Monthly Archives: September 2017

Friday 29th September 2017 – AFTER A REALLY …

… good night last night, I was ready for anything.

Well, almost, anyway.

And when I think about it, I don’t suppose that it was a really good night either. My neighbours woke me up at about 01:30.

It’s not really fair to call them “rowdy” because they weren’t particularly – at least, any more than you might expect from a bargain-basement motel. It’s just that, as you know, I’m a light sleeper.

oak grove motel salter path emerald isle north carolina usa september septembre 2017So having organised myself, which takes longer than it might do these days, I nipped outside to find the porridge oats for breakfast, and to take a photo of my room, and Strider.

There’s a microwave in the room, which is good news. There’s also a coffee machine with free coffee and a fridge that is reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllllllyyyyy cold – so much so that it froze my orange juice.

You can’t say that I’m not having my money’s worth for my $60:74

beach oak grove motel salter path emerald isle north carolina usa september septembre 2017Once I’d showered and packed up Strider, I went for a little walk.

There’s a boardwalk from the motel upand over the dunes and back down again onto the beach. It’s true to say that this end of the island is the more “economy” side – by the time you reach Atlantic Beach you are going quite up-market.

There weren’t too many people around this morning – that’s because the weather has turned during the night and it’s probably 20°F colder than yesterday.

atlantic beach north carolina usa september septembre 2017There is a Food Lion just down the road and so that seemed to be a good-enough place to stop up and pick up some groceries.

And as for this photograph, you can make up your own caption.

But returning to the supermarket, I didn’t have a discount card seeing as I’m not from around here, but the lady on the checkout told me how much she liked my accent and gave me the discount anyway.

bow fagus morehead city north carolina usa september septembre 2017Back on the mainland at Morehead City, I was diverted from my travels.

How long is it since we have had a “Ship of the Day”? It must be a positive Age. But here in the docks is the tanker Bow Fagus out of Bergen in Norway.

She’s a tanker with a deadweight of 37500 tonnes, and has come here from Antwerp, via Rotterdam, New York and down the road at Wilmington

I follow the road all the way along the coast.

monroe gaskill bridge cedar island north carolina usa september septembre 2017Remember that I told you that the Outer Banks were sometimes linked by bridges? Cedar Island used to be isolated from the mainland.

These days though there’s this whacking great bridge – the Monroe Gaskill Bridge – across the Sound.

This is typical of the bridges that they are building to do away with the ferries that used to ply across between the islands, although the Monroe Gaskill Bridge here actually replaced an older, smaller bridge.

sea level cedar island ferry ocracoke island north carolina usa september septembre 2017But there’s one ferry that they won’t ever do away with, and that’s the ferry between Cedar Island and Ocracoke Island.

It’s a crossing of two and a quarter hours, probably the longest ferry crossing in North Carolina, if not the USA, and they won’t be able to bridge that gap cost-eFFectively.

And while I’ve been on almost all of the North Carolina “throughway ferries” at one time or another, the Cedar Island – Ocracoke is one that I have yet to take.

sea level cedar island ferry ocracoke island north carolina usa september septembre 2017And surprise, surprise. There’s a sailing going out in a couple of hours time. What a coincidence!

So I stick some fuel into Strider to keep me going, pay my … errr … $15:00 (yes, a two-and-a-quarter-hour sailing for Strider and myself for just fifteen dollars!), take my place in the queue and make my butties.

I was going to sit outside but it’s overcast, cloudy, threatening rain and there’s a howling wind blowing. Not very pleasant at all.

sea level cedar island ferry ocracoke island north carolina usa september septembre 2017Much to my surprise, because this is after all the USA, we are late setting sail. A good 20 or so minutes by my calculations too.

And while 12 years ago I was complaining about the lack of coffee on board, today we have a coffee facility, with the most unusual payment system.

It’s a dollar a mug, you help yourself, and you put your dollar in the cash box screwed to the deck. What are the chances of a system like that working in the UK?

So now that we have on-board coffee, after 12 years of moaning by Yours Truly, what next?

How about a moan about the lack of internet at the North Carolina Department of Transport way-stations?

ocracoke island north carolina usa september septembre 2017About 20 minutes late, we arrive in Ocracoke Island and the town of Ocracoke.

It’s been 12 years since I’ve been here of course, and i’m intrigued to see what it’s going to be like these days.

Mind you, the light has gone and it’s going dark. I’m not going to be able to see very much this evening, that’s for sure. I’ll have to wait until the morning.

cedar island ocracoke ferry north carolina usa september septembre 2017So we tie ourselves up to the quayside – or rather, the crew did that – and we can begin to move off.

And what’s sad about this is that despite being the first on the ferry, I’m almost the last off. That fills me full of dismay.

But there’s hope yet. There’s a motel that I had my eye on – one of the cheapest on the island when I was here last.

And while the price has … errr … significantly increased, just like everything else, it’s still one of the cheapest (this is not a cheap place to be by any means as I well remember) and it does have a room free. And so I bite the bullet …

Mind you, I had to wait half an hour for the landlady to come back from running an errand.

There’s a fridge in the room, but that’s your lot, but it is quite nice and comfortable.

An early night is called for and so I’m off to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.

Thursday 28th September 2017 – WHAT WITH …

… having crashed out so completely and for so long yesterday afternoon, it was well into the small hours this morning and I was still awake.

But I heard the alarms go off at 05:00 and 05:15 respectively but somehow it was gone 08:00 when I was up and about.

My first thought was that I can’t go anywhere in the state that I was in, so I staggered off down to the office to see about staying for an extra day. But we couldn’t thrash out a suitable deal and so I took that as my cue to be moving on.

houses on stilts north myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017After breakfast we hit the road, and back through familiar territory from 2005.

When we were up here back then, I pointed out to you that most of the houses along the seafront are up on stilts.

We’re smack in the hurricane belt here and while they might not be as devastating as elsewhere, the fact that it’s so low-lying around here means that there can be some impressive tidal surges.

atlantic coastal waterway north myrtle beach usa september septembre 2017Just inland from the coast is what they call the “Atlantic Coastal Waterway”.

It’s like a canal that’s made up of rivers, lagoons behind the sandbanks and canalised sections to join everything up, and its purpose is to allow the “snowbirds” to sail their yachts and cabin cruisers down to Florida from Washington DC and Manhattan without having to do anything dangerous like going out into the open sea.

They aren’t really “salt-water mariners” here.

north myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017I mentioned yesterday that North Myrtle Beach is probably one of the most exclusive places in the USA.

Here, the “second homes” of the rich and famous are built around little marinas branching off the Atlantic Coastal Waterway so that they can sail down here and drop anchor in their own back gardens

You can’t do that at Rhyl or New Brighton.

southport fort fisher ferry cape fear river north carolina usa september septembre 2017I’m never in a very good mood when I see a car ferry. As you know, it always makes me cross.

And so being in the vicinity of the ferry across Cape Fear River, I decide to head that way instead of taking Highway 17 North-Eastwards.

And just by way of a change, I don’t have to wait too long as they don’t go on to winter hours until Saturday. That’s not something that happens to me every day.

bald head island ferry southport north carolina usa september septembre 2017There’s another ferry from here that goes out to Bald Head Island.

Bald Head Island is really nothing more than an endless succession of sandbanks, a couple of which have been stabilised by a healthy plant growth, and is the home to a mainly-seasonal population.

Its chief claim to fame, if it was one, is that it’s an important turtle-breeding and nesting area. And that I’ve yet to find the time to visit it.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it was the Union Army that won the Civil War. When things were on an even basis, the South could hold its own quite comfortably.

What did for the South was the naval blockade that stopped supplies of arms and munitions reaching the fighting armies and preventing the South from exporting its produce to gain foreign exchange.

fort fisher north carolina usa september septembre 2017Wilmington was just about the last open port remaining, protected by Fort Fisher which was just over there to the left of the crane and which we visited in 2005.

When Fort Fisher fell to the Union forces in January 1865, the Union Army controlled the entrance to the port.

They took Wilmington a couple of weeks later and in the absence of any supplies at all, the Confederacy collapsed in a matter of days.

heat 98°F north carolina usa september septembre 2017By now though, the heat was ridiculous. 98°F, whatever that is in real money.

Luckily a Home Depot loomed up so I could take refuge in there and see if they had Terry’s batteries, but no joy – although the aircon was welcome.

Back on the road again, I stopped for some fuel and some of that iced slush as the heat really was oppressive, and then round about Jacksonville, found the first of the “Outer Banks Islands” – the sandbanks that protect the North Carolina Shore.

Some of them are inhabited, some connected by bridges, and some of them even have roads.

Emerald Isle is one such, and that’s my destination for tonight. There’s bound to be a motel or two along here and I eventually come across the Oak Grove Motel in Salter Path.

