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Nothing is ever easy!

11 Aug

Well, it was a fairly normal summer up until the middle of last month. We’d come home and helped the eldest daughter plant the summer garden, and put in a new floor in their garage, (it’s both the workout gym and her husbands Man Cave). Not to mention lots of Grandma and Grandpa time!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Then it was off to the island to help our youngest and her family settle into their new home. I spent the month painting, replacing electrical outlets and switches, trimming trees and planting a raised bed garden, while Richard was putting in a new hot water tank, faucets, toilets, cutting down cedar hedges run amok, ripping out plants gone wild, building an indoor chin up bar for their garage gym and a chin up/rings bar outside so they could keep up with their Crossfit training and of course, more Grandma/Grandpa time!

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

Oh, and he installed a solar system on Rosie, so our van now has all the power we could ever need! Having a son-in-law who works for one of the foremost solar companies in the world was handy. He works for Carmanah Technologies and they’ve finally decided to build portable systems for the general public, perfect for vans and small RV’s, simple to install and use. The system is call GO POWER and if you’re interested, check it out here: gpelectric.com

We also visited with Richards Dad, sister and brother-in-law as well as my sister and niece. It was busy but lots of fun, and then it was back to Penticton. Once back we stuffed our faces with cherries and Richard built a new fence and Alena and I stained it. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work!

Then about half way through July, our youngest Liz, called us to ask when we were coming back to visit as her son Cohen had asked one night before bed. Well, we really didn’t have anything pressing for the next 3 weeks so we decided to head for the island again, but this time we took a longer and slower route, not much longer and not much slower but very pretty and we hadn’t been that way in a quite a few years.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

We headed north towards Kelowna, then took Highway 97C to Merrit, also known as The Connector as it meets up with the Coquihalla Highway just east of Merrit proper. We, however, were not going that way. The Coquihalla is a high speed route, over the mountains, very steep and really nasty in the winter, but it cuts 30 minutes off the trip and it’s the shortest land route from Vancouver to Edmonton. Not really our cup of tea! There are some spectacular sights along the way, but there really isn’t anywhere to stop to admire them and the high speed limits preclude tootling along. So we continued through Merrit along Highway 8 which runs through the Nicola Valley, a very pretty, slower route.

We saw a couple of Rocky Mountain Big Horn ewes, pretty close up and personal as they didn’t seem to be to concerned about our presence and we camped the night at a Forestry Campsite along the river. These types of sites are everywhere in BC, run and maintained by the Forest Service and can consist of simply places to rough camp with outhouses, all the way up to campsites with picnic tables, garbage collection and fee collection. The rates run from nothing to $10.00 per night.

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

If this is the way you like to camp get yourself a book called Backroads Map Books. I think there are 6 for all the different areas of BC depending on where you want to go and they will show you all the back road, logging road and off road routes, Forestry as well as Provincial campsites and fishing areas. If you spend a lot of time wandering around BC or you might in the future, these books are a necessity!

After leaving our lovely campsite we headed further west until we met up with Highway 1, at Spences Bridge and turned south onto Highway 1, the Fraser Canyon. This was just after all the big floods in southeastern BC and western Alberta so the water was definitely high!

It was kind of a sad trip down the canyon though, we were there in the middle of July and there appeared to be not a tourist in sight. Everywhere we looked, businesses were closed, private Campsites, Motels, Restaurants, even gas stations, certainly nothing like I was used to seeing! Up until that point every time we’d driven the canyon the traffic was so thick nobody managed to even come close to the speed limit, with vehicles pulled off everywhere to stop and take pictures. The place was alive with White water rafters, tourists of every descriptions and Hells Gate usually had so many people waiting to take the tram and view the rapids that you had to be extremely careful driving past so you didn’t run anybody over! This year there was no one to be seen and traffic was so light as to be almost non-existant!

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

We made it over to the island, sat and talked with the kids and grandkids, then after dinner, we headed to the local park to take the kids for a bit of play time and the dogs for a walk. My kids have taken up Crossfitting and so have I, just not to the extent they have. While we were fooling around on the play ground equipment, I grabbed a chest height bar and and leapt up planning on landing on my stomach, but I miscalculated and missed by about an half an inch. I smacked the bar right between my two lowest ribs on the right side. Ouch!!

Great, we’d been on the island for 2 hours!

We headed back, with me feeling foolish and not really sure of how badly I’d hurt myself. The next morning, with me moving cautiously, I made breakfast for us. Richard took one bite  and then exclaimed, “Oh, oh”. He’d broken a tooth! ALL of Richards teeth are capped and this one had broken  under the cap and below the gum line!

Great, we’d only been on the island now for barely 12 hours!

We spent the next 3 weeks with Richard going back and forth to the dental surgeon for x-rays, exams, more x-rays, cleaning, then finally extracting the tooth, not to mention the two of us hanging with the kids, and me wincing, playing with the grandkids and me wincing, dog and house sitting, oh, and painting one more wall. and me wincing! He was supposed to have an implant but due to insufficient bone mass, and a really difficult extraction, that’s not going to happen until next year.

Why is nothing ever easy?

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It's amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island!

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It’s amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island! Notice the Carmanah “GO POWER” solar set up!

