Posts for August, 2012


Dead end on 175 and then the Chemin de fauve, (Near Malbaie, Quebec)

Journal entry for Wednesday 1st Aug, 2012 (day 28, miles 4488)

Our destination today was Tadoussac along supposed scenic route 175 and then a gravel cutoff road to the coast and highway 138. The trip along 175 was scenic, through the granite hills of the Laurentian Mountains and the gravel cutoff road was a good test of the beast with some rough sections, but about 26 kms into our gravel trial road we encountered Pont ferme. That closed bridge destroyed the days plan. We had to backtrack almost to Quebec city before getting onto 138, about 6 hours to be back in QC.

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Parking rules, installing signs, and seaside camping (Baie-Comeau, Quebec)

Journal entry for Thursday 2nd Aug, 2012 (day 29, miles 4654)

There was a fog in the valley of the St Lawrence this morning which sometimes spilled over onto the road way as we continued towards the ferry over the Fjord du Saguenay and the town of Tadoussac on the north shore of the fjord. For us Tadoussac was simply a stop for internet and fuel though for others it is a center for whale watching. We ran a foul of local parking ordinances but after some discussion the police lady who was threatening to give us a ticket instead lead us (on her motor scooter) to the top of town and a gravel parking lot next to a skate park (coordinates for other hapless RV drivers who get stuck in this town are N48.14757 W69.71359)

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Hydro power, big trucks and loose nuts (Road to Labrador City, Quebec)

Journal entry for Friday 3rd Aug, 2012 (day 30, miles 4941)

Heading out of Baie-Comeau north to cross the 50th and 51st parallels today we got an abrupt introduction to northern roads. The first 60km was marked by one of the roughest sealed roads we have ever driven and one that twisted around small lakes with almost continuous short but steep (10-12%) climbs and descents. Fortunately the road improved after 60km. Hydro power is the other signature feature of this road. Large power line towers march beside the road as far as the 200KM where sits the 5th hydro station of the day Manic 5. These power stations get their name from the Manicouagan River which in turn is fed by the Manicouagan Reservoir a large circular lake clearly discernible on a map, this is the 5th largest meteor crater in the world.

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Milestones, 5000 miles, 1 month, Labrador City (Gravel Pit Hwy 500, Labrador)

Journal entry for Saturday 4th Aug, 2012 (day 31, miles 5076)

A day of milestones. We have been on the road one calendar month, traveled 5000 miles and reached Labrador City at the western end of the Trans-Labrador highway. It was also a day of gradually changing terrain. We started the day with a continuation of the hilly granite country with its myriad lakes where the road was forced to twist and climb around the terrain. As the day progressed the terrain flattened somewhat, the lakes were joined by large areas of wetlands (I think what they call muskeg in Alaska) so that at times the road seems to be forced through the lakes rather than around them. Interspersed between the lakes are some impressive rivers. The forest continues to be an endless carpet composed mostly of what I think are black spruce, the same kind of trees we saw on the road to Inuvik. To our surprise there has been a lot of sealed road today, some of it brand new, and even the gravel (more accurately packed earth) we have encountered has been in good condition allowing (our) highway speeds.

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Introduction

Posted Saturday 4th Aug, 2012

The first thing one notices about a U500 is just how far off the ground the driver seat is. There is an initial feeling of being up there but it is not obvious until one gets onto the road that this truck is actually taller than the tractor of an 18-wheeler. From the U500 drivers seat one can see the roof of an 18-wheeler cab.

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Introduction

Posted Saturday 4th Aug, 2012

This page provides a list of posts (in the left hand menu) on topics that we think of as "how to". We could have called this category of things "help full tips", "logistics" or a number of other things but we decided on "how".

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Russian Visas

Posted Saturday 4th Aug, 2012

Russia plays a key role in our planned journey across Asia. Not only is it the starting point, but it will also turn out to be one of the longest legs on our journey. It is also the only country that we have planned to enter twice (the second time between Mongolia and Kazakstan), and finally it also our escape route. In the event that we cannot get a visa for Iran (or Turkmenistan) we will re-enter Russia from Kazakstan, travel north of the Caspian and catch a ferry from Russia‘s black sea coast to Turkey. Thus getting a useful Russian visa seemed of crucial importance; our goal was a 1 year multiple entry visa.

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The truck - First Impressions

Posted Saturday 4th Aug, 2012

The first thing one notices about a U500 is just how far off the ground the driver seat is. There is an initial feeling of being up there but it is not obvious until one gets onto the road that this truck is actually taller than the tractor of an 18-wheeler. From the U500 drivers seat one can see the roof of an 18-wheeler cab.

