Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 28 June 2010

Prince Edward Island

Just Over the Bridge

I had a dream last night. Usually I don't do math in my head when I dream. In my dream I realized that the time elapsed between the end of the Civil War and my birth is about the exactly the same as the time that I've existed. That gave me some dream insight about human progress (if you care to call it that). Automobiles, identity theft, Reality TV, nuclear weapons, population growth, the oil age, Wi-Fi, airplanes, Twitter and all that those entail. It's a scary rate of change.

We visited another National Park in New Brunswick yesterday. Somebody hit a moose doing about 70. The blood spatter on the highway was like a 15 gallon water balloon full of blood had been thrown down the road at speed.

We saw a black bear cub eating flowers. A jerk in a pickup truck swerved off the road to try to hit it.

Anyway, some friends From Sun and Fun have offered to put us up in their back yard in PEI with an ocean view. If it ever stops raining, they'll play some doubles tennis with us. I made them my famous Tuscan Halibut with fish from a small fishing village named North Rustico. It looks like lobster season is over. They're piling up all the traps and cleaning the boats.

We've been watching Wimbleton every day on the satellite. They have a poet laureate this year. He's a friend of a friend. We're looking forward to his thoughts about the Queen and about the Mahout vs. Isner game. It should be the best thing since Beowulf and Grendel.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Acadian Islands Of New Brunswick

Shippagan, New Brunswick

We’ve been here three nights. It rained for 36 hours of that. Today the winds were very strong so we went touring instead of trusting the RV not to topple over on the road in a wind gust..

For some reason the town has a long line of expensive looking fishing vessels up on chocks. Lacking a proper internet connection, we can only speculate.
My theory is that over fishing has caused a collapse of the codfish population. Maybe later I can get more definitive about why millions of dollars of expensive boats are sitting up on dry land.
My other question is why there are there not rats on Bonaventure Isle preying on the vast Gannet nests? In Alaska rats from shipwrecks are a huge problem for island seabird populations..

We ate on the best (and only) bistro on Miscou Island today. The young French-speaking owners prepared for us cheese, tomato, bacon and egg sandwiches for us and offered crepes with maple syrup for dessert but we were stuffed.
We visited the aquarium in Shippagan, a bog on Miscou island and a lighthouse being restored by a community group.

In the morning we move on toward Prince Edward Island with a stop in Miramachi….

Monday, 21 June 2010

L'Ile Bonaventure National Parc

Perce, Quebec

You catch a boat to go out to the Park. I saw a whale this morning about 4 AM out the front window. The Gannets were kicking up huge gouts of water feeding on schools of small fish. Gannets have have air sacs in their necks like bubble wrap to cushion the impact with water. They can hit 60 MPH and go very deep after fish.

There are four trails over the 1.6 square mile island to where the Gannets are nesting.

The park ranger on the boat says that there are 400,000 nesting birds. It seems like a lot more to me. Gannets are black the first year and gradually become mostly white except for black wingtips. They can mate at five years of age and produce one blue egg per season.

When the male returns with a bit of seaweed for the nest, the birds spend some time rubbing bills. They remind me a little of the Gooney Birds on Midway Island. We saw one pair copulating, but it only lasts an average of 24 seconds... it was all over when I got my camera focused. They may do that several times in the summer.

Mrs. Phred wonders how the mated birds can find each other. I tell her probably people all look alike to birds. They are aggressive birds and fight a lot over space, resulting in a fairly geometric distribution of birds in the nesting area.. .They are just out of reach of each others pecking range.

The rocks are very soft. They are eroding quickly.

We take the longest trail to the nesting area and the shortest trail back. The whole morning is about six miles with a 200 meter elevation gain.

You can tell when you get near the nesting area. The birds are noisy and smell bad.

About 40% of the chicks survive to make the flight down to the Gulf of Mexico in the Fall. You have to wonder how many will end up in an oil slick this year.

We see a ranger marking birds with a squirt gun and making some kind of population estimate.

Our neighbor, Marcel, has recommended a small restaurant with home cooking for tonight. He says codfish tongues fried in sea urchin butter are similar to fried oysters.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

On the Coast of Quebec

Percé, Quebec

This appears to be a tourist destination. They do scuba diving, sea kayaking, take you to catch lobsters, offer deep sea fishing (mackerel and cod), whale watching or catching salmon on the incoming salmon runs (this time of year).

