NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA

After Campobello Island, we had to reenter the US and drive an hour north to the next border crossing to enter the New Brunswick mainland. Coming back into the US was easy enough, just a twenty minute wait or so while they checked out our bus, and when we were ready to go, everything was back in its place. Unfortunately, our cross back into Canada at the much larger station in Saint Stephen was another story.

The problem so ironically evolved from us trying to be totally prepared to enter Canada without issue, and what resulted was the opposite. What happened is, we knew that we couldn’t carry firearms over the border, so Steven bought a gun case to ship his guns home. When he took his guns to the Mount Dora, FL gun shop to have them shipped, the shop owner insisted he could get us a better shipping rate by packing the guns in some makeshift boxes instead of using the plastic case. So we ended up not needing the case, but thought we would just take it back home and use it later. If we had known what trouble this would cause us, we would have gotten rid of that thing much sooner.

When the Canadian border officials searched our bus, they found the empty gun case and went into panic mode. After waiting a very long time for them to let us go, we were beckoned outside to the bus. What we found was all our belongings that were stored in the outside compartments dumped all over the parking lot. This didn’t bode well. Immediately, Steven was questioned about his firearms and while we explained how the guns were back in Oregon, they did not believe us. We were ushered inside the bus and discovered that they had turned the place upside down, having torn into every compartment and every box and they left everything laying in heaps on the floor. Our home was trashed.

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Needless to say, tempers were high, and we did not appreciate the attitude we got from the border officials as we did our best to comply with the rules. I was very scared as they threatened to send Steven off to jail, and threatened us with dogs, and we had done nothing wrong. I know they were just doing their job, but we expected a little more courtesy, and not to be treated like criminals. Steven was asked repeatedly to just tell them where the guns were hidden, as if we are some kind of smugglers. When they finally confirmed that we had no weapons, they continued to berate us with accusations and threatening messages. After they confiscated my tiny pepper spray (I didn’t realize it was illegal), I asked how women were expected to protect themselves. I got a very sarcastic reply from the male border official, who stated,  “With their fists”. Wow. He proceeded to make fun of American gun laws and to complain about how hot it was inside the bus as he had to dig around every single box we have in there. Like I’m supposed to feel sympathy for the guy.

Now, believe me, we by no means wish to speak illy of the country of Canada. We just happened to have a terrible experience trying to vacation there. We are aware that our bus is unusual and draws extra attention where ever we go. We expected to be searched. We just didn’t expect to be treated so poorly. It is a sad truth that there are people who try to sneak weapons and other things into other countries. But we would never try to pull anything like that over anyone. We were intensely disappointed how the whole thing was handled. If any of you have had good experiences with Canada, please share your experience. We had heard such good things about entering Canada, and actually heard bad things about the US customs. Coincidentally, the US was nothing but quick and courteous each time we crossed over.

After re-packing the whole bus and cleaning up from that disaster, we continued east. The view was gorgeous! Dense forest on either side of the highway, with an occasional peak out onto a river or brook. The fog rolled in and created a very interesting effect on the landscape. We took note of the fence line along the road, which we heard is to keep wandering moose out of the way. After some time we finally came upon our stop for the night and into the company of some fellow boondockers. We stayed the night at Bill and Janet’s place near Petitcodiac, and they welcomed us with a cooler full of beer on their huge and wonderful farmhouse porch. We really have had the best luck with meeting such gracious hosts on this trip.

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We were ready to head up to Nova Scotia the next morning, but we decided to take pause and reevaluate our situation. First, there is a large storm approaching Canada (thanks to hurricane Arthur from Florida). Secondly, buying diesel (or much of anything) in Nova Scotia is extremely expensive. And thirdly, we are looking forward to visiting our friend in Michigan next weekend and have already planned a camping trip there. With such little time before we need to reach Michigan, and the other factors against us, we eventually decided that our energy would be better spent heading back into the US and making our way over to the Great Lakes. It would be fun to see Nova Scotia, and/or Prince Edward Island, but to really appreciate it and take it all in, you need several days there. To spend one rushed weekend driving back and forth would have been a waste. On a trip like ours, with a limited budget and a pressed timeline, you have to cut your losses and decide what is more worth your effort. We rather enjoy our time spent in a few places, than run all over the Earth without taking the time to appreciate every stop.

