Always Experiencing Something New – Through the Smoke in Kelowna and Kaslo BC


Other than having my carry-on bag inspected because I’d inadvertently packed one tube of facial cleanser that was a little over the size limit, my flight to Kelowna was very pleasant. The plane was newer, but had more leg room than usual. It wasn’t full, so the friendly woman in the outside seat and I shared the empty space between us. And we arrived twenty minutes early!

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Somewhere over the Prairies?

It was hot, dry and smoky when my friend, Judy, picked me up at Kelowna Airport, but that didn’t stop us from chatting all the way to her home in Vernon, as long-time friends tend to do. I stayed with Judy and her husband until the next leg of my trip by bus began the next afternoon.

During a trip to the Vernon Library, we came across this lovely little park and caught the last beautiful song from a young woman performing with her friend or husband, who accompanied her on guitar. We were sorry we arrived too late to catch more and to get a better picture, maybe even a video clip.

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Music in the Park

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Next to the Vernon Court House

While Judy and I waited at the station for my bus the next morning, a police officer came in looking for someone named Ernie. He approached an elderly man who was sitting behind me and asked if he could speak to him. We heard the officer say that someone was worried about him. The man was tall and frail-looking. He carried with him only a small shaving kit and a brown manila envelope. Neither the pockets of his plaid cargo shorts, nor those on his shirt showed any sign of a wallet. They took their conversation outside and then eventually left together.

“I hope he can get a refund,” said a man sitting two seats over from me. “He bought a ticket to Swift Current (a destination hundreds of miles away). I thought that to be doubtful, but it reminded me of the man who was reluctantly about to celebrate his 100th birthday at an Old Age Home, in the book The-100-Year- Old- Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. I recommend it for a fun read.

Soon, I was riding the Greyhound Bus to Nelson, where my daughter Sarah picked me up, while observing the clouds of smoke and areas of blackened forest that had succumbed to the fires last year. We arrived in Kaslo just in time to say good night to my two grandchildren.

Like last year, large portions of the days in Kaslo were spent at the beach. The cool breeze off the lake made the temperature bearable, but the other shore of the lake was obscured by the smoke, even that far away from the nearest wildfire.

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Smoke across Kootenay Lake

The next morning I was introduced to a sweet dog named Leté. Sarah had gotten a call telling her that one of her friends, who had recently been acting very strangely and who Sarah suspected was having some sort of mental breakdown, had been admitted to hospital. The neighbour who was calling was looking after the woman’s dog, but because of some physical restrictions she was unable to take her for long walks. She asked if Sarah could do that. So she and I and my granddaughter, Skylet walked down the hill and took Leté out. She enjoyed running along the beach.

Long story short, Leté ended up living with us for the next two weeks until her owner returned home. We all grew very much attached to her.

On Saturday morning I went to the diverse Kaslo Outdoor Market, where Sarah did quite well selling her popular pottery.

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My Daughter the Potter

Other vendors

By mid-afternoon, when we returned all of Sarah’s market equipment and unsold pottery back to her studio, the temperature was very hot. We drove back down to spend the rest of the day at the beach with the rest of the family. I was hot enough to actually venture into the lake for the first time, but it was cold. I got only to my waist!

Sunday there was a celebration at the lower bridge along the River Trail. It was there that I pulled out my camera for the first time, only to discover that I’d apparently left the memory card at home in my computer! Thank goodness for my smart phone, which provided pictures for the rest of my visit, but I hadn’t taken it with me to the trail either!

That evening the males of the house went fishing and my grandson, Callum, came home very excited about the Rainbow Trout he’d caught – big enough to feed us dinner the next night. That boy loves to fish!

The rest of the week went quickly with several trips to the beach and a trip to the Riding Stables to watch Skylet taking her horseback riding lesson.

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Skylet on her Horse

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Annual Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival

During my second weekend in Kaslo the population of the small town, about the size of my home town of Hastings (pop. 1200), swelled to probably triple that as people came from all around the Kootenays and beyond for the Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival.