While we were waiting for the final appointment, we decided to hit the road for a couple of days, just to relax, turn the phones off, and be alone. So we decided on a circle route that not many people know about, from Victoria to Duncan, via Port Renfrew with a stop in the Carmanah Valley Provincial Park, then back to Victoria, via Highway 19.

We headed for Langford then hit Highway 14 which took us out to Port Renfrew. This is a gorgeous drive that parallels the Juan de Fuca Trail. Just before you drive into Port Renfrew proper, you’ll see a road and a sign on the left hand side that says “Lake Cowichan”. This is the part of the route that few actually know about. It meanders towards the south side of Lake Cowichan and Honeymoon Bay. When we reached the intersection of Honeymoon Bay and Nitinat Lake we turned right towards Nitinat.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

Part of Nitinat Lake

Part of Nitinat Lake

If we’d been following the signs for Carmanah Valley Provincial Park we never would have found it as the signage got smaller and less noticeable as we got closer. Not to mention, once we hit the intersection we needed to take just before the village of Nitinat, the road conditions deteriorated drastically and the signage continued to shrink in size and noticeability.

Carmanah Valley Provincial Park was created, in reality, by those who literally fought to stop the valley from being logged. It contained some of the last standing old growth Sitka Spruce (including one that is considered to be the worlds largest) and Cedar forests on Vancouver Island and was the site for what became known as “The War in the Woods”.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Opposition to the logging was expressed in several peaceful protests and blockades of logging roads from 1980 to 1994. The largest event occurred in the summer of 1993, when over 800 protestors were arrested and many put on trial. Protestors included local residents of the area, First Nation bands, and environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Clayoquot Sound.
The portrayal of the logging protests and blockades received worldwide media attention, and created national support for environmental movements in BC and fostered strong advocacy for anti-logging campaigns. The park was officially created in 1995 which was the first time I visited it.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The accessible area makes up only about 1/100 of the park and there are walkways so you can get over numerous springs and bogs to get to the largest trees without having to walk over their roots which are susceptible to damage.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it's one of the smaller ones in the park.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it’s one of the smaller ones in the park.

I was very disappointed with the state of both the road and the park itself. The logging road has been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that I’d say anything bigger than our van, Rosie, will not be able to make it down the road in the very near future as the trees have grown over the road and are closing in from both sides. The park itself looks like not a cent has been spent on the place for the last 30 years, the walkways were broken or shoved to the side, areas where water has damaged the paths haven’t been fixed, and the whole place has a aura of neglect and decay. It almost feels as if the government is hoping either the public will forget about the place, so that they can turn it back over to the logging companies, or they are trying to create one of those parks that exist  to protect a rare ecosystem while being inaccessible to the public.

(There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the plan, but our Provincial government which has been in power since 2001, and is very definitely pro logging. They have produced many “papers” over the last few years that suggest logging in our Provincial parks is necessary for the health of the logging companies. No so much interested in the health of the parks though!)

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

Either of these things would be a slap in the fact to all those who fought to save this beautiful area from destruction and bring it to the attention of the general public and make it accessible all those years ago!

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

We visited the park, then found a very pretty hunters campsite to spend our second night, just down the road from the park. The next morning we headed out intending to spend one more night somewhere around Lake Cowichan before we had to back for Richard’s surgery, but we made the fatal mistake of turning on the cell phones! Lo and behold there was a message from daughter #1 telling us Richard had a prescription waiting for him in Sidney that he needed to start taking it 24 hours before his dentists appointment, so we reluctantly headed back down the island.

On the Friday, Richard had his surgery and the next morning we headed back to Penticton. We’ll stay here now till the beginning of September, picking up the last little bits of things we need for Baja, then after the Labour Day weekend, we’ll head back to the island. We’ll stay for a while visiting and picking up the things we know we can only get in Victoria, then say our reluctant goodbyes to our kids and grandkids, then on to the Port Angeles Ferry, down the Olympic Peninsula, and off to Baja.

Next time we talk, we’ll be back on our beach and I’ll tell you all about our adventures getting there.

TTFN

Oh, cry me a river!

6 Dec

Okay, don’t whine! I know I’m a couple of days late with this post, but hey, what don’t you get about RETIRED?

 

Halloween is over, having given away handfuls of candy to local kids dressed to the nines, American Thanksgiving has been celebrated with turkey and vast amounts of food, two Full Moon parties have been held and the Christmas feast discussion is under way. Richard’s and our friend Kottie’s birthdays have been observed and another campers is fast approaching. The celebratory occasions are coming fast and furious but we’re all having a hard time being as social as we usually are. The reason?

BUGS!!!!

Hence the name of this post, because every time I try to explain to anyone at home about our plight, that’s the answer I get. Absolutely no sympathy from anyone, especially since the first thing they ask is, “What’s the weather like?” and I have to be honest and tell them it’s sunny and the daytime temperature is hovering between 23C and 28C. Isn’t that wonderful? The problem is we can’t go outside to enjoy it unless we’re heading out on to the water, slathered in DEET or the wind is blowing more that 15 miles per hour.

 

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Going out on the water is great but you can’t do it every hour of every day, the idea of covering every square inch of oneself with vast amounts of DEET (Yes, I did say every square inch) everyday is probably not a healthy idea and the wind is just not cooperating this year. Not only that but even on the 2 occasions when the wind has actually reached those speeds, the little buggers just hover in behind us and take sips at their leisure, and for God’s sake don’t step into the shade!

