Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend

The reason we came back north for Easter was because Kim and Mike had asked if they could bring the kids to Sudbury for Easter. They were supposed to head up Good Friday morning but came later in the day because they had been sick the day before. We had planned to take the kids to see the Easter exhibits at Science North on Saturday but changed our plans and went on Sunday instead. They headed home on Monday morning.

Grandkids are great. Jolene isn't 2 1/2 yet but she is talking a blue streak and making complete sentences. Robyn, at six months, is getting her first tooth and was fussy at night, but was a happy baby when she was awake.

I did some investigating to find out the rules for legally caring young children in RV's due to the Ontario child seat requirements. It looks like there isn't one despite the fact that they can ride in taxis for hire with only a regular seatbelt and don't use any restraint in a school bus. Chalk another case of infringing on lifestyles up to the McGuinty nanny government.

Easter Morning

Easter presents

Happy Robyn

Not so happy Jolene

Robyn is getting her first tooth

Matching jammies

Robyn and a bunny

Happier Jolene

Science North

Petting a huge bunny

Girls should be able to use tools

A hug for the Easter Bunny

In the Butterfly Conservatory

Dad and daughter looking good

Butterflies snacking

Jolene liked this seat

Massasauga rattlesnake (our only venomous creature)

Horny old man

Look at that rack

Mike and Jolene studying drainage patterns

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trip Summary

Days on the road - 45


Distance traveled - 9,624 Kms (5,980 miles)
Fuel fill ups - 20
US Gallons consumed - 747
MP(US)G - 8.01
Mileage at end of trip - 112,519 Kms (69,919 miles)


Distance traveled - 3,286 Kms (2,042 miles)
Fuel fill ups - 11
US Gallons consumed - 55
MP(US)G - 37.0
Mileage at end of trip - 229,337 Kms (142,510 miles)

Home Again, Alas

You would think that we would be glad to be home after over a month and a half on the road, but we were getting used to living in our home on wheels and the winter storm warning for later today put a damper on our enthusiasm for being back in the Frozen North.

One good thing right off the bat was a six pound drop in my weight from the time we left according to our digital scale. Hard to believe, given all the eating we did while away. Another plus was that the DVR managed to capture all our programs, albeit in standard definition, with 15% of the disk space to spare. We have a lot of TV watching ahead of us.

As we were getting ready to go out and get the vehicles squared away, the street sweeper came along for its spring pass. It went around the RV/trailer so we had to manually sweep the accumulation of sand off the street in front of our place after we were done.

First, I unloaded the bike. Then I unhooked the trailer and moved the motorhome forward. After putting the bike in the garage (behind the snowblower because I maintain an optimist is just a pessimist with no experience), I went to move the van out and found the rear drum brakes were seized up. They sometimes stick after it sits for a while, but the right rear was really frozen. I finally managed to break it free by rocking the van, but the price was a deep rut in the crusher dust driveway which we raked back to level. I hooked the van to the trailer and backed it into its spot in the back of the driveway. I do this because the trailer is so narrow I can't see it when backing the motorhome up and something as precise as hitting the driveway would be very difficult. Then I backed the RV in and put the van in front of it.

The outside of the motorhome was a mess from all the salt and slush yesterday. It will need a wash and wax as soon as the weather improves, as well as getting the antenna checked out and the roof checked, cleaned and treated with UV protection. I have an idea with the rear camera. The light overload mainly comes from the sun reflecting off the road and I believe that pointing the very wide-angle camera down is a mistake. It is billed as a "rear view camera" and, based on the photos on the Camping World website, it shows a view as if the camera was pointed straight back. It will be easy to give this a try.

As promised, the winter storm hit and the temperature dropped. The RV stayed warm inside because the furnace was running but it better warm up in the next few days because I only have a limited amount of propane.

Our first trip in the motorhome was a positive one. It is now set up pretty much the way we want it and we're looking forward to our next trip in a few weeks to North Carolina.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Van Buren Ohio to Sudbury Ontario

We were up before 5:00 AM anticipating a long day on the road. The Internet showed it was -6C at home and snowing while it was 42F here. After a quick breakfast, I disconnected in the dark knowing that at least I had no surge protector to forget today. We rolled out in the still dark morning before 6:00 AM.

