Tag Archives: Travel

Newfoundland: Taking a Hike and Liking It….

Travelling across Newfoundland in a Recreational Vehicle, as we did, affords us a great deal of time to try new pastimes. As such our go to activity since arriving here has been hiking. 

Beaches of Burgeo. Miles of seaside pleasure

Let me say that walking for pleasure is something that I have taken up late life like the last five years. For much of my adult life I was pretty much a “couch potato.” However health challenges about twenty years ago forced me to re-think some my lifestyle choices. One of the new health conscious changes I made was to become more active and walking was a key  part of my health strategy going forward. 

Beach near Lumsden NFLD. Stormy walks…

I have taken the occasional walk in the woods or Recreational trail but I can’t say I made any effort to do so regular. I was pretty much an urban walker. Well let’s say that all of that changed we arrived in beautiful Newfoundland last July. 

Hiking and walking trails in Newfoundland are a key piece of their tourism infrastructure. All levels of government here have invested in developing and maintaining trails dedicated to hikers of all levels. The quantity and quality of the trails seemed tailor made for retiree’s like use with time on our hands. It didn’t take long before the call of the trails had us hooked. 

Tablelands Hike Gros Morne National Park

We are very much novices when it comes to the hike game. We limit out hikes to between 5 & 10 kilometers on any given day. The trails I choose are usually rated easy to moderate although Martha, who has always embraced physical challenges, has done a difficult trail with a friend while in Newfoundland. 

Newfoundland is a fabulous place to hike and not just because there is an abundance of trails, but because it an Island in the North Atlantic. There are many unique plant and ecosystems that make every walk interesting. Add to that incedibly scenic Mountains and Coastline and there is always motivation to take another hike. 

I don’t know if I have become more observant as I have aged or I just walk slower and therefore I see more. The fact is there is much to see in the forest here. Much of which I have never seen until now. Plants, varying  terrain, world class Mountains and amazing Coastline make every hike an adventure and a journey of discovery.

Trailside plants Terra Nova National Park

Since we have been here we have hiked the Coastline, explored miles of beach, circled lakes, climbed high bluffs using hand built stairs and walked over bogs on board walks that are popular throughout the province. 

I will not recommend specific trail simply because there are so many that can offer a variety of experiences. The internet is a great resource for researching your next hike or you can go old school and just speak to locals or other tourist throughout your journey. Most people you encounter are happy to share their favourite hiking discoveries with you. 

We will offer you a little advice however. Although hiking is a great way see the world and enjoy the great outdoors affordably. The experience can be greatly enhanced with the right equipment. Invest in good quality hiking shoes or boots and breathable rain gear. There are also a number of “technical” clothing options that although not necessary will keep you dry and comfy from both the rain and the heat and thus worth considering. Finally I highly recommend investing in some hiking poles. They are great for adding stability over rough terrain and helping with difficult climbs. For those of us who are “aged challenged” it is like having a portable banister with you all the time. 

Any Newfoundland vacation would not be complete without a few days exploring the vast network of hiking trails. Whether you’re a bird watcher, a plant lover, a walker or someone who just loves fresh air and open spaces; just take a hike because you just might like it.

Barachois Pond Provincial Park NFLD. Erin Mountain Trail. View from the bottom and the top. 360 meter climb of hiking splendour. All photos taken by Eric Morin


We have been on the road a little more than a month. Routine has started to set in but most days still bring something new and interesting. I thought I would try to provide some insight into what a typical day is like but more specifically what a “travel or moving day” is like. 

Yesterday was a travel day after spending five nights at Lockston Path Provincial Park in the Bonivista/Trinity Region of Newfoundland. That is the longest we have stayed in one place since setting out from home. I have to say that it was nice to be grounded in one place for that long even if toured the local area each day. Anyway I digress, back to a typical travel day for us….

On this day we would be moving about 250KM to St John’s NL which should be about a three and a half hour drive not including any stops. Typically travel with an RV is somewhat slower than travelling with the family sedan. 

The night before, we usually begin to prep for our departure. We stow the barbecue, the solar panel as well as anything else that we will not need before before leaving the next morning. We are not early risers so our day usually start our day at about 08:00 hours. We usually have a  quick breakfast on travel days and focus our time on getting packed up and moving. 

