With a bit of trepidation about finding a place to get fuel on Route 104 we left Linwood Harbour Campground and the Cape Breton area on our way to Prince Edward Island, or as it is commonly referred to, PEI. I had done a little research beforehand and was reasonably sure that there was an Irving truckstop in Aulac just around where we would be taking the road to the bridge. We stopped at the “truckstop” about halfway that has plenty of area for trucks and RVs to pull in but no diesel lanes big enough for us. While at this fuel tease I asked a trucker about Aulac and he confirmed that I would be able to get fuel there and shared my frustration with the lack of places off the highway on 104 for big rigs to fuel up.
Sure enough we were able to get fuel in Aulac and I felt better about making the assault on PEI. Route 16 is the road that takes you to the bridge. We encountered a couple of crews patching the many potholes on the road. The entire fifteen miles or so was incredibly bumpy. We could only imagine what might be occurring inside the fifth wheel.
After the kidney-jarring ride up 16 the Confederation Bridge came into view. Before the bridge was built in 1993 a trip to PEI required the use of the ferry. The Confederation Bridge is eight miles long and considered the longest bridge in the world over waters that freeze. The bridge is one lane in either direction. A breakdown of any kind would constitute a small disaster. The deck of the bridge sits anywhere from thirty to fifty feet above the water, but jersey barriers on each side make the ride much less intimidating.
We made our way across the bridge and onto the mainland and began our trip to Twin Shores RV Park which is in the north central part of the island. The GPS decided that we should visit several back roads through farm after farm. It was readily apparent that a majority of the land on PEI is farmland. The farms stretch as far as the eye can see. For the remainder of our trip we would enjoy the views of the farmland on our travels across the island.
We finally hit the town of Kensington where our RV park was located. As we turned onto Lower Darnley Rd about four miles from our destination we could see the RV park in the distance and the mass of RVs sitting on the point of Darnley Basin. As we approached we started to get a sense the size of the park. The park is divided into two parts with the North side having the general store, the café and many other amenities. That side has more treed sites and leads to a large beach on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The opposite side has more open sites and includes the arcade, soccer and softball fields, and sits on Darnley Basin and the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the other.
We had a very spacious site in the lower section very close to the basin. It is striking the amount of open space that exists in the park. The park has close to 800 sites and on any given day there could be 5,000 people staying in the park. The evidence of the abundance of people is the amount of kids on bikes making their way all over the park. You had to be very careful while driving because could come out of anywhere at any time.
The day we arrived it was sunny and fairly hot. Given that we were staying for ten days we decided to put up our screenhouse. The screenhouse is a Clam, which means there are no loose poles or other instruments to put together. It pops up all in one piece in less than a minute and then gets staked down inside and out. I normally do not use the exterior stakes. Besides the easy set-up, the Clam claims to be able to withstand gale force winds. That would be tested during this stay.
As early as that evening the winds started getting steadier and stronger. We were supposed to get some heavy rains along with the winds, but I was confident that the Clam would survive. I decided to stake down a couple of the exterior corners with cord just in case. As the night grew on the winds were stronger and stronger and the gusts seemed more frequent. I bit more worried, I went out at around 6 a.m. and not only tied off the remaining corners, but also tied off the straps that are used to pull out the sides when you are setting up the tent.
For the rest of the morning after the heavy rains began we watched as the Clam was bent almost in half. The Clam had been through a couple of storms in Florida, but I had never seen the tent in danger of collapsing. I thought it might be less vulnerable if I lowered the point of the roof so I went out and pulled the roof down in the middle just as I would when taking it down to pack away. This took a bit of pressure off the tent but also filled the roof with water, which I later had to bail out in order to get the roof back up into position. After another day of strong winds, I decided to take the Clam down for the duration of our stay.
On Sunday morning I was following my morning ritual and made a cup of coffee with the Kuerig. I then went to the refrigerator to get the half and half and look for something to make for breakfast. The refrigerator was dark. I went through the normal checks; breakers, fuses etc. My fear was that the refrigerator was completely dead. Eileen called the office and asked if there was an RV technician on staff. The office said that they would send someone out to see if they could help.
