2014 Day 16: Saturday

We have decided to leave today instead of tomorrow, we would like the extra day at home to get everything to rights before heading back to work on Monday.  The sky looks good but the forecast does say a high probability of rain this afternoon. Our plan is good to get out before the rain comes.
a hardy camp breakfast
a Brum's chocolate milk...an Ottawa Valley classic taste
So the two weeks of boondocking without services was quite manageable. The solar panels kept the battery charged up, and in full sun, generated more than enough power to run the roof fan and charge any devices. In the evening, we used our AA powered LED camp lights, which were excellent at providing lots of light inside the Alto. Watching the use of the waste tanks was also not a problem as in a campground there is generally lots of facilities round to utilize.

All and all it was a relaxing week for us....

2014 Day 15: Friday

As we awoke we were greeted again by the sounds of the wind and the surf. Seems the wind has returned, but not nearly as strong as previous days. Another slow relaxing day, which is nice to have when you are on holidays.

Went for another walk, we have discovered a nice circular route which has us climbing the long hill in one direction, then heading back towards the public beach, then cutting through a trail in the woods to come out at the far end of our road. A nice little bit of exercise. 

The water is rough enough to have us wondering about getting out in the kayaks. Dale is not really a big fan of rough water. Sitting on the beach will be the alternative, as at least the sun is cooperating. Dale did get in for a bit of a float, I just waded a bit. Overall, the water has been chilly everywhere this summer.

Dinner this evening is naan based pesto pizzas with leftover chicken, done on the Q. We set them on the grill tray this time and it really seemed to help warm them up nicely, rather than burning the bottom before the cheese has melted. A good plan for the future.

2014 Day 14: Thursday

Still quite windy today, but a little warmer. Power walk again in the morning, and pretty much hung around our site all day. The wind is just enough to make the water a little rough for paddling and sitting around outside only for the very hardy.

2014 Day 13: Wednesday

Lots of activity during the night, I could hear someone outside next door. The wind was really howling, and from what I could see, all the campers were outside tightening down their awnings and tarps. It was pretty chilly as well, with the temp dropping into the low 50'sF.

The windy was still real strong in the morning, and we decided to pull down our awning as it was under quite the strain. We also moved the Santa Fe in front of the Alto to provide a bit of a block from the winds off the water. It was so windy the Alto was literally being buffeted. Everyone around us were doing the same thing, making sure things were well fastened down.

Another power walk up the hill, with the added benefit of the winds keeping the bugs away. Further from shore the wind was not as bad, but still very present. The day remained mostly overcast, so we hopped in the car and headed into Deep River to pick up a few things for the coming days. Deep River is a small little town, and a lot of the older housing here looks like a military base. This type of housing was probably built because a lot of people who work at the nuclear power plant up at Chaulk River live in Deep River. While in Deep River we wandered through an interesting store called Freddie's Trading Post, a combination of convenience/camp store and a consignment shop. Lots of local goods there and a great selection of a little of everything. Picked up a jar of homemade pickled eggs, an impulse purchase at the counter...reminds me of my Uncle Pat's big pickled egg jar that was always sitting on the bar at his Golden Lake Hotel.  
taste tested...and excellent

2014 Day 12: Tuesday

Awesome day today, the temp was very hot. Power walk this morning got us going. There is quite the hill up from the water sites, so this made for a good leg workout. Walked over to the upper campsite section in the woods. We are so glad to be in the lower beach area, not only for the water, but because it is so much brighter. The wooded section can be dark and gloomy.

We went for swim and float, then headed out in the kayaks to paddle along the shoreline. We paddled west on the river up to a private campground. It was busy too, a large number of families on their beach. Chatted with a guy who owned a Cessna 170 float plane. It was in great shape for being a 1953 model. He maintains it well, replacing the motor and keeping it well serviced. Only a short time later we saw him taking off for a little flight around the area and back. 
Fried up some fish on the BBQ griddle for dinner, along with potatoes and yellow wax beans. Grilling outside was great as it kept the frying smoke and fish smell out of the trailer. We coated the fish with a light breading mixture called Fish Fry, which was quite tasty.