We have pretty much settled into a routine with regard to the task that need to be done prior to departure. Initially Martha takes care of prepping the inside while I focus on the outside. 

Whether our preparation is being done inside or outside, the core task is the same: make sure everything is stowed away securely in the same place each time. This is especially important  inside. Everything must be put away while larger objects such as chairs must be tied down. There can be an incredible amount of movement in the 5th wheel while traveling especially when driving on secondary roadways with uneven pavement and potholes. Moreover, anything stored in upper cabinets must be stored in a manner that prevents movement. In our case everyrhing stowed in high cabinets is kept in high sided trays while items like dishes are kept in racks. During our first weeks of travel when we were unaware or undisciplined we would open our trailer door after travelling to find items strewn across the floor. However the critical reason for stowing things properly is to ensure the unimpeded operation of our slide outs or room extensions. 

On the outside power,water and sewer lines must be disconnected and stored. If we happen to have a site with a three way hook-up(shore power, water and sewer), the holding tanks must be emptied and possibly backwashed. We sanitize all our waste water equipment with a concentrated water and bleach solution each time before they are stored. If we are off grid the generator must be put away. Everything that is kept in our lower holds is inspected to ensure that it is in its proper place to allow for quicker retrieval at our next stop as well as secured to prevent movement. Once everything is stowed and secured inside and out, the slide outs can be retracted then the process of connecting the truck and trailer begins. 

For safety reasons, we do everything in a deliberate order and routine each time. When we started we had a checklist of all of the task required before departure. You can make up your own or find one online. Everyone has their own way of doing things and this is ours. As we gain experience we make adjustments in the interest of time and safety. Please note that not every task is fully detailed here. 

Our trailer requires that we level it manually as opposed to some newer models that are self leveling. Therefore our departure preparation is in the exact reverse order to our set up when we arrived. So the first task is to retract the rear stabilizers. This allows us to use the landing gear at the front of the trailer to raise or lower it so that it is at the proper height to be connected to the truck. We then ensure our 5th wheel hitch is in the open position and ready to receive the king pin from the front the trailer. Once tailgate of the truck is lowered we can begin reversing the truck for the hook up. Martha usually backs the truck up while make sure that everything is aligned and at the proper height so the hitch will engage properly.  

Once the truck hitch has neen engaged with the trailer we visually inspect it and proceed with locking it to prevent any accidental disengagement of the trailer. Once everything is locked in place we can then raise the tailgate and connect the umbilical cord from the trailer to the truck to operate the trailer lights and the trailer’s electric brake system. 

Now that the connection to the truck is complete, we can finish raising the landing gear and retrieve all the blocking and store it in the designated spot. The next step is to remove and move the Wheel chocks. 

Anytime we move the trailer we check the tire pressure and add air if required. The tires on our trailer are filled to 80 psi which is more than double the tire pressure of the family car. It is vital that when towing proper inflation is maintained and  the tire pressure is checked daily.  At the same time the tires should be visually inspected, front and back, to verify there is no uneven wear, delamination or tire damage that may impact the integrity of the tire. A blow out or flat tire on a large 12,000 lbs trailer could result in the loss of control or roll-over of the entire rig. Consequently we take tire inspection very seriously. 

Finally we can check that the trailer lights are fully operational and complete our final circle check. This means we make sure the bike rack is secure. All doors, windows and hatches are closed and locked. We visually inspect the entire trailer to make sure there is no damage or loose parts. Just prior to moving out we give the hitch mechanism one final visual inspection just in case. From this point forward it should be smooth sailing 

It generally takes us about 3o minutes to an hour to prepare for a safe departure. Upon arriving at our destination, the set up up will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the quality of the campsite. 

We try to keep our daily drive to under 4 or 5 hours. We also avoid towing after dusk especially in a place like Newfoundland where wildlife on the road is always a hazard. So that is our typical day on the road. 

