2016 Trip 4: the Get-Away Weekend

Trip 4: Presqu'ile PP - June 2016

The Get-Away Weekend event has finally arrived.  What started out as an idea amongst a few of us in Ontario to camp together this summer, blossomed into a full blown rally once we posted it to the group to see if any others were interested.  We avoided using the term "rally" as the official Altoistes eastern rally is being planned for next year, and the western rally is happening this summer in Oregon.  We have not been to Presqu'ile before, and we are not really certain why that is, but perhaps it has to do with the fondness we have for Sandbanks, which is not far away.

We took the Thursday off work to get down here and set up before the group arrives on Friday, and there are a few other early birds as well. Presqu'ile is just a little west of Sandbanks, very near the town of Brighton.  Given our disdain for Hwy 401, we headed west on Hwy 7, then cut south on Hwy 62 at Madoc. The little time this route may add to the journey is far outweighed by the pleasure of the drive. We trade the rushed 18 wheeler mayhem of the 401, for the peaceful meandering through the countryside that the secondary highways have to offer.  We did have to tolerate about 15 minutes on the 401, but that was just to get us to our final road into Brighton. The weather is forecasted to be nice, and if it stays like today, it will be golden.

Outside the Park we stopped and picked up some ice at a little roadside spot. This guy has all the bases covered...ice, firewood, ice cream cones and fries, all within sight of the Park main entrance. On a Thursday afternoon, he had a fair amount of customers. Behind his little setup, he has a large Airstream trailer, which he told me he lives in for the summer, then heads south for the winter.  I suspect he does not tow the Airstream south as it looked very ensconced by a deck out front.  Checked in at the Park office and headed to our site, anxious to eyeball a fellow Alto. Sure enough, on the near end of the loop was a 1713, occupied by Rene & Micheline. A little further on was the yellow #6, a classic, belonging to Christine & Paul, then a group of a further 3 Altos. Our site is around the bend, and faces the water. We choose this one, not only for the view, but because it is a wide site with a lot of room. This really turned out for the best as my attempts to reserve the park's picnic shelter proved futile, so the extra space will come in handy.

It is a real nice site with lots of sun. We were able to tuck in close to the trees, which with the awning, will give us some nice shade. We are always mindful of the sun exposure, as we want to keep the Alto as cool as we can for Mr. Barley.  Soon enough we had visitors dropping by to say hello. Malcolm & Tanya, Steve & Karen and Mark & Linda all arrived a few days ago, and were set up close by. We are lucky that the majority of us attending are all beside each other.  Got the awning up, which has become a regular activity, as we will need it in the late afternoon when the sun moves into the west. We were soon sitting around and chatting, getting caught up on the time that has passed since last year’s rally.

Fired up the Q for a quick bite to eat, then started in on visiting our neighbours.

beer labels have gone crazy...

We had a nice campfire in the evening at Malcolm & Tanya's, lots of laughing and scratching going on. The evening has cooled off nicely, which is always great for sleeping.

Up early, and I pulled out our new ‘old’ Coleman stove to boil up some water for coffee. It was nice to be outside doing this, it gets you going, and the slowness of the Mellita coffee process gives you time to enjoy the early morning outdoors and ponder the plans for the day.  We are kayaking with Malcolm & Tanya this morning, so I made us some nice egg mcmuffins for breakfast on the Coleman. We had not been using an outdoor stove, as our previous editions were naphtha powered and a bit of a pain to use and store. The propane version is much more civilized, although perhaps not old school enough for some die hards. I really like using the awning, as it creates a strong illusion of having another room on the front of the camper.

Pulled the yaks off the Santa Fe and Malcolm & Tanya came by around 10am. The boat launch is only steps from our site, and it is really not a true boat launch. Anything more than a canoe or a kayak would be a tough go to launch from there. Lake Ontario is still really cold, only the young or the brave are going for a swim this weekend. There are two islands off the end of the point... and the plan is to paddle along them and out around the end of the far island. The islands are nesting grounds for seagulls and cormorants…had to be thousands of them!

great conditions for a nice paddle

They can put on quite the show when a mass of them take off, and those still on the island make quite a racket when a bunch take off. Actually, they make quite a racket all the time. From the campground, there is a constant drone of these guys off in the distance.