I’ve stayed in better places than this, but not many for $60 with kitchen and air conditioning.

First thing is to sit on my bed and … errr … relax.

Second thing is to notice the time – 21:00. Was I that relaxed?

So no tea again tonight. I just curl up down the bed and make the most of it.

And quite right too.

Wednesday 27th September 2017 – THAT WAS SOME …

… nocturnal ramble, that was.

I had a bad attack of cramp and had to stand up – and then I had to go for a meander down the corridor too. And each time, I returned to bed and restarted where I had left off.

And do you know what? Once I awoke, I couldn’t remember a thing about it at all. No idea where I went to.

So I spent an hour or two doing some paper work on the laptop, and then stopped for breakfast. I was feeling hungry as well so I followed it all with a bagel. Luckily I had bought some yesterday at the Food Lion.

I’d also bought some new razors and some smelly stuff, so I could have a good shave and shower too. That made me feel better.

polynesian beach and golf resort myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017There was a lot of noise outside while I was working and so I went to see what was going on.

It seems that there’s some building work going on at the part of the hotel at the back nearest the sea.

They had this huge crane down there lifting things about onto that roof. My block by the way is the one where the two palm trees are.

fairground myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017Seeing as it was so nice – and so hot – I decided to go for a walk this morning, especially as I was out of the building already.

It’s a good mile or two’s walk down into town and the route takes me past the fairground that we first saw when we were here in 2005.

Out of season, it’s only open at weekends though, and I’ll be long-gone by then, I reckon.

ripleys believe it or not myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017It’s hard for me to recognise anything here because the place has changed so much since those days.

I certainly don’t remember Ripley’s exhibition here, and I’m sure that there were buildings right by where I’m standing.

Mind you, there have been several hurricanes that have passed this way since 2005, and probably taken a lot of stuff with them.

gay dolphin myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017I remember that place over there, and I remember saying at the time that I would be badgered if I’m going in there – or something similar anyway.

But I’m sure that it was on the other side of the road back then.

But never mind the changes – when I was here in 2005 they had loads of tee-shirts with all kinds of different phrases such as “when God made me he was showing off” – which I thought was appropriate for Zero.

And they were still on sale – the same ones too probably judging by the dust.

pier myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017By now, the heat was intense and the sunshine was overwhelming.

And so having armed myself with a new hat (my old one is stuck on a boat somewhere up in North West River, Labrador) and sunglasses, I went off to find the pier.

That’s still here – the passing hurricanes seem to have managed to leave that well alone, which is just as well.

pier myrtle beach looking south carolina usa september septembre 2017Here’s the view looking south from the pier. Not actually from down at the end, because it costs $1:00 to go down to the end and I’m a cheapskate.

It seems to be a fact that the further south you go from the centre of Myrtle Beach, the cheaper the accommodation becomes.

I’m a good mile or two down there somewhere, way beyond the other pier that you can see in the distance.

pier myrtle beach looking north south carolina usa september septembre 2017On the other hand, the further north you go, the more exclusive the place becomes and the more expensive it costs to stay there.

Right down at the end on the horizon several miles away is North Myrtle Beach, and that’s just unbelievably expensive.

At the far end of the road down there is a golf and country club, and prices there are just absurd.

icebergs at the beach myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017This is the “Bible Belt” of the USA where they constantly deny the phenomenon of things like Global Warming.

And despite their official denials, you can see evidence everywhere that they really DO believe in global warming.

This explanatory panel about the presence of glacial ice sheets to the north and icebergs off the coast of Myrtle Beach will tell you that.

And yet Global Warming isn’t really happening, is it?

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017In the intense heat, I’ve bought myself one of these drinks of iced slush stuff and I sit in the shade of an overhanging tree to admire the view.

And listen to one holidaymaker wailing that he has confused the times of his bus back home and it’s left without him, so he needs to make other arrangements.

But I only have half an ear open to listen to him. I’m more intent on enjoying the sunshine and looking at the scenery.

southern pier myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017That’s the southern pier, and no photographs from thereupon, because here you have to pay to set foot on the pier – never mind going down to the end.

And on this part of the beach we aren’t allowed to walk on the sand dunes. They have been reseeded with wild oats, the roots of which spread in an immense network that stabilises the dunes.

So you’ll have to make do with a photo from here.

By now the heat is overwhelming and I go wander slowly back to my room. And despite it being only 2 storeys up, I’m obliged to take the lift. The heat is debilitating.

I keep thinking to myself that I ought to make my butties for a late lunch – but it’s too hot and I’m too tired to go outside again for the moment.

Consequently I close my eyes for five minutes – to find that it’s 18:00 and I’ve been out for four hours.

It was probably the wrong thing to do, to go for a walk this morning, because although I’m awake, I can’t even find the energy to go and make tea – and it’s not as if it would take too much either seeing that all it needs is a warm-up.

But then, this is the kind of thing that happens every now and again.

Tuesday 26th September 2017 – OLD, TIRED AND CHEAP

But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about my living accommodation.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a sea view “of sorts”. It’s not the best sea view by any means, but we have had worse than this and I’m not complaining.

The bed is super-comfortable – the sleeping issues that I’m having are due to me and not the bed – and the place is relatively clean even though it’s old and tired.

My neighbours are a little unruly, but you can’t have everything, and I’ve had much worse neighbours than those too.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017Out at the back, which is actually the front of the little apartment, there’s a view over the street and the neighbouring hotel complexes.

Every hotel complex has its little private swimming pool (that’s next door’s just there) and terrace, although our terrace isn’t much at all to write home about.

But when the beach is 20 yards away, does it really matter?

And so this morning I was up with the cock and attacked the paperwork – well, sort-of anyway. And followed that with a nice shower and breakfast.

But I was obliged to bin the bread and the soya milk, and my razor has had it and I’ve run out of smelly stuff so a trip to the Food Lion – a Delhaize company with the same logo – was indicated.

free hermit crab myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017The receptionist gave me directions, and made it sound like 10 miles away. So I went in Strider, only to find that it was less than half a mile away. I could have walked it.

But one of the shops here is having an offer that is absolutely irresistible. I bet that not many people would turn this down.

A free hermit crab with Woman Police Constable.

police car polynesian beach and golf resort myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017But I forgot to mention the usual Myrtle Beach issues.

Last time I was in Myrtle Beach, I witnessed what would only be called an “aggressive arrest” in the motel where I was staying.

Today, I popped outside, and there was another member of the farces of law and order visiting my accommodation.

And that’s not the best of it. I’d only been here about 18 hours and they had a pest control company in. “Termites” so I was told, but I don’t believe them.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017Lunchtime was a visit to the beach with my butties.

I said before that it’s claimed to be the most beautiful beach on the Eastern Seaboard, and while I don’t agree with that, I’ve seen much worse.

The waves are quite impressive though, and the kids here were having a tremendous amount of fun.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017But here’s a thing. Alison and I used to work for an American company in Brussels and we had a colleague who had married an American guy who had brought her here for their honeymoon.

She used to rave about how beautiful the place was, never thinking that anyone from Belgium would ever have visited here.

When I showed her my photos from 2005, she never ever said a subsequent word about the place.

Back here, I crashed out yet again, and was once more gone for hours. It was a good decision to go for three nights instead of two. I was hoping that I might have been able to make it out to the Outer Banks or something for a couple of days, but with my state of health I need to be realistic.

If I’m feeling up to it, I might stop off in New Jersey for a night or two. There’s always … gulp … Atlantic City.

I remembered to make tea tonight, pasta with kidney beans, tomato sauce and vegetables. And there’s enough left over for tomorrow too.

And then I went for a walk and, much to my delight, I found an ice-cream parlour just across the road that sold vegan sorbets. $4:99 for two scoops and seeing as this is the USA, they were person-sized scoops too.

They needed a mini-digger for them.

strawberry moose pantomime door myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017And then I saw it – the world’s first pantomime door.

This called for a photo opportunity for Strawberry Moose so I went back to Strider and fetched him.

And on the way there and back, he met a good many future fans who were pleased to make his acquaintance.

So now it’s bed-time. Not too early but then I’m not planning on doing too much tomorrow. A nice leisurely day before hitting the road on Thursday.

Monday 25th September 2017 – SO HERE WE ALL ARE …

interstate highway rest area Augusta georgia usa september septembre 2017… not sitting in a rainbow, but sitting on a rest area on Interstate 20 – in Georgia. Strider, Strawberry Moose and I.

This morning, although the alarm goes off at 05:00 when I’m here, I was up and about and packing at 04:30. The old body clock is working well.

Rhys works as a bus driver for the local education authority and has to be in work at 05:30, which means leaving here at 05:00. And that was when I had planned to be on the road

Sure enough, at 04:55 a hand reached into the bus and deposited a nice, hot cup of coffee. That disappeared smartly into my thermal mug, and at 05:00 we were off.

