Sunday, August 31, 2008

Set back and relax

Thanks to Dave and Johanna and Leia for a wonderful weekend on Gambier Island!

I really enjoyed it!

After five days of driving hard to get here, it was really nice to just sit in the sun, go for walks in the woods, and enjoy the ocean views...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Gambier Island parade

I'm so used to getting up early that today is no exception.

Leia rouses Dave fairly early for breakfast and getting outdoors, I was up not long after.

We took her for a walk through the woods and down to the wharf.

Today the Gambier Island community is having a kind of harvest festival, there will be a parade, a craft fair, musical entertainment and community supper.

Johanna and I went down to view the parade and the craft fair.

The parade consisted of a couple of vehicles, one clown with a small sidekick, a dog in costume, and another dog riding a motorbike (with human help).

And lots of followers.

They paraded from the New Brighton wharf, past the General Store and up the hill to the Community Centre.

We went for another walk down to the wharf, where we watched some kids rolling a big cedar log in the water...

...with their dog...

...and a windsurfer...

...while Leia chased sticks in the water.

Later in the evening we returned for the community supper: barbecued chicken or ribs, corn on the cob, Caesar salad and lots of different cakes for desert. Unfortunately Johanna had injured her back and was uncomfortable sitting for very long so we only stayed long enough to eat. I grabbed a rice krispie square and a brownie for desert. We went back to their house and watched Ghost on the VCR.

For once, staying in a cabin in the woods, I have cell phone reception and can make calls. I have to arrange to transfer to another friend's place on the Sunshine Coast on Monday, and my son Josh has offered to take us flying some time that week so I have to talk to him about the arrangements for that.

We have a nice long chat, me standing on the deck under the stars with my little cell phone.

I must say, that is one bit of modern technology I really appreciate, the ability to be in the middle of nowhere enjoying the scenery and still keeping in touch with friends and family.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On the west coast

I woke up pretty early, as usual. While I was puttering around getting breakfast, I noticed a couple in a campsite nearby pushing their van out of the site onto the road. I walked down the road to their site, and asked if they needed help.

I said, I have cables.

The guy said, You saved our lives! So I went and got my truck and cables.

I can never remember the proper order to attach everything but I do have the original owner's manual for the truck and there are instructions there. They didn't know the order either so I pulled out the manual. We laughed over the first few pages of instructions: lots of warnings about making sure both cars are parked near each other and turned off. We had to untie the front rope on the kayak to open my hood.

Their car started up right away, we joked about not leaving MP3 players on overnight (apparently the cause of their dead battery), and they offered me a bottle of ice wine in thanks for my aid. I gratefully accepted. Further, the woman showed me a better knot to use on my front tie down, something her father taught her.

They were moving to Toronto, they had family there. They were the second young couple I met on this trip that were moving from the Vancouver area to Ontario.

Vancouver is expensive, it turns out I am not the only person who has left because it is just too expensive.

As expected, the drive into Osoyoos was spectacular. I could not take pictures of it, the steep winding road requires full attention.

Unfortunately the ticking sound was not going away but rather getting more insistent.

I debated stopping to get advice from a mechanic on what the matter might be, but after running through all the possibilities in my head, I decided I didn't want to know.

I would just keep driving as long as possible and deal with the problem when it happened. I speculated on the fan belt, an engine problem, a transmission problem, something merely caught somewhere flapping in the breeze. But the fact that pressing the gas pedal made it worse and coasting downhill with my foot off the gas pedal made it go away was not reassuring.

Somewhere in Manning Park the rain started. By Hope it was coming down in buckets, drowning out the ticking sound. That made me feel better.

In Surrey I phoned Johanna on my cell, to tell her I was arriving. She and Dave were planning to go to Gambier Island around supper time, it looked like I would arrive just in time.

When I got to New Westminster I decided to stop at the garage where I used to go for all my truck repairs. They would remember me and my truck, and they did. I told them my truck problem and asked if I was safe to continue driving to the Sunshine Coast this weekend.

Stanley said, Don't drive.

I asked, Do you have any idea what it might be?

He said he wasn't sure but it sounded like a bearing in the engine to do with the lifters. I am paraphrasing here, I don't remember his exact words, but basically he thought that if it wasn't serious now it soon would be. He said I should park it and then apologetically said that he didn't think they had room for it this weekend.

I said not to worry, I was staying with friends just up the road and could park there; when I get back from Gambier and the Sunshine Coast I'd call and set up an appointment for the truck. Then I continued on up the hill to Dave and Johanna's place.

They wanted to leave for the island almost immediately, so in less than half an hour we took the kayak off the truck and into their side alley, I hauled out several bags and boxes from the truck and picked out clothes to last me a week on the coast.

I really wished I could take the truck, I wanted to try out the kayak there, but it just wasn't meant to be I guess.

