Harvey-the-RV  - Roadtrip 2009

 Nova Scotia, Canada

24th - 31st July 2009

We transited the Nova Scotia mainland on the Trans Canada Highway. We were headed to Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, reached by crossing the Canso causeway. Here we experienced a bridge opening from the frustrated motorist's point of view for a change!
Harvey and Christine enjoy Rob and Barbara's beautiful lakefront house

We reached Baddeck by mid afternoon and quickly tracked down our friends Rob and Barbara at their beautiful home on the shores of the Bras D'Or lake. We'd met the previous winter in the Bahamas, where they were cruising on their boat Warm Rain. Harvey was parked in a wonderful spot between the pond at the bottom of their garden and the lake shore. We were persuaded to make use of their beautiful guest room during our stay, particularly in view of the impending day of rain. Together we enjoyed a Friday night curry dinner.

Next morning our friends were scheduled to play in a golf tournament. As promised the weather was wet and windy. Rob braved the elements and bravely set off to the course. Barbara was less keen and opted for a day off, instead convincing her reluctant guests to take a woodland hike, where we would be protected from the elements to some extent. We headed to Usige Ban Provincial Park and enjoyed the damp but beautiful trail to the waterfalls.

Tough girls hike in the rain!

The weather the next day was much improved and we drove with Barbara to visit her friends Chrissy and Corky at their farm. Here we walked down to the river running through their property, allowing the fisherman to check out the fishing possibilities. On our return we picked berries in the garden. From their conservatory we had an excellent view of the multitude of hummingbirds, summer residents on their property. It was hard to imagine the tiny birds being able to make the long trek to Mexico for the winter each year!

"Wish I'd brought my rod!"

Back in Baddeck, we visited the museum to Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. His family had a substantial summer residence, Beinn Bhreagh, in the area and the museum was a record of his humanitarian work teaching the deaf and the scientific experiments he'd undertaken in the area. 

The year of our visit was the hundred year anniversary of his first flight in Nova Scotia which was being marked with a flight over Canada by a flotilla of light aircraft, historical and modern, which picked up aviators along the way, culminating in this area of Nova Scotia, where the original flight had been made. Bell's aircraft had taken off in the winter from the frozen lake at Baddeck and the previous winter a reenactment of the event had taken place. His prototype hydrofoil boat was also on display, a creation he worked on during the First World War, hoping to create a vessel fast enough to deal with enemy ships. The museum's location had a fabulous view of the lake and Bell's holiday home on the opposite shore.

Bell's hydrofoil invention

View from the museum

Next morning we headed north to visit the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where we would camp for a couple of days.  Our friends recommended that we take the Englishtown ferry, rather than the longer, rougher road to reach the park.  This was Harvey's first ferry trip with us. 

Although very short, the trip was not without its perils for someone as well-endowed in the posterior as Harvey.  At some point either embarking or disembarking from the ferry on the steep access ramps, our bikes located on the rack mounted on his rear spare wheel, must have hit the floor, resulting in a bike handlebar making a crack in Harvey's fibre-glass rear.  Yikes. In true cruising style we made an immediate temporary repair with duct tape to keep water out until we could undertake a more permanent repair.

Harvey's first boat ride!

Before heading out into the wilds, we needed to refill our propane tank, used for cooking and to cool the refridgerator. Barbara had investigated sources of propane refills and tracked one down on our route. A small repair shop and petrol station, a one man operation. Unfortunately the one man was busy in the middle of a welding repair in the workshop, so before we were able to get our propane bottle filled, Phil found himself assisting with the welding for a while!

We finally made it into the Cape Breton National Park and camped at their Broad Cove campground. The misty weather wasn't great for enjoying the coastal views from the Cabot Trail, so we decided to take a hike instead.

Which is scarier, the bugs or the Bug Baffler?


From the campground there was easy access to the trail to Warren Lake and we decided to head there on our bikes. We quickly realised just how long it was since our last bike ride, as we puffed and panted up the hilly road to the lake. The warped wheel and rubbing brake on Christine's bike certainly didn't help! 

The lakeshore trail was definitely bug country and Phil quickly donned his new Bug Baffler jacket, purchased in Maine for just such situations. We hoped to spot moose in the boggy terrain but were out of luck. Somehow when we made it back to the campsite, we still had enough energy for a walk to the beach. Here we enjoyed the spectacle of children body-boarding down the fast flowing river to the sea.

Views from the East Coast of Cape Breton Island

The next morning the weather on the eastern side of the Cape Breton island was clear and bright and we drove northwards up the Cabot Trail, enjoying the views and small fishing villages of Ingonish and Neil's Harbour on the way. At Neil's Harbour we opted for the alternative scenic route right around the coast. Despite the rough road, this turned out to be an excellent choice as we finally spotted our first moose, along the quieter forested route.

As we headed inland across the top of the island, over the pass through the island's mountains, a heavy mist began to roll down the west side of the island. We were disappointed as we'd hoped to hike the Skyline trail out onto a headland on the western coast. We decided to press on to the campground and keep an eye on the sky whilst eating lunch.

There's a moose, loose.......

Cabot Trail, west coast

As soon as the mist cleared we headed back to Skyline trailhead and were rewarded with stunning coastal views during the beautiful hike. Once we'd visited the boardwalk steps constructed on the headland to allow visitors to enjoy the views, whilst protecting the delicate flora on the rocky terrain, we opted to take the whole loop hike and suddenly lost all the crowds. During our stunning, peaceful, coastal hike we passed only a couple of other hikers. Surprisingly we spotted our second moose during this hike, not on the quiet section but right alongside the busy paved path to the boardwalk. The moose was snacking on tree growth right alongside the heavily travelled path, unconcerned about the crowds and making plenty of noise and she chomped happily on the leaves.

