Friday, December 14, 2018

Canadian Road Trip, Part 2

To read Part 1, click this and come back here after!


So, we are now back in Ontario, in Thunder Bay more precisely. We are barely at the tip of Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes that I haven't seen yet. "Superior by Nature" is its catch phrase and we know why now! It is h-u-g-e and the views from the road from Thunder Bay are pretty impressive.  Even though the weather was blah and the light was flat, we still had some beautiful views and the sun occasionally came out to light up the horizon.

We knew there was a little bit of exploration to be done, and quite frankly at that point in our journey, we were aching for some outdoor time and walking. So we decided to stay 3 nights in Thunder Bay. Our friends Jilles & Mitch recommended us Kakabeka Falls and the Terry Fox monument, so it was on our list. We also wanted to see a bit of downtown Thunder Bay.

Kakabeka Falls is a stunning waterfall, the second highest in Canada after Niagara Falls. It is also in the Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, so while we were there, we tried to gain access by foot to the park's campground, but alas no luck for us. We might attempt a camping trip one of these days!

Kakabeka Falls from a couple of view points

The Terry Fox monument, right on the TCH, is a very simple and humble monument honoring the memory of Terry Fox. While in Thunder Bay, we also set off to Mission Island Marsh, hoping to see some birds and animals. It also has a nice boardwalk that offers a nice view point into Lake Superior (actually, the bay of Thunder Bay).

Trail/boardwalk into the bay of Thunder Bay ~ Driftwood on beach ~ Merganser ~ Terry Fox monument


Downtown Thunder Bay was pretty quiet, as we had expected during this cold and wet autumn. We were also looking forward for coffee and a night out at a restaurant. We chose Prospector Steakhouse, which did not disappoint and was fairly reasonable in terms of pricing. Of course, we sat at the bar first and ordered a cold brew of their own beers!

The next day, we were hoping to catch the sunrise over at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, so we got up early. It was another day of cold and clouds though, so we settled for a morning walk and hike instead of the rising sun. The trails were not very well maintained, which I suppose is due to the park being in off season. But still... We saw a few deer and plenty of mushrooms!


Not very well maintained trail into the provincial park! ~ Prospector brews ~ Mushrooms! ~ Deer out feeding early morning ~ Sleeping Giant ~ Walking trail


That is it for part 2. Next time, we will be in Wawa and Sudbury before entering the Toronto area.

Thank you for reading and following!

Chantal & Rob

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Canadian Road Trip, Part 1

We left our home and friends at the RV park in Parson, south of Golden BC, on October 17 after a long day of final preparations for the long 6 months of winter our rig would face without us. Even though we got up at 6:30 am before sunrise, we ended up leaving at 3 pm!

Those who RV know that any schedule built around RVing rarely goes without a hitch! Well, it was no exception for us, once again. We took an hour to drain and flush our tanks, much longer than we thought. We winterized our rig (once we figured out the proper configuration of valves in our utility bay). The inside was cleaned and armed for battle against potential invaders in search of warmth (aka as pesky mice). Hopefully we don't have surprises in the spring! The tarp to cover our rig was deployed and installed, although we broke the exterior part of our kitchen skylight in the process. Not a big deal, we'll buy one and install it in next spring. Rob and Jilles "duct taped" the skylight with layers of plastic sheets. That, combined with the tarp, should hold up nicely for the winter and prevent water infiltration.

We cannot thank enough Gary & Jilles for their help to finish prepping our fifth wheel for the winter! RVers really do stick together and help one another. It is an *amazing* community!

Our first stop was in Lethbridge, in Alberta. We got there in the dark, but we didn't care much about tourism at that point. We were both tired from the already long day, so we grabbed some fast food, got our bags up to the room and crashed fast. We slept not so well after all. After a quick shower, we ate breakfast (which was included) and hit the road by 10:30 am.

We drove to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Our hotel was okay, although not very great. We got fooled by the appearances of the place, the people and the surroundings. We ended up "judging a book by its cover": shame on us. But at that time, we had already shortened our stay from 2 to 1 night. Exploring Saskatchewan might have to wait for another time!

We don't have the rig with us, but we are always looking for opportunities to stop somewhere for the night, for example, this view point called Deer Lake (where thousands of birds and ducks gather).  We already miss our home and our friends back in BC...

Saskatchewan!

After that, our next stop was Portage La Prairie, in Manitoba. It was another long day on the road and we didn't feel like cooking much, so we ended up going to the hotel's restaurant for a beer and pub food.  We settled in for the night, preparing mentally for our crossing into Ontario the next day!

Note: we are cooking most of our meals to save on restaurants and to eat better. We booked hotels that have fridge/freezer, as well as microwave in the room. We brought our portable 1-burner cooktop, a pot and a frying pan. 

The next day, we set off for Kenora, Ontario. I couldn't find a chain hotel, so I took a chance on a well-rated motel just outside of town. We loved it! It was decorated in nice earth tones. But the highlight was the heated floor in the bathroom. You don't see that very often!

Top: Raleigh Falls (Ignace, ON)... A nice rest stop for lunch by the TCH
Bottom: Back in Eastern time zone, Ontario!

After a nice restful night at the motel, we set off for Thunder Bay. We were getting hungry for lunch, when we decided to stop at a picnic area on the highway. This one was called Raleigh Falls, a nice little stop with a waterfall in the background.

So we were back in Ontario and in the Eastern time zone. It is the home stretch at this point, but we still have many miles left to drive.

Well, that's it for Part 1 of our drive across Canada. What a great country this is, and it is worth exploring. We cannot wait to do more of that next year!

Stay tuned for Part 2.  :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cross-Canada Travels & Winter Plans

Winter plans? Yes! For the first time in 2 years, we will spend an entire winter in Canada.

