Travel trials, tribulations and tidbits

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This is the final segment to wrap up the first chapter of our RV travels.  The previous segment with our statistics is here.

As we reviewed the 422 posts that we published along the way, we recalled many fond memories and also came up with some fun tidbits that we thought were unforgettable, surprising, scary, stressful or fascinating experiences.  Compiling this collection made us pause and reflect on how many wonderful experiences we’ve had while on the road.

We faced our first major challenge just as we started the journey at Pleasanton, CA.  A hydraulic failure left our jacks and slides extended, and we learned a lot about that system during the next 3 weeks that it took to get it fixed (under warranty, fortunately).  Since that time we’ve dealt with many minor water leaks, a dead video camera, an intermittent engine cooling issue, refrigerator problems and other things that we consider part of the joy of moving around in a big complicated box.

Here’s some upper-body exercise – over 300 turns to manually retract our hydraulic rams, then the same thing on the other side!

Most exasperating experience – Intense itching and a month of discomfort due to chigger bites.  I had never heard of chiggers until they attacked me as I sat in the grass for a picture in Peru, Indiana.  Here are the details of that nightmare.

Chigger Bites

Just part of one area – itch, itch, itch

Scariest moment – When I slipped and fell, hurting my knee – not while hiking, but just walking on level ground!  No hiking for a month!

Lowes Travels

Ouch!

Most stressful incident – We got locked out of our RV during a tornado watch while camped at La Grange, GA.  Surprisingly, this particular post has more hits than any other we’ve written.  Maybe the bad guys want to know how Steve broke into the RV?

Holiday Campground

Only one other camper was there that day at Holiday Campground, La Grange, GA

Most frightening night – Hunkering down at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama provided a sleepless night, as a long line of violent thunderstorms passed over us and dumped a record-breaking 15 inches of rain and over 7,000 lightning strikes per hour in the area.  We’ll never forget that night.

Gulf Shores State Park

The morning after the storm.  The water had risen from 50′ away from Betsy to 10′ away

Most nerve-wracking drives Due to bad GPS data and heavy traffic on the I-10 causeway approaching New Orleans, we missed our exit and got lost.  Then panic set in as we had a close call with a locomotive while crossing train tracks.  Not a fun drive!

Another hellish drive was on I-95 S coming  from Connecticut and passing thru the Bronx, New York to the New Jersey turnpike.  Here‘s that story.

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

This hours-long jam at the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge was the beginning of a bad day near New Orleans

Then there was the time when Steve heard a loud hissing noise coming from the back of Betsy as we drive into Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We couldn’t find the source of the problem and had to have our first repair in a foreign country.

Checking the cooling system

What the heck is making that noise?

Another scary drive occurred near our last stop in Kansas, at Sabetha.  We very nearly got stuck in mud as we approached the campground, then the owner directed us into a site where we got totally stuck.  Fortunately, the owner pulled Betsy out of the mud with one of his tractors when we left.

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This guy owned a bunch of tractors and just had to pick the right one for the job

One of our most stressful drives was the stretch between Salem and Bend, Oregon.  Not only was it a narrow and mountainous road, but a huge storm hit as we drove, sending rivers of water down the road as high winds tried to push us over.  And nowhere to pull off the road.  It was intense!

Bend, Oregon

A leak in the windshield required a towel during this nerve-wracking drive toward Bend, OR

Most spectacular drive – This one has to go to the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff, Canada.  None of the 14 All-American roads we’ve driven can quite stack up against this one, and it should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Ice fields Parkway

Its a wow driving on Ice fields Parkway

Proudest moment – Steve is quite the handyman, doing not only all of our coach repairs but also making changes and upgrades to improve our life on the road.  I was very proud of him when he completed the installation of our residential refrigerator, by himself, during our stay in Bonita Springs, Florida.

installing a residential refrigerator

Out with the old, in with the new

Most fascinating underground tour – Who knew there’s a huge salt mine 650′ beneath the plains of Kansas?

