Scooter racing

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

Monday, 8 August 2016

Not Quite Ready For The Olympics

As I have mentioned previously, it is vitally important that you keep your fluid levels up with an assortment of cold adult beverages, in order to avoid making bad decisions.  A sudden drop in liquid levels can therefore be the only explanation for our decision to buy inflatable kayaks.  It seemed like a good idea at the time:  according to the video, you just had to inflate them, hop on gracefully (and easily) and propel yourself with minimal effort through calm waters and let nature kiss your soul.

The first thing I kissed was the bottom of the lake when I did a faceplant into slimy, swampy water trying to get onto the kayak.   The thing they don’t tell you in the video is that the minute you put the kayaks in water, they move and not in any predictable fashion.  The end result was that I had to adopt the Nui Method of Kayak Embarkation:  rather than sitting gracefully and moving my legs into position, I just kind of fling myself backwards and hope that my butt lands somewhere near the seat.  Getting off the kayak is almost as difficult but by that point I’m usually already wet so it makes no difference.

Another interesting phenomenon we discovered was the Law of Suckage.  When you inflate the kayak, all the air going into the boats obviously creates a hole in the atmosphere, which can only be filled by having high winds blow non-stop for days in order to replace the air you’ve used.  This also explains why we were only able to use the kayaks about 5 times all summer – the high winds whipped up the lakes something fierce.   Plus, being inflatable, the winds make you feel like you’re riding a kite sometimes.  I mean, we were getting lapped by 5 year olds in those little hard kayaks, for pete’s sake.  Still, we looked cool!

We've decided that the Olympic Kayak team doesn’t have to worry about being replaced just yet.  But watch out next summer!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For....

It turns out that it's easy to say you'd like to go back to roughing it, given the reasonable expectation that it will never, ever happen.

I went from camping in a tent, to a 19 foot trailer, to a 28 foot trailer and then to the ultimate in grandeur (ok, ok....grandeur might be a bit of an exaggeration)....a 34 foot RV which is old,rickety and pre-dented.  I've always said, though, that I really missed camping in a tent.  Ummmmm....

Fast forward to the end of April in BC.  My brother - Rusty Lugnuts - and his wife - LouLou Lugnuts - decided rather suddenly that it was time to downsize from a home to a condo.  Now, normally, you would expect that the buyer (the Lugnuts) would go to the seller (Yorkside) and say that they wanted to buy a condo.  At that point, they would look over the models, pick a suite, pay a deposit and exit happily on their way to Dairy Queen for a sundae in celebration.  You would be wrong!

Yorkside told people that they would open pre-sales on May 7th but, before that date, anyone interested in buying had to line up outside the sales office for pre-buying pre-sale pre-sales.  You got it - anyone interested in even potentially buying a suite had to line up 24/7 outside the sales office, get a number (the Lugnuts got #30) and wait for 10 days for the real pre-sales to open up.

Now anyone with half a brain - or at least a bit of common sense - could see the stupidity of this plan.  Or maybe the brilliance - after all, it generated a lot of publicity and even TV and newspaper articles.  To be fair, the TV and newspaper articles intimated that it was a ridiculous way to sell condos, but still....  On top of that, the developers chose to feed all of us dinner AND give us $100 in gift certificates every single night - all while saying that they couldn't understand why so many people would line up for pre-sale pre-sales.

And so it happened that I wound up outside the pre-sales office, prepared to camp out for the cause.  The first night I brought my air mattress and 2 thin afghans..... I'd forgotten that 99% of my blankets were in the RV, in Ontario.  Lucky for me, the temps were reasonably mild and it wasn't raining, for a change.  So, for the first time in my life, I slept outside with a bunch of strangers, a bunch of dogs, and several porta-potties on a busy street in Langley.  The next night, we got a tent which, at that point, looked like the height of luxury.

Although it was a stupid way to sell condos, the truth is that it was a lot of fun.  And, you know what, I still miss camping in a tent.   But, just in case, I'll keep the RV handy.

The best part is that the Lugnut family got the suite they wanted and will be moving in to their new condo in about a year!  Yay!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

WTF!??? Snow in Mid-April

Last year, we got back to Orillia on April 7th, only to have snow and freezing rain hit us the next day.  It had been so cold that Jackie's water pipes were still frozen.  So this year, we decided to delay our return by a week and guess what?! fricken' snowed in Indiana and there's a winter advisory for Flint Michigan, our next stop.  I always swore I would never see snow again after I retired.  So much for that prediction.   I managed to avoid having to drive in it (so far) but we did hit fairly heavy rain today between Indianapolis and Angola.  On the plus side, it did clear a few bugs off the windshield.

