2018 Trip 4: Grand Rassemblement

Trip 4: Centre Caztel, Saint-Marie, Quebec

Thursday morning found Mark & I huddled at a picnic table, formulating the directions to get a little convoy of Altos to the big rally. The SC instructions suggested that if one wanted to be camped next to a friend, it would be best to arrive at the rally site together...but what about 18 together???  I had found a suitable place to assemble close the destination, and these details were put together and emailed to everyone. This allowed all of us to move at own pace, as long as we made it to the assembly point by 1:00pm.

It was quite a sight to see us all gather on a little rural residential street...perhaps not so unusual for us, but it must have been a curious eyeful for those living on the street. Soon we were on the move in a long convoy line of Altos snaking their way to their destination. We only had to travel a few kilometres, and we all pulled into the rally entrance together. The volunteers must have been surprised to see so many Altos arrive at one time, but it was clear their well organized teams could handle the job of getting us settled in.

It was an amazing sight to see the many license plates from so far away, such as Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, B.C., and from all over the United States…Maryland, Virginia, Florida, California, and also a couple came from Australia.

Each Alto was parked with their doors facing its neighbour, with an empty spot between. All we had to do was pull up, unhitch, and then a pink shirted team would push your Alto into position. They also had a bunch of car floor jacks that were used to level out the trailer as needed, yet another fine idea.

the rare yellow Alto
but perhaps not so rare this one weekend

It was another sunny hot day, and it quickly became apparent that we needed to do something to get us some shade. Steve and I went into full MacGyver mode, using our awnings, poles and guy lines, to create a nice shaded respite between the Altos. Our cheery orange camp mat added to the comfort of the little niche. This effort paid off nicely, as not only did it provide us, and our furry friends a break from the heat, it also resolved the biggest concerns most everyone felt about camping in a parking lot. Soon our little design spawned a flurry of similar work around us, and our row of Altos became that much more liveable.

our little square of shade...and boy did we need it

Altos and caravans continued to roll in, and the lot was bustling with activity. Once we were settled, the meandering and visiting soon started. Lots of new people to meet and chat with, tons of Alto ideas to observe, and I even got to help out a few new owners sort out their concerns.

our assembled row

it all started here...and yellow!
Photo Credit: Marc-Andre Gendron

Safari Condo kicked off the rally with a meet and greet, fuelled by a selection from a local craft brewery, “Frampton Brasse”. They offered a nice variety of beer styles, all very creative and tasty. After the event, many impromptu little gatherings soon cropped up all through the parking lot of Altos. The fun was in full swing.

Friday brought yet another sunny and hot day, so the foldies came off and Dale & I took a little exploring ride around the historic part of Sainte Marie.  The town is very scenic, nestled along the Rivière Chaudiere. Naturally, it has a large beautiful church, and as we were right beside it when the noon time bells rang, filling the air with sounds that quite frankly, we don’t have the opportunity to hear often enough. The Beauce region is very entrepreneurial, in fact, the Centre Caztel, the location of the rally, is a collaboration of regional businesses to bring sports and convention activity to the area. There is also a strong local foodie presence, cheeses being a big part of the scene.

Friday evening found a large circle of people gathered outside of our comfy niche, with food, beverages and conversation flowing freely. What a blast!

another Gauvreau, an Acadian, and a SC sales rep. thanks for hunting me down at the rally Jessica!

Overnight brought some heavy winds and rain, which caused a bit of peaking out the windows to see if our makeshift awning was holding up to the task...which it did. An impromptu cheese tasting was arranged in the afternoon at a local cafe/market ‘Les Peres Nature’, with a nicely organized selection of Quebec cheeses. We then did a little grocery shopping on the market side, stocking up for our remaining days.

Lots more visiting in the afternoon, and before heading over to the show, we made the call to pack away the awnings and most of the outdoor gear, and that turned out to be a wise one.

Safari Condo brought in a Beatles tribute band, to perform two shows, given the masses of people to accommodate. Our tickets were for the Saturday show, and this was all happened after the full sit down filet mignon dinner we got to enjoy.

The Beatles show was excellent. Not only did the four guys sing and play well, they were backed by a twelve piece orchestra section. This nicely filled in all the string and horn parts that underly most of the songs. They played for two hours, and it was great fun to hear the Beatles music played live and at concert volume. What a treat.

It rained overnight and into the morning, and we were very glad we did a little pre-packing. The rally wound down with a full breakfast, a wrap up of the Safari Condo year from Daniel & Dominique, and then a steady stream of campers heading out.

