The Bad, The Good, and The Ugly

In case anyone is wondering where The Ramblin’ Reddochs are, Betty & I are wondering the same thing too just now. lol. Permit me to catch you up on the latest phase of our overlandish odyssey, which can best be characterized as including bad, good, and ugly elements, to paraphrase an old movie title.

Boise is the capital of Idaho, and here is their Capitol Building.

Our last post left off in Boise, Idaho, waiting for a GM dealership to interpret our “check engine” light. 

Hulls Gulch is a popular area for hikers and cyclists near downtown Boise, Idaho.

While we toured downtown Boise and the nearby Hulls Gulch, a mechanic read the presenting engine codes, cleared them, and by noon told us we were ready to go. We were pleasently surprised at the minimal bill – as we were afraid the engine might need replacement – until we got back on the Interstate again…

Betty, Charlie and I drove to a scenic lookout. They hiked to the next lookout where I met up with them.
This is a view of downtown Boise from Hulls Gulch, with snow-capped mountains in the background.

Within an hour the old boy started labouring up not-so-steep grades, with the “check engine” light returning. This was The Bad, as we crept along to our next stop – the Y-Knot winery in Glenns Ferry, Idaho. Needing a drink at that point, Betty & I said “Y – Knot!”

Betty & I enjoyed flights of wine produced at Y-Knot, coming away with bottles of our favourite for Mother’s Day.

After a nice Mother’s Day of wine tasting, we had a quiet night at this delightful Harvest Host location.

We walked through the vineyards on the way back to our motorhome (in the background). Betty shows off a bottle of Semillon, from the grapes grown in this row.

With trepidation we headed east on Interstate 84 again, with nearby Twin Falls as our destination. Recognizing that we would be unable to navigate the upcoming Rocky Mountains in our current condition, we searched out a rescuer. Our first stop appeared promising – at Twin Falls Truck – until manager Mike informed us they only work on diesel engines. But he highly recommended Craig’s Automotive, and we haven’t been disappointed.

We lucked out finding Craig’s Automotive in Twin Falls, Idaho. This is us hooked up and parked by his shop this week. His big bays are beyond the fence on the left.

So far this is definitely “the good”. Even though Craig and his staff are very busy with other customers, they took the time to check the codes again and take the old boy for a test drive. Of course, as luck would have it, with Craig at the wheel our motorhome performed quite well, not showing any of the previous lethargy. It reminded me of the TV repair man we called back in the day. The old tube-type TV screen would be rolling, shrinking, or fuzzy until he arrived, then the picture would look just fine. Go figure…

The Perrine Bridge leading into Twin Falls is a popular spot for legal base jumping.

As a start, Craig recommended changing out the fuel filter, which hadn’t been changed in a number of years. He noted that one of the exhaust manifold gasket bolts was missing AGAIN, and that a leak in this system would contribute to our loss of power. Craig indicated that the manifolds could be machined, but that would result in thinner metal that could warp in the not distant future.

Nearby is where Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River canyon.
In the top centre of this pic is the earthen ramp Knievel built to launch his rocket-powered bike.

I had explored the possibility of switching to a high-performance Banks Power System when our exhaust manifold gaskets were first replaced over a decade ago in San Antonio, Texas. But Betty & I were on holidays from work at that time, and couldn’t afford to wait until the Banks parts were ordered and installed. Fortunately, when Craig contacted the Banks factory in California, they had the system we needed in stock. It arrived today – a 2 ½ day delivery time – and is being installed as I write this. (Added note: Turns out half the system arrived, and the other half is still to come- hopefully next week.)

Here’s the box with our new power exhaust system, personally signed by Gale Banks. Can’t wait to try it out!!

Another part of “the good”: Craig has a motorhome and recommended his RV tech to come and look at our living-room slide, which hasn’t been working since last November. Notwithstanding the “RV tech” in Nanaimo playing with it at least 6 – 7 times and not being able to figure out the problem (turns out he wasn’t qualified to do the work), Dale, of Tucks RV Repair, successfully diagnosed our need for a new slide controller within an hour. That’s also good news, although we will still need to find a suitable controller before it’s fixed. In the meantime, Dale showed me how someone could send the slide out, and bring it back, by reversing two wires on the motor.

Yesterday was a sight-seeing day, so we made our way to the Shoshone Falls, a local attraction.

Yet another part of “the good”: Craig recently set up an RV pad right next to his office. It has a level cement base, 50, 30, and 15 amp power outlets, and a tap for fresh water. We have been plugged in and parked at his garage all week, and it is definitely not inconvenient as we await service on our coach.

The falls is illuminated at night. Here Betty stands beside some of the lighting and looks down the Snake River from an observation platform.

Ok, finally “the ugly“: The new RV pad has a sewer outlet, and Betty & I decided to use it yesterday. Our holding tanks were only half full, but we thought it would be better (less smelly for the workers) if we emptied them. Unfortunately, there was a blockage somewhere in the new sewer line, and our discharge ended up all over Craig’s new bathroom, closet with water softener, and waiting room. Yuck, what a smell! Super ugly!  Fortunately, Craig was able to get a professional cleaning crew in to restore the space in short order. It was an ugly experience that no-one would ever want to smell or see happen…

The mist from the falls created a rainbow at its base. Here’s hoping for that pot of gold nearby…

So that’s where Betty & I are just now. We’re somewhere in Twin Falls, Idaho having just lived through the bad, the good, and the ugly. Here’s hoping that your (and our) future travels come out more on the side of “the good”!

Cheers!

