Re-tired

Well yes, before Betty & I set out on our marvellous adventure, we both retired. In fact, we both failed retirement and had to do it over again. But this post is not about that experience. Yesterday began a whole new re-tirement experience.

Our tire has lots of tread. It’s just not in the right place. lol

We were on Interstate 40 between Fort Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas, when two men in a pick-up truck pulled up beside us and waved for us to pull over. We had blown a tire on our Smart car!

We were relying on our Tireminder tpms to keep us airy.

Given that we have a Tireminder tire pressure monitoring system (tpms) on all motorhome and towed vehicle tires, you might wonder why we didn’t already know that.  Well, let me explain.

We’ve added an iPad holder that can be swivelled to face Betty or me, and linked to our smart tv. Going down the road, we can use our Verizon jetpack to connect us to Google and other web sites. The curtains are open while driving, btw.

Nearly all summer long, the rear tire on the driver’s side of the Smart would lose about 1 -2 psi a week: Not much, but enough for the internal tpms to trigger every couple of weeks. I added a little air each time and we were good to go again. But before we left on this trip I finally took it into Fountain Tire in Winnipeg, where the tires had been installed (We installed all new tires on our motorhome and car last year), and they determined that the leak appeared to be from a loose external tpms sensor, not from the tire.

Our new Canadian Tire lithium battery air compressor has saved the day a number of times now.

So we left Winnipeg in an attempt to outrun the cold front that was moving in, and everything was good until yesterday morning. Before leaving the nice rest area in Joplin, Missouri (with dedicated rv parking adjacent to attractive picnic shelters) I ran the Tireminder through its cycle, to ensure that all tires were good to go. Unfortunately, that same rear Smart tire registered low. But fortunately, I had purchased a new lithium battery air compressor at Canadian Tire, to replace the compressor whose battery had finally died after over 10 years of use. I pumped up the tire, and off we went.

On the side of a busy Arkansas Interstate, Ken’s Towing hooks up our Smart for a trip to the tire shop.

Not far down the Interstate, I got a slow leak warning message from that tire. As soon as I could, I pulled over and topped it up again. When the slow leak warning returned a few miles down the road, we Googled local tire repair shops, and pulled into a small tire shop in Neosho, Missouri, to have it checked. A friendly staff member topped up the tire and did a quick check for leaks. He tightened the valve stem, and volunteered that he thought the tpms sensor was causing the leak. He recommended removing them from all tires, but then I would be flying blind.  Because he had tightened the valve stem and sensor, I hoped our problem was solved.

Our Smart is now at Murders Automotive in Clarksville, Arkansas. It’s a AAA approved shop, so we don’t expect Amy and the friendly staff there to kill our little ride.

When we got to Bentonville, Arkansas, the warning returned, and Betty & I pulled into a Walmart parking lot to check it out. While I re-filled the tire, Betty re-filled our wine rack with wally wine from the store. At that point I removed the tpms sensor and put a regular cap on the valve stem. We decided I would pull over again at the next rest area to check the tire with a gauge. But the rest areas on Interstates 49 and 40 were few and far between. Eleven miles from the rest stop we had programmed into our gps, the tire blew…

Our riverfront campsite in Clarksville, Arkansas is in a beautiful park setting.

With heavy traffic whipping by us at 70 mph, I pulled to the side and called AAA. They were great in getting a flatbed out to us, and we followed it and our Smart to Murders Automotive in Clarksville, Arkansas. That’s where our Smart sits, until a new tire can be delivered and installed, hopefully next Monday.

Betty, Charlie & I had a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery after a stressful day on the road.

In the meantime, Betty and I are enjoying a beautiful riverside site (D3) in Spadra Park, Clarksville. It includes 30 amp service and water for $17./night, a couple of cement patios and sturdy picnic table, and wonderful water and sunset views. It’s a very quiet park, except for the last train to Clarksville that just went by a few minutes ago. lol (For the younger crowd reading this, you may need to Google The Monkees, who sang about that in 1966.)  

We watched a gorgeous sunset last night at Spadra Park.

