Hit the road Jack (or planxty in this case)
Favorite thing: Canada is a country I had often thought of visiting but only really in abstract terms. My problem is that it is so vast that public transport is not really an option and I do not drive a car so transportation was always going to be an issue. Certainly there are organised tours utilising buses and / or trains but that type of trip would be total travelling Hell for me and so I had put the whole idea on the back burner whilst I travelled elsewhere, mostly in Asia.
It was something of a windfall opportunity therefore when VT member Ravenswing aka Lynne offered me the chance of a road trip in a campervan (or RV as they are called in North America) in the summer of 2014 and one which I naturally jumped at and I am so glad I did as it turned out to be one of the best trips in a life that has been fortunate enough to have made a few.
A campervan (or RV as they are called there) is an ideal way to see this beautiful country although again with the caveat that I only saw a small proportion of it namely Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with an all too brief couple of days in New Brunswick. I am constructing this tip primarily to suggest some resources for anyone that may wish to "hit the road" in this way.
Firstly, there are two main ways you can do this. You can either buy, beg, borrow or steal (only joking) an RV or else hire one. We were lucky enough to have our own, a venerable 33 year old Glendale body on a Chevyvan chassis. Sadly Glendale are no more having filed for bankruptcy in 2010 by which time they had been building RV's for 60 years but Chevrolet seem to be going strong. It is a shame about Glendale as they built some lovely rigs and we certainly saw plenty of them on our travels. Ours was 23 feet C class which was more than adequate for our needs and could theoretically sleep six, two in a bunk above the cab, two in a pullout settee in the rear and another two in a bunk which was made by folding down the dining table although that wasn't too long and would only have been good for kids. I think six would have been pretty cramped and I should explain that a Class C is the type of RV based on a truck chassis with a "cabover" profile although I didn't know any of this until I started the trip.
If you cannot get your own RV then the other option is renting and there are plenty of companies offering the service although from my experience the largest by far seems to be Canadream but this is certainly not cheap. An RV similar to ours although slightly longer (they start at 24 feet) would cost an eye-watering $8330 to recreate our journey in 2015 although admittedly they are very well appointed. We bought our old beauty for a fraction of that and even though it blew up and died on the last day we saved ourselves a fortune.
Once you have secured your vehicle you then have two options as to where to spend the night. The first and most obvious option is to go to one of the many RV / Campgrounds available and which I found to be of a uniformly good standard with varying levels of facilities like swimming pools, kids playgrounds, shuffleboard, volleyball courts, the list is endless. In a Class C of our length you can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per night although obviously the longer your vehicle the more you pay.
A quick primer here for the uninitiated (as I was) about some of the jargon associated with campgrounds. As the name suggets a pull-through is a pitch where you drive in and drive out forwards again without the need to reverse and I have to say I would not like trying to reverse some of the monster rigs we saw.
An unserviced site is merely a piece of ground where you park up for the night and you have the opportunity to use the onsite facilities but you need to be self-sufficient for water and electric. A two way site provides both of these and a three way site provides both and also a sewage pipe to empty your sewage tank. Electric generally comes in either 30amp or 50 amp supply. With 30 amp you can only run a limited number of appliances in your rig but a 50 amp will allow you to run anything you want although obviously it is more expensive.
A very limited number of sites are now even offering an additional service of a cable TV hook up on your pitch.
The second option and one which amazed me when I first saw it is that of parking in the carpark (parking lot) of a shopping centre or supermarket and Walmart seems favourite for this. Obviously you need to be self-sufficient to do this so it was not an option for us as we had no leisure batteries and only had running water when hooked up but plenty of people seem to do it. Indeed in one Walmart carpark we saw about half a dozen rigs all pulled up together in what was obviously "RV Corner". They had the awnings out, chairs and tables and even barbecues out and I could not believe my eyes as in the UK you would be moved on in no time flat. Lynne explained to me that the supermarkets don't mind as you are not costing them anything and on the very reasonable assumption that you may well stock up on whatever you need from their premises and / or use their catering faclilities if you don't feel like cooking yourself. I suppose there is the added benefit that the very visible presence of people may deter crime at night so everyone's a winner. Lynne and I are currently looking for another RV for summer 2015 and beyond and have decided that it needs to be "Walmart compliant" as I have dubbed it.
