Today is the day I packed the shorts and brought out the long pants and waterproof jacket.

Filled the tank with gas at $3.60 a gallon in preparation for Canada’s higher rates. Hit the border and had forgotten to call my mom and my son to let them know everything was OK. While waiting I snuck the phone out (Canada is not keen on cell phones and driving) and the GPS must be linked to the border. Mine was dead. Broke out the TracPhone and it got no towers, either. So now I am verbally incommunicado unless at a hotel where I can call my 1-800 long distance ATT card.

My previous two long trips saw me having very good weather throughout. So much for that on this trip. Looks like the next few days are nothing but clouds. Makes scenic picture taking a challenge with all the grey in the skies.

Got a chance to listen to some Canadian Talk Radio. Very liberal.

Many in New Brunswick speak Acadian French so all the street signs are in French and English. You KNOW that’s got to be expensive.

Another interesting tidbit: gas stations are “pump first” optional. And many sport machines to read ONLY those “chipped” credit cards. They’re all over the place here. Of course, in the US there are some but people don’t like how you can not only be tracked as to where you are but thieves use special readers to strip your data from them.

Gas prices here are $4.66 a gallon. Compare that to $3.60 in Maine. WOW!!

New Brunswick factoids:

About 750,000 people live there and it is small in size: about 28,000 sq miles (a bit smaller than West Virginia.)

Jacques Cartier explored its coast in 1534 and the first french appeared to settle on St Croix Island in 1604.

In 1713 the French ceded Acadia to the Brits who wasted no time deporting those who would not declare allegiance.

In 1785 loyalists fled the states to move here.

In 1901 the world’s longest covered bridge, Hartland Bridge, was built.

Took most of the day to get to Fundy National Park. Cost $7.80C to get in and I went looking for a campground. Had read about Point Wolfe and the views so since the tide was high I drove it there. Had to cross a covered bridge built in 1994 (but still quaint) and had a good view. Went a bit further and found the campground at $26C. VERY quiet. Clean hot showers. Didn’t bother with that right then but headed to Alma and found a small harbor full of boats. Low tide is at 9PM so I will return then and compare pictures.

Tomorrow the agenda includes Hopewell where one can walk on the ocean floor. They have “flowerpot” rock formations and arches. Of course, at full tide they are mostly under water.

I believe the tide differential here is 40-50 feet or more.

Went out to check the low tide difference and it was pretty dramatic.

Here are a couple of “before and afters” from Alma:


On returning to the campground I was backing in and caught a strong whiff of anti-freeze.

I’d been noticing it since I left home and thought it was residual odors from when the car was serviced and that had not dissipated. I checked all the time and never noticed any leaks and the levels were OK.

Until today….in the evening….in a campground in the frakkin’ boondocks.

Turns out the “mechanics” at the KIA dealer in Florida not only left their 1/4 inch ratchet wrench sitting on my windshield wiper vents (which is now sitting at home) but also when they put the old hose back on they somehow did something that caused it to develop a small tear. I did what I could to mitigate it and that was no small feat. I jury-rigged it with tape and a borrowed tool that took half an hour of begging around the CG until I found one. Then I had to carefully grab the clamp to position its broad side over the leak to act as another stop-gap.

It was VERY touch-and-go when the wrench I was using slipped off the clamp and the clamp grabbed just the hose. My wrench would then not open wide enough to re-grab the tangs so they’d be open enough to slip back over the metal inlet coolant neck.

Had I not found someone at the campground that had something that worked it would have been even uglier getting a mechanic up to the campsite to re-clamp the hose first thing in the morning and THEN gone to Moncton and arrived late and probably not had the chance to get in front of the line as I had planned to do.

Of course, I got no sleep. At all. The problem is that KIA minivans are not sold in Canada. The chain of events that could be unleashed by a dealer not being able to fix it was monstrous. If they could not get it done by Friday I would have to cancel my ferry reservations to AND from the island; I would also need to get on the phone and cancel half a dozen campground reservations as well as two bed and breakfast reservations and 2 hostel reservations. Many of them are non-refundable. And getting new reservations at this late date are what I’ve been told (and read) are near next to impossible.

Plus, what if the van broke down on the way and I needed to wait for a tow truck? I DEFINITELY would never make it.

So that’s why I got no sleep.

I left the campground around 5:30 with extra water, and on a wing and a prayer that the hose would not blow out on me as I drove 70 miles to the nearest city, Moncton. Got there and my fix held. Not one drop leaked out. But I do not trust it.

The work could have been done under warranty but the part would have needed to be flown in from Toronto so they used an aftermarket hose to get me on the road and I got a chance to pay for that privilege.

If not I would surely have visions of this trip being over before it got a chance to begin.