We piled into their car, Dave, Johanna, Leia the dog and myself, and drove out to Horseshoe Bay at the far west side of West Vancouver.

We drove to Horseshoe Bay where we transferred all our boxes and bags to their little runabout and carefully picked our way out of the marina and into Howe Sound.

The Sound was pretty choppy and we had to go slow, the little boat bounced from wave to wave.

Eventually we made it to the West Bay wharf on Gambier Island.

Their house is a short walk up the hill from the wharf, Johanna and I walked there to get their island car while Dave moored the boat at their buoy.

Everyone on Gambier has an island car; these are old vehicles that are just for use on the island. Most of them are miracles on wheels, it's amazing that they still run at all. Dave and Johanna's car is actually their old mainland vehicle, so in relatively good shape compared to other island cars. Dave boasts that he has working signal lights!

Even though I travelled a relatively short distance today, it seems like a radical change for a single day. From driving all day to finally being at rest in a house in the coastal rain forest, with a real bed for the night and no plans to drive any further for a week or more.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Into the mountains

In the early morning light I could see that sometime after dark the previous day I had moved from tall grass to short grass prairie.

The rolling hills looked bare. I spent the morning hours driving across these bare rolling hills and before noon I could see the mountains off in the distance.

I was driving into a strong head wind, had been since the previous afternoon. Briefly during the night it died, but within a couple of hours of dawn it had come up again and on the radio I was hearing wind warnings of gusts up to 100 kph.

My gas mileage was way down, I could feel the truck working hard to move into the wind. When the road veered off north or south I would get broadside gusts that rocked the truck.

As the mountains grew larger the wind turbines appeared.

I don't remember the exact year that they first started putting them up in these parts, but now they are everywhere, hundreds of them in long lines.

The high winds coming down off the mountains in southern Alberta keep them spinning productively.

Somewhere around noon I was in the mountains.

Very quickly the scenery changes from bare hills to well-treed mountain sides.

It was kind of nice to be back in the trees, and I could start to smell the west coast forest. Every forest has its distinctive smell, and the smell of the mountain forest is quite different from that of forests of Nova Scotia and Ontario.

But shortly the truck was starting to make an ominous sound, a kind of rapid ticking at high speeds. I was not happy with that, but it did not appear to be causing any problems with driving.

At one point I stopped to read the map and determine how long it would take to get to Vancouver. I figured I had about 900 km to go, and I could probably do half of that today and half tomorrow. I looked at the locations of rest areas and campgrounds and picked a general area to start looking for something for the night.

I was eating the last of the food I had brought, my cooler was finally starting to lose its coolness. I had just enough milk for coffee and cereal tomorrow morning, a near perfect duration! My bread unfortunately had started to get mouldy early because I couldn't fit it into the cooler and it got left in the sun too many times. But I had enough food for four days so that was pretty good.

The road into Osoyoos is quite spectacular, a very steep drive down a winding mountain trail. I decided I was not up for that at the end of the day, that I would camp somewhere just before Osoyoos so that I wouldn't have to tackle that stretch of road until the morning.

So for the first time, I pulled into a campground before dark. However I was so tired that it made no difference, I was in bed pretty soon after parking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Manitoba and Saskatchewan: two provinces in a single day

My first prairie day. The last two days were rocks and trees and lakes, today I emerged from the trees into the grassland. Great fields of wheat and hay, huge skies of spectacular cloud formations.

I experimented with taking photos while driving.

A bit dangerous, but then so is falling asleep at the wheel. Out on the grassland, it is good to keep busy and entertained, not fall victim to boredom and nodding off.

I drove almost all the way through Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

My memory of this stretch of the TransCanada is that it is rather like running the gauntlet; there just aren't a lot of places to stop and rest or take a pee break.

I remember once in desperation stopping at a place where there were a few low bushes by the side of the road, the best cover I could find for relieving myself. The copious amounts of used tissue paper behind those bushes was evidence of this being the primary thought of many other travellers before me. This trip is not so bad, I never got to the point of searching out those bushes for relief.

In the late evening I found a rest stop already occupied by several other travellers; I pulled in and quickly setup for the night, only a few kilometers from the Alberta border.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wawa to the Manitoba border

It was a cold night and a cold morning. By the time I had prepared coffee and breakfast and packed the truck to leave, my hands were numb with the cold, I couldn't eat cold cereal with frozen hands. I drove just far enough down the road with the car heater turned up high to warm up enough to eat my breakfast. I pulled over by a small lake from which the morning mist was still rising and I could hear the loons calling. Typical northern Ontario scene!

One of my stops was at the Terry Fox Memorial just east of Thunder Bay. The Memorial is set on a height over the highway, you can see the Sleeping Giant in the distance. This is roughly the place where Terry Fox had to end his run across the country. He started out from Newfoundland in virtual obscurity, but by the time he reached Thunder Bay he was a national hero. Still is. The fact that he never got to complete his run was almost irrelevant.

