Category Archives: RVing

Near Disaster Averted – Another Travel Repair Emergency

We were having some trouble with one tire. It was low when we left Manitoba and twice I had to stop and add air. We pulled into a gas station to fill up. The gas station was very busy but the shop was quiet. The mechanic came over to admire our canoe and ask about Manitoba. I soon found myself chatting with about the problem of the tire. He looked at the tire and immediately spotted a potentially much more serious problem. One of our shackle bolts were in a grave state and need replacing. The shackle bolt holds two parts of the suspension together. A careful inspection of the tire showed it had a nail in it and worse, some very serious wear patterns.

This led him to recommending replacing all the shackle bolts.  This was one of those times when I seriously wondered if he was trying to rip me off. Lord knows there is always someone ready to take your money. However there was no debating that the shackle bolt looked ‘off’ nor was there any questions the tire was a mess. So I agree to let him replace one set of shackle bolts and buy one new tire.

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As soon as he got the first shackle bolt off I could see we had a serious problem. The shackle bolt was very badly worn and mere millimetres from breaking. When I thought of a sudden break down on one of those mountain pass roads we had just traveled I felt ill. The mechanic strongly advised me to replace all four shackle bolt sets and upgrade into a much better quality type with a brass bushing that was one could add grease to. I really hate being in the position of simply having to trust someone without first being able to do my own on line research. However, there was no question those shackle bolts needed replacing. He was not busy and had everything on hand and he promised us we could be done and back on the road in an hour. I gritted my teeth and told him to go ahead.

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He was as good as his word about the shackle bolts. Unfortunately, as he inspected the tires we found two more tires with issues. One tire was unevenly worn on the inside and also had some flat pocked spots like the tire with the nail. The other tire had developed a nasty bump/bulge on one side. When I ran my fingers over it, it was clear the tire was in bad shape and ready to blow. So we replaced two more tires.

The bill was $735.12. Half of that was the tires. Most of the rest was shop time. One bolt was so bad it had to be cut off. The actual cost of the new shackle bolts was not that much. With three new tires and the price of parts plus the time taken it was not unreasonable. Given time to shop around I might have been able to get it done cheaper with my own mechanic back home 2200km away and maybe find a sale on those tires. Yet, under the circumstances it seemed reasonable to just pay up and get it done then and there. Still I couldn’t help but feel like I was been railroaded into a far more expensive repair than I really needed. Maybe it could have waited. Maybe he wasn’t just being nice about the canoe but had been inspecting my trailer looking for some way to get me into the shop. He was just too convincing and sincere, it was just all too convenient. If he was a con man, he was one of the slickest and best I had ever met. Even as I felt that, I also knew enough to know the three tires were in bad shape and needed replacing. There was also no arguing about the wear on the shackle bolts.

Three hours later and considerably poorer we pulled out. I could feel an immediate and remarkable improvement in the handling of the trailer. There was no question that it was riding much more smoothly. Later on, I read up on shackle bolts and RVs and everything I researched suggested that we had been guided to do the right thing by a competent mechanic. So, I have decided the mechanic was not ripping us off. He was our guardian angle, whose casual interest in our canoe made me ask about the tire with a slow leak. This led to him saving us from a major break down somewhere along the way.

The moral is that sometimes stuff breaks down and wear and tear happens and if you are lucky, it happens in a good place with a competent mechanic handy who has all the parts you need to fix the problem. We got lucky. I think.

Changing the hot water heater unit in our trailer.

While we were at a family camping trip last summer we discovered that our hot water (combination electric or propane) was leaking. In the leaking water was antifreeze. After a bit of investigating we determined the water was coming from somewhere on the underside of the hot water heater. We shut off the valve that is supposed to by pass the hot water heater but we still had a leak. For the balance of our camping trip we had to do without running water. This was very upsetting because we thought we had a bypass. I eventually determined that the check valve installed on the hot water intake was not working. This meant the bypass was failing.

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Check valve that represents one half of the hot water bypass. This check valve failed.

After we returned I started telephoning the nearby RV repair places to find out about getting it fixed. I was horrified to hear the replacement was going to cost somewhere in the range of $1600. That is a lot of money and I decided before shelling it out, I would try to fix it myself.