Our Smart Driverless Car

Many of us have had the experience of a teenager cutting the apron strings and heading out on their own. Up to a certain point they dutifully followed you, but suddenly they have decided to head out on their own and do their own thing. It can be a harrowing experience, and Betty & I have lived through it before – just never quite like what happened to us this week!

Like a good little guy, our Smart car has dutifully followed behind our motorhome – all over North America. But yesterday in Boise, Idaho, it decided to keep going straight after we had turned onto an Interstate on-ramp. We watched in disbelief as our teenage vehicle decided to act out like an early prototype driverless car. Oh, oh!!! This post is about that most harrowing experience. But before I get there, permit me to catch you up on how we got here.

As we were leaving Nehalem Bay State Park, I couldn’t resist taking a pic of this sign. Guess it brings new meaning to the phrase “ashes to ashes, and dust to dust”…
Our first stop was at the Tillamook Creamery, where we took a self-guided tour and sampled their great cheeses.
The large cheese factory on the Oregon coast has many viewing areas, with explanations of the processes all along. (Ok, that sounds like processed cheese, but it’s really quite good!)
Seems like some elaborate technology in this cheesemaking business.
Although there is a fair amount of automation, individuals along the way (or should that be whey? lol) carry out acts such as weighing the blocks of cheese.
Quality control is evident, with the samples and purchased cheeses attesting to the finished products.
Rather than heading east right away, we spent the night at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company – a Harvest Host participant – where we enjoyed some local wine tasting and deli products. It was a relatively quiet spot, except for the braying donkeys and crowing roosters nearby our parking spot.
The landscape changed considerably as we headed east from Portland, Oregon. We left the rain forests behind and headed into treeless, more barren land.
The grades became steeper (both up and down), and the motorhome began to labour again, with the “check engine” light returning.
Our next night was spent at The Dalles Columbia Gorge Discovery Center (another Harvest Host participant).

After another day of driving, we spent the night just across the Idaho State border, in their first rest area. Our plan was to continue to a Harvest Host winery east of Boise, but as we approached the city, our motorhome continued to lose power. We decided to not try to maneuver the upcoming Rockies, but to make a pit stop in Boise, clear the “check engine” light and rectify our power problem.

In the past when the “check engine” light came on, a mechanic would come out and plug in his diagnostic tool. We would know the resulting fault codes within minutes. But do you think we could find ANYONE in Boise who could check a “check engine” light on a motorhome? We called and visited eight garages in the city, with all telling us they didn’t have the necessary equipment (which I believe can be purchased at Walmart for about $100.) I guess they are not equipped to deal with the problem once it is diagnosed.

Our motor is a GM Vortec 8100, and in the end we found a large GM dealership that was willing to make an appointment for us this Friday morning to let us know why our check engine light is on. Whether they can fix the problem is another issue. Fingers crossed, but we may be staying in Boise for awhile longer…

Ok, by now you may be waiting with bated breath to find out what happened to our car.

As we were driving back and forth around Boise looking for a garage that could help us, we crossed an Interstate overpass and had a green light to make a left turn onto I84.

As I was making the turn onto the on-ramp, I heard scraping behind and car horns honking. Checking our back camera, I found that the Smart car was no longer following us. I immediately pulled over to the side, and watched out the window while our car continued on down the slope from the overpass, with lots of traffic heading in the same direction, and oncoming traffic beside it. When it reached the bottom of the slope it approached and proceeded through another intersection – after the light had turned red and cross traffic began to flow. Fortunately the cross traffic saw the driverless car and let it pass, with the car continuing onto the sidewalk on the other side. Now usually the tires might have blown when they hit the curb, but being a SMART car, it decided to take the curb cut designed for handicapped pedestrians. It also chose to miss a light standard before coming to rest fully on the sidewalk.

I took this pic after turning the Smart around on the sidewalk. If you zoom in you can see the motorhome parked in the centre of the pic, by the next set of lights.

The car was still rolling as I put the motorhome in park and dashed out the door, heading down the block toward it. Charlie wanted to follow the little guy, but Betty held him back. Needless to say, Betty & I were a little stressed, but I was able to turn the wayward car around to drive it back to our motorhome.

The tow bar and safety chains are still attached to the baseplate. It just so happens that the base plate is not connected to the car. Btw, the electrical connection for lights, brakes and turn signals unplugged itself and was not damaged.

We drove both vehicles to Boise Riverside RV Park, where we decided to decompress for the rest of this week. On the way we stopped at a hitch specialist to get their assessment. Without looking too closely at the car or disconnected baseplate (it was near closing time and he invited me to come back the next day) the store manager looked up a Smart base plate on his computer, and told me he might be able to get one in another week or so. I checked the bill from when the base plate was purchased and attached 13 years ago, and it was over $2000. at that time – largely because much of the Smart is plastic, which had to be removed to reach something solid for the attachment. I was visualizing a high price tag for this repair, including an unintended extended stay in Boise.

While it is missing both fog lights and front “bumper”, the Smart still seems to have a smile on its face. As my mother would say to me when I got in trouble: “This is nothing to smile about!”

But overnight I began to consider alternatives, and Googled welding shops nearby. I found good reviews for Kiwi’s Welding & Repair, and decided to take a chance going there before returning to the hitch store. Turned out Kiwi and his sister Karen were amazing! They looked at the baseplate, noting that it had torn away the attachment points under the car. (If I had ordered a new baseplate, the hitch store wouldn’t have been able to attach it, since the attachment points were badly damaged.

This is a pic of our car’s front end, including the intact grill and tow bar attachment points. The pic was taken at our current campsite.

