Goodbye Niagara on the Lake.

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”Oprah Winfrey

Our days in Niagara seemed to fly by.  The pursuit of replacement bicycles (see earlier blog – “And Everything Had Been Going So Smoothly..”  ) resulted in some pleasant drives around the area. The cool beverages on the patio helped beat back the 35C temperatures, the amazing food created for every meal put our calorie intake over the top, the ladies created some beautiful cards and other crafts and well, MK and I enjoyed more cold beverages as the ladies were creating. Another great Niagara visit capped off by a “nothing special” breakfast of sliced meats from that excellent butcher, Niagara fruit and berry preserves, an amazing variety of breads, a selection of cheeses ranging from gouda, camembert and other mild and medium selections all the way to that “really stinky stuff” that requires years of nibbling to get used to. Oh, and did I mention several egg dishes, cooked meats, juices, fresh coffee???  With that familiar feeling of  “Man I ate too much…..but was it ever good!” we headed out to contemplate the exit from our campsite.  (see earlier blog-“Niagara on the Lake-Our Paradise”)  I know what was on everyone’s mind: 3 ½ hours to park it, how long will it take to get out?  What damage will be done this time?  Will tensions go over the top between Brian & Deb?  But!….planning is everything. While that amazing farewell breakfast was being prepared, I spent time, all alone, sizing up the trees, the bridge, that $#@% sloping driveway and all of my other demons.  Realizing I couldn’t be seen from the house, I hooked up the 5th wheel and put the truck in gear.  Inching slowly ahead, cautious of all of those obstacles (and undistracted by well meaning instructions) I got the rig out to the road with only one (OK, two…might have been three at the most)  stop and reverse adjustments. Maybe Deb was right after all when a few days earlier she suggested that, once we finally had it in the proper spot, we take a bit of time to ensure we could juggle it out again.  Without duplicating our 3 ½ hour performance.  And so, it was with great pleasure that I watched those looks of concern on our friends faces transform into pleasant surprise as we walked around the house and gazed at our rig, sitting on the side of the road, ready to deliver us to our next adventure!

A cool drink on a hot, hot afternoon.

A cool drink on a hot, hot afternoon.

Daquiries with fresh Niagara berries - Refreshing!

Daquiries with fresh Niagara berries – Refreshing

Cheeses of the world

Cheeses of the world, served right to our table.

Fresh picked tomatoes, garden fresh basil

Fresh picked tomatoes, garden fresh basil

A master card creator shares her secrets with Deb.

A master card creator shares her secrets with Deb.

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Spoiler alert!

‘You got to know when to hold ’em,  know when to fold ’em’  ~ Kenny Rogers

For those who have been wondering, we are home. My blog updates did not suddenly end due to some unforeseen calamity. Deb continued to exhibit phenomenal patience in the face of her 24/7 exposure to me within the confines of our RV home. The fact is, writing a blog while in the midst of the adventure just wasn’t working for me.  Oh…and did I mention I possess a natural propensity for procrastination?

Anyway, we arrived home safe and sound a week or so after (Canadian) Thanksgiving. Politics and Mother Nature conspired to cut short our travels.  We had hoped to spend some time in Montana’s Yellowstone National Park then journey farther south to Utah’s Arches National Park. Unfortunately our American neighbours decided to shut down all parks and most other tourist related services to illustrate just how serious their ‘debt crisis’ really was.  Then, the BC temperatures plummeted below freezing and the snow started piling up in the mountain passes. I felt a sense of doom starting to cloud my Adventurous zeal.  Speaking to a fellow Adventurer in mid October who described the collapse of his tent under the weight of snow and snow induced closures on the Montana highways didn’t help. Common sense, or more accurately Deb’s common sense dictated that we just pack up and head home. Get out while the going was (more or less) good. So we took off, just ahead of snow warnings and other crappy weather forecasts.  Made it back to Timmins with enough time to get the trailer winterized and stored before winter really set in.  Then we spent the next few weeks fulfilling our plans to end our Adventure by visiting the kids in Ottawa and Essex…without the 5th wheel.

