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2015 - We spent January, February, March, and April on Vancouver Island getting away from the Alberta winter.

Snowbirding, as it is commonly called, means months at a time living in the motorhome. This will test a couple’s ability to get along like little else. We did fine and I’m happy to report no bloodshed at all.

Once we were back home, we resumed our usual camping pattern within a 2 hour drive of our home getting out once a month. We visited Carson-Pegasus PP in May, Long Lake PP in June, Wabamun Lake PP in July, Miquelon Lake PP in August and finally, back to Carson-Pegasus PP in September to wrap up the season.

We were out 124 nights in 2015.

January, 2015 Home to Victoria, BC

Actually, I’ll backtrack a few days to December 28, 2014 when we loaded up Toad, our little Chevy Tracker 4 door SUV-let, with everything we thought we’d need and began our adventure. It is a small vehicle and was packed to the ceiling even with the back seats folded down flat. We stopped in Kamloops, BC overnight and the next day picked up the motorhome near Vancouver where it was stored and headed to the ferry terminal at Tsawassen. $310 and 90 minutes on the water brought us to Victoria.

The RV park where we are going to spend January didn’t have any vacancies until our reservation kicked in on the 1st so we went to nearby Fort Victoria RV Park and settled in for 3 nights. It was kind of like camping at Walmart (which we have done many times) with no space between sites and beside a busy highway.

On the 1st we moved to our January home, West Bay RV Park. We were not right on the waterfront because I waited too long to make our reservation. We are across the street but have good views of the water between the other rigs. There is a seawall walk to downtown and lots of walking distance shops and stores. Power, water, sewer, basic cable and Wifi is included. There are ocean views on 3 sides of the peninsula hosting the RV park. It is clean and tidy with an access gate so there is no casual traffic. Nice place.

Although it was sunny and warm on moving day, it clouded over the next day and for the rest of the month we had mostly cloudy days with one or two days of sunshine each week. There was frost on one morning and the coldest temperature we saw was -4C. We still get local Edmonton television channels on the satellite dish and every report of snow and -20 or worse make us happy that we are here and not there.

There are lots of motorcycles, convertible cars with their tops down, skateboarders in shorts, golfers chasing little white balls, flowers blooming and robins tweeting. In January! This is great.

One of our day trips to explore took us to Sooke; mostly because we had never been there. On the way, we came around a corner and over a hill and the vegetation changed to rain forest. The fir, balsam and hemlock gave way to red cedar and there was moss hanging off everything. Very pretty and it smelled great. Of course it was raining.

We explored a couple of parks and even had to traverse a flooded road to get to the park up the Sooke River. This is a very busy river rushing over rocks and through narrow gorges. There was a local museum that looked interesting but it was closed until tomorrow. They had the top and lens from a big lighthouse in the yard and a round from a 1,227 year old fir tree.

We went downtown to the Royal BC Museum. The visit was recommended by my cousin Debbi and we enjoyed it. There was an exhibit of the best photographs in the world and some of them were truly astonishing. The other exhibits were the same as our last visit here maybe 10 years ago.

We need to find a new campground for February and while on a drive we stopped to check out the Living Forest RV Park & Campground at the southern edge of Nanaimo. This is the nicest commercial campground we have ever seen. Big sites, paved roads, lots of trees, bushes separating the sites, and everything clean and tidy. We put down a deposit on site 133 which is right on the ocean. We may well wind up there for 2 months.

We have had no major problems with the RV and only a few minor ones, easily and cheaply fixed. Canwest Propane comes by once a week to refill tanks and we needed them twice during the month even using the auxiliary electric space heater. Propane is expensive here at nearly $1 per litre but that is delivered so I won’t complain.

Duncan was calling our name one day so we went up to explore the town. This is where we had a baked salmon on a cedar plank a bunch of years ago. That village is closed for the season. Downtown is 100 year old buildings on busy, very narrow streets. The railroad played a significant role in Duncan’s history because it goes right through downtown. All the crossing signals are still in place even though there hasn’t been a train down these tracks in years.

I made it to the Air museum in Sidney, beside the Victoria International Airport. There are two small hangars with a decent collection of planes, replicas, models, and memorabilia. Worth the drive out as the tour guide was an ex-Boeing employee and quite knowledgeable about the planes on display. There was a Trans Canada Airlines Viscount turboprop on display – I remember flying in one of these planes a couple of times when I was a kid and now it is in a museum! Maybe I am getting old . . .

Since we are on a west coast Island, seafood and places to buy it are plentiful. We went to a fresh seafood market downtown and Tess stocked up on octopus, Sablefish (like a cod), and other assorted treats.

While downtown, we went into the Robert Bateman Gallery on the waterfront. They were showing many of his original works created between 1942 and last year. He is still working today at 84 years old!

On January 23rd my back started hurting for no apparent reason. Over the next few weeks it got worse and after several doctors, a chiropractor and a trip to emergency where they checked for a tumour and cancer, it was decided I just have acute sciatica. I got pain killers, nerve anti-inflammatories and exercises to do. By the end of February I was in reasonable shape although I still couldn’t walk more than 20 minutes.