6 Amazing Things I Learned About Newfoundland’s West Coast and Ashamed That I Didn’t Know

I am one of those weirdo’s who loves history,.especially Canadian history. I have always taken pride in having, what I believe to be,  a better than average understanding of Canadian geography. Well it only has taken two weeks in Newfoundland to prove how woefully inadequate I am when it comes to knowing anything about this very special and amazing province. Sadly I’m not alone. I informally asked other gray haired first time visitors if they were aware of many of our discoveries here. Like me they muttered something about the sorry state of Canadian Education and then ashamedly admitted they did not.  So that you do not have be as challenged as I am in my golden years, here are 6 things I learned while traveling Newfoundland’s West Coast. 

Tabletop Mountain. Photo Credit: Martha Morin
  1. Climb Every Mountain:  When we think of mountains in Canada our thoughts turn to the Canadian Rockies of the West, central Canada’s Laurentian Mountains or the Cape Breton Highlands of the east coast. Well the Long Range Mountains of Newfoundland more than deserve  to be a part of this illustrious group. As as an extension of the Appalachian Mountains Range of North America’s east coast, these amazing mountains run up almost the entire west coast of Newfoundland. Rugged and majestic they reach for the sky at times at the ocean’s edge. Their shape and structure varies significantly throughout the range. Key features are a part of Gros Morne National Park and include the Tabletop Mountains near Trout River and Fjords of West Brook Pond. Definitely a must see part of Canada. See more here:   https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Range_Mountains 
    West Brook Pond Fjord? Photo Credit: Martha Morin
  2. Salt Required:    While on the topic of Mountains, who knew that Newfoundland had a fjord. Well actually it is not currently a true fjord but it once was. To be a true fjord it must be filled with saltwater and although the the fjord at West Brook Pound was once filled with saltwater, glacial movement and changing seas levels has left it land locked and filled with fresh water thus loosing its authentic fjord designation. Salt or no salt this is a Canadian treasure. The two hour boat tour of this lake will be a highlight of any trip to Newfoundland.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Brook_Pond 
    Whales at St Anthony’s NFLD. Photo Credit: Martha Morin
  3. Have a Whale of a Time: I have been on two so called “whale watching cruises” in my life prior to coming to Newfoundland and never go a glimpse of a Whale until coming to this province. If you want to see whales Newfoundland is the place. You can see these beautiful giant mammals from shore with binoculars or you can spend a little cash on a cruise to get up close and personal. One word of caution. No tour guarantees seeing whale. But the chances of seeing them here is exponentially higher than anywhere else. If you do choose to do a tour, pleases so your homework to ensure the operator in ecologically ethical and will not use tactics that will anyway terrorize, disturb or harm the whales. The touring business can be very competitive so there are times when some operators will chase or approach seas mammals in a manner that may be harmful to give paying customers a cheap but damaging thrill. See this link below for more info about whales of Newfoundland.  Https://newfoundsander.wordpress.com/whales/ ,   
    Anchors Aweigh Live Rocky Harbour NFLD. Photo Credit:Martha Morin
    There are whales and then there is whaling of the party variety.  So if you want a whale of a good to time take in one of the many live shows around the province. Quality entertainment and talent at rock bottom prices. See the link below for more information about Anchors Aweigh in Rocky Harbour NFLDhttp://www.tripadvisor.com/3309403?m=19905
  4. Rocks Alive!: Flower‘s Cove NFLD is home to thrombolites, very rare fossils which can be seen on the coast in the southern part of the town, remnants of bacteria and algae. They are about 650 million years old. The only two places where thrombolites were found are Flower’s Cove and Western Australia.How amazing is that. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower%27s_Cove
  5. Historic MeetingL’anse aux Meadows National Historic site where archeologist discovered a Norse village that proves that Europeans actually reached North America around 1000 AD almost five hundred years before Columbus. The site recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1976 provides a peek into what life was like in this small settlement established by Lief Erickson as a staging point to allow further exploration of a territory referred to as Vineland.The site is also said to be where human migrants who originated in Africa thousands of years before met again for the first time after circling the globe. All humans are said to have evolved and got their start in Africa. In time some started migrate East and others west. So when Lief Erickson landed at L’Anse aux Meadows and made contact with the local natives, the Beothucks, it is likely that human migrants from the east and west met for the first time concluding human circumvention of the earth. Pretty cool stuff that happened in Newfoundland. Read more at the following link.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Anse_aux_Meadows 
  6. Land of Plenty: Meanwhile another interesting story was playing out further south on Newfoundland’s western peninsula at Port aux Choix. This is one of the richest archeological areas in the world.  Three distinct groups are said to have occupied this area for over 5500 years. The area attracted migrants because of it’s rich resources such as fish, seal and furs. Maritime Archaic Tradition, Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimos, and Recent Indians occupied the area before Europeans arrived. Beginning in the late 1500s, Basque, French and English occupied the site.   Read more here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_au_Choix