Rhys went one way, and I went the other, heading south on Interstate 20. And when have you ever seen me on the road this early?

I’m glad that I had seen Rhys. We had studied together at University and I had been best man at his wedding. As I said a few days ago, this may well be my last visit to North America and I wanted to see him while I was here.

interstate highway rest area Augusta georgia usa september septembre 2017I had also wanted to come here, seeing as it’s just 50 miles away from Rhys’s place. And for two reasons too –

  1. I’d never been to Georgia before, so it’s one more place to cross off my list
  2. At 33.4735° N, it’s the farthest south that I have ever been, beating Arizona 2002 by about 20 miles. It’s little things like that which amuse me

We arrived here about an hour before it was light enough to take photos, and that gave me an opportunity to try to bring some kind of order into chaos. As we know, Neitzsche said “out of chaos comes order”, but he had never met me.

And I’m glad that I did too, because I had a major stroke of luck.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I had lost Strider’s new licence tags.

In New Brunswick you buy the annual licence tags and stick them on the number plate. As I would be away when Strider’s needed renewing, I had bought them well in advance and “put them somewhere safe” so that I would know where they would be.

That’s famous last words, isn’t it? Once I’d put them in a safe place, that was the last that I had seen of them and I was afraid that they had gone for good.

However, moving the passenger seat, there they were, down the side. And then I remembered – I’d “tidied” the passenger seat in a hurry when I’d picked up Hannah in Antigonish. And they must have fallen down the side.

So Strider now has his licence tags properly installed, and I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Once I’d done the photography bit, I retraced my steps all the way back up Interstate 20, back through Lexington and Columbia and back to Interstate 95 just north of Charleston.

That’s the Road that will take me all the way back to Houlton in Maine, just across the border from where Rachel and Darren live and where Strider stays when he’s not on the road.

But I’m not going back straight away. It’s nearly 1900 kilometres and I’m in no fit condition to drive that kind of distance. Three consecutive days of over 750 kms per day last week plus an 05:00 start this morning have finished me off.

I’m really in no fit state to go anywhere right now and it’s pointless trying to do it. It will all end in tears.

But just down the road is Myrtle Beach. It’s a huge holiday resort, just like Blackpool, and the best way to describe it is to say that it’s like Miami Beach on Welfare.

It’s cheap, and tacky, but a small 2-room apartment with wi-fi, free parking, cooking facilities and a sea view of sorts, just 20 yards from the beach, is costing me just $39 per night. It’s the ideal place for me to hole up for three nights while I gather my strength for the trip back to Canada.

Three nights at the seaside, I said, didn’t I? So having had all of that heatwave for the last few days, it’s now overcast and trying to rain.

There’s a big grocery store on the edge of town so I stock up, and then head to the Polynesian Beach and Golf Resort.

polynesian beach and golf resort myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017Here’s a photo of the place – taken at night because, quite frankly, it looks much better in the dark.

But don’t misunderstand me at all. What I have here for facilities at $39 per night (and there are rooms at $29 per night if that’s too expensive) with a beach 20 yards away you wouldn’t get anywhere else in the world.

We’ve been paying $140 per night in some places, and $150 per night to live in a caravan and we haven’t had facilities as good as this. I’m on the economy plan, remember, and this is a good deal.

First thing that I do when I arrive, after checking in, is to crash out. And an hour later, the sun is trying its best to come out and it’s quite warm too, so I have a wander down to the beach to eat my butties.

Back here again, and crash out again. And I’m gone for … errr … several hours. These last few days have been too much for me.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017That means that I miss my tea, and instead, go for a little walk around the area.

As I said earlier, it looks so much better in the dark

But I also said that if your budget is rather limited, you won’t find anywhere else better than this to go for a self-contained break.

One thing about Americans is that they are (mostly) restrained, and there’s a security guard on the premises.

myrtle beach south carolina usa september septembre 2017My nocturnal perambulations took me briefly onto the beach. It’s a fine powdery sand so it’s difficult to walk upon in shoes.

It’s been claimed to be the best beach on the Eastern Seaboard, but while it’s good, I’ve seen much better than this – but in places that don’t have any tourist infrastructure so they aren’ easy to visit on a trip like this.

This will do me for a few days.

And talking of nocturnal rambles, I didn’t tell you of the two that happened today.

While I was asleep in Rhys’s bus, TOTGA – The One That Got Away – came to visit me. She brought with her one of her children and, surprise, it wasn’t the one with whom she’s mostly associated. What was even more surprising was that when I checked my social media page later, there she was in a photo with the child that she had brought with her, and that’s somethign exceptional.
And later, when I was having a crash, I was underneath a car changing a steering joint or a wheel bearing or something. Someone was helping me and I was giving them instructions like one would do to a child. I suddenly became aware of this and apologised, to which my father, who was watching, said “that’s why I like to do these jobs myself”.

Sunday 24th September 2017 – THE ONE GOOD THING …

… about staying with other people – apart from the convivial company of course – are the facilities on offer.

It’s true that I had been awake for some little while but when the door of the bus opened and a hot mug of coffee found its way in towards my sleeping bag, I knew that I was in some place that resembled a home.

Once I’d heaved myself out of my stinking, but extremely comfortable pit, Rhys gave me the guided tour of his little kingdom here. And apart from stepping on several colonies of fire ants, I managed to avoid the more dangerous critturs such as the Black Widow spiders and the snakes.

We ended up having a chat with Terry on the internet too. He’s after some new batteries for his power drill, and they are sold in the USA under the “Rigid” brand name.

That’s stocked in Home Depot and there’s a big one between Lexington and Columbia, so we decided to go for a drive.

No luck though – most of the shelving in the power tools section was empty. But there will be other Home Depots.

stun guns flea markets lexington south carolina september septembre 2017For lunch, Rhys took me to a Mexican place that was absolutely crowded, and then we went off to look at the local flea market just down the road.

The things that were on offer here were, quite frankly, amazing. No firearms that I saw, but how about this to take with you on your travels?

And sold along with socks and fidget spinners. The mind boggles.

old town museum lexington south carolina september septembre 2017Next stop was the “old town” museum here in Lexington.

This was a rich southern cotton-growing region 160 years ago before the Civil War and there were many traditional properties still standing until comparatively recently.

As the towns and highways have expanded over the old cotton fields, many of the old buildings have found themselves in the way of “progress”

cotton gin old town museum lexington south carolina september septembre 2017Normally this kind of thing wouldn’t bother Americans in the slightest, especially as they have some kind of connection with slavery.

But even Americans can appreciate the value of some of the stuff that was endangered, such as this beautiful and complete cotton gin complete with all working parts.

Consequently, many old buildings were dismantled and removed to this site at the back of the town, which is now a museum.

old town museum lexington south carolina september septembre 2017The buildings were reassembled here and people are able to visit them.

But the reassembly has not actually been done in the best traditions of contemporary workmanship. Someone here has gone berserk with a nail gun and I’m sure that nail guns were not around in the USA in the ante-bellum period.

At least they could have used nails of the correct size.

storm damaged dam lexington south carolina september septembre 2017There is a park on the edge of the town by a small dam. And during a storm a couple of years ago, the dam badly damaged and burst.

And so Rhys took me out to see it, and to see some of the damage that had been caused and which had still not been repaired.

There was a lake just there to the right, as you can tell by the pavilion on stilts, but the contents of the lake have disappeared

Later on, we went to a restaurant for tea – one that was famous for its salad bar. And they were right too, because it was well-worth the visit.

But here we had a most bizarre – but sadly all-too-common – dialogue.

Our hero – “I’m a vegan, so I’ll just have a baked potato with my salad”
Waitress – “what would you like with it? Bacon, cheese or cream cheese?”

Yes, staff training in Ruby Tuesday’s leaves something to be desired.

I fuelled up Strider on the way back as I have an early start in the morning – and I went straight to bed when we arrived back.

I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.

Saturday 23rd September – I DUNNO …

motel 6 mount jackson virginia USA canada september septembre 2017… what I must have put in my tea last night because I ended up going to bed quite early and I didn’t feel a thing whatever until the alarm went off at 05:00. I can’t even say if I had been on a nocturnal ramble or not.

A few things that needed doing on my laptop took up some of my attention, and that was followed by a shower and breakfast. The microwave oven here in the room means that the big bag of porridge is certainly doing the business.

Having tidied up, packed Strider, checked out, helped myself to the free coffee on offer and all of that, I was on the road by 09:15. And that was a good decision too.

For the first 90 minutes the road was comparatively easy – which makes a great change from yesterday. But it dramatically changed once we arrived at the first major town, of which the name I forget.

Eventually, the matter explained itself.

traffic queue interstate 81 virginia september septembre 2017I’d noticed that many of these vehicles on the road were flying violet flags of some description

And there by the side of the highway in this town was some kind of sports stadium with hordes of people hanging around, all dressed in this violet colour.