After quite a while a gentleman showed up in a golf cart. Trevor worked for the park and lived in a seasonal unit in the park during the summer. He lived locally in Summerside. He was a very interesting guy. His father owns a small RV dealership in the area but he no longer works for his father. He is the President of the National RV Association, drives a school bus during the school year and does RV work on the side. He is a jack of all trades in the park. He said he was officially in charge of customer relations but that did not save him from doing the occasional overnight security shift.
It took Trevor less than twenty minutes to diagnose the problem. The plug for the refrigerator was fried and needed to be replaced. Getting to that plug was difficult and required removing the drawer under the oven and the bottom drawer in the set of drawers between the oven and the refrigerator. Trevor was a big man and I knew the struggle as I had to get to that same point when the valve for the water line running to the refrigerator had to be turned on.
We ran an extension cord from the a GFI outlet near the refrigerator and plugged the refrigerator into it so that we had power. Trevor said that he would grab a plug and be back in a couple of days when he had a chance to replace the plug.
Living with a couple of drawers out and an extension cord for a couple of days was significantly better than having no refrigerator, or worse, needing an expensive repair or a new refrigerator on top of that.
Our refrigerator debacle put aside temporarily we decided to get back to enjoying our trip. Our first day trip was a visit to the capital of PEI, Charlottetown. Charlottetown is located on an inner harbor off the Northumberland Strait on the edge of the eastern third of the island. It was originally called Port La Joye when the French sent a party from the Fortress at Louisbourg to settle the area in 1720. Later the British took the port and the island in the Seven Year War. The port was then called Charlottetown in honor of Queen Charlotte the wife of King George III. The main street in the town is appropriately called Queen St.
There seems to be some amusing disagreement among Eastern Canadians whether it is a city or town. We have found that there is a healthy and fun competition among the Atlantic provinces and some slight jealousy and mild resentment of Nova Scotia who sees itself as the original and most developed of the Atlantic provinces. In the pecking order of Atlantic provinces and their people the order seems to be Nova Scotia on top followed by New Brunswick, PEI and New Foundland/Labrador at the bottom. Newfoundland/Labrador and its people seem to be the butt of good-natured ribbing by the rest of the inhabitants of the region.
City or town, we found Charlottetown to be a bustling and vibrant area with many historical sites, plenty of shopping and restaurants, and an apparently thriving arts scene. The Confederation Center and the Musee’ Art seemed to be the hub. Charlottetown also has a small but beautiful convention center. There is an obvious pride in the city and on the island concerning PEI’s role as the host of the historical meetings in the 1860’s that led to the confederation of the separate areas into what is now Atlantic Canada and in 1867 the establishment of Canada. PEI bills itself as the “Birthplace of the Confederation”.
We stopped at The Mechantman Seafood and Oyster Bar and sat on the patio to have lunch. It was a bit windy but we couldn’t resist sitting outside on the beautiful day. We had a great lunch and watched as the police cornered a drifter nearby who had been harassing passers-by for money. Lunch and sideshow – what a deal. Who says this isn’t a city?
The reasonably small but eclectic harbor is a colorful and active place. There are small shops and places to get all kinds of food. There is also a small square where people sit and enjoy their food and company while taking in local musicians. We sat for a time and listened to a trio that was very entertaining.
We stopped in a small shop selling all things Irish on our way through town and met two young Irishmen who had just been sent over from the motherland by the owners of the shop to run the place until the owners could arrive. They seemed right at home and were selling us on a Ceilidh that was happening in town that day or the next at which they would be performing. These two definitely had the gift of the Irish.
On the way to Charlottetown we had not only enjoyed the view of the omnipresent farmland, but I mentioned to Eileen how many small and architecturally interesting churches we had come across in Atlantic Canada. At some point in the future I would like to write a book, probably a coffee-table book, on the churches of Atlantic Canada. What a great excuse for spending another summer up here in the near future. We actually stopped at almost every church on our way back and took a picture of each.
