Outer Banks, North Carolina – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 6

We were once again up before dawn, where we had an interesting site from our 12th floor room overlooking the bay. You could see the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with gaps in the lights where they drop down into the tunnels.

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As we left the Tidewater area in the morning we drove through Virginia Beach, stopping at the Naval Aviation Memorial and briefly looked at the boardwalk. There are actually three bronze statues here with the intent to show three eras of naval aviation, starting in the early 20th century, progressing to World War II and then to modern times.

The first statue is of Eugene Ely, who was the first aviator to fly off a ship’s deck. Next, is a WWII pilot and his crewmen who are leaving their hatch. Finally, there are two modern-day pilots, a maintenance man, and a woman with her foot on an empty cart. The memorial is tucked between hotels on the boardwalk near the ocean.

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Monster trucks, anyone?  Well then Poplar Branch, North Carolina on Caratoke Highway is the place. This is the home of Grave Digger, supposedly the most famous monster truck. Its wheels are at least three feet high and the truck is painted with a gray ghost and haunted house on it. The monster truck stood upright on its front tires with raised rear tires at the front of the property.

Here is where anyone can check out these giant trucks up close and buy a souvenir at its gift shop. The establishment named Digger’s Dungeon offers rides to visitors and sells Diggers merchandise. A number of monster trucks were scattered on the property and I made the most of it taking photos.

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The Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright came here from Dayton, Ohio, based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau about the area’s steady winds and privacy. We took the sidewalk up the dune reading small signs warning of cacti in the grass. Thorns of the cacti are harmful to people and pets; but Bermuda grass was planted on the dune to stabilize it.  The tall monument had carved stone heads of Orville and Wilbur Wright and an inscription dedicated to the Wright brothers genius, perseverance and risk.

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A 60-foot granite monument, dedicated in 1932, is perched atop 90-foot-tall Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of the Wright brothers. They conducted many of their glider tests on the massive shifting dune that was later stabilized to form Kill Devil Hill. Inscribed in capital letters along the base of the memorial tower is the phrase “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

Atop the tower is a marine beacon, similar to one found in a lighthouse. The monument was erected by Congress in 1932. In the end, 1,200 tons of granite, more than 2,000 tons of gravel, more than 800 tons of sand and almost 400 tons of cement were used to build the structure, along with numerous other materials.

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Beyond the dune stands a bronze sculpture of the bi-wing plane, Orville, Wilbur, the First Safety Security Team and photographers, a tribute to those who participated in the first flight. The First Safety Security Team is now known at the U.S. Coast Guard and the sculpture captures the historic first flight by the Wright Brothers and their witnesses.

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A park ranger informed us at the test site that the Wright Brothers made four flights from level ground near the base of the hill following three years of gliding experiments from atop nearby sand dunes. On December 17, 1903 the brothers made four flights. A white blanket hung on the hangar door alerting the First Safety Security Team that the brothers needed help to move the plane onto the launch rail and were ready to fly.

A bit of history notes that John Glenn, another Ohioan took a small piece of this white blanket with him in his historic moment into space.  Another interesting fact is that a man of the Wright Brother’s team who witnessed their first flight also witnessed the first landing on the moon in July, 1969, an accomplishment within less than a century.

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The park ranger went on to say that at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903 with a 27 mph wind, Orville released a wire that held the flying machine to the track, and the contraption chugged slowly forward into the stiff wind. Wilbur trotted alongside, holding the wing to keep the flyer level. Then the flying machine lifted off the track, and Wilbur let go. The flyer left the ground as John Daniels squeezed the shutter bulb on the camera to capture a black-and-white photograph that will be forever engraved in human history.

Flight 1 flown by Orville lifted 12 seconds and went 60 feet into the air for a length of 120 feet. Flight 2 flown by Wilbur lifted 40 feet at the launch rail and flew 12 seconds for 175 feet. Flight 3 commanded by Orville flew 26 seconds for 200 feet. Around noon, Wilbur made a flight of 852 feet that lasted 59 seconds—the longest of the day but the flying machine was slightly damaged by Wilbur’s landing, and the group hauled it back to the hangar for repairs.

We walked along the actual routes of the four flights, with small monuments marking their four finishes. The original launch rail is still there. Two wooden sheds at the test site, based on historic photographs, were recreated as the world’s first airplane hangar and the brothers’ living quarters.

