Scooter racing

Scooter racing
After parking for the night, we'll still have time for a little racing

Monday, 24 November 2014

There Goes The Neighbourhood

It took a couple of days to unpack, get groceries in and generally figure out where things are here in Mission.  By things, I mean Walmart.  I also found a great grocery store called H-E-B.  Those initials stand for the owner’s name – Horace E. Butts.  Poor guy must have gone through hell as a child. Imagine being called Horsey Butt all your life!  Still the laugh is on them since he started the largest grocery chain in Texas.  Good old Horace also had the foresight to install a really nice bakery….. you have to try these little (by Texas standards) puff pastry and sugar things.  I don’t know what they’re called, but yum!

Anyhow, the high school Spanish is coming in pretty handy down here.  Hardly anyone speaks English.  It often comes down to a combo of English, Spanish and Charades.

But I digress….. two weeks after I arrived, I was sitting by the pool and lo and behold, there was my sister and her friend Paul walking in.  They arrived a couple of days early and were able to park the brand new rig (still nameless) in the lot next to mine.  I had been concerned that she wouldn’t get it in there because a) it’s huge and b) there’s a tree right in the middle of the parking spot.  But Jackie is a pro and she got it in there no problem.  The Georgetown is GORGEOUS!   I have developed a severe case of “RV envy”.

We hit the ground running once they got here and did all the tourist hot spots in the area, including South Padre Island (beautiful!).  Of course, we also had to sample the local cuisine - you can't come to Texas without eating steak.  And then there's grapefruit pie!  Since the Rio Grande Valley is the centre of the universe for growing ruby red grapefruit, it's only natural that someone should have thought to make a pie out of it.  It sounds awful but it's very, very good!

So now we’re all set up and ready to start our lives as “Winter Texans”. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

I'm baaaaaack!

Apologies to my readers – I haven’t blogged for months and I’ve been told to get back to it.  So here goes.

After our trip to Texas in September, I headed home to Vancouver for a couple of highly uneventful months.  One exception was the birth of my second great-niece, Summer (who was born in the Fall).  She's a cute little thing!

I should mention that, when I left, it had been raining heavily for days and there was talk of flooding.  Yikes!  However, I had to head home so I sealed the Beast up as much as possible and off I went.  It was nice to catch up with family and friends and really nice to get back to dancing.  I hadn’t realized how much I would miss it!

It turns out, though, that I missed sunshine even more so in mid-November I returned to Texas to find the Beast high and dry (thank heavens!).  This park has turned out to be great – people are super friendly, the place is very clean and it’s bursting with activities and events.  More to follow.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Don't Panic - It's Getting Better

This place is kind of growing on me.  The people are super friendly and there are going to be lots of activities once the winter season starts.

The lot we have is close to the pool, showers and laundry and all of them are spotlessly clean.  The owners are extremely friendly and have apologized profusely for the mess on our original lots.  Everyone has been very helpful and friendly and it sure looks like there is a lot to do.

Today, we went out to South Padre Island - fabulously beautiful.  Tomorrow we may go visit the USS Lexington - a WWII aircraft carrier.  Plus there's shopping, mini-putt and all sorts of other things to do around here.

I think this is going to work out just fine.

We Made It....but not where we expected

We arrived in Mission, TX which is part of McAllen, which is part of Pharr, which is part of Edinburg.  For all we know it's also part of Donna, Harlingen and Brownsville.

We pulled into the Mission Bell RV Resort and got to our assigned lot.  OMG!!!!  This was a dump - it didn't even look like a lot.  There were old hoses, broken concrete and tree branches all over the place, the lot looked more like a gravel pit than a gravel pad and the trailer next door had 3 foot weeds growing around it.  My sister's lot looked even worse - there was a huge tree stump right in the middle of where she'd have to park!  I took one look and said "no way"!  This is rated as the best in Mission, so I hate to see what's worse.

Anyhow, the managers took us to the Trade Winds (a sister RV park) across the road and, after saying no to lots where we'd have to back up AROUND palm trees that are right in the middle of the parking space, we found two lots that are close to the pool, the laundry, the showers and are also in pretty good shape.  We're now installed at the Trade Winds and will stay here for a little while.  It is extremely hot and humid and a bit windy.  The humidity and wind don't bother me so much but my brother is about ready to collapse.  He says the wind is the only saving grace.  So far, the people have been very friendly and helpful so there's hope.  I'll keep an open mind.I'm a bit worried about the winter since they say it only goes to about 60 and, with the wind, it'll be even cooler.  I predict I'll be on the move for warmer climes come January. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I Can Walk!!!

And walk and walk and walk.....

We arrived in San Antonio and immediately hit the pool....for 3 hours.  Even I find it hot so Prybar is just about dead from the heat and humidity. 

Please tell me these big snakes are extinct
Today, we took an 8 hour tour of the city.  This featured a walking tour of The Alamo, the huge Mission San Jose, a smaller and very impressive Mission Concepcion, a short visit to the Mercado to buy really good pastries, an uphill climb to go see sunken gardens and a stroll through a museum full of dead animals and memorabilia from equally dead cowboys and Texas Rangers, which was followed by a boat trip around the River Walk.

Snake Rattle Art
Mission Concepcion
San Antonio is a gorgeous city which really respects its history.   The sunken gardens were a bit of a disappointment because the ponds have been drained dry for maintenance.  In a couple of weeks, it'll be gorgeous - all limestone cliffs and walking paths.  For now, not so much.  We really enjoyed the Buckhorn museum with all sorts of exhibits, including very large rattlesnakes (dead) and pictures made out of snake rattles (also dead).

