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.)

Some Thoughts on the Development of Truth and Use of Knowledge in the 21st Century

For some reason, my Time Machine has not been backing up my MacBook for the past couple of weeks. As I watch and wait for a back-up to complete, I am contemplating the questions of truth and fake news. They may or may not be pertinent to a travel blog, but here are my basic thoughts:

Back in the day before the written word, there was an oral tradition whereby information was passed on by tribal elders to subsequent generations. This was their truth, whether or not they were told the world was flat, or the tribe next door was evil and they were good.

For many centuries, recording and passing on the written word was a laborious task. Only a few had access to parchments, and most people remained illiterate.  Then the Gutenberg printing press was invented, and the written word was more easily copied and shared.

But over time, the gatekeepers of this information were publishers and editors who became a wealthy elite, deciding which information was valuable, true, and worthy of reproduction. Many more people could write, but few would be published. Their stories mattered, or maybe they didn’t. Only the wealthy publishers would decide.

Similarly, many could afford a guitar or other musical instrument, but only the elite record company executives would choose whose music was valuable and worthy of reproduction on vinyl record albums, and then played on radio stations. Were the musicians talented or not? Only the wealthy record executives would control broad public access.

In the 20thcentury, cameras became more available, and an increasing number of people were able to purchase them to record their activities. They then either developed the film in a dark room, or sent it away for processing. But only the elite were able to determine what was valuable and worthy of reproduction in television programs. The television executives were the gatekeepers of what stories could be shared in an increasingly popular medium.

Then came the digital revolution!

In the 21stcentury, there is a significantly higher level of literacy, with many people around the world knowing how to read and write at least one language. Computers like this one allow almost anyone to share their thoughts (for better or worse, lol). Self-published books are now a thing. Musicians are able to record and publicly share their own songs, and private videographers are able to produce reasonably high-quality videos and movies. It seems almost everyone has a smartphone, able to capture and share images instantaneously around the world. There are still gatekeepers at Google, YouTube, and Facebook, among others (with some arguing that more gatekeeping should occur to reduce the nefarious spread of racism and hate speech), but it has become much easier for individuals to share their perspectives with their friends, and anyone on Earth with an Internet connection.

And that is the current rub:

When predominantly white, privileged elite decided what was true, and what knowledge was worthy of sharing, the world was almost forced to accept their perspective. I think back to school projects and the textbooks and Encyclopedia Britannica referenced. If those texts stated the information as facts, then it must be true! In most cases, encyclopedias provided the last word on truth, without question.

There are now countless examples of how perspective matters. When I was growing up, I learned that Louis Riel was executed as a traitor to Canada. Now that we live in Manitoba, I have learned that he was a respected Metis leader and father of our province, with statues and celebrations of “Riel Day” accepted and honoured by all who love Manitoba.

I remember taking for granted that residential schools were the best options for aboriginal children, facilitating their assimilation into Canadian society. How could they survive and thrive if they didn’t know the correct language and customs?  Of course, our dominant language and customs were the only correct and permissible, so all others needed to be repressed or forgotten. We now consider that a cultural genocide.

In Betty & my travels across Canada and the United States, we have come to see and appreciate the different perspectives of communities, provinces, and states visited. One of my biggest concerns is that certain elites are still attempting to control the message received by various publics through narrowly-focussed television broadcasts, radio, newspaper, and on-line content that limits informed dialogue and enhances polarization among societal groups.

The digital revolution has facilitated a democratization of accessible information that was heretofore impossible. It has given voice to the voiceless, and brought alternate musical and visual cultural expressions to the forefront.

But this explosion in diversity has also created a great deal of confusion.

If what we took for granted as truth growing up is either no longer true, or just our perspective – what is truth, and what is fake news? How do we sift through the many huge mountains of accessible information that have come to light as a result of the digital revolution? I won’t get into Wikileaks or American election results here. These issues are way too big to easily resolve.

In the overall scheme of things, we are still at the dawn of this digital revolution. It is premature to know what the outcomes will be. But our best hope might be to not immediately dismiss other opinions outright, but to use current technology to dig deeper in order to separate fact from fiction.

My Time Machine back-up is now complete, so I’ll end with a perspective heard from the pulpit this past Sunday:  13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other…  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”   NIV Bible translation of Galatians 5: 13 – 15, 22,23.

Peace & Cheers!

Catching Up

A spring sunset at our campsite in Town & Country Park, Winnipeg, prior to the return of leaves on the trees.

