One Year Fulltiming!


Leaving Colorado 1

Leaving Colorado 2It’s true, we’ve now passed the one-year mark since we began our journey.  It has been a rich and full experience and yet time has passed very quickly.

Before I forget, I’ll answer a question that was asked just before we left:  What if we don’t like it?  Well, we love it.  Even though the first time I woke up in Island Girl knowing that I’d be living here for a while, my first thought was – What have I done? – I quickly came to love it and have never looked back.Isl Grl Redo  004

In fact, I was surprised at how easily I adjusted, particularly to the confined quarters. Hector and I decorated our new little 400 square foot home just as we had our other homes, and we really enjoy our interior space.

And we’re also really happy with our upgrades and our custom office space.   Hector is able to work on his Apple computer (the photographer gets the big computer) in our comfy chair by the desk, while I work on our laptop on our comfy couch simultaneously.halifax

Island Girl feels downright roomy with her 39’ length, and we have plenty of storage space.

And the journey has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve spent quality time with friends and family across the country, many of whom we’d not seen in waaay too long.  And other friends have come to visit.

Along the way we’ve also met lots of different people, learned new things, and just enjoyed spending quality time together.  We’ve visited a total of 14 states, including parts of the Midwest, South and Northeast.

We’ve experienced the lovely Arkansas autumn, Buffalo National River  024the fabulous gulf coast of Florida,Henderson Beach   080

the wild and subtle beauty of the Everglades,flower  024

and the wilder side of Florida in general. Ft Myers  056

We returned to the “black” waters of the Okefenokee Swamp,Swamp 011

and to the Great Smoky Mountains.Smokies  007

We visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, OBX  055

and spent the beginning of our summer on the breathtaking coast of Maine.Penobscot  169

keys  021We traveled to extreme opposites; in Key West, Florida, we stood at the southernmost point of the U.S.sunset  027

And months later made it to the furthest northeast state of Maine.boothbay harbor  095

We spent just under 12 weeks in Canada, where we visited four provinces and learned a ton about our neighbor to the north.

There we saw the amazing tides of the Fundy Coast,New Brunswick117

the unique rock formations and the beautiful lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove,peggy 25

and the rugged beauty of Cape Breton Island.cape breton  030cape breton  011We traveled to the southern tip of Nova Scotia, brier 50along the gorgeous landscapes of Prince Edward Island,

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and the spectacular Gaspé Peninsula,Perce  073

where we visited its Northern Gannet colony in Ile de Bonaventure.Perce  049

We saw the whales of the St. Lawrence River,st lawrence  115

and took many walks around beautiful Québec city  046

And Angel visited rivers, lakes, rocky and sandy beaches, forests, went boating on various boats and ferries, and even went whale watching.River Dog  006

In total, Island Girl traveled 8,534 miles this first year.

And Hector and I have grown even closer during this journey.  Living together in such tight quarters can bring out the best or the worst in couples and sometimes both.  We’ve been married for a very long time and are very comfortable spending lots of of our time together while traveling.  Even after all of that we had a few grumpy patches along the road, but ultimately found our groove.

And, interestingly, some of the working aspects of RVing helped us to strengthen our partnership.  I named a previous post about leaving and arriving at our destinations “The Departure Dance”.  And I really do believe that there is a choreography that you both create and “perform” on a regular basis.  But it’s important that the choreography feels right for both of you.

That extends to the day-to-day chores and responsibilities as well.  Learning to support each other in a way that takes into account each of your likes, dislikes, talents and skills can make the journey much more enjoyable.

Rv Repair SedaliaAnd, not surprising to any RVers out there, we’ve discovered that things tend to go wrong in the most inconvenient of times.

The first time was on the first week we were on the road, when our water inlet broke.  Another time, our refrigerator broke down on a Sunday, the day before we planned to cross the border into Canada.

The first Hector fixed himself, the second, we found someone who was able to fix it.  But we learned that when things go wrong (not if, but when), we should:

  • Stay calm
  • Ask for advice and/or help, there is a very helpful community out there
  • Be flexible
  • Have or make a plan B

footAt the same time, it’s been difficult to be away from most of our friends and family in Denver, and we really miss them.  But we can always visit and plan to soon.

And there have been other challenges along the way; minor medical issues and having to figure out which doctor to go to in unfamiliar places.  The same for finding veterinarians.

And, less critical challenges like not having access to cell phones, internet or TV (sometimes a good thing) in some places.

But right now we wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything else.  And we are continually learning and growing.  For me this blog has been a huge learning experience.  I’m not the most tech savvy person, and when we began this blog, we knew nothing about blogging.  But I took on the task of figuring out how to get started, and spent several frustrating weeks using the process of elimination to figure out certain aspects of the blog.

