North into Michigan to visit friends in Lancing

Last post I wrote up our significant deviation from our 2019 route plans as we ventured south into Ohio for a major geacaching event.  Another advantage to this change is that it allowed us to visit Key West friends Deb and Steve in Lancing, MI, which was directly on our revised route to Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula. 1-pub-grub-1

In April and May, as we worked our way out of Florida and up the East Coast, nearly every stop involved meeting up with friends and family: Gloria and Jerry in Venice; Xavier and Joy in Coral Springs; Talek in Cuba; Alex, Carlyle and Haley in Inverness; Dad, Marcia, Jackson, Andrea, Aunt Judy, Uncle Bill and Brian in Central Florida, Robb, Colleen and the twins in Ocala; Donna and Fred in Savannah, Mom and Tim in Wilmington, and Jayson, Linda, Chris, Amy, Junior, Katera, and the vast array of grandkids in Chesapeake.  Whew, that’s a lot.  But since May 21st, for 10 1/2 weeks, it has been just us as we traveled through New England and Canada. 2-us-and-the-kids

Now that we were back in The States, Deb and Steve would break that nearly 11 week drought by hosting us for three days.  Steve arranged for us to leave our rig at the local 40 & 8 chateau, a veterans organization loosely affiliated with the American Legion, while we stayed at their home.

What a great time!  In addition to a short evening at the 40 & 8, they showed us their town with daily outings.  This covered the full range of places from the lovely environment at the Waterfront Bar and Grill to their favorite “dive” bar, the B&I, for low cost drinks and plenty of wait staff attitude.  We had a great late afternoon at a “Grub Crawl” hosted by the local chamber.  For a fixed fee ($10 a person for those of us that ordered online) half a dozen local eateries and food trucks provided good sized sample portions of their most popular offerings.  4-pub-grub-2

We hung out with their grand kids, Kali and Jameson, for a bit of hide and seek and general rambunctiousness.  Rose enjoyed the added benefit of a top tier make over: you just can’t beat the make up artistry of a 5 year old.  5-maekover-in-progress

Steve and I loaded up the bikes in his truck and hit a couple of sites to geocache.  The extraordinary growth in vegetation since some of them were placed made it a challenging afternoon, but we still scored seven finds.  6-makeover-results

It wasn’t all dining out on the town; Steve pulled out the last of his Key West crab claws and Deb incorporated them into an al fredo pasta: de-freaking-licious.  Not to be beat on the culinary end of things, Steve went all in on his special Bloody Mary, complete with pickled asparagus, three types of stuffed olives, and a local meat stick (think gourmet Slim Jim.) A drink that is more like a meal! 7-crab-claw

Stuffed and happy, we departed after our three day stay bound for the Upper Peninsula.  8-bloody-mary

Sprinting back to the US for the Midwest Geo Bash

This post is heavy on Geocaching, a hobby we are pretty involved with.  Feel free to read a bit more about it here and here.

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Out of Quebec, into Ontario

For the last 3 1/2 months we have stuck pretty closely to our post-Key West 2019 route plan, but in late July we made a major deviation.  While perusing my front page on the Geocaching website, I noted an advert for an upcoming event.  Though Rose and I have cached for nearly five years, we have never been to an official event, and this one looked to be huge; officially classified as a “mega event.”  Think large, multi-day, hobbiest convention.

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What is Jack doing under that big spruce tree during a one night stop on the way southwest?  Probably looking for a geocache, right?

We delved into both the official event cache page and the dedicated website, and the more we read the more enthused we became.  So on a whim, because our planning is loose enough to allow it, we changed up the itinerary rather significantly: rather than leisurely continue west through Canada and reenter the US in Sault Ste Marie as we did last year, we would sprint southwest, reentering near Detroit, and continue into Northern Ohio to attend MWGB 2019.

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Wrong.  PKM pulled out of her harness and found the spot decidedly comfortable, and declined to exit upon request.

There was a glitch, of course: because we discovered the event so late, we had missed the registration window (no problem, anyone can still come) but that also meant we missed the RV site reservation window as well.  MWGB’s website showed one remaining site, meaning we would either have to be first in line on day 1, find someone who had to cancel and buy there site, or live with dry camping in the overflow and tent area.