Life has been busy for Betty & me since our return to Winnipeg last month. Because our blog chronicles our travels on the road, there have been no updates recently. We have been able to reconnect with our family and many of our friends, but are still getting questions about our “down time”. Here’s a very brief update:

A birthday celebration with Valerie (& Jersey on her lap), Adam, Lisa, Allon, & Betty, in Kevin & Valerie’s back yard.

We’ve settled into our campsite at Town & Country, watching the glorious sunsets and appreciating the return of warm weather, green grass and leafy trees in Manitoba. We’ve flowered out around our site, and added cucumber and tomato plants, with the first crop of tomatoes due any day now.

Georgia, Luke and Andrew, at Adam & Allon’s birthday party.

Last month my brother, Allon, was able to visit from the Yukon, and we celebrated his and son-in-law Adam’s birthdays at Kevin and Valerie’s home.

 

 

Spence, Graham, Carol & Betty share a laugh at our campsite.

Neighbours of Betty’s brother, Jack, from southern Ontario stopped by on their way through Manitoba. We had also enjoyed a visit with them in Yuma, Arizona the winter before last.

Our friends, Peter & Janet from Manitoulin Island, featured in a post from June 2018, stopped in for a dinner together and a far too brief visit on their way through to their son’s in the west.

Valerie, Andrew, Lisa & Adam enjoy a family gathering at our campsite.

A great Mothers’ Day celebration was held at our campsite last month, followed by a wonderful Fathers’ Day family gathering here this month.

Betty has expanded her sewing centre into our add-a-room, and is trying her hand at quilting, with great success so far!

Betty quilts in her expanded sewing centre while Charlie relaxes nearby.

I have completed a series of golf lessons, and am looking forward to getting out on the links with our dear son, Andrew, in the not distant future. The new clubs purchased in Florida this winter are performing well so far.

I also completed a “travel photography” class, and have signed up for a series of “digital camera 101” lessons. Crossed fingers for better pics to come!

Our free “loaner”, a new Mercedes while the Smart was in for service.

The Smart car went in for service last week, and we were forced to drive a new Mercedes Benz in its absence. Tough job, but someone had to do it… The CruiseMaster goes in for an oil change next week, on our way to

Carol & Spence, Bet & Graham, and our next coach neighbours, Henny & Brian. Brian installed all our LED lights this week. Yeah!

the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Provincial Park. With the able assistance of our wonderful neighbour, Brian at Town & Country, we have now completed the transition to all LED lights in our motorhome. Bet’s bike got a major tune-up since our return, and we’re looking forward to many more rides together soon.

We’re booked for our first major Family Motor Coach Association conference in Minot, North Dakota in August, and have begun more detailed plans for our fall and winter trip to Arizona, as we continue our goal of visiting 48 states and 10 provinces during our overlandish odyssey.

Our palm tree lights the end of another great day at Town & Country in Winnipeg.

Cheers to all for now!

Luke, Valerie, Andrew, Lisa, Adam, Betty & Kevin relax at our campsite.

Bet made a Friends quilted wall hanging.

And fish…

And placemats…

And more placemats…

And floor mats. And more.  Her creativity knows no bounds!

A pic I took in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, during my travel photography class, demonstrating the effect of the “golden hour” approaching sunset.

A pic I took on the way home from my photography class, showing the full moon rising over the Red River.

A final pic, taken during my photography class in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. The appropriate message on the street reads “Happiness is the path”. Cheers!

 

Lovebug Lament

Our front cap had love bug acne!

A few years ago, Betty & I drove through a swarm of lovebugs on Mustang Island, near Corpus Christi, Texas. A copious crowd of copulating creatures covered the front of our coach, splattering our windshield and making it difficult to see where we were going.  As soon as it was safe to do so, I pulled over and squeegeed the front of our motorhome.  Under other circumstances, the bugs would be gone then, or at the next pressure-washing truck wash. However, these acidic double-headed flies ate through the Diamond Shield coating on the front of our rig, leaving pock marks that were impossible to remove. Yuck!

Another view of the nasty lovebug residue.

On return to Winnipeg I stopped by an autobody shop with experience painting motorhomes, and received a quote of $2,000. to remove the rascally creatures’ residue. While I like to keep the old Boy looking reasonably good, I could think of many other things that 2 grand could go for. So until now we’ve been living with our front face’s acne.

This month I picked up 4 bottles of touch-up paint, to replace the last batch that had succumbed to a cold spell, and set out to cover all the nicks and scratches acquired over the past couple of years of almost constant travel. I gave our home a good wash & wax, and stood back to admire it.  Well, what about that front cap?