Now comes the time to enjoy one of life’s true pleasures.  Relaxing in front of the fireplace, looking through our many photos and reliving over and over our first great RV adventure. So many good memories, so many incidents that now bring a smile.  So many good stories to capture in writing and share on my blog.

Stay tuned…..

Snow Capped Mountains - beautiful to look at, not much fun to drive through!

Revelstoke, British Columbia
Snow Capped Mountains – beautiful to look at, not much fun to drive through!

Niagara on the Lake – our Paradise

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” ~ Tim Cahill

During our university years we often visited the Niagara area. Orchards, vineyards, old estate homes, historical sites – how could we not fall in love with it? We often dreamt of a retirement there, perhaps cultivating some land? operating a little fruit stand at the end of the driveway? Over the years that dream began to fade however our love of the area did not.  How fortunate that 10 years ago, our good friends purchased a country home in the midst of a large Niagara on the Lake (NOTL) peach orchard.  We have shared so many great times with them, how could we not make their home our first major stop?  Besides, with many years of RV travel under their own belt, we looked forward to showing off our rig and taking in any advice they offered. Little did I realize just how much advice I would be receiving!

"Isn't it great that we got these 2 way radios honey? Otherwise we'd be yelling at each other by now"

“Isn’t it great that we got these 2 way radios honey? Otherwise we’d be yelling at each other by now”

Nothing bursts the confidence bubble of a rookie RV driver quicker than trying to maneouver into a tight, almost impossible parking space.  It seemed so simple! Circle around at the end of the road, back down the driveway no more than 50 feet, hang a tight right then level off, disconnect and crack open that long anticipated cold brew.  “Simple is as simple does! I soon realized however that I was not attempting something simple and straightforward.  A narrow driveway with a sharp slope on each side, a short, narrow bridge just prior to the sharp turn, large, beautiful walnut and pine trees hanging majestically along the drive:  a driver (me) with perhaps 3 backups under his belt = a recipe for disaster.  A 3 1/2 hour disaster as it turned out. Oh, did I mention the temperature was in the high 30’s?

Almost There!?

Almost There!?

Did I mention the ‘comfort’ of having 3 people whom I love dearly all placed at different spots calling out instructions and encouragement? Did I mention Deb’s idea of using 2 way radios so she could direct me? Did I mention her calls usually came through my radio as bursts of static? Anxious, frustrated, fed up sounding bursts of static? Fortunately my responses were not coming through either.  Apparently when one presses the “Call” button it comes through the receiving party’s (ie Deb’s) radio as an irritatingly loud Beep!  Proper etiquette dictates that the Talk button should have been pressed but what do I know? Oh, and did I mention that we finally did get it parked and levelled?  And those long overdue cold brews sure taste good.

      Front Yard Campsite All settled in amongst the beautiful flowers and bushes, shady walnuts and pines. The parking ordeal now a distant, almost fond memory.

Front Yard Campsite
All settled in amongst the beautiful flowers and bushes, shady walnuts and pines. The parking ordeal now a distant, almost fond memory.

Summertime in Niagara

     Ripe peaches waiting to be picked.

Ripe peaches waiting to be picked.

Always something in season.  Eating a peach fresh off the tree is a treat to the taste buds. Berries, apples, cherries, pears – tastes beyond compare!

Picking blackberries was a daily routine – they just keep ripening.

A bumper year for peaches

A bumper year for peaches

Peaches picked and ready to go.

Peaches picked and ready to go.

Wandering through the orchards at harvest time – sounds of the Jamaican and Mexican migrant workers calling to each other, shouting out jokes, singing and always a lot of laughter.  The NOTL ‘Ferrari’, bombing through the rows of trees, dropping off baskets, picking up produce or getting the guys back to the bunkhouse on time for lunch and some R&R.

The NOTL Ferrari - distinctive styling, utilitarian and an adventure to ride.

The NOTL Ferrari – distinctive styling, utilitarian and an adventure to ride.

Lunch Time!

Lunch Time!

Out and About

Olde Towne - historical buildings, beautiful gardens, shops & restaurants

Olde Towne – historical buildings, beautiful gardens, shops & restaurants

Niagara Falls – tacky tourist attraction but still so awesome.