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One of our Walmart stops.  Two other RVs were parked around the front of the mall, which had a lot of street noise and questionable foot traffic.  I found the mall guard office and asked if I could park in the back. No problem!  Much quieter.

We route planned to support option 1, but placed posts on the event discussion forum page aiming for option 2.  Fortunately for us we heard back two days before the event from someone whose RV broke down and they would be staying in a hotel instead.  We purchased her site for the standard $55 total for the three night stay, with power and water.

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Our run south wasn’t all traffic and lot parking: we found a brewery near one of our stops with a parking lot big enough for Serenity.

But we had to get there first.  A sprint for us usually means maybe five or so hours drive time in a day, so we broke up the 812 mile trip into three major legs, covering about 40% of the distance on the first day since we were fresh from a three day stay near Quebec city.  We stopped at a Walmart in Kingston for the night, and then pushed on with leg two the next day.  Completing our longest leg on day one was the right decision: we hit major traffic as we passed through Southern Ontario, particularly in the Toronto region, which turned our planned three hour drive into five.

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The traffic at times became downright Miamian, only with actual use of turn signals and without the honking or road rage.

After another one nighter at the London, Ontario Walmart we crossed the Ambassador Bridge into the US.  It was largely uneventful, though our border/customs officer was one of the ruder ones I have encountered.  During the later half of my work career I traveled internationally quite a lot, and that experience highlighted how generally unfriendly our customs and immigration people are compared to foreign counterparts, and I say this as a US citizen travelling on official government business through legal ports of entry.

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A bit of a tight drive over the bridge.

But we were through it, and less than an hour south of Detroit we made one final overnight stay, this time at a Cracker Barrel.  Incidentally, the new fried chicken meal at Cracker Barrel is insanely large.  Four full sized pieces of fried chicken, two sides, and two biscuits or corn muffins for about $10.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and we both ordered this; we should have shared one, it would have been plenty.  We had left overs for days. 8-sprint-cracker-barrel-2

Cracker Barrel put us just half an hour down the road from Fulton County Fairgrounds, the site of MWGB, and we pulled in late morning to set up in our RV site for the 3 1/2 day event.  We were very fortunate with our assigned site: the fairgrounds electrical posts are in groups, with each post serving up to six sites.  This  means you could possibly require over 100′ of electrical cable and water hose to reach the connections if you were at the end of the line.

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Our site on the fairgrounds.

Luckily we were but one site over from the post, so our 30′ cable had no issues reaching, it just required cooperation from the neighboring site to cross under the front of their rig.  Our neighbor on the door, or “living side” had reserved two sites so he wouldn’t feel crowded, and was really not using much of the second one, so we had an ample “front yard.”

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Kitty was pleased we had selected a site with the “things I might kill” option.  A large mole variant was actively using this mound; we could see it move occasionally.

Our MWGB experience was just fantastic.  The official mega event had several sub events, and we tried to participate in all of them so as to get a feel for how we might narrow things down at future gigs.  We started things off with the ice cream social meet and greet on the first evening (with numerous raffle give aways.)  We did the “Poker Run” on day two, consisting of a three hour car event that took us to seven different small businesses in the county, at each one you took a coded sticker that would translate into a poker card once you finished the run.

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BBQ joint along the poker run route.

The highest 103 “hands” received special gifts.  With two pair we had little chance given that over 700 people participated, but it was a truly fun time, despite a couple of us struggling to find the dang mini-putt golf course in the middle of farmland.  At least we had no trouble getting to the brewery on the route!

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Brewery on the route as well.

We did the “treasure hunt” event, using metal detectors to find travel bugs in the horse arena, with certain ones coded for additional prizes.  If you have not yet noticed, this was a recurring theme for every single phase of MWGB: raffles and giveaways.  After the official photo on day three?  More raffles and giveaways.

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Rose finding that trackable.

They also had an inventive bingo card provided on day one that required you to fill it in by finding other participants that met certain categories, such as “traveled more than 500 miles to be here” or “won the site decoration contest in a previous year” (which had prizes, natch.)  Turning in a full bingo card entered you into more raffles.

