Propane Pony Tank

Propane Pony Tank

Last summer was real hot. Great weather for the beach, but definitely hard on the propane consumption when boondocking. I've been pondering a dual propane tank setup for the longest time, but really did not want to go with the traditional steel 20 pounders. Composite tanks seemed to be an interesting option, so I looked that for a while. A number of fellow Altoistes run a dual tank setup, either traditional or composite, but I was still not certain the path to take. If it was to be dual, then composite seemed the best choice. Viking Cylinders make a nice range of composite tanks, but they are not cheap, and I was a little concerned by what seemed to be a continual lack of stock on their web site. So I crunched the numbers...volume,tank weights, costs, and then made a few decisions.

I ruled out a dual 20lb steel tank setup, so that left the 17lb composites, or perhaps a configuration of a 20lb steel and a smaller 5 lb pony tank. I refer to the little ones as pony tanks, a term used a lot in the scuba world. The pony tank would give us a few days reserve while we looked for a spot to fill up the 20lb tank when it ran dry. Looking at the numbers between the two options, the composites certainly provided more capacity, at the same weight, then a 20/5 tank setup. What ultimately swayed the debate was a combination of our camping style, and the overall cost investment. We can perhaps sacrifice the reduced capacity against the additional trips needed to fill our main tank a little more often. As well, not only is the initial conversion cost much greater with composite, it will be the same situation when the tanks expire.

Decisions out of the way, I found a nice little bracket to mount the tank to the deck of the tongue, tied in nicely with the existing bike rack, and well within reach of the main hose line when the need arises.

old world bracket craftsmanship

A home crafted cover was needed to complete the job. After coming up with a design, then consulting a few You Tube tutorials, I pulled out the sewing machine and went to work. I soon discovered that sewing in tight circles is much harder than straight lines. After a few broken needles and some trial and error, we ended up with a nice looking little tank cover.

At the moment we do not run our BBQ off the main tank, so I suspect this pony tank will for the time being, serve only as a reserve tank. Only goes to show that once again, there are always options out there to best suit everyones individual needs.

2017 Trip 2: urban camping

Trip 2: Rouge River Park - May 2017

We were very excited for this extended long week trip. We headed to the Rouge River campground, a municipal park in Toronto. It is on the lower west side of Pickering, on the Rouge River.

This river stretches from Lake Ontario to north of Toronto. It is a huge swath of green space, that is currently being transformed into a national urban park by Parks Canada, and will be the first in Canada with this designation. The park spans 80 square kilometres in the heart of Canada's largest city. By comparison, it will be 22 times larger than Central Park in New York.

The campsite is quite nice, well treed, and the Rouge river winds its way along the edge of many of the sites. The sites are somewhat open, but all are very well maintained. There is a lot Park staff here, working on a variety of landscaping and maintenance and projects such as new cedar cabins with canvas roofs, great for those who are not tenters or for those that want to camp and do not have the gear.  All this activity probably ties into the new park designation, and this year's Canada 150 celebrations.

a sea of beige beside us

Spent the rest of the day getting settled in, and we took a wander of the park to have a good look, and to collect site numbers for future visits. The wind started to pick up and a huge black cloud was looming over the tree line. There was a warning for thunderstorms in the area, and the wind got so heavy we rolled up the awning just in case. The storm went by us to the north, and all we ended up with was the high winds and a brief ten minute downpour.

Friday turned out to be a sunny with cloudy periods sort of day. Perfect for a nice hike in the woods. We headed for the trailhead of the Mast Head Trail from just inside the park gate. There were a few trails to choose from, so went went with the one that seemed to closely follow the edge of the river high up on a ridge.  It was a lovely trail through a mixed treed old forest, slowly making its way uphill along what revealed itself as a deep ravine. At the top, we were treated to a nice lookout down to the river, which was now far below us. The trail then circled back, a good hour and a bit excursion.

way down there is a river, and an Alto

well chewed up

a very little Alto

definitely a big tree

Later in the afternoon we headed over to see Dale's cousin David and his wife Cathy. Their two grown children and their little ones also came over, and we a great visit over a nice surf & turf summer BBQ. They live close by, just a short hop on the 401 from the park. A reasonably warm day that started to cool off in the evening, great for sleeping, with just a touch of the heater thrown in to take the edge off.

Saturday was the main attraction of our urban adventure, starting off with a GO train ride into the heart of downtown Toronto. A few months back we purchased tickets to a Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the Art  Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and this became the impetus for us to try out this urban campground. The GO train was a fabulous way to get downtown, turning a traffic laden, easily hour long drive, into an effortless, much shorter journey. An added quick subway ride had us within a block of the AGO. We grabbed a quick Americano at a funky coffee shop nearby, an awaited our noon hour entry time.

We are big fans of Georgia O'Keefe's art. She has been a favourite for a very long time. This particular exhibit is the only North American stop, so we knew we had to make the trip to see it. The AGO recently underwent a large renovation, the principle architect of this effort was none other than Frank Gehry...yes, another favourite. He designed the very expansive facade for the building using massive wood laminated beams and vast panels of glass.

very impressive structure

We turned the corner of the block, and there it was, this huge facade, announcing to all that you have arrived at the AGO. Exactly what you would want from a world renowned architect. It is very impressive. The whole building is quite nice, and the wood theme carries throughout the entire building.

The art exhibit was fabulous, an excellent collection of her work that spanned six decades. It was for the most part curated in a chronological order, which allowed you to see the progression of her work and how her style evolved. Her work is very much influenced by her location, and you can certainly see this. From the dark urban views of her time in New York City, to the lush green surroundings of Lake George, and then to the surreal desert landscapes of New Mexico. Mixed in were her various studies of flowers, most of the ones that we all recognize, as well as a whole range in a variety of styles, from charcoals to pale pastels. Many were simply quite stunning.

