Betty and I had a unique – for us – heartwarming experience this week. Maybe it’s one that others take for granted. But for us, it was a time that brought back a lot of fond memories. Permit me to share what happened.
Over the past couple of decades, our family has gradually grown as our children matured and added partners. Along the way, we have welcomed three grandchildren (so far) into the clan, and very much enjoy larger and larger get-togethers, like the Christmas In July recounted in the July 19/21 post. Having 11 or 12 around the dining table is lots of fun!
I’m not sure whose idea it was, but to celebrate Betty’s birthday, our kids decided that the six of us who experienced the first couple of decades together as a nuclear unit, should meet for dinner – no spouses or grandchildren joining us on this occasion. Betty loves Thai food, so Andrew picked up a generous order from Siam and brought it to our campsite. In some ways, it was like turning back the clock, as the six of us sat together at the table, sharing tales that connected all those present. Only now, we have all added another twenty years to our lives, so our perspective on past and present circumstances has changed. Especially as our children have children, they can see how some things that go around, also come around. lol.
Afterward, we sat by a campfire while Andrew serenaded us on his guitar, even adding music to the words of the Travellin’ Song (see June 17/2020 post) that I wrote during quarantine. Despite the smoke from the initially wet wood, the fire warmed our space while our hearts were warmed with a mature camaraderie.
It’s been many decades since we experienced this unique sense of togetherness, and hope that we can find a way to make it a new tradition. Here’s hoping that you can also meaningfully connect with those you love!
For much of our adventure so far, Betty & I have travelled on fairly flat land, so the weight of our coach has not been that much of an issue. But in this past year, as our home on wheels laboured up and down some very steep grades in the Rocky Mountains, we knew we had to do something to lighten up. We hope to visit a number of higher elevation U.S. national parks next year, so need to be prepared for the rigours of many steep inclines.
While camped on Vancouver Island last winter, Betty & I talked about what we were carrying with us; what we needed; and what we could live without. One of the largest, heaviest items in our RV was the sofa bed in the living-room, which we rarely used as a bed. Could we live without it, and what were the alternatives?
I sketched up some reno plans, including the possibility of putting a couple of Euro recliners in the space occupied by the couch. But shopping on-line brought only confusion. The prices, quality, and ratings seemed all over the place. Like choosing a comfortable pair of shoes, was it possible to order chairs on-line without sitting in them first? How do you send them back if they don’t fit?
As most know, Betty is a very crafty person and a portion of our bedroom has been taken over by sewing machines, quilts, and all manner of knitting. Could the space occupied by our dinette be reconfigured to facilitate quilting, at the same time as providing office space for both of us?
In the end, we decided on a fairly simple, cost-effective reno. The sofa bed was removed and passed over to our next-door neighbours, Brian and Henny, who were able to install the couch in their coach. The dinette benches, with underneath storage, were removed and re-positioned in an L shape where our couch had been.
I picked up one cupboard, a shelf, and some wood trim from Home Depot, and went to work creating a new space. I re-purposed one of the drawers from our dinette, adding it to the cupboard, along with our printer which had previously lived in the back of the bedroom. Btw, the printer’s prior home was so bumpy that when we drove, we always had to move it onto our bed for safety. The new cupboard location should be much more stable, allowing us to leave it in place, with all necessary supplies in easy reach.
I cut our existing dining table in half, mounting it over the cupboard and attaching it to the new shelf. Adding folding brackets to the other half of the table allows it to be folded down against the cupboard while in transit. I purchased folding dining chairs for use at the table extension. These chairs can now be easily stowed beside the seating in the living room when our home is moving down the road.
Our kind neighbour, Brian, helped me install another electrical outlet above the new shelf in the office area, and we have added a basket for phone and Ipad storage and charging. The L-shaped work space is large enough to accommodate a new air fryer, which we absolutely love for creating fresh, flavourful meals. (Another blog post could be written just about that great appliance!) Below the counter, in the back corner of the L, is room for our ice maker. This fairly recent addition replaces the ice maker we had removed from our freezer, which we never used and which occupied too much of our limited freezer space.
In the living room, we added a 28” square lightweight aluminum coffee table, which can also be raised to dining height. While travelling, it fits neatly in a small bag that will live under one of the dinette seats.
Overall, the reno was extremely cost-effective, and will be easy to change again if we find we don’t like it. We have sent our slide-out in and out a few times, and everything seems to move – or stay in place – as it should. But the main thing is this: Our motorhome lost some weight, and will be in better shape to climb the mountains on the remainder of our overlandish odyssey.
Here’s hoping that all of us can carry a little less excess baggage around on our life journeys!