 

When the wind does blow, you can walk on the beach, but only at low tide since the messy debris left by Paul is still there and will be for years. Trying to walk at anything but low tide is treacherous, since not only is there woody debris on the beach but also buried deep into the sand making footing none too safe. There is no other place to walk, for as soon as you head up the road the bugs come out looking for blood and the many trails we have walked for years are so thick with weeds that it’s hard to find them. When you do find them, there’s no telling what’s under your feet and with the number of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies wandering through the grass, none of us are going to attempt them until the weeds and grass dies.

 

2011 was the last of four years of drought, preceded by six years of sporadic and lower than normal rain falls. I’ve written in the past about how hard it was on the livestock and the people, but there were no bugs! Oh, sure, there were the few wasps, flutterbyes, moths, ants and beetles we see every year, but no mosquitoes or biting insects at all. Even scorpions had become scarce. Snakes might have been seen occasionally but rarely. This year, everything has changed!

 

There were three major rain events this summer here, each lasting two days and dropping between 10 and 15 inches of rain, in August, September and October. Each one giving a boost to the local plant, insect and reptile life.

 

This is one of 5 tarantulas I've seen so far this year. Don't worry we built a little rock bridge to this one could get to safety.

This is one of 5 tarantulas I’ve seen so far this year. Don’t worry we built a little rock bridge so this one could get to safety.

There are more insects per square inch here than most have ever seen, even the locals. Now, the average lifespan around here is 80 years, but climatically, that’s pretty short, so it goes without saying that it’s likely this is not the first time this has happened. BUT, it’s the first time it’s happened to all of us campers on Rattlesnake Beach, and it SUCKS!

 

There are so many bugs here that we all swear there are some that have never been catalogued! Thank God I bought that No-See-Um netting before we left!

 

We have a vast array of flutterbuyes and moths, just about every size, colour and shape imaginable, from ones the size of your baby fingernail to others the size of your hand. The air is alive with thousands of gaudy, sunshine yellow butterflies during the day and gigantic brown and grey moths at night, that cover your radiators and your windshields, not to mention that as they die off they cover the ground like torn up origami paper.

 

We have Stink Beetles that raise their posteriors and shoot out a foul smelling acid. These at least are quit small and their numbers have decreased considerable since we first arrived.

 

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

There’s a beetle here that has huge, long antenna and a large body. They look like there is no way in hell they should be able to fly, but they do! Not very well, and they seem to have a hard time navigating, but the bastards fly. Nothing like getting a beetle that’s the length of your middle finger flying into your face. Then, there’s the ants. We’ve got all kinds, big ones, little ones, red ones, black ones and sort of a combination of both. We got some that only come out at night and others that we see only during the day. We’ve even got some that keep on getting into Grummy. Not many, but we’re constantly on the look out. It’s not a good thing when ants get into RV’S.

 

Most of the grasshoppers are gone now but for a while you couldn’t go out with out the grasshoppers going off in a sort of domino effect. As we walked or drove, those around us jumped, sending those where the first ones landed, off, over and over again. Sometimes it felt like a type of bow wave as the hoppers continued to jump just ahead of us until we hit the pavement.

 

And spiders? Don’t get me started! If there’s a place they can get into, they’re there, there are a lot of them and they are big! I’ve seen more tarantulas this year that all the past years combined, though they don’t actually bother me. Maybe it’s because they are furry. The yellowy-brown  ones the size of the palm of my hand, and the black ones of any size are the ones I really don’t like. It’s a good thing the seals on all our widows and doors are in good condition because the big ones are constantly trying to get in that way and they sit just inside the metal parts of the doors unable to get under the seals, then when you open they door, the leap out! Yeah, that’s great for my nerves! I hate spiders!

 

 

We’ve seen lots of big scorpions, as well as snakes and snack track. Watched a beautiful Rosy Boa taking a short cut right through our campsite the other night! The bane of our existence though, are the mosquitos, no-see-um-s, bobitos, hey-hey-nees and collectively, for want of a better name, ankle biters! These little bastards are making life miserable for just about everyone. Some or all of us react to at least one if not more of all these biters. The mosquitos are at their worst during dawn and dusk but bites can happen all day too. Though once night falls they seem to mostly disappear. The biggest problem with the mosquitos is they are known carriers of Yellow and Dengue Fever, and there is still, and will be for sometime to come, many, many areas of standing water for them to breed in.

 

The worst ones are the small ones, some so small you can barely even see them, but these buggers pack a wallop, they can really hurt when they bite. It feels like someone has stuck you with a pin, and the itch is intense and long lasting. Even weeks later when all evidence of the bite is gone, the site can still itch. These nasty little bugs can walk through your clothes and DEET seems to have little to no effect on them.

 

Right at this moment, I have 20 to 25 bites, mostly ones from the ankle biter types and almost all on my lower legs and feet. From where I’m sitting typing this, I’m looking at five different bug repellants and two bug killers sitting on the doghouse of the engine, where they are readily available for use before we go outside. Apparently after the big rain event in August the town of Loreto ran out of repellant. The local merchants must have taken note because there is stuff available everywhere now and it’s a damn good thing too!