It looked as if there was going to be a gridiron match of some description and I’d hit the supporters’ rush hour.

traffic queues interstate 81 virginia september septembre 2017Once that was dealt with, I carried on at a fair pace until we hit Roanoke. And the whole Highway between the edge of Roanoke and Salem was nose-to-tail for miles.

And in the heat, it was unbearable. But I waited until Strider’s fuel gauge dropped right down and then stopped in Salem for fuel.

And hats off to Strider yet again because despite the speed on the Highway when we could, and despite the traffic jams when we couldn’t, he’s done a new record of 567 kms on a tank, and the orange light hadn’t even come one.

We had quite a performance at the petrol station. Credit card issues (“insert your card, and tap in your ZIP code” – which of course I don’t have) so the girl (who was born in Leicester as it happens) had to do everything manually.

That was Strider organised, and for me, a coffee and, seeing as how hot it was, a big mug of that iced Slush stuff. That will cool me down while I’m driving.

interstate 77 virginia north carolina USA september septembre 2017By now we were on Interstate 77 and this seemed to be a lot quieter than Interstate 81.

And so on we went, sometimes bowling along, sometimes crawling. At least if gave me an opportunity to admire the scenery, which is even more stunning around here than it was back on Interstate 81.

I wish that I had had the time to stop and photograph more of it.

rest area  september septembre 2017I kept on driving until I crossed into North Carolina and here was a rest area with “suitable conveniences”.

This was as good a place as any to stop. And the bread that I bought a few days ago – I seemed to have let it go on for far too long because it was only just edible. And the bagels that I bought – they are beyond saving too.

But if you want to know what in my opinion is so bad about the USA then we saw it here. The janitor in the washrooms, cleaning and tidying up, looked to be well into his 80s and barely able to walk. And yet here he was, having to carry on working for a living.

This wouldn’t be allowed to happen in a civilised country, that’s for sure.

We also had a brief 30-second rainstorm, and that freshened everywhere up.

We were making good time along Interstate 77 too – at least, until we were within spitting distance of Charlotte.

Here, the road signs proudly announced “Roadworks next 28 miles” – and they weren’t wrong either. The congestion was appalling around here and some driver in a VW convertible received a full blast of Strider’s horn.

From Charlotte onwards I77 was quite busy and progress was rather restrained – although we kept moving.

A funny thing happened on the edge of Columbia. The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav pulled me off the Interstate, sent me through a housing estate and then back onto the Interstate at the junction BEHIND where I had just come off.

And as I approached Rhys’s house, she sent me through someone’s back garden, much to the bewilderment of the occupier.

It was nice to see Rhys again, after 12 years. He’s living on the edge of town in a house in the woods in a very rural setting. We had a coffee and a long chat, and then went off into Columbia for a meal.

He’d found a really good vegan restaurant that did a lovely vegan burger with fried sweet potato, and that went down really well.

Rhys is in the process of converting a redundant school bus into a mobile home. Work is quite advanced and this is where my bed is going to be for the night.

And I have to say that I’ve earned it too. Strider is on 500 kms on the trip meter so that means that we have driven somewhere between 700 and 750 kilometres – and according to the The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav, we had a driving time of 7 hours and 54 minutes.

One thing is for sure – I shan’t be moving for a week.

Friday 22nd September 2017 – THAT WAS HORRENDOUS!

Interstate 81 looked so inviting on the map.

Running through open country and the Blue Ridge Mountains (of Virginia and elsewhere) and not passing anywhere near any major centres pf population.

And how wrong I was!

For a start, it was heaving with traffic. Just like the M6 around Birmingham on a late Friday afternoon – with the exception that it has just two lanes each side and not three.

Secondly, it was one continual set of roadworks from start to finish. We crawled from hold-up to hold-up all the way from Upstate New York to Central Virginia.

Another thing is the traffic. Speed limits are 65 mph in some places and 55 mph in other places. And with the speedo in Strider being in kilometres, I converted the SatNav to imperial measurements and set the cruise control in accordance with the read-out.

And that is a suicidal thing to do – because no-one else obeys the speed limits even with the whole mess of Tijuana Taxis and unmarked speed control cars handing out loads of tickets all down the Interstate.

I had lorries, trucks, pickups and everything wedged up behind Strider crammed in with the traffic waiting for a moment to overtake.

rodeway motel syracuse new york usa september septembre 2017Last night in the Rodeway Motel was one of the most comfortable nights that I’ve had for a while.

Despite the cheapness of the place, it was excellent value for money, complete with microwave and fridge. I’ll stop there again, that’s for sure.

I’d been on my travels too, but not very pleasant ones unfortunately. I was in Strider when I had a head-on collision with a lorry. Strider wasn’t very badly damaged as he had “gone underneath” but I felt that I could have avoided the accident if I had exerted myself. Furthermore, we were driving on the left as in the UK, but it was for some reason clearly the other driver’s fault, although I’ve no idea why.

It was 09:30 when I hit the road, exactly as planned, and decanted myself more-or less straight away into the traffic.

I stopped for the usual reasons and to pick up a coffee, and again at Frackville in Pennsylvania for fuel and a lettuce. But finding a food store was something – I must have driven up every street in the town.

pennsylvania september septembre 2017But yes, Pennsylvania. I made it into here just before midday.

Mind you, that’s not such a big deal because we’ve been here before – twice in fact. Once in 2010 but once previously on a quick in-and-out over the new year of 1999/2000 when I was staying on Long Beach Island in New Jersey.

But at least I put my feet on the soil this time, because I found a nice motorway Service Area where I sat in the sun for an hour.

west virginia usa september septembre 2017I blinked and missed Maryland, but I did manage to take a photo of West Virginia.

I’ve certainly never been here before and so I was grateful that Strawberry Moose was able to take a photograph.

But I didn’t manage to put my feet on the soil here – that will have to be for another time, if there is one.

I dunno.

I was otherwise preoccupied with traffic when I crossed over into Virginia, but I’ve been here before too, on my trip in 2005.

motel 6 mount jackson virginia usa september septembre 2017As it started to grow dark, I spied a motel with rooms at reasonable prices.

I’ve stayed at Motel Sixes before now and they are quite good, and I was lucky here because I had the last room. It was a smoking room but I was past caring by now.

Here it Mount Jackson we are at more-or-less halfway, give or take 50 miles, so I was glad to stop for a rest and a stretch.

But the road through the mountains is beautiful, and we passed by loadsof names that I recognised, such as Gettysburg, Antietam and the like.

How I would have liked to go for a visit but I’m a Man on a Mission and I can’t stop.

And tomorrow, I’ll be back on the road.

Thursday 21st September 2017 – REGULAR READERS …

Thousand islands bridge st lawrence river ontario canada september septembre 2017… of this rubbish might recognise this bridge, because we’ve seen it before.

Back in 2010 in fact when we were on our way to Montreal and then Labrador.

It’s called the Thousand Islands Bridge, because there are a whole load of islands, maybe even a thousand, in the St Lawrence River just around here.

Back then, we saw the bridge from the Great Satan side of the river and you may well be surprised to learn that today, I am once more on the Great Satan side.

And it took all of my self control and restraint to do it too.

This morning I was up some time after the alarm went off and had a few things to do – such as a shower and to have breakfast, and to catch up on yesterday’s paperwork.

By 08:00 I was on my way, exactly as planned – something that surprised even me. I was decanted straight into the morning rush hour, but then that was only to be expected. While it is always a disappointment to be held up like this, I had made due allowance.

Once I’d cleared the rush-hour traffic, which took 50 minutes to clear 10 kilometres, I was able to bowl along quite rapidly.

st zotique st polycarpe st telesphore quebec canada september septembre 2017Flying down Highway 40 I went past several villages that I had previously not noticed.

So which one of these is your favourite village? St Zotique? St Polycarpe? Or St Telesphore? They don’t half have some weird names for some of the villages in Quebec.

But there again, Quebec is a very strange place, as you might already have discovered.

kingston ontario canada september septembre 2017It’s about 350 kilometres from where I was staying to Kingston in Ontario.

And despite having stopped for fuel and a coffee, and taking a little detour around the old canal on the edge of town I was in Kingston for just after 12:00.

That was well in advance of my appointment and so I was able to go for a little walk around the town – and make a decision that it’s one of those places that I will have to come back to visit when I have more time.

sandra cooper strawberry moose kingston ontario canada september septembre 2017And here is Sandra, making the acquaintance of Strawberry Moose.

And while that was going on, let me tell you a story.

My Great Grandfather was a soldier who served in the Wiltshire Regiment in India and South Africa and fought in the Boer War. But some time in the early years of the 20th Century he and his family emigrated to Canada and lived in Montreal.

He enlisted in World War I despite being well over age, and presumably died of wounds because his body is in the Military Cemetery at Mount Royal under a military headstone, despite not dying until the early 1920s.