If we are being candid and say things like they are, I am not looking forward to being cold, dressing up like an onion to go out, or practice my ice skating skills on city streets. I'd rather go south and be in my sandals. Sorry! πŸ˜Š

Seriously, we are willingly heading east for the winter. For starters, we need to be back in Ontario to meet our vehicle insurance and provincial health plan requirements. Spending time with my parents is another reason! 

But in order to do so, we have to cross Canada. In case some of you might not know, Canada is a wide country and for us, that means driving 4,000 km (or 2,500 miles approx) in order to reach Montreal, QC. 
  • We could fly, but we are 3 hours away from an airport, we need to bring a ton of stuff with us and we need a vehicle for the many plans we have. We figured the cost of airplane tickets will be the same as cost of gas and hotels (one-way). So we will spend a little more money in the end, but we will have our truck to go whenever/wherever we want.
  • We could take the RV with us and save on hotel rooms, but in Canada, most campgrounds close in October. We would also have to deal with the hassle of finding a storage at our destination. Towing means more gas money. We have storage taken care of here at the farm.
  • Leaving the RV out West means we are obligated to come back here and keep on RVing! 
  • The experience of driving across our country is new to us, therefore it is exciting!
  • We are planning to cross in 11 days, 7 hotels and 1 stay with friends. 
Leaving our home for 6 months included a lot of preparation, such as consuming almost all our food (we plan to cook while driving across), safely transporting canned goods, cleaning all the nooks and crannies and bug-proofing our rig as best as possible. 


An early morning on the mountain, looking for mule deer.

We burned off our 6 months' worth of work at the farm!
 
As for our winter plans, they include spending time with Chantal's parents. We also have a few house sitting positions lined up. What is house sitting? It is taking care of someone's home while they are away for an extended period of time. It meets their home insurance requirements to have your home lived-in. Some of the homeowners might have pets that they cannot bring with them at their home away from home. For us, it provides us a place to stay and also, is a way to do tourism (for example, if you were house sitting in Tuscany... hmmm maybe one day). All mixed into those plans will be visiting friends back in Ontario and trying to find seasonal, short-term work. And we might be looking for a piece of land too! 

Chantal and I have seen just how beautiful winter can be. And embracing the coldest season of the year can be just as challenging - and fulfilling - as escaping it was for us two years ago. We both grew up with snow banks, ice rinks and tongues stuck to frosty poles. We both shoveled, scraped and cursed under our breaths (and over them) as we got older. We both put up trees, wrapped presents, shopped at the last minute, slid across black ice. and did all the other fun things that make winter tolerable - except merely marveling at the sheer beauty of it. We are looking forward to getting back to that simple childlike wonder of enjoying the winter season (no we're not crazy) as part of embracing what is a uniquely Canadian experience. Snowbirds, eventually, must return home, and so will we.

So next spring, we will return to the farm, work and hang out for a bit, then hitch up and explore our country! Where we end up is still a mystery to us... and we are quite alright with that.

Tucked away for the winter at our farm/RV park.

Thank you for reading,

Chantal & Rob




Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Road Shall Never End

(written by Rob Williams)

Two years doesn't seem like much. In the grand scheme of things, it is merely the blink of an eye for a life lived. But two years can also be the adventure of a lifetime. Instead of a unit of measure, the past two years has been for us an experience like no other, one that began with an exodus on one road and has evolved into a mind bending journey that today offers many roads, each one with its own spectacle waiting for us. We started out on a quest for discovery and a change of pace; today, we stand surrounded by opportunity, fulfillment, and ever expanding horizons.

The modern RV lifestyle has been described in so many ways by so many people in so many lands all over the world for almost a hundred years, harkening back to many hundreds - even thousands - of years before that, to a time when humans migrated in order to understand themselves and the changing landscape around them. To be mobile is to live, learn and travel all in the same breath. And so it has been for Chantal and myself and our Jayco Eagle that we have named Caravan, and our soul searching expedition across this continent has echoed all of these sentiments; tempting our fates, testing our limits, challenging our beliefs, and daring us to face our fears to embrace a much larger universe.

Taking to the road - many roads - has turned us into tourists, desert rats, star gazers, farm workers, photographers, bird watchers, storm chasers, and wildlife followers. We have witnessed and explored and encountered more than we ever had thought possible, and luck - along with good fortune and the company of so many wonderful people - has been on our side every step of the way. We have been asked many times what has been our favourite place during our travels, but there is really no way to answer that. Everywhere we have gone has offered a unique challenge, an intriguing culture, an unforgettable experience, and an enduring wisdom.

Even in this photo saturated digital age, there are not enough pictures in the world to full capture the mesmerizing magic and allure of the RV lifestyle. But, even so, we would like to share with you a collage of key images that will help to trace the timeline of our incredible adventure, whose end to this day still remains uncertain. That, we believe, is the greatest advantage of mobile living: the road never has to end.

Top Row: River Camping ~ Proud RVers ~ Canoe Ride ~ Vermont
Middle: We started here in Kingston ON Sept 29, 2016
Bottom Row: Winery Camping ~ Christmas On The Beach ~ Florida ~ Fort Wilderness @ Disney 
Top Row: Everglades ~ Site with a View ~ We Love Waterfalls ~ We Love Big Spaces!
Middle: The Grand Canyon
Bottom Row: Desert Sunset ~ Desert Camping ~ Beach Camping ~ Winter Camping! 


Our warmest heartfelt thanks to all those who followed us, encouraged us, laughed with us, and believed in us along the way. Without you, we would not have gotten this far.

