54 Months Fulltiming: June 2019 Report

Obviously from the date you can tell we are down to only 17 days behind on the blog.  That translates to two locations we have visited and not yet written up, so pretty good progress.  ellsworth-bridge

The Distance:  Another big mileage month for us, 1078 miles.  We left Rhode Island for Maine, doing three coastal towns there before crossing the border into Canada.  We passed through New Brunswick into Nova Scotia, bouncing around three different locations in that province.  We are up to 3,560 miles for the year as we continue to follow the major elements of our our 2019 Planjune-2019-route-map

Places:  We started the month with a six day stay in Maine at one of our favorites, Meadowbrook Camping Area in Phippsburg before returning to our home Moose Lodge location in Ellsworth outside of Bar Harbor.  We made one final stop in the US, Lubec, Maine, before beginning our Canada adventures.  This included two consecutive Walmart stops on the way to our four day stay at Kejimkujik National Park.  We followed that with a short stop in Lunenburg before returning to one of our favorite places from last year, Tatamagouche (write up forthcoming, most of that stay was in July.) lunenburg-distillery

We stayed mostly in private RV parks (24 days) with four days in a national park and 2 in Walmart parking lots.  We had full hook ups for 8 days, partial (power or power and water) for 20 and drycamped for 2.  We recieved the 50% Passport America rate for six nights, a 15% military discount for ten, and a weekly rate discount (about 14%) for three. keji

Budget:  Like last month we snuck under the budget again, 4% this time  Another big gas month, particularly expensive because of the Canadian fuel prices (after exchange rate, about $3.25 a gallon.)  Our camping fees averaged $32 a night, higher than we usually prefer, largely due to the very popular areas we selected as they came into peak season.  We didn’t exactly put ourselves on an entertainment austerity plan either, but we were able to counteract these expenditures with two successful markets, without which we would have been over budget.  boothbay-brew

The Drama and the Improvements:   Everything has been pretty smooth.  Loki’s battery will need replacing soon: it starts him up but leaving the lights on with the engine off for even 15 minutes seems to drain it.   Our biggest drama was the entire bike rack breaking loose and falling off in Kejimkujik National Park.  lubec-art

A short stop in Lunenburg

Though we usually like to keep our schedule flexible, we had pretty firm plans to be in Tatamagouche by the coming Friday, which left us with a two day window to make a short exploration of another part of Nova Scotia.  We narrowed it down to Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove, two high profile tourist areas on the coast.  After checking the caravan itinerary of our new friends Roy and Theresa, whom we had met in Newport, and seeing that they were in Lunenburg, the decision became easy.

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One of many picturesque spots in downtown Lunenburg.

Roy and Theresa are on a 49 day guided caravan tour of the the eastern provinces.  These sorts of things involve paying a set, nearly all inclusive fee, with the organizers defining the route, making all reservations, and coordinating most of the activities in each location.  The number of rigs participating (over 20) meant that the municipal park right in Lunenburg was completely booked, so we made reservations at Little Lake Family Campground just a few miles outside town.  It seemed a little pricey by Canadian standards, but it was a nice place with very friendly owners in a key location, so paying $39.50 (USD) a night for a fully serviced site is not too bad.  2-saltbox-brewery

We arrived mid afternoon in the rain, and as the weather showed little sign of abating we mostly stayed inside the first day.  Things were better on day 2, and we were able to meet up with Roy and Theresa at Saltbox Brewery in nearby Mahone Bay.  We had a great couple of hours catching up over a couple of pints.  They are truly “our kind of people,” and hope that our travels put us back together many times in the future. 3-roy-theresa

We also owe them for introducing us to Nova Scotia’s Good Cheer Trail, very similar to the beer and distillery program we stumbled into in Maine.  Essentially, a “passport” with a region by region list of all of the participating Nova Scotia breweries, distilleries, cider houses, and vineyards, with a spot for a stamp at each one you visit, and the promise of a Good Cheer t-shirt if you go to 15.  Game on!  The Good Cheer Trail would turn out to have a big influence on the direction of our daily outings for the rest of our time in the province.  4-downtown-art-loki

We had just on afternoon to explore the town, so we made the best of it.  First, a geocache took us to the Lunenburg Academy, an impressive structure holding both historical and architectural significance.  Built between 1893 and 1895, it still functions as a school for primary age kids, but also as the local library.  The geocache took us to a clue outside of the building, and the clue led us inside to a specific book.  Neat! 5-old-school-now-library

