TUESDAY 16 August
A popup camper boondocking on the isthmus as seen from the freshwater lake side in the early morning light and mist.
Well, today turned out differently than originally planned but we are, if nothing else, willing to be flexible with our plans when we need to be. We were supposed to be at the Bellevue Beach Campground for two nights. In checking the weather last night, and again first thing this morning, it looked like if we stayed another night, we would be breaking camp, hooking up, driving, unhooking, and making camp in the rain tomorrow morning. But if we left today, we could do all of those things without the rain. The weather at Bellevue Beach had also turned cloudy overnight and we actually awoke to fog on the lake and hills, so the idea of driving 5 hours round trip to visit Bonavista and Elliston (Puffins!) seemed even less appealing than it did before. Getting to our next campground a day early also meant we would have an extra, full day to explore the St. John’s area, where there were lots of things to see and do, even in the rain if necessary.
The Isthmus in the early morning light and mist.
A decision had to be made, but we don’t like to make decisions on an empty stomach, so we had our usual morning coffee and then avocado toast for breakfast. This decision also required information, namely, could we get into the Pippy Park Campground a day early AND snag the same site we already had booked for the following five nights? I called the campground and the answer was … yes! Earliest check-in time was 1 PM, and the Park was only about 1-1/4 hours’ drive time, but we did not have to be there right at 1 PM, so no rush. We went for a walk around the RV portion of the campground and then along the beach on the ocean side of the isthmus.
A green ground cover plant with hints of red and orange. A sign that fall is just around the corner here in Bellevue Beach, Newfoundland?
We saw a bird yesterday (a black headed gull of some kind) on the beach that did not try to move when I approached it so I presumed it was injured or ill. I photographed it but did not include the photo in yesterday’s blog. The tide was in compared to our walk yesterday, but the bird was still there, just above the water line. It was dead, lying on its back (it was upright when we saw it yesterday) and something had started to eat the underside. I couldn’t tell the order of events, but the end had come for this creature. I felt bad for it, and hoped it hadn’t suffered too much or for too long, but nature is harsh that way.
A fireweed plant against a bright green fir backdrop. A common sight while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground RV loop.
By the time we finished our walk it was almost 11:30 AM. Without rushing, we started preparing for our departure. The process went smoothly (we really like our arrival and departure lists). We were ready to go by 12:30 PM, but it was closer to 12:45 pm by the time we pulled through the gate and out onto Hwy 201 (Main St.). On the way out, we let the campground know that we were leaving early to avoid weather and that our site was available. We did not ask for a refund.
The entire trip, except for short distances at each end, was on the Trans-Canada Highway. The T-CH in this part of Newfoundland is a really good road and we rolled along at 100 km/hr without interruption and only an occasional slowdown to 70 km/hr at intersections with other secondary highways or developed areas. As we got closer to St. John’s it became a limited access, 4-lane divided highway, but we also picked up more traffic.
We also saw a lot of this grass plant while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground and isthmus. It happily joins the fireweed behind in this open patch of the woods.
In spite of the fact that we were headed south and east towards the North Atlantic Ocean, the terrain continued to be quite hilly, with many long grades. Again, this part of Newfoundland reminded us of the terrain up towards L’Anse-aux-Meadows at the tip of the western peninsula; rocky hills with shorter flora and lots of “ponds.” (Some of what they call “ponds” here would definitely be called “lakes” back home.)
As we approached St. John’s, we got an alarm beep on our Tireminder TPTMS for the trailer tires with an indication of “leaking.” That’s not something we ever want to see, but we have the system for a reason. (A similar system is built-in to the F-150.) I kept a close eye on the pressures and did not see a leak taking place. I also checked the temperatures and they seemed normal for the ambient temperature, cloud cover, and road conditions. The ambient temperature had dropped from the mid-70s to the mid-60’s, which would cause a minor reduction in pressure. We had also been traversing relatively high elevation terrain and were starting to work our way down in altitude. Again, this would cause a minor drop in pressure. The pressure in all four of the tires, as well as the spare, had dropped a little, but not in an unexpected way, and the drops were consistent across all the tires. The readings were stable, so I suspect it was a false alarm, perhaps triggered by the cold inflation pressures being slightly lower than when we started the trip back in mid-June and set the alarm thresholds. The pressures are still more than sufficient for proper tire function.
We arrived at the Pippy Park entrance gate / registration booth just before 2 PM. Linda had us registered and moving to our site (#149) in short order (W3W=”line.toddler.march”), a pull-through, 3-way/50A with Wi-Fi. At -52.730… W longitude, this is the farthest east we have every driven or camped. Indeed, St. John’s is the easternmost city in North America, but not the easternmost point of land.
The site had an uphill slope as we pulled in, but I could see that there was a section that looked to be flat and level. I was able to position the trailer fairly easily so that it was level, side-to-side, less than one inch high, front-to-back, and with the truck aligned so we could put the tongue jack down and easily disconnect the truck from the 3P hitch. We think this was the first site we have had on this trip that was level, side-to-side, and also the closest to level, front-to-back. We like it when that happens.
Even without having to level, it took us until 3:30 PM to make camp and finally sit down to a late lunch of southwestern vegetable soup and crackers with crunchy peanut butter. This was because of some additional tasks that we do not normally do.
One of those was to drain the fresh water tank and refill it (to 50% capacity) along with a very dilute bleach mixture (Camco freshening agent). Pippy Park is a municipal campground set in a much larger municipal park, and the water here is municipal, so fully treated. Just what we needed to refresh our on-board water supply. I like to keep the fresh water tank at 50% capacity (about 20 gallons) to keep some weight low over the trailer axles, but also in case we find ourselves stopped somewhere unexpectedly without hookups.