His wife hated Canada, the cold, and all of that and so as soon as her husband was buried, she was on the next boat back to London.

They had several kids and the youngest kids, one of whom was my grandmother, returned to the UK with their mother.

A couple of the older children were by this time married and they remained behind with their own families. And when I was looking into the military history of my great grandfather I came across Sandra, who is the grand-daughter of one of the older children who remained in Canada.

And so she’s my cousin at several times removed.

As you know, this may well be the last time that I shall be in North America, and I’ve been doing all of the things that I’ve been meaning to do.

Meeting up with Sandra was high on my list, and so here we were, in Kingston, having lunch together and swapping family histories.

After lunch I headed off to Great Satan. And we had the usual border confrontation with a rude, ignorant security guard, who demanded to know what I was laughing at.

They really must trawl the Government Services to find the most unpleasant civil servants, and put them in these immigration booths

However, the guy in the office was quite pleasant and polite, and here I am.

But why am I here? You might well ask.

As I said just now, there are several tasks that I want to perform and several people whom I want to see before I go back to Europe – one person in particular whom I haven’t seen since 2005.

So here I am in the Rodeway Motel on the edge of Syracuse in New York State, conveniently placed on the side of Interstate 81.

From here, Strider, Strawberry Moose and I have about 1,000 miles to go and it’s going to take a couple of days to get there because I’m not able to go as fast as I used to.

It will give him enough time to head for the hills, otherwise he might be getting a surprise visit in two or three days time.

Wednesday 20th September 2017 – HAVING HAD …

… a good night’s sleep in yonder motel last night, it was time to hit the road.

First stop was my little lock-up at Jarry. There, I liberated my electric kettle (coffee is now on the menu in motels) and a few books. I didn’t liberate the slow cooker because I have the one that I bought in Fredericton on my first day out.

And a good plan that was too. Since I’ve been on the road I’ve yet to pay for an evening meal or a breakfast, except on a ferry or in company.

Another thing that I did was to throw away the insulation. I bought a pile of that to insulate the truck cap when I was sleeping in it, but seeing as I no longer do that, it was just in the way, sliding over everywhere and stopping me accessing the things that I needed.

And so that’s gone the Way of the West.

Giving Strider a good clean-out (and putting all but 5 litres of fuel out of the cans into his tank) took me until lunch-time, would you believe.

park st lawrence river montreal quebec canada september septembre 2017And so I headed off down to the riverside, to a little park that I know hidden away in the docks.

It was a beautiful afternoon too and there were crowds of people, including an old couple from Massachusetts who had decided to park diagonally across two parking spaces and who received a piece of my mind.

I found a free table and made my butties for lunch.

john j carrick st lawrence river montreal quebec canada september septembre 2017and my ship truly came in while I was there tucking into the vegan cheese, tomato and lettuce rolls.

Or, rather, my ship truly went out, for here is the John J Carrick heading off downriver.

She’s not a “ship” as such but an oil tank barge with a deadweight of 11800 tonnes. She seems to spend most of her life on the St lawrence not going very far.

toronto express montreal container port quebec canada september septembre 2017Much better luck with this one though. She’s the Toronto Express and she’s parked up in the container terminal next door.

She’s much more like a ship, with e deadweight of 56000 tonnes.

She seems to operate on some kind of circular route, calling at Southampton, Antwerp and Hamburg, and then back to Montreal. And probably knows the way there all by herself too.

Next stop was the Motel, and here we had a calamity. I mean to stay tonight in the Motel La Marquise in the rue Sherbrooke Est in Montreal. It’s a reasonable price for a big city, with free parking and right next door to the Langelier Metro station. All of that is very important.

And so I arrive and … no trace of my booking. Even showing the receptionist the confirmation doesn’t convince her.

But then se notices something, and draws my attention to it. It seems that there’s a motel of exactly that name in Sherbrooke, about 90 minutes away, and Brain of Britain seems to have in error booked himself in there.

I’m not going all that way, I can tell you, so I cancel that booking there and book myself in over the counter here – quite a mistake because the walk-in price is considerably different from the advance booking price.
Josée rang me when her meeting finished, so I hopped next door into the Metro, bought a ticket, and headed out to Snowdon.

We had a coffee and a chat and then went to that Indian restaurant that I know for a meal. The food is really beautiful there and Josée enjoyed it as much as I did.

Les Foufounes Électriques rue st catherine est montreal quebec canada september septembre 2017Josée took me to a bar that she knew in the rue St Catherine – the Foufounes Électriques. It’s one of these rock music bars and apparently one of the “in” places in the city.

And don’t jut take my word for it – the décor is something else here, including that which is on offer in the gentlemen’s rest room.

We watched the football – Montreal Impact were busily beating Toronto 5-3 and, to be quite honest, it was appalling. I’ve made a few derogatory remarks about Major League Soccer in the past and nothing that I saw tonight will change my opinion

And so I came home. I was going to do some work but I gave up and had an early night instead. It’s all beginning to tell on me.

Tuesday 19th September 2017 – HAVING BEEN …

… out like a light during the evening, I found it difficult to drop off to sleep last night. Long after midnight and I was still trying to drop off.

When I finally did drop off, it was a difficult night with tossing and turning and all of that, and it was a struggle to leave the bed when the alarm went off.

But leave the bed I did and after breakfast and a little work on the laptop, I was out on the road by 09:30.

First disappointment was at the docks. There were a couple of big ships in there but there were road works, the bridge across the canal was out of order and, try as I might, I couldn’t find my way out there.

In the end I gave it up as a bad job and headed out of town.

tracel de cap rouge quebec canada september septembre 2017First stop has of course to be our famous Tracel de Cap Rouge out on the edge of town.

Tracel is of course a French word and it’s where the English word “trestle” come from.

And this is probably the most magnificent trestle railway bridge in the whole of North America, even if it is made of iron and not of wood.

cap rouge quebec canada september septembre 2017Cap Rouge is said to be the site of the first permanent settlement in North America.

In an effort to establish themselves in the New World in competition with the Spanish And Portuguese, the French sent colonists here in 1541.

However scurvy and what has been enigmatically described as “deteriorating relations with the natives” led to the surviving settlers being recalled to France.

cap rouge quebec canada september septembre 2017There was a road – the Chemin du Roy – which was the first public highway in Nouvelle France, running between Quebec and Montreal.

I spent a good while over the years tracing its original route although much has been lost to modernisation and coastal erosion.

I never found an original plan of the route, but my assumption is that the road hugged the coast around here, somewhere along the line of tbat footpath.

chemin du roy quebec canada september septembre 2017Like I said, coastal erosion did for a lot of the original route.

You can see here where the official sign (which don’t necessarily follow the route, but never mind) points off to the right, but there’s a nice straight road ahead.

That disappears off down there and comes to a sudden stop at the bank in the bend of a river.

chemin du roy neuville quebec canada september septembre 2017Yes, don’t count on the official signs.

The Chemin du Roy is signposted to follow the highway which is to the left of the photo just here

But when you see the orientation of this traditional Quebec cottage and the pathway that passes in front of it, it’s easy to imagine where the original trace of the Chemin might have been.

football ground neuville quebec canada september septembre 2017One of the things that we do when we are driving around is to look for proper football pitches.

They are quite common these days but when I first started coming to Canada they were few and far between.

This is the first one that I ever noticed – in Neuville – and access to photograph it was always difficult. But today, for some reason, it wasn’t a problem to go down there and photograph it properly.

A little earlier I talked about road alignments along the Chemin du Roy.

possible trace of chemin du roy donnacona quebec canada september septembre 2017The area around Donnacona has been badly hit by coastal erosion and so tracing the original route is quite difficult.

But seeing a house orientated in this fashion with the trace of a track running past the front of a house, it’s easy to imagine where the original course might have been.

And here we had a moment of excitement.

As I pulled up here, I noticed an old guy peeking out at me from his window across the road. And he walked out onto his porch for a closer look.

“Are you having a problem with this?” I shouted across to him. He turned tail and walked back into his house.

rue du station portneuf quebec canada september septembre 2017When you see on an old map a street called “rue du Station”, you have to go to investigate … “well, one of us does” – ed.

I wasn’t expecting much because if you think that the Beeching cuts in the UK were severe, they were absolutely nothing compared to what happened to the railway network in Canada.

There are a few freight lines still operating, but passenger service outside the major cities has gone more-or-less completely. There’s nothing here in the former “rue du Station” to indicate what might have been a railway station.

bombardier auto-neige quebec canada september septembre 2017But this is much more like it, isn’t it?

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have seen one of these before in 2010 when we were in Goose Bay.

And here’s another one – a Bombardier “Auto-Neige” from the late 1930s, I reckon.