Sincerely,
Chantal & Rob


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Visiting Jasper & Banff National Parks

One of the perks of living out West is that you have so many national parks at your doorstep! Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, Revelstoke, Kootenay, and the list goes on. Luckily for us, they are literally next door.

Before we headed out to Jasper, I purchased a Canada Parks pass (a great investment of $137 if you plan on spending more than 5 days during the next 12 months in a National Park). It gives you access to the National Parks and Monuments that charge an entrance/daily fee (it does not include camping fees).

(click on pictures for full-size slideshow!)

Jasper NP

We only had 2 nights to spend in Jasper, and with a 4-hour (minimum) drive to get there, we had to get an early start to our day. Our drive went without a hitch and we were able to arrive just in time for the recommended check-in time at the campground, which was 2 pm. The road was surprisingly not too busy and we even had time to make a stop on the way for a lunch with a waterfall view.

We had a reserved campsite at Whistlers campground. We had site 30AA (back-in, unserviced site). Because we were there for only 2 nights, and we'd be out most of the time, we didn't care about having no power or water, as our home is able to be unplugged for a couple of nights. We had full  batteries, water in our tank and our waste tanks were empty. Nevertheless, we took out our solar panel since we had a small patch of unobstructed sky next to us.  If you know me (Chantal) by now, you know how much I love my solar power!!!

Site 30AA at Whistlers in Jasper National Park

With only one full day to explore Jasper and we had to make it count. We could have spent one month there! We ended up going to the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk, as well as visiting Maligne Canyon and Athabasca Falls. We also paid a visit to the local brewery!

The Athabasca Glacier. It was cool and fresh up there!

Lunch at the waterfall

Maligne Canyon

On the Glacier
The Columbia Ice Fields of the Athabasca Glacier stretch some 5 kilometres wide and almost half a mile deep, one of the few remnants standing from the last Ice Age. It recedes every year; someday, many years from now, it may no longer exist. But you wouldn't know it from climbing onto it in these immense CAT vehicles that can handle up to 45 degree grades with their five foot radius tires. Unfortunately, the top speed on these massive trucks is only 23 km per hour. Oh, well, still fun!

Our ride!

Tangle Creek

Skywalk!

View from the road

Nothing like a little refreshment after a long day on the road!


Banff NP

A couple of weeks later, we had the chance to snag a site at Banff for a 4-night stay! Our site was located in Village 2 and we had site C30 (electrical only). Unlike Jasper, where our campsite was pretty nice and felt secluded, you don't go to Village 2 at Banff for the scenery and privacy. Village 2 is basically a bunch of streets where you parallel-park your RV to the road. But, it was efficient and we can't complain. It was nice to have a late night cappuccino after a day of exploring.

Site C30 (electrical only). Parallel parking a fifth wheel is fun!!!

We were told that the Bow Valley Parkway was almost a sure sign of wildlife viewing. So we set off to drive the Parkway on our first full day in Banff, on the way to Lake Louise. It is a beautiful parkway, but wildlife was shy for us!  We did see wildlife during our stay though. Here are a few pics:

He posed for us!

Bighorn Sheep in Banff

On the parkway, there are many sights and areas to pull over and hike around. We visited Johnston Canyon. Obviously, we love canyons and waterfalls! After a good hike up the creek, we ended up to a waterfall that really wowed us. And the best of all, there were no tourists on the trail and at the fall!

Sign at the parkway entrance

Tourist-free waterfall... except for us!

Lake Louise photog

Of course, we made a visit to Lake Louise, and even went up the gondola to enjoy the sight! It was a bit chilly. On our last day, we enjoyed a tour on Lake Louise in an old-fashioned canoe. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we had fun learning about the geography of the six glaciers that feed one of the world's most famous bodies of water.

Up the mountain at Lake Louise ski resort

Lake Louise

During our visit, the smoke from the wildfires made it hard to see some of the far mountains, but it added a bit of mystery to it all.

Banff Springs Hotel on a smoky day

One thing for sure, we have to come back here for more exploration! The wildfires are mostly under control and the skies are smoke-free. We are hoping to visit a few more of the lakes and trails in the area that we missed out on (Moraine Lake, for example) before we head towards Eastern Canada.

Thank you for reading,

Chantal & Rob





Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Workamping Journal - Busy Workers Here! Forks in the RV Road of Life

Hi everyone!

Let us give you an update of what we have been up to and what our future plans might be!
Robert & I have written our own point of views, so here we go!

