2015 Trip 12: a bittersweet weekend

Cedar Cove Resort on White Lake - Oct 2015

The excitement of getting out again in the Alto is soon tempered with the realization that this is the last weekend of the season. The reality of it in our neck of the woods, it gets colder, the campgrounds close up on Thanksgiving weekend and the season ends. Simple as that. We say we would camp longer if we could, but now we only get the camper nice and warm, then mostly hibernate inside.

Little traffic this evening which is somewhat surprising as usually people are travelling to somewhere on Thanksgiving weekend.  Forecast is calling for a nice weekend, at this point we are only hoping to get set up while it is still light, and a bonus will be no rain.

White Lake is a short drive, and it is our 'go to' location for opening and closing the Alto. White Lake is about 10 miles (16 k) long with lots of bays, and this resort is tucked into one of the bigger ones.  This lake attracts a lot of fisherman who fish for largemouth Bass, walleye (or as also known as pickerel).  Not many folks around when we pulled in, the girl at the desk says she has only two overnight reservations. We have our favourite spot at the edge of the water which we booked many months ago. Got the Alto backed in and set up, positioned to help the winterizing tasks. As we will be draining and rinsing the tanks, we used the Anderson Leveller to tilt the camper higher a bit more on the door side. This will ensure a good flow of fluids out of all the tanks. Hooked up the services and put the heat on right away. A quick look at the temperature told us we were beyond the operating range of the heat pump, so the little electric heaters took over this job. It was not long before we were nice and toasty.

As we have electrics, and we are hibernating, we put on a DVD and settled in. We watched "The Station Agent", a nice comedy/human drama sort of movie. One of the few times this season we have had electricity, so this weekend are inclined to sit back in the evenings and catch up watching some of our DVD's.  The temperature is now down to the low 40'sF. The little heater will get a workout tonight. Turned in early, cozy under our duvet and wool blanket.

Dale woke around 5:00am. I could hear her rustling around, then the light went on. When I looked, I saw her bundled in a puffy vest, with a headlamp on. She looked ready to head outside...but why? She tells me the moon and the stars are amazing, and she is going out to have a look. They would have to be amazing to get her to venture outside at this time and temperature! I had a peek myself, and sure enough, they were pretty spectacular. The clouds had disappeared, the moon was only a quarter visible, and the stars were brighter than usual.  Everything seemed so close, like the stars were an arms length away. I threw on a hoodie, grabbed my camera and headed out as well. Pretty amazing. The moon was in a crescent phase, and you could still see the entire moon outline as well. The cold soon drove us back in to our cozy enclave.

unfortunately the picture does not do the moment any justice

Barley is one good guy. We slept in this morning, and as usual, he does not make a sound until he sees a sign of movement that one of us is getting up. How great is that? I got up around 8:00, which is sleeping in for us, and Dale caught up on needed sleep. A very relaxing morning. Sky is clear, and the sun coming in the east facing windows was really warming up the camper. Once Dale started to stir I put on the coffee to get us going for the day.

As part of the routine to winterize the Alto, we like to give the tanks a good cleaning. In the past I have used a mixture of dishwasher detergent and water, which was poured into the grey and black tanks. I was a little concerned with how the rather caustic dishwasher detergent might be affecting the tanks and the drain valves. I have noticed that the valves were really stiff after draining the tanks, so this year I researched other possibilities that help clean the tanks. I came across something called the GEO method. Apparently this stands for "Get Everything Out". It consists of one cup of Dawn dish soap, and one cup of Calgon water softener, dissolved in some water. This is then poured into each tank at the start of the weekend, you use the tanks as normal over the time you are out, then drain them. The theory is the Dawn, which is an excellent grease cutter, and the Calgon which makes the tank surfaces slippery, work together to degrease and release any crud that has built up inside the tank. It makes sense, as the mixture is quite slick. What splashed on my hands while mixing it left a very slippery surface. It will be interesting to see how this works, and it definitely is not as caustic.

Once I was finished with my little science experiment, we went for a power walk around the campsite. It has turned into a really nice day, and it felt great to be walking in the crisp clean air. Walking along the trails through the bush, the leaves crunching under our steps, really brought home that we are in the depths of fall, winter is only around the corner. The sun was full on our site by this time. Dale brought out Barley for a little tour, while I took the opportunity to give the trailer hitch a quick coat of Tremclad before the winter. Take a look at most trailer hitches and they are generally covered in rust. A regular protective coat of paint helps keep the hitch looking good and lasting longer.

We took a little run into White Lake, alas as one of us forgot to bring herself some wine for the weekend.  There is a classic general store on the lake that sells just about everything and bonus, there is an LCBO (liquor store) built into it.  Also picked up the weekend newspaper, a treat to read when camping.  A place like this must be a little gold mine in the country, especially being a ’one stop’ shop. On the way back, a large group of wild turkeys crossed the road ahead of us. They must know it's Thanksgiving, as they made a quick beeline for the safety of the woods! Dale had a little nap when we got back, I fired on a movie.

one never tires of Alto reflections

no photoshop...really.

Went to the campsite restaurant 'Lakeside Grill' for dinner. It is a nice spot, that apparently has a pretty steady business. The menu is creative enough, Dale had a nice Beef Pad Thai, I had a burger with bacon and stilton. Both were quite tasty. This is the only place where we camp that has a restaurant next to us so it is a nice treat just to be able to wander over instead of cooking something up ourselves. We watched another movie, then crawled into bed.