Inside Mission Concepcion
The River Walk tour is just as impressive as it was last Fall when RRR and I took it. 

After all that walking, we really appreciated the fact that the bus driver dropped us off right at the door to the RV!  We crawled in, jumped into our bathing suits and hit the pool.... but only for 2 and a half hours this time.  We're pretty tired.

All in all, a very enjoyable day!  Tomorrow is supposed to be 100 degrees out.  We may be in the pool a lot.
Along the River Walk

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Ayeeeeeee! Spiders and Gators and Lightning…oh my!

What a great day!  We‘re in Cajun Country -  Lafayette, Louisiana.  This morning we signed up for a 2 hour swamp tour.  While we were waiting, we peeked over the railing and there were three alligators just staring at the local cats.  When we got into the boat, we learned that everyone on board spoke French, with the exception of 4 German tourists up front.  What are the chances!?

Anyhow, off we went and spent two hours touring the local bayous.  Along the way, we spotted many gorgeous birds, lots of water plants, some way-too-large spiders and several gators.  You’d be floating along, minding your own business, and all of a sudden a pile of weed would start moving or there’d be a splash near the boat and there was a gator.  I for one became very  determined not to fall overboard.  The highlight was when we were heading back to the dock and a huge gator surfaced – easily 11 to 12 feet long.  Wow!

After the tour, we headed for Billy’s Boudin Balls where dozens of people were lined up waiting for Billy’s balls.  This had to be the busiest place in Lafayette – and it was so worth the wait!!!  They are delicious!!!  Definitely worth a trip back to Louisiana.

While we were eating, a violent thunderstorm blew in – lightning and thunder were shaking the building.  This was serious rain!  So we grabbed our balls, headed for the RV and spent a nice quiet evening watching TV.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Billy's Balls Are Made For Eatin'

We've had a slight change in the itinerary.  Instead of going to Houma, which is in the far south of Louisiana, we decided to come to Lafayette instead.  There appears to be more to do here - it's the heart of Cajun country.  Tomorrow we're heading for a 2-hour swamp tour and later on we're going to try Boudin at Billy's Boudin Balls.  We're going to try out our French on them and see who asks "quesay?" first.  (for you French-Canadians out there, I know it's spelled wrong - I'm hooked on phonics).

Boudin, in our family, was blood sausage which our mom forced us to try but never insisted that we eat regularly.  Out here, Boudin is a pork sausage.  The Cajuns are wimps, IMHO.

Tonight, we finally got to eat at The Waffle House.  There are more Waffle Houses here than there are Tim Horton's in Ontario!  It was okay - nothing to write home about but at least we finally got there.  Oddly enough, there were very few waffle combos on the menu.  In fact, we all had versions of patty melt with hash browns.  Oh well, that'll just rev up our appetite for Billy's Balls. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

I Could Really Handle Being Rich

Off we went today, to see more of Natchez' sites.  It's a great little town with lots to see and do.  We started with the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.  It was informative, there were some really nice woven items and pottery but there wasn't a lot of stuff to see on the grounds.  They were a 'mound culture' so everything they did was built on mounds and, when someone died, they burned the structures and added a layer of dirt.  Basically, the grounds are just a bunch of big grassy hills with a couple of grassy huts that look very much like the ghillie suit in my previous post.

Then we went to the Castle restaurant for lunch - it's a beautiful, elegant restaurant on the grounds of a gorgeous mansion which has been turned into a bed and breakfast (at $300 a night they must have a really great breakfast).  The lunch was excellent and really inexpensive.  The tour of the mansion was amazing.  There's a lot to be said for wealth - and I could so adapt to it.

After the mansion, we started wandering aimlessly around the town, stopping at "under the hill" to look at the riverboat/casino and then to the "Fork in the Road", where slaves were bought and sold.  We ended by stopping at a little house that was covered in trinkets (some might say garbage).  Kinda made me want to go home and start purging all the junk in the basement of the RV.

 Tomorrow we head for Bayou country.....aieeeeeeeee!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Natchez Average Town

We arrived in Natchez, Mississippi yesterday and have been having a wonderful time.  We’re actually staying at an RV park in Vidalia, Louisiana, which is just across the bridge from Natchez.  Gorgeous setting – right on the Mississippi river.  We can see all sorts of things just barging up the river.  There’s an old paddle wheeler moored just under the bridge.  Nui and MammaLou think the weather is perfect – hot and sunny, Prybar thinks it’s too hot.

The first thing we did was hit the pool, which was at a perfect temperature.  Apparently only Canadians swim at this time of year, though.  Nobody else goes near it.  Must be because the weather is so much cooler in the Fall.  Those crazy Canucks!

Mammy's Cupboard
Yesterday, we toured Frogmore, which is a working cotton plantation.  We took a tour through the old cotton gin, the slave quarters and the outbuildings.  It was absolutely fascinating.  We also had lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard which is a local icon.  The food was pretty good – the bread was home made and so was the soup.  This had to be the fastest service I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.  McD’s should take notes.