The tap already had a pressure regulator, so I did not use ours and just moved the hose over to the shore water connection. I also did not use the filter or softener. That simplified our usual setup quite a bit, and will shorten our departure routine by 15 – 20 minutes. The water pressure was the best we have seen on this trip. I went ahead and connected the drain hose for the waste water tanks while it wasn’t raining. Last, but not least, I got the VIAIR air-compressor kit out of its storage tub in the bed of the truck in anticipation of checking the trailer & truck tires manually and adjusting them. I didn’t do that today, as the tires need to be at ambient temperature, but I will before we leave here.
Pippy Park Campground is very nice, which is to say, it’s very much to our taste. It’s a good-sized place, but only a small part of a much larger urban park. Most of the sites are on loops through thick woods, and are back-in with water/septic/electric(15/30A), but they also have space for tents . Each site is surrounded by forest on three sides and affords a lot of privacy. Our site was in the section of the campground that has full-service pull-through sites with 50A electrical and Wi-Fi. The sites are out in the open, but well-spaced and the entire section is surrounded by trees. It’s been described as “like a state park with a really nice RV park.” We agreed with that description and were happy with our site.
After having had no usable Internet access at Bellevue Beach, even from our smartphones, we were anxious to see how good the Park Wi-Fi was. We connected our various devices to the system, which is password protected, and it was amazing!!! Response times and data rates appeared to be on a par with what we get from our xFinity broadband service at home and we were able to update numerous apps on our tablets and smartphones very quickly. I started my computer, logged in to our WordPress website, and assembled/published the blog post for yesterday in about 15 minutes.
We have put 5,264 miles on the F-150 since we pulled out of our driveway on June 15th, a combination of towing and touring, and the odometer currently reads 31,544 miles. The service interval for the oil is 10,000 miles, but we’ve been towing in mountains and I would like to get the oil changed while we are in St. John’s. I searched for Ford dealers in town and Cabot Ford Lincoln came up. It was also relatively close to our campground, so that was a bonus. I tried to call them, but just got shuffled around through an automated menu system. All I wanted to know was if I had to make an appointment, or did they have “quick lane” service for oil changes? I left a message with the automated receptionist, but did not get a return phone call. In fact, a listing also came up for a Quick Lane business located at the exact same address, so I wanted to know if that was part of the dealership. I clicked the website link and got the master website for this franchise. I gave it my City and Province and it said there were no Quick Lane locations here. Arrrgh. I will probably drive to the Ford dealership tomorrow morning and see if I can sort something out in person.
Since St. John’s is an actual city (as opposed to a town or village), Linda checked Happy Cow to see if there were any vegan restaurants here. Veggie/vegan places often pop up, but pure vegan restaurants are rare. And when we find one, it’s usually near a college or university, and a bit of funky place. In this case, one vegan restaurant popped up; Peaceful Loft. And it was downtown, not near the local university. The last time we ate at a sit-down restaurant was last month at Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Café in the Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia, and that was actually counter service.
We were both feeling much better, and well enough to go out for dinner, so we headed out around 6 PM with the restaurant address in the F-150 navigation system. The fastest/shortest route took us past Memorial University and then through an extensive neighborhood of beautiful homes, some of them very large, before yielding to a more urban setting of colorful row house arrayed on streets that ran every which way and intersected in unusual ways. These are known as the “jelly bean” houses because of the way they are painted. Those houses, in turn, gave way to a business district, which is where we found the Peaceful Loft among other Chinese restaurants. The whole trip took 20 minutes and the closer we got to the restaurant the more it reminded us of San Francisco, California. St. John’s is built on and around large hills, some of which have steep slopes, and roads tend to go directly from here to there. It was all very cool, and quite a departure from our experiences in Newfoundland thus far.
The Peaceful Loft had a nice vibe. It was run by an older couple, husband and wife, who were originally from Macau. He handled the front of the house (customers and phone orders) and she did the cooking. He was very gracious and kept apologizing for how long things were taking. He tried to talk us out of the vegan Abalone, telling us it was “too expensive and tastes like seafood.” We assured him that it was not a problem; we wanted to try new things, and actually appreciated and enjoyed not being rushed through our meal.
L-2-R, our two main dishes, Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice, and our sauces.
The menu was extensive, but before we were allowed to order, we were served hot tea, soup, and three sauces. All of the sauces were home-made daily, and we sampled them while waiting. If the tea or sauces got low, they were promptly refilled. We ordered spring rolls for an appetizer, and two main dishes: Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice. Oh, my goodness, the food was amazing. There were only seven other diners while we were there, and we were able to interact with the proprietor quite a bit, which made the meal all the more memorable. He boxed up the leftovers for us, and we will get another entire meal out of them. He included two oranges for later. We told him we would probably be back on Saturday, and he suggested we get there before 5 PM as they get busy after that and wait times increase. Fair enough.
The F-150 navigation system took us back to Pippy Park pretty much the reverse of how it got us downtown. We knew there were TV stations in St. John’s, so Linda turned on the TV and scanned for channels. It found two: the CBC and Canada’s Superstation. We watched a few minutes of Jeopardy and turned it off. As much as we watch TV, and stream programs at home, we haven’t really missed it while traveling.
An update photo of the barn project (photo by Keith).
During the evening I received a text message from Keith (the lawn care guy) with a photo of the barn. The roof is on, the gable overhangs are framed out, and the concrete floor is poured. Notice the interior wall that is going up on the right-hand side towards the rear. This is the front wall of the workshop. There will be a storeroom on top of the workshop. The envelope around these two rooms will be fully insulated.