Last Weeks in Arizona


We’ve been home from Arizona for nearly a week and are finally settled back into a bit of our summer routine, except for the fact that the weather is very much like winter today. In fact we haven’t had more than a few hours of sun since we arrived back in Ontario! We did have a beautiful sunset on our first night, while we were parked in an empty parking lot for the night, and a lovely sunrise at 5:00 a.m. the next morning.

The rest of the drive home was too long to get us there at a reasonable hour, so this is where we stayed, right near a Tim Horton’s!

Our trip back to the frozen north was pretty much uneventful this time, with the usual high winds and gradually falling temperatures, although a little more severe than usual.

I think it was a battle for Jim to keep the beast on the road at times. Even when we were stopped for gas it was rocking.

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Flags flying straight out in New Mexico

My big excitement happened when we were driving through Indianapolis. The highway was so full of bumps that the motor-home was coming down hard and rocking. Dishes in our cupboards were rattling and I kept looking back to make sure no doors or drawers were opening. After a particularly hard slam I looked back to see the fridge door swinging all the way open and a can of ice tea hitting the floor just ahead of the suspension bar that had been in place inside the fridge to prevent such occurrences! I rushed back and tried to get the bar back into place, but the ride was too rough. All I could do was push the remaining items back on the shelf and slam the door shut. I picked up the fallen can and then rode the next few miles standing with my back against the fridge and my feet braced against the opposite wall until the road I felt confident enough that slamming had ended and the door might stay closed.

When I sat back down, Jim asked, “What was going on back there?”

We eventually got off the highway. I found a plastic basket to hold the bottles and jars of condiments and put them back into the fridge where they wouldn’t tip over anymore. I put the bar back into place and we were good for the rest of the trip. Lesson learned!

The only stops we made were for food, gas and sleep. We tried a different RV Park in Tucumcari, New Mexico that was really interesting. A note in the office of Cactus RV said, “This is a business. No personal questions.” I wasn’t sure what constituted “personal” but I would love to have asked about the history of these old buildings on the property.

We did have a few more interesting adventures in the Mesa area the last couple of weeks before we left for home.

We took part in the Mesa Regal Polynesian Theme Day, playing ukulele with twenty-five other members of the band, while riding on a float, and then forty-five of us put on a concert on the patio, complete with the Hula Dancers from our neighbour resort. Jim was honoured with much appreciation from his ukulele students.

We went once again to Tempe to the Aloha Festival. This time Jim spent an hour teaching beginner ukulele lessons. When he was done, we looked around the vendor stalls and then sought out our favourite lunch spot. It was a beautiful day to sit on the patio and people-watch. Several people stopped to chat when they noticed our Hawaiian shirts and leis.

One day we drove out Bush Highway to search for wild horses, the one thing that Jim’s daughter Karen asked to do during her visit. We found some!

From there we drove to Fountain Hills and then to Saguaro Lake where we had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the beautiful water.

On Karen’s last day we did a hike on Superstition Mountain, led by our friends and neighbours, Dave and Pauline. It was another perfect day with a few clouds to keep us from overheating. An afternoon neighbourhood St. Paddy’s Day Party and then a trip to the airport with Karen pretty much ended that day. We fell asleep on the couch while attempting to watch a movie.

Our last week was filled with meetings (I’m now the new VP of the Mesa Regal Pickle Ball Club!), meals out with friends, including a trip to the Rockin’ R Ranch, a sort of theme park, for a Chuck-wagon Supper and Western Stage Show,

and many sad goodbyes. But since we’ve both made commitments for the fall, we will be back!

 

 

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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

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Four – Hornby Island


On Tuesday, September 22nd my son-in-law Frank dropped me off at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal where I bought my ticket to Hornby Island at the low price of $17.00. I was there in plenty of time, but apparently my brain hadn’t quite woken up yet. I heard the ticket agent tell me to take the stairs up and then follow the red line to Waiting Area A, but the red line part didn’t register. I looked for signs and when I saw a sign that read “Waiting Area A” with an arrow that appeared to be pointing to my right, I followed it through a door and across an outside passenger bridge. That didn’t seem right. I eventually got turned back around and this time followed the red line! The room slowly filled to capacity before we were called to board. Because the vehicle passengers hadn’t yet made it to the main deck, there were no lines at the cafeterias. I took advantage and bought myself a packaged sandwich and a coffee that would be my breakfast and lunch, supplemented with the cheese sticks and granola bars that I had in my bag. Those two items cost me almost as much as the ferry ticket, at $11.25! Be forewarned, if you plan to travel on the BC Ferry System, and you’re on a budget, pack some food if at all possible.