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The visitor center in its modern design at Kitty Hawk is home to a museum featuring models and actual tools and machines used by the Wright brothers during their flight experiments including a reproduction of the wind tunnel used to test wing shapes and a portion of the engine used in the first flight.

We saw articles of the history of flight and the patch of the white blanket that John Glenn took with him on his orbit of the earth.  A life-size replica of the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer was there. The 1903 Flyer is the first powered aircraft in history to achieve controlled flight (the original is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.).  A full-scale model of the Brothers’ 1902 glider is also present, having been constructed under the direction of Orville Wright himself.

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Lunch found us at Rooster’s Southern Kitchen, for some vinegary BBQ sandwich and chicken and dumplings. Now nourished, we we headed off to Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park located in Nags Head, North Carolina includes the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. The tall dune area of Jockey’s Ridge is known as a medano—a massive, shifting hill of sand lacking vegetation. Scientists estimate that there are 30 million tons of sand in the park.

The sand dunes now have eight ponds scattered in the sand from Hurricane Matthew that blew through but have not dried yet. The ponds are not uncommon, often when it rains; water collects near the bottom of the dunes creating temporary ponds known as vernal pools.

A forest of trees lined the edge of the pool. This maritime forest is the home to most plant and animal life in the park. The forest help to stabilize the dune and in return the dune protects the forest from strong winds and harsh salt spray.

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We hiked through sand as we did thirty years earlier, when we were last here. From the top of the sand dune, we could see the ocean and the bay. Hiking through sand is difficult; it seems like you take one step forward and two steps back but we made it to the top of the next dune where boys were rolling down the side of the dune. We trudged through the sand making our way around the vernal pool until we got back to the Visitor Center.

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Our return trip to the hotel was along the road next to the ocean until we reached construction blocking our way to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at Kitty Hawk. We managed to maneuver around it, so after check-in, we went out to explore the Outer Banks by car.

We traveled a bit up to the time of a traffic jam that blocked our way. The jam was caused by a tow motor loaded with lumber partially jutted into the roadway. The police stopped traffic in both directions due to the construction while we waited at least fifteen minutes. So we turned the car around and went into the town of Duck to shop for something to do. Later in Kitty Hawk, we bought a kite, a sweatshirt, and a t-shirt.

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The Kitty Hawk Pier is behind our hotel where we hung out to find two surfers on the waves. We walked on the beach as the tide ebbed although at times the waves chased us close to the protective dune that separated the beach from the beach homes. It was nice as we walked in the cool, cloudy, and drizzly weather, we collected some interesting seashells.

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We are in North Carolina, right, so time for more BBQ. The High Cotton BBQ restaurant was across the street from our hotel so we skipped over there for dinner, it was excellent.

Assateague and Chincoteague National Parks – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 4

One of my favorite movies was one from the 1980s called Diner, set in Baltimore, so it was only appropriate since we were in the area that we find one for breakfast. The Double TT Diner is an iconic old-time diner that looked similar to an airstream RV with shiny chrome. Back in the 1950’s, two business partners named Thomas and Tony opened the first Double T restaurant that was named after the two T’s in their first names.

The restaurant had a look of the 1950’s with rows of booths and a small jukebox placed at the end of each table but instead of 45 rpm records it had an updated version of compact discs that also seemed outdated now. Our omelets were tasty and filling then we moved on travelling east across the Bay Bridge.

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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans the Chesapeake Bay, connecting Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore region with the urban Western Shore. The original span opened in 1952 with a length of 4.3 miles, and was the world’s longest continuous over-water steel structure. The bridge is part of U.S. Route 50 which connects the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area with Ocean City, Maryland. The long four-lane split bridge is high above the bay giving us a view of the shimmering water in the morning with freighters chugging by.

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 Ocean City, Maryland is a summer resort destination but it was nearly a ghost town void of people when we arrived. This town brought back memories from a 1970s vacation for one of us, which resulted us in searching for the Santa Maria motel where her family stayed on our vacation forty-two years ago. Ironically we found the location, but it had been torn down and a new upscale Courtyard Hotel was in its place, by far the best looking place on the boardwalk.

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Later we continued our walk down the boardwalk and onto the beach, with a stiff breeze blowing up a lot of sand and created choppy water that crashed onto the beach. We spent a few more minutes on the empty boardwalk with all of the shops closed up for winter.