Explore Canada: Gros Morne NL

Like many National Parks, Gros Morne National Park has the tree jewels of big mountains, big water and big sky. But Gros Morne has a fourth jewel; big personality making  it jewel laden grandslam . 

As National Parks go, Gros Morne is a relatively new park established in 1976. Because of this there are many coastal communities within the park along Newfoundland’s west coast. Each Community with their memorable names such as Rocky Harbour, Woody Point and Cows Head have a proud and rich local history. However it is the people of these communities that give Gros Morne it’s big personality. Whether it is a casual encounter with a waitress or a shopkeeper,  the warm welcoming demeanor is always present. It seems that every sentence ends with love, honey or sweetheart. 

The province’s is storied history of song and famous Newfie humor is readily present and available. Local bars and pubs offer nightly entertainment that provide a party like atmosphere by demanding unfettered audience participation. 

For those who prefer a more formal setting for their viewing pleasure the Gros Morne Theatre Festival offers a series of plays and concerts all steeped in local history, songs and laughter.

The physical features of Gros Morne are breathtaking. It seems that wherever you look the is a postcard perfect view in front of you. Some memorable sights include the Table Top Mountains, picturesque seaside towns and lighthouses that dot the coast. There are numerous hiking trails from easy to difficult. The beach at Shallow Bay offer hours of walking and exploration with it’s massive sand dunes. 

The highlight for most people is the hike into West Brook Pond followed by a boat tour of the Fjord. There no question that this magnificent combination of sparkling water and towering rock walls is a national treasure. 

All business at Gros Morne are owned and operated by local people. I found the absence of national brands refreshing. All forms of accommodation are available. Motels, Bed and Breakfasts, Cottages along with campgrounds can be found throughout the park. Restaurants featuring local specialties of seafood and moose are also abundant. 

Gros Morne is a feast or the eyes and the heart. If you have not been to Gros Morne National Park it should on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed. Promise!!! 

Finding Christmas in July on the Rock: Burgeo Newfoundland

We started planning our retirement about five years before we exited the workplace this past spring. A priority for our retirement plan was to travel, but more specifically travel extensively throughout Canada. 

We then had to decide on our mode of transportation. We wanted to combine how we travelled with our love of the outdoors but wanted to moved to greater creature comforts than the tent we were accustomed to. Finally we determined that a fifth wheel rig would best meet our needs.

The decision of where to go first was an easy one. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only Canadian Province we have never visited so it became destination Number One. So we packed up our rig and headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway to the province Canadians affectionately refer to as the Rock. 

Our 2125 kilometer drive and six hour ferry ride to Port aux Basques Newfoundland went well without any major setbacks. The excitement when we boarded the ferry for the final leg of our journey was palpable. Our first impressions did not disappoint. The land was stark yet beautiful in rugged yet comforting kind of way. Our first contact with Newfoundlanders was as we believed it would be warm, gracious and welcoming. 

One of goals was to experience Newfoundland not just sightsee. We wanted to visit communities that were “off the beaten path” and not typical tourist areas. So as I looked at the map I spotted the Town of Burgeo on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland overlooking the Cabot Strait. As I read about this community I found that it is home to Sandbanks Provincial Park that is reputed as havlong the most spectacular beaches in the province. To add additional spice, there is a ferry to the nearby island Village of Ramea. Given our love for exploring and walking beaches and given the location 150kms off the Trans-Canada Highway(TCH) ; this was an easy choice for our first adventure in Newfoundland. So a day after landing on the Rock and filled with the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas morning, we headed to Burgeo. 