So retirement has its ups and downs for Betty and me. Sometimes we are deflated by unforeseen experiences, but for the most part we are pumped about our overlandish odyssey. Best wishes for enjoyable times without the blow-outs!

Betty & Charlie spent today out in the sunshine. The temperature is currently 15c with a high of 21c forecast for tomorrow. We are headed south to Texarkana next week and hope to outrun the coming cold front.

Cheers!

Before the sun set on Saturday, Betty & Charlie sat out on our patio, to enjoy the great Arkansas outdoors.

Trying To Outrun The Cold Front

As mentioned in our last post, a cold front is moving into Manitoba this week, so Betty & I have decided to move out. We are now in a race to stay ahead of the cold, which appears to be following us south. 

Lisa came to wish us well, before we headed out on the road.

We had one last enjoyable visit with some of our family before leaving Winnipeg. Our border crossing was uneventful, and we made our first stop in Fargo, North Dakota, to top up with gas and food.

Georgia is on the attack, while her Mom looks on.

After a quick power nap in the Walmart parking lot, we drove south on Interstate 29 to a rest area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, arriving shortly after midnight. The next day we made it to Waubonsie State Park in Iowa, and felt the sun starting to warm us.

Our first stop: Fargo, North Dakota Walmart
Leaving the Sioux Falls, South Dakota rest area after our first night on the road.
Our Waubonsie State Park site 17 in Iowa included 50 amp service for $11. Most trees in the park still had their leaves.

Next was a side trip to Hamilton, Missouri, a small town that is home to 12 quilt shops! Who would have thought that people from all over the world would travel to this spot with a dozen stores focussed on all things quilting? I guess the answer to that is “Betty”. lol. 

Our full service site (#13) at A Country Charm RV Park came to $97.85 for 2 nights. If you want to see quilt pics, ask Betty. lol Note our guard dog on the dash..

After a couple of warm days at A Country Charm RV Park in Hamilton, the cold weather was starting to catch up to us, so it was time to leave. Passing through Kansas City, we headed down Interstate 49 to Joplin, Missouri. Thanks to a school project our granddaughter, Isabella, is working on, we stopped in at the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum in Joplin, taking a tour, a few pics, and free cookie cutter samples along the way.

Betty stands at the entrance to the Cookie Cutter Museum. Despite the name, they don’t all look the same. lol
This vibrant maple tree was just outside the Joplin, Missouri museum. We passed many trees with beautiful fall colours along the way.

We had a warm night at a nice Interstate 44 rest area just east of Joplin, but the cold air continues to follow us. Time to keep going…

Andrew shared a warm laugh before we left.

Cheers!

Valerie contemplates the gathering at her home.
James watches as Charlie gives Nana a kiss.

Jersey cuddles up with Isabella as the cold weather approaches.

Change of Plans

One of the benefits of living in a home on wheels is we can move it if need be.

Too many negative numbers in the forecast. Time to leave…

This fall has been unusually wet and cold in Manitoba. Heavy rains in September caused the Red River floodway, that diverts water away from the City of Winnipeg, to be opened later in the year than ever in its history. Even so, the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, that converge in Winnipeg, are overflowing their banks. 

Even though Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park is only 5 minutes from our previous home in Winnipeg, Betty & I had never visited. We finally stopped by on one of the few nice days last month.

As previously mentioned, an early blizzard on October 11 brought down 3,000 trees in the city, as the leaves had not yet fallen and the weight of snow was too much for them. Thousands of residents lost hydro power, with some in the dark for almost three weeks. Some major city parks are still closed as the clean-up continues into November.

This old gate is all that remains of the original fort in downtown Winnipeg.

Betty & I had planned on leaving Manitoba on Nov. 8, after a Fleetwood Mac concert on the 7th. We have had good tickets for the concert since April and fully expected the weather to co-operate until we were ready to go. But then two nights ago the water froze in our motorhome. Time for a change of plans…

Where one of the old fort’s walls stood, this metal artwork, depicting the history of Winnipeg, lights up with thousands of LED lights at night.