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Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Dum, — the creepy music from the movie Jaws which generates the fear and anticipation of a shark in the water delivered that feeling when we stopped to see a recreational camp called Frontier Land that celebrated the Wild West with sets of cowboys, Indians, and can-can girls.

The camp was closed the day of our visit but rested at the front of the establishment was a 31-foot shark prop from the movie Jaws. The plaster-cast shark sits in a parking lot, straining to devour a rowboat always just beyond its reach. It is unknown whether the shark is an actual prop from the movie Jaws since so many others claim the same fame. It just seems wrongly placed in Frontier Land next to a statue of a cowboy holding an ice cream cone unless it were renamed Weird Land.

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Stopping briefly at the Assateague National Park Visitor Center to renew our annual National Parks, we promptly continued across the Verrazano Bridge into the park that is well known for its wild horses and birds on the 37-mile barrier island along Maryland and Virginia. The “wild” horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast.

The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.

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The horses are split into two main herds, one on the Virginia side and one on the Maryland side of Assateague. They are separated by a fence at the Virginia/Maryland State line. These herds have divided themselves into bands of two to twelve animals and each band occupies a home range. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia herd, which is allowed to graze on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, through a special use permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The permit restricts the size of the herd to approximately 150 adult animals in order to protect the other natural resources of the wildlife refuge. It is the Virginia herd which is often referred to as the “Chincoteague” ponies. The feral horse population of Assateague Island is known as the Assateague horse in Maryland and the Chincoteague pony in Virginia. This distinction is based on the traditional definition of a horse or a pony as to whether the animal falls over or under 14.2 hands that is 58 inches. The equines on the island tend to be under 14.2, but have horse’s traits.  It is believed that their relatively small size is primarily due to environmental, rather than genetic conditions.

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Our arrival on the island soon allowed us to see the feral horses. As we drove toward the beach, we saw two horses grazing near the edge of the road. The areas beyond the road were sandy with spots of dense shrubs. Beyond the shrubs was a marsh of cord grass.

We hiked a trail to the beach and up a dune trying to spot more feral horses on this breezy day, coming upon horses corralled by a group of people who often brought their domestic horses to ride on the beach. They said that they sometimes encountered the feral horses when they rode.

A further walk up the beach a bit more without another human being around while watching the birds scamper at the water’s edge was delightful.

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Heading south to Chincoteague, we opted to do a driving tour first, where we had the opportunity to see more feral ponies. This time the ponies grazed in a marshy meadow under leafless trees. Two more pairs of ponies stood in the meadow.

We had planned to take a boat tour to see more ponies but decided against it due to the choppy water. Later when the winds calmed, we thought of the boat cruise again but would have to pay for a ghost rider as if there were three riders instead of two so that it would be worthwhile for the boat captain to sail.

Instead we continued our own tour stopping at different points to photograph a large variety of birds and some horses. We drove out to the end of the island where the marsh, the sand dunes, and the ocean met. It was exceptionally gusty but we saw gulls, herons, and other birds using the wind to their advantage. The birds just seem to float in the air without flapping their wings.

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Assateague Light is a 142-foot-tall lighthouse located on the southern end of Assateague Island off the coast of the Virginia Eastern Shore, a short one-quarter mile walk from the visitor center. The brick conical shaped lighthouse is at the top of a hill near the Coast Guard Station. The lighthouse is painted in alternate red and white horizontal stripes and built in 1867 to replace a much shorter lighthouse. This spot was a nice rest for us after our hike up the hill and a nice view also.

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We continued our drive of the Virginia Eastern Shore and noticed a number of contrails from jets above us. Seven separate vapor trails suspended above us against the blue sky. This continued as we drove on our way to Onancock. Not quite as good a name as a small town in Newfoundland, it was amusing enough to divert off the main road; it turned out to be a very quaint historic town.

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We landed at the Hampton Inn in Exmoor, Virginia for the night. There is not much in Exmoor so we had to drive back to the highway to get something to eat. We ate at El Maguey, where we had chorizo arroz and a chicken enchilada with rice. The Mexican restaurant was shabby looking but the food was good and the prices cheap.

