Browsing "Ontario"
Sep 12, 2008 -

Sweet Home Manitoba

I am presently in nowheresville, Manitoba, somewhere between Winnipeg and Brandon (closer to the latter), taking a much needed break. It has been a long, long journey from Nipigon to here. Now, it’s time to slow down and spend a couple of days at various strategic locations.

So, last you heard from me, I was about a 100 klicks shy of Thunder Bay. There isn’t really anything of note between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, so I decided to do a short haul to Thunder Bay to recharge my batteries, then undertake the very long haul to the Winnipeg area, from where I could slow down.

Since I was in no hurry on Tuesday, I decided to follow the signs promising Canada’s longest suspended bridge. The road there was a bit scary in a motorhome, but the signs said that there were RV sites at the end of the road, so I took a chance taking Miranda down there and it turned out fine. I wound up on the bottom of gorgeous Eagle Canyon where a path took me up to the first of two suspension bridges.

I couldn’t cross them. I have a touch of acrophobia and these bridges were too much for me. I made it a quarter of the way across the shorter bridge before I started to see red. I don’t let my fear of heights stop me from living and I challenge it regularly, so I go easy on myself at times like these. I took some pictures, then followed the path down to the river at the bottom of the canyon, enjoying a brisk hike around a lake before returning to Miranda. It was a fantastic forty minute detour and well worth the 18$ access fee that is easily explained by the impeccable installation.

In Thunder Bay, I picked up two items that would make my life easier. The first is a coffee press. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover these fantastic devices. I don’t think I could go back to drip coffee!

The second item is a speaker dock for my iPod. This enables me to now have music or podcasts on the road. Radio stations have been far between and satellite radio is as huge a monthly expense as would be satellite internet! I can also listen to music in the evening without having to start up the iMac or use headphones. I went into FutureShop not really knowing what it was I was looking for and the clerk figured it out in two seconds flat. Ah, it’s so lovely to be able to have something to listen to other than the cats meowing. 🙂

I slept amazingly well in Thunder Bay, waking up refreshed and relaxed. It was cold in the rig (13 degrees) and it was great to get up around 6 to use the bathroom and be able to turn on the generator to get the furnace going, crawl back under the blankets, and just doze with the kitties for a half hour until the temperature inside rose to a comfortable 16.5 degrees!

Speaking of cold mornings, the temperature fell to zero the night I was in Nipigon. According to Environment Canada, that’s the worst sort of night I can expect in the Okanagan Valley. If that’s the case, I have nothing to fear this winter.

So, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed in Thunder Bay and decided to head back east for a minute to the Terry Fox memorial, which I’d skipped the day before.

One of the reasons I felt I could do an almost 800km day, as I was ‘gaining’ an hour.

Tabitha spends our driving time in the overcab bunk, staring out the window. Neelix, however, likes to be right in the midst of the action (he is SO CUTE!).

Just outside of Kenora, I stopped at the Dixie Lake rest area.

I stood in that spot three years ago almost to the day, overcome with emotion. Back then, I had left Winnipeg about two hours before, knowing that from that moment on, my life was about to take a very different path. These first steps back onto the Canadian Shield cemented my decision for me. The next time I would go through that way would be heading west, hauling all my possessions and aiming for a new life in Winnipeg. I gave myself a deadline: March 2009. And then I went to work making this dream a reality. That dream died the first week of this past May, leaving room for an dream so much grander that I couldn’t have even fathomed it that September day in 2005. But, I did accomplish part of that initial plan, and six months early to boot. I felt almost like a traitor to Winnipeg today when I drove by her without stopping, hauling all my worldly possessions and zooming west, as though I was thumbing my nose at her and being ungrateful for all that she gave me these past three years. But I visited her in April and I remain convinced that she will one day be home to me. So, goodbye, but not farewell. I’ll be back this way again.

At any rate, the rest of yesterday leaves me with mixed feelings. After ten years of driving Ontario’s roads, I was pulled over by the O(ntario) P(rovincial) P(olice) for the first time, an hour from the Manitoban border, for going all of seven kilometres over the speed limit. Soon as the cop told me that, I relaxed, realising that he just wanted an excuse to pull over the young chick in the big ass RV. He spent about 10 minutes asking me questions about my rig, where I was from, and where I was going, and then he sent me on my way. Looking back, it was actually pretty funny. I need to get Miranda’s odometre checked, though. According to it, I was doing 94 in a 90 zone, not 97. Okay, speeding is speeding, but who the frell gets pulled over for doing 97 in a 90 zone? LOL!!!

I hit Manitoba soon thereafter and that’s where the day went to hell. I stopped at the tourist information kiosk to get directions to a dump station since I was planning on doing the Walmart thing again and was (am) still having issues with the black tank. I followed the woman’s instructions to the letter. They were wrong. I took the turn she told me to take, on a paved road, and promptly came to a dead end. No way to turn around without making major damage to both the car and Miranda. No way to unhook the car. No cell phone service to call for help. No help to be had on foot for ten kilometres. Result: one crunched RV back bumper (merely cosmetic damage), one crunched front car fender that is causing a noise that makes me suspect I’ll need to take it in for proper fixing, and one very disheartened and exhausted driver who isn’t exactly sure yet how much of that was her fault and isn’t convinced that she made the best decision.