I suppose carpark RVing all depends on what you want to do. We basically travelled all day and only wanted somewhere to stop at night, use the washrooms and perhaps the laundrette and that was it. If you want to stop for a day or two in pleasant surroundings, fish, go for a swim or avail yourself of the other leisure facilities then RV parks are the way to go. I know supermarket carparks are not exactly the most scenic of places but you can save a lot of money if you are literally just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I should mention that just parking up in the countryside somewhere is not permitted in Nova Scotia. I cannot speak definitively for PEI or New Brunswick but I would be surprised if it was any different. You are OK in the carparks as it is private property.
If you have decided to use an RV site, how do you know which one to use? Actually, there is a wealth of information available and we almost exclusively used two particular guides. The first was one that Lynne had picked up from free the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) as she is a member and the other was Woodalls. Woodalls are an American company but do very comprehensive guides to Canada as well as operating the Good Sam scheme which attracts discounts at participating sites and Lynne's CAA membership also scored us a few discounts.
Another good source of information are the various Provincial tourist boards which I found to be extemely helpful and with a good range of literature including their own RV site guides. You can check here for New Brunswick. The website is excellent although I am a bit low-tech and was quite happy just to use to good old-fashioned brochures.
So that is the technical side of the matter but why did I include RVing as my favourite thing about New Brunswick? Well, it is frankly. I had always fancied the idea of an RV trip and this certainly did not disappoint. In the same way as I love canal narrowboats in the UK it is the idea of complete independence and the ability to go or stay at will. I mentioned at the top of this tip that an organised tour would be my idea of Hell so I suppose that with RVing being the complete antithesis of that then this must be my idea of Heaven. When we were discussing this trip Lynne asked me what out our plans were and I told her there weren't any. In fact, it became something of a standing joke between us, "No Planning"! I realise that she was not entirely happy with this arrangement but very gamely allowed herself to go along with it and I think she is much more comfortable with it now. It is how I always travel and I would not have it any other way.
I have mentioned above about the fairly basic facilities in our RV and to me this only added to the appeal of the whole trip as it took on the feel of an adventure rather than a holiday. Obviously some of the rigs now, especially the rental rigs are completely luxurious with every conceivable comfort like microwaves, plasma TVs and Heaven knows what else but why bother?
Basic or not, I found our van really comfortable and I even had the joy of cooking on a gas cooker which is a pleasure denied to me at home where I have to use electric due to building regulations. To explain this a bit further Lynne did all the driving and mechanicing (there was a bit of that to be done!) and I did the navigating and cooking in what may seem like something of a traditional gender role-reversal. I don't drive and know less than nothing about vehicle maintainance and Lynne detests cooking while I love it so it worked perfectly although it did cause the odd raised eyebrow when we spoke to people about it.
I think I have waxed lyrical about this subject quite long enough and so I shall end this tip here. I fully appreciate that this style of travelling is not for everybody and far be it from to to tell anyone how they should travel but I hope that if you have not considerd RVing as an option that you may do so and if you have considered it that the information in this tip may be of some assistance to you.
I apologise for my ugly feet in the main image but to me that it encapsulates entirely what I have been writing about. Bare feet up on the dash in an RV on an open, empty road with nowhere specific to go and complete independence. That is my idea of travelling.
Fondest memory: I do not wish to sound overblown about this but my fondest memory of New Brunswick are the couple of days I spent in that wonderful old van with a dear friend travelling round one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
McADAM & ITS HISTORIC TRAIN STATION
Favorite thing: Friday, September 14, 2012
Driving southwest on Route#4 near the New Brunswick/Maine border, we came across the village of MCADAM. The area was first settled in the mid-to-late 19th century as a group of small lumber camps. The area further developed due to it being an important railway junction between the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway from the Maritime provinces to New England and central Canada. The town was an important servicing stop for many passenger and freight trains, as well as military trains during World War I & II. A massive railway station/Hotel was built to accommodate travelers. The Station was built of local granite, in the Chateau style. The 20-room hotel occupied two thirds of the second floor of the station. On the ground floor, the western end of the building's ground floor was occupied by a lunch counter/canteen with a large M shaped circular counter with swivel stools. This was largely where breakfasts would be served for hotel guests waiting for connecting trains and train passengers who were waiting for the Steam engines to be re-fuelled and passengers to clear Customs. It was not unusual to feed 2000 people a day at this lunch counter. The central portion of the ground floor had a more formal dining room and the kitchen area which served both eating establishments. The eastern end of the building's ground floor hosted the passenger waiting rooms and ticketing office and baggage storage rooms. The station also had a jail cell that was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway Police Service. The Hotel was closed in the early 1960's.
Highway improvements and increased trucking in the 60's & 70's saw McAdam decline in importance for rail transport.