Strataca, Kansas

Most sobering historical guided tour – Having learned the Gettysburg address in school many years ago, we were amazed to actually be where Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech. Here’s a glimpse of our 24-mile, two-hour tour of the historic fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Most distinctive waterfront – There is no other colorful waterfront town that we’ve seen like Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia .

Old Town Lunenberg

The “I’ll never do this again” experience – I learned that one while Halibut fishing in Ninilchik, Alaska.

Halibut Fishing

Deep-sea fishing with the other tourists/anglers.  Do I look like I’m having fun?

We’ve hiked so many trails that at this point we can’t really pick favorites, but we agreed these stand out:

Most challenging – Among the many trails we followed around the country, our climb to the top of Picacho Peak in Arizona may have been the most challenging.

Longest – Sometimes we get in over our heads when hiking or walking, and the one to Hoover Dam in Nevada from our campground at Lake Mead clocked in at 14.1 miles.

Most exhausting – Hiking on a rainy day is never in our plans, but when we’re halfway through our trek and the clouds open up we just have to grin and bear it.  Our hike on the Flat Top Summit Trail at Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina was one of those.  We looked like a couple of drowned rats when we got back to the car.

Extreme points we’ve reached in North America

Farthest north – Arctic Circle, Alaska.  To get here we endured a 19-hour guided bus tour, and what an adventure is was during our many hours on Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

Pose at the Arctic circle sign. We made it!

Farthest south – Key West, Florida, lots to do here and what a party town it is!

Southernmost Point of USA

Farthest East – Louisbourg, Nova Scotia  and we happened to be there on its 300th anniversary of its founding in 1713.

 Fortress of Louisbourg

French guard at the Fortress of Louisbourg

Farthest West Anchor Point, Alaska, what a great time we had here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Anchor Point, AK

Northwestern-most point in the contiguous U.S. – Cape Flattery, Washington.

Cape Flattery

Highest point in North America – we landed on the flanks of 20,320′ Denali Mountain on skis, a totally thrilling trip not to be missed!

Glacier landing

Steve chats with the pilot after a glacier landing on Mount Denali

Lowest point in North America – One of the lowest places in the world at 282′ below sea level, Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park was fascinating.

Death Valley National Park

Largest National Park in the U.S. – At more than 13,000 square miles, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park requires a plane ride just to get to the middle of the park in a reasonable amount of time.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Yukon Alaska

We flew into Wrangell-St. Elias NP, it could take a lifetime to explore it all

Largest lake in the U.S. – Lake Superior made us feel like we were on the shoreline of an ocean!

Most awesome gondola ride – We took a thrilling ride aboard the Peak2peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada, which holds two records; the longest free span between ropeway towers at 1.88 miles, and the gondola with the highest point above ground, 1,430′.

Peak2peak Gondola

The 1.8 mile gondola is the only one in the world that connects two mountain peaks

Just for the heck of it fun tidbits – Mile zero’s

Ice field Parkway

Mile 0 of Highway 93 – Jasper, Canada to Wickenburg, AZ

 

Mile 0 of US 1

Mile 0 of US-1 in Key West, Florida

And the beginning and end of Alaska Highway.

And that wraps up almost five years of our RV travels!

What’s next?

We’re opening a new chapter in our RV life in 2017.  After visiting all of the states, our goal will now be to narrow our search to one or more places where we’d like to stop and park Betsy for long periods of time.  Our travels will be more laid back and less structured, likely focusing more on the western states.  At least that’s the plan as of today, but who knows?  Our blogging will taper off somewhat, and we’re pondering a format change or something for our site.

As we look forward to another year of adventures, we want to THANK YOU for “jamming on down the road” with us!



 

Out and About at Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

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Fortress of Louisbourg

On this leg of our Maritimes adventure we headed up north to Cape Breton Island, the northernmost island of Nova Scotia.  Cape Breton Island accounts for 18.7% of the province’s total land area.  As we drove along, we noticed that this part of Nova Scotia is pretty much uninhabited, unspoiled and teeming with history and diverse cultural heritage.  And as is common in this part of the Maritimes, the colorful signage grabbed our attention along the way.