Peeling the plastic. So far so good!

I went on-line and watched a number of YouTube videos on removing Diamond Shield coatings. None suggested it was an easy job. And of course the most promising product – Ugly Shield Remover – does not appear to be available in Canada. The recommended approach was to remove very small sections at a time, in order to avoid peeling off paint underneath. I didn’t follow the recommendations…

Off comes the pock marked Diamond Shield, with the original undamaged paint under the tenacious glue.

Beginning with an inconspicuous edge, I started to pull the plastic coating, and was pleased to see how well it came off, leaving glue, but an otherwise unblemished surface, behind. I kept pulling and within 2 hours had the whole pitted Diamond Shield coating removed from the front hood – all paint still intact. Yeah!

I etched the glue with a plastic scraper, in hopes that the adhesive remover would bite better. It didn’t…

Ok. I celebrated a little too soon… While the plastic coating was relatively easy to remove, the glue underneath was another story! I used everything in my limited arsenal, with success coming only after about four days of labour. Even though I had my iTunes playlists attempting to keep me in the groove, I found the job to be extremely boring, and had to quit each day after hours of scrubbing. I used Goo Gone, WD 40, Dawn detergent, plastic scrapers, and Norwex cloths, which appeared to work best. (shout out to our daughter Valerie who sells the cloths.)  One on-line posting suggested gasoline would do the job, and I almost resorted to that at times. (Burn baby burn. Lol) In frustration, I also fantasized about finding which of our kids has my belt sander, and taking that to the obstinate covering. (Betty held me back from that extreme inclination.)

Those are water spots on the finished front – not bugs. I couldn’t wait for the rain to stop before adding this pic.

Well, it’s done now. Or at least one central contaminated section. There’s no chance that I’ll commit the time to removing the rest of the coating, but I can at least stand back and admire the fresh, unadulterated paint on our front hood. BTW, we’re also never going back to Corpus Christi during lovebug season again! lol

Happy Canada Day & Cheers!

My successful restoration is behind the Canadian flag. Happy Canada Day 2019!

Evaluating Our Winter In Florida

The wide, flat beach (at low tide) at Daytona Beach, Florida continues to be a popular spot to drive, park, and play. Fine grain sand beaches border the state on both Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Now that Betty & I are back in Friendly Manitoba for the summer, how do we assess our recent visit to Florida? First, it can be said that so many northern snowbirds winter in Florida that a story about our tour of the state does not constitute news for anyone outside of our immediate friends and family. In reality, as we age and our memories fade, this review is as much for reminding ourselves about our winter adventure, as informing others.  Of course, this kind of assessment is purely subjective, but hope you can still enjoy the read.

The Weather

Bet catches some rays at Siesta Key near Sarasota, Florida

One of the main reasons snowbirds winter in Florida is to escape the potentially brutal cold of a northern winter, and to enjoy the mild and sometimes tropical temperatures in the south. These days regional weather can be quite unpredictable, but there is no doubt we picked the right state to visit this year! (Fingers crossed that Arizona has a warm winter next year, as that is our anticipated destination.) January, February, and March were all warm months in Florida, with many days and weeks moving into the stinkin’ hot range, where the beaches beckoned and margaritas kept us cool and lubricated. Flip flop weather indeed!

The Campgrounds

The popular, hard-to-book campground at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

From trying unsuccessfully to book sites in the Florida Keys state parks eleven months in advance, we knew certain popular spots would be inaccessible. Betty & I prefer to stay in national and state parks, but as it turned out, nearly all southern Florida state parks were fully booked for the winter. During our travels we were able to pick up a day or two at some nice parks, but often there was nothing more available.

Our campsite (#4) in Tiger Bay State forest, on the outskirts of Daytona Beach, was one of only six in the Bennett Field Campground. Each site is approx. an acre in size!

We had not previously stayed in Florida State Forests, and found them to be a great, cost-effective alternative, especially since we are now better equipped for boondocking. Some state forest campgrounds came with electricity and/or water and a dump station, but you couldn’t always count on services being available. Some of our best extended stays in Florida were at beautiful unserviced state forest campgrounds.

Our Pine Island Boondockers Welcome camp spot was nestled in the palms at a palm tree farm.

 

Growing in popularity for us and others are Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host locations. All of our experiences with both organizations were positive, with some clearly rating as trip highlights.

 

Betty watched the river go by at Larry’s wonderful boondockers property near LaBelle, Florida.