Fundraising efforts by the village has resulted in restoration for the Station which is now a museum and tourist attraction in McAdam. and is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
Favorite thing: Covered bridges are bridges that are well, covered. Back in the nineteenth century when covered bridges were common, the bridges themselves were usually made with wood. Wood was plentiful but didn't last too long. By covering them, it greatly increased their life span. Also by covering the bridges, it kept the deck free from snow during the winter time. These bridges are grenerally single lane, so just don't go flying through them. New Brunswick doesn't have the largest concertration of covered bridges in the world but there are a lot of them, I would guess the most in Canada. There are currently 62 covered bridges here and fairly spread out across the province.
It was a tough life in the old days!
Favorite thing: Canada was a tough place to make a new life for yourself when latter-day Europeans first arrived (let's not forget the Viking settlement at L'anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1000 AD during a period of natural global warming!). Many centuries later, the first Europeans to stumble onto small Miscou Island on the northeast tip of New Brunswick were Basques from Spain in 1620, while searching for new fishing and fur-trading areas. In 1645, Nicholas Denys, from France, established the first permanent post on the island. However, a man-made forest fire in 1672 burned the entire island, forcing everyone to leave the blighted landscape. It was many years before anyone returned but, by 1770, the first French 'Acadians' had arrived to partake of the Atlantic Walrus hunt (a species driven to extinction by Acadian/English/Basque hunting). However, by 1819 both the fishing and farming had become too difficult (the long cold winters with frozen ice sheets probably did not help) and only a single family remained on Miscou. In 1830 settlers from the Jersey Islands (off the coast of France) arrived and began the colonization process again. In 1850, the rise of the herring and lobster fishery finally led to a sustained population on the island. Although most of the churches on the island are huge Roman Catholic affairs typical of any French area, this tiny Pentecostal chuch a few km south of the Miscou lighthouse caught my eye during a 2003 bicycle tour of the island. I was even more surprised to see the names on the tombstones - Brown and Dragon!Related to:
- Road Trip
Map of New Brunswick
Favorite thing: This map of the Province shows that it is bordered on the west by the state of Maine, USA, on the north by the Province of Quebec and on the southeast by the Provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. With water on three sides, the ocean plays a large part in many activities, including the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy at the bottom end of the province. This is a scenic coastal area and the tidal change in water levels is so great that it actually causes a waterfall at the mouth of the Saint John River to reverse direction twice per day!
Inland are many rivers and streams, the main one being the 350-mile (560-km) Saint John River and its many tributaries. The map also shows the location of Magaguadavic Lake, the second largest in the province and a place where I have had many enjoyable canoe trips. Further north, in the forested upland region with little settlement is Mount Carleton, the highest peak in the three Maritimes provinces. On the east coast along the shores of the warmer Northumberland Strait is Kouchibouguac, the newest of NB's two National Parks, famous for its long coastal dunes.
The mighty Elms are under attack
Favorite thing: It is a shame the havoc that introduced diseases can wreak as they travel here and there in the world, infecting things that have no immunity to their effects. Such is the case with Dutch Elm Disease, a plight that has severely affected Elm trees world-wide. Both of my 'home' towns of Sussex and Fredericton have been severely ravaged by the disease, requiring their once Elm-lined streets to be stocked with new varieties of ornamental trees.
From Wikipedia: "Dutch elm disease is a fungal disease of elm trees which is spread by the elm bark beetle. Although believed to be originally native to Asia, it has been accidentally introduced into America and Europe, where it has devastated native populations of elms which had not had the opportunity to evolve resistance to the disease. The name Dutch elm disease refers to the first scientific discovery and study of the disease in the 1920s in the Netherlands; the disease is in no way particular of the Dutch Elm hybrid. Dutch elm disease was first noticed in Europe in 1910, and spread slowly, reaching Britain in 1927. This first strain was a relatively mild one (which) was isolated in Holland in 1921...and this discovery would lend the disease its name.
In 1967, a new, far more virulent strain arrived in Britain on a shipment of logs from North America, and this strain proved both highly contagious and lethal to all of the European native elms. By 1990-2000, very few mature elms were left in Britain or much of northern Europe....More than 25 million trees died in the UK."
Fondest memory: Not really one of my fondest memories but, to continue the quotation..."Dutch elm disease reached Eastern Canada during WW2, and spread west to Manitoba in 1975 and Saskatchewan in 1981. In Toronto, Ontario, as much as 80% of the elm trees have been lost to Dutch elm disease, and many more have fallen victim to the disease in Ottawa and Montreal and other cities during the 1970s and 1980s. Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces that are currently free of Dutch elm disease."
