September 17th 2003

St. John's, NL (was NF but as of last October Labrador is officially part of the province, so NL)

I could live in St. John’s!   Perhaps this is part and parcel of the fantastic weather we have been enjoying, but it really is a nice place!  . We’ve only had 2 days of rain and since we’ve fixed the windshield wipers, the sun has shone beautifully. The day time highs range from the mid to high 20s, with warm pleasant evenings which are almost bug free. We’re back to shorts, T-shirts and Birkenstocks….. does life get any better?   Our visit to St. John’s has indeed been swathed in sunlight, warmth and very nice people.

Even considering the fact that we ran out of dash A/C ...yet again ... the RV gods must be concentrating on other RV'ers. After saying that though, the campsite in St. John’s, called Pippy Park, does leave a little to be desired. Each of the campsites, while being very individual, large spaces with lots of trees between them, none of the damn things are level.  All of them were back-ins as well.  And to top that off, the water pressure is non existent. Having a shower is closer to standing in a very fine Scotch mist, soap in hand hoping for enough moisture to wash away the majority of the bubbles. All that said, this park did provide one of the more humourous moments that we have seen in 5th-wheel parking difficulties.

When we first arrived, we were assigned spot 13 which, not being superstitious of course, we accepted. After disconnecting the toad at the gate where there is lots of room, off we go to find the assigned campsite. With great dexterity and calm reasoned moves, Elsie guided me into the campsite. It took us about 3 minutes to beautifully back in. Not bad eh???  But when we got in there we realized that there was no way in God’s green earth that we would ever get Harvey leveled. The side to side drop off was just too great. Instead of spending hours trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, so to speak, Elsie went scouting for a more level site. Just up the way was site 15 which was a little more like a flat camping site. After checking with the main office and explaining the situation, we changed our location to site 15 leaving 13 for some other hapless boob. And boob he turned out to be!

Soon after we set up, we noticed a smallish 5th-wheel pulling up in front of site 13 and lining up to back in. Well, we watched, and we watched, and we watched, until we heard a gut churning "crack" issue from the depth of site 13.  We felt that crunch to the soles of our feet!  What on earth had he hit?  By this time about 20 minutes had passed, and the Boob had pulled in, pulled out, pulled in and pulled out about 30 times.  He just could not get that small 5th-wheel straight in the site.  One time, it was too close to the sewer connection and the next time, he was too far away and too crooked.  All of this maneuvering was done at great speed with very little time spent analyzing the situation. You could just see the steam coming out his little ears, and his tiny little feet stomping on the ground every time he got out of the truck to survey.  This continued for another 10 minutes until he finally got so fed up, he roared out of 13 and headed out.  Was he going to the office to get re-assigned?  Or was he leaving in high dudgeon?  We couldn’t be sure.

Now you all know Elsie!  She was dying to find out to find out what had caused that sole wrenching crack, so as soon as the Boob disappeared, off she goes to have a peek. The picnic table, or should we say x-picnic table, was sitting with a terrible list to the right and was now standing on 3 legs. She could hardly control her chuckles when she returned to tell me what had happened. Just then, lo and behold, the Boob shows up again. This time he was attempting to back into site 11. Well, I guess he had calmed down a bit by then because instead of taking the over 30 minutes backwarding and forwarding trying to get into site 13, he managed to back into 11 in just over 20 minutes. Elsie and I looked at each other, had a good sip of our gin and tonics, gave ourselves a high-five and Harvey a big hug. We knew what the Boob had gone through and our sympathy went to him. But, the ethical question remained.  Do we go and explain to the office why they now have a three legged, customized, "one of a kind" picnic table or do we mind our own business?  After we had considered the problem in the light of Plato, Aristotle and other assorted Greek Philosophers, we decided the poor bugger had enough grief.  More rain on his parade, might push him over the edge!  We left it to his conscience whether or not to report the damage.