2014 Day 11: Monday

Although feeling Riley's loss we decided to continue onto Driftwood as planned a day later since staying home the week would only make it worse and not bring our little guy back. Also by being away from the house out of his regular routine for a week may help Barley transition to now not having his buddy.

We were able to reserve one of our favourite sites, right on the beach. Being right on the beach is fabulous, the water is only a few steps away.

2014 Day 10: Sunday

A very sad day today. Our plan was to head home early this morning to pick up the boys and bring them with us to Driftwood for the second week. Shortly after we arrived home, our little guy Riley suffered (what our Vet and we believe to be) a heart attack and passed away very suddenly. Riley was only a year and a half old, far too young to expect something like this to happen to him. Poor little guy, we and Barley will miss his enthusiastic and happy presence in our lives.
Riley. Looking very handsome.
Riley out camping with us. He idolized Barley and loved playing with his tail...being his fun mischievous self.

2014 Day 9: Saturday

Another fine day shaping up, which is great as it is our last day here. Hard to believe it has been eight days since we arrived. The boondocking experiment has so far gone quite well. There are a few things to be mindful of when you are without services for an extended period, the key ones being electricity and waste water.

2014 Day 8: Friday

The wind has calmed down this morning, as well as the breakers. Not a cloud in the sky, so it should shape up to be a great day. No plans today, just see where the day goes. Biked up to the park store and picked up a paper, so reading it was our morning's activity.

A nice treat to be able to buy a newspaper from a campground store, most do not have them and here there is a good selection...probably due to Sandbanks being one of the largest (if not the largest PP in Ontario). Being big readers of the daily paper and with endless time to read it, is especially nice.  

We noticed a car go by, stop, then back up to our site. A guy hops out and heads towards us. We knew what was next as this occurs all the time. He introduces himself, and tells us he has been eyeballing the Alto every time he drives by, and decided this time to stop and talk to us. He and his wife and two little children and are contemplating getting a trailer, as they are tired of using a tent. He has a keen interest in good design and said that after seeing ours had surfed the Safari Condo web site the previous night to find out all about it. Nothing like seeing the real thing though. We told him about our experience with the Alto and answered his questions. He kept remarking about the design and the expanse of windows. Turns out he is in the furniture design and sales business, which kind of explains his keen interest in the unusual design of the Alto. Later in the day he and his wife and children came back again. Camping is about meeting and talking to people like them who share the same enjoyment of being outdoors and camping with smaller trailers. They also live in Ottawa and were lovely people to talk to, and are very keen on camping in a light and compact way.

We then decided on a paddle, so we got the boats and gear down to the beach and headed out. Although the wind has gone down a bit, the surf is still pretty active. We headed towards the river outlet (off the Sandbanks beach), the start of a short connection between Lake Ontario and East Lake. East and West Lake are two small lakes that were formed long ago when the shifting sands and winds created a massive sand dune stretching between two long peninsulas. As we headed to the river opening, a large bull mastif dog came bounding our way. This is the dog beach area as well, so there were lots of dogs around. This guy was running and leaping circles around us, we were guessing he wanted to play with us but were not sure?  His owner who was watching and trying to call him back seemed to think that perhaps the dog thought we were giant dog toys. He literally towered over us as he bounded around, clearly enjoying himself, and we laughed once we realized he was friendly.

We continued on and it was a nice paddle right through a part of the park, then under two road bridges. To our surprise we came across a graceful white swan floating in the breeze.  On the river past the park on private land, there is a trailer park on one side and numerous cottages on the other. The river ends at East Lake which is surprisingly large when you finally reach it. Paddled a bit more, then headed back to the Sandbanks beach for a swim and a sit on the beach. Lots of people out today, taking advantage of the less windy conditions. 

2014 Day 7: Thursday

This is the day that we all planned for Helen and Paul to come out to our campsite and spend the afternoon on the beach and later on dinner. The day is still windy, but lots of full sun and blue sky and the waves have calmed down a bit, perfect for swimming or floating.