The park where we have been staying this summer shut the water off to all of their sites a week ago, due to unseasonably cold forecasts. We have been drawing water from our fresh water tank and keeping our plumbing bay warmed with our furnace and a small supplementary heater. But somewhere between the fresh water tank and the water pump the line iced up, and we no longer had water to wash or flush.  Bad news!

One of Canada’s old railway hotels, the Fort Garry, overlooks the Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park site.

Looking at the long-range forecast, the temperature may go down to -12c or -13c during nights next week, with daytime temps never above the freezing mark. As much as we like Fleetwood Mac, and would have enjoyed further visits with family and friends, it’s time to get outa Dodge, as Betty would say.

As mentioned in our July 2, 2019 post on Truth & Knowledge, Louis Riel is now recognized as an early Manitoba leader, rather than a traitor.

Today we are parked at our daughter Valerie’s home. We have added another heater to our basement and topped up our fresh water tank. Tomorrow Betty & I have dinner reservations as we celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. And the day after tomorrow is splitsville!

The July 2, 2019 post also references how perspectives can change over time. This plaque at Upper Fort Garry acknowledges that fact.

Sometimes it’s necessary to carve our plans in sand rather than granite. This is one of those times when we need to just roll with the punches.  And as we roll on down the road, we hope you also can make the required adjustments to deal with whatever comes your way.

Cheers! 

I took this sunset pic at our campground last week. It may be cold, but it’s still pretty amazing!

So long ago
Certain place
Certain time
You touched my hand
All the way
All the way down to Emmeline

But if our paths never cross
Well, you know I’m sorry but

If I live to see the seven wonders
I’ll make a path to the rainbow’s end
I’ll never live to match the beauty again
The rainbow’s end
” Seven Wonders, Fleetwood Mac

Goin’ Up The Country

Charlie says “Lets blow this popsicle stand!”

It was freezing cold this morning when I got up. (We turn the furnace down while sleeping in our cozy bed, to save energy). But I soon warmed up with the music of Canned Heat going through my brain. Betty & I are getting closer to heading out again on our overlandish odyssey, and this upbeat tune from back in the day just came rolling out:

“I’m goin’ up the country, Betty don’t you want to go?
I’m goin’ up the country, Betty don’t you want to go?
I’m goin’ to some place, I’ve never been before
I’m goin’ I’m goin’ where the water tastes like wine
I’m goin’ where the water tastes like wine
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time…”

Before leaving, we wanted to pay a visit to our youngest son’s home. Luke has a very unorthodox lifestyle, living in a Winnipeg warehouse where he has room for his artistic endeavours, and can play his various musical instruments as loud as he wants, without disturbing the neighbours. Below are a few pics from our recent visit.

Ok, so we likely won’t stay drunk ALL the time. lol.  And we may not jump in the water too much either, as a lot of this trip will be inland Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. But only time will tell where we end up, and what the water & wine will taste like when we get there.

The warehouse is surrounded by a chainlink fence, with barbed wire on top. Access by invitation only…

Our preparations have included trips to the dentist, the optometrist, fresh pedicures and haircuts, and today we got our flu shots. We’ve renewed our motorhome & Smart car insurance, confirmed out-of-province coverage with Manitoba Health, and arranged for extended health travel insurance. Our bikes are tuned up and mounted on the back of our motorhome. We just need to pack our BBQ into a basement compartment, bring in the slide-outs, raise our levelers, and away we could go!

We have a few preferred campsites booked in Palo Duro Canyon (Texas), Sante Fe (New Mexico) and Lake Havasu City (Arizona), but for the most part we’ll wing it – deciding on the fly whether or not to boondock or stay in a campground. Really looking forward to adding those lithium batteries in a few weeks to extend our options!

Betty made Luke a new quilt, to keep him warm this winter while we’re away.