A procession of caravans and Altos was headed towards the SC factory in Sainte-Frederic, where more activities were planned, including a self guided tour of the new factory. This was a must do activity for me. Having the opportunity to explore and see how these little gems are produced was not to be missed. There was an offer to boondock one more night on the SC grounds, but a few of us headed instead to a nice little private campground close by, to enjoy the full services, to prep for the drive home.

The factory tour was a highlight for a techie geek like me. I was joined by Annie and Steve, fellow like minded geeks. It was very cool to wander the factory floor, observing Altos that were in a variety of states of completion. This is a very organized undertaking. I know they have been through a few Kaizen process sessions to improve the output production, and the orderly focussed workstations seemed to reflect this.

the CNC...

the results...

big details...

little details...

For those who may balk at the Alto price tag, make no mistake, this is a handmade product, and the quality of materials and assembly reflect this fact. Throw in a strong workforce, full of pride in their tasks and final product, and you have a winning combination. We the owners, get a product that is clearly in the very upper echelons of this industry, which will serve us well in our adventures, and last a very long time. Oh, and let’s not forget the way it seems to keep its resale value...and that’s very rare. All this is worth every penny spent!

We had a nice meal back at the campground, and we all turned in early to get a few extra zzz’s for the drive to head home.

What a blast this week has been. Catching up with old friends, making new ones, hanging out talking travel and Alto, its all been so invigorating, making us want to get it hitched up again for the next adventure.

2018 Trip 4: the pre-rally rally

Trip 4: Campsite La Jolie Rochelle, Beauce Region, Quebec

Awesome. An appropriate word to start this off.  Why...because that is what happens when you have back-to-back rally’s, starting with a group of Alto friends, and ending with a massive gathering of Altos and fellow Alto owners.

The pre-rally idea got floated around many months ago within a little group of us, that perhaps a get together prior to the big event might be a neat idea. A bit of research turned up what looked to be a good private campsite, La Jolie Rochelle, close to where the main SC rally would be held. Soon there were a number of us booked into the row of sites along the river, and thus the wait for July began.

We arrived on the Sunday, and to say the campsite was nice, would be a gross understatement...the place was gorgeous, right along the banks of the Rivière du Sud. The campground is meticulously maintained and very well managed!  Malcolm & Tanya had already arrived and set up, and after we got squared away, we spent the rest of the evening catching up. We were the two early bird Altos.

Monday brought the arrival of most of the other Altos, each one revving up the excitement yet another notch.  All this kick started a week filled with chatting, laughter, Alto discussion, and all around great times together.

we filled the entire riverfront

solar panels galore

As is the norm at these gigs, the cycling enthusiasts got together for some nice excursions, the techies talked mods, while others enjoyed relaxing chats, cooling dips in the river, and of course, cooling beverages. Being somewhat handy, I soon found myself pressed into service, tools in hand, to help fix a few nagging issues some fellow Altoistes were having. For me, this is a huge bonus, as I really enjoy the opportunity to tinker a bit and solve a problem. We had a pot luck dinner one evening, with our picnic tables right beside Linda’s brand new 2114, and a couple of nice campfires closed out the days.

The front part of the week seemed to just melt away, and the next thing we knew it was time to break camp and head to the main event...and what a hell of a lot of fun that turned out to be!

2018 Trip 3: a Rideau Lakes getaway

Trip 3: Lower Beverly Lake

A new destination this weekend, into the Rideau Lakes area, to a rather large campground nestled between the upper and lower Beverly Lakes. Although we originally thought this was a private campground, it turns out it is owned and operated by the local township. It has a private campground feel, lots of seasonal trailers, and the sites are quite tight. It is evident that it is well run, there is staff around all over, tending to the grounds, picking up garbage, and operating the little canteen.

Our site is right on the river that connects the two lakes, and we are between two seasonal trailers. At the back of the site there is a wooden deck that almost spans the river. All the sites are nice and grassy. Our neighbours, Roger & Margaret, wandered over to say hello. They have been coming to this park for over forty years, and apparently the same is for many other campers here. Their children loved coming here, and although they toured around the country in a variety of trailers over the years, their kids always wanted to head back to Delta, and this campground. Delta is the little town between the two lakes, and it is still little now.

There is lots of activity here this weekend, mostly, as Roger tells us, because bass season opens tomorrow, and everyone is anxious to get the lines in the water. The weather is promising to be beautiful all weekend, which will give our site lots of sun, followed by shade from the huge trees around us. We took a walk around the campground, heading first to the canteen for an ice cream cone. We were not the only ones with this idea. With the size of the campground, the number of seasonal sites, and a canteen offering all sorts of food, this operation must be a nice little extra cash flow for the township. It is little wonder they are investing the effort to keep it well maintained.