The hour and a half trip went quite quickly. I slept for a while; I read my book, and I people watched, one of my favourite pastimes. I chatted with the woman sitting next to me who was travelling with her daughter and two granddaughters.  She’d traveled by foot before and told me where to find the Island Link shuttle bus that I needed to catch when I got off the ship. I found it without any problem and an hour later I was at Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island, where my sister Pauline and her husband Jim were waiting to drive me, via two more much smaller ferries, to Hornby Island. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could relax for a week.

On the Hornby Island Ferry

On the Hornby Island Ferry

Every time I visit Hornby I am charmed by the island’s uniqueness. This small island has lots to offer to anyone seeking a relaxed vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a place where there are no trains to catch, or crowds to push through. There are no big department stores or grand hotels and the only “traffic jam” you’ll encounter is while you’re waiting in line to catch the ferry when, reluctantly, you need to leave.

Driving up from the ferry you will come to the hub of the island where all roads seem to meet.  Here you will find a variety of little shops, including a bicycle rental shop, a couple of clothing stores displaying colourful summer wear and a few little eateries where you can experience some great and maybe unusual lunch items.  The main destination in the hub is the Co-op, where you will find all the staples you need, such as groceries (many organic), pharmacy items, dishes, clothing and rubber boots.  You will also find the post office nestled in one corner and an ATM somewhere in the middle.  The only island gas station is outside the door.

There are many residences on the island, but they are usually partially hidden from the road by the natural vegetation and are quite unobtrusive.  The pace is slow and relaxed.  The only “industries” are cottage industries – a variety of potters and weavers, and small farms.

Some of the highlights of this trip were:

Outdoor Cooking

Campfire Dinner

 

Farm Animals at Outer Island Guest Farm

Farm Animals at Outer Island Guest Farm

Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful Sunsets

 

Walks on the Beaches

One of the many sandy beaches, at low tide

One of the many sandy beaches, at low tide

The rocky beach of Sand Piper

The rocky beach of Sand Piper

Rocky Sand Piper Beach

 

Good Food

Clam Chowder by Chef Ben. Delicious with corn bread!

Clam Chowder by Chef Ben. Delicious with corn bread!

Blackberries

Freshly picked Blackberries

Hornby Island Market

Hornby Island Market

Hornby Island Market

Walking the Trails

A hidden treasure along one trail

A hidden treasure along one trail

Helliwell Trail

Helliwell Trail

We also enjoyed a fantastic music concert by renowned Marc Atkinson – acoustic lead guitar, Brett Martens – acoustic rhythm guitar and Scott White – stand up bass, at the Community Centre one evening, and a delicious meal at the Sea Breeze Lodge dining room another night.

Before I knew it, it was time to pack for home.

Five Things to Do in Kaslo, British Columbia


I’ve just booked my annual trip to British Columbia to leave in a few weeks. This time I will spend my time in Kaslo relaxing with family and enjoying the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival, which has become a much bigger event than it was the previous time that I was there for it, ten years ago. I’m looking forward to it and hope to have some new stories to share.

In the meantime, I’m posting this blog that I drafted some time ago, giving you a little more insight into Kaslo, my favourite little town in the Kootneys.

In 1899 the City of Kaslo was branded “The Lucerne of North America.” This small mountain town, just west of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, lies between the peaks of the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges, offering serenity for those who seek it, and lots of activity for those who prefer to be on the move.

  1. Camping: There is a good sized Campground right by the shore of Kootney Lake.When we stayed there a couple of years ago we had plenty of room for our motor home. The lot wasn’t quite deep enough to accommodate the bike trailer, but we were able to unhook and leave it at a convenient spot nearby, at no extra cost. The price included electric, water and WiFi, and use of the dump station. The owner was very helpful in finding us what we needed.

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  1. Dining, Shopping, Entertainment: Within a short distance from the campsite is the main street where several restaurants, coffee shops, a hardware store, a grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing stores, and a Credit Union are located. Much of the food is organically, locally grown when in season. One of our favourite eateries is the Blue Belle.