As it stands, we’re counting down the days until departure, and closely watching the local weather forecasts, hoping we don’t get another dump of snow before we leave. The motorhome and car are prepped and ready to roll, and we’re ready to sing along with Canned Heat:

“We’re gonna leave this city, got to get away
We’re gonna leave this city, got to get away
All this fussin’ and fightin’ man, you know we sure can’t stay
So Betty pack your leavin’ trunk
You know we’ve got to leave today
Just exactly where we’re goin’ we cannot say
But we might even leave for the U.S.A.
It’s a brand new game, that we both want to play…”

Songwriter: Alan Wilson

Going Up the Country lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Cheers!

In the distance on the left are the downtown towers, so Luke’s warehouse is not far from Winnipeg’s city centre.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As much as Betty & I enjoy our travels – meeting interesting new people and experiencing engrossing environments – there is nothing quite so pleasant as getting together with our family for another milestone celebration.  

Isabella, Adam, Lisa, Georgia, James, Luke, Andrew, Bronwen, Valerie & Kevin joined Betty & me for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Andrew’s home. BTW, for better or worse (maybe in this case worse) I chose candid shots, rather than staged, but that meant 12 people weren’t always focussed on the photographer…

This past week we gathered at Andrew’s home to enjoy a great Thanksgiving dinner. With four family birthdays in October (Luke, Lisa, Andrew, and Georgia) we were also able to recognize the indomitable aging process – the never-ending movement, until death, from birth to childhood, to teenager, to maturity, to senility (for some). OK, so Betty & I aren’t quite senile yet, but as our kids and grandkids get older, there seem to be more and more things that they can do, and fewer and fewer things that we can do. On that point, Betty says I should speak for myself, since her daily yoga practices have contributed to her much greater range of motion. Point taken…

Andrew consults with his older sister, Valerie, regarding dinner preparations.

In any event, there is much to be thankful for, and we are truly blessed with a wonderful family. It is a joy and honour to engage with each of them as they experience the highs and lows of navigating life on this earth.  

Betty & Lisa pose for the photographer.

As we return to our travels, Betty & I hold each of them in our hearts, and look forward to future opportunities to share celebrations together.

Isabella brings the birthday cake to the table, as Lisa, Georgia, Luke and Andrew move their presents aside and get ready to blow out the candles.

We hope that you also can know love and acceptance in ways that contribute to a healthy, stimulating, and satisfying future, whether you are travelling or staying put for awhile.

Isabella hams it up with her Nana. OK, Thanksgiving dinner was turkey, rather than ham, so maybe she turkeyed it up? lol

Cheers!

Adam & Lisa smiling for the photographer.
Georgia watches while James plays a video game before dinner.
Getting ready to snuff those candles.
“My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh my friends –
It gives a lovely light.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Just had to add a nice pic of our youngest son, Luke.
Betty’s sewing machine is now back, and she has sewn a new jellyroll rug for our kitchen.
And finally, the snow is all gone, the sun is back, the water is receding, and many leaves have fallen from the trees as we prepare for our journey south.

Why Are We Here?

The great white north. We are here… It is October 12…Really?!!

Some reading the above title might think that I am about to reveal the secret of this most important existential question. But you would be wrong! You’ll just have to wait for another post for the answer to that one. lol.

A before winter wonderland!

Betty & I awoke yesterday to a blanket of white – and it wasn’t on our bed… It’s still only mid-October, but Manitoba is experiencing its first blizzard of the season. Yikes! With leaves still on the trees, the weight of snow has downed many branches, and in some cases, whole old trees. Many have lost hydro power. All major roads out of Winnipeg were closed yesterday, and many businesses shut. We were scheduled to have our brakes and tires checked before our departure in a few weeks, but the garage was closed as a result of the storm.

A little too cool to bbq just now…

The weather in Winnipeg has not been great this fall, with far more rain than usual flooding our campground and the fields around. So sorry for the farmers who haven’t yet finished harvesting their crops.  But for us this winter weather is the icing on the cake – or some other kind of frosting!

For the past month we have had lakeside property, otherwise known as the campsite next to ours. The ground has been saturated with rain.