Our campground offered an evening campfire with entertainment by the Park Rangers. We were definitely in Acadian territories now, the French language much more widely used than in the other parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia we'd visited. The hungry mosquitoes finally persuaded us that there was only so much French folk song entertainment we could endure under duress and we headed back to the bug-free sanctuary of Harvey.

Next morning we took a wooded walk along the coast, beginning near the campground. The "Le Buttereau" trail passed by the ruins of old Acadian small holdings, where the family names and large numbers of children they'd had were displayed. We were amazed on turning into the open area, which the families had previously cultivated to encounter and entire field of wild roses, the fragrance was amazing!


Before leaving the Acadian territories, we had one important priority. We needed to track down and enjoy a "petit pain au chocolat", or chocolate croissant. In the entirely French-speaking town of Cheticamp, we had our chance, we tracked down the "Aucoin" bakery. Seemingly many of the people in town were of the Aucoin family. With true French attitude, the bakery assistant handed over our croissants and we retreated timidly to Harvey to enjoy them!

On the return trip to Baddeck, we made a stop at the Margaree Salmon Museum. In the historic schoolhouse, housing the museum, the fisherman particularly enjoyed the historical photographs of catches from the nearby river and the large collection of fishing memorabilia and flies.

Back at Baddeck we managed to catch up with Rob again, between long shifts in the emergency room of the areas hospital. Summer nightshift in casualty is apparently busy with people who drive drunk and others who insist on jumping into water which is shallower than they expect. Barbara was busy with the evening shift at the local pharmacy but we had dinner waiting for her on her return.

We'd enjoyed our friends' wonderful hospitality and our visit to Nova Scotia, but the weather was getting us down.   It was only to be expected, the main reason we'd come here by RV instead of yacht was to avoid sailing in fog and cold weather. We decided to make our way back slowly to the States, besides gin was $51 a bottle in Nova Scotia and stocks were running low!

Too pretty to throw in the water!

Not sure "kind of cute" was intimidating enough to deter British spies!

We travelled the eastern shore of Cape Breton island, making a stop at the stunning restored Fortress of Louisbourg, originally built by the French, to stop the British getting their hands on Nova Scotia.  The Fortress and town it enclosed had lain in ruins but had been completely rebuilt as they originally were. 

To add to the atmosphere, the fortress was populated by interpreters in period costume, who gave a feel of 18th century life. Our first challenge was to get past the uniformed and armed border guard on the lookout for British spies. We needed a password to enter the fort. Our group came up with various suggestions ranging from "Bonjour" to the far more successful suggestion by a lady tourist of, "You know, you're kind of cute". This seemed to do the trick and we were allowed to enter.

We toured all the buildings of the town and the military fort, the enveloping fog making the whole experience more surreal. It was hungry work and when we were ready for a snack, our lunch options were genuine 18th century too. We were off to a tavern to partake of watery 18th-century-style soup, served with hard, dry bread on pewter platters. Only one spoon per person was allowed and all diners had to protect their valuable clothing with a large serviette draped around the neck. We shared our table with an interesting assortment of fellow diners, a family from Quebec and a couple taking part in the trans Canada air flotilla with their own small plane, among others. We were finished just in time to witness the public punishment of an alleged thief in the town square before heading back to the 21st century!

Louisbourg street life

Yeuch - still beats the Golden Arches though!

We did, however have our doubts about the century when travelling route 4 along the eastern shore of the Bras d'Or lakes. We had become accustomed to Nova Scotia's frequent roadworks, presumably summer is the only time of year that repairs can be made. Here, first of all, the traffic came to a complete stop for around an hour, our "lollipop lady" (stop sign lady) continually assuring us it would only be a few minutes more. Occasionally traffic would come from the other direction and then stop again, just to increase the frustration in our traffic queue.

Uh-oh - what road?

Finally we were shown the "slow" sign and followed cautiously behind the pilot vehicle. After a couple of minutes the road surface just ended, then became gravel, followed by mud, followed by soft mud. The travel surface over which the pilot vehicle passed became so rough, that we had serious concerns that Harvey may end up stuck on the slippery lop-sided road surface. Luckily Harvey is made of sterner stuff and made it through unscathed. However after clearing the very 18th century section of the road, on glancing in the rear view mirror, there was no traffic behind us. What happened to the next vehicle in line will forever remain a mystery! The curious thing was the complete lack of warning signs of the delay or suggestions to take an alternative route. 

We were certainly glad to reach Battery Provincial Park and its welcoming team of rangers and enjoyed a surreal night camped high on a hill in dense fog.  Next morning we chatted to two stressed yachtsmen who had travelled to the St. Peter's canal into the Bras d'Or lakes the previous day in the fog and were again glad to be travelling in Harvey on this occasion. 

We left Cape Breton Island via the Canso Causeway and made our way along the coastal route 6 towards New Brunswick.  The route was a good choice, shorter than the Interstate and far more scenic.  We made a stop at a beach park for a picnic lunch and couldn't resist a visit to the town of Pugwash, where fittingly enough the tall ships were in town. (Captain Pugwash was a cartoon in the UK about a pirate ship). 

Soon we were back in New Brunswick, spending an expensive night in a private battery chicken-coop style campground before heading towards the border with the USA.

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