A different kind of “camping”

Original Post written August 5, 2010

Yesterday was a very long day. We crossed the border at Sarnia, into Michigan. It took nearly an hour to get across the bridge and through customs. Once across we stopped along the way at various rest stops, trying to find information about camping, but there was none. Jim thought he’d like to get as close to Chicago as we could before stopping. Finally, at nearly 9pm we found a campground near Michigan City, Indiana. We tried to call to book a site, but the number was out of service. That didn’t look good. We made our way down a tree-lined road, in the semi-darkness to find it. It did exist, just under a different name, but when we reached the gate there was a sign “Camp Site Full”. Now what? There were no others around that anyone knew of. We made our way back to the Blue Chip Casino. We’d heard that most casinos allowed overnight RV parking. So we “boon-docked” it once more. Of course having felt that we should patronize the casino for a little bit, at 10:15 pm we stood in line to get our membership cards and off we went with $20 each in hand to find the five cent slots.

Camping at Blue Chip Casino

Camping at Blue Chip Casino

It wasn’t long before the smoke accosted my eyes and nose. I’d forgotten that that’s the one thing I don’t like about travelling in the US, there are still no No Smoking laws. Oh well, I thought, if the usual scenario takes place, my self-allotted crazy money would be gone in fifteen minutes and we could leave. 🙂

Wouldn’t you know it, it lasted twice as long! Jim and I managed to lose our last nickel about the same time. We packed it in and headed to bed in the RV. I can say it definitely isn’t a camp site that I’d choose again, if given the chance. Not a lot of quiet; lots of lights. There was a nice breeze blowing through the windows and vents though, giving us some relief from the severe humidity of the previous night and day.

Jim insisted we should take advantage of the free gift offered to new members once they’ve garnered 200 points (by betting $40, including winnings re-bet), so we each came away with a case of coke! Oh well, it was a bit of fun and worked out alright.

Tonight we are in an actual campground for the first time since we left home. We put in over 500 kilometers, but we managed to arrive here, at a KOA near Austen Minnesota, before dark.

The I-90 is a good road in some states, a terrible one in others. We did a lot of bouncing at times. Making our way through Chicago with our 44 foot rig (32′ RV plus 12′ bike trailer) was interesting to say the least, as was weaving between pylons on the various sections of highways where road work was being done. I was finally inspired to take some pictures, although it was difficult to keep the steady hand needed to get quality shots. 🙂

Throughout the day we were overtaken by many many bikes, some being ridden, many more being towed behind trucks or motor homes. A quick glance around this camp ground indicated that there might be a few here as well.

Tomorrow we should reach Sturgis, where I expect to gather some much more exciting material for these posts.:)


Changes in the Works

To my followers, you will notice some new posts that may not seem to fit with my regular blog postings. I have been trying to categorize my posts with the hope to make my other writing more visible. I have always had a tab with a link to my published writing, but it linked only to a page that contains all of the articles consecutively with no ability to receive comments individually. It appears that the only way I can separate them is to post them on my blog and categorize them. I’m experimenting, so please bear with me. 🙂

In a few weeks we’ll be on the road again and I’ll be back to travel writing.

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.



Original Powered Bicycles?



1948 Indian

IMG_14502015 Indian

IMG_1453A lot of work went into building this one!





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.


A Happy Canada Day!

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem, A Niagara Get-a-Way

We drove for three hours to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival. We’d never been there before and Alice looked like a fun production. We almost didn’t go because we’re saving our money for our next big adventure – a tour to China – but we got in on a seat sale and off we went.

For some reason our GPS needs to be always plugged in and the connection has a problem so it kept shutting off and reloading.  Finally I found Google Maps on my new Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime and was pleased at how easy it was to follow. We arrived at the theatre, found a parking spot on the street only a short distance from the door, and still had time to purchase a large chicken Caesar salad at the food bar to share before curtain time.