Sarah and I spent Friday at the Market again. There was a different crowd and some different vendors, and it was another successful day. Ten-year-old Callum took his un-tuned violin to the main street and, despite not having practised in several months, managed to earn $25 for himself to spend at the Festival. I was wishing I’d taken my ukulele!

Saturday and Sunday Sarah and I joined the others for some great concerts and a variety of food at Kaslo Bay Park.

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The top Headliner of the event was Buffy Sainte-Marie. She was amazing! Unfortunately the heavy bass prevented me from witnessing her from close to the stage, as it did unpleasant things to my heart rhythm.

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The day closed with the sun reflecting off the mountain tip.

By 9:00 Sunday night we were all exhausted. For me, Monday was a bit of a lazy day, doing my laundry and helping with a few household chores while Sarah prepared her Studio for the kids Clay Camp she was putting on for the next four days. I had agreed to be her assistant for that. I had to rest up!

Tuesday and Wednesday there were both morning and afternoon classes, two different groups doing two half-days each. The kids were young and excited and needed some guidance, which, after listening carefully to Sarah’s instructions, I was able to provide. I enjoyed it.

The pre-teen/teen class was on Thursday and Friday mornings. I listened and observed and made a pinch pot on Thursday morning, but my assistance wasn’t really needed, other than to help clean up at the end of the day. I took the whole family out to the little (and unusually crowded) Front Street Pizzeria for dinner, thanks to a donation from Jim. The food was great, but because of the extra tourists in town and some restaurants chose to close early, the wait time very long.

On Friday I opted to do some laundry, both mine and family, and get organized for my departure the next morning. We drove to Duncan Lake in the afternoon. Despite there being so much smoke that we could see only half-way across the lake, and at some point we noticed ash falling onto our clothes, it was a fun family time on another beach, and the water was warm enough for me to get in and swim!

Smoke across Duncan Lake

Smoke across Duncan Lake

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When Sarah took me to catch my bus in Nelson the next day, we discovered that the shut-down of the Greyhound service was already in progress. The terminal was no longer open on the weekends. I had to stand outside under whatever shade I could find to wait for my bus. Next time I go, there will be no Greyhound bus at all.

I spent Sunday and Monday with Judy. Sunday we drove to Salmon Arm to visit my cousin George, after the smoke cleared a little. The sun never made it through the haze that day. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, after another bag search that didn’t pass inspection this time (more on that later) I was flying high above the smoky clouds, looking forward to home and a break from the smoke.

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Warkworth by Night – Food, Music, Dancing, Puppets and Lanterns


This past weekend we went yet again to the Town of Warkworth. It seems they have some sort of festival nearly every weekend throughout the summer. This time it was something new to us – the Second Annual Warkworth by Night Street Festival.

We arrived in time to chat with friends and admire the beautiful costumes some people were wearing,

Lovely costume made from paper

Lovely costume made from paper

before the first entertainers began their performance, The Starlight Belly Dancers.

Next, a brother and sister from Brampton, but originally from India, had fun showing us some Bollywood dancing, and later gave instructions to an enthusiastic audience.

A Costume Parade

Was followed by a Giant Puppet Parade.

Once the sun had disappeared we were treated to a Parade of Lanterns.

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The final performers, the Polky Village Band hailed from Toronto. They are a group of young Polish immigrants who taught us a bit about Polish music and dance, which especially thrilled me, since my son has recently moved to Poland and I hope to visit him there one day.

Polky Village Band

Polky Village Band

What a beautiful night!

We finished the evening off with a cup of “adult” chocolate drink from the local Chocolatier. She assured us that it was called “adult” only because it was a drink made from fine, dark chocolate rather than chocolate milk or hot chocolate that are kids’ favourites. It was yummy, as you can see from the empty, environmentally friendly, heavy-paper cup and straw.

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Warkworth Lilac Festival


After a busy week, today we finally got out to do some touristy things. It was a beautiful day to visit the Opening Day of the Annual Warkworth Lilac Festival, just a twenty-minute drive from our home.

In this little artsy town, there is a beautiful trail, aptly named Millennium Lilac Trail, along the meandering Mill Creek. Over a number of years many varieties of lilacs have been planted by local groups such as the Girl Guides, and sponsored by many local businesses. Volunteers will give group tours with explanations of the age and types of lilacs you will see. The Lilac Festival lasts for 30 days, but during the Opening Weekend there are many events and the whole town gets involved.

