Settled Back into our “Summer Home”

It’s been almost a week since we arrived back in Hastings, Ontario. I apologize if any of my readers and friends have been concerned about us, since my last post was about the high winds. We did get away from there the next day, but poor internet connections prohibited posting pictures so I postponed blogging. Once home, there was a week’s worth of household chores, and of course we had to play some pickle ball. Activity was very much needed after nearly 10 days of mostly sitting in the motor home.

We did have a few adventures along the way though.

We got away from Clovis, New Mexico shortly after 8:00 a.m. and, despite the usual strong winds across Texas, the sun was shining and we made good time. We made one stop in Texas, back in McLean hoping for lunch at the Chuck-wagon Restaurant we’d visited before. We were disappointed to discover that, being a Wednesday, it was closed, so we pulled onto the road shoulder near the highway entrance and finished off some leftovers. We were once more struck by the desolation of the town, which probably had once been booming before the new highway bi-passed it. Beside us was what appeared to be a large motel, now overgrown with vegetation.

By 2:00 we were in Oklahoma; two hours later Jim was beginning to feel the effects of fighting the winds. We’d already stopped once to check the awning on the slide out because it was constantly banging, but it was just the wind playing with the spring. I found a KOA at El Reno, but it was fully booked. This doesn’t often happen this time of year. We moved on for another hour. I called ahead to reserve a spot in the Rockwell RV Park where we’ve stayed a few times, near Oklahoma City. The weather was much cooler than it had been last year.  We took a walk around the park for some exercise, stopping to see the Buffalo in the pen, before heating up the last of the chicken pot pies for dinner.

The next morning we drove to Bricktown, Oklahoma City in search of the Banjo Museum. We found a place to park beside the Land Run display along the River Walk. We had to walk through there again, and discovered many details that we’d missed the first time.  It’s still one of our favourite places.

To get to the Banjo Museum, we walked nearly to the other end of the River Walk and up onto the streets. Jim was following a map he’d found in a travel brochure of Oklahoma City, but it wasn’t quite right.  It took us some time to find it; however, it was worth the effort. Two floors displayed these beautiful instruments that not only are used to entertain, but are works of art!

Banjo Museum (1)Banjo Museum (3)

Gibson1EarlScruggsBanjo Museum (22)Banjo Museum (21)

When we left there an hour later, we returned to Jazzmo’z for another delicious lunch before getting back on the road again. After that, we focused on our destination – home. We stopped only for gas, meals and sleeping. The folks at the Cracker Barrel chain along the way became our best friends. Construction near Troy Illinois held us up for an hour, meaning we got only as far as the Casey KOA on day seven, but we sailed through Indiana and a good portion of Ohio the next day before stopping at a Cracker Barrel, where we always have dinner and breakfast in exchange for the privilege of staying in the parking lot for the night.

By 3:00 p.m. of day nine we were crossing the border into Canada at Buffalo, New York, seeing only a bit of snow in the ditches of Pennsylvania. While traversing the bridge the side mirror (yes the one that almost fell off on our way down!) caught in a section of the chain link fence that had been erected along the under-construction sidewalk, cracking the case and leaving the lower part of the mirror hanging. There was nothing we could do about it before we got through Customs. There was a big crowd of vehicles filling the lanes right back to the beginning of the bridge. A fellow directing traffic managed to get us across three lanes of cars to the Bus Loading Lane, where we had to go into a building to check in. While Jim answered questions I watched an officer come out of the back, take a look around with his hands on his hips and then retreat without a word. I could be wrong, but the dazed look on his face and the weird eyes made me think that he might be stoned. That could have been a scary thing!

Once we were back into Canada Jim pulled over to put the mirror back together, and a few miles later we stopped for Tim Horton’s coffee, and to change the phone SIM card. Then we were into the crazy slow Toronto traffic. It had taken us only six hours to get from Ohio to Buffalo; it took us four more to get home! The restaurants of Hastings were already closed, so I had to make us some dinner. I was tired and hungry, but it was good to be home.