As we turned off the TCH for our final leg, the roadway was disappointingly similar to secondary highways back home in Ontario. Although paved there were no shoulders to speak of a the bush seemed to be encroaching on both sides. To make matters worse Highway 480 was scattered with potholes making travel with our towable home painfully slow. It looks nearly three hour to travel the final 150km to our destination.

But somewhere around the halfway point down this road, something magical began to happen. The trees became more sparse and the land opened up large tracks of wetland covered in intensely green coloured moss and dwarfed vegetation including the trees. In fact the trees resembled life size bonsai trees. Then the gleaming small lakes and ponds began to appears along with the sparkling rivers and streams filled with smoothly rounded river rock. But things would only get better. Soon the Annieopsquotch Mountains came into view. Large rock formations rising in fairytale like shapes from the flat green landscape partially covered in grenery yet powerfully dominated by the ancient gray granite rising high above the rugged yet beautiful terrain. My general impression was that it looked like a giant Christmas tree had been unfurled across the landscape in all its green, gleaming and granite splendor. As we got closer to Burgeo the sun began to shine through lighting up this three dimensional masterpiece. I have never seen anything remotely like this in my lifetime. 

We arrived to Burgeo late in the afternoon and soon after we checked into our campsite at Sandbank Provincial Park.  The park situated next to the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by wetlands on the other three sides. It did not take us long to find the boardwalk through the Marram grass covered dunes to the First Beach. The beach did not disappoint. A wide swath of white sand bordered by rolling sea waves on one side and long fragile wild grass topping the dunes on the other. Large rock outcroppings at.each end acted as bookends to complete nature’s ideal picture frame. Over the next three days we walked over twenty kilometers of shoreline as trails over the rock bookends lead to a series of fabulous beaches. Even the mist and the fog could not spoil our experience of some of our countries most scenic and unspoiled beaches. Walking on the mushy white sand while avoiding the unpredictable waves crashing the shoreline while breathing fresh sea air that leaves a tinge of salt on your lips is my nirvana. During my time here I was so taken by my surroundings that I could truly not think of any other place I would rather be thus living in the moment. 

As I sat by the campfire enjoying the sun descend behind the hills at the end of small lake that bordered our campsite at the closing of our first day in Burgeo, I happened to glance down at my watch and noticed the date. It was July 24th, the day before some Canadians celebrate Christmas in July. I have always been quite cynical of this concept and celebration. But on a day when all my senses were overloaded by all of nature’s gifts this incredible land had shared with us, I thought it very fitting that it happened on a day that was symbolically associated with receiving gifts, blessings and good will.  I certainly never would have thought that my age I could rediscover that child like wonder, joy and peace often associated with Christmas out on the land. As I reflected,  I realized that the Christmas is really about feelings such as  gratitude, joy and thanks that can occur anytime or anywhere, even in a place like Burgeo Newfoundland. I am finding in retirement that I’m more able to just enjoy the moment and open myself to the possibility of receiving nature’s gifts and blessings. 

The lesson here is now on any day, regardless of time and place, We can find many more days of wonder and joy if we just embrace living in the moment and are open to the possibilities.  So while I embrace this newly found openness, I wish you all a lifetime of  merry and joyful moments !

Note: While in Burgeo we took a short ferry ride(one hour and twenty minutes) to the island community of Ramea. We were the only tourist on the island that day. This fishing village is home to about four hundred people. It offers a view into  life in a typical outpost island community.  We enjoyed our few hours there walking the island, viewing landmarks and speaking to locals. It was definitely time well spent. 


I knew that there would be lifestyle adjustments upon retiring, but there are some challenges I could never have imagined….

Since setting out for Newfoundland last week one of most troubling adjustments has been to begin living our life at slower pace. I worked away from home for nearly ten years and Martha had been a shift worker her entire work life so it seemed we were always struggling with time by trying to squeeze in as much as possible during our time off together.  It seemed we where always fighting the clock to get things done or reach a destination. Now we pretty much have total control of our schedule, but even so old habits did hard.