The next morning we got up to the usual beautiful sun and enjoyed a slightly dampish shower. We decided to go down the coast to see if there were any whales and puffins about this time of year. We were told the best place to see these was just south of St. John’s at a little place called Wittless Bay, so off we go with high spirits and a quick wave to occupants of site 11. The drive to Wittless Bay only took 20 minutes, and it was once again another example of NL quaint: beautifully painted houses, well kept lawns , dotted the landscape and always ... smiling people. With the bright blue sky overhead,  the Atlantic coast was just shimmering. Wittless Bay itself was not much to write home about, but we figured we would ask about a cruise out to the islands. The young guy I asked admitted that at this time of year, there was only about 50 puffins still hanging around and one Minky whale.  All the icebergs had re frozen themselves to the ice pack in the north. The cost was only a modest $48 each, so very quickly Elsie did the math. That was approx. $1 for each puffin that we may or may not see. As you all know Elsie is incredibly practical and a “buck a puffin” did not impress her. So, after a quick glance at her watch, the quest for a boat cruise was changed to a quest for that other great love of ours, food. We figured there must be a little quaint Newfie seaside restaurant that would serve a much dreamed about – yet till now never found – bowl of seafood chowder. Well, we headed back toward St. John’s looking for that little spot of gastronomic delight. Quickly it came to us … every restaurant we found was named the same thing ‘Closed for Season’.  By the time that realization hit, we were on the outskirts of St. John’s.  Just where we were was not clear, but suddenly, totally unexpectedly, we saw the sign pointing toward Cape Spear.  As all you tried and true Canadians realize, and maybe even a few of the Yanks who read this, that Cape Spear is the furthest eastern point in North America. Can you believe this??  Quest for food was changed quickly with a quest for Cape Spear. We are indeed very fickle travelers.

We arrived at Cape Spear, parked the Toad, and headed toward the lighthouse. Fortunately, just before we had to head to the top of the hill, there was a sign pointing to Cape Spear itself which led off to the left. Cape Spear overlooks the south side entrance to the St. John’s harbour and during WWII, they had huge guns located there for protection. Well today, like almost every other place in NL, it has become a National Historical site (read Federal Government support money).  But what the heck, we wandered down the path to the lookout over what is purported to be the furthest eastern pile of rocks before you hit Europe. Several years ago Elsie and I had traveled to Tofino on Vancouver Island where mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway exists. Being the sloppy, sentimental fool that I am, I had taken off my shoe and stuck my toe into this most western water – not bloody bad considering it was in mid March!  Here we are now on the eastern coast, so in for a penny, in for a pound, my western performance would have to be repeated here. With great difficulty I clambered down the trails and passed the ‘dangerous coast - stay on trail’ signs and made my way to the waters edge. It’s often said that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a small mind but I fulfilled my quest – sea-to-shining-sea.

In order to put the significance of this site in perspective a few useless statistics would help. It is closer to Italy from here then to Vancouver, and Ireland is 2000 km closer to us at this point then Vancouver (Vancouver is over 5000 km and Dublin is over 3200 km). My little water duty performed, our minds immediately returned to our other quest … the search for food. In this part of the world there are not many great distances, and it seemed that just after we left Cape Spear we were on Water St. which runs right through the heart of St. John’s.   No chance to find that tiny restaurant perched high on the Coast that served the world’s best chowder.  To give you and idea just how desperate we were to find seafood comestibles, I asked the taxi cab driver at the Cape Spear parking lot where the nearest good spot for chowder would be. He got on his radio and asked the rest of the taxi fleet this very poignant question. The answer came back loudly and clearly; Velma’s on Water St. was the spot. Now simply by fortuitist happenstance, we find ourselves on Water St. Can the locating of Velma’s be far behind?  Unfortunately, there was no joy in seafoodville this day.

It was rush hour, and we found ourselves quickly traffic challenged. It must be remembered when thinking about traffic patterns in St. John’s that prior to annexation (oops I meant prior to joining confederation in 1949) NL enjoyed the same archaic road situation as England currently does: they drove on the wrong side of the road!  All this changed overnight in 1949, but the geography of the road system in the old part of St. John’s could not be changed, and therefore, many of the turns you make and the angles the roads take are very hard to get used to. We couldn’t find Velma’s that day, but we did find another sign that led us to … that other site of great significance …  Signal Hill.  You remember … this is where Marconi got his first message from Europe.  This is right at the mouth of the tiny entrance to the huge St. John’s harbour.  I’ll leave you to look at the pictures and note the size of the cruise ship daintily docked inside.  (Pictures tell a thousand words and my fingers are getting tired)  It only remains to say that dinner that night was in Harvey after being purchased in a very large grocery store.  Oh chowder, where art thou????

We declared Friday to be ‘maintenance day’. That is the day when the Epistle gets written, 7 loads of laundry are done, and Harvey gets a much needed sprucing up. It’s amazing how much dirt, "crap and corruption" can be accumulated by 2 very clean dogs and Joe and Elsie. We do this every 3 or 4 weeks and find it does eat up almost a full day.