We headed downtown to enjoy the harbor, gift shops, and galleries.  At one of which, Coastal Reflections, we discovered some incredible jewelry at surprisingly affordable prices.  Since our anniversary was quite close, we splurged for this one of a kind bracelet “Triton’s Domain” by the artist Marina Smith.  Stunning! 6-bracelet

And wouldn’t you know it, Lunenburg had not one but two stops on the Good Cheer Trail!  We had a flight at Shipwright Brewing Company, a tiny little place attached to a larger restaurant.  Good beer, and a friendly server who provided some recommendations for other spots to hit once he learned our our travel direction.  Then it was on to Ironworks Distillery for some samples of rum, gin, and liqueur and a peak at their impressive equipment.  Oh, and they had a geocache inside as well, so bonus. 7-distillery-2

That’s it, we only had two days and only one with decent weather.  Lunenburg is not a big town, but another day would have been worthwhile to more fully explore some of the nearby areas, but as mentioned at the top, we had plans to return to Tatamagouche, one of our favorite towns from last year.

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Only had time for a few of them.

First 2019 stops in Canada: Walmarts and Kejimkujik National Park

Last year we started our Canada run with one short stop in New Brunswick, the first province you hit coming out of Maine, followed by two excellent locations in Nova Scotia which we loved enough to make sure they would be on our list of return spots.  Having so thoroughly enjoyed both Tatamagouche and Inverness, we assumed there must be any number of other places in Nova Scotia that would be right for us, and researched accordingly.  One of the top internet recommendations was Kejimkujick National Park, located in a region of NS we had yet to explore.  We put it on our priority list, and based upon our other date specific plans in late June and early July it made sense to hit Keji as our first Canadian destination.

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Just cleared at the border.

But we had to get there first, and given our preferred daily drive time in the big RV, we elected to make two consecutive Walmart parking lot overnight stops in route.  I suspect a good number of non-RVers find this concept rather odd, as if we are on the verge of homelessness when parking lot camping, but keep in mind we have our entire home with us.  This means we have our own bathroom and shower, our own fully equipped kitchen, our own bed, and more.

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PKM not sure she approves of this Canadian travel.

We have “lot camped” more than a score of times in our 4 1/2 years of RVing, and have never had a problem.  Heck, counting from last year we have stayed in four Canadian Walmarts and that’s with less than two months total in this country.  The All Stays website can be sorted to show only big box parking lots along with which ones allow overnight stays and which do not.  We can pull into a big lot, whether it be Walmart, Home Depot, Cabela’s, or Cracker Barrel (some of the most common establishments that allow overnight RV parking,) position ourselves on the outer boundary, open up slides on the non-parking lot side, run our generator for a bit if needed, and spend an easy and free night.  Many of them are situated close to interstates or other major arteries, so they are often quite convenient.3-lot

On our route to Nova Scotia we stopped in Sussex, New Brunswick, then Truro, Nova Scotia.  We stocked up on supplies, made a minor repair to Loki (headlight bulb replacement), and spent a lot of time indoors on the laptop or watching downloaded Netflix shows since we had hours of light drizzle and rain for both stops.  During breaks I did some geocaching in both locations, sometimes just to get out of the RV for a bit. 4-ns-visitor-center

We made the last leg of our run to Kejimkujik having secured a four day reservation at Jeremy’s Bay campground, the only option in the park for RVs.  They have a couple of hundred sites, but only a portion of them are serviced, so you have to pay attention during the reservation process.   Weekends during the summer can be tough, but we kept checking for cancellations and found our four days starting on a Saturday.  5-rose

A camping reservation at Canadian National Parks does not include the actual park pass fee; you make that payment separately upon arrival.  It increases your daily camping fee quite a lot, but even with the added cost we were paying about $33 (USD) a night, all in.  We recommend having a good idea of your plans for the rest of your Canadian tour, i.e., if will you be hitting any other national parks.  That way you can properly assess if you should get a daily pass for the park, an annual pass for the park, or an annual pass for all of their national parks (about $105 USD at the current exchange rate.)  6-canoe-lake