Nova Scotia & New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 13

With most road trips we know we will catch a day a bit less interesting than the rest, this was that day for this trip. While we managed to sleep through the slightly rocky crossing to Nova Scotia, we drove out of the ferry at 7 a.m. into a bright sunny warm day in North Sydney, and after a quick breakfast were on our way.

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Afterwards we started our long drive of almost four hundred miles to Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick. Our route would take back along much of the route we had come so we tried to make as good a time as possible, stopping every once in a while to stretch the legs.

Clearly Nova Scotia is blueberry capital of Canada, as we saw numerous signs along the road for fresh blueberries for sale. The blueberries grow wild in the area; we would often see parked cars with dozens of people along the road busy picking buckets of berries.

Eventually we made our way to Truro, Nova Scotia. The town has transformed dead trees into works of art with many notable figures from the town’s past are featured in forty-six tree sculptures which were carved in tree trunks after Truro lost most of its elm trees to Dutch elm disease in the 1990s.

Unfortunately only nine sculptured trees remain, but we cruised town to find them, photographing the tan painted wooden carvings of a lumberjack, colonial woman, and three others.

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Nova Scotia Highway 102 leave Truro to the southwest, running near the Bay of Fundy, where we once again had a number of opportunities  to see the low tide expose the ocean floor. There was a large area of mud that stretched along the edge of the Bay and inward so that the bay resembled more of a river rather than a bay.

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A river that led into the Bay of Fundy was also drained with the low tide from the look of the wet mud. The empty river dropped almost twenty feet leaving only a small stream flowing through its center low point. Twice each day, 160 billion tons of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy — more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers!  The Bay’s tides officially measure over 50 feet in height, but the incoming tide is not a 50′ wall of water. It takes 6 hours for the tides to change from low tide to high tide. That means it takes more than an hour for the tide to rise 10′ vertically. In some places, it can change the direction of a river or create tidal bore that flows against the current.

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As we drove away from the Bay of Fundy and onto the freeway, we heard Tab Benoit sing Muddy Bottom Blues. This is the third coincidence where songs related to our vacation spot. I suppose it was serendipity because there was no way to plan it so exactly.

Other than a brief stop in Amherst, Nova Scotia for lunch at Connors Family Restaurant, we drove. At least lunch was good.

Eventually we arrived in Fredricton, New Brunswick where we spent the night at a large Delta Hotel. Next to the hotel was the Chinese Canadian restaurant where we ate dinner, where the buffet seemed to be the popular choice so we dined on shrimp cocktail, moo goo gai pan, potato salad, rice, pork riblets and more. The food was ok and there was a lot of it; so we ate our share then left to explore the city.

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We found the Provincial Legislative Assembly Building, the seat of government in New Brunswick since 1882, when it replaced the old Provincial Hall destroyed by fire in 1880. Continuing, we passed the governors house and walked into a concert at the park for incoming freshman at the University of New Brunswick.  After driving through the city and walking the streets we went back to the hotel for the evening.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 12

In all of our adventures it is really amazing that the weather doesn’t impact us more than it does, but on this day we woke to a foggy rainy day which was disappointing because we reserved seats on a cruise into the gorge at Western Brook Pond, a fresh water fjord carved out by glaciers during the most recent ice age.

The landscape at Gros Morne during our drive to our hotel yesterday was stunning with views of mountains and steep cliffs dropping into the ocean and gorge that we wanted to see up close.

After leaving our motel in Cow Head, we drove to the trail that led to the boat tour where other tourists waited hoping for the weather to improve. Visibility was only about 50 feet with poor conditions to see anything so we decided to skip the boat ride and went to the fishery at Broom Point.

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The tour guide had not arrived yet so we explored the area on our own but it was windy and foggy, providing an excellent photo op of an ocean front privy held up with wooden boards and only one other building stood in the park so we left.

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We had to drive to Rocky Harbour to cancel our boat reservation and it turned out to be a scenic ride that presented lots of opportunities for photos, because amazingly we popped out of the fog. The ladies at the boat tour reservations desk however have a web cam back at the boat and they assured us it wasn’t going to sail that day because of the fog.

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Having finalized the decision not to wait for a boat tour that wouldn’t occur, we continued to the Tablelands, an environment so different from where we started that morning. Most of Newfoundland that we have seen was green with water everywhere in forms of fjords, rivers, waterfalls, countless ponds and lakes, also with mountains and ridges covered with evergreen trees; but the tablelands looked more like a barren desert with prickly brush.