I am losing faith in this vehicle and ALWAYS had a bad feeling about what had happened when I brought it in last week.

The van was done at 11:45. Instead of “aboot $100” that I was told, it ended up at $150 after tacking on dealer supplies and Canada’s THIRTEEN PERCENT TAX!!! (yeah, it’s how it’s pronounced. I love it. Tried to do it but like everything else you’ve basically got to have a lifetime doing it)

Holy shit!!! Everything is 13% here. Went to Wal-Mart to buy duct tape and a pair of slip joint pliers. 13% tacked on.

But that’s not all. If you make up to $43,000 or so, you pay 15% national tax. And depending on your province, up to 10% on that amount.

So let’s recap: If I make under $43,000 and after national tax is paid have about $36,500 left. If I live in Nova Scotia I’d have about $32,000 left. Assuming I spend about $1500 a month on miscellany like eating out, weekly purchases, car parts, home improvement, etc. I’d have about $14,000 left. And that does not even factor in house payment (rent) and property tax or house insurance.

So just in simple taxes, income dropped from $43,000 to $32,000. That’s 25.5% straight off the top. Buy a new car and you’re really screwed.

And putting gas in that car takes a huge toll, too. Someone driving 12,000 miles a year ends up paying hundreds in taxes.

For example, I bought 38 liters of gas at $1.30 a liter and paid a sales tax of $6.44. Even without it that means they’d be paying more than we do for our gas yet oil is bought on the spot market at basically the same price all around the world. So given we in the US pay a small fortune for gasoline taxes per gallon you know Canada’s government is already adding huge fees to the price structure.

Canadians seem like the classic example of a frog in a pan of hot water. They’ve just gotten used to it. Maybe overly simplistic but let’s use cell phones as an example.

I trotted over to Wal-Mart figuring if phones would be cheap anywhere it’d be Wal-Mart. The cheapest they had was $58. If you activated it online they’d give you $20 in time credit. So far I could live with that as a tourist. But as a resident, and tourist, this is where it got ridiculous: all phone calls are 30 cents per minute…..within the province you activated it. If you call another province or are in another province, the cost goes to 60 cents a minute!!!

Now, compare that to what I have: a phone that cost me $60 and a plan that costs me $30 per month and gives me 1000 minutes AND 1500 texts ANYWHERE in the US. In effect, it makes the Canadian phones more than 10 times more expensive!

And the people here accept that!!! “No big deal. That’s the way it is!” No demands for better, cheaper plans. Like lambs to slaughter they walk.

Then again, maybe it’s how they fund their health care system and social security? I need to get more info on all this.

And one more thing people here so willingly accept: lousy car warranties. The one on my KIA is 5 year 60,000 miles. In Canada it’s 3 years 36,000 KMs! (22,500 miles) And people here have to drive about as far as we do especially i they live in the boonies (and many do.)

And no one complains about it. It’s one thing to keep a “stiff upper lip” and not be a whiner. It’s quite another to allow yourself to get screwed.

If I am wrong would anyone currently in Canada that can correct this please do so? It would be appreciated.

I headed south to Nova Scotia and had to skip going to Hopewell, Cape D’Or, Advocate Harbor, Halifax, etc.

Hopefully on the return (if I ever get going and make it to Newfoundland.)

Nova Scotia factoids:

About 915,000 people live here and it is about the same size as New Brunswick–21,000 sq miles.

John Cabot claimed it for England in 1497 and in 1534 Jacques Cartier claimed it for France.

In typical French fashion of surrender, they gave it back in 1755 but not before settlement began at Port Royal in 1605. Once again, the Brits wasted no time deporting those who refuse to pledge loyalty.

In 1902 Guglielmo Marconi sent the first west-east trans-atlantic wireless message from Glace Bay to Cornwall. Did you know Benito Mussolini was best man at Marconi’s second wedding?

And it is in Halifax that most of the Titanic victims were buried.

Spend the night at Sheet Harbour and got a meal and a room at the Fairwinds Motel and Restaurant. $90 US for the room and it came with a small fridge, an ancient TV with lousy cable (but this IS the boondocks…look it up on a map) and horrible water pressure. But the people are really nice. Beautiful area and I was lucky to get a sunny afternoon. Forecast is for rain…and more rain …. and more rain.

And more rain is what I got the following morning.

28 June

So much for taking pictures today.

I was hoping to get a bed and breakfast in Baddeck and driving in realized it was probably not going to happen since it was:

1. a Friday
2. the start of a long three day weekend as Canadians celebrated their independence (for which they did not have to fight the King of England like we did.

Drove along the coast on a road called Maritime Drive. Very scenic but being cloudy and rainy I got few opportunities to take pictures. Also drove through Sherbrooke which was converted to a turn-of-the-century village complete with people in period costumes. Given I was there so early in the morning I saw no one but did get a picture or two.