One interesting thing – we’ve noticed that we’ve been getting rain in the late afternoons.  A local told us that this is very common – the heat builds up during the day and by afternoon thunderclouds roll in.  We sat in the pool yesterday, watching lightning hit above the hills in Natchez….until someone pointed out that it might be wiser not to be sitting in water that close to a lightning bolt.  So we came home and spent a quiet evening, still recuperating from the cold.  Like they say…a summer cold is to have and to hold.

Slave quarters

Washing machine

On Friday, we’re touring a couple of antebellum mansions, a historic Natchez Indian Village and, of course, a souvenir shop.  Will report later.
Love the bath tub

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Prybar is such a sharing kind of guy

He has very generously shared his nasty cold with both MamaLou and me.  Lucky for us, we've decided to spend 3 nights in Natchez because there's so much to do here.  Technically, we're in Vidalia, Louisiana at a beautiful campground right on the Mississippi River.... River View RV. 

That will give us a bit of time to get over this bug.  Cough....hack....wheeze!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Did We Miss Something? Where'd Everybody Go?!

My car was hit by a rocket this morning!  Okay - it was a smallish rocket and it didn't do any damage but cool is that!  We're sitting here at the US Space and Rocket centre, right next to a huge model of the space shuttle.  There's even a space camp for kids - who get to shoot off little plastic rockets that bounce off total strangers' cars.

We drove through more rain yesterday to arrive at Huntsville, Alabama.  This morning, we took ourselves off to Cullman, home of the Ave Maria Grotto on Saint Bernard Road (or, as the GPS informs us, the "Avenue Maria Grotto, on Street Bernard Road).  You gotta love the people who program these things.  This is a spectacular little park, with dozens of replicas of famous church-y type things including a small scale model of Jerusalem.  There are also lots of little fairy castles and troll houses. I guess I missed that part in catechism class.  I kinda nodded off after all the begats.  If I'd known there were trolls, I might have paid more attention!

The rest of the day was spent lazily driving through downtown Huntsville, which was absolutely deserted.  I don't think we saw more than 4 or 5 cars and never did see a pedestrian.  We went to the Constitution Village museum which was open but featured only a bunch of empty buildings.  Not exactly inspiring stuff, so we had an iced cappuccino and left.  We then drove around on nearly deserted 4-lane freeways and almost empty mall parking lots.  It gives you a funny feeling.... like you're in one of those sci-fi movies where the city is deserted but then you find out that everyone lives underground and they are all transparent Cyclops with bad attitudes and a taste for human flesh.

We leave for Mississippi tomorrow...unless the one-eyed albino cannibals get us.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Flea Land and Fire Ants

We made it to Kentucky in time for torrential rains.  That’s the beauty of an RV…. You just sit there and push a few buttons and voila… instant set-up.  No need to get wet, unless something vital falls off your unit... like a jack spring.

The KOA we stayed at was a bit of a dump and our neighbours had a very yappy dog.  Given the volume of guns per capita (I estimate at least 9 per person, and that includes babies), I just can’t understand why someone hasn’t thought of shooting it.  But, they all seem to be pretty laid back here in ‘ol Kentuck….
It turns out that the trek to the Lost River Cave and underground boat tour would have involved rappelling down steep inclines worthy of a Sherpa guide.  Nui may be many things, but a billy goat she ain’t.  Also Prybar and Mamalou had already done a cave tour, so we cancelled that plan.  The Corvette factory tour would have been fun but we forgot to factor in that no one works on Sundays, so scratch that too.  But this was the weekend for a corvette anniversary event and there were lots of the little spiffy sport cars around, driven mostly by middle aged, balding men accompanied by women with big hair.

In the end, we decided to try geocaching (without much luck) and did some shopping at Camping World and Ganders which sells, amongst other things, guns and stuff that goes with guns and clothes that you can wear when you’re carrying a gun, including a full coverage suit made out of grass.  I’d be a little nervous wearing a grass suit in an area full of men drinking a lot of beer.  But I digress….
Parked right next to us were a couple of very impressive jets.  We have no idea why they were parked there, but they were cool so we took pictures.
Then off we went to Flea Land, which is a great flea market full of both new and used stuff and, of course, gun accessories.  We didn't buy much but it was fun just watching people trying to figure out what we were saying because our Canadian accent is so horrendous. We gave up trying to understand anyone after we left Michigan.

Then back to the RV where Prybar acted as natural bait to a colony of fire ants who seem particularly drawn to his white skin.  This took his mind off the fact that he developed a world-class head cold and can hardly get off the couch.  

Friday, 29 August 2014

A Spring In Our Step

Finally!  The Beast was brought in for repairs today and we took ourselves off to the RV Hall of Fame and then to Linton’s Enchanted Gardens.  The Hall of Fame is phenomenal and the tour was great.  We tried to get to Thor industries to watch an RV actually being made, but the tour wasn’t on until 3 pm.

After paying for the Beast’s facelift (all new springs and a camera that works, not to mention a generator that finally actually generates power to key appliances), we decided to start the trip South.  Tonight we’re at the Indianapolis KOA and tomorrow we head for Kentucky.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gosh, Just Gushing on Goshen

We had a bit of time to kill while the Beast sat neglected at MasterTech, with its springs still sprung and its monitors still dark.  Naturally, the only cure for this sort of thing was to eat something fattening.  So off we went to Goshen, Indiana and the South Side Soda Shoppe to sample at least one of their 50 pies.