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Rain, road works and lunch with fellow travelers (Another Gravel Pit, Labrador)

Journal entry for Sunday 5th Aug, 2012 (day 32, miles 5271)

Rain, wind and lower temperatures this morning gave us an opportunity to test the various heating systems in the vehicle. So in turn we tried the hydronic to heat water (for a shower) and then to heat the camper, next the generator and small electric heater, and finally the heating strip in the air conditioner.

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The truck - Interesting features

Posted Sunday 5th Aug, 2012

The truck has some other interesting control features that are worth noting.

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Tilts, traps and Mina Hubbard (Gravel Pit, Hwy 510, Labrador)

Journal entry for Monday 6th Aug, 2012 (day 33, miles 5484)

Another wet morning, more Black Spruce tundra and more gravel road brought us to the (twin .. adjacent?) towns of Goose Bay and Happy Valley. All the shops were closed, but fortunately not the gas station and visitors center. A further 30 kms north was the Town of North West River where we spent an informative couple of hours learning about the fur trade (at the Labrador Heritage Museum) and the ethnic origins of the peoples of the region (at the Labrador Interpretation Center). It is hard to credit but settlement of Labrador and its meager population of 51,000 owes its existence to the fur trade (or more accurately a fashion craze in Europe for felt hats made from beaver pelts). Approaching from the north and the Hudson Bay was the British strategy for gaining access to the furs of Canada in the face of French domination of the Quebec City region and the St Lawrence. North West River was a key stop along the fur trading routes as it has access to the sea via Lake Melville and the narrows near Rigolet. The Museum is housed in the old Hudson Bay Company store building and contained many artifacts from a way of life that is not all that distant for the folks of this town. As recently as the 1940 trapping fur was the main livelihood of many residents. We learned about tilts, small wooden buildings about the size of a 2-man tent, The trappers built these along their trap-line at 1-day intervals. We also learned about Mina Hubbard the wife of Leonidas Hubbard who (after a failed and fatal attempt by her husband) became the first European to map the interior of Labrador in 1905.

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The Atlantic Ocean, and defrosting the fridge (Port Hope Simpson, Labrador)

Journal entry for Tuesday 7th Aug, 2012 (day 34, miles 5682)

Today it felt like we drove through the same patch of country and road almost all day. Gravel road, tundra dotted with lakes and rivers, and outcroppings of granite (a general sensation of repetition familiar to anyone who has driven in inland Australia). However at the end of the day we were rewarded for our patience with the arrival of the Atlantic Ocean at the town of Port Hope Simpson. The real Atlantic mind you, not just a lake that is connected by a series of channels to the Atlantic like North West River but the real honest to goodness ocean. The slight let down was that we were also greeted by the worst sections of road so far in Labrador. An intimidating and discouraging start to anyone embarking on a trip across Labrador from the East via the NewFoundland ferry.

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More history, this time fishing (Mary's and Battle Harbors, Labrador)

Journal entry for Wednesday 8th Aug, 2012 (day 35, miles 5710)

Where North West River told the story of Labrador from the perspective of the fur trade, todays visits to Battle Harbor (an island) from Mary's Harbor (mainland) showed it through the lens of fishing. From the early 1500s Europeans (English, Basque, French, Portuguese) came to the shores of Labrador to fish for Cod, Salmon, Seal and whale. Battle Harbor was one of the major venues where these catches were processed ready for sale to merchants and shipment back to Europe. At one time there were hundreds of small fishing villages along the coast of Labrador supported primarily by Cod (and other) fishing. But in the 1960s reductions in the fish stock caused the end of the Cod fishing industry and the demise of many of the fishing villages. Battle Harbor (we are told is a corruption of a Portuguese word battel or boat) has been taken over by The Battle Harbor Historical Trust partly as an exercise in saving heritage and partly as a way of injecting some tourist dollars into the local economy.

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Basques, old boats and black flies (L'Anse aux Claire, Labrador)

Journal entry for Thursday 9th Aug, 2012 (day 36, miles 5825)

This morning we saw off the last of the gravel road on our way into Red Bay, a picturesque village on a rocky barren cove. This place is famous for the discovery (in 1978) of a Basque whaling galleon that sank here in the 1500s while laden with a seasons haul of whale oil. Interestingly the search for this vessel was triggered by documentary research conducted in the Basque region of France and Spain. This research unearthed not only the existence and sinking of this ship but also shed light on the existence and extent of Basque whaling operations in the new world. Apparently at the time (early-mid 1500s) the Basques were the only European nation actively hunting whales using small boats and harpoons. The two exhibits in Red Bay (one of the galleon and the other of the smaller whaling boat called a chalupa) were quite interesting and highlight Red Bays role as a major whaling settlement during the Basque period.

