Posts for July, 2014


City tour in the rain (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Journal entry for Tuesday 1st Jul, 2014 (day 351, miles 1273)

Today was about visiting the old city of Vilnius in the rain. What can I say, not a good day for tourist businesses. Very few people were out braving the weather. Much of Vilnius's old city is also reconstucted and the fort on the hill is a complete reconstruction. This time the culprits were the Russians not the Germans.

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First Christmas Tree (Riga, Latvia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 2nd Jul, 2014 (day 352, miles 1459)

Today we got to Riga, the capital of Latvia, and after parking at the campground we walked into the old city for a look around. While it was another of those old cities decked out with wall to wall bars and restaurants for tourists it was still interesting and impressive. More churches was the order of the day.

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Little Cabins in the woods (Pärnu, Estonia)

Journal entry for Thursday 3rd Jul, 2014 (day 353, miles 1584)

Leaving Riga this morning we managed to take ourselves (or should I say our SatNav took us) through the very center of the city, followed a cobbled street and tramline for 12km or more before finally getting onto a more regular highway. Now just so you understand the Yellow Mog does not particularly like cobblestones as they tend to be a bit like those 1950s weight reducing vibration machines. It certainly dislikes tram lines as steering becomes somewhat optional once the tires find the groove. But the big bug are the tram wires. When erected during the soviet era the tram wires were often lower than the 4m height of our truck, as we discovered in Central Asia. Fortunately Vilnius seems to have upgraded their tram wires to European standards but it was quite a few kilometers before we were completely convinced.

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Shopping spree and then a ferry (Helsinki, Finland)

Journal entry for Friday 4th Jul, 2014 (day 354, miles 1693)

On our way out of Pärnu we had a real shopping spree as we found a huge supermarket (actually a couple of them but we only needed one) and stocked up for our pending journey into the remoteem> Scandinavian North. Now it is not that we have not seen supermarkets anywhere else on this journey. But finding one with a very large selection and with a car park that allowed us easy access has been quite rare. So we reveled in the opportunity.

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A visit to downtown Helsinki (Helsinki, Finland)

Journal entry for Saturday 5th Jul, 2014 (day 355, miles 1693)

We decided to stay another day at Rastila. We spent the morning doing some chores around the truck - really boring. But in the afternoon we caught the Metro into the city for a bit of a tour.

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Which way Russia (Lappeenranta, Finland)

Journal entry for Sunday 6th Jul, 2014 (day 356, miles 1835)

A curious episode on our departure from Helsinki. As we approached the entry ramp to the E13 (the main road to the North East) we pulled up beside a large white truck pulling a large white enclosed trailer. The driver signaled me to wind down our window and promptly asked (in a language I did not recognize) something about St Petersburg. I pointed right onto the E13 and tried to also signal that we should stop together and look at our map. That seemed to work a few miles down the motorway we both pulled into a rest area. The truck was a mobile television production facility and the two guys in it were taking it to Moscow via St Petersburg. After some discussion over our iPad map they seemed satisfied and got underway. At this point in our journey St Petersburg is about 400 km east.

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Medieval Castle (Lappeenranta, Finland)

Journal entry for Monday 7th Jul, 2014 (day 357, miles 1930)

Well Russia got a lot closer today. At our mid morning rest stop near the town of Simpele we were within 600 yards/meters of the Russian border. Not surprisingly we had noted during the mornings drive that more signs where in Russian.

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A hill (Koli, Finland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 8th Jul, 2014 (day 358, miles 2077)

So we continued north today, more good highway and of course more trees. But the weather is good and life seems stress free - except for the water leak. I spent a little time trying to diagnose that issue during the drive but got no where. I really need to be able to pull the entire fresh water system apart but don't have the facilities, tools or parts to do that. The good news on the water front is that the isolation valves that were installed by GXV while we were back in the US have proven very useful. I have been able to isolate the hot water tank from the coolant system. That means I don't have to deal with hot components while I examine the area of the leak.

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A lazy day (The road, Finland)

Journal entry for Wednesday 9th Jul, 2014 (day 359, miles 2225)

Today was a bit of a lazy day, we traveled just under 150 miles. Considering that we are now far enough north that it does not get dark that represents a very lazy day. In addition to driving we had another shopping opportunity. In the town of Kajaani we found a number of large well stocked supermarkets.

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Electrical, Part 9

Posted Wednesday 9th Jul, 2014

This is a maybe overdue update or exposition of our long term experience with the electrical system of our GXV truck.

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Another summers day (Juuma, Finland)

Journal entry for Thursday 10th Jul, 2014 (day 359, miles 2225)

We spent some time this morning at last nights camp site, and also at stops along the days route, looking further at our water leak. It may be hard for those that don't own motorhomes to appreciate the frustration of having a problem like this and not being able to diagnose or fix it; but believe me it is (in our case) high. Thus we were delighted that today we believe we found the source of the water and it is nowhere near as big a deal as I had been fearing. I will say more on this topic in an upcoming post on Plumbing, but for the moment let me just note that the leak was from the second stage fine grained water filter we have installed for our drinking fountain. Now mind you we have not proven this beyond a shadow of doubt just yet but feel confident.

