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 > Trip Report : Quebec and New England

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sabconsulting

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Posted: 09/18/15 01:09pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It's March 2012 and Silversand (AKA Derek) and Silverdunes (AKA Nikki) are sharing a beer with me in a heatwave in Bromont, Quebec. It's 24 celcius and I'm starting to doubt Derek's descriptions of ice storms, extreme snow and other forms of Arctic weather that are no-where in evidence. We discuss Overland Expo 2012, but I have adjacent trips to South Africa I am committed to making the travel impractical.

Spool forward a year and we are preparing for Overland Expo 2013. Derek and Nikki will fly in and hire an RV to join us all in Arizona. But Nikki's work gets in the way. So much for doing a joint trip. We'll have to come up with some other plans.

Spool forward another two and a half years and Sally and I are drinking with Derek and Nikki in that same Bromont bar. It is 32 Celcius. Once again the dire warnings about the Quebec weather have been unfounded. Either Derek has been mistaking Celsius for Fahrenheit, or I need to start selling my telekinetic climate change capabilities to Siberia.

Stay tuned...


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
'15 Ford Fiesta ST
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2


sabconsulting

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Posted: 09/18/15 01:24pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Friday 4th September : London to Montreal

It is a strange time for a day-time flight. 6:30 in the evening. We get up late and the taxi drops us off at Terminal 5, Heathrow airport. I get to use stuff like the first class check-in, priority security and first class lounge. These things are starting to convince Sally that flying can be a bit better than the charter flights she remembered from years ago (the free champagne helped).

3 films and a short doze later and we are in Montreal. Well, that was my experience. Sally was less enamoured sitting next to a guy with halitosis behind first time flyers who kept reclining their seats all the way back into Sally's lunch.

One thing I wasn't looking forward to was working out what to do in the morning before collecting the rental RV. The earliest collection time is 1PM, and with jet lag that will feel like 6pm to our body clocks. A call to the rental agency before our flight has a pleasant outcome - "Any chance you could do me a favour?" asks the rental guy. "Your RV is already prepared; would you be able to collect it in the morning instead of the afternoon?" he pleaded - eyeing up the possibility of being able to knock off work early. Well, I wasn't going to argue with that [emoticon]

Immigration at Montreal was straight-forward and earlier research meant I knew exactly where to go to get the free hotel shuttle bus. And that was an easy 10 minute or less journey to the Holiday Inn - the first in Canada apparently - just outside the airport. Many nights in Intercontinental Group hotels mean plenty of points for purchasing ad-hoc nights like this, and as a bonus my platinum status means I tend to get a free upgrade too:

[image]

Went to bed exhausted - well, it was 3am UK time.

Off to collect the RV tomorrow...

sabconsulting

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Posted: 09/18/15 02:02pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Saturday 5th September : Montreal to Bromont

I booked a taxi for 8am - pessimistic really because it meant we got to the RV rental company across town 30 minutes before the first employee.

One of these must be our RV. I was hoping it was the small 19ft one - I really didn't want a "free upgrade" to a 27ft RV because they didn't have the requested one available:

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By now you may have noticed that none of the above are truck campers [emoticon] - Once again we had failed to find a truck camper for rent, but at least on this journey we would have Derek's outfitter in convoy with us, and we could compare this compact class C against our truck camper that is only slightly shorter.

The first thing we noticed was the RV hadn't been washed and the gas tank wasn't full. The interior was clean, the water tank full and the grey and black tanks empty, but as part of the deal the renter has to return the RV like that anyway, so there was the possibility that the rental station hadn't done anything to this RV since it was returned by the last renters. Note that the rules regarding gasoline are - if you return it with more gas in than when you rented it - they don't refund you, but if you return it with less - they charge you for the difference. But clearly just pocket that money without filling the gas tank back up!

Rental guy gives us a very quick exterior tour. Hopefully we got the shortened tour because we are experienced RV owners - because if not there will be a lot of renters driving out not having a clue how to dump tanks or do other essentials. They seem to rely on you having watched all their introductory videos.

The RV is a Ford E350, like the class B we rented in Denver. Same 5.4 Triton V8, but at these low altitudes it performed more acceptably than in the Rockies. on start-up the transmission defaults to tow-haul mode; which I disable each time, enabling it temporarily for down-grades and to improve compression braking coming up to junctions.

For those of a technical nature, here are the maker's plates:

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Inside the first big difference compared to a truck camper is the walk-through cab:

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The overcab bed is cut away to make walking down into the cab easier. One of the cushions is then placed over the gap and has a ply insert to support you. However, that 3/4" less padding makes a big difference to comfort for whoever sleeps on that side (it being east-west configuration).