Kiwi (originally from New Zealand, btw) said: “Leave it with me, and I’ll give you a call when it’s fixed” that very day. I said: “But I don’t have a way to get back to our campground”. To which Karen replied: “No worries. I’ll drive you.” Talk about going above and beyond!!!

Kiwi Welding & Repair. It might not have much curb appeal, but they sure do great work!

By 2:30 pm yesterday, Kiwi called to say the car was ready, and they would rotate the front tires because of uneven tire wear, and replace the plastic panel that had been torn off again. (See a post from last fall when it succumbed to a ferry ramp on Vancouver Island. At that time Nanaimo Mercedes Benz installed a new plastic underbelly for $400.) We drove the motorhome down to the welding shop, and Kiwi’s charge for getting us back together on the road was about $440. – amazing considering what it might have cost elsewhere! 5 star plus reviews for sure!

We don’t know yet what the outcome will be with our motorhome power issues, but hope to provide a report in an upcoming post.

It’s not what we expected, but Betty & I are able to add state #42 – Idaho – to our sticker map. Yeah!

Betty and I are still recovering from the shock of what happened. In retrospect we realize that it could have been much worse. If the Smart had disconnected going up one of the many steep mountain grades, it would likely have disappeared for good (or bad in this case) over a deep embankment. It could have run into another vehicle, causing damage and bodily harm. We have visualized many scenarios, and realize we were extremely fortunate in how this horrendous event occurred, and how it was resolved. PTL!

Our current campsite (#25 at $51./night for water & 50 amp service) backs onto a popular Boise greenbelt, running for 31 miles through the city.

Looking back over our experiences with former teenagers, we realize it turned out pretty good in the end. At times we thought things couldn’t be worse, but in perspective we know it could well have been, and we are tremendously thankful for our grown children and the blessings they bring to our lives and to those close that they love.

The Smart is still rolling, but we hope it continues to stick close and not head out on its own again. Here’s trusting that your relationships with inanimate objects and humans near remain positive and productive.

Cheers!

Time Travelling

Our adult kids know that I enjoy taking modern technology back to the late 1950’s/early 60’s to impress my younger self and friends. I usually play a guessing game: What is this? A radio? a calculator? a flashlight? an encyclopedia? an atlas? a clock? a camera? a phone? etc., etc., etc., with the answer being all of the above and much more! Mind-blowing for that bygone era! 

Betty finally added state number 40 – Washington – to our sticker map.

Well this week Betty & I went back in time – but just not that far back…  In 2010 we dropped our youngest daughter, Lisa, at the University of Victoria, and headed down the U.S. coast in our CruiseMaster. The picture on the first page of our blog was taken just south of Cannon Beach, Oregon, on spectacularly scenic coastal highway #101.

This is our first page pic, taken a dozen years ago on the scenic Oregon coast.
We tried our best to replicate that pic yesterday, but couldn’t get the sun to move to the right angle in the sky. Betty had forced me to retire the Hawaiian shirt I was wearing in 2010, but I found another for this pic. You will note that I am still holding the same coffee mug (with fresh coffee, of course) and that Betty & I don’t look a day older. lol
This was another attempt on a different day. Rather than setting up my tripod, we conscripted other tourists to act as our photographer – a tricky proposition when you have a specific image in mind.
There are dozens of scenic pull-offs along the coast. This was another attempt to get the sun on our faces at one of them.

One of our first posts (Dec.3, 2017) listed favourite places we hoped to revisit.

This pic is of a much younger couple, taken at Cannon Beach in 2010.
Rather than conscripting another photographer, I took this pic of Betty by the Cannon Beach Haystack Rock. I was unsuccessful in persuading her to take off her shirt to add to the haystacks. lol.
She reciprocated by taking this pic of me. I offered to take off my shirt, but Betty thought that would just be too funny looking…

We are currently staying at Nehalem Bay State Park (site C30), just south of Cannon Beach, and have enjoyed both touring Cannon Beach again, and also just sitting on the wide sandy beach in the park, watching families flying their kites.

Our current, quiet site (C30) has electricity & water for $39./night The park isn’t near as full as we expected.
You can just make out Betty & Charlie at the top of the dune, on the way to the beach in Nehalem Bay State Park.
We had a pleasant afternoon enjoying the warm sunshine at the beach.
It was a great day for families to get kites in the air over the long, wide, fine-grained, sandy beach.
Betty & Charlie head back to our campsite after a day at the beach.

Tomorrow we drive just a little further south to Tillamook, for a tour of their famous cheese factory, and are spending the night at another cheese factory – the Blue Heron – a Harvest Host member.

State #41, Oregon, can finally be added to our map. Yeah!

We will be leaving the Pacific Ocean behind, and starting our travels inland toward Manitoba – hoping to return once the seasonal flooding is over. (Otherwise we might have a water-front campsite at Town & Country. lol)

One more “haystack” rock along the Oregon coast. Just “wow” for this scenic drive.

Our next stop this weekend is Portland, Oregon, with upcoming visits to Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South and North Dakota along the way. The Portland visit may include a trip to the Apple store, to see what new technology might replace my aging iPhone 6, which has been acting up lately. Besides, think of the impression I would make if I took the latest iPhone back to the ’60s! Just imagine the past and future colliding!

This Princess line cruise ship was docked in Astoria, Oregon, visible as we crossed the bridge from Washington State.

In the meantime, we have enjoyed our journey back to the future, and hope you also have opportunity to both reminisce and look forward to new adventures ahead!

I couldn’t resist a pic of these bright, colourful tulips, outside a hotel in Cannon Beach.

Cheers!

Attractive Or Disconcerting?