2014 Day 6: Wednesday

Still quite windy this morning, and from the sound, the breakers are huge. As a result of the high winds along the road there are now numerous miniature sand dunes, formed by the constant wind overnight. The beach had all sorts of new dunes as well, and the entire surface was rippled from the wind.

The shapes created was pretty cool, and easy for your mind to imagine how it would be like with those massive sandstorms that happen in the desert. 

2014 Day 5: Tuesday

Rain started around 6:00am this morning, not heavy, but very steady. Weather report calls for it to clear, but right now it looks doubtful. No power walk this morning, but we did head up early to the comfort station to freshen up. Had the place to ourselves, given the weather. Sat around most of the morning, but it did start to get a little brighter around 11:00.

We decided to go for a paddle as the water was like glass and we seemed to be getting good breaks of sun. Used the new kayak cart that I made to drag the boats across the road and over the dune to get to the beach. It worked like a charm, easily adapting and righting itself over the rough terrain. Such as simple yet effective design, using golf cart wheels, an aluminum rod axle, a boat trailer bow roller, plastic conduit and rubber water hose. Lots of examples on the internet, but the simplicity of this one appealed to me the most. Very pleased with the results.
crazy simple, crazy effective

2014 Day 4: Monday

Overcast this morning, those low clouds that don't seem to hold rain, but blanket the sky with drearyness. The wind is still up, but not as strong as last night. Temps have been hovering around 74F, comfortable, but not summer beach temps. There is no end to the clouds, so it looks like a bit of a dull day.

No rain, so this allowed us to get in a good power walk around the campsite. Up by the beach there is a guy with a nifty remote control plane, which is buzzing the now deserted shoreline. He can control it pretty good. It is almost silent, so it must have an electric engine. It has a bit of a hard time when it turns into the wind, slowing almost to a halt.

Headed into Picton again, as it is certainly not beach or paddling weather, but fine for wandering around town. We dropped into Miss Lilly's, the coffee shop we were at yesterday, and logged onto the wifi and posted a few blog entries. Back at camp we got a nice little fire going to cook our dinner over. We have some smoked salmon, which is amazing when warmed up over a fire. We also have some chorizio sausage, which takes on a whole new flavour when roasted. These will be combined with cream cheese or boursin, and crackers. A very casual cobbled together bite to eat.

2014 Day 3: Sunday

Woke up early morning (4:30am) to the sound of raindrops on the roof. We scrambled out of bed, put on our head lamps and went out to put away the mats, folding chairs and items we had hung out to dry, then we crawled back to bed. So glad we did because the rain did not stop and everything would have been soaked.

After our morning campground power walk in the warm drizzle, we went into the town of Picton to check it out and pick up a few groceries and odds and sods. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon. Picton is a lovely little town, with a few small museums, lots of little galleries and a nice assortment of shops.

2014 Day 2: Saturday

Another beautiful day ahead, not a cloud in the sky.  Put the coffee on, read a little, then went for a power walk around the campground. Lots of campers in, only a few empty spots. Walking through the forested parts we again realized the benefits of being more in the open. Although you pay a bit of a price in terms of heat, this is more than made up for by having a site that just seems more alive and cheery.

We walked for about 40 minutes, then had a quick swim to cool off a bit. Dale read a bit, and I biked up to the park store to see what was there, mostly in the way of a paper. Sure enough, we scored a Globe & Mail. They get papers every day, so I suspect this may be a morning routine.
an innovative way to get water...by longboard

2014 Vacation: Sandbanks/Driftwood

Starting two weeks today. This year, rather than a big road trip, we have decided to spend a week in a couple of our favourite provincial parks. We are heading to Sandbanks first, followed by a second week at Driftwood. We have been road tripping the past four years, and although those are great holidays, we have yet to spend a longer time in two places.

Nice drive down, we took Hwy 7, then 41 which took us to a brief ride on the 401, then onto 'The County', as Prince Edward County is called here.  Being in the County is our ultimate favourite place to be, the dunes, the expansive long white sand beach, wineries, rural scenery and country roads,...can't be beat.  A nice plus to our yearly trip to the County is meeting up with long time Ottawa friends, Helen & Paul, who make yearly trips there to spend a few days together, and old friends (Geoff and Joey) who moved to the County a few years back.