I had seen on the park map that there was a driving range in the park. I decided to find it. I expected a small area with some scuffed dirt. To my surprise the range was a very large grassy area that looked out over the Gulf. There were six or seven very well-maintained hitting pads with adjustable tees. The last yards marker said 250 yards. Later I would see that there was almost another 100 yards of land before the gulf. Given the wind constantly coming in off the gulf, Dustin Johnson could not hit a ball in the water at this spot. Besides that day, I hit the range two more times. What a luxury to have the range right in the park.
PEI is known for its golf courses. I did a little research to find a course to play. Most of the really nice courses were way out of my price range. I enjoy golf and my game is improving a bit since I have been able practice and play more regularly, but I will not pay more than sixty or seventy dollars a round with a cart. Most of the nice courses were definitely more than that and some were well over 100 dollars. In addition, many of the nice courses on PEI are links courses built in the tradition and style of the Scottish courses. Anyone who struggles hitting off hills, where the ball is either above or below your feet, should shy away from links courses or take a valium before play.
I found a beautiful and reasonably difficult nine-hole course that allowed replays for only ten dollars. That is my kind of course. I travelled the backroads, two actually dirt and gravel roads, to get there. The first hole was approximately 220 yards from an elevated tee. It was a visually beautiful hole. The green was small and sat behind a small pond that extended almost all the way across the front of the green. You could either hit a driver and possibly miss the green long and search for your ball in the brush or hit a 3 wood and hope to carry the pond and land on the green if it was straight. I decided to hit a 3 wood. It was straight but only went about 190 yards hit the ground and rolled into the pond. Encouraged by hitting it straight I tried it again with the same result. Deciding not to have a Tin Cup moment I smartly dropped in front of the pond and chipped on. Not an auspicious start. Thankfully I settled down after that debacle and had an enjoyable round. And I decided to lay up on the second time around.
The next day we decided to visit the Cavendish area and PEI National Park. The Cavendish area was just recovering from one of the largest music festivals in Canada that occurs each July. This year’s headliner for the four-day event was Luke Bryan. Thousands had descended on the area just days before swamping area hotels and campgrounds. I am sure that many people in our park that weekend had attended as well. We drove the hour to PEI National Park and sought out the lookout area.
When we entered the area there were about ten cars and trucks in the parking lot. We made our way out to one of the lookouts to take some pictures. The view up and down the shoreline was beautiful with the rocky shore all along. There was a dad yelling at his two sons who were climbing over the rocks and ledges. He was pleading with them that their mother was furious with them and they were ruining her day. I think what he meant was that they were ruining his day because he had to deal with mom. They basically ignored him and we had to listen to his extended begging and pleading.
As we were trying to ignore the drama and take some pictures a mom and her two children came into the area. Her young son, maybe nine or ten, preceded to walk over to the cliff that was about twenty-five feet over the rocks and sat on the edge swinging his feet. He was obviously inspired by the two devil spawn still climbing over the rocks. His mother yelled for him to come away from the edge which he did after a few minutes.
There was a picnic table in the area and we decided to have lunch in this reasonably unpopulated area. I went back to the truck to get the cooler. As soon as I opened the door three large tourist buses pulled into the parking lot. By the time I retuned with the cooler our little area was overrun with people. We sat and had our lunch. By the time we had finished the area was still overrun with people. We continued to check out a few more vistas in the immediate area and then decided to take a ride down the park road that runs along the shoreline. We stopped in a few spots to take some pictures and found a beach to spend some time on and get pictures. After spending a couple of hours in the area we headed back to the park.
By Wednesday we had not seen Trevor. We were wondering whether we should call the office and ask about him or trust that he would return when he could. I had made a tee time at Red Sands for Thursday. That evening Trevor called and apologized that he had not returned yet and asked if he could come the next morning. We said yes readily. I cancelled my tee time despite Eileen assuring me that I did not have to.
Trevor arrived the next morning around ten and started the process of replacing the plug. When he pulled it he noticed it was an RV plug meaning the bare wires sit freely in copper creases instead of being securely attached by a screw or any tension. He decided that he wanted to use a regular duplex plug and left to retrieve one. He had said that it was his day off and he was going to spend some time with his kids.
