Memoir Monday – Brockville Miss Teen Centennial Queen


Walking  stiffly down the runway, (which was really the dock at St. Lawrence Park) I was feeling very self-conscious in my green-striped swimsuit and high-heeled shoes, my hair piled high in curls on the top of my head.  My sash fell off my shoulder, but I couldn’t move my hands  to slide it back into place.  I just kept walking towards the judges’ table.  I looked at the one familiar face there, that of Norm, a friend of my sister.  I gave a feeble smile.  He smiled back.  I don’t remember making my way back up the ramp, nor what happened next.  When was the judging done?  What did we do while we waited?  Obviously we changed into our dresses at some point, and must have done the walk again. I don’t remember any of it. I know that I eventually joined the line of other contestants, all anxiously waiting on the runway in front of the judges for the names of the winners to be called – Miss Congeniality, Fourth Runner-up, Third Runner-up, Second Runner-up, First Runner-up, and finally Miss Teen Centennial.

It was the summer of 1967, Canada’s Centennial year.  I was a very shy seventeen year- old, greatly lacking in self-confidence.  What was I doing here?  The pageant was sponsored by the local Kinsmen Club, and my neighbour was scouting for contestants.  He approached me once and I was flattered, but declined. The second time, I agreed without thinking about what was involved.  I guess even then I knew that I had to push myself to move out of my comfort zone.

My sponsor was to be one of the local pharmacies.  We were required to make appointments to have our pictures taken by the local newspaper, and to have our hair done for free at one of the beauty salons.  I needed a new dress and swimsuit and shoes.  My older sister was recruited by my mother to take me shopping. Why would she not want to take me herself?

We had a fun time doing the stores, looking for bargains. We came home with the modest green and navy striped one-piece swimsuit, a simple, form-fitting shift-style dress in a satiny tapestry of pastel colours, and a pair of white (I think) high-heeled shoes.

Why are there no pictures?

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I made my hair appointment. I took myself down to the newspaper office for the photo shoot and interview. A few days later, I got a request to go back. She told me the pictures didn’t turn out very well. When the newspaper arrived with my picture and bio I was very devastated. The picture was terrible! My eyes seemed to bug out from my face. Could it have been better than the first one?! I think Mom might have kept that, but I insisted it be destroyed.

One evening all the contestants had to meet at the park to go through the stage plan. My boyfriend at the time walked me over and proudly assured me that I would be a winner.

On the morning of the pageant, I got my thick, brown hair piled onto the top of my head. The stylist was quite chatty and he commented that only one of the contestants had failed to make a hair appointment. He figured she wouldn’t have a chance. The whole contest was based on looks. I spent the afternoon sitting in the sun at the cottage, working on a tan.

There was a lot of chatter and excitement in the change room before the pageant. Someone didn’t have gloves; someone loaned her extra pair. We fussed with our hair and makeup and offered each other encouragement. We draped our white satin sashes over our shoulders. We admired each other, and silently assessed our own chances. We were asked to fill out a secret vote for Miss Congeniality, and then it was time to line up for our walk.

“Miss Congeniality goes to Miss …” The girl who shared her gloves.

“Fourth Runner-Up, Miss…”

“Third Runner-Up, Miss …” I think this was my distant cousin, Paula, who I thought was most likely my stiffest competition. My excitement began to build. Maybe I could be a winner after all.

“First Runner-Up, Miss …” My heart was pounding.

“Miss Teen Centennial Queen, …” The winner was the girl who didn’t get her hair done; the one who appeared in her everyday plain brown swimsuit, and flat shoes; the one who didn’t fret about how she looked.

Maybe they weren’t judging only on looks. Maybe self-confidence played a role too.

As we walked past the spectators, back to retrieve our belongings from the dressing room, I heard a few comments that helped lift my spirits.

“You should have won!”

But I didn’t and I moved on. I had never before considered myself to be a Beauty Queen anyway, but it was exciting to think about for a short time.

Many years later, when I met Norm again at my niece’s wedding, he apologized to me.

“I really thought you should win, but I couldn’t convince the other judges.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Norm. That’s alright.”

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What to Look for When Buying a Used Motor home – Learning the Hard Way


We bought our second RV, a full sized motor home, in the spring of 2010. No, actually the second one was another wide-body, longer van that had a higher kitchen area, and an actual toilet, but we changed our minds about that and sold it. We thought we might like to spend a couple of months on the road, so we looked for something bigger, but we didn’t want to spend too much money before we knew if we’d enjoy that lifestyle.