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Patio at Blue Belle

  1. Accommodations: If you aren’t into camping, there is a very nice, fairly new hotel, aptly named The Kaslo Hotel, on the main street, and several Bed & Breakfasts throughout the residential streets.Hotel (2)
  1. Historical Attractions: Also situated on the main street, moored at the dock, is the SS Moyie Stern-wheeler, an historical, restored paddle boat that used to transport passengers, up Kootney Lake, the only way to get into the small communities along its banks at the time. During the summer and fall seasons there are open tours, and often there are shows in the lounge. On one trip we enjoyed an excellent performance by two young, accomplished violin players. Like most things in Kaslo, it is operated by volunteers and maintained through donations.

 

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SS Moyie

A short walk up A Avenue (Hwy 31), the volunteer-restored Langham Cultural Centre has an Art Gallery on the first floor where the many local artists have the opportunity to exhibit their work. On the second floor is a history of various buildings in Kaslo, and the story of the lives of the numerous Japanese people who were interned in Kaslo during the 2nd World War.

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  1. Biking, hiking, paddling: Throughout the hills of the Kaslo area there are great roads for motorcycling.

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And along the shores of the lake and the Kaslo River are many trails for hiking
and biking. Another volunteer group, The Trail Blazers, has worked tirelessly
over the years to create and maintain the trails along the river bank, including
the building of two wooden bridges across the river to allow access to both
sides.

Look for more details about this in my next post.

Kootney Lake is a popular place for kayaking and canoeing, too.

Exploring and Camping in Canada’s National Parks, Part I


Jasper National Park

We said goodbye to Edmonton just before noon on September 13, and entered the Whistlers campsite in Jasper National Park at 5:45 pm. Once we got out of the city suburbs the landscape began to change to hills and forests and then mountain vistas. I managed to capture some of the splendor with the camera, finding some clear spots between the splattered bugs and drops of rain on the windshield.

Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

Jasper (16) Jasper (21)At the entrance to the National Parks we had to purchase a Park Permit at $8.25 per person, per day. Not bad for all that we saw! We purchased for two days to start.

We roamed around downtown Jasper, checked email and had a late lunch at Denny’s before we went to the campsite.

Jasper, Alberta

Some of downtown Jasper, Alberta

Jasper (29) Jasper (31) Jasper (32)It rained off and on most of the day, but had stopped when arrived at Whistlers, and we got a walk in before it started again. We’d hoped to get a glimpse of some more elk. We’d seen a family at one of the campsite areas on our way in. Jim tried to get a picture through the window, but we had to keep moving as we were blocking the road. Again the only wildlife that we saw was birds and squirrels.

Glimpse of Elk

Our only Glimpse of Elk

The next morning we moved on, returning to Jasper for a little more touring before checking into Wapiti Campground a little further down the road, where we left the trailer and drove the motor home to Maligne Canyon to spend a few hours walking the trails and snapping pictures. It was a good workout, not recommended for people with walking difficulties.

Maligne Gorge

Maligne Gorge, a beautiful hike

Jasper.Maligne Gorge (14) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (47) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (48) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (60)Next Stop, Columbia Ice Fields

We took the Glacier Parkway toward Banff the next day. The temperature had dropped and the off-and-on rain sometimes became wet snow.

By the time we reached the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre, Jasper National Park early in the afternoon, the wind was blowing large snowflakes around. I dug out our toques and gloves, the only winter wear I’d packed, and we climbed the hill from the parking lot to the Centre. We booked a tour of the Glacier and had just enough time to grab something to eat in the motor home before we had to line up. We’d climbed more stairs to the cafeteria/dining room, but didn’t think we could get through that line in time. We had to climb back up the hill to the Centre to catch the tour. We sure got our exercise that day! While I waited in the tour line, Jim bought an extension for our National Park Pass and found out that we could camp in the parking lot for the night.

The tour took us by bus up a mountain road to the edge of the glacier, where we transferred to an Ice Explorer, a massive vehicle especially designed for glacial travel. We bumped over the packed snow and held our breath as we did steep climbs up and down until we reached the parking spot where we were able to disembark for photo shoots in front of the base of the glacier. There were many tour groups there, and some were so fascinated with the snow that they had to sit in it and make snow balls. The sun came out just in time for us to see the mountain peaks. Another awe inspiring experience to add to our memories.

Glacier Icefields

Glacier Icefields as seen from our campsite

Jim standing on the glacier

Jim standing on the glacier

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Our transportation

Icefields

The dark line in the middle is where the tour stops

Glacier Pkwy (87) When we got back to the Centre the crowds had dispersed. We had some dinner at the cafeteria before walking back down to the motor home and snuggling under mounds of blankets to get warmed up. After a good night’s sleep we were on our way again.