In our family, it seems any excuse for a party is a good one. Due to the coronavirus, Betty & I were unable to return to Winnipeg from Vancouver Island for Christmas. We missed out on all the traditional family celebrations, and decided to replicate some of our usual dead-of-winter festivities in the heat of summer. I have to admit that a number of family members were disappointed that I didn’t replay the Queen’s annual Christmas message for them, but I guess I’ll just have to save that for another get-together. Lol. Here’s a few candid shots from the gathering at our current campsite in Manitoba.
It was great to have everyone together again, although it wasn’t until they all left that I realized we hadn’t updated the photo on the cover of this blog. Well I guess we now have another reason for a party, incorporating the Queen’s Christmas message, of course! Hope that, as we all transition from the effects of this long-lasting pandemic, you can all find the time to get together again with family and friends, celebrating whatever this life and times has in store.
Do any of us really know what the future holds? The last year and a half has shown us all that things don’t necessarily turn out as planned. Betty & I developed a 5 year plan to visit 48 states and 10 provinces. To date, our overlandish odyssey has taken us to 39 states and 9 provinces. But as with everyone else, COVID-19 has set us back a bit. Here’s our latest update:
On return to Winnipeg at the end of April, we completed our 2 week quarantine, and secured 2 negative COVID tests before getting our first vaccines. As we await our second injections, Betty & I are re-visiting plans for our continued adventures. We have a campsite booked for the winter at Living Forest Oceanside Campground in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and are on a waiting list for a site with an ocean view. If the Canada-U.S. border is open by the fall, we hope to travel through the northern states as far as Glacier National Park in Montana, before heading north again to visit friends in Calgary, Alberta.
Today we rebooked our Christmas flights from Nanaimo to Winnipeg. They had been cancelled due to the pandemic, so we’re hoping for better luck in 2021…
If restrictions are lifted, we hope to travel down the U.S. west coast, starting mid-April, 2022. With a preference for on-the-fly boondocking, we likely won’t make a lot of advanced campground reservations – although I have recorded the dates when bookings can be made at a couple of our favourite oceanside campsites in Washington and Oregon.
In our latest plan, we are eliminating visits to the major urban areas around Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, in order to free up more time for National Park visits to Olympic, Redwood, Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Mohave Desert, Zion, Grand Canyon North Rim, Bryce Canyon,Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde,Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Grand Teton,and Yellowstone National Parks. (Thank goodness for the America The Beautiful park pass!). We would then head east to Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming (featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and Mt. Rushmore, on our way back to Manitoba. Further planning is needed to decide which National Park areas are accessible by motorhome, and which require day trips in the Smart car. But these days we do have lots of “planning ahead” time. lol
If we survive all that, we have mapped out a journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains, ending with a winter along the Gulf shores, from Florida’s panhandle to South Padre Island in Texas. Our return would take us from the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River in Louisiana, to the river’s source(s) in Minnesota.
Our bucket list still includes a return to Quartzsite, Arizona, a flight and RV tour of Newfoundland, and a possible caravan into Mexico. But I think we’ve done enough planning ahead for now. May you enjoy life’s upcoming adventures, whether you planned them ahead of time – or not… Stay safe!
Following the twists and turns, ups and downs of the last post, Betty & I experienced more smooth sailing across the prairies to our summer campsite at Town & Country in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here’s a brief summary:
So Betty & I are back in site 168, quarantining for the next two weeks. After that we look forward to reconnecting with friends and family again, and enjoying a safe & peaceful summer stay in Manitoba.
Wishing you a safe and peaceful experience, wherever life finds you!
Life can be full of ups and downs. In the past few days, Betty & I have seen our fair share. This post captures a little of what we saw and experienced as we headed east from our winter home on Vancouver Island.
British Columbia introduced new COVID-19 travel restrictions this week, indicating that those outside of their health zone could be fined, and that BC ferries might no longer take recreational vehicles on board. Just in case this affected us, we bailed early.
The motorhome had been running a little rough on our first day, but I thought it was because our gas was six months old. I had filled up last October before we parked for the season on Vancouver Island. I considered adding some gas-line additive, but didn’t want to go into the store. I also thought about using a higher octane, but it was too expensive…
From then on, Betty & I really experienced our ups and downs. While the scenery was majestic, after we passed Revelstoke, the battery light appeared on our dash for the first time ever, and flickered on and off through the Rogers Pass. From time to time, we would lose most of our power, dropping down to 30 mph, even when there was no margin to pull off the road. While I drove much of the time with my hazard lights on, I was never sure the motor wouldn’t finally die in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Limping into Golden BC around 5:30 pm, we contacted Columbia Diesel, and staff said they would take a look at our motorhome first thing in the morning. In the meantime, we were welcome to stay the night in their large parking lot.