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The Tablelands were a rocky mountainous landscape where we hiked a two kilometer trail up the hill to a lookout to see straight into the pass between the mountains. It was incredibly windy making it hard to walk along the trail.

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We did see two waterfalls from the trail that ran down the mountain range beside us. Returning to the car, we headed down the road a short distance climbing almost 900 feet in only minutes to Green Gardens for a better look at the mountains. Even with the clouds and fog, the view was very pretty.

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Gros Morne National Park is a spectacular place, far off the beaten path, but with scenery to match the best in the United States. We felt it was every bit as impressive as many of the parks out west, and definitely the best in the eastern half of the continent.

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We left the park for lunch at the Deer Park Motel and Restaurant, where we had very good clam chowder and a hot turkey sandwich. Well nourished, we headed out onto the TCH again for the four hour drive to Port Aux Basques ferry terminal.

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On the way we passed Corner Brook, which I knew well from the in flight maps on all the trips I had taken back and forth to Europe. When I saw Corner Brook pop up on my map on the airplane I knew we were back over land, which always gave me a sense of relief. The city of Corner Brook is clearly an industrial town with a port, as we saw one of the largest piles of logs ever ready to be shipped.

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The road between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques is 120 miles of trees, mountains and damn few people, so we sailed along admiring the scenery, except during the intermittent rain showers, which always seemed to occur when we would go through areas signed ‘significant moose activity – be alert’, complete with 12′ high fences along the roads, however we went 1000 miles through the northlands and never saw a moose, other than the plastic one at the rest area in Maine.

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Not long before we reached Port Aux Basques we came upon Cape Race, which has a nice lighthouse. It is located in a small town but important because it is here where the trans-Atlantic cable connected from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and then to the North American mainland crossing borders to New York City. The cable is now replaced with modern electric lines but a historic marker is erected in front of the lighthouse on the edge of the shore.

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The wind produced a steady line of waves that crashed onto the beach for some great photos. Small homes lined the street to the lighthouse and also stood along the pretty shoreline. Mountains sat in a beautiful backdrop of shanties for homes. It was a thousand dollar house with a million dollar view.

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We took our time driving the rest of the way to Port aux Basque. When we arrived in the town, we stopped at the Historic Railroad Museum. The Railway Heritage Centre consists of a replica of the original 1898 passenger station and a restored nine car train. The train is made up of a snowplow, diesel locomotive, two tank cars from World War II, a Newfoundland boxer, sleeper, two baggage cars and a caboose. The museum was closed for us to go inside but I think we saw the main attractions outside.

After a visit to a quirky little shop for a Newfoundland T shirt, we had a leisurely dinner at Pizza Delight. 

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Just down the road was the Port Aux Basque Marine Atlantic ship terminal to board the ferry to Nova Scotia, where we arrived 3 hours early, spending the time hanging out in the modern terminal editing the photos from the last few days.

Since we were on another over night crossing, we had again reserved a cabin with a private bath. At 10 p.m. we drove the car onto the Marine-Atlantic ferry with hundreds of other cars and semi-trailers, and headed to our cabin for a quick night’s sleep.

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St Johns Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

NAt 7:30 a.m. the restaurant on the ship opened for breakfast and we were waiting. The breakfast buffet was overpriced; the hot food was only warm and not good. Since we still had a couple of hours to go we went for another walk on the top deck to get some exercise. We walked eight lengths from one side of the ship to the other side guessing that it equaled one mile, not to mention a great sunrise.

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At last – Newfoundland! Driving off the ship onto the road, we followed an old drunken Newfoundlander in a truck who swerved to the right nearly off the road and over the center line in front of oncoming cars, but fortunately we were able to quickly get past him, hitting neither him nor any moose, of which there were plenty of warnings.

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The 90 minute drive into St. Johns, Newfoundland went without incident. As soon as we reached town, we headed back out to the east to nearby Cape Spear to be at the easternmost point in Canada and North America (no more further east landmarks on this trip!).

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Because of its proximity to convoy routes during the Second World War, a gun battery was installed at Cape Spear to defend the entrance to St. John’s harbor. The bunkers and gun barrels offer a sheltered view of the ocean. Barracks and underground passages leading to the bunkers were built for the use of troops stationed there. The gun barrels and bunkers are still there which we explored a bit.