The theatre is well laid out, meaning there were no bad seats in the house. The production was as colourful as expected, including gorgeous costumes, and brilliant special effects.


At intermission we enjoyed a cold drink on the patio and toured the gardens. It was worth the trip, to that point.



Some children wore funny hats

By the time it was over, two and a half hours later, the shared salad had left me yearning for something more. We drove down the main street and again were fortunate to find a perfect parking place. We wandered the street, taking pictures of the lovely old restored buildings, poking our heads into some of the unique shops and checking out menus at the many restaurants.

The prices seemed high, even for a tourist town, starting at about $25.00 a plate. We decided that we’d drive to our inexpensive hotel in Niagara Falls and find a restaurant there.

When we checked into the hotel, we were told that the $48 room didn’t include the $12.00 parking fee or the $3.99 tourist fee, but we had read about that on the website. We were impressed with this Super 8 hotel, which seemed to have recently been updated. Everything was clean and fresh. The room was large.

We were given coupons for a couple of attractions, and $15.00 off a meal at the iHop, just a few blocks down the street. Off we trotted, only to find that that particular iHop isn’t open for dinner during the week. We saw another one in the distance and started walking again. By this time I was feeling a little weak from hunger. When we opened the menu we discovered that the prices at this chain restaurant were only a couple of dollars less than what we would have paid for an exclusive fresh-made meal in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. None of the choices were very appealing. Jim chose the chicken fried steak dinner; I settled for a chicken and cheese quesadilla. The shell was a little too crispy, but the chicken was tender and flavourful. Jim had an iced tea; I had water. Total cost including tip, and minus the discount, $45.00!

In the morning we snared another discount coupon and headed back to the closer iHop for breakfast. Along the way we noticed a sign advertising a Breakfast Buffet for just $6.99, but we’d forgotten about the breakfast prices at iHop, and we had the discount coupon, so we carried on. It was 9:00 a.m. and there were very few people in the restaurant. That should have told us something.  We ordered coffee while we looked over the menu. Neither of us wanted pancakes or waffles, iHop specialties it seems.  We asked about just getting bacon and eggs and were told that they could do some substitutions. On one special menu a variety of fruit covered waffles were shown. Below them was a list that read, “Build your Own.” It looked like maybe these simple entrees of bacon/ham, eggs, hash browns and toast might come with the waffles, but our inquiry confirmed that they did not. The price for the bacon and egg plate, without the waffles was $18.99!  We decided to leave. We’d already poured our coffee, and added three milk to the very black liquid. Just a few sips were all our taste buds could handle, but we knew we were obligated to pay for it. When the waitress brought the bill, Jim’s jaw dropped –$9.28!

As we exited, Jim offered our coupon to one of the few other groups of people seated. They exclaimed, “Now we’ve got two!” I didn’t even hear a thank you.

We walked back to the $6.99 Breakfast Buffet at the AlMacs. The place was buzzing. We were shown to a booth not far from the buffet and there we found more variety than the iHop menu provided. We should have gone there to start, and we could have also enjoyed the dinner buffet the night before for only $12.99.

Back at our hotel we packed up to leave. When Jim went to the desk to settle the bill again his jaw dropped. The $48 had become $86 by the time all the little extra charges were added on.

So it turned out that what was expected to be a reasonably priced one-night get away was just a tad more than we’d budgeted for.


Still relevant – The Great Dictator

I haven’t had much to blog about lately, but I was impressed with this post from Uncle Spikes Adventures, so with his permission I am sharing it with you. You can read more interesting posts from him at unclespikes.wordpress.com

Uncle Spike's Adventures


It’s funny how film and history are forever intertwined, and that we don’t seem to learn from either. Charlie Chaplin, the star of the silent film, delivered an amazing speech in the 1940 classic “The Great Dictator”, which, sadly, is still just as relevant today, some 66 years later.

