Trip 2004: PEI to Newfoundland via the USA
Continued from RVT 109
In the spring of 2004 we traveled from our home in Sidney, British Columbia to Northport, Prince Edward Island via the United States. After visiting with relatives at Northport, PEI, we explored Newfoundland with two friends who joined us in PEI. Here are some of the entries from our daily journal.
NEWFOUNDLAND to the Mainland
July 15, 2004
Today is a special day ? my sweetie and I are celebrating our 44th anniversary! No big plans for anything special, but we are together and we are doing what we like to do.
We?re on our way to St. John?s this morning; we left Tucker?s RV Park at 8:45 a.m. At 10:00 a.m., we stopped for a morning muffin and coffee break at an Irving station with a restaurant ? which we were glad to see as we had traveled through some very empty countryside.
Arrived at Pippy Park in St. John?s at noon and paid $24 per night with taxes. We are here for six days. This is a great campground, 1,343 acres right in the city of St. John?s. The sites are nicely shaded but unfortunately the trees prevented us from getting a line-of-sight for the satellite dish. So, for the first time I tried something different ? I set up the dish on top of the trailer, and it worked just fine.
After getting set up, we left to go to Costco and Dominion Store for groceries. After that, we came back so that the girls could do laundry. After 12 days we had quite a lot! Sure is a small world ? at the laundry we met a couple from Courtney and another couple from Fort St. John.
It is a nice day weather-wise today, but we found the wind very cold because we are so close to the ocean here.
Before lunch we went to Signal Hill to see Cabot Tower, and the site where Marconi received the original wireless transmission back in 1901. It brought back old memories of my ?younger years? in the Navy when we sailed through the narrows into St. John?s harbour.
We also toured the Johnson Geo Centre, a very interesting display that focuses on the geophysical formation of Newfoundland and Labrador. A bonus display right now features an interesting outlook at the sinking of the Titanic.
We had a short day, went for lunch and haircuts for the girls, and then back to the campground around 2:00 p.m. to enjoy the rest of the afternoon sun. For supper we did something unusual ? we sat outside and ate our meal without freezing and without bugs. The forecast is for rain tomorrow.
Sometimes the world seems so small. Today when I was walking up to the wash place, I heard a voice say, ?Bernie, how are you?? It was Pat Thompson and his wife Muriel from Victoria. Pat worked in the machine shop in the Naval Dockyard, and I worked in the Industrial Engineering Department and we often worked together. Pat and Muriel are avid hikers and they are enjoying their third visit to Newfoundland.
A lazy morning this morning ? didn?t leave until 10:00 a.m. to visit a friend of our son?s who had been so kind as to invite us for tea. One should know that with the Newfoundland hospitality it is impossible to just have tea. We had never met this lady before, and we only called her yesterday, and yet when we arrived today there was a banquet fit for Royalty. We had a great time with her.
We then toured the Newfoundland Railroad Museum, a very interesting display of the history of the formation of the company and its operation in providing expansion of service to all major towns and cities in Newfoundland. The narrow gauge railroad operated in the province until 1988.
Downtown we found a free place to park because it was a Saturday, and we looked into a lot of shops along Water Street. Then we went to George Street, which is about three blocks long and is nothing but bars, pubs and Irish/Celtic theme watering holes and eateries. According to the locals, this area really comes alive around 10:30 p.m., too late for us old folks!
At Trapper John?s we went through the ?Screeching-in? ceremony to become honourary Newfies. We had to down a jigger of Screech (Pepsi for me), rapidly repeat some Newfie slang without making too many mistakes, and then kiss the puffin?s butt. The saying is in response to the question, ?Are you ready to be Screeched?? and it goes like this: ?Yes I is byes, me ol?cock, and long may your big jib drop.? Because of the moratoruim, they no longer require you to kiss a cod. A lot of fun, and for just $5 we received a really nice certificate suitable for framing.
Some of the locals had recommended Bridie Molloy?s for authentic Irish food and it was really good food at pretty good prices.
The waterfront area along Water Street is basically divided in two; the majority of the area is real old St. John?s, but another part is new concrete, glass and high-rises. Both are very interesting to see. But what impressed us above all is the totally friendly service people no matter where you go. Our accents always give us up and we are immediately identified as being ?from away?, so the locals love to chat and find out where we are from. They are amazed to learn that we are about 7,800 miles (12,552 km) from home.
We left the campground around 10 a.m. and headed off for Cape Spear. This is the easternmost point in North America, and now we can boast that we have been to both the eastern and western extremities of this continent.
The original lighthouse on Cape Spear, built in 1836, is still open for tours, but a new lighthouse built in 1955 serves as an aid to mariners. As a point of interest, the word lighthouse is no longer used and they are called light signals.
The point at Cape Spear still has the remnants of a heavy gun placement that was built and manned in WW II. While no shots were fired at an enemy, the weapons were manned until 1943.
We were fortunate to see a small pod of Minke whales foraging for food just off the Cape Spear Park ? a great photo op for the dozens of photographers.
We also did a driving tour to the Battery, an area often shown in postcards with its multi-coloured houses hanging off the cliffs below Signal Hill, and overlooking the Narrows, which is the entrance to St. John?s harbour. The road going into this area is extremely narrow, and the houses were so close we could practically tap on the windows.