It seemed that our first days on the road were a rush to get somewhere we didn’t need to be. While driving we continued to drive with the same abandon as we have for years in a regular  car but now we are driving this huge truck and RV combination that in itself demands a different approach. We continued to drive over the speed limit, although only slightly, and we still had no patience to drive behind anyone; even when their speed was slightly slower than ours. We struggled to slow down the pace even just a little. Drastic action was needed so we  set out some simple, but pace changing ground  rules. 

First we agreed to not exceed the speed limit. The benefits of this went beyond a slower pace and being a bit more relaxed, we are actually experiencing better fuel economy which is a great bonus. Secondly we now set realistic daily travel goals for ourselves. We leave time for regular stops or anything else that may get our attention along the way. Needless to say, travel is now more relaxed. But one time challenge still remains. 

When we retired Martha and I both purchased fitness trackers. You know the things people wear on their wrist to monitor physical activity and sleep. We simply thought these devices would help us avoid falling into the bad habits of a sedentary lifestyle. We both think that daily exercise is important and walking is the cornerstone of our healthy living strategy as we get older. Little did we know that these fitness trackers would become an irritant that resuled in a direct conflict with our new retiree vagabond life. 

While we are driving across the country basking in the beauty that is Canada my new device vibrates on my wrist regularly. When I glance down at it’s bold letters a massage reads ” MOVE!” 

Seriously who would have thought that life could put us in such a conundrum. Of course the topic of conversation frantically turns to how will we get our step count goal for the day done. Just what we needed, unwanted pressure to to perform and exercise during our casual drive dictated a silly electronic device on my wrist. So new ground rule. I don’t wear the damn thing when we plan a longer travel day. 

Unfortunately it does not end there. That app that my device is connected to on my smartphone sends regular “helpful hints”to help with fitness and healthy living. Well after a week on the road after learning to relax I get a message on my phone from my fitness tracker asking “why I sleep so much?” As someone who has battled insomnia for decades my knee jerk response was anger, but soon this helpful hint brought a smile to my face. Slower pace, daily struggles to get our step count done and too much sleep. I think we are settling into retirement just fine and all behavioural changes verified by this most amazing electronic device on my wrist. 

Explore Canada: Quebec’s Eastern Townships 

From time to time at MIA we will highlight certain regions or communities across Canada based on our experience and impressions. This week’s spotlight is on Quebec’s Eastern Townships. 

Martha’s has a large extended family in the Eastern Townships and this area holds many fond memories and much family history for her. I first came to the Townships shortly after we were married 32 years ago and my affection and appreciation for this region grows with each visit. Because we have such a connection  to the area we are planning  a four day stopover  to visit family and explore more of the area.

The Eastern Townships, which are southeast of Montreal and straddles the area between the United States border and the City of Sherbrooke, was one of the few Anglophone enclaves in the Province of Quebec up until before the end of the last century. Francophones and Anglophones co-existed for over a century. In fact families from both cultures stretch south across the US border even today creating a unique cross border heritage based on a an era and history of hardworking families committed to farming, lumbering and earning a living off the land.

The townships  always come through with a spectacular and lasting first impression. The tops of the rolling hills provide amazing panoramic views of endless farms that are often separated by the deep greens of hardwood forest. This area is the ultimate destination for pleasurable drives through the country, especially during the fall of the year with the changing colours of leaves and interesting stops at roadside stands with selections from the year’s harvest. But, frankly the townships offer plenty to do regardless of the season.

As you explore the back roads of this region there is much to discover. Small towns, villages  and even the roadsides offer the possibility of finding unique artisans, antiques, local produce and food. If you are lucky you may stumble upon a world class cheese factory, a gourmet food fair or pick your own farms.

One of the Canada’s best bicycling networks can be found in the Eastern Townships.  The charming town of Magog  is the hub for the cycling network. This town that is situated on the shores of Lake Mephremagog  offer shops, bistros and a variety of restaurants.

The region also offers scenic hiking for both rookie and seasoned hikers. Start your hiking adventure in the town of Coaticook. For beginners the scenic Gorge de Coaticook is a great place to spend a couple of hours. For those who demand more of a challenge, nearby Mont Pinacle will not only meet the challenge but also give you an incredible view of the entire  region. For those who enjoy learning about local history, specialty museums are scattered across the region. Camping is also widely  available.