I didn’t mention it before, but when we pulled into the campsite 15, it turned out to be right beside the campsites given to 3 Alberta couples whom we had met first in Gros Morne Park. This meeting was just by luck as they were heading in a different direction then us when they left Gros Morne. It was a bit like old home week when we realized who our neighbours were.  Between the bouts of maintenance and conversations with the Albertans, Friday passed by very pleasantly and quickly.

Saturday morning with the Epistle finished and pictures in place I headed to the ‘communications room’ to upload our new data. The reason we had been so lax in getting this done is that Telus has only one toll-free phone number in NL and that is, of course, located in St. John’s.  The down side to this free number is the hookup speed. The fastest you can connect is a sole destroying 33.6kps. Fifteen years ago that speed was fast, but now after being spoiled by high-speed access, waiting for pictures to upload at that dizzying speed, puts a whole new picture of watching paint dry. But, we got it done, and I immediately found out that Netscape does not seem to be able to access the Web Page.  The only answer is to view the material using Internet Explorer.  Considering the fact that the whole thing is created using Netscape makes this a bitter-sweet irony. But, as the young people today so eloquently state as an answer for all non solvable conundrums… “go figure”.

Saturday afternoon was to be St. John’s wandering day. Weather was sort of misty and cloudy which I understand to be a common occurrence here.  We figured a wander around downtown would be in order. What better place to start our St. John’s walkabout ….. the much looked for Velma’s. This time armed with an address from the telephone book, we headed down to Water St. and began to search. For Elsie and I, Velma’s was beginning to be a bit like the search for the holy grail or in this case for the holy chowder. Fortunately for us, St. John’s has less then 200,000 people so the search for the restaurant was easily completed.  Velma’s restaurant itself reminded us very much of the ‘Sip’n Sand’ restaurant that used to be in Lincoln City, Oregon.  Both places have truly great food, and everything is driven by the vibrant personality of the owner. The chowder turned out to be superb – all that we had hoped it to be!!  It was really worth waiting for. While chatting with Velma, we asked her which of the seemingly dozens of pubs located on George St. that she would recommend for both food and NL atmosphere. With absolute no hesitation she came up with the name: Bridie Mollone’s.  As it turned out this little pub was located just a block from her restaurant.  After we finished our exhaustive, and exhausting St. John’s look about, we would be in great need a mild restorative. What better place to acquire this then Bridie Mollone’s? We immediately made reservations for dinner that night.

 It turns out that most of the pubs in St. John’s have an Irish theme which somehow seems to be inextricably tied to a NL theme. The St. John’s people seem to switch between a Scottish heritage, an Irish heritage and an NL heritage almost at will.  It does get a tad confusing for us poor Westerners.  But, anyway, Bridie’s turned out to be a very nice little spot where I tried a pint of their Kitty Vitty 1892 lager.  As I stated at the beginning of this Epistle, I like St. John’s, and I’ll go even further --- I also like St. John’s beers.  This town is indeed a delightful spot.  Just to try the food, Elsie and I ordered 2 appetizers, one of which was a traditional Newfi fish cake, and the other  was the equally traditional Jigs Dinner though the trsditional mashed potatoes were substituted with a less than traditional philo pastry. But we didn’t despair.  The rest of the ingredients were authentic, and it was swimming in a pool of gravy. Both of these appetizers were very tasty and made us confident that we could have dinner here and enjoy authentic NL food.

At this point a comment to Bill Herold is required. Bill, as many of you will know, is the Akron, Ohio gentleman who, with his family, visits us every summer. One of his quests on each of his visits is to find and consume the best fish and chips that the Pacific coast can offer. Well, Bill, here’s one for you. Here in St. John’s you can order fish and chips with true Atlantic cod, etc. etc. etc. Or you can order complete fish and chips which is normal fish and chips covered, inches deep, with stuffing much you like you would use with turkey --- all of it is swimming in gravy. Somehow my stomach was not up to this gastronomic delight, so I will leave it to you, Bill, to visit NL, chow down on this dish, and tell us how good – or not -- it is.  Somehow my purest Pacific coast fish and chip mind cannot get around a concoction so bazaar.

Back to the Saturday night in St. John’s:  It just happens that there is a Targa type car rally around the Island each September. It begins in St. John’s and for a week they tear all over the island and then end up on George Street in St. John’s .  For you who have not visited here, George Street is the infamous pub street in St. John’s.  There must be dozens of little pub/restaurants in the area and the street only extends several blocks.  Well, Bridie Mollone’s pub/restaurant is in the centre of this street and right beside it is an outdoor sort of stage where this car rally was to terminate at 6:30 that night.  Elsie and I looked at one another and thought that unlike our usual early to bed, non pub crawling usual nature, this time we would have to make an exception to take in this event.  In order to allow our fragile natures to stay up past 10:00, an afternoon snooze was clearly called for.  Off we go back to the park and the required snooze time.