We had my niece Lindsay over for dinner and it was good to see her. She has been in Victoria for a couple of months and seems to being enjoying it. She is working part time while looking for a full time position. We think she will be successful here.

We went to visit my cousin Debbi and her husband John. I haven’t seen Debbi for perhaps 50 years and of course have never met John. We immediately felt completely at home and happily, Debbi is a great cook. She served a wonderful meal with appis, steak, salmon, risotto, stuffed mushroom caps and more. We had crepes with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle for desert. It was a memorable meal in great company. We will not wait another 50 years to get together. (top)

On the ferry to Victoria

Fort Victoria RV Park

West Bay RV Park

Sooke Museum

Downtown Victoria from the RV Park

Great to have a nurse around. Couldn’t even put my slippers on!

February, 2015 Nanaimo, BC

We moved from Victoria to the Living Forest RV Park on the southern edge of Nanaimo and settled into our spot. We back onto the ocean and have nice privacy hedges on both sides. Interior roads are paved and the whole place is clean and friendly. We even have a picnic table and fire pit for those occasional dry afternoons and evenings.

The weather here is similar to Victoria, just a little wetter because of the nearby mountains. The first two weeks of February saw rain every day but the last two weeks saw only the occasional shower and mostly sunny skies. We had two nights when it dipped below the freezing mark and it was in the teens (50s F) most days so we are certainly happy with the weather.

My sciatica was the primary focus of much of my February. Pain, drugs, stretching and trying to walk to get that disc to stop pressing on the sciatic nerve. By the end of the month, although not back to normal, I was at least somewhat mobile and often pain free.

On Valentine’s Day it was another warm and sunny day, so we hit the road to go for a drive. I was feeling pretty good so we decided to go for a walk along the boardwalk and public fishing pier. It was windy down on the water, as usual, and it felt colder than the +16 shown on the thermometer. That’s 16 degrees above freezing and not a snowflake to be seen in the middle of February. I definitely like this snowbirding thing. We walked and visited with the local fishers or rather crabbers for an hour or so then stopped at a coffee shop for some hot coffee and a warm cinnamon bun while sitting outside in the sun on the boardwalk.

We were chatting with some of our campground neighbours about our humidity problems. The motorhome isn’t airtight by any means but it does not leak enough to prevent moisture buildup on the inside of the windshield and the walls beside the metal window frames. We went to Canadian Tire and bought a dehumidifier and in a few days the humidity was low enough that everything is dry to the touch and the windshield stays fog free. We run it overnight and put it away during the day now that moisture levels are where they should be.   (top)

Our site backing onto the ocean

A Nanaimo harbour seal trying to mooch a treat

March, 2015 Nanaimo, BC

Propane use has been the only real surprise on this trip. We were literally burning through 30 litres of propane per week until I switched the hot water heater over from propane to electricity. No doubt our electric bill will reflect the additional load but now we are burning about 13 litres of propane per week. That means we can comfortably go 3 weeks between propane deliveries instead of 13 days and having to connect the bbq tank to get us through that last night.

We brought a large compartment full of firewood with us and it looks like it will last us for the rest of the trip. I am surprised it has lasted so long, but then we don’t have a fire very often, maybe once a week or so. And we didn’t have any fires while in Victoria as they weren’t permitted at the RV park.

From March 8 to 12 we hosted Melissa and our grand-daughter Isla. We did the usual touristy things like ride in a water taxi and go for a walk along the harbourfront. Isla got to meet her maternal great-grandmother one day and her paternal great-grandparents another day. She won’t remember the visits but we took photos to share with her when she is old enough.

We have found a few things in the RV that need upgrading. The first priority is the couch. Apart from the weak springs that make it feel like you are sitting in a hole, Mel said it is very uncomfortable to sleep on.

The new flat screen TV works like a charm and for a budget model, has an excellent picture. I will remove the old CRT television, modify the cabinetry and mount the new one when we get home.

The only thing about this campground that is less than ideal is the internet access. The reasonable $20 per month cost gets a spotty and often very slow connection requiring regular re-logins. It make getting email iffy at times and presents delays in updating my websites.

The water system is part of the city infrastructure and in the evenings the chlorine content is very high. We have to leave drinking water containers open overnight for the chlorine taste to go away.

We are already making plans to come back here for the winter after next in 2016-2017. Until then, we will stomp around Alberta during the spring, summer and fall.   (top)

My afternoon nap on March 6 - no snow!

Visitors

April, 2015 Nanaimo to Home

By April most of the flowering trees had finished. Same with the tulips and daffodils. Regular summer flowers are appearing everywhere. Everything looks and smells great, especially on the many warm and sunny days.