  Cabernet Franq grapes

Cabernet Franq grapes

Beautiful old estate homes

Beautiful old estate homes

Acres of Vineyards, dozens of wineries, most offering interesting tours, generous samples and great prices.

Acres of Vineyards, dozens of wineries, most offering interesting tours, generous samples and great prices.

Economics 101 – Retirement Style

adventure:  ad-ven-ture(s); \adˈvenCHər\  – an enterprise involving financial risk

Do economists (and politicians) have any idea of the chaotic adventures they create for the rest of us as they decide it is time to devalue/inflate our currency, increase/decrease trade or investigate/deny the existence of gasoline price fixing by the big oil companies?  Juggling all of the financial factors that might impact plans for long term travel is an adventure in itself.  Not a productive or pleasant adventure to embark upon but something that we found ourselves in the midst of while making our plans.  Then it dawned on us.  In our particular micro economy, travel is the good we wish to consume.  Fuel and maintenance are the primary variable costs.  We simply needed to adjust our decision making to a basic equation (no economic theory is without an equation) then apply that equation to our lifestyle.

Where:

T =  100 km units of RV travel

F =  Fuel consumption = ~20L per 100km (our running average so far)

M= Maintenance = $ .05 per 100km (a complete guess with very little basis to reality -Wow, now I really sound like an economist!)

$$ = average diesel cost per litre = $1.50 (actually our range so far has been $ .95 in North Dakota to $1.38 at Lake Louise.Like a good politician however, I have built in a healthy cushion so my results at the end of the trip will exceed expectation)

Juggling all of these factors we realized that it should cost us approximately $30.00 for each 100km we travel.  NOW we had a solid basis to budget for our travel adventures:

“Should we buy that lawn furniture for $300?  Or would we rather travel to Muskoka and back?”

“Do we order Chinese or bank a couple hundred KM towards next year’s big trip?”

“Does she stock up on that seasonal Keurig Winter Carnival coffee or………  OK, some things really are as enjoyable as travel!

Like all economic theories, I realize that ours has its flaws and shortcomings.  But, so do the theories of those famous economists and politicians and look how far it has taken them!  Time to pull out the atlas and check the piggy bank.

30 per 100km

Economics 101
$30 = 100km

And everything had been going so smoothly…

adventure:  ad-ven-ture(s); \adˈvenCHər\  – a bold undertaking in which hazards may be encountered

Our first stop, a mere 2 hours into the journey was of course to say Adios to Mom and Dad. When Dad retired some 25+ years ago they decided that RV travel was something they might enjoy.  From their first trip to Vancouver’s Expo ’86 in that Volkswagon Camper Van  through many more journeys over the years in many different RV’s, their adventures have always inspired us.  Pulling up to their home on our Day 1 just as that Volkswagon had pulled up to our home on their Day 1 back in 1986 – one of those amazing circles of life that added much to our appreciation of the adventure we were undertaking.

Leaving New Liskeard

Leaving New Liskeard

New Liskeard

“Don’t those bikes look well secured to that RV!?”

After nods of approval over the way we had set things up and of course a few (actually many) photos snapped by Dad, we were off.  Shortly afterwards we cruised through Temagami, Ont. and began to appreciate the changing scenery.  Massive red and white pines towering over the highway, sparkling lakes and beautiful granite rock formations were all indicators that we had left our home area and were truly on our way.  Then we heard it, or at least each of us thought we heard something.  Almost the sound of a faint rustling in the back seat, but too faint to be sure,  Then confirming with each other that yes, there had been an odd sound. Then, was that it again?  Better pull over and check things out.  Stepping out of the truck I had a brief moment of panic as the smell of burning rubber hit me.  Visions from years ago of a trailer ahead of us on Hwy 400, one seized wheel pouring black smoke and molten rubber before finally bursting into flames. But luck was on our side…sort of. No flames, just the spectacle of our bicycles bent and twisted after being dragged down the asphalt highway, likely for at least 10km!  The bumper of our RV as it turns out did not have the strength to support a bike rack complete with 2 bicycles.  A bicycle dragged at high speed along an asphalt highway evolves into a curious looking item.  Seat worn smoothly in half, handlebar ground down to a 3 inch stub, rims worn off, frames decorated with molten tire specks – looked like the work of a mad artist armed with a grinder.  What else could we do but laugh as we separated the carnage.  Anticipation of trying out that shiny new bike suddenly shifted to comical visions of that battered contraption careening down the trails.  Something those cool mountain bikers had never seen before, even in their trendy magazines!  We loaded the pieces into the RV, put the truck in gear and headed off towards our next adventure.