Therefore, we find ourselves back in the States for the fourth of July, taking in the fireworks and some good American brew in Bangor, Maine. Cheers!

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CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK

Waving goodbye to Clem and the winery, Lindsey and I continued North on the narrow secondary highways through Maine.  Our next destination was Lubec, the easternmost town in the US. From there we would take the bridge over to Campobello Island, part of New Brunswick. This was going to be our fist border crossing in the bus, and we were nervous.

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Enjoying the beautiful Maine scenery along the back roads

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Our route sent us down into Bucksport, where we crossed the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The Narrows Bridge was so fun to drive across in the bus! We have such a great view out the giant windshield, and through all the side windows.  Just over the other side of the bridge we found Carrier’s Mainely Lobster, a little roadside restaurant we had read about. We stopped to grab some lunch and a milkshake. Eating our burgers and fries from a little roadside take out stand felt so American, it was the perfect summertime lunch. The food was delicious, and cheap too! I didn’t get lobster there; I was waiting until we got out onto the island.

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As we drove farther and farther up the coast, the air got cooler and the towns got smaller.  We finally drove past the sign for Lubec, and soon after we were at the base of the bridge that lead to Canada. Driving up the bridge we were shocked to find the whole island shrouded in thick fog, from the top of the bridge you couldn’t even see the shoreline. It was such an eerie experience; it felt like we were driving over the bridge to another world. As we came down the far side the rocky coast came into view, and we stopped at the Canadian customs checkpoint. This is the part we were nervous about. What would they think of our weird old bus full of household items? We stopped at the booth and got out to talk to the officer in the window. He looked at our passports, asked a few questions about our visit, smirked at our bus, and let us on our way. No search, no interrogation. This was too easy! We rejoiced as we drove onto the island. Little did we know what we had in store for us the next time we tried to cross a Canadian border.

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Bridge to nowhere

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Campobello Island is a tiny little place, roughly nine miles long and three miles across at its widest point. Driving up the main road crossing the island we were so excited to be there, and were anxious to meet our host. As we rounded a bend we were greeted by lines of people on either side of the road, and a long line of traffic. We soon realized that the long line of traffic was actually a parade, and we were right at the tail end. People were cheering and waving at us, and we could hear them talking about the bus, everyone seemed to love it! Or they thought we were crazy. As we slowly idled along I opened the entrance door and started talking with an older guy who was waving at us. He hopped up on the front steps and poked his head in, marveling at our interesting interior. We quizzed him and found out that it was Canada Day! And we were just in time for the parade.  It was a very exciting entrance to the island, how lucky of us to come in at just the right time. Before too long the procession turned right and we turned left, heading over to Welschpool, where we found our home for the next couple of nights.

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Following the parade

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Parked at Bea’s house

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Bea and Molly

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Bea was a fellow boondocker and traveler, we met her through the boondockers welcome website. Her and her husband Peter have a beautiful old home on the island, where they spend the summers while escaping to the warmth of California during the winter. Unfortunately Peter was away on a business trip so we didn’t get to meet him, but we had a great time with Bea. She welcomed us into her home, where we enjoyed spending an evening chatting and sharing stories in the sitting room, while listening to the French radio station and enjoying a bottle of wine. The next morning she took us out on a tour of the island, it was very lucky for us as they used to run a little tour business there, so Bea knew a lot about the local wildlife, the island history, and the interesting landmarks. It was so much fun to drive around with her and listen to the stories about the place. Check out her own website here.

Our first stop in the morning was the Harbor Head Light Station, an old decommissioned lighthouse that has been lovingly restored and maintained by a group of retired folks who come up every summer and do maintenance and repair damage done by the winter storms. It is in a beautiful location, at the eastern tip of the island. You can only access it by foot for 3-4 hours a day, when the tide is at its lowest point. It is a fairly treacherous hike down through the rocks and along the sandbar to get there, but well worth the trip. While we were over walking around the buildings we met Lou, one of the volunteers who keeps the property functioning. Lou was hard at work up on a ladder scrapping mold and old paint, getting ready for a fresh coat. With a historic landmark like this being out in the ocean weather all year round it needs constant attention. Visiting the lighthouse was one of the highlights of the trip, it is so nice to see it brought back to its former glory.