It was during the 1970s that the Elm trees really began to die off in New Brunswick.Related to:
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: I was talking to a man outside the hotel in Fredericton the night we stayed there and asked him a few questions about New Brunswick. I also asked him for some recommendations and everything he told me turned out to be accurate, so I might as well pass it on for those of you who aren't familiar with the province. Fredericton is the government center. While there are a few things to do at night, it's not as much of a nightlife place as Moncton, a city located to its east (close to Prince Edward Island)
Saint John is down on the Bay of Fundy and is the place where the cruise ships dock. Apparently, according to this guy, it's an okay town, more of a port city than anything else. St. Andrews is close to St. John and the "resort city". St. Stephen is a border town, but also known as Canada's chocolate town. I didn't get much information on Miramichi--a place I want to visit next time.
He also told me--and I was skeptical at first but then read it in a tour guide--that somewhere along the east coast (I can't remember which beach he said..) the water is warmer than any other place between there and Virginia.
Fondest memory: We followed his advice--made sure we passed through all of the cities he specifically mentioned (Moncton, Saint John, St. Andrews and St. Stephen) in NB but kept a few things he suggested for later. He told us if we had enough time to get out to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, but we only had a couple more days.
The point is, he was a very nice and helpful man, not at all in a hurry to get away from me and was a better (more abbreviated) version of a tour guide. He considered his personal preference but also my age and what might appeal to me. It was excellent advice. So, ask locals if you don't have a built in itinerary:) This, by the way, includes VTer Bwana_Brown who is from Frederiction and has wonderful pages on NB.Related to:
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: New Brunswick is chock full of these charming structures, 65 of them in all, including the world's largest covered bridge.! We manged to see four of them on our travels. We didn't travel out of our way at all, they just popped up. I'm sure if we had planned it out, we could have made some small detours and seen a whole lot more.
Check out RobDavis's New Brunswick page for more in depth information on these structures.
- Road Trip
MAGNETIC HILL , MONCTION , NEW BRUNSWICK
Favorite thing: The Magnetic Hill road is part of the Magnetic Hiil Zoo in Moncton New Brunswick which is located on the west side of Moncton, Take Exit 488A of of the Trans Canada Highway. It possible to see the hill and bypass the zoo .
You drive your car to the top of the hill and drive "down" on the right hand side. At the bottom you drive on to the left hand side of the road with the back of the car facing up the hill you just drove down. The you place your car in Neutral . The car will proceed to roll up the hill to your start point. You can then get out of your car and watch other cars doing the same . That is rolling up a hill .
Relaxing Road Trip
Favorite thing: The atmosphere in New Brunswick was so peaceful and "back to nature". We really loved it. I suppose that's why we were so jarred when arriving at the Hopewell Rocks. It was so commercial there, it didn't seem fitting in the natural surroundings.
Fundy Park on the other hand was empty in comparison. Perhaps it was the time of day we did our hiking there, dusk, or maybe that it's big enough that you don't trip over tourists. But we found it very tranquil there.
Fondest memory: Hiking the Dickson Falls trail at sunset. The glow through the trees was magical. Not to mention that waterfalls are among Lou's and My favorite things to photographRelated to:
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
the stars vs. the mozzies
Fondest memory: After a much-deserved hot shower, we shared a bottle of beer in the car and got ready to face the ordeal of getting in the tent for the night. It had cooled considerably but they were still out, though in less robust force. Once inside the tent, I made sure all sneaky stowaways were put to death and laid down to discover it was still quite early to sleep. I got up and surprised Doreen by getting ready to go out of the tent again. Not saying why, I went out and took the tent's rain fly off and returned to find her smiling and gazing at the stars. It was a gorgeous clear night and the sky was full of the lights of the galaxy. We lay back together in silence and enjoyed nature's display and artistry. All was perfect in the world except one small thing. Before we went to sleep, I would have to go out and put the fly back on. I learned a long time ago not to trust nature too much and that what we might deem perfection, other inhabitants might see otherwise. Mosquitoes need water to survive and possibly rain was on its way.
don't eat that mozzie.....
Favorite thing: Besides the Bay of Fundy, you should definitely check out the beaches especially the more undeveloped ones like those Kouchibouguac National Park. It's great camping there too, just watch out for the mosquitos as I detail below.
