Hello once again and welcome to the latest post in my series about my 2014 road-trip round the Maritime Provinces of Canada with my dear friend Lynne in Betsy, the ancient campervan who had taken to making very strange noises the previous day or two.
If you would care to read the entire saga (it is about six weeks worth) from the beginning then you can do so here. If you are all caught up and wish to find out what happens next then please read on.
As always I shall begin by telling you about the campsite we had arrived at the previous evening and which I investigated as I went for my morning walk for a look round. I had, as was normal practice, woken before Lynne and so after a coffee I took off for a shower and a few images of the Loch Lomond RV Park just outside Amherst. These will be accompanied by my original notes, hence the reference to VT (Virtual Tourist).
Good choice for the last night.
“In the summer of 2014 I spent a wonderful six weeks travelling round the Maritime Provinces in a very aged campervan (RV) with my friend Lynne and we had a great time. Due to the age and condition of the vehicle we were not actually self-sufficient being without leisure batteries or even a water system that worked if not hooked up and so we spent each night in an RV park. Although first timers, we therefore soon got to know what sort of standards we could expect.
All good things come to an end and the last night before we were due to return to our “base” in Kentville we opted to stay at the Loch Lomond RV Park just outside Amherst as that would give us an easy run the next day. We had picked this venue from consulting the several guides we were using and it turned out to be a good choice.
We were checked in quickly and allocated our pitch which we had pre-booked by ‘phone as it was high season. It was a pull through and a four way which I had not encountered before. For people who don’t know, there are various categories of pitch.
There is unserviced which is basically somewhere to park, two way which is water and electric and three way which also includes sewage disposal. This site includes a cable TV hookup in the price (which was actually about average) and is available on the majority of the pitches.
The site is conveniently located in a pleasant location a couple of miles due South of Amherst on the shore of the delightful Blair Lake. The facilities here were good and very clean. The washrooms were excellent with lots of hot water and the laundry room was well equipped with plenty of machines.
We didn’t use any of the leisure facilities as we were not there long enough but the site has an amusement centre, heated outdoor pool and playground. During the season they also organise occasional events like a scavenger hunt, children’s fun day, bingo and so on.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this site.”
As usual it was about midday when we got ourselves sorted out, unhitched and ready to go but that was no problem as we only had about 170 miles to go that day. The light was good until about 2100 and we had decided not to do our usual stopping off at every “hole in the wall” to look at interesting things we came across plus we were taking the direct route rather than our usual trick of keeping the coast close on our right so it should be no problem.
We were not too far down the road when Betsy started making very strange noises again and it was clear “something was rotten in the State of Denmark”, or Province of Nova Scotia if you prefer. We had a chat about it and decided to try to limp home rather than start looking for a mechanic as it sounded like it was going to be a major job and we had no way of knowing how long that might take.
We drove on even slower than our usual snail’s pace and we got on reasonably well for a few hours. I know we did not stop to sightsee as the only images I took the whole afternoon were of a small lake and another of a lorry hauling the largest RSJ I have ever seen in my life. I have no idea what they might have been constructing with that, a pyramid perhaps? No, hold on a second, the ancient Egyptians did that without even mortar.
The noises were getting continually worse and we were driving ever slower, constantly trying to calculate the distance to our destination and hoping we were going to get there.
I cannot now remember exactly where disaster struck but there was an almighty bang from under the bonnet (hood), Lynne let out a somewhat Anglo-Saxon expression and it was lucky the road was clear as she later told me the brakes had gone as well as the engine, so we coasted into the hard shoulder and came to a halt. Thankfully the parking brake was still functional.
We popped the bonnet and Lynne had another look at the engine but that was rather more for the look of the thing than anything else as we both knew it was terminal. Lynne had a couple of attempts to start poor old Betsy again but it was pointless, she was as demised as Monty Python’s legendary parrot. Nothing else for it but to call the CAA (vehicle recovery service) and wait for a tow as we were sure even the most skilled mechanic could not have effected a roadside repair. The image above may be one of the saddest I have ever taken.