We're planning to take an excursion out to a National park island in the morning to see seal colonies and hike eight miles around the island to see the world's largest Gannet (seabird) nesting grounds. I'm a sucker for the world's largest anything. We'll take water and a picnic lunch.

I have my eye on a restaurant here that serves codfish tongues cooked in sea urchin butter. That comes with a salad, a Quebec cheese plate, coffee and a selection from the dessert cart.

We have an almost perfect RV park. We're on the ocean with a great view of an iconic rock formation. Our site is almost level and we have good satellite TV reception and strong wireless phone service. We have electric, water, sewer and free and fast Wi-Fi. Le Wi-Fi is precious.

Soon we'll be back in New Brunswick and then on to Prince Edward Island. We have friends in PEI and hope to connect with them to play some doubles tennis. We want to do the Cape Breton peninsula in Nova Scotia and then take a six hour ferry to the Province called "Newfoundland and Labrador". Canadians refer to the big island where 94% of the Province population lives as Newfoundland. That's where we're going. Labrador is the remote western area on the Canadian mainland above Quebec. The Labrador part of the Province just too far for me. Maybe in my next life.

After we drive 300 miles across the Newfoundland part of "Newfoundland and Labrador" we'll take a 15 hour ferry ride back from St. Johns to Nova Scotia and visit other tennis friends there if we can make a connection. Then on to more tennis friends in Maine and on to Arkansas, backtracking to North Carolina to see the grandchildren...about 5,000 more miles and to get back to Sarasota no later than December 1st....That's today's plan...

Father's Day 2010

Percé, Quebec

Between childhood, boyhood,
& manhood (maturity) there
should be sharp lines drawn w/
Tests, deaths, feats, rites
stories, songs, & judgments
The Lizard King
On Father's day I want to pay homage to a really great father. I was lucky to have a job as a college professor when Ken was young, so we had some great adventures on long camping trips out West and in Canada. Once he got covered with leeches in a Canadian stream. It was like African Queen on steroids.

He is a father with seven oak leaf clusters. We learned to SCUBA dive together. I was worried about bringing him back when I lost track of him at age 16 on a 110 foot deep night drift dive in the Gulf Stream off Palm Beach and his light stick disappeared , but he turned up like a bad penny and saved me an awkward explanation to Mrs. Phred..

His name is Ken and he is my son, a electric guitar player, master soccer coach, poet and minor genius. He never got into trouble growing up ( I told him what my father taught me: don't get caught).

His favorite joke is "Have you lost some weight?" If you say yes he says, "Turn around, you'll find it." Another of his favorites is "What's green and flies over Russia?" The answer of course, is "Snotzies".

But then I may be remembering more infantile humor before Ken became an attorney and teacher and mature protector of my seven lovely and talented grandchildren.

Unfortunately all my analog pictures of young Ken are in storage back in Tampa. Maybe I'll scan some of those in this winter. Every Dad should be so lucky.

Friday, 18 June 2010

A Movable Earthquake

St. Maxime-du-Mon, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec

We’re parked right on the St. Lawrence Bay, next to a strange statue. The statue is right outside the RV. It gave us a freaky feeling. We kept being surprised by the sense that someone was right outside the door. He isn't doing what you're thinking. He's just assuming a Zen posture which looks like something else from the rear.

It’s about 180 kilometers east to Gaspe on the tip of the peninsula.

The road has been intermittently bad with those cracks in the pavement that go make the RV go Boom! Boom! Boom! Some of the downgrades have been as much a kilometer at 18 degrees which is more than engine braking can handle even in low gear.

The tailpipe fell off the muffler so I got out the big hammer and an assortment of wrenches and whanged it back into place. Fortunately we’re parked on grass rather than gravel, so it was a comfortable work environment. One of the U-bolts had a lot of rust and corrosion from the heat so the nuts were hard to loosen. If it happens again I'll get a new U-bolt or buy some solvent to loosen things up.

Some pots fell out and some of the decorative interior wood trim fell off so I have clamped it all back together with Elmer’s Wood Glue and C-Clamps. My wood shop teacher swore by the stuff. It's never let me down.

There’s a hotspot nearby. I will buy a little time and post something. The sub above is an Oberon class conventional (non-nuclear) submarine parked in Rimouski. This class of submarine was used by both Canada and Australia.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Goodbye, Darkness

Parc National du Bic, Quebec

We’ve made our way past overnight camp stops in Grand Falls, New Brunswick and a small village called St. Georges de Caucuna. This is our third day in the Parc.