It’s a great little place, in the middle of nowhere and the staff are very friendly.  They can’t seem to remember orders (Prybar is always the last to be served because they always forget to produce his order – in this case, a mug of chili).  We had our pie, which was very nice but not up to the standards that our father set over the years.  Still, dad didn’t have an old trolley car sitting next to the kitchen, so the SSSS is one up.

After a very tiring day, we again withdrew to the Beast for the night, listening to thousands of trains backing up.  It turns out that is what the noise really is.... A bunch of trains in a rail yard just up the road.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why I'm Putting a Curse on RV Repair People

We made it to Elkhart last night, driving through an impressive thunderstorm, and wheeled into MasterTech Rv just as it was closing. I had an appointment for Wednesday to have the engine air conditioning repaired. However, this was superceded by the broken jack and burned out back-up camera.

Naturally, they can’t just replace one spring, they have to do both. And, not surprisingly, they highly recommended that all four jacks be done. What the heck…. I know the others are just waiting to pop so I said go ahead. And while they’re at it, I told them to install a new camera.

Last night we slept on the grounds of the Rv repair shop, right next to what is either a thousand trains backing up all at once, every minute of the night – or a foundry that really really really needs to oil its machinery.

So today we got up at the crack of dawn (that’s Dawn, not Don), pried open our eyelids and headed off to Shipshewana by 10 a.m.  It turns out the Amish get up really early too – the place opens at 8. My brain is so addled from fatigue that, at one point, I even contemplated buying a puppy until I remembered that puppies are just very small dogs - and I'm a cat person. Anyhow, we spent several hours and lots of money, wandering up and down the rows of stalls, happy in the knowledge that the Beast was being repaired.

Nope – not so. We got back to find it sitting in the exact same spot as when we left it. But we were promised that we were going to be looked after first thing tomorrow morning. Uh huh… and apparently I can buy a bridge in Brooklyn for only $24.95!

We’re going out tonight to buy a voodoo doll and some pins. I have plans.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Puttin' Around in Michigan

We left on Monday, heading for Port Huron Michigan. Naturally, the back-up camera chose to stop working again – and no amount of new fuses is going to get it going. Poor Prybar also had to crawl under the Beast to manually push the jack (with the broken spring) up so we could travel. But, we managed to get under way and travelled the back roads to Sarnia with hardly a hiccup. We even managed to cross the border with no hassles. The twinkie in Seattle should take lessons. We arrived at the KOA in Port Huron Michigan, ordered pizza and firewood and went for a stroll, where we found an amazing mini-putt course and water bumper boats. One of us (I won’t name names but she sells Avon), didn’t want to get wet. So, we putted around for 18 holes. Although I lost miserably, I did manage to get the only hole in one of the game. Yay for me! I understand it’s tradition that I buy a round of beer for everyone but, lucky for me, they don’t drink.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Heidi Ho

Off I went to Orillia to meet up with Prybar and MamaLou, my co-travellers on the tour to Texas.  I dropped the Beast off at Heidi’s Campground, which turned out to be really nice.  My sisters camped next door to us in their RV, named Tony.  Naturally, it rained on Friday night so we played the effing game, but the weather cleared in time for us to pick up the Vancouver crew on Saturday.

On Sunday our brother from Sudbury also joined us and we had a very informal celebration of our sister’s 50th birthday.  We mcgyvered a cake out of 4 packs of goldfish pretzels wrapped in white tissue which was held together with blue electrical tape.  Prybar even cleverly made a bow out of the blue tape – very creative.  A nice lunch and an even nicer visit and then we started packing for the Texas tour.  It’s amazing how much crap accumulates when you’ve been camping for 3 months.  Oh well.

Of course, I couldn’t go 100 miles without something going wrong with the Beast and, sure enough, it did.  A loud bang and voila…. A spring from one of the rear hydraulic jacks just blew apart.  Naturally, no one could fix it.  Sigh….

Friday, 22 August 2014

Juneuary to Augtober

Ok – the summer sucked.  There is no way to sugar-coat it.  We had 5 days of sunshine in August, which was marginally better than July.  I had to go to Vancouver for a reminder of what summer felt like.  How weird is that!?

On the plus side, I enjoyed quite a lot of friend-time and had lots of visitors.  And we played a lot of that “effing game”.

If next year is like this, you’d better hide your goats…. And your virgins.  I’ve got the sacrificial altar all planned.

August 22nd was my final day at Grundy.  I got up early, packed the last bits into the Beast and put on my bathing suit for one last swim across the lake.  The gods had other plans.  It started to rain, then to rain harder and then they really let loose the torrents.  They also lowered the temps by 10 degrees.  After waiting for 2 hours, I gave up and drove away.  Goodbye Grundy!  See you next year. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

There's Another Hole in the World

We learned late last night that our cousin Brian (known as Bonhomme to everyone) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at home.  He was Road Rage Rita’s eldest child and he was one of my brother Gil’s (Prince Porketta) closest friends.  Bonhomme and Gil did everything together – most of it legal, some of it dangerous and all of it fun.  The two of them, and their friend Danny, were the Porketta Bingo kings!  I mean, how else do you spend an afternoon in Sudbury, right?

Bonhomme lived life on his own terms.  He long ago gave up the rat race and chose instead to live life as a bohemian – enjoying each day but never really planning for tomorrow.  Don’t get me wrong – he was a hard worker - but he never bought into the whole “white picket fence” dream.  He loved his family, adored his daughter and doted on his grandchildren.  His favorite expression was “party on, eh!”.  And he did just that!