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The Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Canada, operating since 1836. The structure consists of a stone light tower surrounded by the lightkeeper’s residence. In 1955 a new lighthouse tower was built on the site using the active light from the original lighthouse. The historical park gave us a glimpse into the life of the keeper. Glass chimneys were kept upstairs of the keeper’s house so that the lightkeeper could clean and replace them on a three hour regular schedule. The life of a lighthouse keeper seemed isolated and hard.

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Next we drove to Quidi Vidi (pronounced by the local residents, as “Kiddy Viddy” a neighborhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The neighborhood is named for both Quidi Vidi Lake and Quidi Vidi Harbor – known locally as “The Gut”.  Located in Quidi Vidi is the Quidi Vidi Battery Provincial Historic Site, which had significance as a battery during the War of 1812.

Quidi Vidi was known for once being a historic fishing village dating back to the 1600’s and still maintains the look of a fishing village today. This tightly tucked in a ravine village is also home to Newfoundland’s largest microbrewery, the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company which seems to be the only business in the town.

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St. Johns is listed as the oldest English settled city in North America but there is dispute in that Jamestown, VA could be the oldest English settled city also. Our next stop was at Signal Hill which overlooks the city of St. Johns, high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and St John Harbor.

Due to its strategic placement overlooking the harbor, fortifications have been built on the hill since the mid 17th century. The final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 at the Battle of Signal Hill, in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force under the command of Lt. Colonel William Amherst. Lt. Colonel Amherst renamed what was then known as “The Lookout” as “Signal Hill,” because of the signaling that took place upon its summit from its flagmast.

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Historical military barracks are nestled in the hill and the tour guide explained the life of a soldier stationed at the Queen’s Battery Barracks during the 1860’s when the barracks were built. The barracks furnished fold up cots and British styled table and benches of the era and a fireplace. The guide showed us the high-waisted trousers and short jackets worn with a tunic and leather shoes that the soldiers had. The shoes had metal plates fastened with ten tacks to prolong their wear since each soldier was only issued items annually.

Large cannons set at the front of the barracks protected the harbor below. Ruins of gunpowder storage once stood within thick walls and thin roofs in case of accidental explosions. We hiked the trail back up the hill to see Cabot’s Tower.

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Located at the highest point of Signal Hill, overlooking the entire city and the ocean, Cabot Tower is a Gothic Revival style of architecture. Built of red sandstone, it is a two story, 30 foot, square structure with a three story, 50 foot octagonal tower. The first transmissions received in North America by Marconi were at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1901 and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1902.  In 1933, a Marconi station was opened on the second floor of Cabot Tower, which operated until 1960. In 1920, one of the first wireless transatlantic transmissions of the human voice was made there.  A few items honoring Marconi were displayed on the second floor the tower.

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We walked onto the open deck of the roof of Cabot’s Tower for a look of the city. It was extremely windy, so windy in fact; it was difficult to open the door to get back into the building. As soon as we entered the building again, the staff closed off the roof for safety reasons.

Leaving Cabot’s Tower and driving into the city allowed us to see the colorful houses. Each wooden-sided home was painted a bright color different from its neighbor. The city of St. John’s is well known for its jellybean row houses that started in the 1970’s as a way to inject new life back into the declining city. Residents jumped onto the idea whole-heartily and spread the colorful palette outward so that the majority of the city is a jellybean row house street.

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We found our boutique hotel, The Jag, in downtown St. Johns near the convention center. After check-in we walked the streets a bit and opted for an early dinner since we missed lunch. We went to Green Sleeves, an open bar cafe with pub grub, with a beer and burger for dinner. They servered us in a Rolling Rock glass etched with the familiar 33 words which begin “from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe” but because we were in the bilingual country of Canada these words were also etched in French on the glass. I explained to the waitress the significance of Latrobe to our family, I asked her if I could buy the glass as a souvenir.

After checking with the bartender she said that if the glass was not there when she returned to clean up, oh well. We got the hint and the glass seemed little compensation for the very long wait that we patiently had for our food order.