We searched e-Bay and RV Trader, and the local online buy-and-sell where we finally found what we thought we wanted, within our price range.

We drove across town to take a look. It was old, a 1992 Thor Pinnacle, but it was low mileage and seemed to be in good shape. When we went inside the woman told us to take off our shoes because she’d just replaced the baby blue carpet. I wondered at the time how long baby blue carpet would stay clean. I also wondered about the smell of moth balls, but didn’t ask then.

Jim asked questions about the engine and what kind of mileage it got and:

“Do the appliances all work?”

“Yes. I had to replace a part on the fridge, but it worked great the last time I had it out.”

“Why are you selling it?”

“I really don’t want to, but my husband died and for a few years I had some lady friends who would travel with me. I could drive it anywhere, no problem. But they aren’t able to go anymore and I don’t want to go alone.”

“Does the generator work?”

“We only used it a few times. We always were plugged in at campsites.”

“Do the leveling jacks work?”

“We never used them. It was always level where we parked.”

We went home to think about it. She said she needed to know soon because someone from down in the US was thinking of coming up to buy it, sight unseen. Somehow that didn’t sound right, but we didn’t question it.

A few days later we returned with $20,000 cash, prepared to purchase. We took another look around and this time I did ask few questions:

“Why does it smell like moth balls in here?”

“I had mice in the garage so I wanted to make sure they didn’t get into the motor home.” (it was parked in the back yard). “I’ve taken them out now. The smell will soon go away.”

I noticed something I hadn’t noticed the first time. “Why is the hand bar for getting up into the motor home from the driver’s side sitting on the floor?”

“A really big guy was looking at it and yanked it off when he was getting in.”

I think Jim looked under the hood, and checked the tires. We looked in the back compartment and were impressed with the size of it.

We made the deal. She was almost too happy to have all that cash. Were we making a mistake? Were we too trusting? Turns out we were.

At the safety inspection we were told that the tires would soon need to be replaced. They were starting to crack, but they’d be good for a few thousand miles yet. Everything else was good, as I recall.

We took it to the local RV Maintenance Shop where the seller said she had annual inspections done, and talked to them about the fridge work, which they confirmed. They took us through a “tour” explaining how everything worked.  They couldn’t get the generator to run. Then they told us that, even though there was no rust on it, the propane tank needed to be replaced because of its age. They claimed no one would fill it. That would cost $1,000!

We thanked them and left, deciding that what propane remained in the tank would do us for our ten-day maiden voyage, and we would avoid needing the generator.

I gave the motor home a good cleaning and stocked the cupboards. I searched for, and found moth balls hidden in the backs of drawers and cupboards. I used our air exchanger and fans to get rid of the odour.

The day before we were planning to leave, Jim ran an extension cord from the house to the fridge, so it would be cold enough to hold a few food items in the morning. But in the morning the fridge was just as warm as it had been the night before!

Our plan was to drive east through Quebec and then cross the border into Maine, after stopping the first night at my brother’s, just a few hours away from home.

Before we got very far, the coach began to shake. Jim slowed down and it was fine until we reached the same speed and it started again. So we limped into the first city where we could get into a shop right away. The problem was a loose shock stabilizer. Fortunately, they were able to fix it and we were on our way again.

That night it rained. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I spied a wet spot on the ceiling! We went to Canadian Tire for some caulking and an electric cooler, which we filled with a few grocery staples, and continued on our way.

We found a little campground, John’s Camping, somewhere between Trois Rivieres and Deschambault, Quebec that night. We parked beside the man-made pond and were lulled to sleep by the sound of frogs, crickets and loons. That and the sun rising over the pond in the morning were the only positive things of note.  Neither the TV cable, nor the WiFi internet worked from our site. We had to climb up the hill to the office, passing rusted and derelict pieces of abandoned machinery along the way. Our neighbouring trailers looked to be permanent, with strange additions.

 

When we found ourselves at a KOA in Richmond, Maine the next evening, I tried to use the stove, but it wouldn’t light. We figured the gas gauge wasn’t right and we were out, so I had to cook dinner using the microwave. Later, Jim asked the campground manager if he could fill our propane tank, and he said sure, as long as it had no leaks. Well, that saved $1,000! It turned out it wasn’t even empty. I don’t know why I couldn’t light the stove, but it was fine afterwards.