Note also there is a full dinette. Many of the European class Cs save a couple of foot of internal space by making the driver and passenger seats swivelling captains chairs and doing away with one of the dinette couches.

Looking rearwards you can see the central side-door, another departure from a truck camper:

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Behind the door is the fridge and wardrobe, and on the other side a wet bath. At the far end is a galley. However that is a cul-de-sac that gets really hot when you cook and is too far away from the dinette table meaning there is very little space to work and prepare food - a real drawback of this design.

The side door does not have a window - it has a fake window:

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OK, enough talking about the RV for now - time to set off for Bromont, to the east of Montreal across the Champlain river.

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Derek and Nikki live on the side of a small mountain outside Bromont. They are gardening when I turn in their drive, and to Nikki's surprise (since it is quite steep) drive all the way to the top:

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It is great to catch up again, and many hours pass discussing all manor of subjects. Soon we are exhausted though and take up the kind offer of their spare bedroom.

Stay tuned for some local Quebec camping...

sabconsulting

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Sunday 6th September : Bromont to Mont Orford

We have a casual start to the day and load the shopping, bedding and other stuff Nikki has arranged for us - saves us 'renting' amenity kits from the RV guy.

[image]

Derek has a go backing the rental RV down his drive. They had previously ruled out possibilities of a future class C at that property, but this 19ft model was proving access wasn’t too much of a problem. Despite seeming to be fitted with ABS the E350 still locked a front wheel in a couple of places and slid leaving a couple of 10ft gashes in the gravel we had to kick over afterwards.

Mont Orford isn't far away, but being Labor Day there is a huge queue for the park entrance.

Nikki booked us two campsites, but they got moved due to maintenance work, and to top it off when we arrived another camper was still on our site, which they didn't need to vacate until 3pm. So we both went on to Derek's site and parked there. Since the class C was a bit more difficult to manoeuvre Derek and Nikki kindly suggested we take that site and they would wait until the other one was free and then take that.

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We walk to the lake edge - it is beautiful, but packed (being labor day weekend):

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We decide that canoes would be the best bet, but it is far too hot this afternoon - we would fry out there, so decide to revisit the idea first thing tomorrow morning. After a rest we get together at our campsite to cook a meal:

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Stay tuned for the canoes...

sabconsulting

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Monday 7th September : Mont Orford to Bromont

We found the outside LED light by the side door to be very good, and the dinette a good size for us to sit around (being that the RV wall goes all the way to the floor rather than being stepped like a truck camper which restricts the dinette floor space), and plenty of interior LED lights.

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That first night we had tried to work out how the curtains worked at the front of the RV, but being very tired I resorted to just attaching them together with the velcro - though that leaves quite a gap at the top - nearby campers might get a worrying view when you climb into the bed:

[image]

This raises another concern with the class C. I love having a fixed bed and our experiment with a class B showed that I hate having to make the dinette into a bed every night and back again in the morning. However, on a truck camper there is a nice, often wide, step below the bed. The class C has nothing there because that is the cab access, plus being a van it has quite a high cab. So in the night, when you need the bathroom, you have to feel with your feet to find the step on the back of the dinette couch. Miss that and you could tumble all the way to the RV floor.

The aircon was pretty good - this was the only night we had hookup, so we tried it and it worked well, but sticks up a long way on the roof and is therefore quite vulnerable:

[image]

There are no large roof escape hatches - there being a large sliding window as an escape route. On the roof are a couple of smaller vents - these use a T-handle to open and adjust them, which is quick and convenient - better than the rotary knob on my truck camper's vent:

[image]

The wet bath has a small electric extractor fan and a tall domed skylight (which is also quite vulnerable when backing up at tree-lined campsites):

[image]

However, we were parked at a slight angle. We are used to that and it makes no difference to us when sleeping. However, it made a big difference to the shower drain as Sally found. The shower is on the left side, the grey tank on the right, and it has a very flat drain which airlocks at the slightest angle:

[image]

This is more likely to happen because of the tendency to park so that your head is upwards in the east-west bed. But this puts the shower on the downward side. This may be difficult to avoid because the dinette is on the same side as the shower and that is what you use as a step, and hence needs to be at the foot of your bed.

I moved the RV later to drain the shower, but not before checking for a problem in the plumbing under the van. I didn't find one, but I did find this:

[image]

Yes, that orange section is unpainted steel where the builder has cut into the floor of the van to run pipes through it, then covered it with unpainted steel, which is covered in surface rust during the 7 months since it was built. Not a great sign of quality.