It’s for sale too, and if I had room in my suitcase this would be coming back to Europe with me because I think that it’s gorgeous.

ile richelieu deschambault quebec canada september septembre 2017On the two occasions that I’ve been to Deschambault I’ve been soaked with rain and I’ve never been able to photograph the town properly.

One of the places that I came here today to look for was the Ile Richelieu. The navigable channel up the St Lawrence is quite narrow here and there are rocks and rapids and the island was the icing on the cake for any defensive force.

The French built a fort out there on the island to control the passage upriver but a combination of a rolling fog, a very high tide and a strong wind enabled a British fleet to slip by and on to Montreal before the French could bring their guns into action.

hotel de ville deschambault quebec canada september septembre 2017Deschambault regularly appears in lists of the most beautiful villages in Quebec and it’s a listing that isn’t undeserved. That building over there is, believe it or not, the Town Hall

It’s not the only building in the place that’s in that particular “North American ante-bellum” style. The convent (every town worth its salt in Quebec has to have its convent) is also in the same style.

chemin du roy moulin de la chevrotiere quebec canada september septembre 2017In our quest to fill out the missing gaps in the Chemin du Roy I’d seen an old track away by the Moulin de la Chevrotiere that would correspond with what I knew about the original trace of the route

I went to have a look, and I could identify ditches that resembled those that Becancour and Lanouiller – the architects – had specified for the sides of the road, and the stones of the type that they had specified to be placed in the marshy parts of the roadway.

hydro quebec post grondines canada september septembre 2017We are told that at Grondines there’s a huge submarine electric cable that runs underneath the St Lawrence

This takes electricity from the Lower St Lawrence hydro plants (such as the Manic and Outardes complexes) over and into the USA.

There’s no visible trace of the cable from what I’ve been able to find, but this “Hydro Quebec” transmission post just outside the town might give us a clue as to where the cable might disappear into the earth.

windmill grondines quebec canada september septembre 2017If the village of Grondines has any claim to fame, it might be for its windmill.

When a Peace Treaty was signed with the Iroquois and the land was subsequently parcelled out to the local gentry – the Seigneurie System – one of the duties of the Seigneur was to provide a mill for the peasantry to grind their corn.

A water mill wouldn’t be much good on a slow-flowing river because the river would be frozen up for four months per year.

A great many windmills were thus erected by some of the Seigneurs, several of which survive today.

I arrive at Trois Rivieres just in time to be caught in the rush-hour traffic. And seeing as there are major roadworks in the town I reckon that I lose a good hour of my time.

gilles villeneuve museum bertheirville quebec canada september septembre 2017I have to hit the Highway instead and arrive in Berthierville just as the light is starting to go.

Berthierville was the home of Formula One racing driver Gilles Villeneuve and it’s another place that I’ve always managed to miss while I’ve been out and about on my travels.

But today I make a determined effort and actually manage to track it down this year.

notre dame des champs repentigny quebec canada september septembre 2017One last thing to do, and that’s in Repentigny down the road.

That’s to track down the hideously modern Church of Our Lady of the Fields – Notre Dame des Champs.

I’ve absolutely no idea what the designer of the church – Roger D’Astous – must have been smoking when he was drawing up the plans, but he’s managed to produce something that is so hideous that it’s almost attractive.

By now I’m running extremely late and there’s no chance of reaching Montreal tonight. But there’s a motel down the road that’s very tired and very shabby – and also very cheap.

They do me an excellent deal on the room, which is very good news, and I celebrate by having a shower and washing my clothes.

Pasta, mushrooms and tomato sauce make a nice meal, and then I crash out while working on the laptop.

I’m definitely beginning to feel the pace now.

Monday 18th September 2017 – WELL THAT WAS …

… something of a wash-out.

I’d come to Quebec mainly to do some research at the University of Laval, but I abandoned round by lunchtime.

I was going to say that I’d had a good night’s sleep but I’d had a very bad attack of cramp in the night – I’ve been having a few of these again just recently.

So a nice early start with coffee and porridge made in the microwave, and then a pile of paperwork to prepare things. And then I hit the road.

Reaching the University was one thing – finding where I was going was something else. I ended up going up a one way street the wrong way – twice! And through a red traffic light too.

Parking is weird there too – you either pay for an hour or for a day. There’s no in-between., and it isn’t cheap either. I can’t help feeling that there’s someone making an awful lot of money out of parking fees.

In the reception, a couple of helpful people at reception pointed me on my way to the library, and there, a very helpful lady helped me find what I needed – none of this incestuous academia like at Cambridge a few years ago.

Why I was here was in respect of a researcher by the name of Thomas Edward Lee.

An author by the name of James Enterline had written a book in the early 70s with a well-thought-out but very flaky argument about the Norse presence in Ungava Bay in the north of Quebec.

He had quoted Lee as one of his sources, but Lee’s works weren’t in the mainstream. The Centre of Nordic Studies at the University of Laval had funded his research and I had discovered that they till held his thesis.

And so I came here to read it.

And, as I said, it was a disappointment.

Lee, being aware of Enterline’s arguments, succeeds in undermining, if not demolishing them. But his own excavations at Pomiok Island are disappointing.

He’s sure that he has found a Norse Longhouse here, but his conclusions are based on coincidence rather than any hard discovery. The only substantial artefact – a Norse iron axe-head – wasn’t discovered by him but handed to him by an Inuit who had apparently found it many years earlier. And so its provenance could not even be verified.

The net result of all of Lee’s labours that he incited a great deal of discussion amongst his peers, and his funding was stopped.

I wasn’t impressed by his confrontational and polemic style of dialogue either. It struck me as being most un-Academic.

As a result, I decided to abandon my research, thinking that he couldn’t really tell me anything concrete about the Norse presence in Ungava.

At the end of the day, it was difficult to decide how much of Lee’s funding issues had been due to the inconclusive nature of his discoveries, how much was due to the un-academic manner of presentation, and how much was due to the confrontational, polemic style of his debate with his peers

battle of st foy parc des braves quebec canada september septembre 2017Lunch was next on the agenda and so I removed myself to the Parc des Braves.

I had a list of things that needed doing on the north shore of the St Lawrence – a list that has been current since 2013 – and so I decided to attack that.

Especially as the Parc des Braves was included thereupon. I’m not sure how I had managed to miss that out before.

battle of st foy parc des braves quebec canada september septembre 2017If, like me, you were educated in the 1960s you would have received the same kind of Empire-building jingo that I had had.

And we were taught that the UK always won, and came through every test with flying colours.

And the magnificent victory on the Plains of Abraham that General Wolfe had had, which had won French North America for the British crown.

I was even in “Wolfe” House in my primary school.

battle of st foy parc des braves quebec canada september septembre 2017But that is, unfortunately, far from the truth.

It’s certainly true that the British had beaten the French at Quebec and occupied the city, but the fighting was far from over.

A French relief force had set out from Montreal and engaged the British in Battle at Saint-Foy, right where we are standing – and defeated them soundly.

battle of st foy parc des braves quebec canada september septembre 2017The British retreated behind the walls of the Citadel of Quebec and the siege was on.

And had it been a French fleet that had been the first to break through the ice on the St Lawrence in the following Spring to reach the city, not a British one, the History of Quebec would have been very, very different.

And, of course, we were taught nothing about this at school as it didn’t fit in with the image of the Powerful All-Mighty UK (or “England” as we were taught then).

One thing left to do – and that was to go to find the Ursuline Convent – something else that I had spectacularly overlooked when I was here last.

ursuline convent parking issues quebec canada september septembre 2017Finding a parking space was, as usual, the issue in Old Quebec, but we soon come across more of this religious hypocrisy here.

We’ve seen so much of this on our travels – not just in North America – and you’re all probably very tired of me drawing your attention to it.

But whatever happened to the Forgiveness of Sins, or of Turning The Other Cheek, or Giving All That Thou Hast To The Poor.

There’s nothing whatever in the Bible about the towing away of offenders.

ursuline convent quebec canada september septembre 2017The Ursulaines – three of them – came over here in the 1èth Century to give instruction and education to the girls of the city – in the same way that Marguerite Bourgeoys did in Montreal round about the same time.

And the education part is still continuing, as you can tell, because I seem to have arrived round about chucking-out time and there are brats everywhere.

ursuline convent quebec canada september septembre 2017And you can tell what kind of school it is simply by looking at the clothes worn by the girls.

It’s the fashion in North America for exclusive private schools to dress their girls in plaid. And the more plaid, the more exclusive the school.

Here, they are wearing full-length plaid smocks. You don’t get more exclusive than this.

ursuline convent quebec canada september septembre 2017And the mothers picking up their daughters in their expensive Porsche Carreras is another sign of exclusivity too.

Somehow, you get the feeling that here at the Ursuline Convent and the Ursuline School, the message of Jesus Christ has has become extremely distorted.