On the first cool night, we were happy to know that the furnace worked, but in the morning we wondered what the terrible smell was. Jim lifted the dining benches, which hid the furnace vent hoses and we were sickened to discover that they were chewed up and full of mice nests and dried feces! We spent a few hours vacuuming, scrubbing and covering the hoses with duct tape!

Thank goodness that was the worst of it for the rest of that trip.

We spent a couple of nights at the KOA in Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where we rode our bicycles to the beach and ate seafood.

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

 

From there we went to Salem, Massachusetts, where we stayed for two nights in Winter Island Park.

Looking out from Winter Island Park

Looking out from Winter Island Park

We caught the tourist trolley the first day, which took us to downtown Salem. We visited the Witch Museum and walked around the harbour where the Friendship ship is moored, but it wasn’t yet open for tourist season.

 

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The next day we caught the very inexpensive train to Boston and spent the day doing the City Tour that included a narrated trolley tour and a harbour cruise.

 

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Boston Redcoats

 

Our next stop was Plymouth Rock where we spent a few hours, and then drove on to Middleboro for the night.

 

Plymouth Rock

 

 

 

We spent the next day taking care of domestic chores and touring the pretty town of Middleboro.

 

We were in Mystic, Connecticut by early evening the next day. The following morning we rode our bicycles into the Village of Mystic Seaport, a very interesting, restored historic village.

 

 

 

 

Our last stop was to visit with old friends in Bloomfield. We spent the night with them before heading for home.

When we got home, we found a reliable RV repairman and learned that the problem with the fridge was only that the coach had been sitting on a slope in our driveway. The fridge requires it to be level.

It wasn’t until our return from our second trip a few months later  (two months traveling through the US to the Sturgis Bike Rally, San Francisco and up the west coast) that we discovered the loose rust in the bottoms of the storage bins, and consequently the major water damage that had been done to the bottom rails, the floor and the walls!

$2500 later we had the motor home we wanted.

Memoir Monday – The Princess


I was dragging along the aisles of the grocery store, holding Daddy’s hand while my mother consulted her shopping list and piled items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart. As any ten-year-old girl would be, I was bored and anxious to get home to dinner. Then the line of items along a shelf high above the groceries caught my attention. There sat toys! There were big trucks and toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her and my eyes popped! There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stop and stare. I knew I had to have her.

But, although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d rather sleep longer, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of her.

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.

 

Memoir Monday – Remembering Days of Lily-of-the-Valley, Pea Pods and Coal


If, like many bloggers, you have been journaling for a very long time, do you ever wish you could have started much earlier? Like when you were a child?

I’ve been trying to work on my Memoirs. I’d like to start at the beginning, but all I have are old, black and white photographs to spur my memory of those times. Sometimes it’s a long reach back. It’s hard to remember the details, and the pictures often don’t show what I need.

This week two things have brought back some memories of my childhood home – the Lily-of-the-Valley that are coming up nicely in our flower beds here at the condo, and the news from the US that the President is determined to bring back coal production.

A very young me in front of our family home

A very young me in front of our family home

This is the only picture I can find that shows anything of the two-story white clapboard,  house with  black trim, where I grew up. In the background behind me, you can see part of a long verandah. It stretched across three-quarters of one side of the house and around the corner to the front door.

The verandah brought a few memories together.

The Lily-of-the-Valley

In a flower bed that bordered the side length of the verandah, my mother had planted Lily-of-the-Valley. One summer day when they were in full bloom, a bored young me thought it would be fun to climb up onto the verandah railing and jump off to the ground. I don’t know if I was unaware of the work Mom had put into planting the garden, or if I thought I could jump over it.

Lily-of-the-Valley

Lily-of-the-Valley

As I climbed up for the second time, my mother tore through the side door.

“Judy! Get down off of there!”

“But I just want to jump!” I replied.

Needless to say, she was not impressed, especially when she saw the flatten patch of  the green and white perennials.

Pea Pods

Mom picked up a large wooden basket full of green peas still in the pods, and a bowl of from the cupboard.

“Come with me. You can help me shell these peas,” she said, as she nudged me out to the verandah.