(to see larger pictures, click 'em!)

~~~ *** ~~~

Workamping at the Farm/RV park

We are surely enjoying the beautiful Columbia Valley Wetlands. Working here doesn't really feel like work, although our bodies beg to say otherwise!  Hands are getting rougher handling tools and dirt, muscles are building up thanks to digging, pulling and hauling. Our farmer's tan is coming along nicely too!

We just passed the 3 months' mark of our arrival here at the park, and those 3 months went by very fast. 


Fishing on the Columbia, anyone?


One of our many gardens!


CP train comes by a few times a day


We have an orchard too!

We have a great garden growing and a small greenhouse as well. We have planted romaine lettuce, tomatoes and zucchinis for ourselves. Many more vegetables planted by the owners are too many to list, but September will be for sure be a month of processing and canning here!

Speaking of processing, I took part in preparing bear sausages, from start to end. Quite the experience! It is also very tasty.


Onions
Zucchinis, eventually 

Tomatoes!


More Work

On top of that, both of us are working extra hours. I am translating regularly and have picked up another contract that hopefully will ensure that I can make my translation business my only source of income in the future. Rob has picked up a full-time job at a lodge at the Kicking Horse touristic area and he is enjoying it.

Unfortunately, our exploration will be limited somewhat to our 2 days off. Not a big deal, as those days off are mid-week. We are no weekend warriors. 😏  We have reservations in Banff for 5 nights in August, which we are looking forward to very much.

Although we have been busy in June and July, we took the time to go camping outside the RV park on our days off! I know it sounds weird to go camping when you live in a campground, but it is nice to get away from the workplace once in a while!

We visited Wasa Lake Provincial Park in June. We spent 3 nights at the very quiet town of Wasa,  3 hours south of Golden. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed using our solar panel once again (we chose a no hookups campsite). We also took the opportunity to take the generator out for a bit of exercise. We had the chance to relax and rest, the campground was near empty, which was perfect for us.

Pretty wildflowers grow well up there ~ Shot of Wasa Lake from hiking trail ~
Our site was just the right mix of privacy, shade and sun (for solar!) ~ Nice walking trail, just the way we like them!


We also adventured into tent camping a week ago at Waitabit Creek, a free campsite located north of Golden. That in itself will be a different blog post!


Where to Travel Next?

We also decided to put on hold our "2019 Trip to Alaska" plan. We felt we needed more money, so we changed our plans, again. Alaska is a big undertaking that takes planning and upgrades that we cannot be making at the moment.

One option we have is to drive back here out West to pick up the CaRavan in the spring of 2019 and swing south into the American Midwest back towards Eastern Canada. Or drive back to Ontario/Quebec while exploring the Canadian Midwest! Or drive with the CaRavan back east and store it there for the winter. We know that Alaska will be there still, waiting for us.


When Are We Going Back To Normal?

Some people have asked us that question. And so many more!

When are we going back to normal life? When are we going back home? Where are we going to live? What are you going to do with your stuff? How about your RV? 

What is normal, after all? 2 cars, a house, a mortgage, fully loaded credit cards and stressed because you have to work 60 hours a week to pay for that stuff? If that is normal, then we don't want it. At all!

For now, normal to us looks like this... A small affordable house or condo nestled into or near a forest with a small creek or river running in the back. Working from home and/or within an easy 1-hour drive. Having time to play tennis and hike, and to pursue creative endeavors at a leisurely pace. Having time to read and take afternoon naps if we want. That is normal to us.

As to the where and when, well these will all fall into place and click whenever the time is right.


Lots of Options

We are considering getting a small place to live in Eastern Ontario or Quebec. Perhaps something we could rent out in the winter, especially if our home is located in ski country where rentals are common. That way, we could head south for the winter. Of course, that means that either one of us who decides to pick up a job is going to be contractual or seasonal.

We have so many other options as well! Perhaps too many. But whatever we choose, we will do it for us and will choose accordingly to our goals and objectives in life.

Thank you,

Chantal

~~~ *** ~~~

Forks in the RV Road of Life

They say that life happens while we're busy working on something else. I've heard many variations of this statement, and I think they're all true, more true than we may realize. Wherever you are right now is the result of a lifetime of choices that have led you to this very moment. And with so many moments, so many choices, so many directions to consider, it is mind boggling to consider how many life paths there are in the world.

Waitabit Creek free waterfront campsite



I didn't know that Golden even existed a few months ago, aside from being an adjective used to describe paradise. But this town, nestled in the Columbia River Valley and sandwiched between two stunning mountain ranges, is actually a real place that truly helped to redefine my image of Canada. It could take years to explore British Columbia - indeed, many locals here have done just that - But Chantal and I have already broadened our horizons in just a few short months of living in this community.

Most people around here say "No Worries." And they really mean that. In this sprawling, vast landscape of overwhelming scenery and energetic wildlife and crisp, fresh air, you have no choice but to relax and drink in the endless wonders. The mountains and rivers and forests change color and texture every five minutes. Animals of all shapes and sizes appear out of nowhere and gawk at us as if we - not they- are lost. Huge, elongated clouds stretch across the horizon and show you storms coming from miles away. Nature is in true command here, and those who live here accept that and are grateful to be a part of it.

Farmer Girl!
But to live here, you must work here. And you must embrace the spirit of hard work willingly. There is much to be done here. Chantal is learning to work a farm; I am learning to work a hotel. Weather permits both as it sees fit. In addition, Chantal continues to translate, and I continue to write, and we both continue to maintain the RV spirit that brought us here: the desire to explore, to discover, to visit, to make memories that will last a lifetime and beyond. There are so many roads for both the journey and the work that comes with it, and each road has many forks that hold so many mysteries, so many stories waiting to be told.

Our RV adventure has led us to a place where work needs to be done, and where we need to work. The park where we live is also a self sustaining farm, complete with livestock and gardens that can grow just about anything: apples, tomatoes, zucchinis, corn, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries, the list just goes on. Hunting is not only permitted in these parts, but also encouraged - but not for sport. The owners here hunt for deer and elk, and the meat they provide can feed for months. Farmers markets are chosen over grocery stores, whenever possible.

As for us, we do our part: cut grass, weed gardens, plant crops, feed pigs, print signs, receive overnight traveler arrivals, gather wood, can goods, chop tree branches, and help with ongoing projects. Time passes quickly here, even though the sun stays out late here. I never imagined that I would one day work on a farm, just as I had never expected to live in a trailer/RV park or explore America or get dental work done in Mexico, but these are all "forks" that the RV culture has given us and changed forever how we see the world.

One day we will have to leave this magical place. But that will be our next fork: to travel across the rest of Canada, something I once considered a daunting, impossible prospect. And the questions we keep hearing make us think about the future and all the options that lie ahead. When will we stop? Where will we end up? How will you live? Have you seen enough? The answer is simple: we don't know. When Chantal & I have breakfast meetings (a euphemism for sitting outside having coffee in front of the mountains), we come up with more questions almost every time. All that means is that the lifestyle we embarked upon two years ago continues to give us more forks to think about. And we look forward to every one of them.