It was fifty minutes before our food arrived. The restaurant gave us a discount on the food and apologized for the delay while they catered the wedding upstairs. When we got back to our hotel, the housekeeper knocked on the door to deliver us chocolates. It was a nice gesture and a good ending to a busy day, and as example of how our trendy hotel in far off Newfoundland was the best of the trip.

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New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 8

Another early start, on the road by 6 a.m., and we were off to the northeast. After entering our first destination into the GPS I found that it had me turn off U.S. 1, which turned out to not only be the quickest route (bypassing one of the numerous wanderings of U.S. 1 along the coast), but it took us up and down some fairly large hills, across bogs, and through a couple of small towns resulting in a really fun 30 mile segment, not to mention really waking you up as I was really pushing the Audi on the smooth curvy road.

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After stopping in Machias, Maine for a quick McDonalds breakfast (have you ever noticed that in the morning every McDonalds in the world has what seems to be the same 4 or 5 old men in them solving all of the world’s problems – a great reality TV show would be to go around and pull them from really random places and have them argue it out on live TV – but I digress).

Another hour down the road and we arrived at West Quoddy Park, the easternmost point in the USA not counting the Aleutian Islands that cross the International Date Line. As we drove into West Quoddy Park the Travelling Wilburys sang “At the End of the Line” It was perfectly timed as we rolled into the drive of the park and reached the end of the road.

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The park has a lighthouse and cottage set at the bottom of a hill; below the lighthouse cliff were boulders exposed because of low tide. The water shimmered from the sun as a fishing boat chugged through the large isles of rock with only a small fence separated the hill where we stood and the craggy shore but we could see stretches of land across the water.

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After heading north a bit we reached the edge of Calais, Maine, where we were to cross into New Brunswick. After a brief stop at the border crossing where we were asked a few questions and had to show our passports, we were on our way onto a recently built freeway. Just ahead we rolled into the visitor center to get a map, where the very helpful visitor center workers recommended we make a brief stop to view the waterfalls in the town of St George, only 20 miles ahead (or as they said about 30 kilometers).

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Continuing on we arrived in St. John, New Brunswick, to see the Mortello Towers, small defensive fort that was built as a coastal fort. The tower stands up to 40 feet high with two floors and typically had a garrison of one officer. Their round structure and thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, mounted on the flat roof to fire in a complete 360° circle. The Mortello Tower, was used in the War of 1812. We were not able to enter the tower because of renovation but stood at the base of the tower looking out to the sea.

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St John is the largest city in New Brunswick with a metro population of a little over 100,000 people, as a result they have a decent downtown where we found the City Market, the oldest continuous farmer’s market in Canada, for our lunch. We ordered a shrimp platter and fish and chips from an open shop vendor. While eating our lunch, we noticed that all the signs were in English and French. Even my can of root beer was labeled in both languages, root beer on one side and racinette on the other side of the can. There were bilingual signs for street posts, and car license plates too; New/Noveau Brunswick.

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All of the southern New Brunswick borders the Bay of Fundy, on the places that was very high on my list to visit. As we left St John we found the Fundy Trail, a park featuring a road hugging the coast with stunning views in every direction that includes over 20 spectacular lookouts, a waterfall, and 600 million-year-old rock formations. We stopped at one of the vistas looking out into the New Brunswick coastline, sparkling water and a view of Nova Scotia in the distance.

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We followed the Fundy Trail as far as the Salmon River where we walked across the suspension bridge. The bridge had a ten person limit and bounced a lot as we walked on it but the bridge is only 25 feet off the ground so it was not a fearless act. Our journey took us pass the Sea Caves at St. Martins, New Brunswick but it was high tide and the caves were only accessible by kayak now and not accessible to walk to the caves.

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Leaving the Fundy Trail as the road across the coast is not completed, we traveled from St. Martins along Route 111 to Route 114 down through Fundy National Park where the coastal road continued until we reached Hopewell Rocks in Chignecto Bay, an extension of the Bay of Fundy. This area is noted as the highest tide in the world at an average of 39 feet high.

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The narrow bay funnels water out and the ocean floor is exposed three hours before and after low tide. We took the trail to an overlook and saw the towers of clay rocks covered with seaweed. Once we made our way down to the ocean floor we walked over seaweed, mud and rocks to see the sun shine down and through hallowed towers and crevices. In addition you could see bull eyes targets on the rocks thirty feet up or so, assuming those were probably placed there by kayakers at high tide. The park closed at 7 p.m. Atlantic Time so we left to climb the multilevel stairs and take the trail back to the car. We changed our muddy shoes and headed to Moncton, New Brunswick for the night.