The restaurant reservations were at 7:00, so we thought that we could take in the end of the car rally and then head inside for our long anticipated "traditional dinner".  While we were standing there waiting for the cars to come in from Cape Spear, we struck up a conversation with this young guy who also was waiting.  He had done some volunteer work for the rally, and he was quite interested in just who won each of the various classes.  We started to yak about cars and sports cars with him filling us in with information about the rally.  In passing he mentioned that he hoped the Paynter Team would do well.  I didn’t get too much of a chance to dig into this name as the cars were starting to arrive.  No mufflers, of course, and with E Types, Corvettes, Tigers, Coopers, Jags, BMW’s etc, the noise level precluded any other dialogue.

It turned out to be one of those quirks of traveling that makes it all worth the effort.  Just then, with a roar, a blue Suzuki WRX pulled up and you could see the driver and navigator’s name printed on the side… J. Paynter and C. Paynter.  You could have knocked me over with a feather!!!  We have had sheep stealers, shysters, car dealers etc. (even Socred Politicians I shudder to admit ) in our family tree, but never have we had race drivers.  This is indeed a first.

As the awards were being handed out, we found out that the Paynter Team had placed first in their category: unlimited contemporary.  Wow… winners too.  The kid, whom we first met, mentioned that the team is often featured on the Sports Network TV, and he was shocked to hear that we had never heard of the success that they had achieved in recent years.  Just then, Elsie spotted a person she thought was in the car so off she goes to meet him.  It turned out to be John Paynter --his brother was being interviewed by the local press at that time.  We chatted for awhile and as the victory celebrations were about to start for the driver teams, he had to get ready … as he said, “it’s been a very long 7 days!”  He gave us his phone numbers in Lower Sackville NS and asked us to call when we were going through.  His Mother, apparently, is very interested in genealogy and would love to meet us.  We said that we would try, but we were not planning to go that close to Halifax.  I guess this will have to be the focus of yet another trip east….

By this time, we were almost an hour late for our dinner reservations, but no problem, there were lots of seats open.  Remember, this was to be our “traditional newfi dinner” time … so look out stomach!!!!  After much discussion, and really hard thinking, we ordered Baked Cod in a special sauce known only to this restaurant, and Cod Tongues served with their world famous “scruntchies” (this is fried pork fat served crunchy)  Along with a pint of 1892 Kitty Vittie lager, our gastronomic repast was complete.

You know, it wasn’t too bad.  The tongues were deep fried and served with a ton and a half of French fries and an order of deep fried mashed potatoes.  The larger tongues were a tad on the chewy side, but in the main they were tender and quite tasty.  The Baked Cod was as well prepared as you can with cod, so we were quite impressed with newfi cuisine.  On hind sight it was more like heart attack on a plate with all that fried food, but what the hey … you only live once … or did James Bond say that???

After dinner, we headed up and down George Street.  We were looking for a pub that had live Newfi music but most of the operations seemed to be more upscale restaurants … so much for the “bad boy” image that is pushed.  We did find, though, one pub that had a “jam session” going on in one corner.  According to the bar tender, it is a local drop in group every Saturday night, and they play really the old time Newfi music.  That night the 8 musicians were all locals: one was a Math Professor from Memorial University, one was a local lawyer, one a student and one, with whom we spoke, was a local mother of a 2 year old and this was her evening off. They just came in and out as they felt like it.  It reminded me of a Jazz Jam session in New Orleans or where ever.  The instruments were all authentic with the Irish Pipes, Irish flute, violin and some I could not identify.  But, It was Great!  We didn’t get home to Harvey and the dogs until almost midnight.  This time is approaching a record for us when we travel.  We must have had fun!

As you might imagine, Sunday Morning was a little late for us.  We had been told that there was a store in Gould, a suburb of St. John’s, called BuyBids that sold real Newfi stuff.  In fact we were told that every Newfi going Off Island always stopped in there to make sure their larder of Bottled Moose, bottled flipper etc. would last until their return.  We wandered around the store but, I'm ashamed to say, we ended up at Costco so we could replenish our less than exotic larder.  We too have to survive!