It is difficult to describe how wretched I felt at that point for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I had a fair idea that Betsy had driven her last mile and secondly I felt somehow cheated that we had not been able to get back to base under our own steam after coming so far. I had a look at the mileage and we had done close on 2,000 miles which wasn’t bad going considering what we had started out with. I should have taken an image of the exact mileage but I didn’t even think of it at the time.
We had been told it might be a while until recovery as the only available tow-truck was already on a job but would get to us as soon as he could. We passed some of the time packing which took us all of about five minutes as we had both been living out of our kitbags with the wardrobe having passed muster as the drinks storage area all trip. Neither of us are exactly “clothes-horses” although Lynne always seems to look good under such circumstances whilst I invariably look, well, as if I am living out of a kitbag.
As we don’t drink at Lynne’s Father’s house I set about clearing the remaining supply which eased the pain of Betsy’s plight a little. Lynne undoubtedly knew she would not be driving again but didn’t drink, just in case of a miracle. Even Nature seemed to be putting the boot in by providing another typically gorgeous Maritimes sunset with us in this sorry state.
The CAA guy eventually turned up in one of the biggest tow-trucks I have ever seen but he explained that the reason he had taken a while to get there was that he had been recovering a stricken lorry which was why he was in his big rig, normally he would have used the smaller one. Honestly, the rig he arrived in looked big enough to haul a space rocket from the hangar to the launch-site.
He listened to the story, had a look under the bonnet, gave one or two potential scenarios as to the problem but said there was nothing he could do in situ as we had expected ad so he asked us where we wanted towed to. Normally he is only obliged to tow members a certain distance or else to the nearest approved garage but luckily he was heading back past where we were going so very decently agreed to take us the whole way. Yet another example of the Maritimes at it’s best.
We scrambled up into the cab and I nearly got a nosebleed as it was so far off the ground with an interior about the size of Betsy. I could not help but think about how ludicrous our poor little 23′ Glendale must look hooked onto the back of this behemoth.
We got back to Ron’s place in good order and the driver asked what we wanted to do with Betsy. After a bit of a consultation with Ron he asked the driver to take her to a named yard, possibly the one he had bought her from and said he would contact them the next day. We emptied our old friend as quickly as we could to let the poor guy be on his way, thanked him for his kindness and then stood in rather subdued silence as Betsy was towed down the driveway and out of sight down the road to New Minas. I never saw her again.
I still feel sad thinking about it now which is why it has taken me a couple of days to write this post. I knew it would annoy me writing about these events and it is doing exactly that but I suppose I shouldn’t be too down-hearted. Our $800 CAD “rescue” from the second hand lot / breakers yard (I still do not know which) had yielded us a 38 night road-trip round three Provinces.
Certainly we had to pay campsite fees every night as we had not yet upgraded to “Walmart camping”, which we were to do in future trips and which is even cheaper, but hiring a car for that length of time and staying in even modest motels would have proved prohibitively expensive.
The savings on car rental and motels / hotels are before you even factor in eating and drinking out all the time as self-catering and spending evenings in the “Betsy Arms” bar had saved us a further fortune with the spin-off benefits that we could watch whatever we liked on the computer and smoke without going outside which you cannot do in a conventional pub. We also had the advantage of eating at ludicrous hours of the night and preparing the vast range of wonderful local produce that we had made a point of sourcing.
One way and another dear old Betsy had more than repaid us the £1000 CAD or so she had cost and not even cost us as Ron had so generously provided her for us. Best of all, she had given us one of the best trips I have ever had and I have been lucky enough to have been on a few brilliant ones. When discussing it later Lynne told me that she had really enjoyed it as well.
We packed away all the kit from the trip, mostly in Ron’s Aladdin’s Cave of a garage, sat around drinking coffee for a while and telling him all about our adventures and headed off to bed a little heavy-hearted.
Before I finish this post I am going to add a little slideshow of dear Betsy in her swansong glory on this trip, all of which images you will have seen before so please feel free to skip them, they are rather more for my benefit.
In the next episode, which I promise will be the final one in this series, I’ll tell you about my last couple of days round Kentville / New Minas and my trip home so stay tuned and spread the word.