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Next on the tour we visited the Roosevelt cottage, it was US President Franklin Roosevelt’s summer getaway home on the island. Campobello was a favorite spot of the Roosevelt’s, there is a lot of history there involving Franklin and Eleanor. We got to go for a free walk through the cottage; it was very simplistic even for the era. Talking with the park rangers we learned that the Roosevelt’s preferred to lead a simpler life while they were vacationing on the island, away from the busy cities. I completely understand! Being out on Campobello felt so wild and remote, even thought the coast of Maine was in sight on a clear afternoon.

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Bea brought us back to her place, where we unloaded our motorcycle and set off in search of lunch and to explore the rest of the island. Since July 1st is my birthday, I promised myself I would find a lobster roll as a birthday treat. I had never had lobster before, and what better time than now to try it. We stopped at a popular roadside stand that serves fresh caught lobster and I finally had my roll. It was quite good, but I don’t think I need to have any more in the near future. After our lunch stop we rode down to Herring Cove, a dark crescent shaped beach, which has been shaped by cross tides pushing the sand at and angle down the shore. The think afternoon fog was rolling in once again so we hurried down the beach and into Roosevelt International Park. The park is full of twisting gravel roads, which are a blast to ride on our little dual sport. We found the other end of Herring Cove, where the beach is made up of millions of small round rocks, polished away by years of wind and sea. Then we rode deeper into the woods until we came out at Liberty Point, the opposite end of the island from the Harbor Head Light House. Looking out into the Bay of Fundy was awe inspiring, even as the grey fog rolled in. Motoring back out to the main road the cold heavy air fogged up my helmet’s face shield and made me miss being back home in the North West.

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Herring Cove

Herring Cove

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The last stop for the evening was out at Friar’s Head, where there is a large rock formation shaped like a hooded monk. Unfortunately we were there during high tide, so we couldn’t see the Friar, but we had a nice time hiking down to the rocky coastline and looking out across the bay to Deer Island.

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Visiting Campobello Island was one of the highlights of the trip, I am so glad we took the time to go visit, and getting to know Bea and her cute dog Molly just made it all the better.

PORTLAND, ME

We made it to the other Portland! Long we have talked about how fun it would be to visit the far away Portland, and we finally had our chance. We were not disappointed.

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After having a great time in Portsmouth, we loaded up and headed north along the coast to Portland. It was a beautiful Maine summer day to be on the ocean, and the views out the window were spectacular. We would our way through many small towns and villages, all of them boasting the best lobster and seafood. These small towns were quite the challenge in our large bus, I did have one minor incident that left some glass on the sidewalk. We were coming through a narrow intersection, and while concentrating closely to avoid the car in the left turn lane I got too close to the sidewalk and clipped a telephone pole with one of the giant mirrors. It shattered with a loud pop, startling both of us. Fortunately there were no pedestrians in the area and no physical damage done to the phone pole. I just left broken mirror pieces and my crumbled ego on the ground. At least it was the less important mirror out of the group, and it being missing doesn’t hinder driving at all.

We soon reached the outskirts of Portland and found the large Cabela’s store to park at. They also offer unofficial overnight parking for campers, and since we hadn’t found a better option we decided to settle down for the night. After putting together a quick meal we jumped on the little motorcycle and headed into downtown. Just a short 10 minute ride and we were at the Portland waterfront. It was a perfect evening to be out walking, and all the restaurants and bars were packed. We had a lot of fun exploring along all of the old  wharfs, watching the beautiful boats come in and out of the harbor.