The first step was to learn how to get at the tank. Stuff in RVs is packed in tight spaces and is very intimidating. Fortunately, I found this you tube video that described how to get the unit out. Thank you thank you

I watched it several time with my husband and we set out to remove the unit. We worked about 4 hours to get it out. A careful inspection of the unit and we found a small crack on the bottom. It was a tiny little hole looking to be about 3mm long and a half a mm wide. Yet it was enough of a leak to soak the floor in ten minutes. We are fortunate to have a neighbour who does a lot of welding and he kindly stopped by to check. His diagnosis was not good news. After poking the hole and banging and inspecting he said the tank was corroded on the inside. Probably the antifreeze in the tank due to the failed check valve had been a contributing factor. Welding it would be difficult since it was aluminum and it probably would either not work or the corroded tank would just start leaking somewhere else. He recommended replacing the tank.

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I did a bunch of research on line and compared the price of the entire unit versus just the tank. As is often the case, the additional cost for the whole unit was not that much more than the cost of just the tank. The seven year old unit was having some issues with a constantly leaking pressure valve and the ignition system, while working, was also corroding. We decided to just pay the extra to get a new unit.

We immediately came up against the Canadian problem. The new unit ordered from the RV dealers in the area was going to $850 to $1200. Ordered directly from a Canadian dealer it would be $850. If I ordered it from the USA I would have to worry about taxes, duties and brokers fees. If I could order it from the US, and have it delivered to the US, I could get it for $452 Canadian. I am not sure why Canadians have to pay double plus for RV parts but we do. We opted to replace the unit after arriving in the USA. Due to our very cold fall weather, even if the water was working properly, we would have the trailer winterized with antifreeze and unusable anyway.  I called the Laramie KOA we were planning on staying at for a full week while my husband attended a conference. They cheerfully agreed to accept the part there and hold it until we arrived. Meantime, I put the old unit back in without connecting the plumbing in order to fill the hole and make it proper as far as customs was concerned. I could legitimately tell them I had replaced a broken hot water heater unit with the same model while were in the USA. No duty, taxes or import issues that way. On arrival at Laramie our new hot water heater unit was waiting.

It took very little effort to remove the old one and set it beside the new one. Everything was a perfect match. I just pulled out the screws, cut the wiring and pulled the unit out.

The new unit looked so sharp and clean in it’s nice insulation box. It came with some extra corner braces and new hinge thingies for the door. It did not come with the door but that was okay because we had the old door.

I nearly made one potentially disastrous mistake. While I was proudly photographing the old and new tanks I heard a meow and turned around and spotted my cat checking out the new cat door. After chasing him back inside I propped the old outside door inside in order to keep the cat in.

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First step was to match up the wires. I decided not to touch the old connectors and risk mixing up the previous wiring job. I just connected to old wires at the point I had cut them. That way was really easy because it was all colour coded. I used regular twist electrical connectors. The new wiring had to be carefully tucked back in on the top right but it went in. It took a bit of fiddling and wiggling. The trickiest part of the slide in process was to get the propane connection into the hole. I did that by tucking the propane connection to one side until the unit was almost in and then I went inside and there was just enough room to nudge it into the general vicinity of the hole. I had to go back out and fish around to find it and then carefully finish the process of nudging the unit in. It was too bad hubby dearest was off at his conference because I had to take multiple trips in and out in order to get the unit finally seated properly. I was assisted by Misty decided to jump on me and give me many puppy kisses each time I was working from the inside. This slowed me down some, but did cheer me up.

Once the unit was in place I was able to reconnect the propane and I used the nice shiny new corner braces with the old screws. The flange arrived sticking out and had to be bent back but it went easily. There was more than enough putty left to easily seal the new flanges.

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And it is done! At least on the outside. Now that I no longer needed the door to prevent the cat from escaping I put it on over the nice new shiny unit.

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Once the unit was in place outside, it was time to go to the back and connect the wiring and plumbing inside. I decided this time I was putting in a valve that manually opened and closed instead of a check valve. That way, if this ever happens again I can actually block off the hot water heater from the rest of the system and not be stuck with no water at all. Of course now that I have planned on it, it will never actually happen. I ended up making a couple of trips to the hardware store to get the correct new manual valve and some new connectors. Here you can see just before I started connecting the plumbing and electrical. I used lots of teflon tape on metal parts and I tightened as much as I could. It was a bear of a job because it was in such a small space but my vise grip sure came in handy.