With such hatred still seemingly saturating our world, and so much power still wielded by so few who do anything to remain in that position, from killing to inciting others to do so, and war-mongering, corruption, and numerous other despicable acts. Looking back, dear Mister Chaplin, who always made us laugh, delivered (ok, so it was on film) one of the greatest ever speeches.



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RV Adventures from San Francisco to Mesa, Arizona, The final Leg of our Journey

If you missed the opportunity to get a free self-guided walking tour app for a city you’d like to visit, be sure to scroll to the bottom of my San Francisco blog and follow the directions.

After San Francisco we didn’t stay in any one spot for more than a night, but we did have some more interesting adventures, and the pain in my hip diminished enough for me to enjoy them.

We continued south on always-adventurous Hwy 1, around the curves, often hanging on the edge of the cliffs, and catching some amazing views.

Tunnel on the side of a cliff

Tunnel on the side of a cliff

At a spot when the the road was at beach level, we came across an observation parking lot where we stopped to watch hundreds of elephant seals fighting for mates and soaking up the rays.

Elephant Seals

Fascinating to watch

IMG_0031After a certain point we left all cities behind, and even the towns became further and further apart. Our plans to stop earlier that day were squashed. The two small RV/Campgrounds that we saw both had “Full” signs on them, so we had to keep going. Jim thought we might stop close to the Hearst Castle and take the tour, but by the time we finally found a spot to park for the night, at Hearst San Simeon National Park we were both tired. The thought of climbing many, many more stairs that the Castle brochure told us about sealed our decision to just keep on trucking the next morning.

We made it a short day. We needed time to do laundry and then relax. At noon we checked into Pismo Coast Village RV Resort, probably the nicest resort that we’d encountered the whole trip. We put our laundry in and crossed a courtyard to the Grill where we enjoyed the best homemade clam chowder we’ve ever had, while enjoying the warm sun on the patio.

Pismo BeachWhen the laundry was done and put away, we walked through Pismo State Beach Park next door, and then into the Monarch Butterfly Grove to view clusters of our own National Butterfly, hanging from the branches of Eucalyptus trees – more Monarchs than we’d ever seen at one time back home.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies

MonarchsAfter taking the many photos, trying to get the perfect shot, we walked over the sand dunes to the beach and almost got lost trying to find the path that led back to our RV Resort!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Sunset

The sun was setting when we got back, and we’d worked up an appetite, so we found ourselves back at the Grill once more. Again we enjoyed some of that delicious chowder, and shared a seafood platter for dinner.

Seafood  Platter

Seafood Platter

I almost hated to leave the next day, it was so nice there. By the time we’d unhooked and picked up the trailer from the storage lot across the street, and stopped at a Mexican Flea Market a half-hour down the highway, it was past lunch time. The scallops and shrimp leftover from the night before warded off our hunger for another hour until we drove off the highway into Los Alamos to see what we could find. We found a quaint little town with a terrific little diner, The Bell Street Farm Eatery, where we chose the Special of the Day – a very thick BLT made with local lean slab bacon, local tomatoes and lettuce, drizzled with pesto and olive oil, on fresh baked bread. Yumm!

Bell Street Farm Eatery

Bell Street Farm Eatery


Best BLT ever!

We drove on through Santa Barbara and got onto the Pacific Coastal Highway at Ventura to spend the evening and night with hundreds of other RVers camped along the wall beside the beach. It’s dry camping, but costs only $28.00 a night, limit of five full days (24hrs. each).

RVs on Beach

8 miles of RVs along Pacific Coast Hwy Beach

We ate our dinner outside, watching the sunset and listening to the waves, which are very calming until you try to sleep. Then they sound like very high winds of a storm and you expect the motor home to be rocking and rolling. That and the sound of traffic on the highway and the trains going along the track between the highway and us (yes, again!) made sleep rather difficult, but there is always a trade-off.