Things were fine as we watched the sun come up and drove around Toledo, taking US 23 north and sparing ourselves the I-75 stretch through Detroit. Unfortunately, as we approached Ann Arbor, the snow started to fall. By the time we were north of the city, it was coming down heavily and limiting our visibility. One trucker on the CB suggested that Mother Nature had PMS this week. At least our side was moving but the southbound into Ann Arbor was backed up at a crawl or slower for almost twenty miles. I stopped for fuel in Michigan, paying $3.999 per USG, and then continued on. It eased a bit but then picked up again near Saginaw. Finally, north of Saginaw, it cleared up for good although the ice buildup on the RV stayed with us for quite a while.

Fueling at $3.999 in southern Michigan

Driving US 23 in Michigan in a snowstorm

Someone forgot how to drive in snow

More snow and no one doing the speed limit

Salt truck

Another driver loses it

Finally, clear roads

Ice on the mirrors

The KOA in Kentucky called to say they had found my surge protector. They confirmed the address and I made arrangements to cover the mailing costs plus a $5.00 charge for packing and mailing it. Cheap at five times the price. I guess they do this quite regularly. In any case, thanks to the fine folks at the Renfro Valley KOA for their help.

Driving through the Lower Peninsula of Michigan was quite relaxing. No big winds and almost no traffic as we headed for the Mackinac Bridge. One concern was a new clunking sound when we hit certain kinds of bumps in the road. Sandy got up and tried to pinpoint the source, indicating it was coming from the roof. My suspicion was that the TV antenna, which felt loose when I cranked it down last night, was bouncing on the roof. This isn't good because the chance of damaging the antenna or the rubber roof is possible. This elevated the priority of checking it out when we get home.

Northern Michigan highway traffic (or lack thereof)

As we approached the Big Mac, signs warned of construction ahead and that one lane was closed on the bridge. Wow, what a surprise. I can only think of one crossing in the last five years where both lanes were open. Luckily, there were no wind warnings and the crossing was easy. I paid a toll of $4.50 per axle for a total of $13.50, compared to $3.50 for a car.

Construction sign for the Mackinac Bridge

Lane closed? So what else is new?

Starting across the five mile Big Mac

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (see Somewhere in Time)

The closed lane

Welcome to the U.P.

There was a heavy layer of salt or brine on I-75 as we approached the Soo indicating that they have had their share of the late snow. I stopped and fueled on the US side and then headed over the International Bridge. For once, we got to Canadian Customs and there were no vehicles lined up. I told the Border Services officer that we had $3,400 to declare and he sent us inside with a piece of paper. The lady at the counter was training a young man and they were very pleasant. After converting to Canadian (a reduction for a change) and deducting our $750 each in exemptions, we ended up paying the cashier $233 in HST on what they classed as Auto Parts.

The International Bridge - Sault Ste Marie

Empty Customs booths

Back in Canada, we drove up to my brother Dave's house. I called Rick, someone I know through the STOP Program, and he offered to come over to the house. Rick has Multiple Sclerosis and just underwent the Liberation Treatment in Rhode Island with very positive results. Sandy was eager to hear the take first hand. Rick arrived and gave us a very positive story about both the facility and his improvement so we will seriously consider pursuing it. It is a shame that not only won't the government fund the procedure, which I understand, they have prohibited OHIP facilities from doing it even if the patient is willing to foot the bill.

Dave gave us several boxes with some of Mom's things, all labeled, that he thought we or the girls might be interested in. There were some old photos, underscoring the need to get one of the dedicated photo scanners so they can be digitized and put on discs to share with everyone.

We left the Soo headed for Sudbury about 4:30. The rest of the trip was uneventful. I waved to a Mennonite buggy driver near Sowerby and he actually waved back. The only stop was in Spanish where I took a moment to clean the crud off the rear view camera. The stretch of highway the last forty miles from the Espanola turnoff into Sudbury was as bad as we have seen anywhere. Sandy pointed out it was pretty pathetic for the Trans-Canada Highway.  I'll remember how well our northern roads have been maintained when the Provincial election rolls around in the fall.

Mennonite wave

Huron Central motive power

Northern Ontario roads

Sundown in Sudbury

We arrived home just as the sun was going down and parked the whole unit out in front of the house. Unloading, unhooking and getting everything in the driveway could wait until morning. I took the thermostat off it's vacation setting, turned the water on and we settled into our permanent home for the night the first time in almost seven weeks.

Today's Route (630 motorhome miles):

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mt. Vernon Kentucky to Van Buren, Ohio

We got up to a sunny day with no clouds but it was cold. The first long pants day since we left Sudbury. I talked to the Thunder Bay natives for a while and then disconnected. We were rolling by 8:15 AM.