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And finally I needed to reconnect three wires from the trailer electrical supply from the unit. It’s now in and reconnected.

We are in an area where the forecast says it is still too cold to risk adding water to test the new unit. I expect to see lots of leaks at various points in the plumbing connections that will need more tightening. I am not that strong and it will have to be something hubby dearest does. I am assuming, of course, that the new unit is not defective. I suppose we could fill and test in a few weeks and discover something wrong and have to take it all out, send it back and start all over again. The company I dealt with is not one where I have ever had any issues so I am not expecting any. I am counting it done.

So we saved will over $1000 by doing this fix by ourselves and arranging a delivery of the new unit in the USA. It was not a hard fix. It was a multicuss job with lots of fussing but it was not hard. Even taking into account some six hours of work figuring things out and removing the unit the first time and four hours of putting the new unit back in, I figure my effort was worth about $100/hour. And that is a good thing.

Update Nov 22: We finally got far enough south to be able to use our water system again. As I expected I had two joints that needed tightening to stop leaks. One connecting elbow broke instead of tightening more. (ARRGG!!) I had to make another trip to the hardware store to replace that. The unit itself is now working perfectly!

 

Migration Home Tenth Stop Topeka, Kansas

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We left Cherryvale and headed north hoping to get to our next stop before any of the predicted severe weather started. During our discussions with the electrician who came to fix our site’s broken 30amp connection, we got a recommendation to check out Kansas RV Centre in Canute. We were promised lots of parts at reasonable prices. That’s what we found. In spite of impending stormy weather we ended up spending an hour checking out stuff and, to our delight, we found replacement covers for our RV light covers that had cracked, larger size chocks, and a new housing for our truck’s electrical receiver. We couldn’t resist having a look at some of the newer RVs even though we are not ready for a new one. Still it was a treat. We headed north with the sky turning an ominous churning grey.

We pulled into the the Topeka Kansas KOA with no small amount of relief. The owner was on duty and he welcomed us warmly and soon we were set up in a site with directions for what to do if we needed to be safe from severe weather. People from Oklahoma and Kansas do not fool around with severe weather. The campground has a big barn with a shelter in the basement. We didn’t do much in Topeka. It rained and rained and rained almost from when we got set up until we left.

One thing we found really frustrating was that it was cool but when we tried to start our furnace it wouldn’t fire up. Fortunately we had our electric blanket and electric oil filled space heaters. I made a loaf of bread and the little stove top electric oven also provides a lot of heat. Redundancy paid off again. We had cable at the KOA so I left it on the Weather Channel while I tried to figure out what the problem was. Getting at the furnace was tricky. I hadn’t ever tried it before because gas stuff is scary. The furnace was hidden under the fridge area. I found a great video that showed me how to get at my furnace. I was able to see by the trouble shooting lights the problem was air access. I also found layers and layers of dust and dog fur. It was almost like a mat of felt it was so thick. Ugh! I diligently and carefully cleaned and vacuumed and held my breath and tried the furnace….and nothing happened. ARRG!! We called a couple of repair places and it looked like this was going to be a major job costing major bucks. Since we had electric back up, we decided to leave it until we were home at our own dealer we trust. I took advantage of my frustration to do a whole bunch of long overdue cleaning elsewhere in the trailer.

As it turned out we did not need to test the KOA’s storm shelter. There were warnings about severe weather west, east, and south of us but nothing closer than a couple of miles away. I was very glad we had decided to move here. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt really hemmed in. After all the long lazy days in national forest, state parks, and army corp campsites the close proximity of spaces in the KOA felt claustrophobic, a feeling enhanced by pouring rain.

The second morning we packed up and left for our next stop in South Dakota. To our astonishment and delight, on arrival in South Dakota the furnace cheerful fired up working beautifully as if nothing had happened. I have no explanation. I will guess it was clogged with dust and dog hair and that blocked the intake and it remained blocked until another road trip knocked stuff around and it unstuck. It may be the furnace has some kind of reset that needed to occur by going off shore power and then going back on. Whatever the reason, we were delighted to have our furnace working and I leaned over and I apologized for neglecting it and promised the furnace that from now on, I would be cleaning the cabinet of all dust and dog hair on a regular basis.