The island is connected to mainland Nova Scotia by the long rock-fill Canso Causeway, which on the day of our drive had some traffic due to ongoing road construction.

Cape Breton Island

Our route around Cape Breton Island

The traffic backup turned out to be a blessing, however, because Betsy was mysteriously running a bit warm and we just happened to be sitting in front of a nice big fuel station.  We filled Betsy with diesel while waiting for the next batch of motorists to be flagged through, and wondered why she was running warm just a few days after we’d had the compressor hose repaired.  Steve has an idea what’s going on and will keep an eye on it.  There are no repair shops nearby, and we don’t intend to go back to Halifax unless we have to (as of this writing we made it back to the USA with no more overheating issues, which frustrates Steve as the problem is intermittent with no apparent pattern).  Oops, I got sidetracked with Betsy’s woes.

Back to Cape Breton Island.  As we settled into our campsite with a fantastic view, we calmed down and began planning our activities.  We decided to visit the five cities in Cape Breton: Sydney, Baddeck, Chéticamp, Louisbourg and North Sydney.  The base camp for our week stay was at the North Sydney/Cabot Trail KOA.  Click here if interested in Steve’s review of this nice campground.

Our first excursion was to Louisbourg, where this largest historical reconstruction in North America took us back in time.  The Fortress of Louisbourg is a Parks Canada Historic Site, and this year Louisbourg is celebrating the 300th anniversary of its founding in 1713.  We joined a guided tour and learned that the fortress was built to protect France’s interest in the new world and its massive fishing industry against Great Britain in the 18th century.

Fortress Of Louisbourg

Painting of Fortress Of Louisbourg in 18th century

Reconstructed Fortress of Louisbourg

Reconstructed Fortress of Louisbourg of today

While walking around the streets and going inside period homes, we were treated with the sights and sounds of the 18th century as costumed interpreters, re-enactors demonstrated to us what it was like way back then.  The “maid servant” showed us the layers of her outfit and advised that they usually only bathed annually during those times.  Ewe, can’t imagine that!

Fortress of Louisbourg

Approach to the Fortress

We also smelled gunpowder as we watched musket and  cannon firing during a military demonstration.

We enjoyed our tour of the fortress and thought the reconstruction that took decades to complete was  very well done.  We learned a lot of Canadian history on this day.

Dauphin Demi-Bastion

Dauphin Demi-Bastion

In Baddeck, the most famous resident was Alexander Graham Bell, who built two homes on his estate called “Beinn Bhreagh”, Scottish Gaelic for “Beautiful Mountain.”  We were familiar with him as the inventor of the telephone, of course, but he was much more.  Going through the exhibits at the museum, we learned that he completed many other major achievements while in Baddeck.  They included a hydrofoil which set a long-lasting speed record for watercraft, and assisting with the first manned flight of an aircraft in the British Commonwealth.  He conducted many kite-flying experiments, and invented several devices used in the medical, aeronautical and marine industries.  A very interesting man!

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Full-scale mockup of hydrofoil co-designed by Graham-Bell.

In Sydney, the port city of Cape Breton, the world’s largest fiddle was on display at the port.  It stands 55 ft. tall and is made from painted steel which brings it weight up to a hefty eight tons.  The Big Ceilidh Fiddle was created to recognize the pre-eminence of fiddle musicians, who have contributed so much to the musical heritage here.  Fiddle music was first brought over by Scottish immigrants over 200 years ago.

North Sydney has a couple of food stops across the street from each other that caught our attention:

The view from our campsite just kept getting better as the sun began to set.

Cabot Trail KOA

Next up:  Exploring the Cabot Trail!

This and a few more posts are catch-up stories of our adventure in the Maritimes – we’re typing as fast as we can!

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