Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kure Beach, Cape Fear, North Carolina

Sometimes, as a visitor to an area, you manage to avoid all the touristy, commercial stuff and meet the local people and live as they do. This is the goal of our adventure and has been challenging at times. But not yesterday when we decided to drive to the end of Cape Fear.

By accident we stumbled upon Kure Beach - one of the most real places we have visited on the US Atlantic Coast.
The buildings on the street to the pier, the fishing pier and the beach are all owned by one man - his family purchased the area in 1926 and has maintained control of it ever since. The main activity here is fishing - either from the pier or in the surf. It was cold here yesterday so the beach was deserted.
But lots of people were fishing from the pier
I got a kick out of the woman sitting beside her husband, bundled up against the cold, reading a book. As it turned out, only one fishing rod per person was allowed - she was suffering so her husband could have two. The fish folks were catching appeared to be small but a few were keepers and this fellow was patiently waiting for scraps at the fish cleaning station.
The pier was quite long - a sign at the entrance said that you would walk 1 mile if you walked out and back 3 times.
There was no charge to enter the pier although you had to do so through a shop that sold fishing equipment and touristy junk from China - the one attempt we saw to attract tourism $$. If you wanted to fish the charge was $5 for the day.

When we left we continued driving to the end of the road and took the ferry across the Cape Fear River and drove back to Wilmington. These seagulls followed the boat with the hope of being fed but would not get too close because of Tara. Some kids were having fun feeding them so Tara went back in the car.
All in all, a great cold day at the beach.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A quick post to let you know we are fine. They are planning to close the park we are in today so we are leaving a day early and heading inland to Falls Lake National Recreation Area just outside Raleigh, NC for tonight and possibly tomorrow night. Ten on with our schedule.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jane’s Island State Park and Crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay

Years ago, when we owned a seafood restaurant in London, ON, it was a big day when soft-shelled crabs arrived from the Chesapeake Bay. These crabs moult once a year and are considered a one or two week a year treat and a great delicacy as their new shell is very soft and you pan fry it and eat the whole thing.. Even the hard shelled Chesapeake blue crab is quite expensive and not often available in restaurants outside the Chesapeake area so we were anxious to have a feed while there. The experience of cooking and eating them is quite different from the soft-shell ones.

The crabs were not moulting last week when we were at Jane’s Island State Park outside Crisfield, MD  but the hard-shelled variety were readily available.
There was even a crab on the water tower
We were really excited to learn that we could go crabbing in the waterways in the camp ground.  So guess what we did for my 70th birthday – we went crabbing. And had a ball.
Chesapeake Bay blue crab
First we needed to collect the tools we needed – a net, a ball of string and some turkey necks to use as bait.
This shop sold crabbing supplies and fresh, frozen crabs or steamed crabs which you could eat there or take home.
What you do is tie the turkey neck to the end of a string. Lower it into the water until it touches the bottom. Then tie the other end to the dock in some way. And wait. Didn't seem too complicated but it is always good to have an experts help. Phil and his girlfriend, Carol, were camping two sites down from us and spent their days crabbing. He offered to show us what to do and we gratefully accepted.

He showed us how to secure the turkey neck to the string so we don’t lose it.

We put about 6 lines in the water. Then we waited until the lines started to tighten and move. This indicated that we had a crab dining on the turkey neck. Then you must spring into action very carefully, pulling the string, crab and turkey neck up until you can get the net underneath and scoop up the crab without losing it.

Apparently the crab can see and hear very well and if spooked, will let go of the turkey neck and get away. We lost a lot that way J
Checking the lines
 Once caught, you shake the crab from the net, pick him up very carefully

 and put it in a container with a bit of water.  If the crab is less than 5.25’ wide (across the back shell) or a female you must throw it back in – we returned a lot to the bay.

Phil showed us how to rub the crab’s underside to put him to sleep, the same as you would do with a lobster.

While Arch tended the crab lines Carol showed me how to remove the meat from the cooked crab. It’s called “picking the crab”. Usually the table is covered with newspaper and everyone sits around picking crab and drinking beer. You need a lot of crab per person – at least 4 to 6.

It is important to discard the little pointy pieces of cartilage on the crabs underside. Called “the devil’s fingers”, they are said to be poisonous.

By the time evening fell Arch had 6 good size cabs so off we went to get some beer to use to cook them, and drink with them. Our first experience with a drive thru beer and soda shop – interesting.