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Poker run card on top of the bingo sheet.

We even considered asking to participate as a vendor.  A handful were set up in the main building selling every conceivable geocache related item.  We nixed the idea because vending there was a nearly full day affair for at least two days, and would have seriously detracted from our ability to actually participate in the full event list and generally have a fun long weekend.  15-mwgb-poker-run-us

On the third day I completed a personal goal of finding and logging ten different types of geocaches in one day:

  1. Traditional (physical container in a single spot)
  2. Multi (physical container that requires going to at least two locations)
  3. Unknown Mystery (physical container that requires solving a puzzle)
  4. Virtual (no container, just go to a spot and provide photo proof, usually)
  5. Earth (no container, just go to a spot and provide answers to questions based what you see, usually geological or historical in nature)
  6. Wherigo (an augmented reality cache, sort of like Pokeman Go, that requires a third party app to solve a puzzle.)
  7. Letterbox hybrid (physical container, and a joint project with letterboxing)
  8. Event (one of the sub events we attended)
  9. Mega Event (MWGB)
  10. Lab (usually a time limited cache associated with an event, and having experimental and unusual characteristics.)
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Some attendees go through a lot of trouble to make there sites fun and comfortable.

We had never done a “Lab Cache” before MWGB, but the bash provided 40 such caches divided into four different groups of ten cache “adventures.”  One of them was associated with each stop at the Poker Run, another required finding clues at all of the official banners throughout the campground, and two more adventures took you to oddball caches often with some sort of puzzle element.

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Fellow attendee Jeff, who has been coming for years.

Example: in keeping with a knights theme, one lab cache was a sword in the stone puzzle, that required three people; two to activate switches well removed from the sword and stone, and one to actually pull the sword.  Another ostensibly required two people, one on each side of a fence with a PVC assembly projecting through it.  One person covered a vent hole, the other blew through the other hole to rocket a small container out the top via air pressure.  I MacGyvered it solo by ziplocking a plastic baggy around the vent hole.  In the end we did 38 of the 40 lab caches, having simply run out of daylight for the last two.

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I have frequently referred to “trackables” which are coded objects that can be logged, with their geographic journey mapped according to cache sites they have been dropped in and retrieved from.  The two types are GeoCoins and Travel Bugs.  This is an example of the latter.

We had such a great time at this mega event that we firmly plan to incorporate future events, especially big ones, into our route and itinerary down the road.  On the small scale side, we are already confirmed for a get together and pot luck meal with local cachers in Marquette later this week.  On the larger side, we are seriously looking at doing North America’s biggest event, GeoWoodstock, in British Columbia next August.  Who wants to join us?

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Signal the Frog, the official Geocaching mascot.

 

West to Quebec City

In accordance with our plan, it was time to head west: we had obligations in Michigan as early as August 3, and we didn’t want to have to rush our journey.  We struck out from Shediac and broke up our journey with Walmart overnighter in Edmonston, New Brunswick.  I think this is the same one we stayed in last year during our trip to Quebec.  We didn’t have quite as many RV neighbors this time, but a handful of other units joined us before nightfall.  1-walmart

And also like last year we again stayed at Camping la Relache (something like “Relaxation Camping” or “Camping to Relax”) due to its easy proximity to the city, late notice availability during a weekend at a popular destination.  At just under $46 USD a day it has been our most expensive Canadian RV park, easily topping Inverness Beach Village’s $38 a night.  We had 50 amp full hook ups with helpful and informative owners, but we might try something different if we find ourselves back in Quebec during a future year. 2-field-flowers

On the advice of the park owners the next day we drove along the river to the ferry terminal, helped along by a local couple that watched us turn into the wrong place and then followed us to make sure we got it right.  For $8 in parking and then $11 ferry fee we could be dropped off across the river right in the historic district without having to worry about city driving or parking. 3-rose-ferry

Our top priority was to find the farmers market we had so thoroughly enjoyed last time around.  Alas, the market was no longer in the former downtown location; we would later learn it had moved to a bigger venue a few clicks north.  We satisfied ourselves with a walk around the historic area, a light meal at an Thai/Vietnamese restaurant (somewhat disappointing) and a drink at a bar (also rather uninspiring.) 4-city

Finally, feeling like we had loosened our purse strings far more than last year and been rewarded with nothing special, we stumbled into the Borgia Pub for a drink and lively conversation with the wait staff and fellow tourists.  So we closed out our afternoon in the city on a positive note and caught the next ferry back across the river.