This is my review of the Topeka City KOA

We stayed here two days during a period of foul weather, severe storms nearby, high winds and rain all day. This KOA has a big red barn with a basement severe storm shelter which is why we picked it. There is a row of permanent residents but those campers are well kept and seemed to consist of young families with school age children. It felt very park like and safe. The office is only open 3:00 to 8:00 pm but the fellow was there was nice and helpful. WIFI was excellent although it would stop and restart every couple of hours. Campground layout was pleasing and well thought out. There was no mud in spite of all the rain we had due to nice grass and gravel/sand on our sites. There is a very nice children’s park and fishing ponds. Our site was fine but a bit short. It is set in a place between two interstates so there was some traffic noise but not too bad. A nicer than average KOA. We will stop again, especially if we need a place to sit out storms.

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Migration Home – Third Stop Beaver Dam Campground Louisiana

 

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We left the Petrified Forest and continued our journey westward into Louisiana. I would have preferred to stay off the interstate but there is that great big river to cross and not a lot of bridges that reach that far so, interstate it was. The trip west was brief and uneventful. We stopped at a rest stop with internet and picked up our email, checked for disasters, made sure all was well with the family and then continued on to the National Forest’s Beaver Dam Campground.

We ended up even more cut off from the world than before because now the TV antenna did not pick up anything. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself so I went back to working on my novel. What a wonderful spot this campground was. Quiet, lovely small lake, almost every campsite empty. There were a few people around but most were overnighters who came in late and left early. The few who stayed over the two nights we were also stopped were fishermen. On one of our walks we went along the upper spillway and chatted with some locals who were fishing. They had pictures of big bass they caught before. They warned us about big gators at the other end of the levi. We walked a trail back to the campground, did a tick check and settled in for a quiet evening of writing.

We had a long discussion on the longer walk along one of the trails. Among the emails that were waiting to be picked up was a message from one of the campgrounds we had planned to stop in while visiting Utah.  They sent word that due to exceptionally heavy snow, they were opening late. We considered our option and eventually decided that were enjoying this slow pace of travel so much maybe we would just really slow down and  skip Utah this time. I looked longingly at our maps. Arkansas was packed full National Forest and Army Corp of Engineer campsites. We still had a month to go before we had to be back in Canada. We had driven through Arkansas once, and on a second trip, we stayed at Hot Springs and it had been so very nice. Arkansas was beautiful and spring was in full roar here. Why not do Arkansas instead of Utah? And so it was decided. Utah is the only state in the lower 48 we haven’t been to yet but we would leave it for another trip. We had two nights and full day in Beaver Dam Campground before making the decision to head north into Arkansas. Six night, three leisurely drives and four states. Not a bad pace at all.

Here is my review of the campground:

This is a National Forest campground. You enter Minden and then turn just before the main street stores and then take a long winding road through rural areas before arriving at the site. Much of the drive from Minden is through a very poor unkempt neighbourhood which was discouraging. Closer to the Park, poverty gives way to newer suburban development and hobby farms. The campground is not well marked. We saw one sign in the town of Minden and then nothing until we reached the National Forest so use your map or GPS to find your way in. We expect big lots and space between sites in this type of campground but this one is exceptionally so. Our paved site was so large that with our pick up and trailer still hitched (56’) we would have room for another entire truck in front of our rig. In addition to the very large wide drive there was a huge pad of fine gravel with an oversized picnic table. This campground could take the biggest rig I have seen. Each site had its own set of garbage cans. Half the sites are reserve and half are first come first served. The place was about one quarter full on the early spring weekday we arrived. We had a nice selection of sites. A local old timer proudly showed off pictures of a 9 pound 23 inch bass he caught at the base of the dam’s spillway. Firewood was not provided so if you must have a fire, be sure to stop in and buy some from the many places on the way in who are selling. The campground host was friendly and welcoming and proudly boasted about how this campsite won some sort of well deserved award for their super clean bathrooms. This campground is a good 20 miles from any store and you will not pass any stores after you get off the interstate unless you detour through Minden so stock up before you go in.

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Tate’s Hell State Forest

One of the things I meant to post about was our visit to Tate’s Hell State Forest. It’s a weird place that was once a dense swamp that got remade into a tree plantation. It lies between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee rivers in the Florida panhandle. It got its name because a fellow named Cebe Tate got lost in the swamp for days in 1875 and when he finally found his way out he announced “”My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell.” That’s the legend of how the swamp got its name.