We sat side-by-side in the wooden porch chairs, the basket between us, the bowl in her lap and she showed me how to snap open the pod and carefully scrape the peas into the bowl. I don’t remember how long we sat there; I don’t remember any conversation, although being an inquisitive child I’m sure I had lots of questions for her.

Funny, I never liked cooked peas when I was a kid, but I swear I can hear her scolding me for eating more of these peas than I was putting into the bowl!

The Coal

At the front of the house, a heavy trap door in the wooden verandah floor provided access into the basement. I remember a day when a big truck arrived, and a man removed a section of the verandah railing, opened the trap door and set up a chute from the back of the truck to inside the door. I saw him shoveling chunks of black coal onto the chute. I watched it slide down through a cloud of black dust, and disappear below the floor, until my mother hauled me back indoors, out of harms way.

When the delivery man had finished his job, replacing the verandah panel and closing the trap door, I was outside again, watching my mother scrubbing the blackened walls and floor of the verandah with a mop and large bucket of soapy water.

Once winter winds began to howl, my dad would shovel the coal from the basement bin into the coal-fired furnace to provide his family with warmth through the long, cold winter.

Looking Back – Our first Cross-country trip to British Columbia, through the US


Because we’ve not been traveling since our return from Arizona more than a month ago, I thought it would be fun to revisit our very first cross country trip to British Columbia in 2006. I did do a little blogging about it at the time, on a site that no longer exists. The only purpose of my blogging then was to keep family and friends informed of our progress.

That trip was quite different from the ones we have taken since. Our first “motor home” was an old (1973 I think) high top Chevy camper van. It had a fold-down table with bench seats that could be converted, with great difficulty, into a narrow “double” bed at night, and a small kitchen with overhead cupboards that I hit my head on every time I prepared a meal. There was a two burner propane stove and a finicky mini-fridge. We removed the port-a-potty and used that room for clothing storage. There was no shower; no bathroom sink; no furnace. We had to depend upon public restrooms and campgrounds for personal care and laundry, but we ate many meals in that little camper.

How the Adventure Began

The purpose of our trip was to attend the graduation of my one daughter from the Kootenay School of Arts in Nelson, and the wedding of my second daughter, in Vancouver. We pulled a trailer containing our Yamaha Venture motorcycle to use for transportation once we reached British Columbia.

We left Peterborough at 8:15 in the morning on April 13th and headed west, then north towards Elliot Lake, where we would spend our first night with friends, in the comfort of their apartment. By 11:00 it was time for a pit stop. We saw a sign for gas off to our right.  Thinking we’d use the washroom there, we took the exit.  This is what we found!

It seemed the operating gas station was many kilometers further, so we decided to continue down the highway. A few kilometers outside Parry Sound, we found an information center with washrooms and picnic tables.  After a 45 min. break, we were on the road again.

In Espanola we filled up the gas tank at 106.9 per litre, for a grand total of $104.01 Yikes! That’s why the next day we would cross the border into the US.

By 4:00 we were in Elliot Lake.

The next morning we crossed into Michigan at Sault St. Marie and drove until 9:00 pm (Wisconsin time, 10:00 our time).  We had planned to stop earlier but were unable to find a campground that was open.  We thought we had it planned out with the KOA sites, but it turned out the ones they had listed were 30 or 40 miles away from the highway we’d chosen!  Private ones weren’t open yet.  There weren’t any convenience centres along the way either. When my bladder was about to burst, we finally found a motel and campground in Brule Wisconsin.  The campground wasn’t actually open yet, but they let us park and use the electricity for only $10.  The showers and washrooms were closed, so we had to make do with what we had in the camper.  I sure was wishing we’d kept that port-a-potty! The temperature plummeted during the night and I vowed to purchase an electric heater before the next night arrived.

Highlights of the Next Few Days

April 15 – Easter Sunday, we spent on the road. The weather warmed up, so we postponed getting a heater. We parked for the night at the KOA in Bismark, North Dakota, where we indulged in hot showers before leaving the next morning.

April 16 – We took some time to take pictures of these huge metal sculptures along the highway in North Dakota, and visited Painted Canyon and the Badlands.

We were at the KOA in Billings, Montana by night fall. Later in the evening a thunder and rain storm blew through. It rained all night; the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the Weatherman predicted up to 14 inches of snow the next day!

