wasn’t there, and the office door was locked. I will go home and email him the invitation.
Click the picture below to see some images of our last camping grounds.
We had a couple of glitches on our way home. As a backup, I gave Albert a set of keys in case I locked us out of the motorhome. When he left, I gave the keys to Kip and instructed her to always take them with her when she left the motorhome. Lo and behold, it happened when I went to fill up the gas at Evans Mills, New York, near the Canadian border. I locked the doors with my keys in it, and Kip came out without the spares. I don’t blame her because she’s just 9 years old; but it was a good lesson for her. I called CAA, and it took the service guy an hour to get to us. It took him 30 minutes to unlock it. It seems like the old cars were built more securely than the new ones. He struggled to get the wire in the edges of the door in spite of using wedges and inflators. Nonetheless, it was done.
When we reached the Canadian border, I encountered an immigration officer who was confrontational. He asked where I lived. I told him. Then he asked why I came through the US. My short answer was that the gas was cheaper. Then he asked, why I didn’t go farther south and crossed at Buffalo to save more money. Obviously he didn’t know where my home is located. I told him that it would be a longer way; he wasn’t happy with my answer. Then he asked me the usual questions of whether I was carrying firearms, vegetables, meat, and animals. Since I expected these questions, I answered him with immediately “no’s” one after another. Then he said, “You’re answering them rather quickly and prepared; why, because you’re used to them? That got me rowed up. I’m thinking, “You’re just too slow, Buddy;” but I said, “Come on … I just came through the US border 3 days ago; of course, I know what’s coming.” He then sent me to get my motorhome searched. Two officers came to do it. I said that I’d like to be in the motorhome during the search. One said, “You can’t.” I responded, I’ve heard of police planting substances during the search, and I want to make sure you don’t do that. He said, “We’re scrutinized all the time, and we wouldn’t risk our job to do something like that.” I said, “Well, you never know.” He said, “It’s our job to search vehicles, and we do that all the time. It’s part of the border-crossing process. There was no point arguing with him. I made my point. After about 15 minutes of searching, they came out and said we’re good to go. He said, “I guess you don’t cross borders often and don’t know that we search vehicles.” I said, “I don’t usually cross borders with a vehicle, but go through Customs when I fly.” I felt like telling them about last year’s incident of getting searched, but decided not to spark any ideas in their warped minds. I don’t know what it is, but I often run heads with authorities. I must fit into some kind of profile they have.
Although I was delayed two hours with these two bumps, the rest of the trip was without incidents. Overall, we had a great trip. I’m pleased with my 20-year-old Mini Winnie. It gave me no trouble, and has been worth every cent that I had put towards it. Kip and I had spent quality time together. During the long drives, I’ve been telling her stories of her grandpa and grandma that she listened attentively and enthusiastically. I’m sure she will remember and treasure our Mexican and road trip for the rest of her life … especially when I’m gone.
This is my last blog for road trip. More to come on Thailand and China!