In some ways we have been preparing all summer for our imminent departure, but now it can’t come soon enough! For those unfamiliar with snowbird rules, we cannot spend more than 180 days a year in the U.S.A. without being impacted by U.S. immigration and tax laws. As previously noted, the calculation is not based on a calendar year, but any rolling period. So for us, if we were to leave prior to November 8, we would have to return before April 30 of next year, and who knows if this snow will be gone by then… Looking forward, we must be careful in counting days, as next year February contains 29, rather than the usual 28. Therefore, this requires 2020 foresight. lol (or groan…)

The road less travelled.

Unfortunately, the bad weather has not been our only setback. Our last post on “Tinkering” noted that Betty was enjoying quilting with her Pfaff sewing machine again. But the machine broke down just after the post, and she was only able to get back to quilting today. Time is running out to complete all the birthday & Christmas presents before we leave.

After I finished, the burgundy ink ran in streaks down our sign.

I highlighted work refurbishing our site marker: The Reddoch ReTreat.  It had been a labour of love as I applied 15 coats of Varathane to the 40 year old tree slab. For some unknown reason, after the final coat was applied, I stood it up only to have the red ink from the Canadian flag on one side, and the motorhome on the other, run in streaks down the wood – under the Varathane coating!  I had no alternative but to sand it down again. This time, I went to Staples and had the images for both sides laminated. I have now applied another 15 coats, and hope that the sign will stand up for a few more years to come.

I notched our foam mattress base, to make room for a new rope ladder.

While at the FMCA rally in Minot, North Dakota, Betty & I attended a session on RV fire safety. On return I confirmed that one of our fire extinguishers was subject to recall, so had it replaced and mounted horizontally, as recommended, to prevent the chemicals from compacting on the bottom. At the same time, we purchased another extinguisher which I mounted horizontally in the unlocked propane bay. Finally, we purchased a rope ladder which I attached to our bed base, just below the emergency escape window in our bedroom. We hope to never use it, but in the event of a fire, Betty & I now know that the window will open; the ladder will drop down; and we can evacuate.

With the topper and featherbedding added, the rope ladder, which is secured to the bed base, is unseen but readily available for a quick exit.

Well, speaking of evacuating, Betty & I can answer the question: “Why are we here?” another way. In a couple of days we will be joining the rest of our family for a Thanksgiving dinner at Andrew’s home. It will be a great time together to celebrate our love for each other and all our rich blessings. And finally, we will also be voting on Monday in the Canadian election, with thankfulness for where “here” is, even if it is prematurely cold!

Our streaking Canadian flag.

Cheers!

Tinkering

On the road, Betty & I are limited by size and weight in the number of tools and supplies that can travel with us. While we want to reduce those things to the bare minimum, we both likely have some way to go in reaching that goal. For me, maybe it was my Boy Scout training that taught me to always “be prepared”– you never know when you might need that extra wrench! But the old Boy can only carry so much, and we’re always thinking about what we can leave behind. I’m sure there are times when Betty considers me to be excess baggage, but for now she’s still lugging me around. Lol.

Betty hard at work in her sewing room, while Charlie sleeps under a chair.

In any event, back in Winnipeg we are able to temporarily borrow back some of the tools and supplies we passed on to our children when we left. While Betty uses a lightweight Brother sewing machine during our travels, she was more than happy to get reacquainted with her Pfaff Quilt Expression 2046 on return. As previously noted, she has been sewing up a storm, with new pillow cases, place mats, runners, rugs, and quilts, to name just a few of her many new creations.

Our Reddoch ReTreat sign, looking a little worse for wear.

On our travels, whenever we stop somewhere for more than a couple of days, we set out our shingle, identifying our Reddoch ReTreat, highlighted by a planter of blooming flowers. But over the past year, that sign has become decidedly ragged, and I looked forward to restoring it this summer.  With tools borrowed back from our sons and sons-in-law, I was able to sand and re-finish the tree slab recovered from the Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta forty years ago, in hopes that it can live a few more years as our campsite marker. So far I have about ten coats of Varathane on each side, and hope to finish off the can in the next week, before returning the brush to my son.

One side of our refurbished sign.
The other side, with a map of North America added.