I bet that Mother Marie of the Incarnation, the original founder of the Institution here in Quebec, is turning in her grave.

city hall quebec canada september septembre 2017When I was here for my mega-ramble in 2012, this particular Square was fenced off and undergoing a great deal of renovation.

I was therefore extremely curious to see what had become of it and so I directed myself here.

And I wasn’t disappointed. They seem to have made a very fine job of it and I was quite impressed. I like the laurels particularly – and the fountain.

On the way back to my motel I stopped off at a “Maxi” Supermarket for some soya milk. And ended up with a few other things too, including Spruce Beer and also some grapes at 89 cents a pound – which didn’t last long.

Back here, another couple was moving in next door and they took quite a liking to Strawberry Moose.

But here’s a thing.

When was the last time that I crashed out? I mean – seriously?

It all caught up with me yesterday afternoon. I started to yawn at about 16:30 and that’s all that I remember until 21:00 when I found myself fully-dressed under the bedclothes with the internet radio blaring away. I was gone for good by the looks of things.

It took me a while to come round, but I still managed to make tea – and then I was gone again.

Mind you, I’m not surprised that it’s caught me up. I’ve been going at quite a pace just recently and something had to give.

Sunday 17th September 2017 – THAT WASN’T …

motel manic 2000 baie comeau quebec canada september septembre 2017… a very successful night at all.

Nothing wrong with the room or with the bed – but there’s a light aluminium porch thing over the door to the room and the force of the torrential downpour that started at about 03:00 and cascading onto the porch put paid to any thoughts that I might have had about sleeping.

But I must have been asleep at some time because I was away on my travels again during the night. We were back with the cars again during the night, and back where we were a while ago with three cars all of which should not have been on the road for one reason or other. One of them was my green Vanden Plas 1300 with its collapsed floor, but worse than that, when you switched on the wipers and the lights, it took five minutes for them to warm up before they would work. And so I set out one evening in the driving rain, switched on the lights and wipers and, as usual, nothing happened. But the rain was teeming down so fast I couldn’t see, so I was obliged to stop at the side of the road. And with no lights, this was an extremely dangerous thing to do. It put the wind up me so much that once we were on our way I rolled it down the hill into town and left it there, and walked back to tell everyone what I had done. It hit me only then that leaving the car there with no tax, people are bound to notice it and if I go down to retrieve my possessions later, someone is likely to call the police to say that I’m stealing things, and this is all going to become very uncomfortable.

I was out of the motel fairly promptly and down the road in the direction of Forestville.

forestville quebec canada september septembre 2017The road down to the shore was closed for repair and so a diversion was posted.

And thanks to the diversion I discovered much more about the town. There were parts of the town that I certainly didn’t know existed – such as the church which I hadn’t seen before.

It’s a much bigger town than I ever thought before.

But here I had a disappointment.

There’s a ferry across the St Lawrence from here to Rimouski and it’s one that I haven’t taken before. But I won’t be able to take it today.

Today is the day that it changes schedule from three crossings per day instead of two, and the 11:30 crossing was cancelled. Next sailing is at 17:30 and I have far too much to do to wait around.

Instead, I went to the supermarket which was open for some more salad stuff and the like – stocks are running low here.

les escoumins quebec canada september septembre 2017Next stop on the road was at Les Escoumins.

I’ve driven through here on several occasions but I’ve never actually stopped for a look around. And this was something that I was hoping to put right today.

And so instead of the new main road, I took the older road that runs into town.

cross headland les escoumins quebec canada september septembre 2017Despite the miserable, depressing wet weather, I went out to the headland at the mouth of the river.

The cross that is there is quite significant. It relates to an event that took place in the early 17th Century when the earliest Christian missionaries arrived here amongst the Innu.

They found that a cross had already been erected on this spot. How it had come to be here was a mystery.

It is known that Jacques Cartier, on his voyages here in the 16th Century, erected crosses wherever he landed on the shore, but there was no record of his having placed one here.

les escoumins quebec canada september septembre 2017From where we had parked there was an excellent view across the bay to the town.

Or, at least, there would have been had the weather not been so gruesome.

But thinking on, I’d been lucky with the weather up to date. I can only remember one other day of miserable weather when I’ve been on my travels – that day in Western Newfoundland.

new road alignment les escoumins quebec canada september septembre 2017On the western edge of the town, the road has been realigned too.

You can see where the modern alignment goes, off up there to the right. The older alignment is over there to the left.

And I remember that we have been up there on one occasion and took a photograph of the view back down here. And the weather was much better then too.

waterfall river les escoumins quebec canada september septembre 2017There was just one more place to visit, and that was out at the back of town.

There’s a waterfall here and that’s quite attractive, but back in the olden days there was a mill here that made use of the water power.

The river is an important salmon river and so there was a salmon ladder and all that kind of thing here but since the mill has gone, so has everything else.

The river has reverted to its natural state.

saguenay ferry quebec canada september septembre 2017No prizes for guessing where I am now.

I didn’t get my ferry crossing across the St Lawrence earlier, and so that means that I get the ferry crossing across the entrance to the Saguenay Fjord.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have crossed over on this ferry on several previous occasions.

saguenay ferry quebec canada september septembre 2017And so we all pile aboard and await the signal to be off. The ship that we are sailing on is the Jos Deschenes.

Owned by the Quebec government, she was named after a Montreal taxi-driver who refused to accept a couple of English-speaking tourists and made them walk to the airport.

For this major act of defiance, he was honoured by the Quebec authorities.

saguenay fjord quebec canada september septembre 2017You are probably wondering why there isn’t a bridge across here these days, seeing that bridges have been erected almost everywhere else.

The fact is that the fjord is an important shipping lane and if you were with us in April 2012 as we drove up the fjord, you would have seen the sizeof the ships that go up there

And the site here is so constrained that it’s not possible for any bridge built here to have sufficient clearance for the larger ships to pass underneath.

st simeon quebec canada september septembre 2017I’m running incredibly late for my lunch. It’s well after 14:00 now in fact.

I’m heading for the docks at St Simeon – that’s my preferred lunch stop today. And as I round one of the bends in the road, I can see it over there.

And unless I’m very much mistaken, the weather seems to be clearing. If I’m not careful, I might even find the rain stopping in a moment.

st simeon quebec canada september septembre 2017We’ve been here a few times, as regular readers of this rubbish might recall. We’ve even stayed here a few times in the past.

There’s a beautiful quayside here with an excellent view of the town and it’s just the ideal place for me to sit and eat my butties.

I was right about the weather. The rain has eased off, but there’s still a roaring wind and there’s quite a rough sea running.

ship of the day st lawrence quebec canada september septembre 2017Talking of seas, when was the last time that we had a Ship of the Day? Goose Bay and the Fairlane if I remember correctly.

But today, steaming … “dieseling” – ed …down the St Lawrence towards the open sea we have an ideal candidate.

She’s too far out for me to read the name, which is a pity, but with the telephoto lens I can pull out a really good shot of her as she goes by.

port au persil quebec canada september septembre 2017On the way back round again I take a diversion off Highway 138 to go to visit the sleepy little village of Port au Persil.

I’d passed briefly through here on one of my many trips through the Charlevoix but I’d never actually stopped for a look around.

This was another one of the things that I wanted to put right today, even though the weather was not on my side.

port au persil quebec canada september septembre 2017While I was walking around the old harbour, I fell in with a couple of English people who had come here in a hire car from Toronto. We had a little chat while I admired the view of the little harbour.

I was right about the view of the place too. It’s a really pretty little village even in the miserable weather.

And I was lucky that the photos actually came out so well given the conditions. They could have been much worse than this.

By the time that I’d done the lap around the back of the Charlevoix, the weather had improved dramatically.

My first stop was at Baie St Paul, because, as regular readers of this rubbish might recall, we’d come here last time and witnessed a large building burning to the ground.

I was keen to see what had happened to the site.

hotel le germain baie st paul quebec canada september septembre 2017In actual fact, the site has been cleared and a huge hotel complex, the Hotel Le Germain, has been built on the site.

It’s an incredibly upmarket hotel by the looks of things – you can tell this from the noise that the hotel makes about its “free parking” – as if that’s something of a novelty.

Which it probably is in a hotel of this style.

And by the looks of things, the Charlevoix tourist train makes a call here too.

quayside baie st paul quebec canada september septembre 2017I’m actually looking for the sea – or rather river-front.

I’ve never actually made it to here and that’s another thing that I wanted to do, because I have a special reason for being here

But first, we can sit here and admire the beautiful day, because the weather has now changed dramatically and I’m in shirt sleeves now.

abandoned goelette baie st paul quebec canada september septembre 2017And this is the reason why I’m here.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that when we were here in April 2012 we had seen an abandoned goelette beached here.