Thank you for reading,

Robert

Friday, May 4, 2018

Workamping Journal - Settling In

Hello everyone,

In our last newsletter (read it here), we mentioned that we were looking forward to working a bit as of this summer, since we have big plans for 2019. But what are 2 digital nomads constantly on the move supposed to do for work?

We thought we'd give you a different outlook to RV travelling and RV living. It is called RV working, or more specifically, workamping!

Over the last couple of years as RVers, we have learned many different things about what can be considered "outside the box" employment. Here are different examples:
  • The very popular Amazon will hire campers in the fall, leading up to Christmas. They pay for your hours worked as well as your campground.  
  • Organic farms hire campers during harvest season in exchange for a box of harvest, or a bed or a meal, depending on the farm's needs. 
  • Campgrounds or a national parks can hire a couple to greet campers, clean the grounds, the washrooms, bring firewood, etc.. They will pay for your site and can pay for hours worked. 
  • There are many others too!
In our case, we have been hired to do lawn and garden maintenance on a farm/RV park, located southwest of Banff National Park, near the small town of Golden in beautiful British Columbia.

For us, it works well as it lowers significantly our cost of living for the next 6 months. At the same time, it gives us a base to explore the Rockies and its surroundings. We have to work a certain amount of hours per week in exchange for our site that includes water, electric, sewer and wifi.

Lunch break anyone?
Our surroundings are simple: mountains, wildlife, a river, gardens and our home on wheels. Living in a mountain valley - the Columbia River Valley - offers a glimpse into a whole other world, one which is able to hide itself from the rest of fast paced, electronic, connected society. The Trans Canada Highway, easily the most beautiful road in Canada and one of the most scenic drives in North America, winds through lower part of BC as it reaches eastward to Calgary. To get there you must first cross the famous Rogers Pass, a stretch of road upheld by a gauntlet of mountains, some always covered in snow and ice. In early spring, avalanches are common, and some are even controlled to assist the passing of melting snow. It is an unbelievable spectacle.

Once beyond the Rogers Pass, many small, quaint and unique communities await you. Golden is one of them, located in the epicenter of half a dozen popular tourist destinations, including Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Radium Hot Springs, to name just a few. But the town itself is true to its name: cozy small shops, a quiet main street, and the friendliest of local folks who welcome anyone from anywhere. Their smiles and relaxed bond with nature say it all: here the outside world cannot press down on you. There is no fast internet. There is no Starbucks. There is no Costco or Walmart. And that's just fine with everyone here; it's two hours to the nearest airport or mall because none of those things fit in Golden. Only fresh air and a sense of endless space belong here.

The Rockies Catching The Last Sunshine Before Night
In Golden, you can park outside their little hospital, right at the front door, for free. You can pull up to their little movie theater, which doubles as an ice cream parlor and a video store right next to their one screen. Video rentals are still popular here, because high speed internet is not really known here. Stores open late and close early; some are closed Mondays, others Tuesdays; and, almost all are closed on Sundays. There are two grocery stores here, and both are small and cramped and everyone knows each other in both of them. The post office has general delivery and, once they know you, you don't need to show photo ID to get your mail. There is even an old bookstore with creaky old wooden steps that lead up to a second floor cafe, and you can read there all day.

The roads are always quiet, even outside of town. Every few minutes, dirt roads branch off and head into the mountains, inviting you along. One of them leads to Kicking Horse Lodge, a well known ski resort that also is home to its resident Grizzly Bear, Boo, who likes to perform and get laughs from the kids. Wildlife is everywhere, you just have to look: salmon, eagles, osprey, blue birds, elk, mule deer, rams, and, of course, grizzlies. Campfires have an extra aura of both mystery and soothing peace to them, and even the train that passes by occasionally does so without sounding its horn.

We are starting our 3rd week here and we couldn't be happier about the choice we made to work on a farm. We are learning, we are working outside and we are helping out. Our bodies are a bit sore at times, but we are also grateful for the work, for the lifestyle and for being able to have these many opportunities!

Thank you for reading,

Chantal & Rob
Apprentice Farmers πŸ˜ƒ

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Day In The Life Of RVing: Moving Day

Hello and welcome to "A Day in the Life of". We plan on making short videos to give you some insights on the RV lifestyle. Please bear in mind, we are no experts. :-)  Today, we will try to show you what a moving day is made of, from the dining/kitchen area.

Awhile ago, we spent a week at a park near Yosemite. Being in the same spot for a week meant that stuff was everywhere, we've been cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc., so there was more to pack up.

Pre-Moving Day

We do a bit of preparation before heading out the next day.
  • Put fuel in the truck. Much easier to do without the fifth wheel.
  • Clean and store our BBQ if we won't be using it that night.
  • Put the bikes back on the bike rack, if we've used them. 
  • Plan the route if it looks tricky (for examples, lots of curves, hills to climb or descent, etc.). Look at possible stops to switch drivers and have lunch. 
Below, I refer here to blue and pink tasks because typically, in this lifestyle, men work outside and women work inside. However, we feel both of us need to be able to do each other's tasks. I see a lot of men who won't let their wife drive or hook up the utilities. But what if your husband has an injury or can't drive? The only thing I cannot do - and I am sure I could get someone to help me if I asked - is lift a 30 pounds propane tank back on its rack. Other than that, I can do pretty much everything else, including driving and backing up the rig.