We had attached our Carefree of Colorado Buena Vista Add-A-Room to our coach for the summer, mostly creating a sewing room for Betty. Although the structure is fairly well designed and engineered, it came with two very weak rafters to hold up the side panels. Even a light breeze would dislodge the rafters, letting in rain and scratching the paint on our motorhome. Yikes! I contacted what maybe should have been called Careless of Colorado, as their “Customer Care” department was no help at all, even though I was very specific about what we needed: Did they make what we needed? We had purchased the room through Camping World in the U.S., and C. of C. simply referred me back there. In my experience, Camping World staff are largely uneducated about the products they sell, but would have been more than happy, if I insisted on their help, to charge me $100./hour in their service department to look at the problem. No thanks!

Our Home Depot parts, ready for MacGyver to go to work fixing our rafters.

Instead, I went to Home Depot and picked up a number of small parts which, with the help of our neighbour, Brian, and son-in-law, Adam, were able to be “MacGyvered” together into a fix. Even in moderate winds and rain now, the structure is holding firm. I described the fix to Carefree of Colorado Customer Care, and would suggest that their engineers may want to improve their product before I patent the fix. Lol.

Slide bolts now lock the rafters into the awning roller, preventing them from dislodging in a wind.
A newly insulated storage compartment, ready to receive our lithium batteries.

My tinkering has also included insulating some of our basement storage spaces in preparation for adding lithium ion batteries this fall; taking some golf lessons & getting out on the course with our son; and taking the photography course noted in the last post, among other large & small tasks. Attached to this are some of the pics from previous trips that I cropped after taking the photo course.

Our late afternoon campsite view in Alamogordo, New Mexico, featuring a very noisy bird – One of my favourite pics.

The summer has passed by quickly, and we are now in preparation mode for future travels. Tinkering with borrowed tools and supplies has been great, but it’s time to think about lightening our load again. Just hope Betty still isn’t considering me excess baggage!

Another favourite pic, taken at our campsite in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

Cheers!

This was a white on white shot, for my photography class.
I hear the train a comin’. It’s rollin’ ’round the bend.. Another class pic.
A foggy day at South Padre Island – another fave.
A Harvest Host vineyard near Quebec City, featuring light & shadows (and great wine!).
Charlie, on his way for a haircut.
Charlie, back from the groomer.

Picture This

A very photogenic granddaughter – Isabella

On our travels, Betty & I are inspired and mesmerized by extraordinary people and fascinating places we visit. The purpose of this blog is to capture some of these experiences, both to share with our friends and family, and for ourselves as we continue to age and our minds lose those all-important brain cells. But words often don’t do justice to what we are seeing. If a picture is worth a thousand words, we have been attempting to include a number of images with each post in order to reduce the verbiage. But what if the shots are crap? Well last month I finally completed a photography 101 course, in order to reduce the crap shots. Of course, there is no way of predicting what we will see from now on, so to some extent the outcome could still be a crapshoot. Lol.

I finally graduated…

Before we began our overlandish odyssey, I purchased a Nikon DLSR, with dozens of buttons and screens. Unlike a point and shoot camera that any idiot can use, this digital documenter allows some idiots to change the image into whatever augmented reality one might choose – a scary proposition! It also has an “auto” button – which until now has been my go-to setting… 

Georgia & Valerie ham it up while I try for a portrait.

So I signed up with the PrairieView School of Photography in Winnipeg for “Photography 101: Putting The Fun In Fundamentals”. At the outset, I would say that at least 85% of the buttons and features on my camera were a mystery to me. Over eight lessons, we learned basic camera functions; considered the works of inspiring photographers past and present; developed an understanding of basic composition; reviewed techniques for stop motion, motion blur, panning, and natural framing; attempted portraits and landscape shots; found out what a histogram is; played with white balance and lighting direction; considered black & white photography; and generally experimented a lot with our shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings during and between every class. 

Isabella agrees to a portrait for my photography class.

Well I completed the course, and now understand the purpose of most buttons and functions on my Nikon. I’m hoping that will lead to improvements in image quality, but those reading this must know that this was just “Photo 101”, and I am nowhere near the skill level of a professional photographer. My photographic future is still a crapshoot!