From the entrance to trail off of Main Street, it is a bit of a wander before you’ll see many lilacs, but Mill Creek provides a very peaceful introduction.

 

 

Unfortunately, some beaver decided that lilac wood might be a good addition to their home.

 

 

 

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Many Beautiful Colours of Lilacs

A Victoria Tea was offered in a decorated Gazebo, a nice break from the heat

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While a harpist and a flute player entertained.

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Vendor tents offered items from books, to jewelry and wood products.

 

Bees were busy collecting pollen for lilac honey

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In 2017 the Festival was winner of a Canada 150 Garden Experience Award.

Back on Main Street the shops and restaurants were all open and decorated.

We shared a table at lunch with some people from Oshawa and Deb from Campbellford.

There was a Photo Contest on the porch of one of the Victorian homes, and a Lilac Flower Arrangement contest for visitors to cast their votes.

 

A couple entertained us with music outside the ice cream parlour. We had to indulge.

 

A Visit to the Historic Brockville Railway Tunnel


Here’s something many of you may not know:  the oldest railway tunnel in Canada still exists under the downtown core of my home town, Brockville, Ontario, located on the shores of the St Lawrence River at the eastern edge of The Thousand Islands.

Until the waterfront area at the bottom of Market Street was revitalized and turned into a venue for various family activities, I too was unaware of its existence, and even then doors to the entrance were always closed. Both the northern and southern portals have been upgraded and maintained by the City of Brockville, since the tunnel was acquired as part of a waterfront land deal between the City and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Several years ago a short portion at the southern entrance (about 80 feet) was upgraded and opened to the public during the day as a sort of museum.

In 2011 a committee of Brockville’s City Council was formed with the goal to open the tunnel end-to-end for residents and visitors and to eventually see the tunnel and its north gorge area connected as part of the Brock Trail system. Renovation construction started in August of 2016. On August 12, 2017, as part of the City’s Rails to Trails Festival and its Canada 150 celebrations, the renovated interior of the tunnel was opened to visitors to enjoy during the summer months.

This past Saturday, a beautiful autumn day, Jim and I joined my son and my brother, and his friend on the walk through. We were very impressed. The atmosphere has been complimented with music playing and sometimes the sounds of train wheels turning and whistles blowing. The strips of every changing coloured lights passing through the tunnel give the impression of train lights approaching and reflect off the stalagmites and dripping water on the walls.

Unfortunately, while packing to go to Brockville the day before, I neglected to check my camera. When I tried to shoot some photos, I discovered that I had left my SD card in my computer at home!  I had to rely on my cell phone. Next time I go I’ll make sure I have everything I need, including a tripod, but for now, here are a few shots.

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Southern Entrance

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Inside looking out

Some History

The tunnel was built between 1854 and 1860 to allow the fledging Brockville and Ottawa Railway to connect the Brockville industrial waterfront area to the outlying areas lying between the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.

On December 31 of 1860, the first small train, a wood-burning locomotive and two coaches came through the completed tunnel and the tunnel was officially open for traffic. The tunnel is arch-shaped, measuring 14 feet 9 inches from the top of the arch to the ground and 14 feet across. The overall length of the tunnel is 1721 feet in length and passes right under Brockville City Hall.

To learn more, click here: History of Brockville Railway Tunnel

Fireworks, Parades, Cars and Motorcycles – Canada Day Weekend in Trent Hills


Our community of Trent Hills is made up of the three towns of Hastings, Campbellford and Trent River, and their adjoining areas. When it comes to celebrating summer, especially on Canada Day, the events are grand, and well-coordinated to enable visitors to sample all there is. We did just that.

Celebrations started early in Hastings. On Thursday the long awaited stainless steel fish was unveiled at Pisces Park, a small patch of green space next to the marina. This six-foot high piece of art, sculpted by Bill Lishman, is to be the first of several fish that will form an icon to represent the fact that in 2012 Hastings won the distinction of being named the Ultimate Fishing Town of Canada in the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town Challenge.