All I can say is that the idea of sacrificing a virgin to the weather gods is looking like a pretty reasonable alternative right now.

Next year, I'm not coming back until June.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

I May Have to Rethink Some Eating Adventures

I've written about eating tripe (urk!) and boudin (yum!) and crawfish (jury's out), but I didn't tell you about some of our other culinary excursions.

In Yuma, one of the grocery stores featured yogurts with flavours such as Pineapple Kiwi Spinach and Blueberry Cucumber.  Naturally, I bought everything they had including Dark Cherry Beet, Lemon Zucchini and Spiced Apricot Butternut Squash.

 Let me just say, for the record, that ALL of these are a very bad idea.  I tried the first two and just about gagged.  I couldn't even face the other ones.  I opened them up, took one sniff and tossed them into the trash.  I know you're supposed to eat vegetables and all, but, quite frankly, I'd rather risk scurvy than dip into these again.  They even made tripe look good.

So, not to be outdone, my two sisters prepared a little taste testing event last night featuring pop (aka soda) they picked up in Tennessee or possibly Mars.

The first one (Sample A) smelled like old shoes and didn't taste a whole lot better.  The second one (Sample B) tasted like something you would pour on pancakes, only sweeter and wetter.  Sample C seemed okay at first, once you got past the gag reflex.  However, it definitely had an afterburn that was reminiscent of that feeling you get when you kind of puke but don't quite get there.  The final one (Sample D) was bright green and smelled like a combination of mouthwash and old dusty books.  That same old book taste lingered for quite awhile.  ALL of the samples were thrown out the Beast's window in very short order.  Want to know what we were drinking?

Sample A:  Ranch Dressing soda
Sample B:  Maple Bacon pop
Sample C:  Buffalo Wing pop
Sample D:  Cucumber soda

Kind of makes me crave a big glass of milk and a bologna sandwich.

Anyhow, we said goodbye to the girls last night.  They are off to Michigan for some final RV repairs.  We are off to Flint, Michigan and then home to Sudbury.  Sudbury....where it snowed 30 cm in the past two days.  yay

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Vicksburg....drop everything and go there

For the first time, we have turned north.  Our path took us to the town of Vicksburg, which was a huge civil war battle site and is now home to half a dozen casinos and one huge riverboat.  What a gorgeous town!  Everywhere you look there's a mansion or a statue or a mural or a cannon or ironwork decorations or cobblestone streets.  We spent 3 days there and I plan to spend a whole lot more time in the Fall.

The mansion tours just about did RRR in:  she had said, just the day before, that she should be walking more.  Be careful what you ask for!!!  And, for some odd reason, people in the 1800s really liked stairs..... a lot!  It must have been so they could make grand entrances in their hoop skirts.

RRR was not thrilled with the mansions - she felt they needed a good cleaning.  The first one was a "town house" and was actually quite small (and a bit dingy) although it did feature a hand-crafted carpet done in petit-point (check out the photo).

 The second one - Cedar Grove - was gorgeous.  It also featured a canonball from the civil war, which was lodged in the wall.

The colours were amazing - one room was done all in Wedgwood Blue, another was dusty rose, another was forest green.  There was even a pink Lalicque chandelier and a piano that was valued at $1.5 million.  Even more impressive was a huge safe that sat in the formal dining room:  it looks just like a buffet table, but was actually a 3000 pound safe that the owner used to hide his valuables when the Union army commandeered the house as a hospital.  No one ever guessed that the side table hid all of his money.  I was so busy kicking it (they said we could), that I forgot to take a photo.

One interesting thing I learned about was the paintings which you see everywhere:  they are usually of little kids in very uncomfortable looking clothes that no parent in his/her right mind would ever dress them in.  It turns out that, because of the bad winters, painters would paint a selection of bodies in various costumes and with various backgrounds.  Then, in good weather, they would travel to wealthy homes and people would pick out their favorite outfit and the background and the painter would just paint in their faces and hands.  This led to some weird combos:  in this case, there is a painting of a little girl but the face and hands are those of a much older woman.  It's kinda creepy.

 Also creepy was the doll museum..... it's kind of unnerving to have all these little eyes staring at you everywhere you turn.  My favorite was the X-files Barbie and Ken.  I had to have that picture.

And just across the street was the Coca-Cola museum where I spotted a Jabba the Hutt lunchbox.  What little kid wouldn't like to bring that to school!?