There are times in life when you see and experience things that are difficult to wrap your head around. How do you interpret what is in front of you? This week Betty & I had one of those experiences. But before I elaborate, here are a couple more pictures from our current campsite at Pacific Beach State Park in Washington State.

This pic taken over a decade ago, was posted Dec.3, 2017, and again Nov.1, 2021 as a memorable camp spot – site #5 at Pacific Beach .
The seagrass has grown a little higher, and Charlie found his way into this pic at site #7. But the same wine glasses helped to replicate the earlier experience and vibe. lol
Almost every night we are seeing amazing sunsets over the Pacific – too many to keep adding to this blog… But I had to post this one taken with my new telephoto lens. It shows crashing waves that must have been at least 10 feet high, almost touching the setting sun. You can just make out the birds in the foreground that perform a spectacular ballet at the beach every sunset.

Ok, on to the main story.  Betty & I will often go for a drive around the area where we are camped, just to get the lay of the land and see local attractions. One of the features we like about our current spot is the proximity of the local town, Pacific Beach. It is immediately adjacent to our campground and an easy walk for basic needs.

One of the open shops on Pacific Beach’s Main Street.

The town appears a little run-down just now, with many shops and residences closed and seemingly abandoned. But I think it is more a seasonal issue, and we are here in the off-season.  There is still a hotel and restaurant, gas station, post office, elementary school, church, and most other facilities one would find in a small community.

Not sure if this was a home or a store, but in any event, it’s closed.. It’s likely not a fair representation of Pacific Beach, a really quaint little town.

But just about a kilometer south, we found something unexpected. Not listed on any of our hardcopy maps, but showing up on “Google maps” is a brand-new community. Called “Seabrook”, the town is at least as large as any I lived in growing up – if not larger. While I have a fairly innate sense of direction, there were times without our gps that I wasn’t sure where we were and where we were going! Had we entered The Twilight Zone

This sign invites a visit to a structure that doesn’t yet exist on the land behind the sign.

We found Seabrook to be both attractive and disconcerting. The shops, homes, streets and parks were all pristine – no garbage anywhere and not a blade of grass out of place. Yes, it was totally attractive, but spookily surreal at the same time. It could all have been part of a “Truman Show” set (with Jim Carrey) or “Pleasantville” (with Reese Witherspoon & Jeff Daniels). Let me explain more through the captions on the following pictures.

All the buildings in Seabrook – both shops and residences – are designed to look like they were built 100 years ago, when in fact most would not have been here last year! This real estate office commands a prime location on Main Street.
This cute shop with a wine cafe on the main floor, and presumably apartments above, is across the street from the real estate office.
These cedar-shake clad, maritime style shops, including a soon-to-open barber shop, are on a busy side street. Check out the cute car behind the town’s security vehicle.
The whole community appears planned, down to the smallest details. Many old tourist towns – like Bayfield, Ontario – where my parents lived, had little shops you found down back lanes – opened organically as space in the main commercial districts became filled. Seabrook is starting with brand new back lane shops. They look old-style, but it’s all designed to look that way!
As you look down Main Street, you see the white steepled Town Hall on a curve in the street, making it a dominant feature from many vantage points.
The hundreds of brand-new homes in town are all designed to look like they were built 100 years ago. Betty & I both find that style very attractive, with the wide front porches and colourful siding. Nearly all have “historic style” name plates. This one is called “L’Amour the Mer-ier”. lol
Another attractive feature is that none of these are cookie-cutter. Betty & I have visited new communities that only had a handful of styles, with many simply mirror images of the houses next door. These century-old looking buildings all give the impression of having been constructed by different architects in different decades.
There is a full mixture of single, two story, and two and a half story homes in Seabrook.
More interesting home styles, on pristine, traditional suburban streets.
While we didn’t go into any of the carefully staged homes, I couldn’t help but imagine that the interiors were similarly staged – with open floor plans, hardwood floors, large kitchen islands, stainless steel appliances, farmhouse sinks, yada, yada, yada…
It didn’t appear that anything was left to chance in this make-believe town – even the piece of driftwood in the “ditch” between the street and the homes looks staged.
There are small and large parks all over town, all immaculately kept. The homes in this pic all face the park, with access presumably through back lanes. In this park is a fire pit with a built-in seating area. And of course the firewood is already provided.
Speaking of back lanes – there are narrow, immaculate back lanes almost everywhere, with most having carriage-houses above the garages: Another concept that flourished a century ago; died out; and is now revitalized as cities need to increase density in order to afford services. Seabrook is starting with this old approach to increasing density!
I know none of the history of Seabrook, and my interpretation may be all wrong. But it appears to be a totally, thoroughly, well-planned, attractive community – even down to the addition of a “blind corner”. Being a brand new community, I’m sure it could have been designed without a blind corner, but think it was added on purpose, giving the illusion of organic development.
Fascinated by the architecture and community spaces, I couldn’t help but take dozens of pictures. These are just a handful of the many interesting images in this seemingly make-believe town. Btw, we didn’t see any of the features from Pacific Beach: No school, gas station, church, (many towns and cities around the world were designed with churches as dominant landmarks in the communities), grocery store (although an open air market is planned for week-ends in the summer). There appears nothing that was not approved by a single developer – nothing organically built over decades – only attractive new/old buildings and spaces. Definitely no garbage or graffiti. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we found it a little spooky and disconcerting: Very much “Pleasantville”.
On a prominent location on Main Street (with the Town Hall designed like a church in the distant background) sits this over-sized adirondack chair. It faces the Pacific Ocean at the bottom of the hill on which the town is perched. Many of the town’s residences sport adirondack chairs, often with colourful cushions displayed. It was impossible to tell from this visit whether they were staged or real…

Were we witnessing a staged movie set, or an actual community? It was one of those experiences that’s difficult to get one’s head around. Maybe only time will tell how Seabrook evolves, but in the meantime, Betty & I were left with a real head-scratcher. Was it real, or was it fake?  Hope you can better interpret life as you see it on your travels! 