 Most people told us to steam them with water but then we met another fellow on the dock who gave me this recipe:

Steamed Maryland Blue Crab

In a large pot put a couple of inches of water, ½ cup beer and ½ cup vinegar. Bring to a boil. Place the live crabs in a steamer basket and set in the pot. Do not let the crabs touch the liquid. The goal is to steam them not boil them.  Sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning and steam 15 to 20 minutes until they turn red. You are also supposed to pour ½ cup melted butter over them. I did not do that but served the butter on the side, as we do for lobster.

Once cooked, dump from the steamer to a chopping board and let sit until cool enough to handle. Start picking.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our First Five Days on the Road

Here we are in Cape May, New Jersey. Getting here has been quite an adventure.

Day 1: Seabright to Truro and dinner with Arch's sister, Grace, and her family. Grace made us Christmas dinner - a delicious treat. Thanks Grace.

Day 2: Truro to Woodstock, NB. It poured rain all day making driving really tricky. The fall colours through the Cobiquod Pass were spectacular, as they were all through New Brunswick but it was difficult to enjoy them in the rain.
Cobiquod Pass
New Brunswick

The sun came out as we arrived in Woodstock and found a place to spend the night in the local Walmart parking lot. Sleeping in a Walmart parking lot was an experience and one I am in no hurry to repeat. The street lighting was very bright, it was close to a noisy highway and, worst of all, cars were driving by the Adventure Bus throughout the night and slowing down. I did not realize that there were people working a night shift in the store and their parking lot was right beside us. I was sure someone was going to break in and attack us at any minute. Arch, of course, slept through the night. As did Tara. Some protection they are!

Day 3: We were up very early and had to hang around waiting for daylight to cross the border. Despite the worrying and preparation - we had every paper anyone ever suggested we should take with us - the  border crossing was a big non-event. The customs agent simply made sure we matched our passport photos, asked us the usual where are you going, what are you taking? questions, looked at us enviously and waved us through.

The weather was spectacular and it was a beautiful drive through Maine.

We stopped in Freeport with the idea of boondocking in the LL Bean parking lot but when we arrived it didn't seem like such a good idea and after our experience in Woodstock I wasn't keen on the doing this and so we went to a KOA campground just outside of town. A really nice spot with lots water for a shower, electricity, etc. etc.

Day 4: Freeport to Norwich, CT and the Mohegan Sun Casino.

This was a great spot to boondock. A special parking lot is available for RVers and there were lots of RVs there. So we felt quite safe. The area was quite a distance from the casino but there was a shuttle bus to pick us up and take us there and return us to our motorhome. It was very quiet and the view was spectacular.

Day 5: The only good thing I can say about this day is that we lived through it and have landed safely in the warm weather here in Cape May.

We knew we had a long driving day ahead of us so were up and on the road by 8 am. The first hour was fine. Then the heavens opened and it started to pour. And pour. And pour.

 We took I-95 south to I-287 around New York City, and The Garden State Parkway down through New Jersey to Cape May.
The Tappan Zee Bridge was hell - wet, with narrow lanes and crowded
What a dangerous drive. There was endless construction, The rain was coming down so heavily we couldn't see two cars in front of us, I-287 was flooded in two spots, which caused real chaos, there were no rest stops and the drivers were the rudest we have ever encountered. But finally, as we drove down the Garden State Parkway the rain stopped and the sun came out as we pulled into Cape May at 4pm. - 8 hours to drive 300 miles.

Finally, we thought, a chance to relax. Bit it was not to be. We were assigned a camp site that seemed quite lovely but we were a little concerned that the camp sites beside us were occupied by seasonal campers who use trailers as summer cottages. But no one was there so we settled in. Then they arrived - 4 carloads of them. Again, at first all seemed OK. Until one guy got out a leaf blower and started blowing the leaves from the camp sites and the street. I ask you, who clears a camp site of leaves? Talk about a thankless job. Finally he stopped and all was well for a while. After supper they set up around a camp fire and started drinking and you know the rest of the story. They got noisier and louder but we knew quiet hours started at 11 pm and as they were regulars we figured they would pack it in then. NO such Chance. Finally, at 2 am Arch went out and asked them to tone it down a bit. They did, except for 1 guy who went around yelling asshole. asshole at the top of his lungs right under our bedroom window. It was quite a night.

