Navy Car has scrubbed up well with a wash and vacuum and taken to the shipping agent’s office nearby along with RIP, Red Car and Blue B. Green Car was dropped off a few days earlier by Pete and Wendy and all are bound for Southampton UK leaving next Monday. Across the road are thousands of imported Minis, Range Rovers, Mercedes, Mazdas, Hyundais etc waiting to be trucked to new owners in Canada. I don’t think we’ve made much of an impact of Canada’s balance of trade.
Navy Car has completed the trip in great shape. The motor still sounds as crisp and feels as strong as ever and it has only used about a litre of oil since leaving Louisville around 3 weeks and 6,000 km ago. It’s handling beautifully and with a new set of tyres it will be as smooth as ever. Everything still opens and shuts nicely and there are no rattles. Just a few minor maintenance tasks ahead of us when we meet again in the UK next year. What amazingly tough cars they are.
Another reflection – Dave calculated that the total kms covered by all the people who have travelled with him over the past 6 years is around 550,000 km. Just a few minor low speed scrapes but no major incidents in all that time. We have all driven according to the conditions and observed road rules by watching how the locals drive – in some cases the rules are mandatory, in many they are discretionary, relying on the common sense of drivers and overwhelmingly this principle works. I read recently that Tesla has experienced their first fatal accident of an autonomous vehicle. Apparently the vehicle was driving itself on a two lane road in the US while the driver watched a Harry Potter DVD. Unfortunately, an 18-wheel truck made a turn across the path of the oncoming Tesla as it approached over the brow of a hill. By the time the Tesla reached the truck it was only half way through the turn and the lower half of the Tesla continued on down the road for 200 metres after the upper half was sheared off. The Tesla spokesperson reportedly said that the car’s camera would have had difficulty distinguishing the light coloured truck trailer from the sky behind it. I think I’ll stick to the MG until they get that little bug sorted.
Thanks to Dave and Laurel for inviting us to join them again and spending so much time carefully planning the trip so we get to experience so many sights and meet so many wonderful people. Thanks to all the other team members for sharing their time and skills so generously and especially to Simon and Maddy, our Tag Team friends for sharing the preparation and maintenance of the car. And of course a big thanks to my wonderful wife Lorraine who shares the ups and downs so we can pretend we are all still 25 years old again.
Almost the end but can’t leave Nova Scotia without checking out the best tourist spots. Peggy’s Cove is only half an hour from Halifax and claims to have the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Easy to see why and we weren’t about to argue.
A little further on we found Lunenberg which dates back to a settlement of German and Swiss Protestants in 1753 which was funded by Britain. This begs the question why would the British fund a settlement of German and Swiss people? Apparently they were intent on pushing out the indigenous Mi’kmaq people and also the Acadian catholics who got along just fine with each other but didn’t fit with Britain’s strategic ambitions. They were also dissatisfied with the quality of the British immigrants who settled in Halifax a few years earlier and thought the German and Swiss would have better work ethics. It all worked well for a few years until the Germans rebelled against British rule – as Basil Fawlty would have said, don’t mention the war…. Lunenberg is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and beautifully preserved.
Another long ferry trip, this time around 16 hours from Argentia in Newfoundland back to Sydney in Novia Scotia. Thick fog all the way in the best equipped ferry we have travelled on. No sound of engines or vibration, just the regular tooting from the foghorn and slight rocking from the swells to make us aware we are on the move. We slept for around 11 hours catching up on sleep after all the long days and stuff happening over the past weeks.
The first part of the drive leaving Sydney retraces the route we took after completing the Cabot Trail a few days ago and we soon reach Baddeck, the historic town where Alexander Graham Bell spent much of his later life. Everyone knows he was the first to demonstrate a practical telephone but he also promoted the first powered flight in the British Empire according to the story board in the main street. Which reminds me of something I read a few days ago
“Alexander Graham Bell invented the Telephone,Thomas Edison invented the Light Bulb and Joseph Lucas invented the Short Circuit”
How true ….