Sandy likes taking pictures of redbud (should be pinkbud)

Shortly after 9:00 AM, we passed the exit for Richmond, Kentucky where the Best Western was located. This was the spot two years ago where the Wolfman's Wandering Rally was held and it holds good memories for us. On the north side of Richmond, we stopped at a Love's Truck Stop for fuel.

Typical Kentucky sedimentary rocks

The winds were quartering from the left rear this morning, but sharp gusts were occasionally catching us from the side. They used to say that Dale Earnhardt could see the wind on the superspeedways. I wish I had the same knack because maybe the gusts wouldn't take me by surprise.

As we proceeded north, we saw many Florida plates running the same direction we were. I'm not sure of the significance of this at this time of year, but we knew where the large number of Ontario licences were going. We were also passed by two ARCA Racing Series trailers heading back from Talladega. Their race was early in the weekend while the Sprint Cup race would be this afternoon.

ARCA trailer

The ARCA schedule

TJ told me that the enemy of any highway was water getting under the pavement. He said that if you put the right drainage layer underneath, a road should last forever. I guess that the people in northern climes didn't get the message because there were stretches here that were uncomfortable and we knew Michigan would be worse. I once saw a TV show on constructing the Autobahn in Germany. Their base is almost twice the depth of a North American freeway. I guess it is easier to build a road here on a reduced budget and let those who come after worry about it.

I considered taking the by-pass around Cincinnati but realized it was Sunday (retired folk often have trouble knowing what day it is) and decided to go through the middle of the city on I-75. Before we reached the Ohio line, we passed the famous Florence Y'all water tower, which had guys working on top of it. We stopped at the Flying J in Crittenden, Kentucky and got the propane tank topped off so we would have fuel to run the furnace when the temperature got below freezing at home. Gas price here was $3.899. Then we started down the long Covington Hill and across the Ohio River into the Buckeye State.

Florence Kentucky Y'all

This is an old Class B motorhome

Covington Hill with Cincinnati in the background

We made it through Cincinnati without problems. The highway out was posted at 55 MPH but I was doing 65 and getting passed by everyone. An overhead sign warned about a traffic accident at Exit 16 that was causing traffic problems but that exit came and went without us seeing anything. Up until now, these signs have been saying "Drive Smart - Watch For Motorcycles", a sentiment we share. The crosswinds picked up and got downright nasty in Ohio, threatening on occasion to tear the steering wheel out of my hands.

Warning about non-existent accident on I-75

Big flag out sideways in heavy crosswinds

Interesting name

I managed to find the NASCAR race on MRN radio and listened to the the cars circle the fast track at Talladega, Alabaama while wishing I could be watching. We stopped at an Ohio Rest Area for lunch and I called a KOA just over the Michigan state line. I got the call center and the lady told me they didn't have any sites over 40 feet. I had never encountered this before and called one a bit further south in Van Buren, Ohio, just north of Findlay. They had room so I booked a site. I also finished my list of goods for Canadian Customs. All this while the stationary RV was rocking back and forth in the wind.

Note that the "camera angle according to specifications" hasn't helped the rear view monitor at all

We finished the drive to the KOA without incident and were directed to our spot. This KOA had a large number of seasonal sites. Next to us in the transient area was a diesel pusher piloted by a retired cop from Timmins who complained that his arms were sore from fighting the wind. Tell me about it.

My shock of the day came as soon as I started hooking up. My first step was usually to get the surge protector and plug it into the campground 30 Amp outlet. But when I looked in the basement, the surge protector was missing. Now this isn't just any surge protector. It is a large unit that is so sophisticated it takes over two minutes to analyze a power feed before allowing any juice through. With all the circuits on a motorhome, especially expensive ones like the refrigerator, you can't be too careful (although Sherm laughs at me). I paid almost $250 for it. But I remembered changing my routine when I disconnected this morning and, instead of pulling the protector first and putting it in the compartment, I pulled the power cord and stowed it. Bad move. I called the Renfro Valley KOA and said they would look for it.

Since we planned to run all the way to Sudbury tomorrow, over 600 miles, and knew the night temperatures were still below freezing, I dumped the holding tanks and conditioned them each with 1/2 gallon of RV anti-freeze. I also did a full tire check. After the wind died down, I cranked up the TV antenna (no cable TV here) and, while the campground manager suggested we might get six stations, we actually got 14. Maybe the new Wingman antenna attachment does help.

After watching TV for a while, we shut it off and I cranked the antenna back down. Usually, it cranks all the way down firmly but, tonight, at got almost all the way down and then seemed to drop with a clunk. This will have to be checked out when we get home. Making a note to do so, we turned in for what would probably be our last night on the road.

Today's Route (297 motorhome miles):

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