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Rose was excited to find one of her favorite beers available here since not many places carry Grolsch.  If you look closely at the label, however, this version had a noticeable problem.

For our final day we made the drive to the farmers market’s new location in a brand new facility that felt a lot like a mall.  We didn’t find the spectacular salami vendor from last year, but I had my eagerly anticipated fried cheese squares, we purchased some fresh leafy greens, and a bottle of mead that goes down remarkably close to a beer.

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Yeah, I don’t know either.

I don’t have much to say about this Quebec City visit.  We probably should have done more research, but it just felt a bit disappointing, to be honest.  I will say that any fears you have about the language barrier are largely unfounded.  We never had a problem, and we never got any attitude for speaking English.  Just open with a bonjour (morning or day) or bonsoir (evening or night) and then go from there.  I am told that 20 years ago things were more challenging, but nowadays everyone seems to just make an effort.  7-umbrellas

Next up: we make a major change to the 2019 plan with a race back to the states for a special event. 8-ivy-fountain

 

Back to Tata, then on to Shediac, New Brunswick.

After leaving Inverness, we had roughly three weeks to get to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for one of our somewhat rare actually planned date and location requirements.  Plenty of time, plenty of options, and based on the recommendation of some well traveled Canucks, we decided to aim for Shediac, New Brunswick along the way.  This is  yet another picturesque and somewhat touristy coastal town promising great seafood and plenty of pictures.

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PKM is remarkably trusting and tolerant.  She didn’t overly object to being placed on a rock surrounded by water…

But first we had to work our way out of Nova Scotia, and since we love the damn place we used our “we don’t like to drive more than four hours a day in the RV” excuse to make yet another stop in Tatamagouche.  Just two days this time, but long enough to visit the farmers market (as buyers only) and enjoy a fun weekend in our favorite Canadian party RV resort.  And yes, because the regulars are starting to remember us, we sold a bit of jewelry over the weekend as well.

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… though it did exhaust her.

At this point we had sampled the wares from 14 Nova Scotia breweries, distilleries, vineyards, and cideries participating in The Good Cheer Trail.  The requirement for a free t-shirt was 15.  So naturally we incorporated Triders Craft Beer into our route towards New Brunswick being that it was only about five minutes out of the way.  Imagine our disappointment when we arrived only to find them closed: I had not paid sufficient attention to their business hours when planning the trip.  Ah well.

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Rose’s new favorite, from Tatamagouche Brewing.

We continued along our short drive into New Brunswick and Parlee Beach Provincial Park.  It’s weird to me, as a Floridian, to think of Canadian’s going to beaches.  From my parochial perspective I have trouble seeing it.  Do they take their ice skates?  Snow mobiles?  Are they immune to the cold?  The reality is that the gulf stream effects make the waters in numerous parts of eastern coastal Canada quite tolerable, and certainly warmer than a lot of California’s beaches.  Parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island advertise their beaches as “the warmest north of the Carolinas.”  So there’s that.  4-drive-nb

Anyway, Parlee Beach is a nice park, and Shediac is a nice town, but we, at this point, had our fill of touristy coastal places like this.  So we spent the majority of our outings more inland, hitting a couple of breweries in Dieppe, starting with CAVOK Brewing Company, located next to the local airport.  It was founded by a couple of retired air traffic controllers, thus the name (pilot speak indicating visibility is at least 10 KM and there are no clouds below 5000 feet, i.e., Ceiling And Visibility OK.) 5-brew-cavot

We really enjoyed this place.  In addition to a great beer flight, the bartender gave us a history lesson on the Acadian people (French settlers) and their Great Expulsion from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in the mid 18th century.  The short version is that during the Seven Year War (England vs France, round 28 or so) which spilled over into the New World as the French and Indian War, the English Governors and generals forcibly expelled about 80% of the Acadians south into the British colonies that would eventually become the US.  They did so without regard to those that were trying to remain neutral vs those that were likely assisting French forces.