Before we left I half-filled the black tank, to let the road movement give it a good clean. I noticed that the fluid level monitor was giving an incorrect reading, when it was definitely empty. That is a sure sign that a little extra cleaning was needed to clean up those sensors. Levels in tanks are determined by a series of vertical electrodes, which use the fluid to create electrical connections between them. The more sensor in the circuit, the fuller the tank. If those electrodes get "gummed" up, this can also create a circuit, and provide false readings. Some have suggested to dump a bag of ice cubes down the toilet before heading out, so the cubes can scrub the sides of the tanks. They then melt and get drained. Have not tried that yet.

Pulled into the dumping station and ahead of us was a newish looking R-Pod. The guy came over to speak to me as he was having trouble draining. This was only their second trip out, and he was clearly frustrated. I had a quick look and he was doing all the mechanics of the process correctly, but a look from the toilet view showed the tank was totally full. We had a similar problem last year, so I suggested he drive around a bit to try and loosen things up, then drain again. If that did not work, he would need to get a toilet snake a do it that way. This is how we fixed an earlier problem.

Pulled up to our site and it looks excellent. Did a quick walk around and decided where to situate the Alto. Backed it in exactly where we wanted it, bit of an angle to the road, looks great. The site is awesome. It is huge, has a bit of a driveway in from the road, and we are surrounded by tree and shrub covered dunes. It is the valley of some dunes. We have total privacy and literally can only see the very tops of our neighbours tents of trailers.

A Kayak Cart Build

Not really a mod of the Alto, but given the number of kayakers amongst our Alto friends, I figured sharing how to assemble your own kayak cart would be a nice little project to share. Even though kayaks are relatively easy to transport, sometimes you are faced with an extended haul to get them to the water. Take for instance our favourite site at Sandbanks. To get to the waters edge, we would either have to drive them to one of the beach parking lots and walk from there, or haul them up and over a sand dune, which is actually the shortest route, but there is the dune to deal with. Wanting a solution, retail or otherwise, I turned to the internet for a little research.

There are many retail options out there, but from what I saw, they tended to be a bit pricey. I then looked at homemade versions, knowing I would not be the only one looking for a cost effective alternative. Sure enough, lots of different styles were being offered up. Some more elegant than others. Most featured use of PVC piping to create a cart the kayak would ride on, with straps and wheels. Some of these it seemed the builder went a little crazy with the tubing, turning what should be a simple cart into a complex maze of pipes and joints. Not going down that road. The other disadvantage to a PVC solution was the storage. Just where do you put it in the car? A few had models that broke down into pieces...a few too many pieces in my mind.

Then I came upon it. A simple and elegant alternative. I first spotted the retail version, and soon discovered its rather lofty price point started at $150 bucks. That's some serious coin. I then discovered the home built knockoffs, and once you see what is involved to make one, you will understand the sticker shock.

The parts list consists of:
a length of rubber heater hose
2 PVC connectors, sized for the hose
1" electrical plastic conduit
1/2' aluminum rod
V shaped boat trailer keel roller
stainless steel washers and hitch pins (or cotter pins)
golf cart wheels

I went with the wide soft plastic golf cart wheels, as I figured these would be best to roll across sand. The first step is to determine how wide apart the wheels need to be to suit your kayak. this measurement is somewhat universal, as the design allows it to sit really anywhere towards the rear of the kayak. Assemble together the keel roller, axle and the wheels. sit the kayak on the keel roller in the position where you think you would like the kayak to ride. Move the wheels out along the axle, allowing enough room to clear the heater hose, which will eventually be sitting inboard of the wheels. This now becomes your axle length.

Find the spot on the axle which is straight down from the widest part of the kayak. This is where the heater hose will reside on the axle. Using the hose, hold one end against the axle on one side, then loop the hose up and over the kayak, to the matching axle position on the other side. You can see what I mean from the photos. It loops a little above the deck of the kayak. This becomes the length of the hose. It is not an exact science, and can be adjusted afterwards. The plastic conduit really only serves as spacers to keep all the parts in position on the axle. these can be fine tuned as well. A free tip for you! Buy a cheap PEX tubing cutter. These look like pliers, but have a knife edge on one side, and a pipe holder on the other. They cut through plastic pipe like butter, much faster and easier than a hacksaw.