Moving Day
Inside chores (pink stuff)  πŸ‘©
  • Put our shampoo and body wash bottles away. Latch the shower door.
  • Retract TV antenna. Store away remotes and any DVDs.
  • Clean kitchen table and secure small items in cabinet (items such as potted plant, table light, salt/pepper shakers).
  • Put dish towel under the microwave turntable to prevent rollers or turntable from breaking.
  • Put away coffee maker, espresso machine and toaster oven. 
  • Prep a small lunch when we have a few hours of driving (banana, sandwich to share, leftover salad, crackers/hummus, grapes is our usual lunch-on-the-go).
  • Clean dishes and put away. 
  • Put any items left on the counter into a bin for transport (such as kitchen tools, knife rack, etc.)
  • Retract kitchen slide and bedroom slide.
  • Retract awning if it was out. 
  • Switch off the water heater, water pump and/or the furnace.
Outside chores (blue stuff)  πŸ‘¨
  • Empty our holding tanks. Put away sewer hose in the grey bin. 
  • Remove and put away the fresh water hose, including water filter and pressure regulator.
  • Retract the back stabilizers. 
  • Remove and put away any other small items outside (step brace, wheel chokes, etc).
  • Put away our camping chairs.
  • Clean and store the BBQ.
  • Check the roof, especially if we've been under trees.
  • Check the bike rack.
  • Pick up anything else that was left out.
  • Remove hitch cover, position truck to hitch up.
Together   πŸ’‘
  • Align truck and king pin for hitching up.
  • Lift or retract front landing legs to properly align heights of both hitch and pin.
  • Once hitched, visually inspect that the hitch is properly closed around the pin. Attach breakaway cable and hook up power cord to truck. 
  • Retract landing legs partly, do pull test to make sure hitch is engaged. 
  • Test blinkers and hazard lights.
  • Lift landing legs up and remove any other items on the ground.
  • Put away our electrical cord.
  • Retract steps, lock entry door and all other storage compartments.
  • Do a walk around to make sure nothing was missed, all windows are closed, antenna is down, bikes are secure, nothing left behind, etc. 
Here is a short video showing you some of those steps. 

This probably seems like a lot of work, but we can do all of that in 1 hour max, at a regular pace. The most time consuming jobs are cleaning the BBQ and emptying our tanks.

We hope you found this interesting. If there is something you would like to know more about, please let us know by adding a comment below.

Thank you!




Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Searching For Cowboys in America

The Ottawa Valley did not have any cowboys around when I was growing up. I watched them instead on television, in westerns like True Grit and reruns of Gunsmoke. John Wayne and James Arness wore badges, rode horses, and were constantly taking off their dusty hats to say a polite hello to the passing ladies. I learned early on that a Cowboy had a deep, mysterious understanding of chivalry, adventure, and the difference between good and evil, no matter what side they were on.

As I got older, Cowboys got replaced with James Bond and Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones. They were also cowboys, but looked and acted different (although Indy still cracked a bullwhip). Later on, there were other cinematic cowboys embodied by the likes of Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. With all of them, there was always a trail to follow, a mountain to climb, a rough river to cross, or a road to travel, whose end was always uncertain. These were all the source materials for my friends and I playing in the woods, chasing one another on bikes, and facing off against each other in the playground. Our imaginations always ran wild, our ideas never ran dry, and our energies never ran out.

Years later, I saw movies and tv shows making fun of cowboys. Maverick, Lightning Jack, and Wild, Wild West all stick out in my mind, but City Slickers (1991) is the most memorable. Take a bunch of misfit urbanites and put them on horses, and watch the comedy just flow naturally. I was already a city slicker by then, without truly realizing it, and happily cocooned myself in all the technology, creature comforts and automation I could find in the world. Just like Billy Crystal, I became a slave to cubicles, a lover of portable grinders, and an indentured servant of VHS players. I did not yet know the simple pleasures of being home on the range.

Over twenty five years later, I've been able to live among cowfolk. The term "cowboy", oddly enough, is simply a romanticized form of ranch hand, someone who herds cattle for a living. Legends over time, campfire stories, and the immortal power of the silver screen transformed the humble cattle rancher into a larger than lifehero for the ages. They are all still here, of course, in the flesh. The ranches and deserts and corrals - and vintage bars - still call to them. But they are a far quieter and passive breed than the trailblazers of yesteryear. And they are no less compelling or mesmerizing, and their stories and adventures still carry the weight of gold.


Oklahoma

Most cowboys drive cars now. Or trucks. And that's ok. We weren't expecting them to canter along the highways on horseback, anyway. As we passed through Tulsa and continued west, we drove through some amazing countryside until finally reaching Elk City, home of the ultimate Route 66 Museum, which included detailed exhibits for "cowboys" of all shapes and sizes: farmers, ranchers, rodeo rustlers, and drivers of history - passionate individuals dedicated to exploring the roots and folklore of the proverbial highway itself:

Elk City Barn & Ranch Museum

Elk City Route 66 Museum

Elk City Route 66 Museum

Elk City Route 66 Museum

  
New Mexico

In Roswell, you can find cowboys and aliens. After you leave the UFO museums and gift shops behind, there is only the road that remains, with desert tumbleweed on either side of you. Everywhere you look, there are road runners and jack rabbits and coyotes chasing them both. The days are warm and the nights are cold. The landscapes go on for what seems like forever; on the road that stretches for miles, a mountain range can stare back at you for hours. At every turn, the colours of the hills change with the setting sun, and with each night that follows, the stars seem to get bigger and brighter.



On our way to the Valley of Fires State Park, Chantal and I passed through the tiny ghost town of Lincoln, the home and stomping grounds of Billy The Kid, the folklore legend that inspired many a Saturday matinee, including Young Guns (1988). In the movies, the Kid is a reckless, jovial, impulsive youth, but the actual Kid and his fellow Regulators were outnumbered victims of property wars. Tourism plays a part in stretching out these stories, of course, but the characters nonetheless remain worthy of cheering.