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The Rock, veggie patches, fire wood and Vikings (Hwy 432, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Friday 10th Aug, 2012 (day 37, miles 5972)

Disembarking the ferry at St Barbe we headed north following Highway 430 (called the Viking Route). For 20km the road followed the coast through well manicured villages and attractive though bleak and windswept coast and then headed inland. Along the roadside we encountered two sights that required later explanation from a local. The first were many areas set aside for the storage of firewood, some areas were well organized while others less so. We learned that these are generally personal (family) firewood supplies. NewFoundlanders are allowed to cut firewood in the forests and store near where it is cut for later use as winter heating. The second sight was more perplexing. We saw small plots of vegetable gardens beside the road. Later explanation informed us that, NewFoundland is known as The Rock for good reason; real soil is almost non-existent on the island. It happens that the construction of roadways creates a small area of fertile soil in the ditch beside the road. Locals make use of this rare soil and grow root vegetables there.

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Earliest inhabitants (Shallow Bay, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Saturday 11th Aug, 2012 (day 38, miles 6160)

Traveling south today eventually brought us to the town and historic site of Port aux Choix, a prominent headland on the west coast of NewFoundlands Northern Peninsula. At this site Archeologists have found evidence of human habitation dating back 4400 years and almost continuous habitation since that time by no less than 5 different groups. The original peoples where a maritime culture (meaning they lived on fish and other sea food), these were replaced as the climate grew colder by two different groups of paleo-Eskimo peoples that lived on sea mammals. These in turn were replaced, as the climate warmed, by more modern indian peoples. The 5th group was obviously European.

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Gros Morne, fellow travelers (Lomond CG, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Sunday 12th Aug, 2012 (day 39, miles 6255)

Gros Morne National Park is perhaps the premier park in NewFoundland. It is a massive granite mountain range that protrudes as much as 2000 ft above the coastal plain and is cut by steep fiord like valleys. One of the pieces of this mountain complex is famous among geologist as it is up-thrusted ocean floor. Study of these rocks (apparently) helped found the theory of plate tectonics.

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A rainy travel day (Norris Arm, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Monday 13th Aug, 2012 (day 40, miles 6441)

Overnight the weather turned to rain and low cloud. That is the way it persisted all day as we traveled east. At Deer lake we picked up Canada's Highway 1 (or the THC as the signs here call it - Trans-Canada-Highway, we have not seen this road since Quebec City) and followed all day until our campsite in the forest beside a pipeline near Norris Arm.

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Georges tires shop (Butter Pot CG, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 14th Aug, 2012 (day 41, miles 6499)

Fog and rain diverted us this morning and we abandoned our plans to visit Twillingate. We consoled ourselves with the observation that both the Iceberg and Whale seasons are already over. Instead we headed into Gander to find a truck tire shop and to have the two drivers side tires swapped or 'rotated'. After some searching we found Professional Tire Service and its owner George who quickly had the beast jacked up and the tires off and swapped around. It was interesting to watch the workmen maneuver the heavy tires on-and-off the hubs with the dexterous use of a large tire iron. I think I will have to find a place to practice.

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Most easterly point, Signal Hill, Quidi Vidi, fish and chips (St John, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Wednesday 15th Aug, 2012 (day 42, miles 6775)

A packed day of sightseeing. We started with Cape Spear the most easterly point on the North American continent. The weather did not cooperate as it was wet and windy, but that did not reduce our enthusiasm. We see this as the start of our East-West journey around the world, so in that sense today was the start of the "real" trip.

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Sea birds, a night on a ferry (Argentia Ferry, NewFoundland)

Journal entry for Thursday 16th Aug, 2012 (day 43, miles 6942)

Today we were scheduled to take the ferry from Argentia, NewFoundland to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. However yesterday Nina decided that she wanted to visit Cape St Mary's Ecological Reserve before we arrived at the ferry. This entailed an early start to the day, so by 5:30 am we were on the road. St Mary's Reserve is at the end of a very scenic coastal road that passes through a mix of open moor land and low forests that is sparcely populated. The reserve itself is on the barren headland of Cape St Mary's and is marked by a small collection of buildings and a still operational lighthouse. From the Reserve entrance it is a short walk to the bird colonies that make this place famous. Crowded onto one pinnacle of rock (and overflowing onto surrounding cliffs) are 5 different species of birds estimated to number something like 70,000 in total. The birds seem to understand that their rock tower affords them protection because our mainland cliff top, vantage point was only about 100ft from the colony but they seemed to take no notice of us.