The RV also has an absorption fridge:

[image]

We've got used to a compressor fridge and were pleased to try a modern absorption fridge allowing us to run off the grid. But on Nikki's drive we had to park at an angle, so I turned the fridge off. Once on the road I had turned it on again and it got cold fairly quickly. But at Orford we had camped at a slight angle. It didn't feel like much of an angle - we happily park and camp at that angle or greater in our truck camper, but with the absorption fridge, that angle disabled it and it was warm in the morning. So when people say "if the camper is level enough for you to be comfortable then the fridge will work" bear in mind that comfort is in the eye (or behind) of the beholder.

At 9am we are down at the water's edge renting canoes. We get a 50% discount being campers as opposed to day visitors. I've never canoed before, but Derek has (though much of it was in central American rain forest) and kindly gave me some lessons.

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We have a lovely hour paddling around the lake:

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Afterwards we go to investigate Derek and Nikki's campsite:

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It is soon time to leave the the campground, and we head back towards Derek and Nikki's house for a short hike up the mountain nearby, the trail of which Derek had a major hand in building:

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It was interesting to compare experiences here because we had helped develop trails around the local woodland by our home also.

Dinner tonight was in Bromont - in that same bar / restaurant I was in 3 and a half years ago. I enjoyed some of their excellent selection of ales, brewed on site. That meant that afterwards Sally had to get acquainted with a left-hand-drive, automatic transmission, column-shift RV driven on the right. I forgot Sally doesn't have anywhere near the diverse driving experience I have - but after a quick refresher course she did well.

[image]

Back at Derek and Nikki's house we decided that for a quick getaway in the morning we would employ the Sleepy parking position at the relatively flat bottom of the drive - flat enough at least for the fridge to work (side-slope, not fore-aft):

[image]

Stay tuned for our crossing into the USA. For those reading this as I type, sorry, but you'll have to wait until after the weekend for the next instalment - all this talk about truck campers is making me desperate to use mine tomorrow - please check back in then...

Steve.

sabconsulting

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Tuesday 8th September : Bromont to Freeport

Following breakfast at McDonalds in Bromont we set off for the US border at Stanstead at the top of I91:

[image]

There weren't many people crossing that day, and we had to park and go into the office to do the paperwork. The border guys in the office were fine - joking amongst themselves. Though it does seem like a fairly heavy duty border presence unless Canada is actually a very unlikely harbinger of economic migrants, terrorists and drug smugglers. More likely I suspect the US has to harmonize all border controls and doesn't want to be seen to be more favourable to one neighbour than another.

[image]

Definitely in the US now:

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A bit of old England here - a Norman style church - the style the Norman (French) invaders built in England after 1066:

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We passed Crawford Notch and stopped for lunch just down the hill:

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Then headed on towards the coast:

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We stopped at the Factory outlet for LL Bean, but couldn't find anything we needed. We also looked for a Timex outlet where Derek had found expedition watches at a huge discount in the past. Sadly it had closed down.

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Nikki had booked us several nights into Recompense campground just outside Freeport, Maine. I think these were sites 720 and 722. I was really careful about parking this time, trying to get the camper absolutely flat so both the shower and fridge would work:

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It was fairly empty, which was great - a real change from the holiday weekend:

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These sites don't have hook-up, but they have water a few yards away and there is a shower / toilet block a couple of minutes walk away.

[image]

sabconsulting

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Wednesday 9th September : Freeport

Rained during the night and therefore misty this morning. We went for a walk along the shore line:

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Then over the bridge and down Wolfe's Neck:

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Belted Galloways:

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On our return Derek and Nikki were making plans to rent bikes from the campground, so we joined them for a cycle ride back down Wolfe's Neck - this was the barn towards the end:

[image]

At the end of the road was the 1920s Stone House, owned by the University:

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Looking through the front door showed the beautiful stained glass windows:

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Another one visible from the rear deck:

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It is a nice house and although not that old needs to be preserved, but it was clear to see that although not in bad condition, it would need a lot of expensive work to maintain it.

We cycled back to the shore line where we were this morning - view was a bit better now:

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Now, here is a bit of a mystery. We looked directly south past Bustins Island:

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On the extreme horizon we could see an array of structures sticking up, distorted by the extreme distance. In comparison the smoke stacks of the generating station on Cousins Island looked like they were mere walking distance:

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We checked again after we had cycled back around towards our campsite, and these pinnacles on the horizon hadn't moved in relationship to each other, so that made me doubt they were yachts racing. Plus due south you soon run out of islands and the next thing in that direction is Cape Cod!