 

You CAN’T go outside without some form of protection, if not chemical than clothing that consists of long legs and sleeves that are thick enough to stop the mosquitos from biting you through the material and tight enough to stop the tiny ones from getting inside.

 

Which brings me back to my original comment about how this is affecting life on the beach. We now spend a lot of time in each others rigs instead of sitting out enjoying the sun or stars and even that doesn’t really help since most of the tiny biters can easily crawl through the screening on everyone’s RV windows, except ours and ours is too small to have more than four people in it at a time. Even that can be too much sometimes. We’re all going through a fortune in repellants and soothers and everyone is searching through their wardrobes for suitable clothes that won’t cause them to suffer from heat stroke. Outdoor get- togethers are short and sweet and accompanied by lots of fans, bug zappers, long sleeves and the heady aroma of many different bug repellants. We talk about which ones we use and how well they work, where to get them and a comparison on prices. Conversation has definitely taken a strange turn this season.

 

The nice thing about this year is that it’s throwing us into each other’s laps more. It’s become quite usual to have a dinner party for four or six and simple hold it in whoever’s rig is the biggest, even if they aren’t actually doing the cooking. I’ve walked more than one platter of sushi down the beach so far this winter.

 

Now, I know it’s cold where you are, maybe raining, maybe snowing, but in your heart of hearts, when you would normally think of us with envy and yes, maybe even a touch of bitterness throughout the winter, this year you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that we are suffering too.

 

In our own way maybe, but believe it baby this is suffering Baja style!

 

Hasta Luego!

It’s Oh So Green!

12 Oct

Well, now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath and relax for a moment it’s time to sit down and tell you all about the last month.

 

We left Penticton in the first week in September after rushing around trying to make sure we had everything we needed. Obviously we didn’t because we then spent the next 2 weeks on Vancouver Island doing the same thing interspersed with visiting our daughter Liz, her husband Adrian and our 2 wonderful grandchildren, as well as everyone else we could. I even took the time to attend a High School reunion. We had set the date of departure at September 24th and come hell or high water we were leaving then, so we did!

 

We decided to travel the coast road down through the US,  and despite a few days of fog, the weather was fabulous. We meandered a bit and then when we reached the beaches of San Simeon, where the Elephant seals have recently colonized, we turned inland to the I-5. From that point it took us 1 day of travel to reach our favourite stopping point in Baja, San Quintin, where we always stay for 2 nights just to relax and enjoy the endless sandy beaches as well as one of our favourite treats, Stone Crab claws, purchased direct from the fishermen’s boat that lands right in front of our campsite.

 

This is what our campsite usually looks like, at least for the last few years.

One more day and we hit Loreto. Yep, that means we were travelling fast, but we figured we might as well get the trip over with and find out what awaited us. On our way down we had noticed the greenery and the closer we got to the beach the more we saw. When we arrived it was 38c with a humidity level of 85 percent and apparently had rained only a couple of days before. The last hurricane of the season had been downgraded to a tropical storm but still managed to dump a large amount of water, enough that there was huge standing puddles everywhere. Apparently this year, the rainy season actually was, unlike the last 5.

 

This is what it looked like when we arrived this year!

When I say the desert had bloomed, I kid you not. None of us have ever seen the surrounding area so lush, thick and verdant! The land was covered in greenery, lots of it so thick that you could no longer see roads or trails and the bug life was phenomenal! Thousands of butterflies and moths, some the size of your hand and billions of tiny insects so small it was impossible to tell what exactly they were.

 

There are bugs here we have never seen before and some I’d like to never see again! It’s incredibly creepy to see the tree you camp under covered from top to bottom with squirming, black, inch worm type things that appear at dusk and then disappear in the early morning. I can’t say that the biting insects are very bad but if you’re out at dawn or dusk it’s a good idea to wear some insect repellant to keep the mossies at bay!

 

We were a bit nervous about the Grummy when we arrived since we had left in such a hurry and didn’t really know how well she had weathered the long, hot, wet summer. Upon opening the door, it was obvious that she had done OK. Richard had left one of the skylights cracked a bit and the screen had fallen in, but it was clean and dry and except for a rather large spider which had gotten in and made herself at home, (and who was summarily removed from this life) things were looking good until we opened the door of the fridge. Because Grummy uses solar power we had left the fridge turned on low, so that the system could cycle, however sometime since we left, the fridge had ceased to function and everything in it had gone bad. Did you know that really rancid butter turns a very vivid shade of red? Neither did I.

 

Last year, you could see for miles in all directions!

So began the tossing out of everything in it, not to mention all the foods we had stockpiled to bring home that had long since reached their expiry dates. Not everything needed to be tossed, but growing up I was taught never to waste food and I have to tell you that throwing out all that stuff gave me few bad turns.

 

Then it was time to turn the motor over and get her to the beach. That wasn’t happening either since the battery that runs the motor had died. It required a little exchange of batteries from one vehicle to the other and hey, presto we had mobility. Off to the beach!

 

After navigating a road that had been ravaged by all the rain and the formation of new and ever changing arroyos we made it to our site, only to discover that it was completely covered in weeds 3 feet deep! It took us all of one day, both of us working in extreme heat to make a space for Grummy. Since them it’s been a continuing program, get up at 6 AM, weed the surrounding area to make space for our van and car, get the campsite set up and attempt to get the fridge fixed.