Four and a Half Days Crossing Ontario in the Motor Home

We’re on the road once again, this time taking the long way to Arizona to see more of Canada on the way. We left on Wednesday, September 2nd and spent the first night at Carol’s Campsite at Sudbury. Other than the fact that when I opened the fridge to get out the makings for dinner I discovered that the fridge had been off, it was an uneventful afternoon of driving (it was after noon when we finally got on our way).

The next morning I moved some food items into the electric cooler, thankful that I’d brought it along this trip. Later Jim solved the problem with the fridge and all is good now. We continued onto our next destination, Wawa, Ontario where we stopped at a Good Sam Park for the night.  Internet connections have been poor, so I made no attempts at blogging. We were lucky to get emailing done.  Even our phones were often out of service amongst the hills and trees of that part of the province.

I thought we’d given ourselves plenty of time to get to BC for a few weeks before turning south,  but when we stopped in Wawa I was already wishing we’d scheduled more time so we could spend a day exploring there. We met a couple outside the Welcome Centre,who were slowly making their way back home to Qualicum Beach in BC, having traveled all the way to Montreal in a very old, wide-body camper van, similar to the one we owned for a few weeks before deciding we needed something larger for doing long trips. They had been there all day, just enjoying the beauty and catching up on internet tasks (WiFi was good there).  They told us of the beautiful beach in downtown Wawa that we should visit,  but we had to keep moving; we had made plans to visit family along the way.

Wawa (11)

The Goose at Wawa, Ontario

The Goose at Wawa, Ontario

On Friday we decided to look up some Mesa Regal friends, who spend their summers on Loon Lake, in the small community of Shuniah, which is just east of Thunder Bay. While motoring along highway 17, we were startled by the flashing lights and a siren when a police car suddenly passed us.  A minute later, a small red car cut in front of us, just missing an oncoming transport.  It then passed the transport in front of us, forcing an oncoming car onto the shoulder! That was followed by second police car, also in warning mode, and cutting in and out of traffic. We both sat with our jaws dropped. How close had we come to being involved in a terrible crash?

We arrived at Loon Lake  at 5:00 pm to find Harp and Joan  thrilled to have us. Unfortunately the cottage turned out to be on a dead end road and there wasn’t a lot of space to turn our big rig and trailer around. Harp, his son Sandy, and I tried to direct Jim back into a narrow driveway, but cedar trees on one side stopped him, and when he attempted to drive forward to straighten out, the motor home was uphill, the trailer down. This resulted in the trailer hitch becoming buried under the gravel of the road. I left the men to rectify that situation and remove the trailer, while I went indoors to help Joanie with dinner. By the time it was about ready, the motor home was parked out front, facing the right direction to get us out of there, and the trailer was again connected. We could all relax and enjoy a drink on the dock before partaking of  a delicious meal on the deck.  We spent the night there in the RV and shared breakfast with Joanie and Harp before leaving the next day. Again, we would have liked to stay longer.  It’s a beautiful spot.

Cottage Life at Loon Lake

Cottage Life at Loon Lake

IMG_0517We stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial at Thunder Bay. The story still brings tears to my eyes, as it did when I tried to read about this brave young fellow back in 1981.

Terry Fox Memorial

Terry Fox Memorial

So far the weather had been sunny, hot and humid.  We made it to the outskirts of Kenora on Saturday night before stopping at The Willows RV Campground. Around 9:00 pm the rain began, followed by thunder, lightning and wind. It  stopped for a while, but after we got to bed it started again. The rain pounded on the roof for a half hour or more, not a gentle rain to put me to sleep. In the morning the park owner was out with his little back hoe leveling out some of the  holes in the roads caused by the storm. When we left the park an hour later, we watched two pickup trucks slowly make their way through a flooded area of the road we needed to take, then held our breath as we edged through it too.

Flooded Road

Yes, we had to go through that!

An hour later we were out of Ontario and into Manitoba, after traveling 1700 kilometers (1200 miles approx.) Jim says he once tried to tell a Texan how long it takes to drive across Ontario to Manitoba and the fellow replied, “I had a car like that once too.”