Below the water are similar plates of limestone that we discovered along Salmon Point at Sandbanks Park. Massive plates of stone, just a few feet below us. The water is very clear, a byproduct of the zebra mussel, and you can see where the plates butt up against each other. It is interesting that in this location, the plates are not really separate. The seams are there, but the largest space between them that I saw was about one inch.

there is a big carp just to the left of the paddle...and there were lots of them swimming around

lighthouse on High Bluff Island

a swan family

Along Salmon Point, the plates were upwards of two feet apart, and you could see down in between them to the bottom. This really made the size and scale of them very evident, and a little creepy. They were so perfect in alignment with each other, nothing haphazard going on to through them on top of one and another. At Presqu'ile, it is much different. Most interesting. Dale did take some comfort in knowing that for the most part, the bottom was not very far away.

Tanya & Dale paddling and chatting

Malcolm and I took a lot of photos, me with my trusty digital compact, and Malcolm with his nice Canon DSLR rig. The birds were amazing to watch. There was always lots of activity, incoming and outgoing flocks of birds, swirling everywhere.  The Park wants you to stay well offshore from the islands, and one time when we did venture a little closer, a massive flock of seagulls took off and performed acrobatics above us. It was quite the show of flight and sound. I was also very amazed that we did not get bombed with crap, either accidentally or on purpose. I know if I was one of those birds, the opportunity would be hard to resist. We continued along the outline of the islands around to the far point.

bit of a Hitchcock feel to this scene

keeping a watchful beady little eye on things

When we emerged from the small bay, the water started to get a little choppy. We were now exposed to the open mass of the lake, and the swells became more evident. Once we made it to the far point, we decided to head back.

We made a beeline for the launch, and although we were further out from shore, we could still see the bottom. It was a more challenging paddle, as you had to focus on what the swells were doing. If you were not aware and compensating as you paddled, you could go on a bit of an interesting ride across the crest of a wave. It was fun though!

Back at the site, we poked around, relaxed a bit, and I made up our smoked salmon tortilla rollups appetizer for the evening ‘meet & greet’.

I've been had!
Our neighbours, Jane & Ron arrived around noon and set up their tent. On Friday, they are 99 days from delivery of their 1743, and they brought a cute little countdown chalkboard which they were updating every day. They are looking forward to meeting other owners, and doing the Saturday morning tour. Lots to see and learn on those.

A short time later, Angela & Mark arrived. They are on the other side of us, but that occupant has not yet left by the 2:00pm deadline. This gave them the opportunity to sit down under our awning and join us for a cold refreshment, and a casual bite of snacks.  Eventually Mr Pokey pulled out and they got set up as well. We have a nice large area under the trees between our sites, so the plan is to hold the group activities in this area between us. We each brought a folding table from home.  Between the tables and individual chairs, we will have lots of spots for people to congregate. As the four of us are the organizers & hosts, it is great to have them beside us on the next site.

Altos have been arriving all afternoon, and by early evening, most are here. Tonight is the ‘meet & greet’, where everyone gathers, share appetizers, chat and get the weekend going.  People started to wander over to our site around 6:00, with appetizers and their favourite beverage. In no time, there were conversations and laughter all around. When we get together, it is pretty clear that we are a happy, fun loving, easy going bunch, sharing love of a common camper and for the outdoors.  We kept it a casual and relaxing affair, with just enough organization to keep it loosely together.

Everyone has commented on how neat it is to actually meet a virtual FB friend, and a common observation is how close we actually are to what people imagine, based on our posts to the Altoistes group.  I had a number of conversations as well from people who have been following our blog, and it was nice to hear that they enjoy reading what we have to say, and are picking up some tips about using their own Alto. That's pretty cool to hear.  The conversations were many and varied. At one point a number of assorted camp chairs ended lined up along the road, with a bunch of us trying each, resulting in impromptu and at times pretty funny individual reviews. As we started to wind down, we gave everyone a quick rundown of the next day (Saturday) Alto tour, and where it would start.

love the way the horizon just disappears

The tour was at 10:00, heading back around the bend after starting at Steve & Karen's. They were super prepared, with a list of topics guiding them from their iPad. They covered a whole gamut of areas, from geeky technical mods, creative storage solutions, to Alto cooking. It was a great start and everyone was hooked right out of the gate. Dale and I were up next, and I mostly went over a few of my favourite mods, and in particular, our recent solar upgrade. I had a number of post tour discussions on that topic. Everyone had great ideas and stuff to show about how they use their Alto. The beauty of the tour is that we are all working from only 2 Alto models, but the manner in which they are used can be vastly different. Terri spoke about her boon-docking experiences and what she does to help her manage that style of camping. I always come away with a bunch of valuable ideas. Take for instance the solution Steve came up with for the line of annoying LED lights that are on the underside of the front cabinet. When these are on, anyone sitting in the back of the Alto will soon be distracted by this bright line of intense tiny lights. Even dimmed, they lose little of their annoying qualities. Steve came up with the simple solution of using a small strip of self adhesive D foam trim, usually found in the automotive sections of store like NAPA or AutoPro. A perfect and quick to install mod. He brought along his leftover roll and was soon giving out strips of trim to those in need. Awesome.