Georgia finally poses for a beautiful portrait.

As we continue our journey through life, Betty & I hope to find new inspiration in more people and places, and to reflect what we are seeing and experiencing through pictures on this blog. We hope that our paths will cross with yours, and we can capture the joy of sharing time together on planet earth. Picture this!

Isabella & her sweet Mom

Cheers!

Valerie & Georgia share some joy.

A First Time For Everything

Name tags for newbies.

On our overlandish odyssey, Betty & I have experienced a lot of “firsts”. Although we have been staying put for most of the summer, last week we ventured out and down to Minot, North Dakota for the first time. We were there to experience our first Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) convention and RV Expo.  For FMCA, it was a  milestone of another number, as it turned out to be their 100th large international gathering.

One of the many rows of motor coaches in Minot, N.D. last week.

Held at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds, we’ve never seen so many motorhomes in one place at one time! Eighteen hundred coaches were lined up side to side in rows as far as the eye could see.  As we arrived later than most, we were parked about a mile from most activities, but a regular tram service kept us linked with what was dubbed “Minot Magic – 100 Times The Fun”.

We were parked in Lot S, on 61st Street, beside a pole that provided 30 amp power for us and 9 other motor coaches.

In addition to displays of new motorhomes by most major manufacturers, each day saw a variety of seminars and meetings on wide-ranging topics related to RV living. Betty & I attended sessions on fire safety and on-the-road internet access, but there were dozens of others, including technical presentations, crafts, FMCA area gatherings, fun & games, information & technology, lifestyle, RV maintenance & operation, and chapter meetings.

Bet & I checked out the inside of a Newmar Mountain Aire

Betty & I have now joined the Canadian Northern Lights chapter, and were warmly welcomed at a pot luck dinner hosted by the group. We are looking forward to getting to know other chapter members at local and more distant rallies in future.

Captain “Sully” Sullenberger at FMCA’s 100th International Conference

A highlight of this gathering was a presentation by Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who successfully made an emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on New York’s Hudson River, after a bird strike shut down both engines. All 155 people on board were safely evacuated. Captain Sully described the second by second decisions that were required to survive the emergency, along with his training and values that contributed to his success.  A very inspirational message!

My creative wife has now made RV pillows!

Betty & I are now back in Winnipeg, with Betty taking on her first major quilt-making projects, while I complete a course in DSLR photography 101.  Despite six decades each of life so far, it seems we still have more to learn and experience. Regardless of your stage in life, we hope you also can continue to find a first time for everything, wherever your travels take you.

New additions to our bed

Cheers!

This Newmar has 3 large display screens, replacing a lot of buttons & dials. I am hoping to attach an iPad to our dash, providing some of these functions.
My first DSLR attempt at a 30 second shutter speed exposure. That’s our campfire in the foreground and palm tree in the background. lol

A Great Groovy Gathering!

It happened again this month.

A cheerful crowd settles in for another evening of great music at the Winnipeg Folk Fest.

In fact, it happened again for the 46th year in a row: The totally amazing Winnipeg Folk Festival!

Betty & I had heard good things about the Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF) before moving from Calgary in 1987. We had always intended to go, but never quite got around to it for the first 25 years, despite living a few doors down from the festival’s artistic director.  Block parties at his home were always a treat – with a wide range of musical instruments and styles coming out to join the fun, food and frolic.

One of seven well attended daytime stages at the WFF.

So about six years ago we finally got around to it, and immediately wondered how we could have missed so many great years of this groovy experience. We were hooked and mesmerized right away by the amazing idyllic world created in Bird’s Hill Park for four days each year.

Here are just a few observations:

Our angel granddaughter checks out an artistic pair of wings at the WFF.

The Vibe:  The festival attracts a huge crowd, from the very old in wheelchairs and walkers, to very young newborns cradled in their parent’s arms. Every race, colour, creed, and sexual orientation is represented, with the common sense of respect, love, peace and harmony everywhere. WOW! Somehow, once attendees enter the park, they immediately become mellow. There is no fighting, yelling, swearing, or other form of bitterness. Somehow people get along with each other for a few days. Yeah!