Think “Colonial Williamsburg” but downsized and free. Also went through Antigonish which could have been a nice place to wander around in but I did not see the appeal in getting all wet.

The color theme of the day today is grey, green and brown. Grey skies, green trees and grass, brown dirt. With the occasional white house thrown in.

Made it to Baddeck and just as I thought the B and Bs were booked. So I opted for camping, instead. And almost didn’t have luck as they were just short of being full. It’s called the Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground.

So having nothing to do and nowhere to go I started going through the pictures I’ve taken. They are a sorry lot compared to previous trips but I will try and muddle through. I think I will need to focus on detail rather than vistas and DEFINITELY have to use a tripod.

They have wi-fi so my site is near the antenna and by the pool. At first I thought people here were crazy already but what I saw took the cake…..or so I thought.

Picture this: It is cloudy. It is raining. The temperature is 55-58 degrees.

There are kids IN THE POOL!!!

And people routinely walk around, in the rain and above conditions, in shorts and t-shirts. I’ve got a long sleeve t-shirt, a regular shirt and a rainproof coat on and I am chilly. They’re walking around half naked.

Kids are out playing in the rain, scantily clad, screaming and running around, getting filthy with flung-up mud from their shoes. I guess it takes getting used to.

UPDATE: it appears the pool is heated as the same kids have been in it for a while. At these temps they’d have gotten hypothermia so whereas I still think they are crazy, they are a little less so.

29 June

I left the campground early as there was no reason to hang around. Rained all night.

Cloudy. Foggy. Rainy. All morning. And promises to be like this forever. This is worse than being in England.

The rain comes in bands as well as the winds. Ought to make for interesting sailing tomorrow.

I saw no point driving around Cape Breton as visibility was non-existent.

I headed to North Sydney and checked into a campground called Arm of Gold. Since it was so early I asked the attendant what I could do and he told me about a Gaelic Village re-creation 30 miles or so away. The fog was so thick and given all the rain I could not see the fun in it.

The rain is blowing sideways but it is about 20 degrees warmer than yesterday (about 74!!)

Wind must be a daily factor here because even when it isn’t blowing the trees lean in the wind the trees are all leaning over to the southeast. Weird. Great for flying kites, I guess. But must be a bitch in the winter.

Still not confident in the van. It’s a “gut feel” that some might call “too much freaking out.” But I about to head into a province sparsely populated and anything is miles from anything else. Yeah, I’m freaking out.

And I just got an email from a hostel I’d booked a single room at 2 months ago. They told me they “accidentally” over-booked it and wondered if I’d mind going into one of their dorm room.

Me? At 61? In a dorm room? I am still waiting for their reply to my email.

UPDATE: I got an email reply and all is worked out and they gave me my room back.

You can begin Newfoundland here.


  1. McMurdo says:

    Thanks Vilmar, a great read! Please keep them coming.

  2. thirdnews says:

    Hmm, where is the story?

  3. McMurdo says:

    Great read again Vilmar, loved it. Enjoy your dorm room. LOL

  4. Drew458 says:

    you went camping and didn’t take a toolkit and super-strength duct tape? I think that’s against the law in Canada. I wouldn’t dream of driving north of Boston without tools, d-tape, clamps, 3 cans of fix-a-flat, 2 qt of oil and a gallon of 50/50. And a spare gas can. And rope. And toilet paper. And never lock the car doors in a campground. Because, bears.

  5. antzinpantz says:

    HaHa! Very funny Darrell!! They wrote back and we’re OK again.

    Drew: I carry a tool box and had black electrical tape. But the wrench was the “wrench” in the works. Now that you mention it I probably should get some rope. And I don’t lock the doors! 🙂

  6. thirdnews says:

    Baddeck was one of my favorites but the weather was great when I was there

  7. Donna says:

    too bad your weather was for the birds. The Eastern Shore and Cape Breton Island are stunning in sunny weather, and I think you have to grow up in the Maritimes to pretend to appreciate the fog and dampness the east coast has to offer. Too bad you missed Hopewell Rocks they are stunning at low tide, and fun to sea kayak at high tide. You are correct about the tides, I believe that the Bay of Fundy is the highest/low tide ratio in the world 13 stories or something like that. You are also semi correct about the taxes, they do partially fund the public health system, the high taxes are one reason I left Canada for the USA. Gas, Cigarettes and alcohol are considered luxury items and that is why they are taxed so high.

  8. antzinpantz says:

    I was able to go to Hopewell, after all. At the tail end of the trip. Keep reading the journals and you’ll see. Stunning!!! But Cape Breton was just as rainy/foggy on the return so I never got there. My clock is running out so I doubt I will ever return but what I saw of that part of Canada was magnificent.

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