Over the past couple of years, he endured both a hip replacement and, more recently, a knee replacement.  Although he was in a lot of pain, he never complained.  He was rough around the edges but he had a heart of pure gold.  All you had to do was ask for a bit of help and he was the first one there.

I suspect that somewhere in heaven there must be a Porketta Bingo game going on, and Prince Porketta and Bonhomme are sitting there with a big jug of beer, some sausages and great big smiles, waiting for the rest of us to come have some fun.
Party on, eh, Bonhomme!

Monday, 4 August 2014

What were we thinking!?

If you have lived in Vancouver for a certain time – in general less than half an hour – you know that there are some things you just don’t do on long weekends.  You especially don’t do those things on sunny long weekend Mondays, when the throngs that went to the Fireworks, Seafest and the Gay Pride parade all decide to cram a few last minute touristy things into their agenda.

L to R:  Tepaeru, Janiyah, Jedrick Donna, Mama,
Ngavaine, Tevii, Michelle and Anne 
One of those things is taking a group of 15 people to one of the major attractions in the city….the Capilano Suspension Bridge.   But, undaunted (motto:  who the hell needs daunts), we boarded our trusty vehicles and off we went to North Vancouver where it took 2 hours to find parking for a one-hour tour.  The pitifully inadequate parking lot was full to bursting and the still more pitifully inadequate staff were incapable of giving clear directions to the overflow parking (note:  it’s behind a big green plastic fence, just past Edgemont village).  But, after only an hour or so of standing in line, we made it to the bridge.

 Now, at the best of times, that bridge moves….a LOT.  When you add the weight and displacement of over 1000 people, it moves a WHOLE LOT.  I was getting seasick.  Some of the group took one look and went and sat down.  Others went shopping.  I don’t blame them.  I made it to the end of the bridge and turned right around – I figured it was only going to get harder from then on.  I wasn’t comforted by the sign that tells you that the bridge can hold 1300 people before the cables snap.  Which 1300 people?  How much do they weigh?  What if number 1299 is hefty?  Should we take ice cream away from the crowd before they get to the stairs?  One extra calorie might make the difference between just puking over the rail or free-falling without a parachute.  And if you’re going to limit the number to 1300, shouldn’t there be someone actually counting?  I’m pretty sure we were maxing out at one point.

Anyhow, we all made it out alive and went looking for lunch.  Oddly enough, every restaurant around the place was closed.  We wound up at a cafĂ© at a church just as they were going to close.  The poor server was plucky though and fed our group with whatever food she had left over.

Our next destination was Grouse Mountain, where we learned there was a 3-hour wait for the gondola. 

We just gave up and went home.  Sometimes, you just have to trust your instincts.




Sunday, 3 August 2014

Basset Hounds and Chihuahuas

Day 3 of the reunion started off reasonably well…. for all of perhaps 10 minutes.

I picked up one of the NZ crew and drove him downtown so he could rent an 8-seater SUV (even though there are 9 of them).   After standing in line for a half hour, we got to the counter only to learn that he had his wife’s Visa card and not his own because he lost his several weeks ago and never got around to replacing it.  The car rental people are funny about things like that…. Your visa card has to match the name on the driver’s licence.  There was no option but to rent the vehicle in my name, with my credit card (and hope to heck that they pay the bill at the end of the trip).  So now there are only 2 authorized drivers:  me and a New Zealander who has never driven on the right side of the road….. in Vancouver….. on the BC Day long weekend.

Then my friend advised that he had invited his sister for the week.  This sister has severe emotional problems, she’s a walking time bomb and she NEVER, ever ever shuts up, One wrong word or even a look can send her into hysterics.  Doctors take note – her medication isn’t working!  Triple the dosage already!!! 

So THAT was just what the reunion needed.  On the one hand, you have a group of people with little or no sense of urgency – sort of like old basset hounds resting in the sun.  On the other hand, you have a psychotic sister who is like a chihuahua on crack. 

And so we brought them all together with members of Paul’s dance studio for the official opening ceremonies for the reunion.  Of course, psycho sister began sobbing hysterically when she saw the Polynesians but, other than that, things went well.  She spent most of the evening alternately crying and railing about her terrible childhood.  Fortunately, the rest of the group were able to dilute some of the insanity pouring out of her and we had a good time.

My favorite part of the evening was when psycho sis introduced herself to the head of the Cook Islands contingent and told him she wanted to talk to him about the social problems on the island.  She has a theory that importing Mexicans to pick fruit will help revitalize the economy.  Pass the meds, please….and hurry!

Tomorrow should be interesting…. They have decided to go see the Capilano suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain on the hottest day of the year, and on the Monday of a long weekend.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Where the heck is everyone?

Holy crap it's hot!!! I wish we could get this weather in Ontario..... where at least we could be near a lake!

Day 2 of the family reunion dawned with me taking 3 of the NZ group from their hotel over to the 2400 Court motel, where most of the rest of the group is staying.

We had arranged to meet with the others at about 11:30 and then planned to show them around town.  Naturally, when we arrived, we found out that they were all gone.  The Aussie was supposed to have checked out of her room by noon but hadn't.  Meanwhile, the desk clerk assigned that same room to the newly arrived NZ crew.  This would have meant 3 large adults and one small child sharing a double bed in a non-air-conditioned room in the middle of a heat wave.  What really amazed me is that the Polynesians were all okay with that!

Luckily, a second room was found and the motel agreed to hold the other room until the missing Aussie was found.