A brief section on costs would be helpful here.  Newfoundland prices for food were pretty comparable with the exception of chicken.  For some reason, it is quite dear here.  Gas though is obscene.  The prices for the cheapest unleaded revolved around the 88 to 93 cents per litre with diesel hovering between 78 to 89 cents.  Ontario prices varied between 62 and 67 cents per.  Harvey, I may have told you, holds 100 gallons US.  This translates to 370 litres approximately.  Now lets see … Newfi --- 370 x .89 =  $329.30 as compared to Ontario ---370 x .62 =  $229.40 for a tank full… and ... even substantially less in the States.  It sort of makes a guy think … don’t it!!!!  These prices and the existence of Hibernia off-shore makes one think that all Canadians have one thing in common … being ripped of by gas companies.

To top off these price considerations, is the cost of ferry travel.  Newfoundland, as an island, is totally at the whim of the ferry company which a Government subsidiary much like our ferry system.  In the summer there are two routes: one from North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques NL and one from North Sydney to Argentia NL about 1 ½ hours from St. John’s in the south east.  The two trips are 6 to 7 hours in duration for the first one and 12 to 14 hours to Argentia.  Going to Argentia does eliminate the need to drive clear across the province from St. John’s to Port au Basques and does thus save on the high priced gas costs, but the ferry costs are amazing.  For Harvey and the Toad from NS to Port au Basques costs $294.00.  If we went from Argentia, it would be in the $700.00 range -- if you wanted a bed to sleep in for the 14-16 hour trip.

The three Albertans we had met, had decided to drive to St. John’s and then take the long ferry back to Nova Scotia.  They had not done their math.  You might be very assured that Elsie had taken the time to compute costs.  The Argentia ferry at this time of the year only goes once … Monday at 11:59 PM.  All three had booked their space and paid for a stateroom each (no one is allowed to stay in or even visit their vehicles while sailing).  You have to get a crew member to accompany you if you are going to feed/water your pets.)   Roughly, they paid $700.00 each to make the trip.

We left St. John’s the same Monday AM that they were to leave in the evening.  It took just over ½ tank to drive to Port aux Basques … say $150.00 … and we did it in about 9 hours.  Our costs of $295.00 plus the gas …say a total of $450.00 sure made more sense to both me and the money bags.  It was, as you might say, a real no brainer!  By the time they had driven the 1½ hour trip to the ferry and got on, we had arrived in Port aux Basques, had dinner, made ferry reservations and had gone to bed.  I sure pitied them that day!

Originally, we had planned to get on the Thursday 8:00 AM sailing so that we would be able to have one day to head a little north of us to Port aux Port.  This is the French area of Newfoundland, so we were looking forward to seeing the differences.  When we got to Port aux Basques on the Monday evening, we phoned to get ferry reservations only to be told that the Thursday 8:00 AM sailing had been cancelled.  That left us with the choice of Thursday night 11:59 or the Friday morning 8:00 AM sailing.  Now I do like my creature comforts, and the thought of staying up all night, and then driving the next day is enough to send real shivers up my spine.  On top of that, Elsie would have killed me, so reservations were made for the 8:00 AM boat.

To while away the time, we spent a day in Port aux Port and enjoyed wandering along the coast side and into the small villages.  There is a definite “French” feel to this area so, you guessed it, we were looking for a restaurant for lunch.  Some of the less fortunate only “eat to live”, but Elsie and I definitely “live to eat”.  As a result of eagle eyes and good living, we stumble upon this relatively new resort/restaurant in the middle of nowhere overlooking the water.  We ordered two appetizers and one main entree to share.  I had one of the best Chowders I have ever tasted, and Elsie had Cod au Gratin that was truly delicious.  The entree that we shared was traditional Fish Cakes served with molasses.  Now, let me tell you, that was good.  I have never been a devotee of molasses, but served on the fish cakes, it was delicious!  Ahhh … living to eat … does it get better???

We spent one day phoning around to find a spot for service on Harvey and one day wandering around the Cape Ray / Port aux Basques.  We enjoyed the “down” time and got caught up on our reading and laundry.  Friday we would have to leave the campground at 6:00 AM to get to the ferry for the 7:00 AM loading time.  Off we go feeling not a little sad about leaving Newfoundland.  I guess the RV Gods took us at our word and made sure that we had more time to spend on the island.  Chuckle … chuckle …

When we arrived at the dock, we were informed – after they had taken our money – that the 8:00am sailing had been canceled as the ferry had overheated a bearing leaving Sydney, NS the night before.  The "Joseph and Cari Smallwood" had headed to dry dock and the Caribou, the boat we had come over on, was fixed and would arrive at 2:00 to 3:00 that afternoon for boarding.  Well, the sailing is 5 to 6 hours so once again we would be unloading in the dark.  What to do?