John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful entertains a mainly older crowd at a daytime stage.

The Organization:  After 46 years, the festival organizers have learned a few things about what works, and what doesn’t, in creating this special vibe. About 2,800 volunteers each year – many of whom have faithfully volunteered for 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years – attend to every possible detail, from parking to check-in to stage set-up and take down, to people conducting guest surveys, to garbage removal and so much more.

A younger crowd chased bubbles around the park, while dancing barefoot under sunny skies.

Garbage: Back in the day when Woodstock birthed rock festivals everywhere, garbage was a prominent by-product, both during and after the event. (BTW, the above-pictured John Sebastian actually played at the original Woodstock!) But despite many thousands of attendees at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, you’d be hard-pressed to find any litter on the ground. Volunteers attend to recycling bins around the park, and any leftovers from the many food kiosks are dutifully directed to the correct recycling bins. Water spigots dot the park, with participants encouraged to bring and use refillable bottles for free clean water.

The physical structure:  Seven daytime stages provide a wide range of musical options, with folks congregating in front of the main stage for evening

Betty & her friend, Laurie, relax at our day tent on the edge of the main stage site.

entertainment. Often much of the anxiety and frustration at concerts without assigned seating occurs when you settle in, only to have someone stand or sit in a tall chair in front of you, blocking your view of the performances. The WFF has developed a number of respected traditions to address this issue. A tarp walk is organized each day, allowing those who want to sit on tarps front and centre to select their spot in a planned process. Those itching to dance to the music are encouraged to do so on one side, where they can move to the groove without disturbing others. The wheelchair section is on the opposite side, with seating areas for those in short chairs, and other areas for

On another day, granddaughters Georgia & Isabella joined us at our day tent in the welcome shade of the bordering trees.

those in tall chairs. Day tents and hammocks border the woods that surround the venue, and a large children’s area is well occupied by family groups, with bathrooms and room to run at the back of the site. It seems there are people constantly on the move between stage areas, but it all occurs fluidly and respectfully, with no bumping, pushing and shoving along the way. Wow, what a beautiful experience!

Toubab Krewe of North Carolina bring some West African Fusion to the stage as Lousiana’s Rebirth Brass Band looks on.

The Music:  Of course, the main event is the music.  While past headliners have included Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Cockburn, and the Barenaked Ladies – to name but a few, some of the best music comes from what are called “workshops” during the day. The organizers apparently pick disparate groups of musicians and

The Rebirth Brass Band adds some funk to a session entitled “Southern Fried Vibes”.

put them on the stage at the same time to entertain and challenge each other. Ideally the session ends in a jam, with a group from Los Angeles making sweet music with another from Nunavut, and another from the Netherlands.  Usually these musicians have never before met, but they end up united in a shared evocative & magical musical experience.

Alabama’s Steel City Jug Slammers round out the group of 16 musicians who ended up making beautiful music together.

Obviously volumes could be written about this event and its music, but I would like to end with an observation from this year:

I arrived at a daytime stage just as one group was finishing. In short order the volunteer sound staff removed their equipment and set up for the next performance, which included three groups totalling 16 musicians playing 16 different kinds of musical instruments. Each group also had vocals, so the sound crew needed to mike everything and everyone so that the voices and instruments could be heard without interference at the correct volume. What an amazingly professional job they did in a very brief turn-around period, with the audience and all musicians able to enjoy the experience without annoying feedback or other sound distortions. This was repeated over and over again at every stage and on the main stage, with many musicians noting how well they were treated at this special event.

The 46th Winnipeg Folk Festival is now over, but Betty & I are already planning our schedule for 2020, so that the 47th is another we hope not to miss.

Cheers!

Tarps, flip flops, and dragonflies: Betty captures some key Folk Fest ingredients. (Tarps mark your spot,  flip flops connote summer, and dragonflies keep the site clear of mosquitos, so chemicals are not necessary.)