Lincoln, New Mexico


North of Las Cruces, near the Mexican border, we discovered a hidden RV community called simply The Ranch. Located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert and part of a working cattle farm, the facility is surrounded by cattle guards, frantic road runners and nomadic coyotes that cry out irritably whenever the train roars past blowing its deafening whistle. The people who live here are tight knit and are veteran RV travellers. They trade stories like they are scars, they laugh at death like they are old companions, and they watch each others's backs like they are their own. They meet daily on the long porch of their main house. They are ready to celebrate but also treasure the quiet. It is called the Ranch because it behaves as such; who would have thought that RVers could become cowboys.

The Ranch, SKP RV Park in New Mexico

 
The Ranch, SKP RV Park in New Mexico

 Arizona

Even without snow or jazzy mall music or twinkling lights everywhere, you can tell when Christmas is near. At the Grand Canyon all it took was a visit to the old chalet gift shop near Mather Point, where a beautiful fireplace was on display, along with amazing decorations dressing up their village hotel lobby:

Mather Point, Hikers' Rest in Grand Canyon National Park

Hotel Lobby in Grand Canyon National Park

Hotel Lobby in Grand Canyon National Park

Further down the road, we found a neat Christmas concert on a Saturday night at an old recreated frontier town called the Blazin M Ranch. The food was ration style and the entertainment was fantastic. Cowboys, it seems, can sing and play the guitar and piano, too:


Blazin' M Ranch, near Dead Horse State Park in Arizona

Blazin' M Ranch, near Dead Horse State Park in Arizona


We also came across a small town called Prescott, where a vintage bar tavern called the Palace Saloon, dating back to 1877, still stands. It was here that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday played some cards while on their way to Tombstone.


Prescott, Arizona
There's something magical and timeless about encountering a saloon, the other place where cowboys are born, I suppose. The entry sign even showed three shadows of mysterious ghosts, standing in waiting, guarding a bygone era preserved by vintage dΓ©cor and stories passed down. I started thinking about all those movies again, and all the television shows and stories and pictures over the years. And suddenly the sign became something else: a time machine of sorts, a chance to visit another way of life, a way of life that our RV adventure had made possible in the first place.


Chantal finally got her chance to get tough and stride through those iconic swinging wooden doors of a saloon and enter the long lost world of the western frontier. How many movies, funny or dramatic, have started this way? Beyond those doors, we knew what to expect: shot glasses, sneaky card players, dancing girls on stage, and a long row of squeaky barstools....
...Or just a nice dining room, too.



And then, of course, there was the actual Tombstone. Nothing could have prepared us for that first stroll down the main street, where you could only walk or stroll on horseback. Both sides were draped with those old rickety wooden boardwalks, and saloon doors at every corner. And, near the end of the square stood the famous OK Corral, where that famous gun battle took place:

Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona



Of course, these are the cowboys of yesteryear, long gone from memory now, kept alive in folklore and dime novels and adventure movies. At one point, the western genre was thought long dead and buried until Clint Eastwood and other modern filmmakers made them mainstream again. But, in truth, the western genre and the frontier myth and all the cowboys and adventurers that came with them were always there. The cowboy has simply evolved into other forms: the astronaut, the gangster, the race car driver.


As we began to conclude our adventure in Arizona, I began to wonder why had been searching for cowboys in the first place. They had no interest in me, and I really had no need to find them, either. I saw this long lost and forgotten loner and persona in other characters I had come across in other chapters of this crazy journey, and many other times in countless other chapters of my life. They had been there all along, right in front of me, when I had not been seeking them out. The wandering hero without a quest had once been a character study I had discovered in a university classroom, in a course designed to explore the roots of one’s own creativity. Some part of me sought out these traits in people that had passed through my life time and time again. And now I was really searching for the cowboy within myself, disguised ever so thinly as a writer, and a fan of movies, and an observer of human nature. And also as an RV traveller.

In Sedona, we stopped at a visitor center to get maps and brochures and a few tips from locals. As we entered, we saw a Santa Claus working one of his final shifts before his big run on Christmas Eve, which was only days away. He was dressed as should have been, but he spoke with a slight southern drawl. I approached him and shook his gloved hand. He looked tired and sweaty.

“Merry Christmas,” I said to him. He smiled back.

“Merry Christmas to you, young feller.”

“Santa, what do the kids leave for you at night when you visit houses on Christmas Eve?”

“Oh, depends,” he answered. “Usually, biscuits and gravy, I guess. Maybe a glass of horchata.”

A couple walked in just then, and the husband smiled and joined our conversation. A horchata, as I came to learn later, was like a milkshake made with fermented rice and vanilla extract. I leaned in closer, as this Santa spoke quieter than usual. He was also without his usual “Ho Ho Ho” jubilant laugh.

“Santa, what do cowboys do for Christmas?” I asked him.

The husband next to him chimed in first. “Spend time with his horse, I think.” Santa nodded and chuckled a little bit, but the man’s answer didn’t feel like the end of a joke. Maybe cowboys no longer had families because they no longer had ladies to rescue or bad guys to chase out of town. Maybe all they had left was indeed their horses, their only remaining companions. Cowboys didn’t need Christmas trees or shiny presents or chestnuts or Rudolph and Frosty. They just needed their horses to stay on their path. A path that led away from an organized, civilized world that once needed them but now only mentioned them in passing.