April 17 – We left camp at 9:00 am. By 10:00 we were driving up the mountains in a blizzard, with no snow tires!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long, but changed to rain off and on most of the day.  The van really struggled going up the hills. By the final fill up for the day Jim realized that the gas octane he’d been buying was way lower than ours at home.  When he used a higher octane at that fill, it made a world of difference.

After spending a couple of hours in a Walmart debating with an employee about an exchange or refund for a defective camera that Jim had purchased a few months ago, and looking for a heater (they had none), we set out again. We’d thought we’d make it to Nelson that day, but it wasn’t looking good.

We weren’t back on the road long before Jim thought there was a problem with the transmission.  He stopped at a gas station to check it and put in some transmission fluid.  Then it wouldn’t even start!  He checked the batteries and didn’t think it was that.  He thought it was the starter. He spent a half hour taking things apart to get at it and still couldn’t get it fixed.  He finally decided he needed a new starter.  Luckily there was an RV repair center right across the road so he walked over.  The guy came over with his big service truck and boosted the battery.  It was dead, but they discovered that the alternator belt was loose as well, which caused the battery to not charge.  The cost was nominal. I breathed a sigh of relief. We finally got back on our way and stopped at 7:00 pm for the night at the KOA in Missoula, Montana.

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Apr 18 – At 4:00 pm our van was parked outside my daughter’s apartment in Nelson, BC where it would stay for the next thirteen days while we attended the family events and travelled around BC on the bike.

It would be May 11th before our 10,000 kilometer trip would end, upon our arrival home.

Looking back now, I wonder how we survived nearly a month in such tight quarters without any major conflicts! Of course a year later we did another month-long trip to Canada’s East Coast, that time on the motorcycle all the way and tenting most of the time.

Memoir Monday – Traveling with New Technology


These days flying paperless is as common to me as taking my own shopping bags to the grocery story. I now have many electronic devices that I can use, but it wasn’t that long ago that I did it for the first time. This is what I wrote about this adventure in 2012.

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Traveling with New Technology

I’ve made the trip from Toronto to Vancouver many times, but this time was different. This time I was determined to go “paperless” by using my newly acquired iPad to get me through the gate.

At the self-check-in kiosk, a quick scan of the code displayed on the iPad screen produced my printed baggage ticket. I needed no paper boarding pass. At the baggage counter the code was scanned from the iPad again, and I was given my boarding gate number. Boarding would start at 11:00, I was told.

I flashed my iPad Boarding Pass at the first stop on the way into the security area. The young man’s surprise was evident. “Look at you!” he said. I smiled, thinking “not bad for a grey-haired lady.”

At the security desk I handed over the iPad once more, but the technology was as new to the man receiving it as it was to me. We both held our breath and sighed in unison when the scan took.

I removed my shoes as requested, and walked through the scanner with no problem – so far so good. Now what gate was that? I retrieved my belongings, and quickly skimmed the overhead monitor until I saw a flight to Vancouver, leaving from Gate C26. Without confirming the flight number (I’d had only a few hours’ sleep and my brain often lets me down when I’m tired), I found a seat at Gate C26, the last one to the left. At 10:45 I made a final pit stop and sat back down to wait for the boarding call. On the board behind the desk I could see the flight to Vancouver listed. I squinted. It looked like flight 475, but I was too far away to make out the time. I looked at my Boarding Pass once more. When, at 11:10 I’d heard no mention made of the Vancouver flight, I figured a closer look at the board was warranted. “Flight 475 to Vancouver leaving at 1:00,” it read. What?! Suddenly my sleepy brain sprang to life. This wasn’t my flight!

A more careful check of my Boarding Pass revealed that my flight number was 465! I was at the wrong gate! I rushed to the monitor and saw that I was to be at C27, but where was that? The only thing that I could see beyond Gate C26 was a Tim Horton’s. Logic told me that C27 had to be past C26, so I started speed-walking in that direction, my over-night bag bouncing on its wheels behind me.

“Last call for boarding of flight 465 to Vancouver at gate C27,” blasted over the air. I ran, still not seeing my gate.

Finally, there appeared before me a large sign and arrow “C27.” Panic and embarrassment were replaced by relief when I rounded the corner and saw some other stragglers approaching the gate. I wasn’t the last to board.

I admit that if I had really been iPad savvy, I would have made a mental note of the gate number on my electronic Boarding Pass, before putting my iPad away, or looked more closely at the monitor. As for traveling with new technology, it’s amazing! Like anything new, it just takes practice.