Betty & I generally steer away from private campgrounds, but the Ocala North RV Park in Reddick, Florida is one we would consider again, especially if they could find the correct Scottish spelling of the town’s name. lol.  Some of the county campgrounds were very pleasant, including Markham Park and T.Y. Park in the Fort Lauderdale area, and Manatee Hammock Park further up the coast at Titusville.

Traversing The State

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from our site (#2) at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.

Unlike Manitoba, Florida has invested in providing wide, smooth roads for travellers. Despite a few rough construction/congestion patches on I95 through the Gold Coast area, most roads were well-marked and a pleasure to drive. In planning our adventure, we estimated that we would drive 7,916 miles on this portion of our overlandish odyssey. Our odometer told us we actually travelled 8,026 miles, so we weren’t far off.

Our free Harvest Host campsite: Far Reach Ranch north of Orlando.

Many snowbirds find one preferred site, and book it for the winter. Because this was an exploratory trip, we chose to visit most of the state, working our way across and down the gulf coast to Key West, and then up the Atlantic side to Amelia Island.

Hanging out with Mickey
Betty, Georgia, Valerie, Kevin, Isabella & Graham

 

Meeting our kids and grandkids at Orlando’s Disney World in February was, for sure, a highlight of this memorable journey. We pray that those fond memories remain with them, as they will with us, for a long, long time!

Future Trips?

We certainly hope that this was not our last visit to the sunshine state. If we return, would we replicate the most recent trip? The answer is “no”. Not because there was anything wrong with exploring as

Our campsite at Picayune Strand State Forest, on the outskirts of Naples, Florida

much of the state as possible in the time available. But now that we have done that, we have identified some of our favourite spots, and would like to go back and stay longer at a few preferred locations, instead of almost constantly being on the move.

While we still value spontaneity, we would aim for a better Internet

A wonderful view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys. The site was only available for one night.

connection in order to book Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock, and John Pennekamp State Parks (and Long Key, if it re-opens) in the Florida Keys. We would also try for a beach side campsite at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area north of Daytona Beach as well. Not as congested, Big Lagoon State Park on Florida’s panhandle – with nearby Gulf coast beaches at Pensacola – was also a favourite.

A nice picnic spot at Curry Hammock State Park.

There is obviously much more that can be said about the people, places and attractions we visited in Florida, but this little vignette is beginning to exceed my preferred blog post length. We now have hard copy and electronic files related to each of our trips, and are accumulating info for upcoming adventures. If future travels are anywhere near as outstanding as this past winter in Florida, we’ll be more than happy! Here’s hoping that your journeys are just as joyful and jubilant!

Cheers!

Another great beach day near Naples, Florida.

Lost In Time & Space

Betty adds Illinois to our map, after a harrowing drive around Chicago in a heavy rain storm.

It has been somewhat disorienting to make the journey from the summer-like winter heat of Florida to the early spring-time weather in Winnipeg. While the rest of the continent was chilling, Betty & I spent January, February and March of this year under the balmy Florida sun. Light clothing, sunscreen and bug repellent were de rigueur. The grass was green and lawnmowers buzzed. Tropical plants and trees lined Florida’s highways and byways. Flowers bloomed profusely wherever we travelled. The ocean and beaches beckoned and we were in flip-flop heaven!

We crossed the border from International Falls, Minnesota, to Fort Frances, Ontario, and spent a pleasant, free night at a roadside park beside the Rainy River in Fort Frances.

Then as we gradually moved up the east coast during April, the leaves began to revert to buds. And by the time we reached Winnipeg as May began, the trees were devoid of their lush foliage! Ice was still present on some lakes in Ontario’s Lake of The Woods, and roadside patches of snow marked the landscape. We felt the chill breezes and watched the old leaves blow across the dormant grass, and sensed that fall was in the air.

Roadside snow was still present when we stopped for lunch at Falcon Lake, Manitoba in early May, 2019.

But apparently it’s not…  While we still need to keep a heater running in our plumbing bay and the campground water is not yet turned on, Betty & I have been assured by family and friends that winter is over and spring is on its way! We are not yet rushing out to buy flowers for our “yard”, but will take their word that better weather lies ahead.

If you are reading this in the northern hemisphere, let us together hope that the cold dark days are behind us, and a warm bright season of flip-flop heaven is soon to come!

Cheers!

Our campsite (#168) at Town & Country in Winnipeg, awaits summer foliage.

Graham adds Wisconsin, the 37th state (+ District of Columbia, which may still become a state) to our sticker map. These, and 6 provinces, have all been visited since December, 2017. It’s time to slow down a little!