We’re up on the Gaspe Peninsula on the south side of the Saint Lawrence bay. Yesterday I had a bad case of what Mrs. Phred daintily and euphemistically calls upset tummy.

I think it might have been the little restaurant we ate in two days ago and the raw lettuce and possible lack of sanitary precautions.

We made a four mile hike here in the Parc. The 12 foot tide is an interesting feature. We are so far North that twilight can be a lovely purple and violet at 3 AM

When I ate raw snake and eels in Okinawa it always took two or three days before my bowels exploded. I never made the connection until an old Major told me that this was a common result of the local raw cuisine.

I’ve been rereading “Goodbye, Darkness” by William Manchester. It’s been 42 years since my last flight into Vietnam. Manchester revisited the sites of a number of WWII Pacific island battles in 1978, 30 years after his experiences there as a Marine Sergeant. He was still a young man, by comparison.

We also drove to a place called Le Canyon des Portes de L’enfer and took a six mile hike. It was mostly up and downhill and I really can feel the unneeded extra forty pounds I’ve put on over the years. The young Lieutenant appears in my dreams and wonders aloud why I can no longer run a seven minute mile or do 50 push-ups...I tell him he was a screwup in his own way and own time.

We (Mrs. Phred and I, not the young Lieutenant) argue about whether chutes are waterfalls and sault means rapids, but we may have those two mixed up. However now that we have the internet we know that the word sault (sue) comes from an archaic spelling of saut (from sauter), which translates most accurately in this usage to the English word, cataract. This in turn derives from the French word for "leap" or "jump" (similar to somersault). Citations dating back to 1600 use the sault spelling to mean a cataract, waterfall or rapids. In modern French, however, the words chutes or rapides are more usual, and sault (sue) survives almost exclusively in geographic names dating from the 17th century.) much for Sault (Sue) St. Marie and its rapides.

No internet for four days. My keyboard is really acting up. Certai letters ol respod we I pod o te. It’s very frtatig at ties. …Aha! Somebody has been messing with the control panel keyboard settings….The perils of sharing a laptop. Certain letters were only responding when I pounded on them. It was very frustrating at times.

Today we will visit Rimouski, one of the larger settlements along the Northern coast of the Gaspe Peninsula. We need milk, eggs and more cash.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Lithium Grease

Woodstock, New Brunswick

Today was a maintenance day. I sprayed lithium grease on the Bounder's self-leveling hydraulic jack piston arms and fashioned a clamp to hold the tailpipe from the big V-10 in place. The bolt securing the tailpipe broke when I put to RV in the ditch in April. The bolt did not lend itself to a replacement solution so Mrs. Pred recommend a plumber's pipe clamp, which seems like it should work. The self-leveling jacks were a puzzle. One had a very obvious grease fitting and the other three did not. I'll look again later after I buy a grease gun.

We did laundry all day in the RV's little Italian washer/dryer and washed both the Toyota and the RV. Mrs. Phred cleaned the RV furniture and vacuumed out both vehicles. We made a trip to the local ATM for Loonies and on to the grocery store. Food prices seem to be 50-75% higher here than in the states. Wine and gas are definitely about 40-50% more.

I think the higher prices mean that the American dollar is greatly undervalued in relation to the Looney. Canadians should be slipping over the border in droves to buy gas and groceries, moving the exchange rate away from near parity. On the other hand, we need Canadian resources so much that our purchases of minerals, wood and oil have driven down the relative value of the American dollar.

This campground is a Passport America. That means that they offer 1/2 price camping to those of us who are Passport America members. It's on the lake formed when the St. Johns was dammed to generate cheap and clean electricity. The office has a bar and slot machines. They provide free and fast wifi to campers. They even let us wash our vehicles, which is usually verboten. As you can see from the pictures, the views from the BBB are great.

The Campground is called Cozy Cabins. It's in Woodstock. Definitely use it if you get up this way. It's right where I-95 terminates in Canada, 120 miles north of Bangor. The guy that just pulled in next door teaches at a University in Georgia. He's moving fast with two kids, a wife and a chocolate lab. We talk tenure for awhile. I got it. He's up for it. I give him my fifty cent copy of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I always give it away like a Mormon hawking the small truths that I cherish. Maybe it will help him with tappets or children?

We're not terribly hopeful about telephone service or wifi as we move on up North to the remote Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. Maybe we'll call Kenny today and wish him a happy birthday a couple of days early.