Amtrak Train

At least most of the trains were quieter Amtrak

At the end of the next day we were more than ready to be settled in one place for the next few months!

When we left Ventura we’d intended to continue along the ocean on Hwy 1, but somehow missed a turn and ended up on 101. At Thousand Oaks we pulled off in search of coffee and could find none, but after consulting a map Jim found a road that would take us back to Hwy 1. I was a little concerned because the map also showed a mountain range, but for the first part we were on a wide city street. Then the city street turned right, and our road kept going straight. Well, straight isn’t exactly correct. The first hundred feet were straight, and then we encountered more turns and steep hills than all of the others we’d been on before! The bends were so sharp that we took up the whole road to make them, and there was no way to see or be seen around them! I think I held my breath with each one, expecting another vehicle to come barreling around and into us. There were some spectacular vistas, and some huge homes on gated properties high up on the mountains that I thought could have been owned by some movie stars. I doubted that they’d have too much trouble with tourists finding them up there!

Mulholland Hwy 20151026_115847 IMG_0152 IMG_0176Danger Sign

This sign was at the end. Jim didn’t tell me, though, that he’d seen the same sign at the beginning!

The GPS told us the road, Mulholland Hwy, was only ten miles long, but it took us an hour to get over it, and it gave the engine and brakes quite a workout.

It did take us back to Pacific Coast Highway though, and we were soon at Malibu Beach, hungry and tired. We parked beside the public beach expecting to have some lunch and that long awaited coffee at the café we saw there. It was closed. That’s when we started to learn that this part of California isn’t very RV friendly. We drove on, looking for any sort of restaurant along the highway that had enough parking space for us. Before long we were in downtown Malibou Beach and Jim was determined to find a parking space near the beach. There was a nearly empty parking lot, but it was gated and the fee to park an RV was $32.00 even though we wanted to stay only a couple of hours. We drove up and down some rather narrow streets for probably an hour looking for any kind of parking. One parking lot attendant saw us stop and offered us space (not even sure if we could have gotten into it) for $40.00.

That was enough of taking the Coastal Highway. We got back onto Hwy 101. We drove through the main street of Marina del Rey and Torrance, and could still not find a place to park anywhere near a restaurant. They all had trees too close to the street for us to park. Finally, at El Segundo we got parked and had lunch. We saved the second half of our subs in case we needed them for dinner later. The fridge was pretty empty.

We’d had enough “adventure” for the day so we started looking for RV or camping sites or even a Walmart somewhere near Long Beach. We could find only two listed in any of our resources (Next Exit, The Good Sam RV Guide, and the GPS). I called the Good Sam one first and was informed that they don’t allow enclosed (cargo) trailers in the park, and they had no suggestions as to where we could put ours if we unhooked it! Not the usual helpful response from a Good Sam rep. The other park was actually a small Mobile Home Park that had room for a few RVs, but none that we could begin to squeeze into. On we went, leaving 101 and taking Hwy. 91 to I-5.When we reached Anaheim we found a Walmart that didn’t allow overnight parking, but we bought some groceries anyway and secured a spot at a Good Sam Park just a few blocks from Disneyland. We didn’t go to Disneyland, but we could watch the fireworks from our site that night and rested.

The next day we just drove. We passed through San Diego without even stopping. At 4:30 we set up in an RV-friendly Walmart, had an early dinner and crashed. By 4:00 pm the next day (October 28) we were “home” at our site in Mesa Regal RV Resort, Mesa Arizona, after taking a short side-trip to Los Algodones Mexico to see if “Monica” (the sweet puppy we met last winter) was still there. She wasn’t.