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The original swamp from hell was drained, flattened, and many roads and deep drainage ditches between by flat planted forest blocks result in a grid like set up which reminded me of the prairie more than anything else. Beyond the grid pattern there is little resemblance to the prairie. The combination of deep ditches and forest and open roads has changed the nature of the place from an inaccesible forbidding swamp like Okefenoke Swamp to a place you can drive right in and yet see all kinds of wildlife up close. There is only primitive camping in designated areas of the forest so it isn’t a place for big rigs even though the main roads are wide enough. There are many trails in addition to the roads and it is a favoured hunting ground for the locals. Some of the roads have been allowed to deteriorate until they are nothing but trails and some roads were very well maintained and even a little sports car can manage them. The forest is huge. We explored only one small bit right off the highway. I am told it includes great places to fish, oyster and canoe in addition to hunting. We went in for a short visit late in the day after a long walk at St George Island and a pizza dinner.

On our visit we saw deer, more birds than I can name, opossum, and a small snake. The place reputedly is full of alligators which would not surprise me one bit.  Those big wide deep ditches would be great gator habitat and all the associated mammals and birds would make for good eating. Our hosts, Jane Elzie Brand and Jack Rudloe gently suggested maybe Dick’s interest in closely examining the lily pads by leaning over the edges on his knees was better done just a little further back from the black water. I would not recommend taking a dog off leash either lest a beloved pet end up like Jack’s poor Megan did. These deep ditches are just a bit too good for gator sneak attacks. (We did not see any gators. It was cool and they don’t normally do much in cool weather.)

One of the more interesting features of the park is “miniature” or “hat rack” cypress. You can get right up close to one such stand at the Ralph G. Kendrick Boardwalk. It is an easy drive in and there is good parking. (I would not recommend doing it with a big rig as the ditches full of water are on both sides and it would be a bit tight to turn around. You could leave the big rig on the road before the turn and walk in.)

The cypress trees are literally dwarf or miniature and you can see them up close. Being winter, the cypress were silvery with no green except the Spanish moss green and the rest was kind of brown and drab. I half expected to see Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor. Still we had a very nice time. There is information on these little trees posted on the dock and they are not a distinct species as I first thought. Underlying impermeable clay means the swamp is shallow and nutrient poor. The trees are stunted rather than dwarf.

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We spent about an hour at the boardwalk. There was a lot to see but the sun was setting and the no-see-ums got pesky in spite of how cool it was. It was a nice way to end a very nice day and I can heartily recommend taking a detour through this fascinating forest if you are in the area.IMG_0241

We’re Home.

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We left Florida to travel home on February 24th. We rolled into Alonsa on March 30. The trip is 1960 miles (3154 km) by the shortest route. That works out to an average of 54 miles (87 km) a day. Okay, we meandered. This trip home was the closest thing to migrating that we have done yet. Migrating birds (with a few notable exceptions) don’t typically fly hundred of miles a day for days on end. They fly a bit, stop and hang out, fly some more, stop and hang out some more, and move north at a very leisurely pace. They wait until the weather is perfect before they leave or they move on because the weather is rotten or the food ran out. That is how we chose to travel north this year. We originally planned to go to Utah but the place we would have stayed at had record snowfall. The campground sent us an email saying opening was delayed so we decided to explore more of Arkansas and Oklahoma instead. I’m so glad we did! It was the best trip home yet.

We would travel a short distance, never more than 300 miles (482km) and often a lot less than that. We also made it a point to stay a minimum of two nights wherever we did stop. This meant we always had a day off to go sightseeing or hang out or just be at each stop. If we liked a place, we stayed longer. We kept an eye on the weather and if NOAA started making those yellow hatched lines on the big map, we planned our moves to be outside of severe weather areas.

We have always been ready to stop into a National Park or Army Corp of Engineer Campsite for a night. This time we decided to make a point of staying in one as often as possible. Most of these campgrounds do not have any form of internet, most are outside cell phone range, and quite a few don’t even pick up anything on the TV antenna due to their isolated locations. We had to plan on living without internet. The results were surprisingly positive. Both of us got a lot more writing done. I relaxed for hours at a time not following every unfolding of the latest Trump angst. I missed my children being in ready contact but they are adults and perfectly capable of handling their own crises and they did.