Fondest memory: I noticed a mosquito on my arm as I got back in the car after hitting the grocery store for supplies, and thought little of it. I casually asked the campground attendant if there were some of the buggers around this late in the season and she said that there were more than usual for that time of year. I mistakenly took this in a reassuring way as if that time of year there were generally none. But no sooner did I start to set up the tent and I was besieged by an onslaught of the bloodsuckers that I had not seen since camping at Flamingo in the Everglades. As soon as the basic structure was up, I threw Doreen in with the rest of the gear and hastily finished the job, flapping my arms like some flightless bird. Inside the tent, we laughed at the absurdity of it all but fact was, we had to stay the night and actually planned on an overnight kayak trip the next day. We escaped to the beach and found the strong ocean breeze kept the pests at bay. We enjoyed a nice stroll past picturesque driftwood and quick-footed pipers foraging in the hard wet sand, even catching a magnificent blue heron in flight at one point. We decided to stay for sunset and try and cook our dinner there as the campground would be a disaster. If mozzies are a problem during the day, they are bound to be a nightmare at dusk. Unfortunately, the wind died down and with the sun returning to slumber, the hungry carriers of disease came out in vengeance for what could be one of their last meals of the dwindling season. We aborted the idea immediately and wound up eating some snacks in the car. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
stealing a precious moment in time....
Fondest memory: The weather was not cooperating with the sun fighting mightily to break free of the dense fog that lie just on the cold water's surface. But break through it did though only in spurts. We had to be quick about getting some photos as an instant later and what was once glowing red was again ordinary in appearance. It mattered little, this slight imperfection. Here we were on a mysterious, rugged coast, one of the top sights on the Bay of Fundy and we had it all to ourselves. There was not a soul to be seen or heard. We walked mostly in silence, soaking in the scenery with the bay lapping at our feet. You had to be careful of the red mud-like sand or you would sink into it as I found out all too soon. With some photos secured and the park's opening hour quickly approaching, we made our way back up to the top and rushed back to the car. The office was just opening but we kept walking and averted our gaze. No one said anything, I am sure we were not the first ones to do it. After all, the brochure said, "Hopewell Rocks at dawn," and there was at least the Tai Chi lady here for the photo shoot. The car was still there, parked illegally. And better yet, no ticket. We sped away smiling, like fleeing criminals that had just stolen one precious moment in time.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
It is free, right? ;)
Fondest memory: It was a fair walk out to the actual coast and then down to the rock formations that make the park so justifiably famous. It was eerie being there with everything closed and us feeling like crooks breaking in. But soon enough, we were at the steps that lead down to the famous flowerpot looking rocks that grace the park brochure. Of course, there was another round of signs before and on the bottom of the steps warning that you were entering a dangerous tidal area, that the park was not open and you were doing so at your own risk. A simple "No trespassing, violators will be prosecuted," sign would have worked better. Telling me at my own risk means it is free and no one is here: go fast! (concluded below in Fondest Memory)Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
tai chi inspired excursion....
Favorite thing: New Brunswick may have many attractions but the one thing you cannot miss is the Bay of Fundy, and not just the National Park. Check out the small coastal towns like Cape Enrage and definitely the Hopewell Rocks too.
Fondest memory: Once in camp, I had a little spare time to look at tourist information pamphlets I had received weeks before. I discovered that in our haste to get to the Bay Of Fundy National Park, we had driven right by one of the top attractions in all of New Brunswick, the Hopewell Rocks. It looked spectacular and in one photo that was labeled as being at dawn, they positively glowed with a woman beside them in a morning stretch resembling Tai Chi. That was it, I decided then and there that we would get up before the sun rose the next morning and go down and catch this magical light. Doreen looked less than thrilled with the prospect but the National Park did not present the great hiking opportunities we had expected and we could not let a chance like this slip away. I woke up in total darkness and without breakfast, we jumped in the car. We retraced the previous day's drive and in 45 minutes we arrived at what is oddly not a National Park. I say oddly as we had purchased a Canadian National Parks pass at Kouchibouguac National Park and though we had used it at Cape Breton as well, it did not seem to be worth the $CAN 50 we paid. Here was one of the top natural phenomenons in the Province and it was not included on the pass. Not to worry though, the gates were locked anyway. It seemed the park did not open until 9:00 AM and here it was some three hours until then, with the sun just starting to come up over the horizon. There was not much time for debate, we had come too far and woke up too early to miss an opportunity like this. In fact, on the gate that was more to keep cars out than people, it said, "closed, enter at own risk." So, we left the car parked there and quickly made our way down to what we hoped were glowing rocks of amber. (continued below in Fondest Memory)Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Province of New Brunswick Hotels
This is one of the newer hotels in the City of Fredericton, having opened July 12th, 2004. The...more
369 Ch. Rockland, Saint John, E2K 3W3, Canada
Good for: Solo
The service is great here . They go out of their way to help their guests . All guestrooms complete...more
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