This morning Arch complained to the office and the owner immediately refunded our fee for last night and moved us to a new site that is not as aesthetically nice but is surrounded by nice people. Much better. At the moment Arch is outside enjoying a camp fire and I am inside, with the windows and door open writing this.

And, did I say, the weather is spectacular. 19C today, 21 tomorrow and the next day!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Route to the Warm Weather - The Adventure Begins

It is really cold on Nova Scotia tonight. Going down to 3 degrees C. It is time to head south, which we will do on Tuesday. Thank heavens.

As promised, here is our itinerary:

Monday, Oct 15: Seabright to Truro NS to visit Arch's sister and family and say good by

Tuesday Oct 16: Truro to Woodstock, NB

Wednesday, Oct 17: Woodstock NB to Freeport, Maine

Thursday, Oct 18: Monegan Sun Casino in CT.

Friday, Oct 19: around New York City to Cape May, NJ for 3 days at the Seashore Campground

Monday, Oct. 22: Ferry from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware and on to the Janes Island State Park on Maryland's eastern shore for 3 days.

Thursday, October 25 we cross the Chesapeake Bay tunnel and bridge to Virginia Beach where we will spend 3 days at First Landing State Park.

Sunday, October 28: Then its is on to Cedar Point National Forest in North Carolina for 4 days. We plan to set up camp here and back track to Okracoke Island, Cape Hatteras, etc.

Thursday, Nov 1: Myrtle Beach State Park for 5 days. Golf heaven. Need I say more? :)

Tuesday, Nov 6: Hunting Island State Park SC. Recommended by the folks at Wheeling It. We are really looking forward to this stop. We love Nina's reviews and she posts great pictures of several sites in each park they review - very helpful.

Sunday, Nov 11:  Skidway Island State Park. GA. This is our Savannah stop. Should be interesting. Also close to Hilton Head. More golf.

Fri Nov 16 to Sat Dec 15 Jekyll Island, GA. Another Wheeling It recommendation + about 100 other people. We expect to have a grand time here.

After Dec 15 who knows? Around Florida and on to Alabama, Mississipi, Louisianna and Texas is the plan. But we are very flexible.

If you have and suggestions for things to do, places to see, places to eat, etc., at any of these stops we look forward to hearing about them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Glace Bay Coal Miners Museum

We arrived in Cape Breton last Friday after an uneventful drive from Seabright. Thank Heavens!

Friday night we met Arch`s niece Debbie and her husband, Gerry and together we went to the opening concert of the Celtic Colours Festival. A fabulous evening. Following the concert we boondocked in the parking lot of the Port Hawksbury Civic Centre, where the concert was held. How convenient was that!

Yesterday we moved to the Cabot Trail Campground in Baddeck. After getting settled in we went into Baddeck to wander through the town, get some groceries, visit the Bell Museum and check out the golf at Bell Bay. If it ever dries up we will go back and play 9 holes at Bell Bay - it looks like a fun course.

Today was another rainy day (to start) so we went to the Coal Miners`Museum in Glace Bay. What a great experience.

The museum consists of an outdoor exhibit of the very large mine equipment and an indoor exhibit and movie depicting the history of coal mining in Cape Breton. All very well done. But best of all was a tour of an undersea coal mine - with a retired miner as our tour guide:
This is Wish (Wishie) Donnell. He worked in the coal mine for 23 years before retiring. What a great tour guide he was. Very patient with questions and very knowledgeable about everything to do with the mine and the area. He had a very attentive audience:
There was Arch and I, a couple from Quebec, a young woman from Florida and about 20 young military officers from around the world. They were at Camp Aldershot on a NATO military exchange training program for 3 months. Most were majors in their home armies but one was a captain and highly respected by the others. The young men pictured here were from Brazil, Botswana, Kenya and Nepal. Also represented were Sierra Leone, Libya, Colombia and one young woman, from Edmonton.

First we were given a hard hat and a cape to protect us from the low ceiling and the dampness:

We were also offered canes to use when we entered the lowest point in the mine, where the ceiling was about four and a half feet high. Note the sign above the canes.