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Piene Karhunkierros (Juuma, Finland)

Journal entry for Friday 11th Jul, 2014 (day 361, miles 2376)

As planned we were on the trail just after 8:20am and for a while had the pleasure of a cool morning breeze.

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The Arctic Circle (and reindeer) (Rovaniemi, Finland)

Journal entry for Saturday 12th Jul, 2014 (day 362, miles 2509)

Today we hit The Arctic Circle. This happened on our way to the city of Rovaniemi which is the capital city of Lapland, the home of the Sami people. Along the way we got our first sightings of reindeer and one very obscured moose. As an aside we have been looking for moose since Poland. There have been signs warning of moose every 5 km since we entered Finland, but his is first real sighting.

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Santa Claus (Vuotso, Finland)

Journal entry for Sunday 13th Jul, 2014 (day 363, miles 2622)

Just a little north of Rovaniemi there is a place called Santa Claus Village. It has lots of souvenir shops, cafes and a number of different Santa Claus's that you can visit and talk to. This is the place where children's letters to Santa are sent (at least if you are not from the US). We spent a while here walking around looking at the place, the people and giving Nina an opportunity to buy some of those souvenirs. Interestingly the place had a number of Russian tourists and hence many signs in Russian.

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Reindeer day (Inari, Finland)

Journal entry for Monday 14th Jul, 2014 (day 364, miles 2725)

What can I say. Finland provided yet another glorious summers day and we enjoyed it. We stopped frequently to photograph the industrious reindeer (they are occupied eating to the extent that they seem not even to notice people), had a swim in one of the very pretty and beckoning lakes (just to find that despite the sun they are pretty bracing).

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Norway (Kirkenes, Norway)

Journal entry for Tuesday 15th Jul, 2014 (day 365, miles 2855)

This morning we headed towards the border with Norway and what started out as another great Finish summers day slowly turned into a cool overcast 50°F (10°C). The forest of evergreens gave way to stunted birch and the roads suddenly were quite bumpy.

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Another Mog! (Utsjoki, Norway)

Journal entry for Wednesday 16th Jul, 2014 (day 366, miles 3012)

Today we spent a good period following a section of Norway's rugged coast. What a difference between this scenery and Finland's forests. The weather continued cool, with a strong breeze that added to the sense of ruggedness. Low scrubby birch trees continued to be the main vegetation but with large areas of moor land as well, reminding us of the maritime provinces of Canada - not surprisingly.

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Sapmi Theme Park (North of Lakselv, Norway)

Journal entry for Thursday 17th Jul, 2014 (day 367, miles 3110)

The highlight of today was a visit to Sapmi in the town of Karasjok. In our guide book the place was described as a Theme Park and on the basis of that we almost did not go there but it actually turned out to be more like an historical village. There were many re-creations of dwellings and various other artifacts used by the Sampi peoples in their traditional way of life. It really was quite interesting. Not surprisingly there were lots of things related to reindeers.

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Most Northerly Point (Knivskjellodden, Norway)

Journal entry for Friday 18th Jul, 2014 (day 368, miles 3224)

This morning we drove the road to Nordkapp, and what as spectacular road it was. Narrow, clinging to the side of one mountain after another that bounded Fjord after Fjord, Some 14 km of tunnels, the longest of which at 7 km actually went under the ocean to join the mainland to the island of Mageroya (where the town of Nordkapp is located).

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Furthest North and the Midnight Sun (Nordkapp, Norway)

Journal entry for Saturday 19th Jul, 2014 (day 369, miles 3228)

We woke this morning a little stiff and sore from yesterdays adventure and one look outside at the pea soup fog (or low cloud) did not hasten our emergence from the comfort of bed. But eventually we got going and drove at a crawl along the remaining few miles to the entrance gate at Nordkapp. After paying our entrance fee of 490 Norwegian Kroners (that's right a little over US$80 for two people - these guys know how to run a tourist business) we drove into the car park, a large unpaved stoney affair, and joined the hundred or so other motorhomes parked there.

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Reindeer day (North of Alta, Norway)

Journal entry for Sunday 20th Jul, 2014 (day 370, miles 3335)

This morning there was no sign of the cold and mist of yesterday, indeed everyone was out and about wearing summer clothing rather than the down jackets of yesterday. We paid the various lookouts a final visit and then we were on our way south bound. What a difference the bright sun made as we retraced the narrow coastal road, and tunnels, back to the town of Olderfjord where our southerly route departed from the route we had taken going north. At one of the nameless villages north of Olderfjord the local Reindeer population decided to give the tourists a show and we sat stopped on the side of the road for perhaps 30 minutes while a small herd of the animals busied themselves going this way and then that. It seemed like a random coming together and parting of the group only for them to rejoin in a few minutes. At one point the entire heard got together and headed for and entered an old derelict building.