On Canada Day the weather was a little uncooperative at times, so we didn’t go to the morning celebration in Campbellford, but the skies almost cleared up in time for the parade in Hastings at 4:00 p.m. I’m ashamed to admit that I went without my camera, but here are a few photos from last year:

A thunderstorm after that cooled the air considerably and when we walked to the park with our lawn chairs at 8:30 to wait for the Fireworks, Hastings’ big contribution to the celebration, we were dressed in layers. As the sun went down, the wind turned quite chilly, sending Jim home to get some more layers! But, it was worth it.

On Saturday the sun was shining again and the temperatures perfect for a ride on the motorcycle to Campbellford for another annual event, Chrome on the Canal. We found a place to park our bike, and then began the mile or more stroll along the Trent Canal banks to exclaim over the interesting variety of bikes and cars. They ranged from antique to classic, to the latest models. Some were “chopped” (modified); some were restored to original; some were just as they’d been found abandoned in a field or garage.

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Original Powered Bicycles?

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1948 Indian

IMG_14502015 Indian

IMG_1453A lot of work went into building this one!

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Amazing pin-striping

IMG_1482A few, like this one,were For Sale

On our way back from Campbellford, we turned north off County Road 35 onto Smith Road, a lovely tree lined stretch of curves, and then east onto Concession Road 11 that climbs high over the eskers. This is another recommended route for bikers.

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A Happy Canada Day!

No, We Never Get Bored in Mesa, Arizona


We thought we had a good internet solution with our T-Mobile hot spot, and for the first few weeks it was. But we soon ran out of data when we started sharing pictures and looking at videos. It became impossibly slow so I had to give up on trying to post on my blog. Now we are hooked up with Century Link and hoping that it will continue to serve us well.

Contrary to the impression we have given of always having warm sunny weather here, today is rainy and cold. In fact yesterday morning it was colder here than it was back home in Ontario! So it’s a good day to catch up on all the things that have been keeping us busy the last few weeks.

When I was talking to my sister at Christmas time last year, she thought we would have been home already. I told her we wouldn’t be “home” until the middle of April. She said, ”Aren’t you bored?”

I replied, “If you get bored down here, it’s your own fault!” Here are some reasons why:

Besides enjoying good food and music and dancing on the patio with our many friends at Mesa Regal, we’ve enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with our American friends;

We celebrated the birthday of one of those friends, with an evening at the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas display;

We’ve spent a good part of a day touring area roads on the motorcycle, with other Mesa Regal enthusiasts;

We’ve played pickle ball and bocce ball, and for three days last week cheered on good friends who were in the Pickle Ball Tournament, held right here at Mesa Regal RV Resort.

Jim makes a good shot at Bocce Ball

Jim makes a good shot at Bocce Ball

Patti and Mark Earned a Silver Medal

Patti and Mark Earned a Silver Medal

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We participated in the Tree Lighting Ceremony and caroling on the west-end patio;

We rounded out the last week with a ride on the light rail train to Tempe with two of our neighbours for dinner, followed by a stroll to the Salt River to watch the annual Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks on Saturday evening,

And a drive to Glendale on Sunday with friends and neighbours to view these marvelous Sand Sculptures that were still being finished off near the end of the three-day competition.

So, no, we are never bored down here. But we might be when we return to our Ontario home!

New Orleans – Music, History and Architecture


After we left Memphis we took a little detour into Arkansas to fill up the gas tank, just so we could say we’d been there and could fill in another state on our map. Perhaps another time we’ll visit longer. Back on the I-55 we turned south into Mississippi. By 6:00 pm we were still in Mississippi, but had had enough driving for one day. We found an accommodating Wal-Mart parking lot in Brookhaven, where we joined a few other motor homes and several semis.