We waited for over 3 hours for them to return and finally gave up and went home.  We learned that they finally showed up around 6 pm.  They had taken a bus into town, got lost, wound up in Stanley Park, hopped onto another bus, wound up in Chinatown and eventually made their way home. 

Sigh.....  did I mention that I need valium?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Hey Buddy....Got Some Tranquilizers?

I’ve always thought of myself as fairly laid back.  Oh sure, I get riled at rude people who play their music too loud on the beach.  Strangely enough, these are usually the same people who have dogs that bark non-stop.  Maybe it’s a genetic thing.  But most of the time, I just let people do what they want to do – mostly because I don’t give a darn.

So there I was thinking that I was just a sort of big old hippie, when the Polynesians blew into town for the Tavai family reunion.  They arrived on the August long weekend – the weekend when the Gay Pride parade was on, the finals for the fireworks competition and Seafest.   Now, they have had 4 years – FOUR YEARS – to plan for this vacation to Canada.

So here was my first lesson in what laid back really means.  The first to arrive flew in from Australia without telling a soul she was coming, other than the group that was flying in from New Zealand at the exact same time.  She sat at the airport from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and then STARTED GETTING WORRIED that no one was going to pick her up!!!  At that point, she facebooked someone who found out where the group was supposed to stay and managed, by some miracle, to get a room at the same motel.  This had to be the last room available in Vancouver this weekend.

We went to the airport to pick up the NZ group, who were surprised that the Aussie traveller wasn’t there waiting.  That’s when one of the NZ group disappeared, wandering around the airport and having the Aussie paged for an hour before we finally found someone on facebook who told us she’d gone to the motel on her own.  Several people then had to scatter around the airport to find the missing Kiwi.

Then off we went to the car rental counter because we were told that the family had rented a 15-seater van for the week.  Well, that was the second lesson on “laid back-edness”.  It seems that they INTENDED to rent a vehicle but actually hadn’t.  They were pretty surprised that it was going to cost $1500 for 3 days for the van so they decided to wait and trusted that we would get them to wherever they had to go.

It was about at this point that I realized that I really am not all that laid back.  My brain was frantically scrambling to figure out how we were going to get 12 people into 2 sub-compact cars. 

We ended up cramming as many as we could into my small car, grabbed a taxi for the others and off we went. We managed to get the group to the 2 different motels they had booked and finally met with the Aussie traveller who was surprised that we were surprised that she was here at all.

At the motel, we also learned that, because they had booked at the last possible second, the rooms were small, had only 1 bed and no kitchenette and, of course, no air conditioning.  Did I mention that Vancouver is in the middle of a heat wave?  And that there are going to be 3 or 4 to a room....with one double bed?

 But everyone got tucked in and tomorrow we’re relocating some of the NZ group to the motel that the others are already booked into.

 Meanwhile, I’m thinking of taking some valium.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

My Flashes of Brilliance Are Getting Dimmer

More like fireflies than fireworks.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to maximize my stay at Grundy while also going to the Tavai Family Reunion in Vancouver and taking a 5 day train trip back across Canada.  All of this is compounded by the fact that I also have to stay 5 months in BC for health insurance purposes and I also have to bring the Beast in to a service centre for much needed brake work.

I had a duh moment yesterday.   I had a 3 week block set aside for all this when, in reality, I only need a few days.  So I spent most of yesterday changing flight itineraries, cancelling train trips, and organizing the Beast’s spa day.  I leave Wednesday and will be back at Grundy by Tuesday afternoon.

So, with that all organized, a friend and I went shopping in the metropolis of Britt where you can buy tomatoes with only a few moldy spots on them and cans of Spam….and really, what else do you need at camp?  On the way, we stopped at the dump and found 2 very large black bears, one of whom growled a warning at us to stay away.  No problem!


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Virgins or Goats....Decisions Decisions

It has become apparent that the time has come to become proactive about this weather situation.  I'm pretty flexible when it comes to amusing myself during inclement weather.  Of course, I do exactly the same thing as I do during clement weather, which is nothing.  Still, I prefer to do my nothing when I'm sitting on a beach, basking in the sun.

Apparently the summer gods have decided to collude with Parks Ontario to install private swimming pools on every lot, in order to keep the lakes more pristine.  This would account for the torrential rains and the cold we've been having since early July.

The other possibility is that I have royally ticked them off by sneaking up through Ontario from the south end.  This caught them by surprise and it was almost 24 hours before they realized I was back at Grundy and they unleashed torrents of water.

Given my track record, I suspect it's the latter and so the time has come to start thinking about sacrificing something that will appease them.  Unfortunately, virgins are kind of thin on the ground.  On the other hand, I like goats and I'd feel really bad about beheading one, although I do have a really nice recipe for goat curry.  Decisions, decisions.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Hail Yeah!

It seems the weather gods are paying attention.  Apart from the fact that they inevitably cause temperatures to drop like a rock and rain clouds to open up as soon as I arrive in Sudbury, they also seem to have a soft spot in their hearts for me.  Or else they also hate the colour of my car.

How else can you explain that in the 14 years that I’ve owned Zippy (the green Echo), I’ve only seen one serious hail storm?  In the past 3 weeks, I’ve been through 3 and there’s another on the way.  The hope is that the car will get all dinged up, and I’ll be able to afford a paint job courtesy of my insurance.  I’m thinking of going green again – at least you can find the car in a parking lot.