We rolled into Canada at about 4:00pm. Our last stop was at a North Dakota campground which was open according to their website and the message on their answering machine. However, we arrived to discover “open” meant only for walk in winter camping with no rig. This left us with nowhere to go and only four hours to home so we just decided to go all the way. That was our longest day driving.

One of our neighbours very kindly plowed out our drive and so we were able to pull in and collapse in our house. What a pleasure to find it exactly as we left if except for a few more cobwebs and a layer of dust. The ground was completely snow covered. We spent the first week home unpacking, reorganizing our life around the stick house, and seeing a dentist (for a tooth that was doing a nagging ache which turns out to be a cavity starting) and a doctor (for refills). Since we are planning on renovating the inside of our house we also picked up a lot of stuff for the renovations. Today we tackled the very first project. We put in an old fashioned clothesline with a wonderful squeaky wheel. Laundry is normally hubby dearest’s thing in our life but I couldn’t resist trying out our new toy first. What a pleasure to hang laundry outside to dry.

Being without internet for days to hours meant I did not keep up blogging. I do intend to backtrack and share our adventures (and misadventures) now that we safely home. Home is where you park it and for the next few months our home will be our little yellow stick house on the prairie. Maybe we’ll hit Utah on the way south next winter.

 

 

Winter is coming.

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For various reasons we decided to head south December 1 this year. We knew we were taking a bit of chance weather wise and we weren’t entirely lucky. We left Alonsa after freezing rain and our original planned path through Bismarck was quite literally shut down due to a heavy snowfall. So we were stuck trying to head south along the infamous I29 corridor. I say infamous for a few reasons. It is the most boring drive in the world. It bypasses just about anything neat fun or interesting in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri. There are miles and miles of nothing but flat prairie. It is also infamous because in winter weather entire sections can be shut down. And if you are in a camper there is very little in the way of open campgrounds in December. It is also a major trucking corridor so you spend most of the drive wincing as the big truckers pass you by.

The first hour of of Alonsa was hellish because we were driving on sheer ice. I was so glad we had just put on new snow tires and had four wheel drive. Even then I could not go over 60km/hr (40mph) without the trailer starting to fishtail in a frightening way. So a drive we made many times over the summer in 20 minutes took over an hour. Once we got to McCreary the roads were wet not icy so we were finally able to hit 90k/hr (55mph). We made a pit stop to have our wheel re-torqued after the new snow tire installation and then we headed south. We took the Yellowhead into Portage La Prairie and then headed out joining up with with 75 in Morris.  We arrived at the border about 4:00pm. To our delight, this time we were waved right through. You never know what you will encounter at the border. Sometimes we get searched, sometimes we have to produce paperwork. This time all we got was a cheerful “Have a nice trip” and we were over the border. The road was clear and we were eager to get further south so we drove until we reached Fargo. In Fargo we joined about 10 other RVers parking in the Flying J. Apparently we aren’t the only snowbirds to wait for December 1. I actually like staying on truck stops. Most truck drivers are polite and professional. Always fun new stuff to see. The time it was the biggest dump truck I ever saw. We had a nice big American breakfast at the Huddle House.

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We then headed south to North Sioux City South Dakota where there is a year round KOA. We decided we needed an oil change before moving on so we had a side trip into Iowa to a service place before we continued south. It had still not gone above freezing so we arrived with ice and snow on our trailer. We rolled into another year round KOA in Kansas City Missouri about 8:00pm and finally it was above freezing. Our trailer began dripping as the ice and snow melted. We continued dripping and shedding ice and snow as we followed the I29 south and then veered off for a side trip through Oklahoma. It was a joy to finally leave the standard campground behind and stay at a state park. It was fun to see new territory in Oklahoma. I even felt a genuine Oklahoma earthquake, a gentle rattle and roll from a nearby 3.9. KOAs have their place in RV life and I do like them but not day after day. Plus the KOAs cost more and the campsite in Lake Eufaula State Park was huge, gorgeous and only $26 and we had a grand total of five other campers in the huge place. It rained all night. We woke up to find the ice and snow had finally melted away and the rain washed our trailer and truck clean. From there we travelled to Mt Pleasant Texas for a two day overnight break at another KOA. We had a breakfast meeting with a colleague, a much needed long walk on green grass with the dogs, laundry and quiet.