Quebec’s  Eastern Townships is not considered a well known tourist destination for people from outside the province. Maybe that’s good thing as the country charm and scenic beauty remain authentic. If drives in the country sprinkled with a chance to explore and find old and new country charm is your thing, the Eastern Townships  will not disappoint as it truly is a unique piece of Canada.

Whew! We Survived Day 1…Barely!

There are times in life when faced with challenges that “surviving to fight another day” is a noble outcome. Our first day on the road proved to be one of those days. Not that we knocked at disaster’s door or anything like that, but we did have to facesome of our fears when it comes to our new and chosen lifestyle. 

Our first day began quite smoothly with our first hook up of the fifth wheel and enjoyable drive to our nation’s Capital of Ottawa for our first night on the road. 

The drama began approaching our campground within the City. The entrance to the campground on a standard residential street consisted of a narrow gap between a row of mature trees and a large utility pole standing in the right edge of the entrance. Our first issue appeared when because of the inconspicuous nature (ok maybe not so inconspicuous) of the entrance we drove right by it and ended up on a dead end street.

My wife Martha is always up for challenges so she enjoys driving the big rig. I don’t mind driving but I’m  always happy to defer to someone else. Now our circumstances here were not a result of driver skill in fact if anything Martha’s patience and skill was key to our eventually arriving safely and intact. Anyway back to our near disaster for the day. 

So to review we find ourselves at the dead end of a residential street  driving a 51 foot long eight foot wide rig. So Martha pulls into a thankfully long driveway. With me outside providing direction, albeit confusing direction, we are able to back out onto the street with little problem other than running over a corner of the occupants front lawn. But our victory was short lived as it was after this that the real fun started when trying to make the tight turn into that narrow entrance to the campground. 

On our first attempt came a quick stop when the Fifth Wheel Trailer came precariously close to the aforementioned utility pole and the wire hanging from it with little or no room to maneuver. So we reverse direction hoping to approach it from a better angle after some correction. Our second attempt was slightly better but our nemesis the utility pole was still to close for comfort. This is when Henry Ford entered my mind and came to the rescue. Years ago I read a quote from the pioneering automaker that has saved my butt a number of times. “Failure only provides a reason to begin again intelligently” he once said. So that’s what we did. We surveyed our options backed out and approached the entrance from a different direction. Soon success was our to savour. The rest of our park set up went very smoothly except when the heavy rains and winds came later.

I have struggled with intermittent anxiety for about a decade. Everyone’s anxiety manifest itself differently and mine usually involves worrying or obsessing about little things over which I have little or no control. So during the drama upon arriving there was no anxiety as there was a sense of control.  However later while sitting inside the trailer enjoying the air conditioning on a very hot day is when my anxiety decided to kick in.  As heavy rain and high winds began, I  realized that we are in a trailer at trailer park during a storm..Oh no!.  We all know that these crazy storms seek out trailer parks to reek their havoc and destruction….. Thankfully the storm was short lived and harmless. So we happily live to fight another day with renewed confidence to continue facing our fears.

Too Old for Adventure? Not!

Today we embark on the travel adventure or misadventure of our lifetime. The ultimate road trip across Canada. We have driven across Canada before but not like this.

My wife Martha and I retired earlier this spring and are fortunate to begin this phase of our life before our sixtieth year. We shared a vision of retirement filled with travel and in particular extended travel a across our beautiful homeland of Canada. We have travelled to most parts of Canada over the years but this trip is the is going to be totally different….

About five years ago we decided that we wanted to spend the our summers exploring Canada once we retired. We wanted to do it in a way that was more than sightseeing. We wanted to spend time in communities across the country exploring and having conversations with locals from sea to sea. We want to have a true experience of small town Canada beyond what we read in travel brochures or on the internet. We quickly decided that the way to do this was by travelling by recreational vehicle. This is where things kinda got crazy.

Other than a small pop-up tent trailer we have no experience travelling with a recreational vehicle so there was a huge learning curve just determining was type of RV would be best for us and our plans. We eventually made decisions and only time will tell if we made the best decisions. 

We settled on a truck and a fifth wheel trailer combination. In future blogs I will detail how we came to our decisions and why we settled on this 51 foot long and 14,000 pound behemoth of an RV and truck combo. 