And I’ve renamed the new car Ziggy.  It just fits.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A belated apology to Chevy

I wrote recently that the designers of the Sonic were a little short-sighted (I may have used the term moronic) when it came to designing the car.  When I was towing it, I was killing the battery because the car had to be turned on for my auxiliary braking system to work.  After 7 hours on the road, there wasn't much juice left in the battery.

Well, it turns out that there is a second adaptor which bypasses the battery and allows the car to be towed.  It would have been nice if someone had mentioned that to me at the dealership, but it just goes to prove the old adage... when in doubt, RTFM (Read the F***ing Manual).

Monday, 23 June 2014

We're Home!

What a gorgeous day for a drive.  We left Jellystone as fast as our little hydraulic jacks could clear the ground and headed for home.... I mean Grundy.  A little over 3 hours later we were installed on RRR's old lot - #224 - and saying hello to old friends who had already arrived.  We set up and sat outside battling hordes of friendly mosquitoes who also came by to say hi.  Thank heavens for ThermaCell mosquito repellent gadgets!  Set up was a breeze, and Nui even managed a swim in the lake.  Considering there was still ice on it a month ago, the water was surprisingly warm.

We spent a nice evening around the fire and then stayed up until nearly 2 a.m. playing "that effing game".

Naturally, the weather gods took note that Nui had arrived and today dawned with heavy clouds and the chance of rain.  This is so normal for Nui that it doesn't even bother her anymore.  It's just nature's way of saying that she has made it to Grundy.

Today, RRR is heading home where she will spend the rest of the week doing laundry.

It's been a hot, dusty trip but we still had fun between heat strokes.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Only in Toronto

The quick border crossing gave us plenty of time to criss-cross the backroads of southern Ontario to find Yogi's Jellystone RV park.  We had tried to get into the KOA near Bradford but were told that it was fully booked because of a DOG SHOW.  We thought we'd been through hell in El Paso..... we couldn't even imagine camping in a field full of dogs!

Jellystone is one of the best kept secrets in the Toronto area.  That's probably because they really don't want you to camp there.  That's pretty obvious because the only sign for the place is posted on Hwy 400 as you are driving away from it.  We were in the bush, no indications of where the park was when we saw a small little driveway with a huge red hump in the middle.  Red must be their color because we also noticed 2 red-leaf bushes almost fully concealing a sign that read....."ston.....R" .  We interpreted this to mean Jellystone RV.  We drove up a long gravel road, hoping that we wouldn't end up in a gravel pit.  We managed to find the registration desk and booked in at a whopping $81.00 per night!  This is double and triple what any other parks charge.

So you would think that this would be a nice park, right?  Wrong!  The first thing was that they put the heavy picnic tables dead in the centre of the lot so you can't drive in.  We had to ask for 2 men to come and remove it.  The hook-ups were on the wrong side of the coach - electric and water on one side and sewer on the other - very inconvenient.  Then off we went for a shower, which turned out to be down a very long, steep hill at the back of the main building.  The other showers were not hooked up yet (considering summer started that day, it might be time to turn on the water, don't you think?).  We asked for and were given a golf cart ride down to the showers and back, because there is no way we would have made it without getting hurt.

Off we went for a fantastic spaghetti and meat ball dinner at RRR's daughter's house where we had a wonderful time.  Nui's sister made the trip from Orillia and the four of us women just talked and laughed all evening.  Sharon's husband stayed in the corner fixing his fishing rods and then escaped to the bedroom early.  To be fair, he had a fishing tournament the next day.

Heading back to Jellytone in the dark was another adventure.  You would think that, for $81 a night, they could afford to light up their bushes and/or signs or even the corner of their driveway. Or maybe even just hang a balloon.  Nope - it was pitch black and there was no way of seeing the entrance to the park.  Fortunately, our trusty GPS told us we were there and we finally managed to spot the red hump in the middle of their driveway after driving by it 3 times.

Needless to say, we won't be going back and they are going to get a sharply worded letter from Nui.

Crossing the Border

RRR and Nui were anxious about crossing the border, because of the attitude of the previous border guard (the one with the IQ of lettuce).  We had a fair amount of liquor on board (hey - for $2.97 a bottle, who wouldn't buy wine at Walmart?) .  We had visions of them stripping the coach down to the newly installed power switch and then having us spend hours re-packing.  This would have been a problem because, between the two of us, we have about 50 packages of mashed potato mix, several bags of rice and lots and lots of processed meats that took hours to deploy equally throughout the fridge and pantry so the Beast would stay level.  But the border guard simply looked at our passports and waved us through.  We were back on Canadian soil and having to adjust to the metric system again.  The good news is that kilometers go faster than miles.

Of course, we no sooner made it into Canada when Nui's back-up camera on the Beast gave up the ghost.  It's amazing how necessary that thing is - so we now have to find someone who can fix it.   Does anyone know of any mobile RV service techs in Northern Ontario?

Friday, 20 June 2014

In the fine old Carrey tradition of crossing the border

The legend is told that the Carrey girls once crossed the border wearing identical bright red lipstick which they had bought in a bathroom vending machine.

Never ones to flaunt tradition, Nui and RRR prepared for the border....


PS  Everything is bigger in Texas

Shipshewana Showers (or OMG, it's Armageddon!)