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While we walked along the old streets looking at all the interesting buildings I got a text from my older sister Heidie, she had seen our pictures on Facebook and was surprised to learn that we were all the way up in Portland. Heidie told me that she had a good friend who lived there and would be happy to have us over for the evening. She put me in touch with Tom, and he invited us to bring the bus over to his place just a few minutes from the Old Port area. We were so excited to have a great place to park in the city! Tom and his family live in a beautiful old home, with a nice big curbside to park along. We even got to plug in our power cord to the outlet in the garage. So much better than staying out at the Cabela’s! Tom and Amy were great hosts, opening their home to us and giving us advice on what to see in town. It was so nice to meet them, thanks again guys! After we got settled Lindsey and I decided to walk a couple blocks down the road and check out an interesting bar we had seen called the Great Lost Bear. GLB was a great little divey bar, with a huge selection of local draft beer. The decor was fun and the bartender was very friendly. We had a nice time enjoying some Allagash White and chatting with a few locals. Everyone can tell we aren’t from this area and are always fascinated to hear about our trip so far. It is fun to share stories with others who are interested.

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Tom an Amy’s beautiful 100 year old home

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Great Lost Bear

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The next morning we unloaded our bicycles and aired up the tires to head back down to the Old Port. Lindsey and I aren’t very experienced cyclists, but we enjoy getting out and riding when we can. We try to make ourselves use them frequently to get some much needed exercise, but when we have a motorcycle at our disposal the bicycles stay dormant far too long. We did have a great time riding along the Back Cove Trail and through the city. We found our way back to the waterfront and spent some more time walking through the streets looking in the window’s of all the stores. When we found The Holy Donut we couldn’t resist going in to get some breakfast sweets. They make their doughnuts using mashed potatoes in the dough, it makes for dense and moist doughnuts, which are very delicious.

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Once we had seen as much as we could in one morning we pedaled back to the bus, said goodbye to Tom, and drove up the road a couple miles to the Allagash Brewery. Allagash is a belgian style brewery. They are unusual because they use wild yeasts and old barrel aging techniques to add character to their delicious beers. My favorite is the Belgian White, a zesty wheat ale with a perfect amount of coriander and orange peel added. We took the tour of their great new facility, it is so nice to see a company start small and grow in popularity. The tour ended in the barrel room where our guide shared several samples with us. It was a great time, it took a lot of willpower for me to leave without buying a case of the Witbier. Easily one of the best I have had on this trip so far.

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Lindsey and I agreed that this city is quite similar to Portland, Oregon. The craft beer scene is huge, the restaurant and food selection is vast, and the neighborhoods full of old homes are so great to walk through. We couldn’t decide if our favorite thing about it is the number of breweries or the number of handmade ice cream shops! This could easily be home for us, although I am not sure how many winters we would want to endure. It would definitely be worth a trip back to spend more time enjoying the local food and surrounding area.

Saying goodbye to Allagash and Portland we continued up the road, heading to our next overnight stop at a winery in Unity, Maine. We were just turning onto the interstate when we noticed a young guy hitchhiking on the ramp, he looked like a nice guy and we decided it was time to return some of the kindness we have been experiencing so we stopped and he jumped aboard. Connor was impressed with the bus and thought it was fun to ride in. He was a really nice younger guy, he spends the summers working on various farms around Maine and was on his way back to the one he currently works at. Unfortunately it is too loud up front by the engine to talk much while we are underway, but Lindsey and Connor had a nice time chatting while sitting at the dinette. It was fun to have another passenger for a little while, and it was nice to help out another traveler.

We slowly worked our way up the state, twisting through countless narrow farm roads, attracting stares and waves in every little town we passed through. In the late afternoon we arrived at our stop for the night in Unity, at the Younity Winery, where we met our host Clem. Clem is an eccentric guy who loves making wine, and it was a pleasure to spend a couple hours talking with him about the process and walking through his grapes and small winery. He was happy to share tastes of all his unique wines with us, including some very interesting fruit wines. He describes his wine not as a product, but as an experience. It really is, and every bottle has a story behind it. Some of his batches include cranberries, rhubarb, and one especially intriguing one: pumpkin. We enjoyed listening to Clem’s colorful stories and also learning a little about the history of the area. Also interesting is that he is a fellow North Westerner who fell in love with Maine some years ago. Clem provided us with a beautiful parking space for the night, on a hill overlooking the surrounding farms and old houses.

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Maine is a beautiful state, and it has been a pleasure to drive through. We are on our way into Canada now, but will be coming back through Maine in a few days to spend more time.