Well, we just passed the 100 post mark on the blog.  And it’s is another example of working as a team.  Hector is in charge of the photography, I write the posts.  Then we combine the two.  From organizing how to divide the subjects to creating the final product, we support each other.   Sometimes we collaborate from the beginning, other times we work independently and get together at the end. The blog is another choreography.

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When I started writing this post, Hector wrote me a little note with some numbers and fun facts from the year.  He ended the note with “i love you still”.  And I feel the same way.

And the journey continues.

~ Brenda

Fortress Louisburg

louisburg  013louisburg  001I wasn’t sure that I was up for visiting yet another fortress, but the Fortress of Louisbourg is North America’s largest historical reconstruction, so we couldn’t pass it up.  It’s a National Historic Site, so yet another opportunity to use our Parks Canada Discovery Passes, which have already paid for themselves.

louisburg  004louisburg  005louisburg  003The French selected this ice-free, sheltered harbor to act as a base for France’s interests in cod fishery and to serve as an important trading post because of its location due west of the entrance to the Mediterranean and due north of the French Caribbean.  In fact, one map we saw had a perfect triangle with these three locations as its corners.

The original settlement was founded in 1713 and fortified against the threat of British invasion during the turbulent time of empire-building.  The walls were built between 1720 and 1740 and the fortifications eventually surrounded the town.

louisburg  010louisburg  055Louisbourg developed into a thriving center for fishing and trade and became an administrative capital.  It was second only to Quebec as the most important stronghold and commercial city in New France and had a commercial district, a residential district, military arenas, marketplaces, inns, taverns and suburbs.

louisburg  030louisburg  018Exporting fish was more lucrative than the fur trade for France, where the majority of Catholics were not supposed to have meat about 150 days in the year.  Some of France’s poor and impoverished left their homes behind to seek a better life in this prosperous community.

louisburg  008louisburg  011The design of the fortress was focused on sea-based assaults, and left the land facing area unprotected, the thinking was that there was no way to cross the swamps. The British took the fortress in 1745, then the French negotiated their return only to be captured by the British again in 1758.   And the British ultimately destroyed the walls of Louisbourg and burned down the city in 1760.louisburg  033


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louisburg  048louisburg  002Then in 1961, after many Cape Breton Islands coal mines had been closed, the federal government funded the reconstruction as a way to generate jobs.  Archeologists, engineers and historians worked together to recreate the town as it was in the 1740’s. louisburg  038louisburg  017louisburg  014louisburg  016

louisburg  012louisburg  046louisburg  015The current city has dozens of buildings open to visitors with re-enactors in period dress demonstrating how people worked, played and lived in 1744.  The re-enactors are excellent and speak to you in character and in the context of the time (sometimes with a wink).

Very educational, often funny, and always entertaining.  As extensive as the reconstruction is, two thirds of the fortified town remains as ruins.louisburg  050

We witnessed a public shaming, a musket and cannon firing demonstration, a blacksmith demonstration and upper class dancing by the re-enactors.  We learned about the rationing of food for the soldiers and about baking in the old fashioned ovens.  They even had the loaves of bread baked that morning available for purchase.

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louisburg  040louisburg  039

louisburg  028louisburg  054louisburg  051

louisburg  029We also learned that wealthy parents didn’t establish a strong bond with their children until they were about 10 years old, they had wet nurses, nannies and others caring for the children until they were considered to be relatively safe from childhood diseases.   What a different time!

louisburg  049louisburg  057louisburg  056The harbor is large and protected but the harbor entrance is treacherous.  There is still a lighthouse very near to where the French installed theirs.

Fortress of Louisbourg is an impressive re-creation.  If you have ever had an interest in stepping back in time, I’d recommend you visit.

~ Brenda

The Cabot Trail

cape breton  011cape breton  001The 186 mile Cabot Trail is truly one of the most scenic drives we’ve ever taken.  The road twists and turns, and, as you round the corners, you encounter one stunning vista after another.  This is especially true once you enter the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  The Trail can be driven in six very exhausting hours, but, happily, we had the opportunity to drive on various sections of it and through the National Park several times.

cape breton  068cape breton  002cape breton  030cape breton  026One third of the Cabot Trail runs through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which covers 367 square miles.  The ocean scenery in the highlands is some of the most eye-popping, with steep cliffs diving straight into the ocean, and also has three forest types:  canyons, plateau and headlands.cape breton  063

cape breton  017cape breton  019cape breton  047Because of these various habitats, however, the weather on the island is unpredictable. And whoever writes the daily forecast for Cape Breton Island clearly has a sense of humor, here is an example of one week’s forecast:  Monday – mostly cloudy with a shower, Tuesday – clouds and sun with a shower, Wednesday – sunny and delightful, Thursday – a couple of thunderstorms, Friday – a thunderstorm possible, Saturday – humid with variable clouds, Sunday – mostly cloudy and humid.