Now that we are self sufficient RV’ers, we simply pulled into line, turned off the engine and went back to bed.  After several hours of much needed rest, we went into the ferry terminal to look around.  There, we noticed a very long line of people being taken care of by several harried looking clerks.  I could not resist asking one of the people leaving the line, what was the concern.  He gave me a rather pitying look and said that was where the refunds were arranged.  Refunds, say I?  “Weren’t you told when you arrived that because of the delayed sailing you got $50.00 off the ferry cost and two $12.00 dinner vouchers for the boat?”

Hmmm … you can guess just how long it took me to get into that line!  It was like getting paid for sleeping … Ya got to love that!

After a very uneventful sailing, the boat did leave at 3:45pm, we arrived in Sydney and headed for Chez Sam’s.  It did take us quite a little time to locate it, but no problem staying there. We passed a very pleasant night under the lights of Wal-Mart.  The next morning we headed towards Port Hawkesbury and the Canso Causeway to the mainland.  We chose Highway 4 on the West side of Cape Breton and that was a mistake!  The road was extremely narrow with the shoulders showing great signs of wear and little repair – in places the drop down to the dirt was 8 to 10 inches.  The result was that Harvey filled his side of the road completely, and when trucks approached, it got a little hairy to say the least!  We had little leeway for error.  I was getting pissed as you might imagine, but when I looked over to Elsie I had to laugh.  She was hanging on for dear life --- her eyes were getting a little buggy … at least I had a sense of control. She just had to hang on and not scream.  Not an easy task in several places.

Our destination was Truro where we had made reservations at the local Freightliner dealer for Monday to fix up the larger problems that Harvey had developed.  We arrived there on Saturday and went to a very nice campground just on the outskirts of the town.  That night, we turned on the TV and found out that Hurricane Juan was heading this way.  This was a surprise to us as this was the first we had heard of it.  We had planned to head to Middletown, about a 3 hour trip from Truro in the Toad, on Sunday to visit a cousin of mine, Paul, and his wife, Roxie.  Paul has been over the years involved deeply in the Paynter family tree research, and we had only “met” him before on the internet.  We were looking forward to finally meeting him face to face.

The weather forecast mentioned the coming storm, but said that it would not be making landfall until late Sunday night.  No locals seemed overly concerned so we headed off early from Truro on Sunday to visit Paul and Roxie Cockrill.

Over the years, we had corresponded often with Paul as he had done extensive work on the Paynter Family Tree.  We had never met him so here was a chance to put a name and face together.  Paul, apparently, is a 2nd cousin to me.  The drive to Middleton was beautiful as it made it's way through the Annapolis Valley resplendent with small towns and beautiful scenery.

To make a long story short, the visit was fantastic!  I guess there is something about the Paynter clan as I have rarely ever met one with whom I did not immediately hit it off.  Paul was no exception.  Here was a person who really knew the Paynter family history!  As we walked into his house, he handed me a copy of my family tree that went back 10 generations: from me back to James Buck of Yorkshire England and Anna Whitluck also of Yorkshire in 1667.  Don’t worry all … that is the last of the family tree info …  But, we did go on from there … and on … and on …

All that information was great to get, but the highlight of the day, was provided by Roxie.  When we walked into the house, we were very warmly greeted, and then we began to chatter with Paul.  Roxie just disappeared into the kitchen, along with her mother, Pearl.  They are very much “kitchen people” so we all sat around the table and yakked … all except Roxie.  She seemed busy at the stove, but it wasn’t until lunch was served that I realized just what she was up to.  Can you picture this … homemade pea soup … that was incredible, served with homemade baking-powder biscuits!!  Does life get any better than this?  The last time I had homemade pea soup was when Elsie and I first married, and her Mom and Dad had us over for lunch: and that was over 20 years ago!  I was in hog heaven; in fact, two huge bowls and who knows how many biscuits, just seemed to disappear.  I sat back feeling ready to conquer the world -- or even some more family tree stuff when Round 2 was called… this time it was Pizza that was homemade from the crust up!  Now you know me, family tree stuff is important, history is important, but great food … transcends all!!!  I begged Paul to adopt me!  He just smiled and added insult to injury.  “This is just normal around here!”   Somehow, the rest of the afternoon passed by in a fog of comfort! We weren't able to leave empty handed as Roxie gave us a loaf of home-made banana bread.