Crumpled Bikes

 

Ready….Set……….

adventure:  ad-ven-ture(s); \adˈvenCHər\  – an unusual or exciting experience or activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory. A bold, usually risky undertaking with an uncertain outcome.

The idea of heading out in the RV with no fixed destination or time frame really began to take hold as the retirement countdown changed from years to months to weeks.  After factoring in some decompression time at the cottage, family visits and household chores, mid-August started looking like the perfect time to embark.  Soon August 18 was circled on the calendar with permanent marker.  After a successful trial run in July we felt we had things mastered and the RV more or less outfitted for a long journey.  As the magic date approached however those ‘minor details’ developed into a never ending checklist of critical pre-launch tasks.  Arrangements to watch the house,; update the security system; install the bike rack(more about that later), harvest the vegetable garden; figure out a system to keep cupboard contents from tumbling etc were compounded by unanticipated events.  A warranty issue on our new truck kept it tied up for over a week; a momentary lapse of caution (I experience that quite often!) led to the need to replace our tailgate; social commitments that made sense when we booked them suddenly loomed as barriers to having everything done on time.  But, after a near all-nighter August 17, we did in fact hitch up and head out on August 18.  Excitement,  some trepidation, fatigue and heady anticipation all blended into a caffeine fuelled  mix of emotions as we rolled by the McIntyre Mine headframe, past the former workplace and off on our great adventure.

Every little guy's dream - to be allowed to park with the big boys at the truck stop!

Flying J Truck Stop – London Ont
Every little guy’s dream – to be allowed to park with the big boys at the truck stop!

Part of the Adventure is in the planning

 

 

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ~ Michael Althsule

Retirement doesn’t strike like lightning; rather it tends to percolate through one’s thoughts and decisions.  A concept that becomes more and more real but probably never really becomes a permanent state of mind.  For the past couple of years ‘retirement’ has been a growing topic of conversation over weekend coffee and during our travels.  “What can we afford?” “Can we afford what we dream of doing” “What is it we want to do anyway??” Having weathered some ups and downs  in the past, affordability remained the elephant in the room during much of our dreaming.  When pen was finally put to accountant’s paper many uncertainties were eased.  With a clear understanding of where we stood, our dreams began to take shape.  Travel has always been a pleasure and clearly figures into our future plans.  Seeking out new places, wandering at our own pace and avoiding tight schedules and deadlines appealled to us.  The appeal of Recreational Vehicle travel began to  dominate more and more of our chats.  By 2012, RV Buyer Guides were on the reading list, ‘just looking around’ RV dealer lots was a regular past time and a growing number of travel guides and RV magazines found their way to our reading stack.  An exciting time as we realized the incredible adventures and destinations that were within our grasp.  In March 2013 our dreams took a major step towards reality with the purchase of our Jayco Eagle 25′ 5th Wheel.  Although that stop at Heidi’s RV  (http://www.heidisrv.com/) was just intended to be another look around, we knew as soon as we stepped into this unit that it was what we were looking for. Suddenly chats turned to ‘our’ RV, where we could go with it, how we should set it up, what we could or should bring on our first trip.   As summer 2013 approached, our focus automatically sharpened, our plans began falling into place and soon it became time to fly off into ‘retirement’ – comfortably settled into the cockpit and hands firmly on the controls.

Let The Adventures Begin ! 

Our New RV!

Our New 5th Wheel!!

The (Retirement) Party’s Over!
Wonderful party from her staff, gifts loaded in the truck – all set for some relaxation and dreaming of what is ahead!