Cheers!

Looking Forward To This

Previous posts have highlighted favourite campsites where Betty & I have stayed on our overlandish odyssey, or on earlier travels. The sites have exhibited special qualities that made them memorable and desirable. While we value spontaneity, we will also go out of our way to return to a great campground that provided a lasting favourable experience. This week we returned to one of those spots that we had looked forward to for quite some time.

Before we got there, I have a few extra pictures from our stay at Kalaloch Campground, a little further up the Pacific coast.
As mentioned in the last post, campsites are first-come, first-served at Kalaloch, and the few oceanfront sites filled up fast. Most would have been too small for us, anyway.
We spent a sunny day at the beach and found some driftwood we would have liked to take back to Winnipeg. Just a little large to fit on our roof. lol
This well worn driftwood – appearing like a long thin beached whale – was much larger than anything we would find in Manitoba!
The weathered trees had some amazing swirls in their roots – what creative artistry!
It wasn’t difficult to find beautiful images along this beach!
After leaving Kalaloch, we stopped for gas at Taholah, on the Quinault Reservation, where Bet snapped this dramatic pic.

Having booked a seasonal site at Living Forest Oceanside Campground in Nanaimo, British Columbia until April 15/22, we anticipated heading down the U.S. west coast after that for a while. 

Arriving at Pacific Beach State Park a day early, we were able to pull face-first into site #4, with this pic at low tide taken through our front windshield.

About a decade ago, Betty and I lucked out with an oceanside campsite (#5) at Pacific Beach State Park at the base of the Olympic Peninsula. Since there are only a handful of oceanside sites in this small state park, I went on-line to the Washington State Park website last July and booked site #7 for this week. Here are some pictures from the first few days of our visit:

Site #7 is a back-in electrical site, with enough room for our Smart to park as well. That’s Bet sitting on the dune behind our rig.
Sea grasses shimmer in the sun on the top of our current perch.
This pic is a replication of one taken here a decade ago. While Bet looks a little bundled up, the sun was warm on our faces as we enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing in. I may have mentioned to Betty that I was looking forward to this relaxing day (maybe once, twice or a dozen times, lol)
Facing west, sunsets can be quite dramatic here. This pic captures rays streaming below a cloud onto the ocean beyond the beach.
Truth be told: yesterday and today we are experiencing the same kind of rain we had all winter on the wet coast. In this high tide pic, taken through the back window of our motorhome, the beach has all but disappeared. Sunshine and warmer temps are forecast for later this week, and we hope to get another pic that better replicates the one from a decade ago.

Betty & I have a lot more to look forward to, but visiting Pacific Beach State Park again is one more item off our bucket list. Hoping you can also find much in life for which to look forward!

Another fantastic Pacific Beach sunset, taken from our current campsite.

Cheers!

FINALLY On The Road Again!

Like many others, Betty & my travels have been limited by the pandemic coronavirus, and all its varients. Other than flights back to Winnipeg for Christmas, we have been staying put in our ocean-view campsite at Nanaimo, British Columbia for the past six months. The site is nice, but we’ve had far too much rain, and we’re told it’s been colder than usual – although there’s no comparison with the snowy winter and spring our family has been experiencing in Manitoba!

The flowers and blossoms have been out at our Nanaimo campsite for well over a month now.

For quite some time now, we have been itching to get back on the road. With the exception of a couple of day trips south to Duncan and Victoria, there hasn’t been much to post on a travel blog.

Betty & her friend from Manitoba, Arlene, pose for a pic by one of Duncan’s many totem poles.
Betty & I enjoyed an afternoon walking tour with Arlene and her husband around the many downtown Duncan totem poles.
There were too many amazing colourful carvings to include on this post. Just giving a sense that it is well worth the visit if you are in Duncan. BTW, we saw a Tim Hortons while we were there, but didn’t see any Duncan Donuts. (Groan from our kids…)
A recent episode on the Cottage Life tv channel featured the construction of a houseboat in Duncan, so we stopped to see the finished product. The grey top floor of the three-story houseboat can just be seen on the right of the pic.

On our way across the Rocky Mountains last October, our motorhome struggled on a couple of occasions, and we wanted to ensure it was performing at its best as we headed out for the next leg of our overlandish odyssey.  So we took the Boy into Nanaimo’s Cullen Diesel and they changed out the transmission fluid which, according to my records, hadn’t been changed in a dozen years. They also changed the spark plugs and wires, and we seem to be cruising up and down the mountains more easily now. Yeah!

On our way to Victoria we passed Goldstream park, where we had gone with our youngest daughter, Lisa, to see the salmon run.

The sun was shining as we began our trip down Vancouver Island, but we experienced a little of everything weather-wise on our first couple of days.

Bet caught this pic of the B.C. legislature as we drove past.

Arriving in Victoria with plenty of time before boarding the ferry to Port Angeles, Washington, we drove past the B.C. legislature and other famous landmarks.

Victoria’s historic Empress Hotel is featured in the background of this pic., after we boarded the ferry to Port Angeles, Washington.
Pulling out of Victoria’s harbour, the U.S. flag waves on the stern of our ship, with the Empress again in the background.