We sure enjoyed our time with the Cockrills, and it was hard to say goodbye.  Through the miasma of good food came the reminder of Hurricane Juan who was still lurking to the south.  We had to head back to make sure, if Juan arrived early, that Harvey would be ok. We had a three hour drive ahead of us.  I should mention that the weather at this point was great, so we were able to take some pictures in Roxie’s English style garden before we left.  This good weather was lulling us to believe that Juan would be nothing.  Hmmm … the Gods were at it again ….

We got back to Truro, and had a very (believe me) very small dinner, I was still smiling about lunch.  The other RV'ers in the park were gathering around discussing just what to do about the impending Juan.  There was very little on the TV channel, and the radio stations were not playing up the storm at all.  It wasn’t until the 7:00pm news that we heard for sure that Juan would be making landfall in the Halifax area at 11:00pm and would head north, right over Truro.  He was moving at around 50 kms per hour and had winds up to 150 kms.  He, it seemed, was a true Class 1 Hurricane!  This was serious!

Just what to do?

It made sense to batten down the hatches as well as we could and make sure that Harvey could withstand what seemed to be heading our way but still be able to move if the need arose.  We emptied the tanks, disconnected the water, but left the power cord so we had shore power.  It would be quick to disconnect the cord if worse came to worse.

Before we went to bed, we pulled in all the slides to ensure that the slide toppers … canvas awnings over the slides to protect them from branches etc … would not be blown off.  Besides, with the slides in, Harvey is much more aerodynamic eh?

It hit us about 12:00(midnight)!!!

I awoke to Harvey "rockin and rollin" like we have never seen (but we have tried!).  As the gusts hit us, Harvey would lean and creek and groan!  Some of the larger gusts, apparently well over 100 kms per hour, made us think that he was going to flip right over on his left side.  The noise was terrific!  The slide toppers, even though they were retracted, still had the wind get under them, and they flapped around like a chicken with its head cut off.  It was pouring rain driven by the huge gusts.  We were getting quite alarmed as we lay there wondering what to do.  The dogs, had their beds in the living portion of Harvey which was cut off from the bedroom by a sliding door.  I got up to check if there were any leaks and found both Barley and Hops crouching and shaking by the door.  Their eyes were wide, and they looked at me as if to say ... "what the hell is going on ... we want out of this!"  As there were no leaks evident, I faced the inevitable ... Elsie, I and the dogs in bed for the remainder of the night.  They just jumped in and headed under the covers ... we were more than a little envious ... they seemed to think that we could protect them.  Yeah ... right!!!  Just then, the shore power went off!  The Gods were laughing ... and we were hanging on for dear life, wondering just when the mayhem would end.  And end it eventually did, about 4:00 AM.   No one got much sleep that night!

The next morning we had our appointment with Truro Freightliner for Harvey repairs at 8:00.  We got up early and headed outside.  What a sight!!!!  Garbage containers strewn all over the campsite, and behind us ... well I have never seen anything like it.  Trees that were 50 feet tall, completely uprooted.  Some of them were over 12 inches in radius, and they were snapped like matchsticks.  Parts of buildings were blown off, and a tarp was deposited near us that no one in the campground claimed.  God knows where it came from.  An earlier riser than us had already gone into Truro only to find no power and a lot of destruction.  At the Wal-Mart the steel light poles were bent over on a crazy angle, and a semi trailer truck was upside down in a ditch.  We decided that we would still go in and see if Freightliner could do some of the repairs even though they had no power.  When we got there, the few guys standing around laughed at our optimism and told us that they had sent all the mechanics home for the day.  They hoped that it would be only for one day, but they were not hopeful.  Head to Moncton, was their suggestion.  The storm missed there so they still were open for business.  Well, we thought ... no use staying here ... off to Moncton ....

Then the rain came back!!!

I'm not talking a West Coast drizzle here.  This was some very serious rain.  No problem, Harvey can stand rain, and the wind had all but disappeared.  Off we go, but within 1/2 mile of Truro, fortunately on the road to the campground, the Gods hit us again ... no windshield wipers!!!  Now you remember that I now knew just where the fuse for these suckers is.  I just have to go out in the rain and replace it.  Right?  Wrong!!! The new fuse blew just as soon as I put it in.  There is now something very wrong with the damn things!!  I could just hear those damn RV Gods .......

Again, what to do???