Another Camping World/Good Sam RV Rally

Camping World is United States’ largest RV and outdoor retailer; Good Sam is the world’s largest RV owner’s organization. Together they host America’s largest RV Rally. We attended our first Rally in Syracuse, NY in 2013.This year The Rally was held near Phoenix, only an hour away from us, so we had to go.

We signed up for the Early Bird Special and arrived at the venue, Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, at 4:30 on the Tuesday afternoon. We were very impressed with the way all the rigs were neatly and efficiently directed to the parking spots by volunteers. Once we were installed a friendly lady was at our door with our registration package, which meant we didn’t have to walk to a booth and stand in line like last time. The window stickers with QR codes, which came by mail after we’d first registered online, were a major help, and this time they didn’t have rain and mud to deal with. There wasn’t much happening that first night so we just relaxed with our books – no electricity unless we ran the generator, no Wi-Fi.

When we got up the next morning at 8:00 am we were still the last coach in our designated row and we could look across the massive parking lot right out to the entrance. We watched out the window as a new procession of attendees, in everything from small camper vans to forty-foot-plus luxury coaches or fifth-wheels, began. Over the next few days thousands of RVs would fill the several acres of space.

Rows of RVs under the sunset

Rows of RVs under the sunset

We met our next-site neighbours, Bill and Jan Mains, from Casa Grande, who are avid RVers. Jan had her one leg in a cast, due to a broken foot, but she determinedly got around using a little scooter to support the foot that couldn’t touch the ground.

We got our bikes together and went for a ride around the top of the raceway stands, chatting with people along the way. Our fold-up bikes are always a topic of conversation.

Jim on fold-up bicycle overlooking speedway

Jim on fold-up bicycle overlooking speedway

At noon we were allowed into the Rally area, the infield of the race track. We looked through some new RVs until it was time for a seminar on making your RV more fuel efficient, at 1:00 pm. We got some good information. By then my stomach was grumbling. It was a long way back to our RV, so we chose to have pizza from one of the few food vendors that were open that day. There was a Craft Show that Jim wanted to see, but by the time I’d come back from the restroom next door he’d seen it all; not many vendors and not many customers. We toured through a few more new RVs, just for curiosity sake. These $400,000 to $800,000 luxury models wouldn’t have interested me even if we had the money to spend. They are very pretty and have all the bells and whistles, but most are not very well laid out and they are too big to fit into many campgrounds. We soon made our way back to the gate where we’d left our bikes chained to the fence.

Back at the camp site, Jan and Bill were trying to entertain some friends on the tiny spot of empty space in front of their fifth-wheel. The sites were wide enough for only a rig and a pull or tow vehicle beside it. “Patio” space was practically non-existent. More of their friends arrived so we invited them to join us on our site, since we had no extra vehicle, leaving us plenty of patio space. We all visited until the sun went down and the temperature dropped. Then we retreated to the comfort of our “homes” for dinner and downtime.

Jan and Bill on right

Jan and Bill on right

During the next few days we rode the shuttle trolley back and forth between the rally exhibits and our RV, to take in a few more seminars, listen to afternoon entertainers and view more RVs. The most appreciated information we came away with was the value of having a voltage protector plus surge protector rather just a surge protector on your RV plug-in. We heard horror stories about some campgrounds/RV parks having open grounds or reverse polarity in their wiring systems that can cause major damage to an RV without a voltage protector. The Wi-Fi at the media centre was spotty so posting blogs or anything else other than doing emails was difficult. We managed to spend some money at the huge vendor tent, and dropped $14.00 for two cheeseburgers and $4.00 for a bottle of water at the Food Court, the second day there. The next day I packed a lunch. We saw a few lower-priced RVs that we really liked, but because of our poor Canadian dollar exchange even those were beyond our budget. I was disappointed because I would so like to have more kitchen space and closets.

Smiling in our first "dream" Coach

Smiling in our first “dream” Coach

On Thursday night we sat in the grandstand to watch and listen to the Tina Preston Band. They were pretty good. It was unfortunate that the stage was set up in the infield a hundred feet away from the first row of seats, and the bleacher seating was protected by wire mesh fencing, making it difficult to see. There were TV screens though. On Friday night the entertainment was provided by Ticket to Ride, a Beatles Tribute Band and they had the bleachers rocking and stomping until 9:00 pm.