I met up with service manager Derek Phillips at 7:30 am the next morning, and he assigned Guy, a very able mechanic, to diagnose our problem right way.
We pulled right into a bay in their heated shop, and were able to stay in our coach for the duration. Even though we had replaced our alternator before leaving Manitoba, it and our chassis battery had both died. By noon, Guy had replaced them both, and we were on the road again. BTW, the replaced alternator is still under warranty, so hope to be reimbursed when we get back to Manitoba.
Continuing our ups and downs, the TransCanada Highway (#1) was closed from Golden to Banff, so we had to detour south through Radium Hot Springs.
Now that the clouds have lifted, Betty & I hope that the road east won’t visit us with so many ups and downs. Just as we hope for straight, smooth sailing, we wish the same for you!
When I entered the name for this blog post, my computer told me I had already used the title “Here We Go Again!”. Did I want to replace that file with this new one? No, each time we set out on a leg of our overlandish odyssey, there are similarities, but it is a uniquely new adventure. Here’s the latest update.
As previously noted, this is the longest stretch Betty & I have spent in one place in the past three years. Vancouver Island has a moderate climate and is such a beautiful place to live, or just visit. There is so much to see and do here, and yet in these past six months we have seen and done relatively nothing!
Now that we are packing up in preparation for our travels back to Winnipeg, we couldn’t help but venture out just a little before we go.
Betty’s family was originally from Cumberland, England. Her dad was born in Egremont. So when we saw the Vancouver Island community with the same name, and his birthplace in a street name, we just had to go exploring.
It’s sunny and warm on the island just now. Everyone is eager to get out and enjoy some fresh sea air. Yes, we have heeded the advice against unnecessary travel. But after being cooped up all winter, this fresh air and sunshine is necessary! Besides, we could and did travel without personal contact with others.
Despite the unexpected health issues, it’s been a wonderful place to winter, and Betty & I are looking forward to a return visit this fall.
In the meantime, here we go again, heading back to our family in Winnipeg that we’ve missed so much over this past six months. Almost time to cue Willy Nelson’s On The Road Again!
When the coronavirus hit just over a year ago, Betty and I were sheltered in place in the Arizona desert. Should we stay in our relatively isolated location, or should we head back to Manitoba? Travel was not recommended, and borders were closing. Since we were unsure of continued health coverage, we decided to cut our travels short and head back.
Now we are in beautiful Nanaimo, British Columbia, having spent the last six months on picturesque Vancouver Island. While COVID-19 has been relatively rare on the island, another variant of the virus has been spreading through the province, across the country, and around the world. Should we stay in our comparatively safe home in Living Forest Oceanfront campground, or head back to Manitoba? Again, travel is not recommended, and while interprovincial borders are not closing, nearly every province is introducing new rules on what can stay open, and what needs to close. It’s déjà vu all over again!
Vaccination schedules also vary between provinces, and we may not be eligible for injections here, as we are not B.C. residents. Manitoba Health allows us to be out of province for seven months of the year, but we must soon return to maintain coverage.
Besides, we really, really miss our kids and grandkids! So we’re headed back.
In preparation for our return to Manitoba, we have been getting the motorhome serviced, and it is now ready to head out on the road again.
Our original plan included extended visits with friends across the western provinces, and tours around B.C., particularly Vancouver Island. But we haven’t even been to Butchart Gardens or downtown Victoria on this trip! Visits with friends didn’t happen on the way here, so we said we’d catch up on the way back.
Now with the more virulent variants, those visits won’t occur on the way back to Manitoba either.
Under the circumstances, it is our hope that we and others will be immunized by the fall of this year, so that Betty and I can try this trip all over again. I have saved our original travel schedule, and we have a campsite in Living Forest booked for next fall and winter. If everything is green-lighted, we can then head down the west coast in 2022, visiting national parks in Washington, Oregon, California, and Utah, before heading back to Manitoba. This year and next, we’re hoping for déjà vu all over again, just without the virus!
For the past few months, our motorhome has turned into a factory of sorts. New products are being created on a daily basis. And one never knows what to expect!
Fortunately, this factory isn’t one of those dirty, smelly types – no pollution here. Unfortunately, while other factories are intended to make money, this one costs!