There is a small beach for swimming, and it is a nice sized lake with lots of islands. We sat on a rocky point to watch the sun go down. There is live music drifting across the water from a nearby island. Roger told us the island is owned by a local family, and it is set up as an event venue. They have a couple of pontoon boats that ferry people back and forth to weekend events like BBQ’s and bands. It is locally known as the party island, and from the regular ferry crossings full of people, and the applause after the songs, it seems to be a happening spot.

caused by water flowing off the rock???

Roger told us the fisherman would be out early, and sure enough, at 5:00am, a steady stream of boats started puttering past us, heading for the lake. That was it for my sleeping, as my boat curiosity took over, and every sound of an approaching motor made me wonder what sort of vessel was going by. Dale, unsurprisingly, was not affected with the same curiosity.

We took a little bike ride to explore the town, however there is not much going on here any longer. From the buildings though, you can see that at one time it was an active community. There is a mixture of houses, some quite large and elegant, along with a long retail building, and some small factories. Most of these are now abandoned. Also part of the old fairgrounds is a classic looking spectator stand, although any ball diamond or sports field seems to have long disappeared.

We talked to a local farmer who had a stand set up across from the empty retail building, and she told us that a few years back a group of businesses set up shop in the stores, and tried to make a go of it, but then one morning the locals discovered them gone, leaving everything behind. She also told us that although the summer has some good traffic, the winters are desolate, with even the gas station/grocery store has a tough time surviving.

lots of yummy treats

a classic Land Cruiser

Fired up the Q for dinner, seasoned flank steak with chimichura sauce, and grilled baby potatoes. A simple meal. Dessert, well that was an ice cream cone of course!

only like this for a moment

It was a warm day, but it cooled off nicely, mostly due to the breeze off the lake, so it was great for sleeping. We started to pack up after breakfast on Sunday, sipping our coffee and chatting with our neighbours. As we are close to the little town of Newboro, Dale has decided that a quick stop at Kilborn’s is a ‘must do’ activity. This a a very cool destination store, with all sorts of goods, but in reality, their market is truly aimed at the car full of women friends that are out for a shopping adventure. Always something to find there, and sure enough, Dale did!

Another nice weekend, relaxing away from the usual weekly commitments.

Dometic Fridge Thermistor Replacement

We have been noticing of late that our fridge does not seem to keep things as cool as we think it used to. A few factors could be related to this, such as the really hot summers we now have, and of course, the age of the cooling system. A little research pointed me in the direction of replacing the thermistor, which controls the preset temperature, as a simple and relatively inexpensive first action to see if there is an improvement.

A quick search on Amazon turned up the correct part, and a tip for Canadian owners, try to source it on Amazon.com, as you will find the prices significantly cheaper. Of course, you then have to figure out how to get it, and we have found shipping it to a UPS store somewhere along your travels is a good option.


The hardest part of the installation is getting the cover off the control box. The way the fridge is installed, the cover is jammed tight against a metal channel, and this does not allow enough room for the cover to be maneuvered off. A few summers back I wanted to check the fuses found in that box, and had a hell of a time figuring out how to get this thing off. As chronicled here, http://routealto80.blogspot.com/2017/06/2-way-fridge-switch-over-issue.html , I think this is the only way to go about it, without pulling the whole unit forward from the inside, an even bigger effort!

Get the cover off, then disconnect the wire connector from the circuit board. Of course, there was a little zip tie preventing the complete removal of the wire without cutting the connector off. As I wanted to keep the old thermistor intact, I worked at getting some small side cutters around the tie. Then I went inside and removed the thermistor holder from the refridgerator fins, removed the thermistor, then the little plug for the hole. After that it was just a matter of reversing all the tasks, a few zip ties to clean things up, cover back on, and you are done.

The fridge fired up no problem, and although it is only the first time out, the internal thermometer is showing that the fridge does seem to be cooling thing off a little further. One other think I noticed was the impact of the placement of any thermometer used to monitor the internal temp of the fridge. We use a wireless temp sensor, and I originally had this placed in the back left corner of the interior. This I found resulted in a higher temp reading, to the tune of 3-4F, than when it was moved, as a test, to the middle of the lower shelf. This sort of makes sense, as the back wall of the fridge is the closest to not only to the workings of the fridge, but also an increase caused by the sun pounding on the sidewall. Given that an absorption fridge works using heat as part of the process, it is little wonder that the back of the fridge might be a tad warmer.

So in short, I think changing the thermistor, and finding the best location for getting an accurate temp reading, were good moves.
Win Win.