Then we entered the Ocean Deeps Colliery:
This tunnel, which had a very gentle slope, took us out under the ocean for a small distance. In the original mine the slope was much steeper, went out under the ocean for 7 miles and the trip took one and a half hours in very small rail cars:
At the end of the passage way we entered a passage with a lower ceiling and then another with an even lower ceiling:
Note how bent over everyone is. One young man, who was about 6`4`` tall was bent nearly in half. At the end of this passage was a display depicting how the miners worked with Pit Ponies which were used to haul the coal to underground collection stations. The ponies lived underground in stables. They only came out of the mine once a year when their handlers went on vacation. Sort of a vacation for the ponies as well.
Sorry this picture isn`t very clear. It was very dark at this area in the mine. This is a model of a pit pony in the stable area.

This was what they called a room and pillar mine - the miners worked in rooms supported by pillars - and our next stop was in one of these rooms:
The ceiling was very low at this point. This photo depicts two `retired`miners in the mine. Arch worked in the gold mines in Northern Ontario in the late 1950s and so wanted his picture taken with Wishie in this mine. (as a matter of fact it was that experience, in the gold mines, that persuaded Arch that a university education was indeed a good idea!) 

Following this stop we passed through the lowest area of the mine and ended up at a small garden that is maintained as a memory of a garden one of the miners created out under the ocean in the original mine.
It is very cold in the mine during the winter months and this garden is left to fend for itself. The spike plant (I am sure it has a more botanical name) grows unattended during these months and has survived for three years,

This tour was a wonderful experience and we highly recommend you take it if ever in this area.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Prince Edward Island: the Excellent, the Not-so-Excellent, and the Ugly

Well. we left PEI for 5 days ago and I've been thinking a lot about our visit there. Between a disastrous start and a dramatic return we had a grand time. PEI really is one of nature's great playgrounds with fabulous golf courses, beautiful beaches, wonderful natural beauty and excellent food sources. It did rain a lot while we were there, as it did in Nova Scotia. I understand it was one of the rainiest Septembers on record - just making up for a dry summer I guess. Ah well! You can't have everything.

The Excellent:
It is beautiful, a feast for the eyes! PEI is so neat and tidy Arch figures they have a patrol of clean-up police and people are publicly flogged if they litter or do not mow the grass and keep beautiful gardens.

The information for visitors is terrific and guides you through everything there is to do in PEI. If you get bored it is not their fault. And the directional signage is beyond compare - with a map there is no way you can get lost there.

The roads are fantastic, straight and very well maintained and, did I say clean? Not a piece of roadside litter to be found anywhere.

The food! PEI used to bill itself "the Garden of the Gulf"  and, with the warm gulf waters and red sandy soil it truly has some of the best food around. Farm stands are everywhere, fresh seafood is readily available and a Saturday farmer's market in Charlottetown is a centre of local activity.

The Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown presents an amazing and entertaining theatre experience. In addition to the regular, year-around schedule of entertainment, the Charlottetown Festival runs all summer and includes "Anne of Green Gables, the Musical" every year (I think) as well as a variety of other shows. This year we went to see "Ring of Fire" the Johnny Cash Story" and loved it.

The golf, of course. That is the main reason we go to PEI.

The Not-so-Excellent:
We were there in mid-September and many businesses catering to tourists were closed. That was a disappointment as we were really looking forward to spending time in the parks, small restaurants and businesses serve visitors. In Souris, even the ferry terminal was closed.

The service was good but not great. Again, I think that this was related to the time of year. Everyone just seemed tired and waiting for the tourist season to be over.

The Ugly:
The Gateway Village at the end of the Confederation Bridge in PEI. With the exception of the Tourist Information Centre and Cows Ice Cream this is nothing more than a tourist trap selling imported junk and bad food. And many of the stores are empty. We were only able to get a good cup of coffee because some buses with visitors from cruise ships docked in Charlottetown were arriving and coffee had been made just for them. I am not sure why this is so. Perhaps the rent is too high for small independent businesses that sell local goods. Who knows. So stop there because the Tourism Centre is excellent and will provide you with all the information you need to plan your visit, grab a Cows ice cream - that is one of the best reasons for coming to PEI - and leave.

The road between Aulac, New Brunswick and the Confederation Bridge. I know this is not PEI's fault, it is New Brunswick's road. But it is beyond awful and you should be prepared for it. Especially if you are in a RV. Everything will be shaken loose by the time you get off it!

All in all PEI is a great spot to visit. The Island is small and easy to get around, you are never far from the ocean and There is lots to do and see. But we recommend you go in July or August when everything is up and running.