After clearing customs in Port Angeles – late on Good Friday evening – we received notice from Telus, our phone service provider, that I was incurring some serious roaming charges. This was notwithstanding Betty & I have active Canada-U.S. data plans. There is obviously a mix-up somewhere, but we may not be able to reach anyone at Telus until Monday or Tuesday – a real hassle when we have come to rely on electronic communications these days. Fortunately the Port Angeles Verizon store was open Saturday morning, and we were able to activate our wifi jetpack at a very reasonable pay-as-you-go rate. Yeah again!

Our Boy was nestled in the ship’s hold for the hour and a half ferry trip to the U.S.A.
A cruise ship was docked in Port Angeles, as we arrived on an overcast Good Friday afternoon.

Knowing that citrus fruit and other food items can be an issue at the U.S. border crossing, we made the Port Angeles Walmart our first stop – stocking up the fridge and pantry, and obtaining permission for an overnight stay in their parking lot.

When we awoke Saturday morning, we were surrounded by a fresh coating of wet snow. Unfortunately, the one slide we had extended at the foot of our bed wouldn’t retract because of the heavy 3″ of snow on top. I had to gingerly climb on the roof with a long squeegee to remove the cold, wet stuff so our slide would retract.

Yesterday we headed west and south down Washington State Hwy. 101, again experiencing the full range of spring weather – from sunshine to rain and wet snow at higher elevations, and back to sun as we reached the Pacific coast.

The road west and south is extremely scenic on the Olympic Peninsula. Here are just a couple of pics.
This is a pic Betty got of beautiful Lake Crescent, as we passed by.
We began to catch glimpses of the sandy beaches and crashing waves as we reached the open Pacific, and started looking for a campsite.

I had researched possible overnight campsites on the Olympic Peninsula, but many were listed as closed until mid-May, and others were first come, first served, with no guarantee we would find a spot suitable for our motorhome and car.  Fortunately, when we looped through Kalaloch Beach campground yesterday afternoon, we came across a nice spot, close to a sandy beach, and are looking forward to Easter dinner here later today.

The sun shone brightly as we reached a roadside pull-off overlooking the ocean, so we knew we must be close…
Our site (D6) at Kalaloch Beach ($24./night) was one of the very few that could accommodate a class-A motorhome, especially with a car on behind. We are very fortunate to be here for Easter weekend!

Oh, btw, yes Washington is state #40 on our overlandish odyssey – over two years since we registered state #39 – Colorado. The coronavirus has slowed us all down, but Betty & I are hoping that we can enjoy our time on the road a little longer, and that you also can experience happiness, wherever life finds you. As Willie Nelson sings, yes, it’s great to be FINALLY on the road again!

After we got set-up, we headed down for a stroll on the magnificent fine-grained sand beach.
Betty and Charlie enjoyed the first of many days (we hope) on Pacific coast beaches.

Cheers! 

A Walk In The Woods

Lately Betty has been singing the praises of “forest bathing”, something she does on a daily basis at our “Living Forest” campsite. No, she’s not talking about setting up a tub in the woods. She’s referring to the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku – absorbing the forest atmosphere. This past week provided an opportunity to share this form of regeneration with our two fabulous daughters – Valerie & Lisa. Our walks in the woods together were wonderfully restorative experiences! Here are a few highlights:

Valerie, her mom, Lisa, Charlie & I hiked the appropriately-named “Tranquility Trail” in Nanaimo’s Morrell Nature Sanctuary. A mellow meander!
The trail took us up and down one of the many paths within Morrell’s private teaching forest. More than just a breath of fresh air!

Lisa & Valerie were able to escape Manitoba’s deep snow for a few days of reconnecting with the old folks. They caught us up on what was happening with their families, and were interested in hearing stories about our early lives, our parents, and grandparents. The reminiscing was good, but just chillin’ together was the best!

After flying in from Winnipeg, Valerie & Lisa settled into a nearby airbnb, where we shared a meal together. Other meals included steak and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus back at our motorhome, and fish & chips in Victoria

I’ll let the following pictures tell the story of our all-too-brief memory-making time together:

One of our first hikes was around Nanaimo’s Neck Point Park. While there was no snow, winter coats remained on for this unseasonably cold week.
A sailboat plied the waters of the Georgia Strait, with mountains in the background and a pod of seals in the foreground.
Valerie, Lisa and their mom stop for a picture during our Neck Point hike, near a spot where whales are usually visible. Unfortunately none made an appearance for us.
Betty & Valerie practiced a little yoga at a scenic look-out.
On a day trip to Victoria, Lisa caught up with a UVic colleague, while Betty, Valerie & I toured nearby Butchart Gardens.
We were too early in the season for many flowers, but the daffodils are in full bloom.
The amazing Gardens include a number of paths, with many providing a regenerative forest bath.
Many fountains bring the park to life. Bet and Valerie stop for a pic near this dramatic pond.
A dragon spits out a fountain of water in a feature donated by a Japanese sister city.
Bright red berries liven up a garden that is not yet in full bloom.
A halo of sun highlights these two angels.

Forest bathing is said to be good for both physical and mental health. It reduces stress, increases feelings of happiness, and calls for a creative response. It lowers one’s heart rate and blood pressure, and is said to boost the immune system and accelerate healing. It’s all good!

We all breathed in the abundant fresh air at Morrell Nature Sanctuary.
On our hike, we stopped to reflect across the still waters of Morrell Lake.

With all the strife, sickness, and separation endemic in our world these days, may we each take Betty’s advice to go for a walk in the woods, and immerse ourselves for a while in a regenerative, deep breathing forest bath.

Everywhere we looked, old and new life came together in most creative ways.

Cheers! 