The funny (and wonderful) thing is on several of those days it never rained.

cape breton  022cape breton  051So even though at first we found it challenging to plan our days, we figured out that the best thing to do was check weather at our destination (likely to be different from the weather at our campground) in the morning right before we left, and then generally ignore the forecast anyway 🙂

cape breton  008cape breton  050Our drives up the eastern part of the Cabot Trail were combined with our whale watches.  There are a number of communities along this part of the trail, including Ingonish.  Ingonish has resorts, restaurants, more art galleries, and the Highland Links Golf Course, which has a combination of seaside and mountain holes.

There are also some smaller communities and lots of coves and beaches with colorful fishing boats along the way.

cape breton  015cape breton  016cape breton  014At the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, there’s a village called Meat Cove that has a campground for tent camping and a few cabins.  We walked along a nice little beach there after our morning whale watching tour.

There were lots of Northern Gannets feeding using their dive bomber technique.  Fun to watch.

The only other establishment we noticed in this village was a Chowder Hut.  VERY remote.cape breton  012cape breton  013cape breton  010

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cape breton  042cape breton  043cape breton  035Driving over to the west side, we visited Chéticamp, in the Acadian section of Cape Breton Island.  The Acadians, as I mentioned in my post on Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, settled here in the late 1700s, as well as in some sections of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and give a distinctly French flavor to this area.

Chéticamp is another larger community with more art galleries, restaurants and one VERY large Catholic church.

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cape breton  037cape breton  040A museum that interested me in Chéticamp was Centre de La Mi-carême.  I’ve always been fascinated by festivals involving masks and costumes and La Mi-carême is one I wasn’t familiar with.

It is a carnival that began in Europe sometime during the 7th or 8th centuries, when men and older boys dressed in disguise and traveled the countryside during Lent.  Women, children and the elderly stayed at home to be visited and entertained by the masked merrymakers.cape breton  038

French settlers brought the custom to North America in the late 18th century.  At this time, Catholics ate only one meal each day during the seven weeks of Lent, and were not allowed to include meat, eggs, milk and cheese in their diet.

cape breton  039Lent became known as the “Thin Days’. So prior to Lent, during “Carnival” they feasted, these days were known as the “Fat Days” ending in Fat Tuesday – aka Mardi Gras.

The name Mi-carême comes from the French word for Lent – Carême – combined with the word for half – demi.  And the traveling masquerade takes place on the middle day of the seven weeks of Lent – a one day return to the Carnival festivities that preceded Lent.  The costumes for this festival are not supposed to be beautiful, but rather comical and/or hideous.  And they also served to hide the merrymakers’ identities from the local priests.

cape breton  041The tradition has been revived in recent years, with the host homes and establishments listing themselves as open houses so the masked groups of people will know to visit them.   The hosts prepare food, have music and entertain their visitors with the goal of guessing their identity.  The masked visitors cover their entire body to make themselves unrecognizable.  Once someone guesses the visitors’ identities, they move on to the next open house and begin the process again.

Sounds like fun.cape breton  048

We leave the French Acadian area to return to the Scottish/Irish area of the island.  It’s so interesting to see signage in English and French and a few miles later see signage in English and Gaelic.

cape breton  053cape breton  054We’d planned a couple of hikes in the area that is known as a moose habitat as Hector was still searching for his first Canadian moose.  As we headed for one of the trails and parked in the parking lot, a couple drove up, stopped and asked us – where are you going?  Which was a weird question, but we told them we were about to hike the trail across the street.

They said they’d spotted a moose and had been watching him for a while, when we asked where, they said it was by the moose crossing sign down the road.  So we got back into our car and there she was – it was a cow, right by the bright yellow moose sign!

cape breton  059cape breton  058Hector took some photographs until the cow ran off and then we drove back to hike the trail.  Benji’s lake was a short trail – 2 miles – to a lake known to be moose habitat. On the way back from the lake Hector spotted another cow and took some more photographs.

But, alas, when he got home, the memory card on his camera crashed so we don’t have the moose photos 😦

But we really enjoyed seeing them, they are so unique looking.cape breton  060

Another big day for little Angel

Another big day for little Angel

cape breton  055Another moose sighting; one late night as we headed back from the national park, Hector nearly had a heart attack when he spotted a moose right by the side of the road just in front of us.  Fortunately, the moose didn’t cross in front of us.  So we doubled back VERY slowly to where Hector had spotted the moose.