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After our check-in at the Chateau Moncton, we walked to Woody’s BBQ North of the Mason-Dixon Line. Woody’s is a chain restaurant that started in Florida with a few restaurants in Canada. Our meals were meh, not good.

The Chateau Moncton hotel sits along the Petitcodiac River that connects to the Bay of Fundy which draws out water at low tide and then rushes in so forcefully at high tide (called the tidal bore) that surfers ride the waves on the river. We had hopes of seeing high tide roar into the city but high tide is set near midnight and it is too dark to see the river.

Acadia National Park, Maine – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 7

Our Friday morning started with us leaving the Longwood Inn by 6 a.m. to avoid the morning rush hour and anyone leaving the city for a long Labor Day weekend, finally stopping a rest area in Maine for breakfast at Burger King and Starbucks.

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The common dining area was the dirtiest rest area I had ever seen. Every table, chair, and floor was covered in crumbs and dirt. A large painted statue of a moose stood outside at the front of the building letting us know that we were in moose territory and I thought that if the moose were in the building at least the crumbs would have been licked up.

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We had a short stop in Portland, Maine along the Eastern Promenade for a view of the harbor with the sun shimmering on the water dotted with boats. As we made our way out of town we found U.S. Highway 1, a road that goes from far northern Maine to Key West, Florida. This would be our route throughout most of Maine, passing through numerous small towns, around bays, and across rivers. While not fast, it was scenic.

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Finally we arrived in Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. After circling the island on the west side we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain within the park, the highest elevation on the U.S. east coast at 1539 feet.   Cadillac Mountain offered us a view of the city of Bar Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.  From this vantage point you could see islands in the ocean and a large anchored cruise ship in the harbor, with tenders shuttling people to Bar Harbor.

Further climbing across the rocky surface of the mountain top provided views of northern and southern exposures.

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Acadia National Park stems from a name given by explorer Giovanni Verrazano in 1524. The shoreline reminded him of a part of Greece named Acadia.

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Completing our hike, we headed into the town of Bar Harbor, checking into the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, where we were given a complimentary upgrade to a private suite with reserved parking. Our hotel room was a suite with a living room, full kitchen, bath, and king size bed, and it’s own entrance from the parking lot.

Once the bags were dropped we walked down the street for lunch at a restaurant called Blaze, where we had a crab cake and duck breast arugula salad that was very good, as well as a duck and pork belly burger topped with a fried egg. A very interesting lunch to say the least.

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After walking through town to check out the small touristy shops along the way, we headed down to the waterfront. For an hour and a half before until and hour and a half after low tide it is possible to walk across the rocky sandbar of the ocean floor to Bar Island. We arrived just as the water had cleared way, so we headed across.

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Once on the island we hiked the mule trail up the mountain to a vista to look back at Bar Harbor. You can view Cadillac Mountain from this spot, providing an interesting contrast since we were on the mountain at high tide when this island was only accessible by boat.

As we hiked back down and rested on a log at the rocky bottom, finding a fossil in stone that I kept as a souvenir.

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After crossing back over to town, we continued our tour of the local shops. Many shops were open for the Art Walk serving wine and cheese or snacks to visitors. We stopped for dinner at Café This Way hidden in an alley. We had a whole lobster that I had to crack open to eat, as well as lamb with mint pesto sauce and mashed potatoes, which as delicious.

Later we continued the Art Walk, as well as a stop at the Atlantic Brewing Company microbrewery. After a bit of refreshment, we continued on to the Eclipse Gallery, a glass shop with really interesting vases and glasscapes (scenes made completely of different types of glass). One scene resembled Acadia National Park with layers of trees and rock made of colorful glass.  Another glasscape of mountains was made of glass mounted into wooden slots and of trees in a technique called frit (tiny bubbles of glass fused together).

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Finally the temptation of 100 T shirt shops got the best of use, so we stopped in one with giant lobster claws hanging from the store front with lanterns and a lit moose form mounted on the store’s rooftop for our obligatory souvenir. The town was bustling with people drinking wine, eating ice cream, and strolling the streets as we returned to the hotel for the evening.