By nightfall I was still in Ontario but at the Manitoba border. I had decided to continue on in Canada rather than turn south to the US. While it would definitely be cheaper to go through the US, it has been awhile since I did the Canadian route and enjoyed the scenery so much in Ontario that I thought I would just continue on.

So many vehicles in northern Ontario have a canoe on the roof, that I felt quite at home with my kayak on the roof!

In some ways the northern route around the Great Lakes reminds me of the Sea to Sky highway in BC (Vancouver to Whistler), but longer and minus the mountains. Plenty of rocks and water and trees though. I kept singing the Arrogant Worms song,

"Oh we've got rocks and trees,
And trees and rocks,
And rocks and trees,
And trees and rocks!"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Barrie to Wawa, Ontario

I had a good breakfast of oatmeal and tea before setting out first thing in the morning. I was not sure whether I would go through the US or Canada, and I realized that I had forgotten a few things that I needed for the trip: a bike lock, a spare bottle of butane and some US cash. So I visited Canadian Tire and the Royal Bank before leaving town.

Fine sunny weather for travelling. Just past Spanish north of Lake Huron, I stopped for road construction. There was a guy going car to car asking for jumper cables. I said I had some, and pulled out of the line-up to park behind his car. There was already someone else, a First Nations guy, trying to start the first guy's car. Turns out the first guy was from Welland, on his way to see his daughter in the Soo (Sault Ste Marie, at the meeting point of Lakes Huron and Superior), just down the road. He must have stopped at the road construction site and then his truck wouldn't start again. The native guy had been unable to give him a jumpstart, so they thought his cables were defective. Turns out they weren't, he still couldn't start with my cables.

So while the Welland guy tried various things to get his truck started (put the cables on the starter, hammered the starter, put the cables on some other engine part I couldn't see), the native guy asked me where I was from, where I was going, and joked that if my truck broke down I could always paddle the rest of the way in my kayak. He said he was coming from playing fastball in Sudbury, on his way to the Soo too.

It soon became clear the truck was not going to start. The native guy offered to help push the truck into the ditch and give the Welland guy a ride to the Soo. I said I knew there was a mechanic in Spanish and his garage was open, so the native guy said, Sure he'd give him a ride there too if he wanted. They gave me back my cables, the native guy wished me a good trip and I left, while the Welland guy decided which direction he wanted a ride in. Poor guy. He was already late to meet his daughter and clearly not happy at all. The native guy was having a good time though, he seemed happy at the prospect of giving the Welland guy a ride and having someone to tell about his great fastball game in Sudbury yesterday.

Shortly after that I stopped at a park in a small town for a late lunch. A young couple with a baby and two dogs pulled in after me, they were en route from Vancouver to Toronto. We chatted a bit about our trips. They thought I was coming from Vancouver too because of the BC plate I still have on the front of my truck.

With frequent stops for gas and rest, I made it to a campground just past Wawa on Lake Superior for the night.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Leaving home again

Today I packed for the trip west. I have spent the last few days sorting out the contents of the truck for what I still want to keep with me and what I can afford to offload, so hopefully the truck will be lighter and less crowded. Yesterday I cooked some food for the trip, some rice and vegetables and spiced lentils, and bought milk, cereal and tea.

My plan is to visit with my brother and sister-in-law in Barrie tonight and then leave there early for British Columbia. I think it will be a four and a half day trip, putting me in New Westminster Friday afternoon.

Dobby stayed behind. He wasn't happy about that, but I am sure he is glad to be back with his family.

I arrived in Barrie in time for a late dinner, a little chat and then off to bed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A trip to the park

In my brief stay in Toronto I did not do a lot, but did manage a trip to Dufferin Grove Park with Tristan.

We walked through the neighbourhood on a hot summer day...

...passing this mural painted on the side of a house...

...and this friendly lion in front of another house.

We spent about an hour at the Dufferin Grove wading pool.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Briefly, summer in the city

I spent yesterday puttering around unpacking the truck, sorting through my stuff, and showing the kayak off to passersby.

I plan to drive to the west coast on Monday, so I only have a few days to get ready for that trip. Since the kayak made it so uneventfully from Baxter's Harbour to Toronto, I plan to bring it along to BC with me. It's maiden voyage on the Atlantic, maybe followed by a short foray onto Lake Ontario, and then on to dip its bow into the Pacific.

Today Tristan also arrives home from visiting his grandparents in PEI. Isaac is picking him up at the airport and then delivering him into the hands of friends who are taking him to the CNE (the 'Ex', the Canadian National Exhibition) for the day. So I won't see him until this evening.

I staggered through yesterday, quite exhausted from the last few days events and not enough sleep. But I slept well last night so things are good today. A lovely summer day in the neighbourhood, it's nice to be back.

PS - I added some photos to the post entries for August 15 and August 14.