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HUGE slices from Jack’s Pizza in Shediac.

The French pronunciation of Acadian is roughly “Acajun.”  See where I am going with this?  Yeah, the Cajuns in Louisiana came to live there due to the Great Expulsion.  I did not know this.  See the benefits of visiting breweries?  This is why you have distinctly North American connections between Quebec and New Orleans, particularly in the culinary department, e.g., boudin and poutine. 7-shediac-harbor

We also hit Flying Boats Brewing, a great place with some fantastic beer and an informative staff.  During our flight they started up an interesting tour of the facility with lessons and Q&A on their process.  This is the first place since Tatamagouche that we have refilled our growler.  8-brew-flying-boats

Oh, you wish to know why it is called Flying Boats?  You want another history lesson?  Of course: southeast New Brunswick is geographically about as close to England as you can get while still in industrialized North America.  In the 1930’s, during the era when commercial air travel was rapidly expanding, one of the financial/engineering considerations revolved around the idea that if you have a protected bay you don’t need to build an expensive airport runway structure.  Thus, during this period, Shediac became a major air travel hub between the US and England.  The well heeled could fly from New York to New Brunswick, then on to Newfoundland, then the long leg to Ireland followed by a short hop to Southampton.  There you have it. 9-shediac-buoys

While in Dieppe we also swung into Celtic Knot Brewing before returning to Shediac.  They don’t have a tasting room, so we satisfied ourselves with the purchase of a 500 ml IPA (I think.)

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A gift from my son: custom designed insulated coffee mug.

We had one last day in Shediac, and no desire to play tourist or dine on pricey lobster and seafood.  What to do?  I’ll tell you what to do: get that 15th Good Cheer Trail stamp by driving the 45 minutes back into Nova Scotia and the now open Trider’s Craft Beer.  Which we did, and had an excellent flight at our final Nova Scotia brewery until we get back into the region in 2021, at the earliest.

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Got our 15 at Trider’s!

Next post: Quebec.

Up to Cape Breton and Inverness for sea glass hunting and much more

The Northwestern portion of Nova Scotia is an island separated from the mainland by a short straight, and has it’s own particular personality sometimes distinct from the rest of the province in the same way that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula feels like it’s own state.  We found that in Cape Breton you really get the “Scotia” part of New Scotland.  Whereas in many other parts of Canada you will find road signs in both English and French, in The Cape you see them in English and Gaelic, and traditional Scottish entertainment and music is robustly advertised.

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The bridge to Cape Breton.

We spent a few days in Inverness last year, primarily to hunt for the extraordinary amount of sea glass washed ashore on a particular few miles of beach there, but we did little to explore the region beyond that.  This year we booked six days at the same campground, Inverness Beach Village, but vowed to do more than just find glass.

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One of many picturesque coastal towns on The Cape.

The campground is nothing special; just a lightly terraced grass field amidst the business’ primary money maker, a bunch of small vacation cottages.  For $38 USD a day you get nothing but a 15 amp standard connection and water.  Fortunately it was not particularly warm during our stay, so no need to blow the circuit breaker attempting to run an AC.  The reason we stay there, as opposed to say, the fully serviced MacLeod’s a few miles up the road, is that Inverness Beach is where all the sea glass comes ashore, and you have direct access to it from the campground.

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The evening view from our site at Inverness Beach Village Campground.

And so almost every day of our stay we were down there on the shore, walking a mile or two up the beach gathering pocket fulls of glass, mostly white and green, with an occasional interesting blue.  Our supply of the stuff had diminished greatly due to the amount we sold as pendants at various markets during the past year.  We are pretty well stocked now though!

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A small part of our haul from the beach.

Just like in Tatamagouche, we located a weekly farmers market, contacted the manager, and were enthusiastically invited to attend as vendors.  We did reasonably well at this short afternoon event, and enjoyed not just our sales, but also, as always, our interaction with the locals and the gift of their recommendations.