So that was it. Instead of a nice leisurely trip stopping to see sights along the way and taking our time, we did a straight flying trip south as fast as possible of 2300km running away from winter. And I woke up to news this morning that home has been totally socked in by a mega all out blizzard. So we didn’t leave ourselves a lot of room weather wise by leaving in December.

Will we do it again? I’m not sure. This part of our trip was not fun. It was all about getting south. We saved a lot of money by waiting an extra month and a half in terms of health care costs and our weak Canadian dollar against the American dollar. We got to enjoy our cosy home in Alonsa and the company of our friends for an extra month and a half. But it does take the joy out of the trip south. So we may not do this next year. We shall see.

Meaner than a Junkyard Dog.

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We stopped in Thunder Bay to visit our friends Bryan and Patricia. We had dinner with them and then we left to boondock at the Flying J. We had an incident in Thunder Bay. Our friends live downtown and the neighbourhood is a bit too close to some, shall we say, rougher areas of town. We left the dogs in the trailer and the alarm on while we visited. Part way through our very lovely evening I heard the alarm in the trailer go off. I ran outside in time to see someone moving off very rapidly in the opposite direction and I could hear Fred, in the trailer. doing his savage, junk yard dog impression.

Fred is normally the sweetest, gentlest, most easy going dog you could ever meet. We followed the advice of a dog expert who advised us to have both dogs very well trained in obedience school and very well socialized. (Both dogs have their level 3 certificate, I am proud to say. We did the classes with Trusty and I as on team and Fred with Hubby Dearest the other team.) 24 Thursday evenings for one hour with a dig whisperer training us how to be dog people. The dogs already knew how to be dogs. According to this dog expert, a well trained dog is confident and reliable is also well aware of what is normal behaviour and what constitutes someone who is a threat. So you end up with a very well bonded dog who is normally sweet, gentle, and easy going and but knows when some human is up to no good and when to respond with the junkyard dog routine.

I went into the trailer and checked it all over and saw no reason for the alarm to go off. Fred was also very upset, not his “Why do you have to test that stupid alarm?” upset, but his “Danger! Danger! Bad Guys! Alert! Alert!” upset which I have only seen four times before during the ten years we have had him in our life. I shut the alarm off and reset it. I calmed Fred down.

Trusty was also agitated but she depends more on Fred in such situations, preferring to be his back up rather than the first responder. A soft word and a pat on the head and she went right back to sleep.Which is not to say Trusty does not have her moments. We once had a black bear decide to check out our barbecue and Fred did his alert thing and then ran and hid behind Hubby Dearest. Trusty on the other hand parked herself halfway between us and the bear and just dared him to try getting at that barbecue. The bear decided to get dinner elsewhere. So I suspect Fred is the brighter one of the pair but Trusty is more, well Trusty.

The cat was also agitated but it could have been from the dogs, the intruder or the alarm or just his usual general feline peevishness. So he got a head pat. Fred, however remained agitated. So We took our cue from Fred and the rather scuzzy types wandering about a block or two over and decided to move to a safer location for the night after our visit. Now to be fair, between Fred and the alarm we were probably quite safe. These passerby looked like are rubby dubs, drunks and druggies not savage sociopathic killers. We left anyway.

As we got ready for bed we did one final inspection of the trailer and we found the reason the alarm went off. One window was partly ajar. We got some amusement imagining some human tick thinking he had found an unguarded treasure to abscond and then abruptly finding himself facing a junkyard dog and a screeching alarm instead. Ha! Got you, creepy human parasite type.

It was very nice to be out of the city and into the countryside again, safely parked at a Flying J. Fred took a long time settling down that evening. We take about it before we fell asleep. Fred is getting old. I had been thinking once he was gone we should give up having dogs. They are a pain in a lot of ways. However we both agreed when Fred’s time comes, we will be getting another dog. This life on the road is mostly great but there are dangers and it is a good think to have a sweet, gentle, easy going Fred type around who knows when to act like a savage, man eating, junkyard dog.

Back in Manitoba and all is well, except the weather.