So here we are senior  citizens embarking a trip of a lifetime with no experience chauffeuring a vehicle this huge vehicle to our first destination: Newfoundland and Labrador. So keep checking in to see how our adventure or misadventure goes as we push our limits well beyond our comfort zone ensuring that everyday will bring something new and exciting. 

Cruising the Yangtzee

Yesterday we completed our five day cruise on the on China’s mighty Yangtzee River aboard the Century Diamond. Our trip, with 264 other passengers, began near the city of Wuhan and ended at this country’s largest city Shonshing with over 33 million inhabitants. Yes that’s right a city that has the population of Canada.

The Yangtzee River twist and turns 8000km between Tibet and Shanghai, is China’s largest River and has nearly 100 million people living on its shores. Our tour focused on an area known as the Three Gorges.

The Yangtzee Three Gorges Tour is a balance of natural beauty and man-made marvels.  The natural beauty of the Gorges is spectacular. Towering cliffs rise from the water’s edge toward the China sky. Mountains that tower hundreds of feet high feature abundant greenery with plenty of exposed gray rock for contrast. Mountain side  farmhouses  with orange groves and linier gardens extend high on the on the hillsides are common and seen regularly.  Some animal life can be seen on the shores. We were fortunate to see monkeys and goats from our private balconies. I have to admit I was not expecting discover this level of natural beauty on this trip. It is definitely one of many highlights for me thus far.

The other feature of the cruise was once again witnessing the technological prowess and determination of the Chinese people. The Chinese completed the Three Gorges Hydro Electric Dam in 2010 almost 20 years after is was started.

This massive dam, perhaps the biggest in the world, raised the water on  upstream side by 110 metres. This meant that 1.3 million who lived upstream of the dam were permanently displaced because of the resulting flooding.  New homes built at higher elevations allowed many to continue life on the river like generations before them. Other opted to be relocated to nearby cities or other parts of the country.

This dam, with more than thirty turbines, will provide China with  three percent of their electricity needs. As unimpressive as that sounds we need to remember that three percent in China means that 39 million people will benefit from the power produced by this world class facility. In relative terms, this dam could provide all of Canada’s electricity needs which is truly remarkable.

But as impressive as the dam is, the adjacent lock system that has been carved out of the mountain is also a modern day marvel. Shipping of manufactured goods and natural resources is a vital transportation link all along the Yangtzee. Boat traffic is heavy in both directions. We estimated that one ship we passed was carrying about 1700 new automobiles. The growing cruise ship business is becoming and important economic engine with hundreds of cruise ships carrying thousands of Chinese and International Tourist weekly.

The five step twined locks (one set for upstream traffic and one set for downstream traffic) is designed to lift ships over 30 metric tons 110 meters. Each step raises the ships 22 meters in about about 45 minutes. The entire lift is completed in three hours and forty five minutes. 100 ships in both directions can be moved through the locks each day. Passenger vessels get priority which means that some cargo ships can wait up 36 hours before getting passage through the locks.  I have been through locks in Canada. The shear size and capacity of each lock here impressive. The it is the height of each lift that is exceptional. Truly a modern technological marvel.

For smaller ships less than 30 tons, they have built a lift lock to raise these boats the full 110 meters in about 30 minutes. It is the largest lift lock of this type in the world. There is no charge to pass through the locks for any ship.

The quality of service and accommodation on the Century Diamond is excellent. Staff and crew on the ship were gracious and efficient. All provided exceptional service. Excursions were well timed, varied and interesting.

But the icing on this River adventure is the sights and sounds experienced along the way. Technical marvels and mountain vistas were  impressive and pleasing to the eye respectively.  Night views from the water of tall buildings and bridges with their choreographed multi-coloured light shows had us smiling with child like delight.

The sounds of ships motoring by and distant fog horns provided our nautical background music for our journey. Hearing the young mother, who was our River guide for the day, proudly sing century old folks songs about love and family was endearing and enchanting. Finally the sound of the children laughing and at play, in the small river side communities we visited, is a reminder that regardless of borders, language or culture, there are joyful sounds that make us all the same.