Given a choice between the freeway or the longer coast road RIP and Navy Car once again opted for the scenic route. So many lakes and cottages – is there one lake for each Canadian? Beautiful white painted churches in every little village. We’ve been told that few Canadians are regular churchgoers these days and evangelical churches haven’t caught on so there may be a real estate opportunity for church conversions coming up.
Red Car has had a rough day – another exhaust valve has burnt out so they take the direct route and get to Halifax before us. By the time we get there, Ken has the cylinder head off with a new valve about to be fitted. An inspection suggests his problems may be due to poor hardening of the valve rocker arms when his engine was prepared for South America – there is heavy wear where they contact the valve stems and may be preventing the valves from rotating as they should. Another engine reconditioner to avoid.
Almost the end of the trip as the cars will be shipped out of Halifax in a few days on a ro-ro ship to Southampton. Tomorrow is a sightseeing day around Halifax
After a good rest overnight in St John’s, the largest city in Newfoundland, we start the day at Signal Hill overlooking the harbour. The hill has a rich history dating back to 1762 when the French surrendered to the British during the Seven Years War and more recently when Marconi received the first Trans-Atlantic telegraph transmission in 1901. The harbour also played a major role in WW2 as the last staging point for naval escorts and merchant ships making the hazardous trip across the Atlantic to Britain carrying weapons and food to sustain the war effort.
Then it’s a short drive to Cape Spear, the easternmost point of Canada where we can say that RIP, Red Car and Navy Car have achieved the goal of being driven around the world. It’s taken us 6 years but you don’t want to rush these things. Bubbles and hugs all round – all a bit emotional, especially for Dave our leader. A few minutes after we arrived at the Cape, an MGF arrives driven by John and Bev. They live in St John’s and heard about our trip from someone who met us in Louisville. How could we have made these connections and met in all corners of the world before the internet??
Today is Canada Day – in Newfoundland it’s also the day when the servicemen and women who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 are recognised with a dawn service. Newfoundlanders’ played a major role in both wars and suffered terribly. Back in town everyone is in party mood by the afternoon and dockside George Street which claims more bars and pubs than any other street in the world is in full swing. It’s a bit of an anti-climax after lunch when we take a leisurely walk around the streets with their pretty weatherboard houses.
In the evening we enjoy Bev and John’s hospitality as they take us on a drive starting at Portugal Cove. Another pretty little village under transformation from a busy fishing port to a suburb of St John’s. After dinner we head for Bev’s parent’s home in Quidi Vidi to enjoy the Canada Day celebrations – live music coming across the lake, ducks happily swimming and then flapping off in fright when the fireworks start. An enjoyable end to a momentous day.
Dave warned us that Wednesday would be a long boring drive across to the eastern coast and he was pretty well right. Except he forgot to mention the fog and rain. Nice and snug in our GT but Dave and Laurel got a bit damp especially when stuck at roadworks or passing trucks throwing up sheets of water. Good thing they always seem to bounce back smiling.
We stayed overnight at a B&B in Musgrave Town at the start of the Bonavista Peninsula so a chance to cook for ourselves for a change. The cooks came back from the store next door with more than enough food for dinner and breakfast for 8 all for the princely sum of $60. The savings were somewhat offset by buying more wine. The plan was to bbq the chicken and pork but after struggling to get either of the two outdoor grills to work we enlisted the help of Ted, the permanent tenant who had offered to help if we had any trouble. This was when it became apparent that the Irish origin of many Newfoundlander’s was more than skin deep. It turned out Ted had never actually used the grills and was just trying to be helpful. Back to the kitchen and turn on the trusty stove…
The next morning, we continue the drive around the Bonavista Peninsula starting at Trinity which lays claim to holding the first court in North America in 1615. Then to Bonavista village and the museum housing a replica of the ship sailed from Bristol in 1497 by John Cabot who was the first European after the Vikings to land on these northern shores. Born Giovanni Caboto in Italy he made the smart call to move to Bristol where there was no shortage of funding provided by Henry VII to anyone brave enough to search for a northern passage to Cathay.
A few kms away we found Elliston where there was a chance to sight the comical Puffin birds. Cartoon like faces and tiny wings which flap like crazy just to stay in the air – living proof that Darwin didn’t always get it right.