All in all, Vicksburg is a memorable place.  I really need to spend some time there to indulge my interests in the civil war era.  The place just drips with history!!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Aiyeeee......dat's good eatin'

Getting ready for Mardi Gras
We headed for Louisiana a day early in order to beat what the weatherman said were severe thunderstorms.  I guess it's true what they say:  little boys who lie grow up to be weathermen.  Except for one short bout of rain (we weren't even home), there was nothing.

 Anyhow, made it back to Lafayette and immediately started looking for Billy's Balls.  This is the Boudin capital of Louisiana and everyone sells them, along with cracklins (fried pig skin) and crawfish (mudbugs).  Boudin are pork sausages but Billy makes them even better by stuffing them into balls and deep frying them.  RRR really didn't like them but I think they're worth a trip to Louisiana whenever you can get there.

We also took a tour of the oldest rice mill and saw how rice was produced.  Very interesting and lots of fun rice products to look at.

We toured Vermilionville, which was the original Acadian settlement.  This place was amazing.  They had people in period costume, artisans sculpting wood, people in the smithy and a woman who showed up how to clean, card and then spin cotton into thread.  It was a really interesting afternoon.

The best, though, was Champagne's Swamp Tour.  We spent 2 hours on the boat and saw some amazing sites: birds, bugs, turtles, little alligators and some huge 'gators.  This is my second time on the tour and I'd go again - it is so beautiful!


Last stop was Avery Island, where they produce Tabasco Sauce.  Also a very interesting tour, lots to see and the Jungle Gardens are amazing.  We got 3 little tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce when we registered:  for me, that's a lifetime supply.

Of course, I couldn't leave Louisiana without trying crawfish.  At Avery Island, I had a big dish of crawfish etouffee (that means stuffed or choked - which would be nearly impossible, given the size of the mudbug).  Anyhow, it turns out that they are delicious..... much better than tripe (thank gawd).  It's sort of like shrimp, but with a swampier taste.  Another reason to come back to Louisiana.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Oh Cripe.....Tripe!

View of the restaurant from the boat
We got to San Antonio and did (or tried to do) all the usual San Antonian things….we again took the boat through the River Walk (always fun) and wound up eating at the oldest Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, which had really good food. We tried to get to the Japanese Tea Garden but couldn’t get near the place because it’s right near the zoo and this was a) Easter weekend and b) school break.  Not a chance of getting a parking spot.  

She forgot to bring her insulin :-)

We went to Gruene (pronounced Green) to look for the old German town but all we found was an old German bakery with what turned out to be old German bread.  We even went to Buc-Ees and drooled over their wall of candy and had some ice cream dots.

Of course, we had to go see a Mission (I’ve been in more churches in the past 6 weeks than I have in the past 50 years). 

After that, we all felt the need for ice cream and the GPS led us to a funky little ice cream shop that mercifully had no children in it.  There was a big sign out front announcing the availability of “fresh Menudo”.  Being naturally inquisitive, we asked what it was and the lady told us it was beef tripe in a spicy tomato sauce, which is very VERY popular with anyone who has a hangover.  Unfortunately, she was sold out.  But, as luck would have it, she had a little bit left over in her fridge and she very kindly warmed it up for us and brought us a bowlful with 4 spoons.  Floating in the bowl was an oily red sauce with pieces of a rubbery grey substance (which turned out to be tripe), a greyish-brown gelatinous something attached to a bone (which turned out to be pig’s foot) and some white fatty-looking blobs (which turned out to be hominy) It’s hard to describe the aroma:  probably the closest would be the smell you get from a baby’s diaper first thing in the morning.  And that kid has been sick!

Anyhow, Jackie and I tried a spoonful and I’m proud to say we didn’t hurl.  Carm just about tossed her cookies when she poked at the bony thing.  Auntie Rita just said no.  I almost gagged when I bit into the white hominy blob….. bad idea.  After a minute, the lady told us we weren’t eating it the right way – it was better with lime.  It really wasn’t. 

What we can’t get over is the fact that she was sold out of Menudo, which means that she either makes minute menudo batches or else there are a lot of very hungover Mexicans living in the area.  And believe me, you’d have to be really hungover to want to eat that stuff.

We tried, we really tried….but I think Menudo is off the Menu for now.
Full moon over the campground

Friday, 18 March 2016

My Kind of Snow

We stopped for a couple of days in Las Cruces, New Mexico and went to the White Sands Monument.  I’ve driven by this several times but always figured it was a statue to some local Native Chief or something.  Nope!  This monument is actually hundreds of miles of pure white gypsum “sand” that looks and feels like flour.  It is stunningly beautiful and absolutely amazing.  The kids were sledding down the slopes as if they were on snow.  Naturally, I threw myself down and had to make a “snow angel”.  The sand is amazing – it doesn’t stick to anything, not even hair (good thing too).  Just a couple of inches below the surface, the sand is ice cold.  What is even more amazing is that the temperature jumps about 12 degrees the minute you leave the park!  All that white stuff just sucks the heat out of the air.