Looking at the Band Stage

Looking onto the band stage from our seats in the bleachers

Saturday afternoon the good weather ended and it started to rain as we were riding the trolley back to camp. We didn’t go back for the Neil Diamond Tribute Band that night. It rained all night long. We’d seen everything we wanted to see, so after breakfast Sunday morning we packed up and left for Mesa Regal. It was a fun few days, but if we do another rally I think I’d rather spend more time getting to know some of the other RVers and less time dreaming about impossibilities.

More Adventures Through Texas

After two nights in San Antonio, we spent the next day on the road crossing the barren plains of Texas on I-10, stopping only to eat lunch and fill the gas tank. There wasn’t much to see. Four hundred miles brought us to a KOA in Van Horn.

Since it was already 6:30 we decided to try dinner at the Grill. The menu was limited and prepared by the work campers who were on duty. It was not the best meal we’d ever eaten, but it was adequate. Being late in the season, there weren’t many other amenities open or activities happening, but it was a clean, well-maintained park. After a walk around the park for a bit of exercise, we soon crawled into bed. To save time in the morning we returned to the Grill for what we hoped would be a quick breakfast, before striking out again. Unfortunately, a new, quite elderly couple was beginning a three-day stint and already they seemed tired and confused. I felt badly for them as I overheard the man exclaim that he had retired once before. I got the feeling that they had to do work camping just to survive. It reminded me how fortunate we are. The eggs were fried in the bacon fat, the toast was too thickly buttered and, although I had eliminated some things from my order, such as an extra egg and home fries, I was still charged the full amount. The $20 bill for breakfast seemed rather steep compared to the full hook-up camping fee.

El Paso

Interesting sculptures along main street through El Paso

At 10:00 am we were on our way again, although we soon realized that we’d traveled through another time-zone and it was actually 9:00 am. By the time we reached El Paso the busy traffic, slowed down by construction and accidents had tired us out. We’d seen signs along the highway for The Saddle Blanket and thought we’d take a wander through there for a break before lunch. When we turned off at the designated exit, however, we saw no more signs as to which direction to take. We chose the wrong one. A Google search told us that it was on the other side of the highway, so we made our way back through the congestion, under the overpass and back along the service road until we found it. We found an out-of-the-way parking spot and I gratefully pulled the door latch to get out. The door wouldn’t open. Jim tried to no avail. While he tried different things I opened the window to wave down the first person who saw us. A kind woman in a white Lincoln stopped and asked what the problem was. I explained that we couldn’t get out. We both had a little chuckle, and then she took the key that I offered and tried opening the door from the outside without success. A younger fellow in another Lincoln also stopped, but he too had no luck. By this time Jim had managed to find the only screw driver that wasn’t in the trunk, and was starting to disassemble the lock. When the woman offered me “the office phone number” saying to call if we needed more help or wanted them to call a locksmith, we realized that they were both from The Saddle Blanket. They went off to lunch and Jim got the lock torn apart. He discovered that all that jarring on Hwy 90 out of New Orleans had displaced the bolts, causing them to obstruct the opening of the door. He put it back together, fixing the problem, and we were finally able to do the tour of The Saddle Blanket’s massive two warehouses. We discovered that our “rescuers” were two of the owners, Bonnie and her son Luke. After we’d finished the tour, while we were having some lunch in the RV, Bonnie stopped by again to make sure we’d gotten out and were alright. A big thank you goes out to Bonnie and Luke for their concern.

We carried on until 5:15 before stopping again at a little KOA in Lordsburg, New Mexico. It took a bit to find it, buried at the end of a street behind some dilapidated house trailers and rusted old automobiles. We were doubtful, but kept following the signs and were pleasantly surprised to find, as we rounded the last corner, that there was a line of motor homes waiting to register. We figured it couldn’t be too bad, and was probably the best RV Park around before the border to Arizona. At least there were a few trees and a small store/office, unlike the many others we’d passed along the highway. Again, it was in the off-season, so not much was happening, but it was pretty park with much to offer in-season.

By mid-morning the next day we were in Arizona.