It was a juvenile bull, quite adorable.    Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we spooked him and he ran into the forest.  Once again, no photos, since it was night.cape breton  057cape breton  056

cape breton  032cape breton  033Heading out to the west side of the park on another day, we stopped to see some folk art by Josef, the artist, at his home.  He’s actually a fisherman who’s been creating folk art for 20 years and has some pretty cool stuff.   And for the second time, we’re asked if we’re art collectors.  Must be common around here.cape breton  020

cape breton  081cape breton  072Then we headed to a hike that we most looked forward to, which is the famous Skyline Trail.   One of the signature hiking trails in all of Canada, which is saying a lot.  This trail takes you through a forest (also moose habitat) to a dramatic headland overlooking the rugged Gulf Coast.

cape breton  085cape breton  073cape breton  071It’s a wide nearly level and very well maintained trail which leads to an enormous boardwalk/stairway leading down through a cliff overlooking the Northumberland Strait.  This boardwalk not only provides an opportunity for some who may not be able to climb down rocks to access the overlooks at the end, but also protects the mountain from being stomped on by all of those people.  There are multiple levels of overlooks so those who don’t want to climb down the entire stairway can still have a beautiful view of the water.cape breton  084cape breton  074cape breton  079cape breton  076cape breton  082cape breton  083

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

cape breton  075cape breton  088We met a cute couple here, he was carrying a little boy on his back and she was carrying a baby in a papoose.  They were both very fit but she didn’t walk down the stairs, as they have no handholds, and I imagine she couldn’t see down because of the baby.  But she still got a nice view.  And he is the one that took the nice photo of both of us.  I love to see young couples taking their kids hiking from such an early age.cape breton  087

cape breton  078I was really impressed by the work done on this trail and that such a short trail (4.7 miles) has one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. cape breton  077

cape breton  091cape breton  064cape breton  089cape breton  067And, did I mention that Cape Breton Island was stunning?

~ Brenda

Baddeck, Cape Breton Island

“What I long for is the heather covered hills of Scotland and the salt air of Baddeck” – Alexander Graham Bell

Baddeck  021Our drive from Halifax to our next destination, Cape Breton Island, was one of the prettiest drives we’ve experienced so far.  The fact that it was a glorious day was a part of it, but the scenery was also gorgeous.

map2The 3,981 square mile island looked very promising with that oh so perfect combination of mountains and ocean. Cape Breton Island is connected to mainland Nova Scotia by the rock-fill Canso Causeway.  Prior to the Causeway, which was built in 1954, the only access to the island was via ferry.

The first thing that struck me was that the welcome message in the main tourist brochure was written in four languages; Scottish Gaelic, French (Acadian), English and Mi’kmaq.  Cape Breton Island has many influences, not the least of which is Scottish.cape breton flag

Baddeck  005Many Scots emigrated to Nova Scotia and many to Cape Breton Island to provide better opportunities for their families.  Some were seeking religious and political asylum, and yet others were fleeing from a famine. Baddeck  007

After 1820, Scottish farmers came here after being forced off their rented lands, when their English landlords evicted them to consolidate their properties into profitable sheep farms. Then in the 1840’s Scottish coal miners came to newly established mining towns here.  Their influence is very visible, more on this later.Baddeck  011

Our campground was just on the outskirts of the village of Baddeck, located on the shores of the Bras D’Or Lakes.  The Bras D’Or “Lakes” are open to the ocean and are actually an inland sea in the center of Cape Breton Island that has many beautiful anchorages and hundreds of coves and islands.

Baddeck  016Baddeck  013Baddeck  014The village of Baddeck is also considered to be the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail.  This is not a hiking trail but a scenic 300-kilometer loop highway that goes through parts of the beautiful Cape Breton Highlands National Park, along the sea, through the highlands and the forest.

While exploring Baddeck we found a picturesque little marina, a few art galleries, restaurants and other shops.  It was while at the marina that we spotted our first bald eagle flying overhead.  Apparently, the Bras D’Or, with its brackish water, creates a rich eco-system for wildlife, especially eagles.

Baddeck  018Baddeck  023Baddeck  024So we set out to find more eagles.  We’d heard there was an eagle’s nest on Kidston, an island across the way from Baddeck.  And we kayaked in the Bras D’Or over to and around the island.  Although we didn’t find the eagle, we walked around Kidston Island and over to the Kidston Island Lighthouse.  The Lighthouse was established in 1875 and the current structure was built in 1912.  An added bonus to being on the island is that there’s a lovely view of Baddeck from there.