We, of course, did not have this level of planning and thus opted for the daily pass.  Had we stayed one day longer, an annual pass for just Kejimkujik would have been better, and since leaving Keji, we have already stumbled across another national park and paid a one day admission fee.  The amount we have spent is a little short of halfway to the price for two annual passes to all of the Canadian national parks, so if we hit a few more, especially if it includes a few days of camping, it may turn out that we made the wrong decision. Oh well. 7-falls

So, Kejimkujik: we had a good time despite a moderate amount of drizzle and rain.  Our site was located in a fully wooded area with medium tree canopy over every spot, which is exactly how we like it.  This made it beautiful and shaded, though the temperatures probably would not have required A/C use anyway, which was good because we did not have a fully working electrical post for the first two days.  12-pitcher-plant

I assessed, correctly it would turn out, that the 30 amp breaker was bad, and unfortunately the park’s maintenance electrician was off duty.  They offered us the option of switching sites, but we had already fully set up, and the regular 15 amp plug in would be fine to charge our batteries and run most of our stuff if we were careful.  RV Pro-Tip: you should carry adapters to convert your main shore power cable to all options, 50, 30, and 15 amp.  They had us fully up and running first thing on day three.

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Our wooded site.

Another lesson learned: the serviced sites are electric only, but they do have a large multi-lane dump and fill station.  Unfortunately, all of the fill stations assumed RVs with a gravity fed, top fill option; none of the stations had a threaded connection for those like our rigs that require it.  We have been doing this RV thing long enough such that we are in the habit of leaving all of our parks with a full water tank and empty black (sewage) and grey (shower and sinks) tanks, so despite having already dry camped for two nights we would be fine, but it was still a surprise.  9-us-canoe

While sorting out the electrical issue, which entailed driving back and forth between our site and the camping registration office, we experienced a bit more drama: the bicycle rack mounted to our spare tire on Loki’s tail gate fell off, with both bikes attached.  The mounting plate completely failed, dumping the set onto the road, substantially bending the back rim on my bike.  We are lucky this did not occur at speed on a main road!  I was (barely) able to ride the wobbly bike back to camp, brake rubbing and derailer clicking the whole way.  I am no longer a fan of the spare tire mounting system.  Hopefully Thule will provide us a refund.  img_20190622_171820

The weather meant we were unable to take full advantage of our stay, particularly the apparently spectacular star gazing this dark sky area can provide, but we made the best of it.  We explored several recommended areas by car and foot and did some geocaching both in the park and the nearby small towns.  On our last full day we rented a canoe for an afternoon on the rivers and one of the big lakes, which yielded some close up encounters with five or so doe and fawns.

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There’s a deer in there.

On our final night we had clear enough skies to enjoy a nice bit of stargazing, but would have really enjoyed one of the dedicated night time guided explanations in the designated observation circle nearby.  Our timing was not right for that, so perhaps on a future stay.   Also, we did not make it over to the coast to see the Kejimkujik seashore annex, and learned shortly after we left that park officials had closed it for excessive bear activity.

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16 Geocaches during our stay.

Blog status: After a flurry of ten posts in June we got Shell On Wheels blog to under three weeks out of date.  A lackadaisical two posts during the first ten days of July, however, dropped us back a bit, but with this post so quickly following our Lubec one, we are back under three weeks behind.  Getting close! 13-lake-reflection

 

 

 

 

Another fantastic little Maine town: Lubec

While we have generally followed our 2019 route plan, the great thing about our style of RVing is the flexibility to change it on short notice if something fun or interesting comes up.  We make very few reservations more than a week in advance of our travels with the exception of very difficult to secure places, such as Key West, Bahia Honda, and Gilchrist Blue Springs.  We find that once we arrive in a state and meet locals, they have all kinds of recommendations for other spots within their state we should visit.  If we had a hard itinerary, it would be far more difficult to include such stops.

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PKM appreciates the shorter trips between sites.

And so having enjoyed our stay in the Ellsworth-Bar Harbor area with the intentions of  heading directly to Canada upon departure, we changed things up after receiving a recommendation from RV friend Jim, who we met way back in 2015 in Bay Breeze RV Park during our first full time RV venture out of Florida.  He pointed us towards the easternmost point of Maine, which led to some quick research on the region and the decision to check out Lubec for a few days before moving on to Canada.

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Local artist mural on the wall of the local Lubec brewery.