At noon the next day we pulled into The KOA French Quarter RV Resort in New Orleans, and I thought “I want to stay here for the winter!” This is a resort indeed, with inter-locking brick streets and RV lots. Each lot is extra wide and has a furnished, screened, wooden gazebo. There are also all the other necessities such as a laundry, pool and hot tub, all housed in a beautiful southern style brick complex. There is even an outdoor ice machine to aid with your refreshments. Sounds rather expensive, right? Well, it definitely isn’t a place that we could stay long term, or return to often. The normal rate to rent a spot is $99 a night. Unfortunately, there were no KOA owned lots available at the time, but there were privately owned ones which go for $114 per night. That’s more than double what we would normally be willing to pay. But it was worth it for a couple of nights for the convenience. It’s situated right on the edge of The French Quarter, within walking distance of all the activity, and we were more than happy to not have to take the bike into the crowded streets or find a safe place to park it.

French Quarter RV Resort

French Quarter RV Resort

French Quarter RV Resort

The first thing we did was book a tour and by 2:00 pm we were on a mini-bus with Sam, a very animated tour guide, easing through the streets of the French Quarter and the various historical districts and parks that make up this interesting city.

We drove by Jackson Square, originally known in the 18th century as “Place d’Armes,” and later renamed in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. Later we would stroll through it, listening to some of the buskers who try to make a living there, and browse the many artist stalls and shops.

Statue of General Andrew Jackson

Statue of General Andrew Jackson

The unique architecture of the French Quarter caught my eye with it’s many wrought iron balconies and gingerbread scroll work.

French Quarter

French Quarter Architecture

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Sam pointed out “shot gun” houses, very long houses with narrow street frontage. Some were single; some were double; most were wood clapboard. We passed Dillard University and were told that it was the very first university built exclusively for the newly-freed blacks in the area. We drove past the new musicians homes, built by Brad Pitt and Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina, and we saw damaged homes that remain abandoned. We made a stop at the home of one retired musician who has turned it into a shrine in memory of the devastation of Katrina. The tour was to end at 5:00 pm but at 5:30 we were stuck in traffic just a couple of blocks from the restaurants of the French Quarter. We opted to get out and walk there in search of dinner. We found Deanie’s, one recommended by the staff at the RV Resort. We weren’t disappointed. The garlic buttered butterfly shrimp and the baked catfish were cooked to perfection and tasty enough to have us licking our fingers. We were curious about the “appetizer”, a bowl of small red potatoes cooked until just tender and lightly salted on the inside. When questioned, our waitress told us that they had been boiled in sea food seasoning. We had to resist eating them all or we’d have had no room for our entrée!

After returning to the RV for a quick change of clothes, as it was cooler after the sun went down, we spent a few hours walking up and down Bourbon Street, listening to impromptu jazz bands on the street and more soul music drifting from the bars. Young boys danced on the pavement, the metal bottle lids attached to the soles of their shoes clicking out the rhythm. We stopped to watch and a young performer held out his hand for payment. Jim had no small bills so emptied his pocket of change. As we walked away he noticed the lad throw it onto the street! Guess he didn’t need money that badly. When we finally returned home, I was over-tired and over-stimulated. I found it difficult to get to sleep. So it was during the night that I wrote and posted my last blog entry.

The next morning saw us walking the five or six blocks to the French Market where we had lunch while observing the architecture and people, then strolled through the many vendor booths, resisting making purchases. The motor home already seemed to be bulging. The sun was again very hot and I was beginning to fade, but we walked a few more blocks until we found the St. Charles Street trolley line. A $3.00 pass let us ride and get off and on for the rest of the day. We took it to the end of the line in the Upper Gardens District. I admit that my eyes closed and my head bobbed a few times along the way. We admired the elegant colonial homes and gardens, for some of which we had been given the history while on the tour bus. By 4:00 I was really dragging and in need of coffee if I was going to make it home.   We switched to the returning trolley and went back a few stops. We decided we might as well have an early dinner and after a delicious plate of sea food and a cup of coffee at O’Henry’s I felt slightly revived.

Wedding Venue

Wedding Venue

Not enough, however, for the energy that was required to get off the trolley again further down the line to take a closer look at the homes on 4th Street, but I did it anyway. From the street we watched a wedding taking place in the garden of one on the original mansions that can now be rented for such occasions. Back in the French Quarter we spent a couple more hours strolling Bourbon Street before finding our way home. It had been a good day, but I was wiped and my body was reminding me that it won’t be pushed so hard. I was gone the minute my head hit the pillow.