He returned with the plug and after some struggle in the tight space he installed the plug. It still did not work and his tester was reading that there was open wire. He tried a couple more things and he was stumped. He left again to seek out the advice of the park’s electrician. When he returned he had the answer but kidded that he would have to hear it from his buddy the electrician for a while. The problem was not with the refrigerator plug per se but with the Kuerig or wall plug above it that was piggybacked to that plug. Considering that there was probably a problem with the wiring in the wall there was nothing we could do except remove the piggyback and worry about the wall plug at a later date. Trevor did that and replaced the drawers. Our refrigerator was back in business without an extension cord.
Trevor had spent three and half hours with us that day as well as the hour on Sunday. When I asked him for the bill he said to just give him twenty dollars. We were shocked and refused to pay him just twenty dollars for four and half hours of work – tough work at that. After back and forth he agreed to take forty dollars but no more. We felt bad but this was the kind of guy Trevor was.
One of the suggestions made by the nice people from PEI that we had met at the ceilidh on Cape Breton was a show called the Island Summer Review featuring a comedian named Patrick Ledwell and a musician named Mark Haines although they both shared in each other’s specialty. We saw the theater on Route 2 on our way to Charlottetown and decided to check it out. We bought tickets for the Thursday evening show.
Harmony House theater is a small theater with a restaurant on the bottom floor. You can have dinner prior to the show and bring your drinks into the theater if you like. We just bought tickets for the show. The theater has been renovated in the last few years by the husband and wife owners. It holds about 300 people. We were in the back row and had to make way when the sound man wanted to get to the booth behind us. The theater was sold out for the Thursday evening show.
The humor of the show was based on life on PEI and its people as well as references to the other provinces in Atlantic Canada and those people as well. Mark and Patrick would play a song or two and then Patrick would perform a comedic interlude often using visual aids to support his humor. You did not have to be a resident of PEI or Atlantic Canada to get the humor or the references. Patrick was hilarious right from the beginning when he talked about attending the elementary school across the road from the theater and how proud his teachers would be to see how far his career had come.
Patrick also played bass and trumpet to support Mark during his songs and Mark would sometimes play one his many instruments in support of Patrick’s bits. Both men were very talented and the audience, many of whom were locals, and probably had seen some version of the show before, clearly enjoyed it. We were thankful for the tip and glad we had attended.
When Trevor spent some time with us he mentioned that at low tide we could descend a set of stairs near the basin and walk the shore all the way around the point and onto the beach on the gulf and back to our section. We took him up on that and walked the path the next day at low tide. As soon as we started we realized that we had to be careful where we stepped due to some soft areas and jellyfish that were in many spots along the basin floor. The scenery was striking as we made our way to the point and the mouth of the basin that meets the gulf. The entire walk took about seventy-five minutes and some climbing of the dunes to get back to the campground.
Up to this point our spot had been relatively quiet with some neighbors coming and going. On Friday the park started filling up and we had a group of about six or seven RVs all with small children and all friends with each other move in all around us. We were awoken for the next two mornings by the alarm clock of the little boy next door who was probably twenty months old who started each morning in a very foul mood and cried incessantly until his mother held him. He was probably teething or at least we hoped so. Hopefully this was not his daily habit under normal circumstances.
We also had two families across from us who were from Connecticut. One was from Manchester and the other, who now lived in Maine, but were originally from Ellington. We spent some time comparing notes and I was able to fill them in a little on their next stop at Bay of Fundy National Park.
We packed up and began the trip to Moncton, New Brunswick on our trip back to the US. We made our way to the bridge. The joke is they lure you to PEI with free passage over the bridge but whack you on the way out. The fee for cars is forty-seven dollars. Our fee was sixty-three dollars. We once again were happy for the conversion rate as that sixty-seven dollars converted to about the same as a car in American dollars.
We took the teeth-rattling ride back up Route 16 to Route 15 to Moncton which was not much better in some spots. Although we really have enjoyed our time in Canada so far, we were also looking forward to getting back to the states, seeing family and friends and experiencing some relative normalcy for some time.