Not long after, Chantal and I decided to walk through parts of Sedona, the rocky trails that led to Cathedral Rock. With every step I imagined a posse riding through on horseback, or a team of wagons passing through on their way to Tucson, or Bisbee, or Tombstone. This was a way of life back then, but for us today it was simply a recreational activity. All around us we saw other tourists desperately taking pictures and videos and selfies and posting them all onto social media to keep up with the race for digital immortality. I took pictures, too, but I was looking for something else, some magical trail of dust left behind in the reddish horizon lines. The rocks and hills and winding paths seemed to go on forever, and I felt as though I were becoming lost in that blurry infinity. Whatever panoramic shot I took, whatever low angle I tried, whatever slow zoom I focused on, the camera could not find what my eye wanted to see so badly.

Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona, Arizona

That night we drank lots of wine and had dinner on the patio deck of a noisy restaurant that faced those same rocks that stared back at us in the distance, keeping their secrets. After dinner, the town square shone a movie against the rocks that suddenly became a giant screen for our amusement. The movie was like a light show that showed holiday colors and gentle snow kids waiting for Santa to arrive, but sadly there were no cowboys to be found there, either. Still, it had been a fun night.



At another state park called Karchner Caverns, I found an old paperback dime novel left behind on a shelf outside a laundry room. It was called Who Rides With Wyatt, a retelling of the famous shootout between the Earps and the Clantons at the OK Corral in Tombstone. The book claimed to be an authentic and true account from a man who had known these men, but the author – an old Westerner named Will Henry – had been known to embellish a bit. The story was first published in 1954 but the story was first told to him in 1933 by an old man who referred to himself only as “the kid”, and the story he tells implies that he was, in fact, Johnny Ringo, a thief and an outlaw and once a good shot that hung around with the Clanton and McLowry gang over fifty years earlier. I read the book in four days. What was interesting about it was that Wyatt Earp and Johnny Ringo had once been friends, ever so briefly. Earp had seen something of his younger self in this Ringo kid while they rode across the open ranges spreading from Dodge City to Tombstone. The two never fought at the OK Corral, but Earp did hunt him down years later, or so legend suggests.

Almost a hundred and fifty years later, this famous shootout between shadowy lawman and reckless outlaws in a mining town barely able to govern at all still holds up in countless tales of folklore almost bordering on poetic justice. The near obsession with these unruly characters is both fascinating and horrific, almost like a slow motion train wreck. But the reasoning is simple: for good or bad, win or lose, it seems that Americans love a good fight. But, even more than that: Americans love a good rebel fighting the system. This is the courageous spirit that was born in their Revolution and moved his way west to discover and claim new frontiers. This is the untamed heart of the American traveller. This is the soul of the wandering loner. This is the lifeblood of the restless searcher.

When we finally did arrive in the real Tombstone, I couldn’t help but put on my own cowboy hat. The hat itself has its own story, of course, and it comes from Africa, not America. It bears more resemblance to an Australian frontier type fedora rather than a traditional cowboy hat, but it fits me just the same. I felt as though I would not be allowed to walk down that famous main street without it, and I used it for the entire day we were there. I was allowed to indulge even more at an old bar called Big Nose Kate’s, where I was given a trenchcoat and permission to play bartender to a cast of unruly drinkers. Thankfully, I was not given a badge or a loaded pistol and holster. The OK Corral re-enactment was fun to watch and played out in real time, which barely took all of forty five seconds. The gun shots rang loudly and scared all the young children into a fit of crying and hysterics. We sat in the bleachers with all the parents and their bright eyed kids and whistling grandmothers and cheered when the battle was over. The cowboy actors lined up and bowed, and mentioned a few charitable foundations as we filed out.

OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona

A few days later, we arrived in Old Tucson, a working film studio and living museum haunted by the ghosts of cowboy heroes long gone, according to the tour guide who met us at the gate. It could have been just a dusty old relic of a town, if it were not for all the souvenir shops. But the time machine feel was still there, as creaky stagecoaches strolled by, and rustlers nearby prepared to stage a battle at an old mission church. There were tours on John Wayne, a seminar on old grocery stores back in the day, and there was even a tryout show for new dancing girls in the main saloon and hotel. Best of all, there was a studio where anyone could dress up like their favorite characters from yesteryear. In the long run, it seemed better to give up the search for cowboy outlaws and simply become one ourselves.


Old Tucson, Arizona

Old Tucson, Arizona

Old Tucson, Arizona

Old Tucson, Arizona



California

Here you can find cowboys in front of cameras and billboards. Also, they ride motorcycles instead of horses, and leave behind their helmets and let their ponytails fly in the breeze as they weave through traffic on the highways. They refuse to be stuck in traffic, like the rest of us; instead, they ride the shoulders or just cut in front of everyone. Everyone has somewhere to go in this state, and they stop for no one. But the modern cowboys here also find quieter roads, and there is still plenty of desert to shut out the hum of urban life. One such desert we found in the wide open space of Joshua Tree National Park, not far from Palm Springs:

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Further north, we explored San Diego and San Francisco, and into the Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, all places where discovery and adventure and solitude are not limited only to cowboys and western frontier heroes.

Turtle Point in Sequoia National Park

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park


Golden Gate, San Francisco


After roaming across four states and digging up the cowboy myth wherever we went, we saw so many things and found so many answers for ourselves. The Cowboy is still very much alive and well, and has evolved in ways that one point were thought impossible. Two hundred years ago, the West opened up and gave birth to the curious drifter and courageous family, who in turn yielded the lawman and the outlaw, who in turn helped to settle the American West with a blend of adventure, moral struggle and hard work. In the past fifty to hundred years, the cowboy has transformed into so many forms: the farmer, the soldier, the sheriff, the gangster, the loner, and, of course, the RV traveller, all of whom keep society going but, at the same time, seek to escape from it and follow new paths, wherever they may lead. Good luck to all cowboys out there on the road.


Have You Seen These 2 RV Outlaws?