One of our primary goals was to reach Shipshewana by Tuesday, because the flea market here is only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  We were in Shipshewana last year, to attend what they call the Midwest's largest open air flea market.  RRR was hankerin' (we've picked up some Texan on our travels) for some more blingy t-shirts - one in particular which was red and had some shiny trees on it.  Anyhow, we got started shopping around 2 p.m. and were told the market closed at 5 p.m.  Plenty of time for a few t-shirts and a couple of bottles of perfume for RRR's daughter!  Around 3:30 we noticed that many stalls were closing - in a hurry.  We were told that there was a severe thunderstorm on the way and the weather alerts had gone out to get under cover.  We just made it back to the car as the first raindrops fell.  The sky was green and black, huge thunderclouds were piled up, there were 60 mph winds, hail the size of quarters and enough rain to drown you while you were standing up.  In seconds the car was sitting in its own swimming pool.  The storm lasted about an hour and moved on and so did we.  The market was closed.

The good news is that RRR got her t-shirts and only 1 bottle of perfume.  But we consider the day a success.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

We have Power!

We made it to the KOA in Elkhart, figuring that we would be able to get a mobile RV repair service tech out to replace the burned out power transfer switch.  Elkhart, you should know, is billed as the home of America's largest RV repair service industry.  That may be.... but none of them are mobile!  Heck, even places like Van Horn and Effingham have mobile services!!!

Oh yes....and all the RV repair places were taking appointments for after July 4th - a tad inconvenient when you're planning on a 2-day stay.

Anyhow, we found Master Tech RV who replaced the faulty switch and also tightened the passenger side mirror.  This came as a huge relief to RRR who spent most of the trip from Effingham hanging out the window in 60 mph winds, trying to keep the mirror from blowing off.

While they were busy with the Beast, we took ourselves off to Linton's Enchanted Gardens - a combo garden centre and curio shop.  They had a huge collection of very colorful, very blingy stuff and we loved it.  Then off we went to the Old Bag Factory for a look at some of the most expensive quilts we had ever seen.  They were jaw-droppingly beautiful!  If it weren't for the fact that we refused to pay more for a blanket than we did for our mortgages, we might have bought some.  But still..... they sure were pretty.

Tomorrow we're off to Port Huron, our last day in the US for this trip.  It's been hot and kind of scary at times, but still lots of fun.

Effing Around in Effingham

Wow - we went almost 24 hours without a crisis!   On our last morning in Memphis, we noticed that the coach seemed a bit quiet.  Sure enough, all the electrical systems were out.  No power was getting into the coach at all.  This was a serious problem, since we both needed our morning coffee.

We had no choice but to pack up and move on, though, since we're on a schedule.  We wound up in Effingham (nice town - nothing to do - no attractions listed).  BUT we found a mobile RV Tech who came out that evening and wired us up enough to give us power.

It turns out that the guys who installed the main electrical panel in the coach graduated at the bottom of the class from the El Paso School of Road Maintenance (see previous post).  They put the panel in the only area in the coach that is guaranteed to be wet most of the time:  the area where the sewer and water connections are.  Needless to say, the system shorted out and voila..... $300 bucks later and we were sipping coffee thanks to a jury-rigged electrical outlet.

The fun just keeps on coming......

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Walking (well...Scooting) in Memphis

We got to Memphis in one piece (for a change) and set up in Marion, Arkansas which is not really Marion but Crawfordsville.  No wonder the poor GPS has fits.

Anyhow, we got on our trusty scooters and off we went to tour Memphis.  In 2 days we saw pretty much everything there was to see (sort of).  The highlight for us was the Crystal Grotto Shrine which is a man-made cave filled with semi-precious stones, located in a very nice cemetery.  It was absolutely amazing!   It's astounding what people will do with their spare time!

Then off we went to the Cotton Museum which was a bit pricey and a tad underwhelming.  There were bales of cotton, and a couple of videos on how cotton grows but that was pretty much it.  Maybe you have to be a cotton-picker to really appreciate it.

Then off we went to Beale Street where we managed to see the giant statue of Elvis.  Little did we know that this was the entrance to Graceland.  We didn't linger long on Beale - the noise levels were deafening and all it seemed to be were cafes and pubs.  No wonder people have guns down here - 5 minutes of that music and Nui started looking for an Uzi.  We don't know how people stand it - it's like everyone decided to play an instrument at the same time, all with different songs and in different keys. 

After Beale, we jumped in our car and headed off to Germantown to look for painted ponies.  There are 23 of them but all we found were about 8.  They are beautiful though.  On the way, we passed through the Victorian Village and saw the amazing houses there.  Forgot to mention that every time we crossed into Tennessee, we saw the giant pyramid - another thing on the Memphis list of things to see.

On Day 2, we were off to the Ornamental Metal Museum.  Again - fantastic.  We particularly liked the giant metal daffodil and the cattails at the entrance.  From there we were off to the Pink Palace which kept us pretty entertained for several hours.  There were fossils, rocks, giant working T-Rex statues, geodes, lots of info and displays on  civil war era life, medicine and dentistry and even a live exhibit of tarantulas (ugh!).  Fascinating place and we'd certainly go back. 

After that, we decided to go find Graceland, even though we weren't going to do the tour because it's far too expensive just to see some fat guy's clothes and furniture.  Besides, you
can't turn around in Memphis without seeing Elvis.  So our trusty GPS took us to Graceland which, it turns out, was just behind the giant statue of Elvis we had seen the day before.  Who knew!?  We never did get to see the outside.