Motoring on to Edmonton

Through email, we’d made plans to join more friends we’d met in Arizona for lunch. Jack and Marnie live in the Edmonton suburb of St. Albert, Alberta so we looked for a campsite near them. We found the Kinsmen RV Park to be perfect, but when we arrived late in the afternoon we were surprised to find the park looking very full. We hadn’t made a reservation, but it turned out that it wouldn’t have made any difference. It seemed that a big BMX Competition was happening that weekend, and camping spots had been booked for a year. The fellow in the office wasn’t happy to see us and was even reluctant to suggest any other options, but he finally gave us a few numbers to call. In the meantime, a couple who had also been turned away and were parked along the driveway waiting until they could go to the home of their friends, came over with some other suggestions. On the second call, we found Glowing Embers RV Park and Travel Centre, but it was in the opposite direction. We punched the coordinates into the GPS and took off again. Between construction detours and the GPS getting us somewhat confused, it was an hour later when we got settled in and called to confirm lunch plans with Jack and Marnie the next day.

When we opened the trailer to get the bike out in the morning, we discovered that one of the bumps on our journey had moved the bike so much that one back strap had come unhooked and the bike had tipped over so hard that the handle bar had punched a hole through the plywood wall and dented the outside aluminum. With the help of a passing park guest, we got the bike out over our folding ramp that, we discovered in the process, had become unhinged.

The rest of the day was better. We made our way to Jack and Marnie’s with ease and spent a few hours of good food and conversation and a few games of Crocinole with their grandson.

From there we went to the famous West Edmonton Mall for a look that took three hours and we didn’t even get to the second floor! For those who know nothing about this mall, be sure to check the website. It’s not a typical shopping mall, but also a huge indoor amusement park where you can swim in the wave pool, skate on the ice rink, or ride one of several roller coasters, just for a start.

West Edmonton Mall

Lots of ways to play!

image image image image

When we left there at 7:00 pm dark clouds had rolled in and winds were very high. It was difficult to keep the bike upright and in our own lane at times. We got a little lost again trying to get back to the campground too, but we managed to get the bike reinstalled in the trailer just before the rain began.

From Edmonton we continued on Hwy 16 to Jasper National Park, where we will be touring for a few days.  Watch for details in the next installment.

Weekly Photo Callenge – Symbol

Entry into Daily Post Photo Challenge

Freedom Ride


Motorcycles on an open road have always been a symbol of freedom  These bikes are on another type of freedom ride, the annual Freedom Ride for Cancer that takes place in New Liskeard Ontario at the Bikers Reunion the first weekend of July.

Rejection As The Best Motivation?

I have no new travel stories, so today I hope to add some laughter to your day by sharing this hilarious blog!

Once Upon Your Prime

crop380w_istock_000012132005xsmallDear Editor,

I received your recent rejection notice and unfortunately it’s just not what I’m looking for at this time. It’s certainly a well-crafted piece and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, rejecting other aspiring writers. You may try me again in the future with something more upbeat.


Stephanie D. Lewis

Aha! Rejecting the rejection letters! That’s the smart thing to do. I wish I could say that IS what I do. Instead when my writing gets turned down, it motivates me to try that much harder to get published in that particular venue. I become obsessively relentless. In fact, I seem to stop submitting to all the other places that actually like my stuff, in order to pursue chasing after the one place that clearly wants nothing to do with me. Sounds perfectly healthy, right?

On the off chance that this is typical…

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5 road trips from Toronto you should do this summer!

By: Jim Bamboulis

After a very long and cold winter (in Toronto, anyway), warmer weather is finally here to stay. And although many people love to travel anywhere, no matter the weather, for many, summer is the season to take a trip or two. That includes road-tripping.

And who doesn’t love a good road trip? Unless you’re crossing international borders, there are no security delays or hassles, no extra fees (other than gas) and no need to worry about whether your carry-on baggage meets weight and size requirements either. Solo or with some friends, road tripping is liberating. All you really need is some food, music (including that Milli Vanilli CD from ’91 you have buried somewhere), an adventurous spirit to meet new and interesting people, eat in some cool diners along the way and maybe even re-discover the country that you call home.

In Southern Ontario, there’s no shortage of great road trips. There’s so…

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