We returned to Manitoba April 17th and we have had a hectic few days. There are only two campground that are open and offer service this time of year. One is south of the city and one is west. The western one is marginally closer to our family so we went there first. However we arrived to find that because of all the contraction they had after last years flooding they are open but do not have water or WIFI. So we are at Arrowhead Campground which is open and has full services. This is actually quite a nice campground, very clean and well run. My only complaints are the lots are small and they are a lot fussier about dogs. We prefer to dean up the dog droppings by keeping them on a very short leash outside the door at night and when we go out in the morning we clean up. Everything is right near the trailer so only our own lot is affected and this works in most places. However at this place, you are expected to somehow get your dog to hold it until you can race with it off the property and then have it go. If the dog doesn’t hold it or needs to go out at 2:00am you must catch it basically before it hits the ground or risk complaints. Oh well, every campground has its peculiarities and you adjust and this one is a minor. They get around the low temperatures by having a network of hoses all over the campground and they come back and fill your tank at every time you ask so the service is great. Plus it’s hard to find a campground open for us snowbirds in April.

After getting settled we began the seemingly endless run of stuff to catch up on. Visit the son who receives our mail for and go through a huge pile. Even though we have converted to every possible coming by electronic mail, we still found ourselves with a HUGE stack. Most of it junk or stuff we could really do without. And then there are a large number of things to be dealt with. Income tax by April 30th (just sent that off). Off to the doctor to renew regular prescriptions since most of them only allow you 6 months at a time maximum. We both had dental checkups. Dick came through clean which is great considering all the trouble he had the last two years including a $3800 bridge. I have one small cavity and will be going back in a couple of weeks but otherwise everything is fine. Last two years I have had cracked molars to fix and I was dreading that again.

Also because of the house purchase, we had to run to the Credit Union, sign papers, run to the lawyer, sign papers, run to the insurance company, sign papers, and so it goes. We have visited with all the kids now, hugged all the grandkids, distributed books, gifts, duty free booze and stuff. All our assorted families look great and the kids are all grown handsomer and bigger. We keep in touch all year of course but there’s nothing like a hug, smelling their scent, and seeing them all looking so good. We are blessed. Even the youngest, who is 18 months, remembered me after a few minutes.

Naturally Manitoba needed to make sure we continue to plan to go south each winter. We were greeted with bitterly cold weather and snow, several centimetres of it blowing like it can only blow on the prairie. Last night the temperature was down to -10C and we have had to do all the cold weather stuff with the trailer, UGH! Monday night the highway was even closed due to blowing snow. The dogs have been giving us dirty looks before going out. I can almost hear them thinking “Why did we have to leave the south too soon?”

Today is the first day we have had no running catchup to do. We can breath and relax. Tomorrow we go shopping to stock up for our extended stay in the country with a decent store hours away and hubby dearest gets a blood test just to check things. We meet the real estate agent Monday 10:00am to get our keys and finally get into our house. Then the real fun starts as we do a full inspection to decide what renovations we want/must do now, what can wait, measure all the rooms to decide what furniture, curtains and stuff we need and a bunch of other things that go with a new house.

This morning the cold is finally breaking and more temperate weather is back. The sun is warm through the window and the sky is finally blue blue Manitoba blue under the wide open sky. I can hear a meadow lark. I joke about how I as born in Winnipeg due to sins of a past like but Manitoba is my home. It’s good to be home.

Florida is in full bloom.

It’s getting to be far too hot and I am counting the days until we head north to escape the heat (32C) 89F yesterday with 100% humidity so the sweat just rolls off instead of evaporating and cooling. I will miss Florida when we leave, but not this heat. The locals are just now coming alive and have stopped complaining about the bitter cold of temperatures that require more than a T shirt. They haven’t started sweating yet either. They just laugh at me when I complain about the heat.

One thing that has just astounded me with the arrival of heat has been the way everything has suddenly decided it’s spring and now is the time to start blooming. There is so much that is green year around here in winter that I didn’t notice it’s drab for most the time we have been staying here. Now we have this positive riot of passionate colours that could teach the north a little about blooming. I took pictures of just the flowers on my two short blocks walk from our parking spot to the Marine Lab when I went to pick up the mail. Wow. I recognize fuchsia (pink) and wisteria (purple) but the rest are unknown to me. It’s just lovely.

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