All of our bills are relatively low as we shelter in place in beautiful Nanaimo, British Columbia for winter. Except for the fabric, wool, yarn, thread, and all related items Betty can find at a local store or on-line. It’s a high price to pay for this creative genius, but I guess it’s worth it in the end. All of the “products” are give-aways to family and friends, and their appreciation puts smiles on our faces – payment enough!
The day after my last post, North America got hit with a major winter storm, knocking out power in Texas, and stopping or slowing travel across the continent. In one of our favourite destinations – South Padre Island – the sea turtles needed to be rescued and warmed at the convention center, before being released back into the Gulf of Mexico. What an experience for them and their rescuers. We’ve visited the SPI convention center, but have never seen a slower moving crowd of delegates! lol
Nanaimo wasn’t left out of this winterland fun, as the attached pictures show.
For us, the snow lasted almost a week, and now those spring flowers are up and blooming. What a gorgeous sight!
In addition to her quilting, knitting, and sewing creations, Betty didn’t let us down on Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras, or as our family tradition calls it “Pancake Tuesday”. Betty battered up for a delicious feast of “English pancakes” – the skinny, flat kind of crepes that we sprinkle in lemon and sugar, before rolling up and filling our pie holes. Lol
Living in a factory might be considered an unpleasant experience. But our feet are warmed by hand-made bamboo and wool socks. If an evening chill arrives, we can wrap in any number of colourful, comfy quilts. And if and when we venture out, there are wide varieties of colourful masks to wear. What could be better!
Keep comfy and warm and stay safe. The winter’s almost over and Betty’s Colourful, Crafty, Coach Creations continue!
For the past few months, Betty and I have been staying put in our home on wheels. Due to the ongoing world-wide spread of the coronavirus, we have hunkered down in our campsite on Vancouver Island. Unable to travel to warmer climes, it is the only place in Canada that sees little or no snow, with the campgrounds open year-round. We are happy to be here!
At the same time – as mentioned in our last blog post – I have been immobilized by sciatica. The nerves running all the way down my right leg constantly throb in pain, shooting sharp jabs down its length with any unexpected movement. Diagnosed with bone spurs on my lumbar spine last month in Nanaimo hospital, I have since attended the Urgent Care clinic in Ladysmith for a medication top up. Needless to say, I am not operating at 100%, and am looking forward to a return to normal – hopefully sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere fast.
All this to say that I’ve had quite a bit of downtime lately, and as mentioned in my last post, have been using that time to write my memoirs. Rather than a single chronological narrative, I have described thirty memories of life adventures that could be told as campfire stories.
There might be some irony here. Often when Betty & I have sat by the fire with fellow campers, they will ask: “So Graham, what do you do for a living?”. My elusive answer: “I am retired”. Their follow up: “But what did you do before retirement?” Usually at that point I will try to change the subject, because I have always found it difficult to answer in one or two words, like Nurse, Mechanic, Lawyer, etc. How do I describe the unique journey I’ve taken through life, in a concise, understandable way?
Not all of my campfire stories are alike. Do I just tell one anecdote, or a series of disparate memories. All are tales of my unique encounters with Canadian criminal justice, and for the sake of this travel blog, they could be described as my roadmap of a journey to justice. They’re going to have to read the map!
On the crime victims’ side, this journey led to the development of a plan for an oasis along their route to healing. On the offenders’ side, the map describes a path to redemption, making amends to the greatest extent possible for harms caused. Neither path can turn back the clock to a better life – there is no time travel here. But the paths do describe both small and large ways that roadblocks preventing a future, more abundant life can be overcome.
A number of times the victim and offender paths crossed, and campfire tales describe the nature of those interactions. Through Safe Justice Encounters, for instance, crime victims sought and received answers from the crime perpetrators that were not addressed in court. The Paying Forward Project provided opportunities for victims and community members to safely meet those serving long prison sentences, challenging them to develop a clearer sense of victim empathy. The inmates were encouraged to use their time for the betterment of others. The result was the creation of time-consuming, intricate jewellery by the prisoners, which was then sold to the public. All proceeds went to support crime victims.
These are just a couple of the 30 stories written off-the-top-of-my-head in the past two months. When Betty and I return to Winnipeg in May, I hope to access the stored materials in our son Andrew’s basement. Among the memorabilia are pictures that help to highlight some of these tales. Don’t know yet whether the finished book will be for our children and grandchildren only, or whether it will be more broadly circulated, around future campfires, for instance.
Given the travel restrictions over the past period, I have found the reminiscing and writing to be a worthwhile use of my time. This journey to justice wasn’t without its detours and bumps in the road. But I hope my campfire stories can help our kids and grandkids understand where I’ve been all this time, and how we can all better travel the road of life. As Roy Rogers would sing: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again!”