Prince Edward Island 6/22-7/1/13
The time had come to start our Canada adventure. We left Bar Harbor early in the morning and headed northeast. I decided to stay on I-95 and cross the border at Houlton, ME.
We were prepared for all sorts of border questions from the health of the dogs to alcohol to fire arms. As we approached the border we made sure to top off our diesel in Houlton before crossing over.
It was raining lightly as we pulled up to Canadian Customs. The officer recorded our license number, asked for our passports. He swiped them in his little machine and handed them back to me.
“Firearms?” he queried.
“Alcohol?” Was the next question.
“6 bottles of wine and 6 of beer.”
“Mace or bear spray?”
“Yes. One small can.”
“Illegal in Canada. We shall have to destroy it.”
I reached up and pulled an ancient can of bear spray down and handed it to him. He had me move and park the motor home and come in to his office. There he patiently filled out some paper work. Had me sign that I agreed to allow him to destroy the spray. He handed me the paper and told me to enjoy Canada. What a difference from American Customs.
To my pleasant surprise the Trans Canada Highway was 4 lane and divided. We made it as far as Moncton, New Brunswick that day. The RV park there was right off the Highway. While they said they could take coaches our size the omitted the “with a lot of caution” caveat. But on the second pass through we found our assigned lot and settled in for the night.
Moncton was the commercial center for this part of New Brunswick. They even had a Costco. By the time we arrived they were closed but Bev still felt the need to journey to the site and pay homage.
The next day was a Sunday. Bev had heard there was a local mall. We waited until noon for it to open. She went on her own. She was back within the hour. Apparently, the mall had Sears and Walmart as their anchor tenants. Not what she was expecting.
Our departure from Moncton was benign. In two hours we were approaching the Confederation Bridge.
Prince Edward Island had been separated from New Brunswick by the Northumberland Strait until the late 1990’s when the monumental 12 kilometer bridge as completed 1.3 billion dollars later. A huge engineering achievement considering brutal winter conditions.
It was hoped this would bring more tourism to the Island. What they found was that the number of overnight stays actually decreased as folks would cross the bridge. “See the Island” during the day and be off by night. I could see this for a cruise ship but not for much of a visit.
We were booked for a week at the Marco Polo RV resort. The Marco Polo lived up to its advertising. The park was clearly a converted old farm. It was named after the sailing vessel Marco Polo that was built in St. John’s, New Brunswick in 1856 and at that time was the largest and fastest ship of the time. It came to rest off the shore of Cavendish in 1885. A spectacular grounding and dismemberment of a great ship.
Henny, the owner, was in the back room when we pulled in to register. They didn’t get many 43 foot motor homes and she was kind enough to come out, meet us, and make sure we had a suitable site. Henny and her husband bought the park 7 yrs before and transformed it into one of the nicest venues in the Maritimes. She later told us she had over 500 sites making the Marco Polo the largest campground east of Montreal.
The park was 100 acres most of which were mowed open space. The sites were spacious and easy to get into. They had 50 amps, a beautiful setting, remarkably helpful people, and we felt our Canadian experience was off to a great start.
The site would prove our base camp as we explored the entire island. It was know for it peaceful, laid back, pastoral lifestyle. It was almost completely a farming community. Huge farms with enormous lawns between the farmhouse and the road.
The Marco Polo was just south of Cavendish, PEI. They had a National Park just at the edge of town. It was a strip of land about 10 km long that sported a great bike trail.
First thing the next morning we had completed the obligatory check in at the Provincial Tourist Information center and were on our bikes exploring the spectacular shoreline of the northern coast of PEI. It was the end of lobster season and the local fishermen were working their pots for the final week. Quite a sight.
The hills were easy by Colorado comparison. The surrounding farms beautiful. The main crop on the island (remember the Scottish and Irish heritage) was potatoes. They claimed to be the “French Fry” capital of the world. Dairy was the second biggest farming business.
June – September was spectacular on PEI. The price they paid for this idyllic land and climate was the winters. Bitterly cold, wet, and windy. Most folks made plans to escape the Island for at least part of the winter. It was as if the whole place went into hibernation mode. Most seasonal businesses closed and the remaining ones were quiet, by their own description.
PEI was actually its own province in Canada. I boasted 140,000 folks with the most recent 2010 census. About half the populous lives and works near Charlottetown, the Capital of PEI. One day we hired, Samantha, Henny’s daughter to watch our dogs and we took off to explore Charlottetown.
It was warm in town. Remember there are two temps very warm or rainy and I preferred the latter. There are some beautiful older churches and historic buildings.
Their pride and joy is the Confederation Building home of the Confederation Conference where the representatives of each eastern province first med in 1864 to discuss a formal union. It was fitting that we were visiting on Canada Day weekend.
PEI is known as the home of the Anne of Green Gables novel. This early 20th century novel was a constant theme. Many of the folks dressed in period costume.
We wandered down to the waterfront and there on the dock was the Veendam.
We found a quiet bench in the shade and watched as she made preparations to cast off. As Bev and I sat and watched we reflected on how many good experiences we had on Holland America. But we both agreed it was a lot nicer to sit on shore and watch the big ship than to work aboard. This was a worthwhile visit.
Bev had found the renowned restaurant “Lot 30.” We were early. It was not crowded. The service and the food exceeded their reputation.
After dinner we found our little Explorer and headed back to Marco Polo.
We spent the rest of the week exploring the island. They have an old rail road that is converted to a bike trail. It is 290 kilometers long. We rode pieces of it through the middle of beautiful farming country.
One day we decided to take a long drive to the North Cape. We needed to see one more light house.
Along the way we stopped and talked to the lobster fishermen learning it was the last few days of their 60 day season. We found out they only get $2.50-$3.00 per pound for their catch. Occasionally, they get a big lobster. Check out this 4 pounder.
They have a short time and a huge amount of work to make a living.
We worked our way up to the North Cape. In addition to the obligatory lighthouse
There was a wind farm research station.
This was fascinating. These babies are deceptively large. The larger ones have blades that are 90 ft. long.
Each unit can produce up to 3000 Kwh. Impressive.
A highlight of our stay was the Sat. evening music at the Stanley Bridge Hall. This community hall was the place for almost all the gatherings on that part of the central north island. There we were treated to the great fiddle music of Richard Wood and the guitar and voice of Gordon Belshar.
This was the original foot stomping music of the Maritimes. We could not have found a better concert.
The week came to an end and we bid farewell to Prince Edward Island. We crossed the remarkable Confederation Bridge and turned east as we reached New Brunswick heading for Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. This would be our final destination before Halifax.