Friday, September 30, 2011

Back To PEI

Restored Tractor
P.E.I. and I do not have the best of relationships. I know the "Island" is a popular tourist destination, but every time I try to play tourist there, I get rain, fog or man-eating mosquitoes. One year we planned a week long family "Island" vacation in a rental cottage. It rained for the first three days, and when the sun finally came out on the forth , we sent the children out to play only to have them forced back in by giant mosquitoes. Then it rained for three more days. PEI retained the "Worst Vacation Ever" honor for years.

Now we did give The Island chances to redeem itself. after all it’s always sunny on any of the "Anne Of Green Gables" TV shows, but even on three subsequent trips over we were assaulted with wet weather and mosquitoes. As a result, I wrote Prince Edward Island off as a place to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

Amongst the stack of mail waiting us upon our return from the RV trip was a letter from a delightful lady we had met in Japan. She was our daughter’s Japanese teacher in Japan, and after meeting her there, we maintained contact through letter writing - remember those; envelopes, stamps, and words on thin crinkly “air mail” paper? She said she was coming to Canada on a “study tour” of P.E.I.and she would love to see Alisha and us if we were available.

Alisha was unable to come down from Ottawa, but we decided to make a trip of it, find a nice place to stay, and perhaps look for some interesting things to do on the Island. Our Japanese friend had only a short window when she could meet us, so that left us plenty of time to explore.

Saturday did not bode well, with rain and so much fog that we drove across the bridge without even being able to see the water under us, but at least the fog lifted a bit, and we managed to meet up with Alisha’s teacher, and spent a pleasant afternoon with her, her husband and three other Japanese tourists here “studying” Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island.

Sunday we were on our own to enjoy Prince Edward Island, and it actually dawned with blue sky and sunshine - we thought we were back in Nova Scotia.

The Dawson House
We were staying in a wonderful B & B within walking distance of downtown Charlottetown called The Dawson House. Wonderful old house, very friendly hosts, comfortable room, and delicious breakfast. We will definitely stay here again when in P.E.I.

It was “Farm Day” in Charlottetown, and the main street was turned into a pedestrian only street for Sunday, and filled with farm market booths. At one end there was a really interesting display of restored stationary engines and farm machinery. The men who had restored these old engines showed so much pride in their work as they fired up the old workhorses and demonstrated them for us.

Another nice local beer
I was pleased to find that I could continue my quest for sampling good local beer in P.E.I. We discovered a really great local brew pub called Gahan Brewery, right off the main street in Charlottetown. They not only served their own beer; brewed on site - I had one called “Island Red”, that was great - but the food was also excellent. I had a delicious pulled pork sandwich served with barbecue sauce made with their own beer, and some of the best French fries I’ve had.

On the way home we decided to take the ferry to Pictou, because there was a 70 mile yard sale throughout the area, and a P.E.I. Winery we could visit.

We had a good time in our neighboring province, and it managed to go a long way in restoring it’s damaged reputation as a “vacation location”. We look forward to crossing the famous bridge again.

RV Trip Summary

Sharing the rest stops
It is difficult to keep “Blogging” when I am not travelling. It seems that there are always things that have to be done, and sitting down to write is not one of the “important” things.

I thought you might enjoy a brief summary of the RV trip now that it is over.

You have to be able to see
In general terms, we went from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, but we certainly did not take the most direct route – where is the fun in that? We started in Nova Scotia, but went on a gentle South Western path that took us through the middle of the United States. We went as far south as the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff Arizona before turning north again and heading up through California to get to Vancouver Island. Coming home we did take a more direct route, through western Canada, down to North Dakota and under the Great Lakes to Michigan, then back into Ontario and finally on home to the East Coast again.

When we got home, we went back over the maps and traced our route into the Road Atlas we used as a general guide and I then wrote little short daily notes about routes, stops and campgrounds. We have done the “Cross-country” trip twice before, but I could not tell you our exact route, so this time I tried to keep better notes. Using these notes and my journal, I can give you some interesting information about the trip.

Our "Rig" is only big on it's own.
We did approximately 18,000 km in total distance driven. I had good intentions to have an exact amount, as I zeroed both the A and B trip odometers, planning to use A for each tankful of fuel and keep B running for the entire trip. Somehow B got zeroed along the way, so I have had to simply add the distances recorded for each fill-up. This of course counts all mileage including local trips at each stop.

We were gone from June 29th until August 27th, for a total of 60 days.

We drove through seven provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. We visited twenty five states, including Maine, New Hampshire Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

A Racing Tundra!
We crossed the Canada/US border four times at four different places, New Brunswick/Maine, Washington/British Columbia, Saskatchewan/North Dakota, and Michigan/Ontario. We had to turn in our oranges and tomatoes each time we entered the US, but Canada did not seem to mind anything we imported. Crossing the border this many times on one trip did present some questions. For example, I brought two bottles of wine and some nice local beers across when I entered Canada in British Columbia, and I wanted to keep these until I got home. I asked the border officials and they did not seem to mind. I kept the receipts for things I bought the first section of the trip and if questioned I could have shown the different items, but the border officials accepted my explanation and I had no problems.

We visited thirty three different campgrounds in total, spent two nights in Walmart parking lots and the rest parked in friends or family yards. The longest time spent in one place was at my sister's house on Vancouver Island where we spent six days. The longest campground stop was in Vancouver for five days visiting friends followed by four days in California waiting for new springs for the trailer. Most of these campgrounds were very nice thanks to our diligent “Trip Planner” who researched and reviewed prior to choosing. We had one really bad one, and perhaps two that were “not so good”. We belong to an RV campground service called Passport America that lists discounted campgrounds at 50% off, but we quickly discovered that most of these are in the list because they are well off the main routes, and the savings are eliminated when the extra fuel and time to find them are factored in. We found that in general, the KOA campgrounds are reliable and high quality, if somewhat more expensive. We reserved a spot at many campgrounds, but in general found that campgrounds were not full. The exception to this was in Oregon and Washington where we found everything packed full.

I am not going to give costs of the trip. Fuel was the major expense; the truck gets about 10 MPG towing the trailer, and unless you get a strong tail wind like we had in North Dakota nothing makes much difference. You could tow up mountains, or through cities without a big difference, and I was amazed at how reliable and dependable the truck was. We were surprised at the cost of some campgrounds almost approaching the price of a motel, but in general you pay about $40 - $50 per night. Most campgrounds now have Wi-Fi available throughout the sites, but the quality of the service is spotty. The biggest saving comes with the food. If you cook your own meals in the RV, and plan for lunches on the road in the RV, food is not expensive, but you have to resist the urge to try the wonderful restaurants written up in the tourist information packages.

So, if you are planning a trip across the country . . . . I know the way.