What a great recommendation and lucky decision!  Let’s start with our campground, Sunset Point RV Park, selected after our usual cross referencing of Passport-America (no options in the area,) All Stays, and RV Park Reviews.  It is situated on a bay with all sites pointed west towards the water.  Upon arrival we worked with the front desk to switch our spot from the second of two rows to a water front option, and ended up with fantastic views out our front window and a lovely seating area looking out over the bay.

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In front of our site at Sunset Point RV Park.

The town of Lubec, the easternmost town in the US, is great; picturesque and quaint with a few art galleries and crafty shops, nice little parks, and a brewery.  Lubec Brewing Company, which we found via the Maine Beer Trail, was undergoing extensive renovation during our stay, but the owners insisted on bringing us in and giving us a taste of what they had open, even pouring as a sample directly from one of the big tanks.  In addition to having great beer, they have really interesting design and artwork on their labels and building.  Highly recommended stop if you’re in the area.

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Straight from the vat!

We enjoyed several outings, one of which was south to Machias, a little town with a nice waterfall and another brewery, Machias River Brewing Company.   We are seeing an interesting spectrum of breweries now that we are visiting more of them.  On one end you have the very small “mom and pop” places focusing solely on their beer; they don’t have any outside brews and no food at all.  They tend to be more intimate, and you are likely to meet the actual owner and/or head brewer.  Strong Brewing Company is a nice example of this.

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One of the falls in Machias.

At the other end of the spectrum you have full on restaurant/bars that also happen to have their own brewery, which may not even be on premises.  You get the full treatment of beer and a meal if you are so inclined, and might even have live music if you go on a popular evening.  Machias River is more towards this end of the spectrum.  6-site-rose

You can’t go to the easternmost town in the US and not make a pilgrimage to the actual easternmost point of land, right?  So we included a trip out to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.  We had a nice tour of their museum and the grounds, though no access to the actual lighthouse top.

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Quoddy Head Lighthouse

The best day trip by far was our outing to Campobello, a Canadian owned island across the Lubec Narrows.  Border control on both sides is used to a daily influx of tourists, and have made it a relatively easy process going in and out.  The island is home to Roosevelt Campobello International Park, a joint venture between Canada and the US.  FDR’s quite wealthy parents purchased land and built a “cottage” here in the late 19th century as the place was becoming a summer retreat for the rich; sort of a Bar Harbor for those that found Bar Harbor not quite exclusive enough.

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Lighthouse on Campobello Island

FDR spent much of his youth on the island, and once he came of age and married Eleanor, his parents purchased the 34 room house nearby, which would become his family’s summer retreat even into his presidency.  The original house was modified to accommodate his wheelchair, secret service, children, and staff.

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FDR’s 34 bedroom “cottage”

In addition to FDR’s summer house we toured other parts of the island, enjoying the coastal views, some light hiking, a bit of geocaching, and some excellent sea glass hunting at a location provided by a local.  Visiting Campobello Island is our top recommendation for anyone in the region: it has history, nature, picturesque views, hiking, biking, and enough of a town that you won’t go hungry should you need a bite and a pint.

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Frog Rock on Campobello Island

As for the sea glass hunting, we had great success in two places, a particular beach on Campobello, and the bay directly accessible from our RV park.  Accessing them both near low tide we found plenty of pieces, some good colors, and a couple of excellent large specimens.

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Seaglass: the bottom of a Sunsweet prune juice bottle from the 1940’s or ’50’s.

Our geocaching was mostly in concert with our trip to Campbello, downtown Lubec, and Machias (as opposed to my occasional dedicated outings.)  Going to a lighthouse?  Find a cache.  A park? Ditto. Beach? Same.  You get the picture.  This doesn’t delay our xploration by much but often takes us to places we might not have otherwise included.  All in all 13 caches of varying difficulty during our three day stay in the area. 12-geocache-lubec

Our perception of Lubec might have been improved by the excellent weather we enjoyed for the length of our stay, but we loved it so much that Rose did some casual property price investigation.  It will most definitely be on our next eastern circuit of the country, and ou should include it on your’s as well. 13-campo-pier

Next up: Canada!

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More Campobello coast

 

 

Back to Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and our favorite Moose.