 

The fridge was actually pretty easy as the man who runs the nearby convenience store, the Modelorama, is a friend and he knew the right person to call.  Hopefully that issue will be resolved in a few more days! Since we now have a propane fridge in the little Dodge van, “Rosie” and a cooler full of ice it’s not been too big of a problem.

 

The biggest problem has been remembering where everything is, and how it all works. Yeah, I can hear you all now saying what’s the big deal, but let me tell you having a 6-month hiatus from everything in the Grummy, it’s taken us a week to remember where we stored everything. Even now we keep remembering things we put away and have to stop and figure out if they are in Grummy, Rosie, our kayak that’s still sitting in storage in Loreto, or at Richard’s Dad’s place.

 

As the temperature and the humidity levels have slowly declined, down to a more reasonable 30c and 40 percent, we have spent our time removing the weeds near our campsite, as that keeps the bugs at bay, working to fix the road, so the bigger rigs coming in behind us would have an easier time getting in to the beach, and fixing new screens for the skylights. Not to mention putting up the shade screens, raking the beach of all the debris left by the summer storms, drinking vast amounts of water, and the occasional cold beer. (Thanks to the ice in the cooler, which needs to be replaced every day. I told you it was hot!)  Oh, and swimming, to get rid of the sand that sticks like glue to hot sweaty bodies! Yeah, I know it’s a tough life.

 

Yesterday, most of the regulars arrived and it’s starting to feel like the old neighbourhood again. Most of the hard work is done, with a few jobs that can be left for a future time and now we can relax, and recreate.

 

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, we were so busy down here we actually didn’t remember until a couple of days later, but then on the other hand we give thanks every day that we can continue to go south every winter and enjoy the life we lead.

 

To all our family, we love you and a day doesn’t go by that we don’t think of you and wish you could be here with us! Just remember we now have a spare room, and we’re always up for company!

Home away from home!

4 May

So, what do I tell you? When we got home, the first little while was spent renewing our family ties with daughter #1, her husband, and their daughter. I have to say that we were slightly depressed to not have been able to spend the time we had wanted coming home and visiting with friends along the way. We also had to get used to the major temperature difference, the weather and being back in the city. God, it’s amazing how bad some of the drivers are here!

One of the reasons we come home every summer.

When we left, our original plan was to get the broken part, have Richard fly down with it, get Grummy fixed then drive her home. That plan morphed completely as we drove north.

The stress level from our dash home had subsided somewhat, at least for me and the push was on to find a suitable replacement for our Suzuki. Something that we could sleep in and be able to cook simple meals in, be comfortable for Richard, the dog, and myself, plus get reasonable fuel mileage.

Azeet made herself at home.

The Grummy is our home and contains everything we own, so we rapidly became aware of everything we had left behind. We had to buy new clothes, shoes, dog blankets, exercise sweats, sandals, and personal products, just to mention a few things.

We settled into a routine, every day we checked all the different sales lists on the Internet that applied to our local area. We’d e-mail our findings to one another and for various reasons we’d reject them. Too small, too big, uses too much gas, too old, too expensive! In the meantime, we lived in our daughters’ spare bedroom. We thought it would work out, transferring between our kid’s houses and their spare rooms but we realized fairly soon that the quarters were just too close, and we needed our own space.

Just because we’re home doesn’t mean we stop exercising. This was a nice hike up a hill between Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake

We love our kids and truly enjoy spending time with them and our grandkids but living right inside all the chaos that small children generate was starting to be waaay too much.

We had to go to the Island for the end of the month and again as much as we love our kids, the idea of spending a large amount of time inside a house with 2 kids, 2 dogs and 2 adults who start their day every morning at 6 AM with a heavy duty workout was going to be something we didn’t want to have to deal with, so the push to find a suitable vehicle was on and amazingly enough it only actually took a week!

Our newest home on wheels!

We found a camper van that was in good shape, had reasonably low mileage and the price was definitely within our budget. We looked at it in Kelowna, bought it the same day, and then trundled it home to Penticton. It was in need of a few minor repairs but we also needed to furnish and outfit it so we could use it on a regular basis. New pots, pans, dishes, towels, bedding, Everything we needed to live, had to be purchased and trust me, more than once both of us expressed the frustration of knowing we already had plenty of the same things sitting in Grummy, but were unable to access them.

So now we have two mobile homes, one in Mexico and one here in Canada, along with a Suzuki, an Asuna and a Geo. The Suzuki and Asuna are going on the market and we hope to recoup our purchase costs for the van by selling the cars before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping!

So there you go, we finally managed to find a new, albeit slightly smaller, home away from home. We had actually talked about doing this same thing in the near future but I guess the fates decided we were going to do it this year.

Nothing like a little excitement to keep you on your toes eh?

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley!

5 Apr

 

I’m sure most of you have heard this expression before. It originates from a poem by Robbie Burns, written in 1785 and basically translates in to, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, I have to say that Richard and I have experienced this with a vengeance.

 

We spent last week preparing to head back to Canada. We packed up the last of our things, fueled up the Grummy, purchased those Mexican food items that we always like to take with us, said our goodbyes around one last campfire, then on Thursday morning we hit the road!