I’m definitely going back there again!

From Las Cruces, we made 2 overnight pit stops in Van Horn, Texas and then Ozona, Texas.  Not much ot report from either place.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Maoris, Minis and Missions

On our last day in Apache Junction, we went to the Aloha Festival in Tempe.  Wow!  Picture thousands and thousands of people, dozens of vendors, food carts, arts and crafts and 3 big stages with all sorts of Polynesian dance happening.  It was excellent, although slightly psychotic.  Some of the acts were excellent; others should really think about switching halaus.  It was a lot of fun but there weren’t a lot of photo ops.  I would certainly go back.

Our next stop was Tucson, where we visited the “Time Machine Miniature Museum”.  Holy cow was this excellent!  We could have spent 2 days in
there.  The level of detail was incredible.  We saw dolls whose faces were made from a single grain of wheat.  There were other dolls made out of bread dough and others out of corn husks.  It was amazing and pictures don’t do it justice.

We then headed for yet another Mission (note to travellers: Arizona has 3 main tourist attractions:  cactus, rocks and Missions).  This one was to Saint Xavier and featured, for some reason, a replica of one of the Saint Francises (Franci?) laying in a glass coffin with holy medals pinned to his shirt.  No explanation of why or, for that matter, who this guy was.  There was also a great big statue of another guy wearing a black chef’s hat and wearing a large chili pepper emblem over his chest.  I’m figuring he was the patron saint of kitchens but darned if anyone could tell me who he was.  Still, it was an impressive old place, for a church.

And that was it for Arizona…. We’re heading east and then north from now on.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Boating in the Desert

Yup - that's what we did.  Right smack in the middle of nowhere is the gorgeous Canyon Lake.  When I say middle of nowhere, you have to kind of work to get at it.  What they don't tell you when you reserve the Steamboat ride is that you have to negotiate miles and miles of narrow, hairpin turns up and then down a mountain, with few if any guardrails to stop you from plunging 2000 feet into cactus fields.  Not that you would care about the cactus at that point.  The views, on the other hand, are breath-taking!

We were told to quit driving after Tortilla Flat because "the road gets really scary"!  Holy cow!  If it got any scarier, they'd have to have outhouses on every corner!

The boat tour is 1.5 hours and very informative.  The highlight was when we stopped and spotted about 2 dozen bighorn sheep up on the cliff tops.  Amazing sight!  They told us that, on occasion, one will miss his footing and fall into the lake.  Luckily for them (and us), that didn't happen.

Poor RRR nearly died on the trek to the boat - very steep ramp and lots of walking (be careful what you wish for, we told her).  They very kindly gave us a wheelchair to get her back up the hill.

After that, we decided to negotiate another steep, windy road to go to Tortilla Flat (Population: 6) for ice cream.  Then a butt-clenching trip up and down the curves, with the sun rapidly setting.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!  Great Day!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

OMG! You Have to See Sedona

We took off bright and early (for us) and drove 2.5 hours north (or possibly east) to Sedona, which is one of AZ's best keep secrets.  In fact, they keep it so secret that they don't even put up road signs to tell you that the town exists or where it is.  You have to keep going up and down mountains until you find the place, but when you do.....WOW!

The Red Rock Desert is stunningly beautiful.  The town of Sedona is cool - lots of little shops, lots of art galleries and lots of curio shops.  We opted for a bus tour to see a chapel (for the record, I'm not turning into a religious nut - it just happened to be where the tour went.) The views were amazing!

RRR learned that you have to be careful what you wish for.  As we were heading out, she said she wished she could get motivated to walk more.  When we got to Sedona, she got her wish.  We had to walk several blocks to get to the bus stop and then she walked through several stores.  We threatened to put horse blinkers on her so she wouldn't buy more earrings.

We ended up at the Barking Frog restaurant, where we had many firsts:  RRR tried bison chili, I tried frog legs (I had to, didn't I?) and we all tried cactus fries made with nopales cactus.  They were good, kind of like zucchini sticks, but the prickly pear sauce they came with was to die for!

We barely scratched the surface of what to do in Sedona.  We are definitely going back!

Lucky for RRR, it was dark when we left and she slept all the way home so she didn't miss much.  Exercise will do that to you :-)