Discovered this racing snake on the way back off the beach - boy could it move - there were actually three of them and Sally was a bit shocked as one shot over her foot in a panic:

[image]

On our way back we spotted this basic TC - is this one of those cowboy campers?:

[image]

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The ladies went in to check out the baby animals at the farm - looks like a Jersey:

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Getting its salt intake for the day:

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We cycled around the campground to the cabins that are now available to rent. These seem expensive, given they don't have bathrooms or electricity, but take into account the location and divide the cost by the 6 people who occupy it and the price sounds much more reasonable:

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This is the view you are paying for from your deck:

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While we trespassed on the deck a couple of cars turned up and a voice called out "Can I help you?". It was the people who had just rented the cabin. We got talking to them. They had rented these cabins for 3 years now and loved them. He was ex USAF and used to be based in the UK. She was from a village in Oxfordshire 15 miles from our house that we have walked around a several times, and married him while he was serving in the UK, before moving out to the US. This is what we tend to find when travelling - even in remote parts of New Zealand we have come across people who know the road we live on!

We left the family to it and carried on around the campground, getting off our bikes and pushing them along one of the walking trails:

[image]

We returned the bikes and bought well-deserved ice-creams from the office. Then back to the campers for dinner.

sabconsulting

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Thursday 10th September : Freeport

Canoe time - Sally and I went up to the office and hired a canoe. We would have done this yesterday afternoon, but you are only allowed to rent a certain time either side of high tide. With the knowledge learnt from Derek over the weekend we were now more confident to take a canoe out on our own. The sea was as flat as a mill pond and we were on it at slack tide, so it wasn't too challenging:

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We didn't overdo it - maybe an hour out there. But we had plans for the rest of the day.

On returning to the campsite we went for a quick shower then loaded all 4 of us and the paddles and life jackets into the RV (the wet stuff could conveniently be stored in the bathroom - a luxury we don't have in our little Shadow Cruiser at home).

We dropped the rental gear off at the office, then headed up the coast and then down through Orr's Island and on to Bailey Island.

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Plenty of interesting rock formations on the Maine coast:

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Back to the top end of Bailey's Island for a late lunch, and to admire their bridge:

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My first time eating lobster - I feel posh now (OK, it was only Lobster in a bread roll - no champagne was involved either):

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Scanning the desert menu I noticed the perfect combination of the two things I love most (on that part of the menu at least) - cheese cake and Peanut butter cups. It was suggested that this was suitable for two, so I allowed the others around the table to look at it:

[image]

Now I remember what it felt like as a child when you consumed far to many candy bars at Christmas.

We staggered out and headed for Freeport, where we dodged the local meth addict begging in the parking lot. She seemed slightly out of place in Freeport, begging amongst the three-axle class As and German executive cars.

Priority 1 for any visit to Freeport:

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No, not admiring taxidermy, shopping at the L.L.Bean campus. Sally found a whole section she liked, and I came away $150 worse off as a result:

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I drew the line when she started looking at Winchester rifles.

No need for dinner tonight - I seriously needed to let my blood sugar level drop before consuming anything else.

sabconsulting

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Friday 11th September : Freeport ME to Middlebury VT

Started reasonably early, and picked up breakfast in McDonalds in Freeport.

Well, you can't visit New England without seeing a light house - in this case Portland Head:

[image]

Then head North. I always like to see old industrial buildings:

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Then on to Kennebunkport for lunch:

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This restaurant has a good view. Apparently there used to be an older seafood restaurant here that Derek and Nikki had used several times, but now in its place was a posh boutique hotel and associated seafood restaurant. Still, seemed decent for dinner, and they stocked Prosecco, so Sally was happy.

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And then there was desert (again):

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Derek bought me some Whoppie cake - but I'd had far too much sugar this week already - saved it for later in the week.

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Time to head inland. Nikki's family have property near Middlebury VT, so we headed in their direction. We had a 20 minute stop half way as something I had eaten was disagreeing with me, and I let Sally carry on the driving after that:

[image]

We camp out on Nikki's family's property:

[image]

sabconsulting

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Saturday 12th September : Middlebury VT to Bromont Quebec

In the morning we crossed the road and visited Jay who lives opposite:

[image]

Jay's house is an Aladin's cave of fascinating bits and pieces:

[image]

Remember this album?:

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"Duck-Dynasty-Sally" gets a chance to test her $150 camouflage jacket:

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Critters Sally failed to catch:

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Then on for a quick look around the nearby Morgan horse ranch:

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Then on to the open air museum at Shelburne:

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After lunch we head for the border - this time the smaller crossing at Richford. This crossing involved no paperwork, just some jokes about bring back un-drunk Canadian beer into the country.

And back to Derek and Nikki's house for the night.

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