We park the cars at the only eatery in town and some of the team chat to a chap with a guide dog who is very interested in our trip and the cars. He runs his hand over the cars feeling all the details and then asks if Dave’s car is red – how did he know that? Simple, he could tell from the radiant heat compared with the other cars.
Road surfaces from Quebec onwards have varied from very good to fairly rough due to the effects of winter freezing and thawing. Road maintenance must be a nightmare and many areas are cash scrapped since the end of the resources boom. The road south from Elliston was one of the more interesting – Newfoundland has a Targa event which everyone tells us is pretty spectacular and maybe this explains it.
The ferry from Novia Scotia takes around 6 hours and arrives at Channel – Port aux Basques after travelling down the Newfoundland west coast early in the morning. The reference to Basques we learn later comes from the whalers who came across the Atlantic in tiny boats to harpoon, land and melt down the whales for their oil early in the 16th century. And we think today’s oil exploration and extraction processes are tough. It’s last on, first off so we make a beeline for the coffee shop in the first town and then get on the road. Most of the population live on the east coast so the road up the west coast we are taking to get to Gros Morne National Park is fairy deserted. We couldn’t really do it justice, this is a Park where you would need to bring the walking boots and throw the clock away. There are around 20 walks in the vicinity of Rocky Harbour where we stay the night but with only a few hours to spare we decide to drive up the coast and check out the lighthouse. Well restored and now set up as a museum, the lighthouse is a reminder of the tough times faced by the early settlers. It tells the story of the succession of fishermen catching herring and cod for the European market and later in the 19th century, lobsters for the US.
Two ferries today, the first shorter one from Wood Islands on Prince Edward across to Pictou in Novia Scotia. The ferry is full of holiday makers in cars and RVs along with about a dozen huge timber trucks taking pine logs to Novia Scotia – talk about coals to Newcastle! Just 50 minutes later we were disembarking and heading east towards Cape Breton Island and the starting point of the Cabot Trail. By lunchtime we are half way up the west coast and everyone is feeling pretty tired. RIP and Navy Car elect to go the long way around to enjoy the complete circuit of the Cabot Trail – that David is a smooth talker. Red Car and Blue B decide on the shorter route across the island to save around 160 km. Green Car will take a more leisurely drive around because they aren’t going to Newfoundland. So goodbyes all round and we head off on one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Fantastic views of the ocean at every turn as we drive from the start of the National Park at Chiticama to Pleasant Bay where the road heads inland across to the east coast. Then an even longer coast drive before we reach the main road taken by the other cars. Another road to add to the Best 10 Driving Roads in the world – not sure which one will have to drop off to make room for the Cabot Trail. Lobster for dinner looking out across the bay before we join the queue of cars waiting to catch the ferry to Newfoundland.
A free day to explore Prince Edward Island. Navy Car has a sticking throttle and needs a bit of attention. We’ve been carrying around a new set of throttle shafts since Lima in 2015 and haven’t been long enough in one place to get around to it. I pull the carbs off and remove the worn shaft only to find the new shafts are standard size and the car has oversized shafts from an earlier rebuild by the previous owner. Just then a nicely restored MGC rolls up driven by a local lawyer, Danny….. After a bit of a chat he suggests I talk to Peter Noakes, an expat Australian who is also a member of their Prince Edward British Car Club and the local expert on SU carburettors. An hour or so later, what appears to be a 3 litre Bentley rolls up. Peter bought a Vanden Plas fabric body and interior from the UK then built from scratch a new chassis to suit a Jaguar motor and Ford pick up suspension. It even sports power steering from an Australian Falcon GT so despite its 1920s appearance and vintage tyres it is actually fun to drive. Peter has brought over a few boxes of SU spares but alas no oversize shafts so the old ones go back in until another day.
Time to explore Prince Edward Island and first stop is Cavendish on the north coast, famous for being the location of the house with green gables which inspired the author Lucy Montgomery to write the series of books which has sold 50 million copies and translated into 20 languages according to wiki. There is even an Ann of Green Gables golf course, presumably to amuse the blokes who like chasing little white balls around while their partners live out their childhood memories exploring the house and gardens.