 

The vehicle on the right is Grummy, our home and original transport and the vehicle on the left, the Suzuki is what we drove home in!

We’d only just got up to speed on the highway when there came  a not very nice tinkling sound.  The last time this sound was heard, it took us 6 weeks to overcome the problem.

 

Now, I need to give you a little background here. Grummy was a potato chip delivery truck in her previous life and as such she was a motor conversion. The original owners, Frito Lay Inc. created hundreds of these vehicles. They were designed to carry large volumes of product that weighed very little and to do deliverys in cities, so lots of starts and stops, hence the attachment of an automatic transmission to the 4 cylinder Cummins diesel, which was originally built as a standard. This conversion necessitated a part called a flex plate that sits between the engine and transmission where the flywheel would normally have been.

 

Our second year on the road, we broke the flex plate. At first Richard didn’t know what the problem was and it took him nearly 2 weeks of taking various bits apart to discover what was wrong. Then once he’d uncovered the broken plate we figured no problem, we’ll just order up another one, find a mechanic to fix it and we’ll be on our way! HAH! Talk about naive! First off, no mechanic on Vancouver Island was interested in having anything to do with it, which meant whatever we did, Richard was going to have to do it all himself. Secondly, the flex plate was apparently a fairly rare beast.

 

Eventually we found a source for this unusual part, in Illinois, through a Cummins dealer in Brentwood Bay. The number was read off the old part, an order was put through and we were told, “a week”. A week went by and sure enough a package came, but it didn’t weigh enough. When it was opened, there was the toothed gear ring but not the plate that the gear was supposed to be attached to. Off it went back to the supplier, with a description and measurements of the actual part. “It’ll take a week,” we were told again. Sure enough a week later a bigger, heavier box arrived and….oh happy day, it WAS the right part!

 

But wait… something wasn’t quite right, the ring gear faced the wrong way and since it was welded to the plate it was no good to us. So off Richard went again to the Cummins dealer, where they decided that the plate had been welded wrong and would be shipped back. Another new one would be shipped out in its place and it would take another week!

 

The next week a box arrived and it too had a new flex plate in it and it too had a gear ring welded on backwards. Back to the Cummins dealer Richard went and this time the parts manager called the parts supplier and got the manager to go out to the warehouse and look at the parts. Lo and behold, they were all welded on backwards! CRAP! Okay time to step back and rethink the problem. We had a new flex plate but the gear ring was on backwards, so eventually it occurred to us to go to a machine shop, have the ring cut off, turned around and welded back the right way round. SUCCESS!

 

Another couple of weeks to put everything together and we were finally on the road and headed for Baja.

 

…and now, back to our most recent adventures!

 

After our initial, “What the hell was that?” Which is a game we seem to play every time the Grummy makes a previously unheard sound, Richard realized we had heard this one before. We stopped at the Mirador and Richard took a look, knowing full well what the problem was, then we immediately drove to Reuben Montoya’s shop, just before the airport road.

 

Reuben knew what it was too and spent the next 8 hours disassembling the transmission, pulling the old plate out, welding it back together, then reassembling everything.

At 4PM we were on our way again with fingers well and truly crossed. We made it to the last bridge before Loreto, when we either ran over some gravel that got tossed up into the engine compartment OR the plate was coming apart again, because we heard that familiar tinkling sound once more. We continued on till just north of town when, stressed to the max, we pulled over to the side of the road, drank a couple of beer and decided to spend the night and think about it before continuing on our journey.

 

After a virtually sleepless night, we decided that it would be stupid to continue on in a vehicle that we didn’t trust and if we broke down on the side of the road we were well and truly screwed! So we turned around and headed back to Juncalito, where for the first time we met Manuela and arrangements were made to park the van there for the time being, while we headed home in our tow car, a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, that Richard had just rebuilt the motor in.

 

The idea was that we would get home quickly, find a new part, Richard would fly down with it, replace the unreliable one, then drive the Grummy back home since it really is our home. We grabbed as much stuff as we figured we’d need for the next couple of weeks, cleaned out all the perishable food and drove away.

 

Sounds great, what could possible go wrong?

 

It seems that when Richard, who speaks no Spanish, took the head in to get the rings redone, he asked them to replace the seals since one was leaking badly. And since none of them spoke any English, they didn’t understand him and put the old seals back in.

 

The first day was okay, till we stopped for gas and Richard checked the oil, there was none showing on the dip- stick. He put it down to the rings using up the measurable oil to seat themselves and poured in the 2 litres we had with us. Again we were off! We made Catavina, the first night! Suffice it to say that it wasn’t the nicest place to stay, the dog was totally freaked out and sleeping was a nice idea that never reached fruition.

 

We crossed the border the next night and by this point it was becoming clear we had a badly leaking valve and I was starting to hear tappet noise. Richard being pretty much deaf couldn’t hear it, but he would eventually! From that point on, every time we stopped for gas, we poured in at least 1 litre of oil and the tappet noise just kept getting louder.

 

That night was the worst because we didn’t know where we could go to spend the night. We’ve never travelled with a dog and we had never imagined a scenario that didn’t include sleeping in the Grummy. Thanks to a very nice man in a full up motel who told us about Motel 6 and a very helpful motorcycle cop who gave us detailed directions to the nearest one, we found a place to sleep,  not to mention shower and try to de-stress.