Sun shines off a mossy outcrop in the forest – a great place to stop, breath deeply, and reflect.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,  
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep,  
And miles to go before I sleep.
” Robert Frost.

Nice To See Happy!

Death can occur at any time. When death takes a loved one it can be particularly painful. And when that loved one is a long-term spouse, one wonders if the grieving process can ever end. So many memories and shared life experiences! Is a new chapter ever possible? Many do not believe it is, but this weekend Betty & I were witness to the answer for Betty’s brother, Bill, and his new wife, Marie: a resounding YES. It’s so nice to see happy again for both of them!!

As our ferry began the two hour voyage to Vancouver, the coastline of Nanaimo receded in the background.
A smaller ferry, in B.C.s large fleet, heads to one of the many coastal islands, as snow-capped mountains overlook the Strait of Georgia. Our captain pointed out a pod of whales near-by, but I was unable to capture a pic.

Long story short: Bill and Marie met as children in Sunday School in Toronto, and were great friends. As time went on, Bill met and married Heather, and Marie met and married John. When death took Heather and John, Marie contacted Bill to express condolences, and they became reacquainted. Through the marvels of social media, they were able to bridge the distance between Bill’s home in Ontario, and Marie’s in British Columbia. They discovered that they enjoyed each other’s company, and decided to start a new chapter in life – together.

Marie and Bill joyfully start a new chapter of life together.

Due to current COVID restrictions, the nuptials were a small affair, with Marie’s son and grandchildren joining Betty & I to witness the wedding in a New Westminster, B.C. church. The service was relatively brief, but particularly moving as Marie and Bill shared the heartfelt vows they had written for each other.

Rev. Blair blesses the union of Marie & Bill, as they exchange rings and share their vows.
At the church, Bill and Marie are joined by Marie’s grandson Ryan, son Jeff, and granddaughter Keira .
Betty & I were happy to bear witness to the start of a new life together for Marie and Bill.

After the service, we all returned to Marie and Bill’s condo where we enjoyed a fabulous wedding feast, including some of the fine wine referenced by the minister in his remarks about Jesus’ wedding miracle – where Jesus turned water into wine for the wedding guests. An unexpected delight!

To wrap the newlyweds in a warm hug, Betty spent hundreds of hours sewing a colourful quilt for them. It is called “Sunshine” to wish them sunshine and butterflies during this last chapter.
The cheerfully coloured quilt matches its new owners joyful dispositions. lol.

The weekend provided a great opportunity to get acquainted and reacquainted. We went for walks along New Westminster’s picturesque boardwalk, edging the Fraser River. The river and boardwalk are two short blocks away from Bill and Marie’s condo, although it is straight downhill to get there, and all uphill to get back. A much-needed workout!

Betty & I enjoyed the sunshine and view from our balcony in the Inn At The Quay, New Westminster.
Our hotel room jutted out over the Fraser River, providing marvellous views of strollers on the boardwalk below and ships up and down the river.
Our room at Inn At The Quay was on the far right of the structure, providing a great view of the mighty Fraser River. Thank you to Bill and Marie for this lovely surprise.

It was so nice to see the love and joy in the faces of Bill and Marie, and to get a glimpse of the happiness they are experiencing as they enter this new phase of life together. When the death of a loved one occurs, we often think there can be no future. This weekend Marie and Bill proved to us that a new joyful chapter is possible. Nice to see happy again!

Cheers!

Its early February and buds have formed on the bushes surrounding our motorhome in Nanaimo – a sign that new life is possible!
This artistic? pic might better have been included in the “Matter of Perspective” post. But I captured the Coastal Inspiration ferry’s funnels with my new telephoto lens on our trip from Nanaimo to Vancouver this weekend.

A Matter of Perspective

How do we view people and things around us?

I got a pic of Betty in silhouette, as she takes a pic of our surroundings on a recent hike on Vancouver Island.

In the 1980’s, Howard Zehr wrote a thought-provoking paper for the Mennonite Central Committee, comparing and contrasting a retributive model of justice with biblical justice, and what he termed “restorative justice”. Zehr subsequently elaborated on these concepts in a seminal book entitled “Changing Lenses”. He challenged the reader to see justice from a number of perspectives, leading to different definitions for crime, and potentially more satisfying outcomes. The restorative justice paradigm continues to grow around the world. 

Since we returned to Vancouver Island after Christmas, the view from our campsite has been limited by almost daily fog.
In one of my first pics with the new telephoto lens, the ships come into sharper view, but the mountains behind remain shrouded in clouds and fog.

This Christmas I received an amazing gift from our son, Andrew – a new telephoto lens for my camera. As a result, I have been able to change lenses, and see what is around us from other distinct perspectives.

A passing sailboat is dwarfed by the snow-capped mountains in the background of this pic, taken from Neck Point Park in Nanaimo, B.C.

As with my camera, the new lens has a lot of bells and whistles, and it will take me a while to master it. But it’s a lot of fun to see and experience things differently. This post provides a few of my first shots.

With my new lens, I was able to radically change perspectives, zooming in on the same sailboat and its inhabitants. The name of the boat “Strait Wings” now comes into view.

Back in Nanaimo, people have talked about how unusually cold it has been on Vancouver Island this winter. But Betty & I can tell you that, having spent a month in Manitoba’s deep freeze, the weather here is definitely a matter of perspective! lol BTW, at 10.6c, today Nanaimo was recorded as the hot spot for Canada!

Waves crashed against the rocky shore, as Betty & I hiked a scenic trail around Neck Point Park.

When we travel, Betty & I meet others from many interesting places, with divergent backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives on life. Next to campfires and through casual conversations, we are challenged to see people and things around us through different lenses.