We left Meadowbrook and headed about 100 miles up the road to Ellsworth, a mid-sized Down East town on the mainland outside of Bar Harbor.  We really enjoy Coastal Maine in general, the Bar Harbor region in particular, and the Ellsworth Moose lodge specifically.   I have said it on this blog before: of the 28 Moose Lodges we have visited, none matched the welcome we received at Ellsworth.  It made such an impression on us that during our visit last year we transferred our home membership there.  More on the Moose later.

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There would be a lot of this going on during our stay in Ellsworth.

During our first trip here in 2016 we split time between Mount Desert Narrows (until the Passport America rate ran out) and Bar Harbor Campground (a first come, first serve park that got us through the July 4th weekend.)  We enjoyed Mount Desert Narrows enough that in 2017 we splurged on a full month there, a rare occurrence for us outside of Key West.  It was nice, but considering the steep price, even on the monthly rate, we resolved that this year we would stay closer to Ellsworth and pay a bit less, even if we weren’t right on the water.

After research we selected Timberland Acres RV Park, technically just outside Ellsworth in the small town of Trenton.   The office cooperated with our request for “green stuff near our site” and placed us against the tree line with another row of trees on one side.  The site was of moderate size, but the tree lines plus rarely having a neighbor made it seem far more spacious.  It wasn’t cheap: power and water for $38 a night for the first four (off season rate) and $43.50 for the last six, and those rates include a 15% military discount.  It’s all about location and amenities: this park aimed for the resort end of the campground spectrum and is located close to the popular tourist destinations of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

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PKM loving the warm concrete.

I believe we went to the Moose every other day, and always had a great time, but particularly so on Rosemarie’s Birthday.  I had put the word out that if any of the members could make it we would be providing cake.  We had about a dozen people there, and we couldn’t buy our own drinks all evening.  The cake, provided by Shaw’s, was beautiful and delicious as well.  We really look forward to coming back (in two years, we think) and visiting this Moose once they have moved into their new, nearly renovated building.

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Decadence!

During an outing to Airline Brewing Company another couple there introduced us to the Maine Beer Trail, a fold out map and listing of all of the craft breweries in Maine.  Fantastic by itself, but it also offered a challenge: get  dated signature from staff at 10 different breweries, get a free Maine Beer Trail hat, visit 15 get a t-shirt, and visit them all get a secret special prize.  Count us in!  We only wish we had discovered it while we were still in Phippsburg since we hit three breweries in the region and would have been willing to go to more.  We would already be over ten by now! 5-brew-fogtown-flight-2

Oh well, in addition to Airline (great building interior, good food) we found Fogtown (a very hip, youthful vibe) in Ellsworth, and Atlantic (fantastic “Mainely Meats BBQ” on premises) on Bar Harbor.  During a day outing the Beer Trail map led us to Strong Brewing Company in Sedgwick, where we got to meet the actual owners and brewers.  I don’t know how many states have beer map with incentive concept going on, but I highly recommend it.

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The quaint outdoor sitting area at Strong Brewing Company.

Did we Geocache? Of course we geocached, but only a little bit during already planned outings.  No dedicated afternoons searching, just seven or so caches during our stay while out and about.

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Rose and the Deer Isle Bridge during a sea glass hunting expedition.

Rose discovered that Ellsworth had a twice a week farmers market, and after emailing in some information we were invited to participate as drop in vendors for up to two events.  We opted for a single Saturday, and set up on the designated small parking lot on a beautiful sunny day with light winds.  There were only about a dozen total sellers, but we had a steady stream of people and ended up doing very well.  8-market

What could make the day even better?  How about a Shriners Parade?  The Maine Shriners were having their annual convention, which is held at the current Potentate’s (head guy, president, etc) home town, or at least home area.  I don’t recall ever seeing a Shriner’s parade, just a few of the funny little cars included as part of a larger event.  This was all Shriners, and it was far bigger and more complex than I anticipated.  They had dozen’s of different groups of vehicles, a couple of bands, marchers, trucks, clowns, a score of classic and high end convertibles, and more.  Since we had just closed up from our market we had our chairs ready and time enough to set them up in a prime location for the show.  What a great day.

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One of many Shriners entertainment groups, Airline Brewing Company in the background.

That’s it for Ellsworth.  We had made loose plans to go straight to Canada, but a recommendation from Jim had us look at one last Maine local before heading across the border, so that will be our next post.  Oh, and only 12 days behind on the blog now! 10-shriners-1