I always find it interesting to read the info for each piece. Some of her artwork dates back almost 100 years ago. Taking a moment to think about that, we are looking at a canvas that the artist has touched, moved and pondered, so very many years ago. Now that is a bit surreal in of itself.

Intermixed within the exhibit were the works of many famous photographers of her time, guys like Stieglitz, Adams and Strand.  These were all friends of hers, and fellow artists. O'Keefe was actually married to Stieglitz, for quite a number of years. She was a large part of his work, forming the basis of a number of his personal exhibits. I was quite happy to see the Adams prints,  as he is my all time favourite photographer.

When we finished wandering the gallery, we grabbed a tasty snack at the Gallery Cafe, then headed west onto Queen St. West, exploring the cool eclectic mix of shops. We walked a number a blocks, then looped back around towards Union Station, and to our GO train back home. It was a great way to get traffic, no parking, no hassles.

home made kettle an art gallery???

Sunday was grim from a weather perspective, but we stuck to our plan to head downtown once again. It has been many years since we have wandered around downtown Toronto, and we were not going to pass up the chance. Hopped the GO train, then we bought a day pass for the transit system (which encompasses the subways, buses and streetcars).  We planned to use the subway and streetcars to move around. Dale had her eye on a few shops she wanted to visit, so off we went.

lots of very tall buildings, and not surprising, mostly financial institutions

Large cities tend to have neighbourhoods of cool funky shops, as they have a much larger population base to draw customers from. Ottawa on the other hand, being a much smaller city, has only a few cool shopping neighbourhoods. One aspect of travelling that we both enjoy is exploring the local neighbourhoods and funky independent shops.

quite the maze of trolley cables

seems the complicated part was the business plan

curious what makes it Express

A highlight today for me was Cumbrae's, a butchery, or perhaps more descriptive, a foodie's extravaganza! The place was awesome, in a hard core foodie sort of way. I got chatting with a super nice young guy, who explained the how's & why's of the business, and all their assorted offerings. If we lived in Toronto, I could see spending a large portion of a pay check in there. Everything looked so appetizing. We walked out with dinner for the evening, a vacuum packed chunk of pulled pork, and a few jars of house spice blends. I could have spent hours in there just drooling at everything.

dry aging display fridge

The weather somewhat cooperated, but we did get a few showers off and on. We did a lot of walking and browsing the shops. One cool guy in a stereo shop pointed us in the direction of a funky graffiti alley.

really like the shock of colour

We eventually made our way back to the GO train, and we were soon home. None too soon either, as a short time after the skies opened and we got a dandy downpour.

Dinner was the treats we picked up from Cumbrae's, Texas smoked pork ribs with a side of root veggie mashed potatoes. The ribs had a kick of heat and a great smokey taste. Small meal, huge taste.

It rained overnight, but by morning the rain had passed and we were left with just the overcast skies. No rush to leave this morning, so we slowly packed up and were on our way.

Visiting Dale's family, camping in a nice park setting, along with getting the big city downtown experience was a perfect blend. Access to the park and access to the downtown core was all hassle free and quite effortless.
A nice discovery...

2017 Trip 1: de-winterizing 101

Trip 1: Cedar Cove Resort - May 2017

It seems that as soon as we put the Alto into storage in the fall, we start to plan, and pine, for the next season to begin. This planning is a nice distraction from our generally crappy winters, which some years can certainly drag on. It is also the time where I ponder the new mods I want to do, researching and refining how to go about each that I think of, including whether it is really of any value.

We spent the past week slowly placing our gear back inside. Although over the winter we leave a bunch of stuff in the Alto, there is an assortment that does come out and heads for the basement. By now, a lot of this activity is on autopilot, we have had the Alto long enough that the outfitting plan has few surprises remaining.

Cedar Cove once again, and this weekend, Jenn & Chris were here, as well as brand new owners Donna & Wayne. All of us de-winterizing and getting everything sorted for another summer of camping. The forecast was calling for rain, and sure enough it did rain all weekend. There were a few hours here and there where the sky broke, but only a few.

Jenn & Chris were just finishing setting up when we arrived, and Donna & Wayne arrived around 8:30. We got them squared away, then we all piled into our Alto for appetizers and a visit.

As we had flushed out the antifreeze and then bleached our tanks overnight, Saturday was all about rinsing the tanks and other odds & sods. This year I used baking soda in the final rinse to help remove the bleach smell, and I do think it made a difference. We also checked to make sure everything in the Alto survived the winter and was working as it should. We all then helped Donna & Wayne get their Alto de-winterized and ready. Lots of new gizmos in their latest version of the Alto, so it was neat exploring the new gear. Spot the changes is a little game that I think most of us play in our minds whenever we are in someone else's camper.

As the weather was still ugly, we had late afternoon appetizers over in Jenn & Chris Alto, and sampled a brew from their Aero-press coffee maker (nice full flavour) and then we headed over to the restaurant for dinner...a nice bonus with this campsite. They have a good creative menu, nice surroundings, and the beer was cold. Lots more visiting, sharing Alto tales, upcoming road trips, and plenty of laughs.

The sun was out for a tiny bit on Sunday morning, but only long enough to fool me into thinking that I could get a few extra minutes of drying time for the awning and ground mat. And fool it did. I turned my back for a minute and the skies opened up again, giving everything another good soaking. It did stop later, and we were soon all outside, starting to get things ready to pack up and head out. There was lots of learning and helping each other out going on this weekend.

Although the weather may not have cooperated, having fellow Alto campers together, all excited about the new camping season, our conversations and many laughs filled the days, the weather soon faded into the background. It was fantastic having company and I suspect this may well become a regular happening.