Back at our campsite, we can see more clearly the ferries and cargo ships that pass up and down the Georgia Strait. With a more dramatic view of the mountains in the background, the telephoto lens allows me to read the name of the cargo ship – the “Conquistador” from Valletta, Malta.

Whether or not one has opportunities to break out of a mold and do some travelling, I hope that we can all take the time to see the beauty around us through alternate lenses.

Cheers! 

For my birthday this week, Betty prepared my all-time favourite Italian dinner: saltimbocca alla romana. Yum yum!
A new sweater, knit by my sweetie for my 70th birthday, looks much better than the person wearing it. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. lol

The Omicron Challenge

Spoiler alert: To the best of our knowledge, neither Betty nor I have omicron, or any other coronavirus variant – yet. But that is not to say we have not been affected by COVID-19, like the rest of the world. This post shares some of our pandemic experiences in the past month.

As previously noted, we cancelled our 2020/21 Christmas flights from Nanaimo, British Columbia to Winnipeg, Manitoba due to the spread of the coronavirus. By August 2021 vaccines were available and the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths was diminishing. So we re-booked our Christmas and New Year’s flights. Yeah!

After we left, Nanaimo got hit with unseasonably cold temperatures and snowfall – rare for an area of Canada that grows palm trees! Thanks much to fellow camper Marina for watching over our site while we were away. Our plumbing and all other systems survived the weather while Betty & I were dealing with the REAL cold in Manitoba. lol

We looked forward to spending time with family and friends, many of whom we had not seen for a number of months. Then came the spread of the more contagious omicron variant. 

Grandson, James, plays Santa as he delivers a present to Uncle Kevin. Masks helped to beat the omicron challenge.

The day before our flights from Nanaimo to Winnipeg we went on-line to confirm seat selections and download boarding passes, as is our custom. But now WestJet had added another page, requiring a scan confirming vaccination status. Betty and I both have Manitoba-issued vaccine cards, confirming we have each received two doses. I also had a record of my third dose, received in October. Despite our best efforts, the web site refused to acknowledge the QR codes we uploaded, including the federally-issued QR codes, and as a result we could not confirm our flights. The Nanaimo airport isn’t far from our campground, so we ended up driving over and seeing a WestJet agent for seat selections and boarding passes.

But getting to Winnipeg was only half the fun. The regular winter deep freeze was a shock to our systems, despite having endured many Manitoba winters. I’m not sure the temperature ever rose above -20c, and often fell closer to -40c, especially when the wind-chill was factored in.  Unlike Nanaimo where snow melts or is washed away by rain in short order, the two feet of snow in Winnipeg is likely there to stay until spring.

Our Christmas Day dinner table was set for 14, but due to the omicron challenge, our numbers reduced as the day went on. Those joining, of course, were able to watch the Queen’s Christmas message with me. Yeah!!

A number of planned get-togethers over the holidays were either cancelled or scaled-back, including a reduced Christmas dinner at Andrew’s. Unfortunately, a birthday party for our now 14 year-old granddaughter, Isabella, had to be cancelled due to the virus.

We had a great view of our plane and the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains, as we waited many hours in the Calgary airport. Flights everywhere were cancelled due to a lack of staff, with many off work due to the coronavirus.

Our largest omicron challenge came when it was time to return to Nanaimo. As with schools, restaurants, hospitals, and almost every other sector, airlines have been seriously affected just now by this more contagious virus. Our flight from Winnipeg was delayed three hours while WestJet waited for a flight attendant to be flown in from another location. No restaurants or kiosks were open at the airport during that period, likely due to staff shortages.

After numerous delays due to the omicron variant, Betty was finally able to relax in our Calgary hotel room.

That meant that we missed our connecting flight from Calgary, Alberta to Nanaimo, and there were no further scheduled flights that day.  Along with dozens of others, Betty & I waited in an hours long line-up to see a ticket agent to sort out our travel plans.  We were issued taxi, hotel and meal vouchers, and by 3:00 am we were headed to an airport hotel for the night.

Our hotel room in Calgary included a small kitchen area, but no grocery stores were open close to our location.

It was a nice enough hotel, but without room service at 3:00 am, and no breakfast or lunch room service in the morning. Our next scheduled flight, on the following night, was cancelled due to staff shortages, and we remained at the hotel for another night. The silver lining was a chance to visit with our good friend, Wendy, while in Calgary.

The sun was almost setting as we began our decent over the Fraser Valley, into Vancouver., B.C.

Our next flight was to leave Calgary at 5:30 pm, heading to Vancouver, where we would change planes for a short trip to Nanaimo. Unfortunately, the time between touch-down and the next take-off was only 35 minutes. As we arrived at the Calgary airport, we received notification that our flight to Vancouver was delayed by at least an hour (likely due to staff shortage), so we foresaw being stranded for another night in Vancouver.

Betty & Charlie share a hug after almost a month apart – The longest we have ever been separated.

With the help of a WestJet ticket agent, we were able to get rescheduled on a different flight that allowed us to make the connection to Nanaimo. It’s great to be finally back in our motorhome, and re-united with our pup, Charlie, after almost a month. Thanks so much for Wendy’s sister, Jan in Nanaimo, who looked after our golden doodle while we were travelling!

Charlie gives Jan a “thank you” kiss, for providing great care while we were away.

Throughout our travels this month, Betty & I became very aware of the many challenges brought on by COVID- 19, and by the omicron variant in particular.  So far, we have remained healthy and happy through all of these trials, and hope that you also can master these challenging times!

Cheers!