Now drill a hole in the aluminum rod for the hitch pin. You will need to find the centre of the axle for the keel roller, and mark both sides where it ends up on the axle. The heater hose needs a bit of work now. You can just drill a hole in the hose, but I figured it would be better to insert a hose connector first, then drill the axle hole through both the hose and the plastic joint residing inside. I cut the connector in half first, before installing it into the hose. This makes a tougher joint with the axle. The plastic conduit is cut to make up the spacers needed to position all the pieces in the right spots. The order of assembly is:

hitch pin
keel roller

Follow back up the list for the other side of the roller. Once the wheel is in place, you now have the assembled cart. A little fine tuning is possible if you do not make the final cut of the axle length. You can then sit the kayak on the cart and adjust as neccessary. I did a bit of this, shortening or creating new spacers as needed. Once satisfied, mark and cut the axle, drill the hole for the hitch pin, and you are DONE!

2014 Trip 4: hard to get any better than this...

Rollins Pond S.P. - June 2014

Off to one of favourite parks this long weekend, and it is a bonus weekend of 5 days. We mostly camp at Ontario provincial parks, but Rollins Pond NY State park is also a fave. Rollins is a great place, a quiet lake with most sites on the water, and no ski boats or jet skis. Perfect for paddling, which is exactly what most people do.

Nice drive here, only about 3 1/2 hours, through some nice country. We cross at Ogdensburg, make a standard stop at the Walmart which has more trailer gear than Walmarts do in Canada.  

We pick up our food in Tupper Lake, which saves having any hassles at the border with the customs food restrictions. There is also a great hardware store in Tupper, which we always wander through. Arrived around 3:00pm, the park is slowly filling up. We have a nice site on the water, and it looks like we will get some sun throughout the day, real important to get our solar panels recharging the battery. We are here 5 days, so it will be a good test for our upcoming vacation, which will be totally without power for 2 weeks. After slowly manoeuvering around some rocks, we were able to line up the Alto on the site to take full advantage of the lake views. We have come to the conclusion there there is nothing better than having a site right on the water. The weather is supposed to be excellent all weekend.

2014 Trip 3: a nice weekend away

Silver Lake P.P. - June 2014

Headed out after work, looks like the weather will be great this weekend. Nice to get out again, as it has been a couple of weekends since our last trip. Traffic is light, although getting past Kanata always eats up time.

Not many in the Park when we arrived, but a few trailers did roll in a little after dark. We have been on this site before, which is not surprising as we reserve sites based on our master list. Most campers develop a list of preferred sites, spending a little time each trip eyeballing sites and writing down numbers.

I was a little concerned with the braking of the Alto after our last trip. I noticed that the brakes did not seem to be adjusted correctly, after the wheel bearing job I did. Before heading out on this trip I jacked up the wheels and adjusted the brake shoes a little closer to the drums. This made a difference, with the brakes now engaging more like they used to. You can really feel the improvement, as last trip I sensed right away something was not working as well as it had in the past. Perhaps they needed one trip to re-seat themselves correctly, and then a fine tune adjustment. 

As I as backing in the Alto, a couple of the warning lights started to flash on the Santa Fe. The all wheel drive and the stability control lights were blinking, not something I have seen before. I checked the manual and will need to bring the car in for service. As luck would have it, we have an appointment on Monday at the dealership to have a leak looked into, so now they have a couple more items to investigate.

Quite evening, listened to a bit of radio then hit the pit early since tomorrow we will be up late tomorrow. We will be heading to Helen and Paul's cottage to spend the afternoon with them, probably doing some boating and a BBQ. Every year we try to see them while staying at this park, since their cottage road is only 5 min. down the highway.  A nice treat to camp and see good friends at the same time...

The boys were rambucious early this morning, especially Riley, who was up and about at 4:30. After being ignored for a while, he finally settled down again.