We got up early again to see if the moon was good for some photographs. Unfortunately, a mass of clouds had rolled in overnight and there was no night sky to see. Certainly not as cold last night, at 4:30 am, the temp was 50F, a lot warmer this morning. If these clouds move out, we could have a real nice fall day. Slowly got going this morning, after coffee Dale went for a power walk and I made pancakes on the griddle, which I had placed on top of the two burner stove. Dale was a little unsure of this set up, so she vacated the camper to the safety of the outdoors. I on the other hand, did not think there was an issue. The griddle worked as expected, and the pancakes came out perfect and golden brown. A little butter and maple syrup made for a nice breakfast.

It turned into a nice sunny day. We took the opportunity to do a little deep cleaning of the outside of the Alto, giving the assorted nook and crannies a little extra attention to get rid of any accumulated dirt and grime in areas that are normally difficult to get into to, before tucking it away for the winter. I applied a layer of rubber conditioner to all the various seals, which definitely keeps them supple and clean. An easy task to help ensure the longevity of these key parts. Afterwards, it looked like new...it is well worth doing because we want our camper to last us forever.  It was a great way to be outdoors, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and the occasional refreshing beverage.

a great afternoon

hipster beer can marketing...with a tasty brew inside!

Dinner this evening was a couple of rib steaks on the Q, with a side of oven made dressing, a little homage to Thanksgiving weekend. Steaks turned out to quite tasty, and the dressing, although not as good as if cooked inside a turkey, was very nice. A nice sunset this evening. It seems every time we are here, we are treated to a great display of sunsets and fall tree colours.

the sumac can always be counted on for some fabulous reds

the outdoors is almost indoors with the Alto

We listened to the Randy Bachman radio show on CBC (radio 2) after dinner. Randy is formerly lead guitarist of Canadian bands 'The Guess Who' and 'Bachman-Turner Overdrive' and songs such as 'American Woman’, 'Takin Care of Business' and 'These Eyes'.  This evening he was exploring the music of the Beatles. Randy has an awesome knowledge of music, and his track selections and insights were very interesting. A lot of the tracks were studio demos, often just Lennon singing with minimal instruments. A song sort of sounded the same, but your mind knew something was a little different.  The depth and intricacies expected were just not there, it sounded flat. Then Randy would play yet another version, a little fuller this time, but still a tad off. Then came the version we are all so familiar with, heard thousands of times, full and rich, every sound, word and harmony permanently etched into our memory, you find yourself singing along in your head...perfectly. Fascinating to get a glimpse of how this iconic music was created.

Warm last night, and there was no need for any sort of heater. Great sunrise this morning, so I wandered out early to take a few pics. Not a cloud in the sky, looks like we have a scored a great day to finish up the winterizing. We have noticed that it is cool where this campground is situated on the lake, we are treated to both great sunrises and sunsets...very unusual.

really liked the sunrise glow on the picnic table

We really like this campground, we get a great site by the water, it has all the services we want, and get to enjoy being out in nature one last time.  To our surprise we saw a large great blue heron walking a few feet in front of us along the shoreline, a rare treat to see.

We are going to give the inside of the camper a little cleaning this morning, then get to the tanks and antifreeze. I put a little bleach into the fresh water tank and have filled it up, to let it then sit a while for the bleach to kill off any nasties that may be present. While this was sitting in the tank, we started cleaning the inside, windows, walls and the ceiling all getting a quick wipe. While the fresh tank was draining, we emptied and flushed the grey and black tanks. Dale then went for a nice power walk while I finished up with the pumping of the RV anti-freeze through the pipes.

It's not a lot of work to winterize, just a bunch of little tasks to get done. We are so lucky to have the weather cooperate, it makes a huge difference.

So our last camping weekend is over, and with it, the season. What a season it has been. The weather started out a little sketchy way back in June, improved in July, and became simply awesome in August. We camped a record 45 nights, our most so far. The vacation was fabulous, kick started with the Alto Rally in Ohio. What an event that was! We met a ton of wonderful people, all of us drawn together by our common fascination with a wonderful little camper. We know we will be participating in these rallys for many years to come. This summer we also had a lot of great time either on the water in our kayaks, or in the deliciously warm water, swimming and floating for hours. The season once again confirmed our long term plans for how we will spend our retirement, travelling around the country, exploring new surroundings in our little camper. It also reaffirmed our ability to spend time in a small space...45 nights, 90 nights, it simply does not matter, the longer the better.

So although we will now tuck the Alto away in the garage to await the next season, and as hard as that is to do, we take a little bit of comfort in the fact that the end of yet another season, really brings us closer to, as they say in sports, "the real season".


  1. Jim,

    I have read the blog from start to finish trying to pick up any tidbits/ideas for our Alto. We are due to take delivery in March of a 1713 and cannot wait! Where can I find out more about the Alto Rally?

    Kevin B in Phoenix MD

  2. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the season ending post. Also thanks for all the posts on your mods. You didn't mention the Propex on this trip, how is the larger size working out. I'm in the process of ordering an Alto and tying to get a feel for the best options.


  3. Hi Kevin,
    So exciting about having ordered an Alto, that's great! You must have ordered a while ago to be getting it next March, as the lead times are now well over a year. I think you have already discovered the Altoistes Facebook group, and that is the place to read about the rally, and all sorts of other great info.

  4. Hi Ed,
    We had electrics this weekend and did not need the Propex. It sure is nice to have many different methods to produce heat. Generating heat while boondocking without electrics is very important, so having this on your option list is a must. Our season is now over, but we are already talking about where we will head out to with the Alto next summer! I think you have joined the Altoists Facebook group, which I'm sure you will find to be a great source of information and new Alto friends.