Let’s just say I was in a foul mood (depressed and tired, not angry) when I got to the Walmart in Selkirk. This store was out of my way compared to, say, the one in St-Vital in Winnipeg south, but I was trying to avoid Winnipeg. 🙂 They had never had an RVer stay overnight before! The manager was quick to give me permission.

Back in Nipigon, I had met some semi-timers who RV 6 months of the year, who said that they gave up on doing the Walmart thing because they feel they have to spend at each one, and end up spending more than they would have had they gone to a campground. What I’ve been doing is making a list of the things I actually need and picking things up bit by bit at each store. This way, I have a bag of merchandise to hold up when I ask for permission to stay, but I’m not spending money I wouldn’t have needed to spend. Yesterday, I finally picked up a water pressure regulator, so tonight I’m hooked up to water for the first time (and to sewer also).

So, this morning, I took off in pea soup fog and stopped off at the first RV park advertising wi-fi (not free) and full service 30AMP sites. It’s a nice spot in the middle of nowhere (60 klicks to the nearest grocery store) and motivation to stay home tomorrow and get some things done around the coach.

I got settled in quickly (backing up is so not an issue!), then took off towards Brandon to visit the reptile zoo I’d been hankering to see. The map to get there sucked and the GPS was no help, so I’m really glad I went in the toad. When I arrived, I didn’t know what to think. The outside of the place looked like a dump! But it was open, so I went in, and paid the very reasonable fee of 5$.

The zoo turned out to be amazing and WELL worth the detour!!! I saw pythons and boas and anacondas, Nile crocodiles (the only ones in Canada, apparently), all manners of toads and frogs and turtles, big ass roaches, tarantulas, scorpions, geckos, and lizards, oh my! The owners need to do some major professionalizing of the place (especially when it comes to signage), but I can tell that the animals are very well cared for and that the owners are working on making the place look less amateurish.

Then, I made it to Brandon, where I got gas and groceries, then I headed home feeling absolutely exhausted. I immediately revised my plans for the next few days. I’m staying home tomorrow and will visit Brandon on Saturday (overnighting at the Walmart if I get permission).

Next, I’ll be moving on to the Regina area. I’d like to find a location somewhere between it and Moosejaw to hunker down for four or five nights so I can do day trips with the toad.

I’m a week into my journey and have but three left to go. It’s time to start pacing myself!

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Campgrounds, Canada, Cats, Communications & Electronics, Cooking, Driving, Homemaking, iPod Touch, Itineraries, Law and Government, Maintenance & Repair, Manitoba, Musings, Ontario, Personal, Technical, Travel, Weather, Why I Do This    14 Comments
Sep 9, 2008 -

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

When last our heroine updated her blog, she was parked at the Canadian Tire in Val D’Or. She has done more than 900km since then… and not all of them have been above ground.

Not much happened on Saturday. I wound up boondocking outside the visitor’s centre at the eastern edge of the city where I was told overnighting was ‘tolerated’, but I’d have to move to pay site or the Walmart for the next night. The only pay site in town was 15$ and that didn’t include hookups or, at least, a view, so guess where I spent my second night in Val D’Or? 🙂

At any rate, the sole purpose of my visit to Val D’Or was to see the gold mine at a complex they call the Cité de l’or. Other than outdoor sports, there isn’t much to see or do in Val D’or. I therefore wouldn’t recommend making a detour there just to see the mine, but if you just happen to be going by, then, please, don’t miss it and pay the 40 bucks for the full tour!

A vein of gold does not look like what you’d expect as it is black and white. The white is quartz and the black is tourmaline. This is extracted and then processed to get the gold flakes inside. It takes about 5,000 tonnes of ore from this mine to get a single oz of gold.

There was nothing but wilderness around the mine site, so a village had to be built to house all the workers and their families. Imagine a whole neighbourhood of log cabins.

The old mining village is just adorable and is a historic site, so current owners face strict regulations as to how much they can change the houses.

These houses offered excellent accommodation for the miners with running water, heating, telephones, and electricity. Miners were considered rich. They made about 35$ a week while a living wage was about 5$ per week! This is how they could afford such luxuries and pay the rent of 50$ per year for these houses.

Before my tour of the mine, I walked through the village and was accosted by a withered wraith of a man who used to work at the mine! He spent about twenty minutes sharing his life story. I thought it would be a tale of woe, but not at all. He loved his time at the mine, saying that the work was hard, but that conditions were good and safe, and that unlike coal mining it wasn’t that bad for the health as there was no dust. His job was to take core samples that would be analysed to determine which way the mine should be further excavated. When he retired from mining, he used his knowledge to found his own diamond drilling company with more than 150 employees. Meeting him proved to me that there are no accidents in life. I was sure my mine tour was at 1PM, but it was at 1:30. I therefore had time to kill, time enough to make an encounter that completely change how I felt down there, 300ft below the surface….