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Part of our hike along the coast.

As stated earlier, this time we wanted more out of The Cape than just glass.  So we let three things guide us to new experiences: Geocaching, The Good Cheer Trail, and the Cabot Trail, with may overlapping things between them.  On the geocaching front, I or we did a number of them in town, helped revamp an old cache thought lost, and did a bit of off-roading in Loki to get to a few along the ATV trails.

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We hiked down this spit to get to a geocache.

The best of them all, however, was a bumpy grind up some very shaky dirt and rock roads, followed by a five mile round trip hike along absolutely stunning ocean side cliffs.  We snagged a few caches along the route, with the turn around point providing us a fantastic remote earth cache where a stream pours into the sea.

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Had to jump the creek to get to one of the caches.

Right in Inverness The Good Cheer Trail map led us to the nearly new Route 19 Brewing for a flight and light meal.  During our trip around the Cabot Trail we also hit Big Spruce Brewing Company, whose Kitchen Party Pale Ale is one of my new absolute favorites, though I fear it will be quite difficult to find once out of Nova Scotia.  We stopped into Breton Brewing Company as well, but a recent death had their tasting room closed for a wake, though the were kind enough to offer to stamp our Good Cheer passport book.

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I think we had more than one flight here, but the Kitchen Party Pale Ale was the best of the bunch for me.

As for the Cabot Trail: this is a full day affair.  Though the mileage seems like it should only take a few hours, the speed limit is frequently in the 30’s and the number of stops you will want to make along the way will vastly expand the time (so many beautiful vistas, so many cliffs, so many lagoons and bays.)  A significant portion of the drive is through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, so you will need to purchase a pass at one of the entrances.

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One of many bays and beaches easily accessible along the Cabot Trail.

Here is our number one recommendation for doing the Cabot Trail: break it into two parts.  Secure a reservation at one of the many inns or hotels at your route’s half way point.  Take your time exploring the national park, don’t exhaust yourself (like we did) but rather pause for the evening and enjoy a glass of wine and a good meal in an excellent environment.  Wake up refreshed for more stunning views.  We really wish we had heard this advice before our circuit of the trail.

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Did I mention that we took the top down for our Cabot Trail drive? We did, and it was fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed the Cabot Trail.  I don’t think the pictures here can really do it justice.  I recommend doing it counterclockwise so that you are always on the outside of the road overlooking the ocean.  Others feel that clockwise is a better option, particularly if you are doing it in one day, because the majority of the spectacular views would then come at the beginning of the trip when you are fresh, rather than the end when you are just ready to get home.  11-ct-5

Between our two visits here we don’t feel like we have had the best restaurant experiences in Inverness.  The batter on the fish and chips was a bit thick, the donair just ok, and the service hurried.  But our last full day this trip we stopped into The Cabot Public House and had the best mussels we have ever had.  Served in a Thai sauce with bread, it was fantastic, and a fitting coda to our stay.  12-ct-7

During one of our sea glass walks along the beach we spotted a bald eagle in a tree on the cliff about 40 feet above us.  He let us get quite close, but as luck would have it, neither of us had our phones or a camera.  This is very frustrating since, like 95 percent of the population, we care our phones with us 95 percent of the time.  On a hope and a prayer we decided to go out at the exact same time the next day to the same spot, and sure enough the eagle came back, landed in the same tree, and let us take a few pictures before departing 15 minutes later.  Incidentally, I am willing to return to Canada 100 Canadian geese for each Bald Eagle the send to us.  13-eagle

Our sea glass collection restocked, our Good Cheer Trail passport nearing to the point where we get a free t-shirt, and our camera full of great coastline pictures, it was time to leave Cape Breton.  There are areas of Nova Scotia we have yet to explore, but we are quite confident that any future trips to the province must include The Cape.

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Cliff side, on the way to some geocaches.

Next up: working our way west out of Nova Scotia and through New Brunswick and Quebec.  15-ct-1

Back to Tatamagouche, one of our favorite towns from our 2018 tour.