We faced the inevitable, and admitted defeat. The return to the campground was very very slow with me peering myopically at the road hoping that there would not be another fool on the road that day.  The owners of the site were quite sympathetic, and since there was no power or water, and little chance of getting any that day, they let us stay for free.  As an indication of just how low our spirits were at this point, we felt as good about this as if we had won the lottery!  The kindness was greatly appreciated!

The weather forecast for Tuesday was good, sunny periods and no rain.  We phoned Moncton Freightliner, made our appointment for the next day, and went straight back to bed: the 4 of us again, with the dogs a little more relaxed this time!

I won't dwell a lot on Moncton.  The city is quite nice in an industrial sense, and we made the visit to Freightliner immediately when we arrived Tuesday afternoon.  There were 4 things to repair: 1. the damn windshield wipers, 2. the dash lights, 3. the dash air-conditioning, and 4. the lazy rear stabilizing jack.  The repair for the windshield wiper was easy ... it was a short on the motor.  The dash lights ... was a connection problem that they could not solve without a wiring diagram and a lot of time and effort.  No problem though, they could do a work-around and leave it for the factory to fix.  The dash air-conditioning ... after a phone call to National in California,  it was decided that there was a problem with the heater switch and that it had to be replaced.  The problem was that National would have to air ship it to us.  No problem, they would do it as an "overnight drop" and we would have it on Wednesday.  The lazy jack ... nothing they could do!

Only 1 fix out of 4!  We still have not run into rain again so we are not sure that the fix is permanent!

Wednesday ... no part.... Thursday .... no part .... Friday AM no part.  I was getting more than a little testy!  I did find out that National does have an official repair facility on the East Coast though.  It is between Tampa and Orlando Florida.  A quick phone call there, gained us the first available appointment ... Nov. 3rd.  Well, we always wanted to see Florida so now I guess we will.

Finally, after getting the UPS tracking number from California, I find out that the part had arrived in Moncton late Friday afternoon, but as the delivery company did not deliver until Monday AM, we would be here over the weekend.  NO BLOODY WAY!!!

I hop in the car and head to the Day/Ross delivery warehouse ready to beg, plead, do anything!!!  It is worth mentioning that the people here are damn friendly.  They will help any chance they get.  Freightliner people were great, and the guy in Day/Ross proved to be too.  He searched through the entire warehouse until he found the part and gave it to me.  FANTASTIC ... things are going our way now, I thought.

Freightliner is open on Saturday, so an appointment is made for them to install the long sought after part early in the AM.  We go to bed feeling much better then we have for days.  Heh Heh the Gods say.  They are not finished with us yet.

Up we get; off we go, and in goes the part.  Nothing ... nada ... Not a damn thing.  It was not the solution.  Oh Shit!  Still hot air from the vent!

By this time, we had had it!  I asked the mechanic to install the new part, and we would head out ... hot air and all ... for Florida.  By now, National owes us almost $1000.00 in warranty repair bills!

The Gods are not finished yet .... Within 20 minutes of heading to St. Andrews, NB, the carbon monoxide warning sound echoed throughout Harvey.  We pull over and the lights were flashing red/green, red/green.  According to the note on the detector, this indicates that the sensor is faulty and should be replaced. If you can remember, this is the same thing that happened to the propane detector several weeks before.  Out comes my screw driver and out goes the detector to spend the next several weeks in the same box as the propane detector, the bag of screws/bolts that fell out of the microwave, and several other broken thing-ma-jiggers.  The way things are going, we will be delivering Harvey to National in Orlando in a cardboard box!

We were warned that there is always a break-in period with these RV's and that we would have to be patient for the first year.  With an appointment at the "official" National repair depot in Florida on Nov. 3rd and an appointment at the factory in California Dec 1st.,  we hoped that what one can't, or doesn't fix, the other will.  I will just have to resist the temptation of trying to "insert" Harvey in a very uncomfortable place in the first National service person I meet.  It will be tough!!!!    I do worry about Elsie though, and just what she might do ....

Right now, we are in St. Andrews and it still manages to delight.  The weather is sunny and warm!  The lobster is fantastic!!

We have a space right on the beach with a front view of St. Croix River.  How can it get better?  This is what we got the RV for!

As it is now the 6th of October, we have to head south.  The evenings are getting cool though no frost yet.  The leaves are just starting to turn and things will get better!!!  Tomorrow, Tuesday, we head into the Excited States and a Maine campground that purportedly has internet connections for each site.  I will upload this from there!

As of now, we remain... bloody and bowed, but not defeated!!  Barley and Hops are still happy ...

The Paynters