Afterwards, we paddled back along the pretty boats in the marina and watched some little kids learning to sail in little prams.  They teach them to sail quite young here!Baddeck  019Baddeck  025Baddeck  026

Baddeck  022Baddeck  028Baddeck  029Baddeck also happens to have one of the best seafood markets we’ve found so far, the Kissing Cod, which was closed on the first day we went there.  A note on the door said “We’re closed until July 31st gone to our son’s wedding”.Baddeck  030Baddeck  033Baddeck  032Baddeck  031

Baddeck  027So we came back (twice) after they re-opened and bought mussels, scallops, snow crab and haddock.  Everything was fresh and fabulous.  And the place is run by a lovely couple.

Baddeck  035Baddeck  038And we absolutely HAD to visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.  After all, this is the man responsible for Hector’s career.  So what’s the Alexander Graham Bell connection?  Mr. Bell was born in Scotland, his parents moved with him to Ontario, Canada when he was 22, then to the United States when he was 23, where he became a citizen.

Sometime later he established a summer estate in Baddeck, then after he invented the telephone he moved here permanently.  Baddeck  034Baddeck  001 (1)Baddeck  037

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is a museum that focuses on his life and many achievements,   I frankly was unaware of all of his many achievements.  And I also was unaware of his work with the deaf, which he was dedicated to his entire life and which contributed directly to his invention of the telephone.

His mother lost her hearing when he was young, and his father, who was an elocutionist, had invented Visible Speech, codes that show how the lips, tongue and throat are positioned to make speech sounds.  Alexander began his career teaching deaf students, and had much success using Visible Speech to teach them to speak.

Baddeck  036He fell in love with one of his students, the daughter of a wealthy family, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard who’d lost her hearing at the age of five after contracting scarlet fever.  They married when she was 19.  Their story is truly romantic,

Mabel was his partner in all things.  They built a beautiful estate called Beinn Breagh on the shores of Bras D’or across from Baddeck.  They are both buried on the estate overlooking the Bras D’or and Baddeck.Baddeck  040

Baddeck  043But the real surprise of the museum was the many things that followed his invention of the telephone, which financially freed Bell to pursue his other interests.  The summer estate in Baddeck included research laboratories, where he experimented with aerodynamics and the designing of flying machines,

Baddeck  002 (1)Mabel, who learned to read lips and speak in multiple languages helped to finance the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA) that Bell and four others (including a young Glenn Curtiss who would have a distinguished career of his own) founded.  The AEA endeavored to “to construct a practical flying aerodrome or flying machine driven through the air by its own power and carrying a man”.

The AEA Silver Dart was the first powered flight in the British Empire having taken off from the Bras d’Or Lake in 1907.  Baddeck is the birthplace of Canadian aviation. and Alexander Graham Bell had a huge role.  Amazing.

Baddeck  041Baddeck  045Baddeck  044Using his learnings from developing wings and propellers for flying machines he became a pioneer in the development of hydrofoils.  The Bras D’or Lakes were the site of testing various design concepts in several generations of hydrofoils.  The first military hydrofoil in the Canadian Navy in the 1970s was named the HMS Bras D’or.

And if that wasn’t enough, he also developed a predecessor to the iron lung, conducted experiments with X rays, and developed a way to send voice using light.

Who knew?

Baddeck  053Baddeck  052Baddeck  054Now back to other Scottish influences.  Throughout Cape Breton and other areas of the maritimes, there are a number of public gatherings called ceilidhs (pronounced kaylees).   These continue a longstanding tradition of social gatherings.

In the old days, ceilidhs (Gaellic for visit) took place in people’s kitchens, and included music, storytelling, poems and proverbs.  The modern ceilidhs are focused on Gaelic folk music and dance and many are open to the public.   These gatherings are also a means to share information about the culture and traditions of the people.Baddeck  051

We attended the Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh at St. Michael’s Parish Hall one evening.  This one was set up as more of a concert style event with chairs facing the stage.  There was a fiddler and a piano player, and both were very skilled.  They played traditional songs and we learned (sort of) the difference between a jig and a reel.  There’s also a portion of the event where the host asks  four couples to volunteer to learn some traditional dances (Hector refused to volunteer :().

Baddeck  057Baddeck  058While at the ceilidh we met two lovely and funny ladies who were in Baddeck as part of a bus tour.  Lois and Bev are from the Ontario area and love to travel.  Lois has been to the Gaspay peninsula, which we are planning to visit soon and gave us quite a few tips on the area.  Baddeck  059Baddeck  055

Once again, we meet more wonderful people in Canada.

~ BrendaBaddeck  015