We’d tried to reach it back then, but we were confounded by a high tide and a running river.

abandoned goelette baie st paul quebec canada september septembre 2017But this year, I’ve timed my arrival correctly and found another was across the dunes and the river.

And it looks as if my efforts are only just in time. Because there’s not all that much of her left.

Even in the five and a half years since I was here last, she’s taken some battering and there’s not all that much of her left.

abandoned goelette baie st paul quebec canada september septembre 2017Goelettes were small but very sturdy sailing cargo ships (although this one seems to have been motorised) and carried out the coastal trade along the St Lawrence.

The road network is comparatively recent in eastern Quebec and the only way to move about back in those days was by sea.

There were dozens, if not hundreds, of these goelettes going up and down the river from port to port delivering goods and transporting people, but today there wan’t behalf a dozen left.

cap tourmente quebec canada september septembre 2017Climbing over Cap Tourmente towards Quebec there’s the most incredible view behind me of a hanging cloud hovering over the valley where Baie St Paul is situated.

There’s too much traffic for me to leave the vehicle to photograph it, but by judicious use if the hard shoulder and the rear-view mirror I do the best that I can.

And I’m quite pleased about how this has turned out.

Just one more photograph before we arrive in Quebec City.

diesel multiple unit charlevoix tourist railway quebec canada september septembre 2017It’s quite out of focus and distorted but it was taken though the windscreen of a moving Strider of an object moving towards up in wicked light.

But it’s really quite an exciting photograph because it’s a diesel multiple-unit heading towards us on the Charlevoix Tourist Line.

So what’s happening here then? This isn’t what I was expecting to see at all.

motel l'aigle d'or quebec canada september septembre 2017Due to the loss of light and confusion at the road works, I’m at the wrong motel in Quebec.

This is the first one that I ever visited and where the story about Quebec showers comes from.

Nothing has changed either, and we even have the same landlady. But she’s done me an excellent price for the two nights that I’m staying here and there’s a fridge and a microwave in the room.

What with one thing and another, I’ve not yet bought an evening meal since I’ve been on the road. With the slow cooker for when there’s no microwave, I’ve been self-catering for all the time that I’ve been here.

And isn’t that a pleasant change?

Friday 15th September 2017 – I’M BACK …

… on the road again today. My stay around the Coasts of Labrador has come to an end.

But I still remember a huge, mixed-up kind of ramble during the night where I was going around all of these little settlements and cabins out on the coast.

And that’s surprising because I had yet another bad night’s sleep. Like I say, they come in cycles … “ON cycles, you mean” – ed … and we’re in one right now.

So after breakfast and sorting myself out, I took my leave of my landlord and went to find the offices of “Them Days”. That’s a magazine that publishes traditional stories about the Labrador coast.

As you know, I’m still looking for the grave of the most famous man in Labrador. It’s here in the Happy Valley Cemetery, but that’s huge and I couldn’t find it the other day.

Much to my surprise they didn’t know where it was either. But a few ‘phone calls later and I was told “he’s in the United Church Cemetery” part”, which of course is the biggest part of the cemetery.

So after an hour, and with the help of a very vocal local yokel, we came up unsuccessful. But there was a phone number there so I called it. And much to my surprise, the woman there didn’t know where he was either.

But it did lead to an interesting conversation. She asked my name – which I duly gave.
“Eric Hall? Let me see – you were in church on Sunday weren’t you?”
Our Hero – “did you see a thunderbolt then?”.
Anyway she promised to phone me back (and Josée’s phone is a godsend on this trip).

grave of gilbert blake happy valley cemetery labrador canada september septembre 2017While she was making “further enquiries” I continued to search, and all of a sudden I came across it.

I missed it because I was probably expecting something much grander, seeing how his name was on everyone’s lips as the most famous man in Labrador 100 years ago.

Here then lies Gilbert Blake, the man who rescued the remains of the disastrous Leonidas Hubbard party and who accompanied Mina Hubbard on her trip into the interior to complete her husband’s work.

Ha also led countless subsequent exploring parties into the interior of Labrador and was never given credit for much of what was “discovered”.

The lady from the Church phoned me back to say where it was, and to my dismay, I had to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I spoke to Gilbert Blake’s daughter. If you would like to see her to chat, she’s available”.

But it’s 550 kms to Labrador City and it has to be done before dark. I was obliged to turn down the opportunityand I doubt that I will ever have the possibility again.

aeroplane in garden goose bay happy valley labrador canada september septembre 2017Usually, this rubbish is littered with photos of old cars in people’s gardens. But we’ve never had a photo of a garden with an old aeroplane in it.

I’ve no idea what it is, but it’s small, an early jet-fighter type of plane, and it won’t ever fly again this side of a miracle.

Labrador is certainly a different place from that respect. Nothing ordinary here.

muskrat falls labrador canada september septembre 2017Having fuelled up, I hit the road. About an hour later than I was intending.

About 20 miles outside the town there’s a cleft in the hills where you can see down to the works that are taking place at Muskrat Falls.

As I’ve said before, I’m not going into the rights and wrongs of the project – enough has already been said – but anyone who saw the photos of my first trip to Labrador will seethings differently now.

trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017So off we go down the Trans-Labrador Highway into the interior.

And you’ll notice that it’s not quite autumn yet. The leaves on the deciduous trees haven’t “turned”

And you’ll notice a few changes to the highway too since we first came here. You’ll remember what a struggle it was over some of the worst roads in the world.

Today, it’s an asphalted, paved highway all the way to Labrador City.

churchill river labrador canada september septembre 2017With all of the work going on for the Muskrat falls project, a lot of trees have been removed and rock blasted away.

This opens up a whole new vista – views like this one of the Churchill River would never have been possible 10 years ago had they not blasted away some rock to put in a pylon to carry the cables.

You can see where the evergreen trees have been pulled out, and the first growth of deciduous arctic willow that is growing back in its place.

innu meeting place trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017It’s that time of year, isn’t it?

In a week or so’s time it will be the annual tribal meeting of the Innu people, and they are preparing the site ready for the gathering.

I would ordinarily tell you what it’s called, but the problem with Innu names that it’s quite something to read them, never mind remember them.

I talked about the road just now. The one that we are actually on is the third attempt.

It dates from about 2011 – 2012 and it follows pretty closely in most places the line of the second road that we took in 2010.

tote road trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017The earlier road is what they called the “Tote Road” and dates from the period after the occupation of the Goose Bay air base by the Canadian Air Force.

If you thought that we had a struggle in places back in 2010, you can barely imagine what it must have been like in the 1970s.

The road was 10 times worse, single track, and following the contours rather than being graded across the valleys and though cuttings.

trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017But regardless of your opinions, you’ll have to admit that they have done an excellent job of the new highway.

You can see it (and the power transmission cables) disappearing away over the hill in the distance, and it goes on for ever in just this kind of condition.

On the old dirt road, with the 70kph speed limit, in some places it was more like 70 kilometres per week. Here today, it’s a mere 80 kph but with no obstructions to slow you down.

But you slow down every now and again to take a few photos.

fore damaged forest trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017You’ve seen the scenery before but I bet that you’ve seen nothing like this.

There are miles and miles of forest where it seems that we have had a major forest fire fairly recently. You cans ee that some of the trees are scorched and blackened, and others have been completely destroyed

The whole of the place is littered with miles and miles of scenery just like this.

emeril station trans labrador highway canada september septembre 2017About 80 or so kms (I can’t remember now) from Labrador City I pull into Emeril Station to see what’s happening.

This is on the line from Sept Iles to Schefferville and serves the iron mines and the Innu community out there.

We have a line of wagons waiting for a locomotive, and also this dismantled dumper lorry – one of the huge 50-tonne ones- waiting to make their way north.

But I don’t see any locomotives, although I can hear a whistle away in the distance on the line to Wabush and Labrador City.

autumn colours trans labrador highway canada september septembre 201750 kilometres or so outside Labrador City, we can see that autumn has finally arrived here.

We’re deep in the interior now, and on the north-facign slopes exposed to the arctic conditions, they will be the first to catch the cold air.

Not quite the brilliant colours we are used to, but we are a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year.

Before I had left Happy Valley, my landlord had given me an address for B&B in Labrador City. I phoned her (thanks again, Josée) and she did indeed have a room free.

It took some finding with the roadworks but it was worth the effort. Not only was it the best place where I’ve stayed, it was also, believe it or not, the cheapest. I’ll be coming back here again, that’s for sure.

And hats off to Strider. He struggles on fuel as you know, but since he’s had his overdrive fixed, he seems to be a little better.

So much so that instead of the maximum 420-km distance that he seemed in the past to be able to travel, we’ve just come a mammoth 542.7 kilometres and although he’s below a quarter of a tank, the orange light hasn’t come on.

It is a good road these days – 80kph with the cruise control on all the way – and it’s still not what I would like, but it’s a vast improvement all the same and Strider can be proud of himself.