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Cape Breton (Margaree, Nova Scotia)

Journal entry for Friday 17th Aug, 2012 (day 44, miles 7085)

The ferry arrived much earlier than we had expected and released us onto Novo Scotia at 4:00 am into the dark of a heavy rain storm seasoned with fog. We fumbled our way onto Highway 105 ( which is the Trans-Canada-Highway in this part of the world) and followed it for 20 miles until a lookout gave us a place to stop and catch some of the sleep we did not get on the ferry.

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Visitors, Shubie Park, Halifax (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)

Journal entry for Monday 20th Aug, 2012 (day 47, miles 7323)

Saturday morning from Margaree we got a late start as we had a stream of visitors; the consequence of camping at a lookout. One visitor, a gentleman from NY with his white dog, is retired and lives in NS for part of the summer. The dog was very friendly, liked having his ears scratched, and afforded us a dose of borrowed pet.

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Kilts, sally ports and loopholes (Panmura Island, Prince Edward island)

Journal entry for Tuesday 21st Aug, 2012 (day 48, miles 7497)

An early start, a quick visit to a local Staples store to print some documents, and then a visit to the Halifax Citadel. As mentioned in the previous entry this is a large stone fort that sits atop the prominent hill around which Halifax is situated. Construction started in 1820 and it was complete in 1860 the fort's primary purpose was to protect agains a land attack. The citadel was passed from the Canadian Army to the Canadaian National Parks in the early 1950s to prevent the local Halifax citizens demolishing it so that hilltop could be turned into car parking. The structure is in very good condition and today is garrisoned by volunteers who dress and act the role of the British Highland Regiment that originally garrisoned the fort. We took a short tour with one of the "soldier". He explained the purpose of the sally port (a narrow door through which soldiers could exit the citadel center to enter the musket gallery) and loopholes (narrow verticle slits in the walls of the musket gallery through which soldiers could fire their weapons at the attacking enemy)

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Walking, sand dunes and city tour (Stanhope CG, Prince Edward Island)

Journal entry for Wednesday 22nd Aug, 2012 (day 49, miles 7598)

A glorious sunny day saw us driving through picturesque country side and small villages toward the north coast of PEI and St Peters Bay. On the east shore of the bay is the Greenwich section of PEI National Park which boast beaches, parabolic sand dunes and a floating board walk. Our initiation into this section of the park was a trip to the very large visitors center building where we learned about the action of the wind that formed the sand dunes and ended with a 10 minute novel video that was viewed from a gallery and projected onto the floor. A visit to the beaches and dunes entailed a 3 mile stroll through a lovely mix of grass lands, forests and over that floating board walk. The board walk crossed a large fresh water pond that is formed behind the first rank of dunes. All in all a pleasant walk.

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Green Gables and Blue Angels (Cape Jourimain, New Brunswich)

Journal entry for Thursday 23rd Aug, 2012 (day 50, miles 7684)

Anne of Green Gables, a well know book by Louise M Montgomery, was set in a fictional house and property called Green Gables. That setting was inspired by a house in the town of Cavendish PEI owned by the authors grandparent's cousins. That site has been a major tourist destination for nearly 100 years and is now administered by the Canadian National Parks service. This morning we joined the throngs and paid homage to girl-hood fantasy. We spent a pleasant hour touring the house (decorated as described in the book) and wandering the grounds including the famous haunted woods. Like everything we have seen on PEI the setting was sunny, warm and tranquil.

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Fundy mud, big tide (Calhoun Marsh, New Brunswich)

Journal entry for Friday 24th Aug, 2012 (day 51, miles 7843)

The Bay of Fundy (the body of water that separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia) boasts the largest rise and fall between low and high tide of any place on earth with a record of 16.2 meters recorded at Noel, NS. These extreme tides are explained by the shape of the bay itself which causes the incoming Atlantic tide to backup within the bay. Today we got a chance to experience the tide swing of Fundy with a visit to Hopewell Rocks a Provincial Park on the western (New Brunswick) side of the bay. Hopewell is famous for its Flowerpots. Segments of forested coastal cliffs that have been separated from the mainland and stand just yards off shore like pillars of stone and rock topped with a small garden. The experience at Hopewell is that at low tide one can stroll among the flowerpots with the gardens way overhead, whereas once the tide comes in these same pillars become small forested islands. An additional attraction for the children among us (both young and old) is to walk out into the bay into the soft, fine-grained but very sticky mud that at low tide seems to go for miles.