Last year we needed a stopping point on our way to Inverness, Nova Scotia after a bit of hard driving, and Tatamagouche fit the bill nicely with a bay side campground, Sunset Watch, a few miles outside town.  We really fell in love with the place, by which I mean the trifecta of Nova Scotia, Tatamagouche, and Sunset Watch Campground.  Our four day exploration of the area yielded such pleasure that we vowed Tata would be a priority during our next tour through Eastern Canada. 1-driving-with-cat

And so we returned, this time intent on at least a six day stay, and in a rare bit of actual planning for us, timed our visit to overlap Canada Day and the expected activities that both the town and the weekend, party-oriented campground would provide.  Not gonna lie: we anticipated selling some jewelry in the campground itself during the holiday weekend.  (We were not disappointed.) 2-tata-sign

We also contacted Tatamagouche’s farmers market manager who enthusiastically invited us to attend as vendors for both the Saturday event and the special Canada Day market as well!  We did quite well on the regular market, and so-so on the special event due to weather and low turn out, but it was all clearly worth it and an enjoyable experience to boot. 3-sunset

Dave, one of the park owners, encouraged us to extend our stay through the next weekend because they were planning an even bigger campground-wide bash as a “mortgage burning party.”  As we began to accept that including Newfoundland into our itinerary was really pushing our schedule, we decided to abandoned that plan, which gave us some slack in the general timeline, and eagerly extended our stay in Tatamagouche for a total of nine days.  Dave is, I believe, the single most active park owner/manager I have ever seen, constantly roaming the park, asking how things are, and making arrangements.  The park has excellent services, even a free once a week honey dipper truck to empty your black and grey tanks.4-rose-campground

Aside from markets, we took several day trips through the region, partially guided by our Good Cheer Trail beer/distillery/vineyard list.  To the west, in nearby Malagash, we returned to Jost Vineyards for some tasty white wine samples, and to Bella Vista Cidery for some very interesting ciders.  To the east we hit Caldera Distillery in River John, Backstage Brewing in Stellarton and Uncle Leo’s Brewing in yet another picturesque coastal town, Pictou.  And of course, several visits to Tatamgouche Brewing Company, where we bought our first growler ever, and even made a jewelry sale to someone who noticed Rose’s earrings.5-brewery

It wasn’t all drinking and partying, we had a few other fun activities in there as well.  Such as our visit to the “home” of Mable Murple, the title character of a famous illustrated poem by Sharee Fitch, who might be described as a modern Canadian Dr Seuss.  We stumbled across this place while passing through River John, and noticed some sort of big event going on.  Pulling in we found that Mable Murple’s was hosting a children’s book fair as part of their Read by the Sea celebration.  6-mable-murple

We returned to Pictou near the end of our visit for the annual Lobster Carnival.  We assumed this would be a festival celebrating lobster, and that lobster would be everywhere.  Lobster rolls, boils, fried on stick, bisque, on a salad, as a pizza topping!  This was not the case.  It was a fairly typical carnival with lots of rides, carnies, and music.  A bit disappointing, but we had made assumptions without research.

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This lobster roll looks great, but it was a bit rubbery.  We had way better meals at Tatamagouche’s Chowder House (fish and chips) and Dexter’s ($5 Sandwiches to go.)

Dave’s mortgage burning party, however, did not disappoint.  He had three bands playing from late afternoon until well after dark, gave out free drink tickets, hosted games, and even made an announcement that “the lady from Florida is selling jewelry at site 2-17” which resulted in several sales.  We really closed out our Tatamagouche stay well with a third downtown market and campground sales to boot. 8-jack-cat-shoreline

We loved out time in Tata, but our reservations were made for Inverness, so it was time to move on.  Since Newfoundland was no longer in the cards, we would be passing back through Tata, or at least nearby, on our way out of Nova Scotia, and went ahead and arranged with Dave for a two day stay back at Sunset Watch the next weekend.

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The Train Inn and Restaurant, all within a couple of old dining cars and cabooses.

Next up: Inverness, but this time with more than just sea glass hunting.

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Taking a break at the Seafoam Lavender Farm.

 

 

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.

geocache-keji

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