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Rock carvings and slate mines (South of Alta, Norway)

Journal entry for Monday 21st Jul, 2014 (day 371, miles 3427)

It was a short drive into Alta this morning where our first item of business was groceries, one of those never ending chores even when one is on a vacation/adventure. With the necessities done we headed for the local museum, a nicely situated building with a rather strange assortment of displays. The one that captured my attention was a short video on the local slate mining industry and small display of related tools. It was fascinating to see the miners split large slabs of slate into thinner sheets with just a hammer and chisel.

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Turned up toes (Finland Border, Norway)

Journal entry for Tuesday 22nd Jul, 2014 (day 372, miles 3525)

Our route this morning carried us along side a series of connected lakes through country that was covered in low birch trees towards the town of Kautokieno and its small museum. Our guide book informed us that this town is predominantly inland Sami people and traditionally was the winter camping place for the Sami.

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Just a driving day (Near border with Finland, Sweden)

Journal entry for Wednesday 23rd Jul, 2014 (day 373, miles 3632)

Not much to report for today, as it was pretty much just drive to cover some miles. We spent a pleasant few hours parked in the little town of Enontekio while we got some groceries and did some online business and then into Sweden through the small Swedish border town of Karesuando.

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Kiruna Mine (Jukkasjarvi, Sweden)

Journal entry for Thursday 24th Jul, 2014 (day 374, miles 3728)

Our route this morning took us through Vittangi and Svappavarra on our way to Kiruna and the nearby village of Jukkasjaavi, which are famous for the worlds largest underground iron ore mine and the Ice Hotel respectively.

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The Ice Hotel (Narvik, Norway)

Journal entry for Friday 25th Jul, 2014 (day 375, miles 3841)

After a comfortable night in the hostel parking lot and the luxury of long hot showers we were ready for our Ice Hotel tour. So at 10:00 am we strolled down to the large TeePee near the rivers edge to meet our guide. He was inside making coffee for the group over an open fire. The group turned out to be just Nina and I so we basically got a private tour.

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(Innhavet, Norway)

Journal entry for Saturday 26th Jul, 2014 (day 376, miles 3962)

The weather was overcast this morning with the local mountain tops covered in mist. The weather somewhat detracted from the splendor of the view as we wound our way along the coast through inlet/fjord after fjord. Around lunch time the road took us to a ferry dock where we waited with an assortment of motorhomes, cars and trucks for the ferry crew to decide it was time to load up and get going. The ferry was carrying the traffic across a rather large expanse of water that had not yet been subdued with a long under water tunnel. I guess that will happen in time. Incidentally the ferry cost us approximately US$50 proving that motoring in this part of the world is not cheap.

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Leaving the Arctic (Bjerka, Norway)

Journal entry for Sunday 27th Jul, 2014 (day 376, miles 3962)

The big event of today was that we are finally dropping below the Arctic Circle. It seems amazing that we have been traveling North of that imaginary line for so long. In North America there are only a few roads that actually go north of the circle but here we have traveled a whole complex of roads, towns and even countries above the Circle.

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Just driving along (Grong, Norway)

Journal entry for Monday 28th Jul, 2014 (day 378, miles 4299)

Our journey today was away from the coast and the scenery was more mountainous interspersed with many small farming villages, farm houses, lakes, rivers and the ever present trees. The volume of clean clear fresh water is hard to comprehend. When we first got to the US the abundance of water was one of the aspects of the country that surprised us, well the Scandinavian countries have surprised us again. Water seems to be endless. Today it was in the form of picturesque lakes and crystal clear mountain streams and rivers, some of them meandering and some of them roaring.

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Chips and hitch hikers (Roros, Norway)

Journal entry for Tuesday 29th Jul, 2014 (day 379, miles 4501)

This morning after a little while traveling the road brought us to a long thin lake called Snasavatnet and there after followed the shore for its entire length. Along the lake there were a number of villages and many farms. The area had a general sense of being less remote with the buildings being even more well cared for and more traffic on the road. By the time we reached the city of Steinkjer a little while later the density of traffic, sections of 4 lane highway, and bustling businesses confirm that we are no longer in the remote north of Norway but heading towards more populated areas.

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Mushroom picking (Kroken, Norway)

Journal entry for Wednesday 30th Jul, 2014 (day 380, miles 3228)

This morning we traveled the final leg to meet our German friends. Once through Roros the road was varied with some good sections and some really quite bumpy sections. Also, in places, the local sheep decided to make driving more challenging by sitting down in the middle of the road. We guessed that the roadway was warmer than the nearby grass.

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Looking for a camping spot (Kvam, Norway)

Journal entry for Thursday 31st Jul, 2014 (day 381, miles 4719)

Last night we all decided that today we would travel together (in convoy) and try and find a camping spot together since it seemed that both parties were traveling in the same direction for at least a few days; headed towards the coastal fjords and mountains around Bergen.

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