I really don’t like enclosed spaces, so the hour and a bit we were underground was just enough for me. When we got back into the shuttle for the drive back up, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I can’t imagine spending a whole day in such a place, including a lunch break spent in a room that was literally carved out of the rock face.

After the tour, I went to pick up Miranda at the Sears where I’d received permission to park her for the day, then we moved to Walmart. The store was closed, so I just set up for the night and treated myself to dinner since I couldn’t get anything working at home. 🙂

Sunday, I pushed off ludicrously early (around 7) and felt my mood change as quickly as did the kilometres beneath me.

I passed this very cool sign mid-morning:

entering the Arctic watershed

entering the Arctic watershed

The weather was (and is) gross, not motivating me to try to find a boondocking spot on Crown land as I’d thought I might, so I decided to make a push for the Walmart in Kapuskasing:

Seeking a Walmart in the wilderness

Seeking a Walmart in the wilderness

(I was just amused that I was driving through the wilderness looking for a Walmart).

I passed some very interesting towns, such as Swastika and Moonbeam, where I had to take a picture:

yes, we're still on Earth (and staying there)

yes, we're still on Earth (and staying there)

When I got to Kapuskasing (and was done with the whole dumping thing), I went to the Walmart figuring that it would be closed for the evening. Nope, it’s open 7 to 8 seven days a week!!! So, I went in to ask for permission to stay overnight. The manager replied “Of course!” in a very friendly manner. I knew I would have a good night there: I had permission to stay and the OPP had a station literally across the street. Can’t get any safer than that! I wound up sleeping the sleep of the proverbial dead and woke up this morning at 5:30 feeling very odd because I haven’t slept that many hours straight through since I was a teenager!

Today was another big push as there is just about nothing between Kapuskasing and Thunder Bay. I was very glad to find this park. It’s nothing special and not a place where you can set up your hibachi or awning, but it’s perfectly adequate for a one night stopover. Tomorrow, I’m going no further than the Walmart in Thunder Bay! I have this site until noon and I plan to take advantage of that to get caught up on my housekeeping.

If there is one thing I will remember the most about my first days on the road it is that the world is not nearly as hostile a place as some people would try to make me believe. There has been at least one person per day who helped me in a way that might have seemed small to them, but which made me feel like I am not alone on this vast and open road.

Tomorrow is Thunder Bay. Wednesday will be my last night on the Shield. Thursday I’ll hit the Prairies. And then I’ll slow down properly as I’ll be hitting new things.

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. Good lives, I’m discovering, have no shortage of bad days, but they are measured by the sum of the whole.

I’m impossibly happy, in good spirits, comfortable in my rig, grateful that my cats have taken to this life as well as their mom, and have discovered that it’s easy to be a morning person if your day is going to be filled with adventure.

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Sep 9, 2008 -

Plumbing Learning Curve

Sunday afternoon, I arrived in Kapuskasing, Ontario, and found a conveniently located dump station right on the main drag. I was very glad of this because I have to dump once a day. WHAT?! I can hear all the full-timers say. Well, I have very good evidence that the POs didn’t do much research about RV plumbing systems.

Since I got Miranda, her black tank sensor has read critically full even after dumping. I finally shone a light down there and discovered that they committed two sins of RV toilet use:

1) they didn’t use the right toilet paper;
2) they most likely left both valves open when on sewer hookups.

Yup, my tank was full of a solid wad of other people’s human waste.

Just like Robin Williams in the movie ‘RV.’ If you haven’t seen this movie, go rent it before continuing with this post.

So, I pulled up to the dump station fully cognizant that I was having this problem. This wasn’t my first time dumping, so I felt pretty cocky. I made sure that the tank was full of water and then I got started.

I attached the hose and discovered that it was too short.

But the hose is extensible so I pulled a bit (lot) to get it to the drain.

Then I opened the black valve…

Not realising that I hadn’t fully latched the hose to the drain pipe.

Sewage started to spray everywhere.

I had the presence of mind to slap the valve closed.

I sat there for a full two minutes laughing. I couldn’t do anything else. Considering the foul mood in which I’d gone to bed and woken up, I was ecstatic to discover that I still had my sense of humour. There I was surrounded by other people’s fecal matter and I could see how funny that was. I knew that I was going to be just fine and that Saturday’s melt down was just a combination of too many stressors in one day.

Thankfully, the sewage stayed on the concrete pad that was on a downward slope to the drain, so I was able to just wash it all away without causing undue pollution.

When I was done there and had cleaned up, I completely filled my toilet to almost overflowing with water and drove off with the sensors screaming ‘critically full’. By the time I pulled over an hour later, my tank suddenly claimed that the tank was just a third full. I suspect that the dried out muck is now sludge and that my next dump will allow me to flush it all away. Hopefully. 🙂

So much fun. I want grand-children just to tell them these stories!

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