 

From that point on we drove hard and fast averaging 500 miles or 800 kilometres a day. We left Friday morning at 9:15 AM and arrived at our daughter’s house in Penticton at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, 4 nights and 5 days. It was sooo good to be home, safe and out of the car. The tappet noise was so loud by the time we got back that the Suzuki sounded like a diesel truck and I kept expecting the wheels to collapse and the engine to fall out as soon as we came to a full stop!

 

Our plans have changed as well and Grummy is going to stay in Baja for the foreseeable future. We’ll find the part,  take it with us when we return and fix Grummy but it’s starting to look like we’ll be commuting in something a little smaller and more cost effective. But just so you know, it won’t be a Suzuki Sidekick!

 

 

Heading to the 25th parallel

13 Oct

Hidy Ho Campers! Here we are on beautiful Rattlesnake Beach in Southern Baja, once more, ready for another winter in the sun.

Daytime temperature is 33c and nights cool down to a balmy 22c. The water is holding steady at 28c. Yeah, I know that’s rubbing it in but hey, this IS a blog about travelling and I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t tell my viewing audience what to expect if they decide to come for a visit or want to live vicariously through me, right?

Now, the last little missive I posted told you I have a peeve I want to rant about, so I might as well get it off my chest right away. I started to notice as we slowly made our way down roads less travelled that everything had a name; roads, bridges, overpasses, parks, beaches, trails, underpasses, byways, freeways, you name it. (hahaha, sorry)

Lake Crescent, northern Washington, on Hwy 101

What got me going was that almost everything was named after, in most cases, “Some Politician”.  Now, I tried looking up some of these names and for the most part Google just went “Huh?” What is it about your average politician that they just have to have some edifice named after them, especially since within 20 years, no one is going to remember who the hell they were, except maybe their closest friends, (Is that possible?) and relatives.

I’ll give you an example, in the town we lived in, there was a lovely park in the downtown core, on the foreshore and it was called simply, Foreshore Park. Kind of says it all doesn’t it? Certainly tells you where and what. A couple of years after a Mayor who had served for 3 terms died, his wife and political cronies who still made up the city council decided it would be a great idea to rename the park after him. So in their finite wisdom, the local politicians changed the name to the “Robert V. Ostler Park”. Pretty much everyone still refers to it as Foreshore Park and even my kids who grew up there have only a vague recollection as to who Robert V. Ostler was. Give it another 10-15 years and only those who stroll through City hall and see his name on the list of mayors will have any clue.

The first beach we came to in Washington State, Ruby Beach

Don’t get me wrong, I see no problem naming things after “famous” politicians, you know, the ones you learn about in school or read about in history books, but the local ones? Give me a break! These, as far as I’m concerned are just a bunch of arrogant, self-centered egotists who see a way of giving themselves a form of immortality and the really crazy thing is, WE GO ALONG WITH IT!

Okaaaaay…..enough about that.

Back to our story…

We were enjoying our last visit with our youngest daughter and her family, playing with our Grandkids, sampling the fruits of their garden and being overwhelmed with her gustatory expertise when the rain started. Sure it was only a little and the sun did come back out every day, but the temperature was going down and this year there was nothing holding us back. Richard was starting to get antsy but I kept delaying leaving as a Mexican Visa is only good for 180 days and the last thing I wanted was to be coming home in March. Richard however, held out a carrot. I have a last surviving aunt in Ontario so he suggested that we could work our way along the southern US and then up into Ontario before we headed home. Damn, that was a good carrot!

One of many, free, secluded spots we always find on our travels

Cape Ferrolo, Ore. The last time we saw the sun. If you have the time and the weather permits by all means travel the 101. The views are to die for.

Once again we took the Coho Ferry across to Port Angeles, but this time we turned right instead of left and took the 101 Hwy down the Pacific Coast. The weather was good and we moseyed down the road instead of thundered. The scenery was gorgeous and we had high hopes for a slow, picturesque journey, hopping from secluded forest campsites, to beautiful beaches, all the way down the Washington, Oregon coasts, with a side trip to McMinnville in northern Oregon.

The best shot I could get. Big isn't it?

McMinnville is a small town but it contains one of the biggest airplanes ever built, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. This is the crowning glory of The Evergreen Air and Space Museum there and though we had known about this place for sometime, our route and/or schedule had never let us stop and visit. This time we did and we spent the day wandering around, while outside the weather was summer like…and that was the last time we saw the sun, until we crossed the Mexican border.

Not bad eh? Okay it's a picture of a picture, but if you like space stuff, this is a good place to start!

I’ve only included one picture of the Spruce Goose because it’s impossible to get a correct perspective of this baby, but suffice it to say that there are over 100 planes of all sizes nestled under her wings. If you’ve ever been up close and personal with the Martin Mars, you’ll have some idea, but even these don’t come close to the Goose. If you get the chance, enjoy looking at historic airplanes or are interested in the history of the space race from both the American and Russian perspective, go, it’s worth the visit. McMinnville is on Highway 18, just south of Portland and be prepared to spend the day!

Well, folks that’s enough for now. You know where we are and the winter is just beginning, so stand by for the continuing adventures of Travels with Grummy!