Another lobster roll for lunch – this one at the Blue Mussel Café right on the water in North Antico and the best one yet. Prince Edward and the other Maritime Provinces are known as the have-nots compared with the resource rich Canadian Provinces and rely heavily on subsidies from Ottawa to survive. The lobster fishermen and potato farmers are very well off but there is not much else apart from tourism to sustain their economy. Around a million tourists visit PE each year so we guess that the hospitality industry does pretty well too, at least from May to September.
Today’s drive takes us down the eastern coast of New Brunswick and then across the bridge to Prince Edward Island and its principal city Charlottetown. We take the tourist route through a pretty little fishing villages followed by the national park and its succession of bridges crossing rivers and inlets. All postcard perfect except Dave was on a mission so no chance to get any happy snaps along the way. We are seeing it on the best day of this summer – must be pretty bleak and miserable in winter though.
We stop for fuel and coffee mid-morning and have to find a way through the double line of cars and pick-ups stretching back about a hundred metres from the drive thru at Tim Hortons. Must be very good coffee to justify all those carbon emissions – why can’t they park their cars and walk a few steps to the counter?? A Cobra replica rumbles by just as I’m taking the picture.
Then it’s across the long bridge to Prince Edward Island. The locals claim it is the longest bridge in the world at over 10 km across the water but no-one has told them there is a much longer bridge in China now.
We reach our overnight destination of Charlottetown about midday and head downtown to checkout where the best lobster is served. Lobster rolls hit the spot and then it’s off for a walk around the shoreline – no traces of the massive ship building industry of the 19th century now, just beautiful parks and marinas. Here we learn the significance of the town on Canadian history. In 1864, the Charlottetown Convention was held. At first it was to be just a meeting of the three eastern provinces – Prince Edward Island, Novia Scotia and New Brunswick instigated by Great Britain’s concerns not only by the threat of the post-civil war USA taking over but also the cost blowout of recent rail projects. At the last minute, Canada invited itself to the meeting and put a convincing argument to the three British colonies to join with Canada. It seems the Canadian hospitality was so generous that the provinces were convinced to join “..to produce one of the greatest nations on God’s earth”
Just for something different this evening, we see a performance of Mamma Mia in the Charlottetown Arts Centre. An excellent production which would have been worthy of a capital city in Australia – how good to see it in a small town of only 45,000 people.
New territory for me – I’ve never been further East than Quebec on previous trips and we are both really looking forward to exploring this less touristy part of Canada. At the first stop out of Quebec we are bailed up by a guy in a shiny new Porsche Carrera S who is pretty excited to see us. Not something you would expect from a Porsche owner in Australia but Canadians are friendly everywhere we go.
Next stop is for lunch at Grand Falls. Pretty spectacular on this lovely warm summer’s day but must be even better in the spring thaw when according to the signboard it carries 90% of Niagra Falls’ volume. Lorraine gets directions to a patisserie on the other side of town which looks very quiet. Most of the bread and other goodies have gone by the time we arrive but no problems, Madame offers us homemade pea soup and bread to keep us going.
As we are leaving a shiny MGB pulls up and we chat with Eudore who lives nearby. He asks if we would like to see a big bridge and of course we say yes. So off we go about 10 km down the main road and then a short drive on a bumpy road over the top of the hill to be greeted by the sight of a spectacular railway bridge across the valley. Built by Canadian Rail in the early 1900s it is 240m high and dwarfs his house and garage. Who needs Skyrail…
A quick update on how the cars are going. Both Red Car and Blue B have been having intermittent problems with overdrives. Ken has become expert in rebuilding overdrive solenoids and they both seem to be getting on top of it. Blue B has a more serious problem – it is consuming ever more oil with a complete engine rebuild the only solution. Ross is becoming increasingly concerned and asks the distance we are planning to drive around Newfoundland before we put the cars on the ship to the UK. I suggest it would be about 4 litres which Ross didn’t seem to find helpful.