The tour was planned to run from 10-12, but as expected, it took about another hour. Everyone gets chatting at a particular Alto, so I did do some prompting to keep the line moving along.  We managed to get most everyone in, and wrapped it up at 1:00. The afternoon was totally ad-hoc, so Dale and I scooted in to Brighton to pick up a few thing for the evening pot luck. It was a hot day, and even hotter when we were away from the water. Brighton is close by, so thankfully we were back in no time.

On the drive back into the park there was a family of swans with their 3 little ones lounging on the edge of the road madly picking grooming and pecking their feathers out, and we were told by others that that it is their daily routine, and the pecking out of feathers is a seasonal routing.   Awfully cute, but worrisome about cars that could come by unaware they are there, but the swans seemed to be unfazed.

Kirk Thompson from Can-Am RV in London Ontario, arrived last night with a 1743, and he is hosting a wine and cheese to start off the pot luck dinner.  This is a very nice thing for them to do, and a lot of people here know Kirk from purchasing their own Alto from Can-Am. He had a great selection of wines and cheeses, it kickstarted the evening and was a nice touch. One cheese had everyone intrigued, as we could not figure out what was giving it a very unique flavour. Kirk finally revealed that it was a black truffle cheese, and I can tell you that it disappeared pretty quickly.

Soon the Q's were fired up and people wandered back with their mains and a share. The tables filled quickly with an awesome selection of tasty sides. Lots of grilling was going on, then we all settled in and had a great dinner, chatting and sampling along the way.  A couple of more Altos arrived in the evening, and they joined the group once they got set up.

After dark we moved over to Mark & Angela's site for a campfire and more visiting. The heat of the fire was welcome, as although it was very hot in the afternoon, the chill from the lake soon made it's presence known after sunset. We were also treated this weekend to a massive full moon, so bright it illuminated everywhere but the most heavily treed sites.

We have a continental style breakfast this morning, which gives everyone a chance to have a coffee and some shared breakfast tastys. Mark & Angela hosted, and kept a steady stream of Tim Horton's coffee brewed and ready to go.

nice moves Malcolm...

Some of us are packing up and heading out today, so it is nice to have a last little visit. Lots more conversations and laughs, and at some point, people just had to drag themselves away to start tearing down and heading out. Dale was busy chatting up a storm with some other ladies, so Ralph gave me a hand to get our gear squared away. Without his help, we would have been "that guy" who was not off his site on time, and I did not want that to happen. Thanks Ralph!

Dan & Cyndy moved to the site waterfront site across from, as they are staying a few more days, so Dale and I popped over for a quick look at their 1743 and some cool gear they discovered and use. It is so interesting that we all have different gear and ways to use the same camper, and there will always be an idea to take away. They showed us a very nifty camping mat that they have, which allows sand and dirt to flow through from the top back to the ground, but not travel in the other direction. Dan grabbed a handful of dirt, and sure enough, it soon disappeared from the surface. How neat is that?

real nice setup guys...
Apparently the fabric was originally developed in Australia to help military helicopters land in the desert. It prevents the rotor wash from kicking up massive amounts of sand and creating brownout conditions, and of course wear and tear on the helicopter itself. It found its way into the camping/outdoor market, and looks like a great product. It is far superior to the woven plastic rugs we are currently using. We will definitely be checking this one out.  They also place a solar light at the base of each guy wire stake, to make them visible in the dark. Jennifer and Chris also did this, but in a slightly different manner.

We finally pulled off our site, ahead of time, barely, and stopped up the way to say a few last goodbyes. What a great weekend it was! Old friends and new friends made, all of us drawn together by a unique little camper, keeping in touch through a very active FB group, and if the timing works out, getting together in person to share a special comradery.
On the long path of life, this is pretty good stuff.


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