TTFN

Blast from the Past

23 Sep

Here we sit on Vancouver Island, doing our final visits with family and friends and gathering up the last little bits of things for our trip back to the Baja. Van Insurance needs to be purchased so we can legally drive in the US and cross back into Canada next spring, as well as Driver Insurance so we can legally drive in Mexico since our Canadian insurance is invalid there. Yeah, I know, don’t ask me to explain!

There are foodstuffs to be purchased as well, since a lot of the things I like to cook require ingredients that I have been unable to find in Baja. I’ve also been gathering up toilet paper and stashing it anywhere I can find room for it. I can hear you now, “Toilet Paper? What, you can’t get toilet paper in Mexico?” Well, sure we can, but have you ever used Mexican toilet paper? If you have, then you’ll  understand.

We left Penticton last week, where the temperature was still hovering around 30 C, or for those still caught in the Imperial time warp, around 90 F. The day we left, the clouds started to gather and by the time we got to the island it was 15 C (60F). It’s very odd for the seasons to change due to geography but anyone who has ever spent large amounts of time here understands the influence ocean waters have on a land mass when the furthest you can get from it is less than 30 miles. Since the Island is, at it’s largest, only 62 miles wide, most of the time the beachfront is only a few miles away. As well, the waters here are cold and thanks to that influence, the daytime air temperature, even at the height of Summer rarely gets above 25 C, (80 F).  IT IS NOT THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER RIGHT NOW! That’s not to say that it’s cold or anything but a really nice day here right now is lucky if it’s pushing 20 C, (70 F) and that’s only if there’s no clouds or wind, and around here that doesn’t happen often. I won’t even go into night time temps. And now the rain has set in.

OH MY GOD! The leaves are falling off the trees!

Jeez, you know Fall used to be one of my favourite seasons, but outside all the pretty colours I could definitely do without it now days. Just can’t stand the cold anymore and as far as I’m concerned, if the temperature sinks below 21 C or 72 F, it’s bloody cold!

This makes it a bit of a quandary for me, I want to visit with everyone and enjoy my time with them, but the falling temperatures make me want to head south. This year, the urge to just leave…head south…find the sun and the warmth, has infected us more than ever, especially since there is no overriding reason to stay, but….

Being on the Island is the only way I get to spend  time with my youngest daughter, her husband and their  2 small children. This is a busy household,  Liz works as an independent journalist, Food Blogger, recipe developer and Web Site designer from home, her husband is the Vice President of a small computer firm who works both at the office as well as at home and the kids are 3 1/2 years and 15 months old, respectively.  In other words this place is semi-controlled chaos. It’s fun but it sure can be draining and I wouldn’t  miss it for the world, but….it’s getting colder and wetter. Yeah, Fall has arrived on the Island and with it always comes rain, so we are moving quickly now to get our respective shits together, as it were, and hit the road by the end of the month. In the meantime, in our copious free time, when we’re not out visiting with friends or relatives, or babysitting for the kids, or looking for those last minute items, we have to find ways to occupy ourselves.

A week ago my sister asked if I’d like to go see Trooper. Now this was fortuitous as I’ve been communicating recently, with a fairly large group of folks I grew up with and went to school with, 40 years ago in Vancouver. There has been lots of comments about music and bands we listened to when we were kids and the concerts we all attended. The name Trooper, came up more than a few times, so of course I said sure, after all, how many times does one get to relive their youth? (For those who don’t know, Trooper, is a Vancouver band, a BC ikon and a Canadian Musical legend. Their bio says they got started in 1975, though there was an earlier incarnation known as Applejack, and an even earlier one, called Winter’s Green, I’ve known them since way back then. The lead singer and founding member, Ramon McGuire, went to school with my middle sister and the other co-founder Brian Smith, is the cousin of a close friend, who died a couple of years ago. The boys started off life as a school dance band, but they were very good and it didn’t take long for someone to notice. Randy Bachman, of  The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, signed them to his record label, “Legend”, and the rest, as they say in the business, is history.)

Ra, wearing words to live by.

One of their big hits is called, We’re here for a good time, (not a long time).” I have strived all my life to live up to that ideal. As far as I’m concerned, you only get one go-round in this life, so you’d bloody well better make it a good one!

Off we went, and we had a great time!  The last time I saw them in concert, they played the Coliseum in Vancouver, where I and a few thousand other stoned Vancouverites, watched them as the smell of marijuana wafted thick through the air. It was just a tiny bit different last night, as the Charlie White Theatre holds only 310 people, all in assigned seating. So the show was much more intimate, the performers had a chance to interact closely with the audience, and drinks and dancing were actually allowed. The only thing missing was the smell of pot, until about half way through the 2 hour performance, when for just a few moments, a few tendrils of aroma could be sensed in the air.

Ah, the remembrance of youth!

We even ended in the appropriate manner. The boys played their biggest North American hit, “Raise a little hell!” with the audience out of their seats and dancing anywhere there was room;  we’re talking a room full of 50 and 60 somethings, with a few 20 and 30 somethings thrown in for a little spice!

Brian, raising a little hell of his own!

This is also one of my guiding principles in life, as I believe everyone should raise a little hell now and then, as it’s good for the soul!!

So, okay folks, all together now, let’s get out there and….RAISE A LITTLE HELL!