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Fundy coast, covered bridges (Calais, Maine)

Journal entry for Saturday 25th Aug, 2012 (day 52, miles 8037)

Another glorious late summer day, blue sky warm air and bright light. A perfect day to continue our travels along the Fundy coast and to pay short visits to the three towns of St Martins, Saint John, St Stephen. We arrived in St Martins at close to low tide and spent a little while walking around the foreshore, taking a few photos, lounging on the gravel beach and seeing if we could see the water beginning to rise. St Martins sports two covered wooden bridges built in the 1930s. The signs on the bridges indicated a height limit of 4.0m - exactly what I think our height is. So we contented ourselves with walking across.

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Bar Harbor and the Pumpkin Patch (Hermon, Maine)

Journal entry for Sunday 26th Aug, 2012 (day 53, miles 8231)

Today we followed the Maine coast south to the Arcadia National Park at the town of Bar Harbor. This coast line is still the western edge of the Bay of Fundy and continues the beautiful coastal scenery of the past few days. Strong tides are still evident in the muddy inlets and creeks but the tide heights are lower as we are nearer the mouth of the Fundy. We spent a couple of hours walking around Bar Harbor. A beautiful town with many quaint buildings, lot of shops and many tourists. Interesting this is one of the few tourist towns we have visited where specific parking directions have been given for RVs. We followed a series of signs right through the town to a sports field where parking was easy, and out of the way of other vehicles and the shops.

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Bad hair day (at least at the start) (Rumford, Maine)

Journal entry for Monday 27th Aug, 2012 (day 54, miles 8356)

Today did not start well. The spout on the kitchen faucet came off in Nina's hand. While cooking a quiche the microwave oven (overheated I think) and the door latch stuck in the open position, so now it sports a duct-tape bandage to keep the door closed. We got repeatedly lost in Bangor looking for a Staples store, and that was with the aid of 3 GPS devices. By 12:30 I was ready to declare the day over and go back to bed. However it turned out that all was not lost and after lunch we headed towards Gorman, NH to start a route approximately south through the White Mountains. After an easy drive through rural Maine we arrived at a WalMart in the town of Rumford where we camped for the night in the company of 3 other RVs and 6-8 18 wheelers.

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The Kanca and White Mountain (West Lebanon, New Hampshire)

Journal entry for Tuesday 28th Aug, 2012 (day 55, miles 8533)

West of Rumford we arrived in the town of Gorham, the start of our traverse of the White Mountain State Forest. It is an obvious jump off point for hikers of the Appalachian Trail as we saw many people with packs of varying sizes walking purposefully around the town. South out of Gorham, Highway 16 passes the turn off to Mt Washington and its Auto Road to the summit (but cars only). Farther south at Conway we picked up the Kancamagus Highway (or the Kanca as it is apparently known). This road winds west along the Swift river for some miles before starting a steep climb to Kancamagus Pass. There after it descends along the Pemigewasset River into the town of Lincoln. Here we picked up the Sawyer Highway (SR118) to complete our traverse of the White Mountain State Forest and eventually arrived in Wentworth.

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Quechee Gorge, first signs of fall (Woodford SP, Vermont)

Journal entry for Wednesday 29th Aug, 2012 (day 56, miles 8659)

Continuing west along highway 4 and the Ottauquechee River we crossed into Vermont and got a chance to visit the the town of Quechee (with a very expensive looking country club), view the small but spectacular Quechee Gorge and take a stroll around Woodstock (not the famous one), a nice prosperous tourist destination. A little after Woodstock we joined highway 100, turned south and wound our way through the rural hills of Vermont through picturesque forests, patches of farm land, small quaint hamlets and over some very twisting, steep and in places rough paved roads.

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Mooses and Shakers (West Cornwall, Connecticut)

Journal entry for Thursday 30th Aug, 2012 (day 57, miles 8763)

Wild life has been scarce on this trip. Apart from a few foxes, a few deer and a hedgehog we have seen no forest wildlife. In particular we have been disappointed not to see any moose. So when we saw some brightly painted moose statues this morning while driving through Bennington, VT we could not resist. We had to stop and take photos of the only mooses of the trip.

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Philly here we come (Hatfield, Pennsylvania)

Journal entry for Friday 31st Aug, 2012 (day 58, miles 8959)

Today we ventured off the back roads of the NE USA and onto some major freeways on our way to Oak Grove Campground in Hatford, PA where we will stay for a few days as a base to see some of the sights of Philadelphia.

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