The weather today was quite nice, and we got up to around 72? F, although it clouded over in the afternoon.
Today we decided to simply hang around the campground and let everyone rest up. I went to a nearby mall to get some stamps for mailing postcards and to check the movie schedule at the local cinema. After a wee nap, we all went to catch the movie Fahrenheit 9/11. This is a very controversial movie, but it does bring up some very interesting points about some incidents leading up to 9/11.
We went to McDonald?s for supper and then our wifes spent time in the mall for a while. The Avalon Mall is a very large mall with hundreds of outlets.
Today was another nothing day ? I think we are all toured out. Besides, it poured last night and today is cloudy, cold and windy. I am thinking that this weather is what we will be faced with for the short time that we have left here.
After a trip into town, I spent some time working on my e-mail and studying the route for tomorrow. Checkout time is 1 p.m., but we will probably be out prior to that. I guess we are feeling guilty after seeing all the people who are in the overflow waiting for a space, and also the list they have in the office with all the campers who are waiting and hoping for a cancellation.
Our run tomorrow is about 90 miles (145 km) to Argentia, where we will catch the ferry back to the mainland. We have checked with Marine Atlantic and it is perfectly legal to go into the ferry lineup in the holding area the night before. We have to be there by 6:30 a.m., so this way there will be no rush, nor risk of us being late.
As we wrap up a very great visit, I want to stress that the very best part of this trip has been the people we have met and chatted with. Before we left I spoke to Rex Heal, another friend and Holiday Trails Member who camps in Country Maples. He told me, ?Don?t you come back and tell me you saw all of Newfoundland by driving along the Trans-Canada.? Rex, we took your word, and being a good Newfoundlander, you were right! We saw so many fishing villages, and no two were alike. Thanks for your advice, and we highly recommend this trip to others.
We left by noon and, as our driving distance to Argentia was just eighty-two miles, we didn?t have far to go. The sun was shining nicely in St. John?s, but as soon as we headed towards Argentia, the sun disappeared and the fog rolled in.
We drove down to Placentia near the ferry terminal, and spent a couple of hours shopping in the mall because we knew that once we went through the toll booth we would be there for the night. We were in the ferry lineup at 5 p.m. and went through the veggie inspection station ? you cannot take any root vegetables off the island, no matter where they come from. Then we got a free bottom wash for both the trailer and truck to eliminate any nematode spores.
It seems that ?dry camping? in the ferry parking lot is the common thing to do for RVers and there were dozens in the lineup. I dropped all four jacks on the fifth wheel, and put the fridge on propane. Our supper was cold BBQ?d chicken we had cooked the day before plus a tub of potato salad.
There were two free video movies showing in the ferry terminal lounge from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Beautiful wash places in the terminal with free showers. The restaurant/coffee shop stays open until 10 p.m. and opens again at 5 a.m.
We had a good night?s sleep and woke at 5:30 a.m. to get some coffee, put the slide in and jacks up, and gave Max a bit of a warm-up. We started boarding at 6:30 a.m. and at 7:30 we were off on the high seas.
The four of us got talking about what we may do in the future if we decide to go to Newfoundland again. Would we take the shorter, cheaper ferry both ways, or do as we did: the short one going and the longer, more expensive one back to Nova Scotia. For argument?s sake, it is 500 miles (804 km) from Port Aux Basque to St. John?s. Allowing for the fuel expenses (but nothing for a possible one-night campground expenses or meals) the actual savings would be $121. That is including the expense of a cabin on the Argentia to North Sydney run which cost us $137. If you didn?t reserve a cabin, these numbers would be different.
I guess all travelers will want to do their own thing. We personally enjoyed what we did, and while the 14-hour run is very long, we most certainly weren?t bored.
The Marine Atlantic ferry system treats you very well. Our cabin was gorgeous and came complete with bedding, towels, and our own toilet and shower. Great meal service on board, continuous videos in the main lounge, lots of seats with tables for game playing, writing, or reading. There is a licensed lounge with Newfoundland groups that sang and entertained us. I think there were four shows and we sat through every one.
People are not allowed to go on the car deck, but on several occasions, staff would escort people down to see to their pets, or to get things from their vehicles. Only good things were said about the ferry service and the staff.
We arrived in North Sydney at 10:30 p.m., and of course we had to set our clocks back 30 minutes to ?Canadian? time, as the Newfoundlanders say. Before we went to Newfoundland we had made reservations in Arm of Gold Campground in North Sydney for our return. So, when we got off the ferry we had about a fifteen-minute drive to the campground. The staff there are well-prepared for the ferry sailings and they were fully staffed and ready to register all the late comers and then escort us to our site with a big hand held electric light and a golf cart.
We had a nice level site, so we simply plugged in the power, put out the slide and dropped all four jacks and then hit the sheets.
Total fuel costs: $495.84 Canadian
Distance driven: 1,984 miles (3,193 km)
Overall fuel average: 15.81 miles per gallon (22.44 km)
Camping costs: $408.48
Ferry costs: North Sydney to
Port Aux Basques: $310.
Ferry costs: Argentia to North Sydney: $852.
Total costs of trip from P.E.I. to Newfoundland and return to North Sydney (not including food): $2,066.32