Because we waited too long to extend our reservation, we had to change campsites on the first of April. Our new site is up the hill and across The street from our old one. This site is designed for nose in parking instead of back in as the power, water, and sewer connections are on the other side. This means we get to see the ocean out the windshield although it also means we are parked closer to the road.

We finally went clam and oyster digging at the public harvesting area just south of Courtenay. It took me only about 30 minutes to get our limit of 30 oysters even with my sore back. It took Tess a while longer to get our limit of 150 clams and all 3 of us were pretty smelly by the time we were done.

We spent a couple of days this month poking around the Island including Port Albernie on the west coast. I went to visit my Dad a couple of times each week and as often as not, we went for ice cream and ate it parked at the beach people watching.

Easter was in early April this year and the campground was nearly filled with locals. There were happy kids everywhere, lots of campfires in the evenings and the smell of bacon being cooked in the mornings.

We packed up the afternoon before and on Wednesday the 8th, we caught the 10:15am ferry to the mainland. We paid another $290 for the 2 hour trip. On our way east we stopped in Chilliwack for fuel and enjoyed light traffic and sunny skies along Hwy 3. We stopped at Bromley Rock Provincial Park between Princeton and Hedley. There was even a pull through so I didn’t have to drop the car. There is no way to self register or pay so we are assuming it is free.

We stopped in to visit our friends Greg & Siony in Genelle. They introduced Tess and me some 40 years ago. Next stop was my brother Todd’s in Castlegar. He and Louise had a spot set up for us with power and we had a good visit. They are into archery so Tess and I each got a lesson. The arrows make a very satisfying thunk when they hit the target. After 100 or so arrows, I was starting to get the hang of it. Tess’ first couple of arrows bounced off some old motorcycle parts but she improved quickly.

We left Castlegar heading to Lethbridge. We had an appointment the next day with a furniture manufacturer there. We settled into the Lethbridge casino RV parking lot for the night. It was very windy until the sun went down around 9pm. Next day from the factory we headed straight home, about a 5 hour drive.

Our first snowbiding trip lasted 102 nights and we can’t wait to do it again. Only longer next time! (top)

An afternoon walk along the Nanaimo harbourfront

Our free overnight site at Bromley Rock Prov Park

A few days at my brother Todd’s place

May 20 - 24, 2015 Carson-Pegasus Prov Park

Over the years our traditional first and last camping trips are to Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park just north of Whitecourt, Alberta. This year was no exception even though we spent over three months so far this year in the RV.








We like it here because it is close to home, it is a nice park but still close to a town and most importantly, there are lots of usually hungry rainbow trout in the lake.




We settled into a treed and wind-protected site and tried our luck. We both had multiple hits but no fish landed.


Naturally, I fired up the bbq and the firepit and cracked a cold one. Even of the fish aren’t biting, camping is a great way to spend the day!

Sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid 20s made for perfect conditions. It wasn’t until about 11:00 am Friday (the 22nd) that the fish started to feed but when they decide to eat, they eat anything! By 2:30 pm we had our limit of 10 fish.

There is a casino between the campground and the town of Whitecourt and we often go there around Tess’ birthday to eat at the steak & lobster buffet. I had two steaks and Tess had two lobsters. We were stuffed. And at half price because of a coupon for $20 off for the birthday girl plus 10% off for being club members. A bargain feast.  

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June 17 - 22, 2015 Long Lake Prov Park

We settled into our reserved site at Long Lake Provincial Park near Boyle, Alberta, about a 90 minute drive from home.

The site is big but isn’t level and the front tires are 6” off the ground. Since the front jacks are extended so far, the whole rig wiggles around more than we are used to. And it looks funny too.

The cottonwood trees are in full fluff and it looks like snow on the ground. Fluff on the ground often means the fish will bite so I’ll try my luck later.


 Because the park and lake are down in a valley, there is no local TV signal, no radio signal, no cell signal and all the trees means the satellite dish can’t see the satellites. We are truly cut off from the world!

Over the next few days I tried for perch, walleye, pike and rainbow trout but caught exactly nothing until the last day when I pulled in a couple of small northern pike. They were well under the minimum keeper size so I’ll try again in a few years when they are grown up. While I was fishing, the Park Ranger came by to check my licence. I have a collection of them going back many years and the oldest one was issued before the Ranger was born!











The weather was decent with mostly sunny days and temperatures in The low 20s - about normal for June.

Back home on Monday the 22nd to plan next month’s getaway.   (top)

July 15 - 18, 2015 Wabumun Lake Prov Park

At Wabumun Lake Provincial Park we tried to get a first come, first serve site with power but we got a non-power site. They gave us a long pull through nicely treed with room for Toad and Mark’s car when they come out on Saturday.








We had the usual BBQ burgers for dinner, went for a walk then had a nice fire. We went inside about 9:00 pm when it tried to rain. Since we have no power, we can't watch a movie so we read until bedtime.

On Thursday I went to get gas for Toad then took the scenic route to the train tracks across the lake near the Highvale Mine to try and catch some fish. No bites at the usual spot but the channel under the trestle looked promising. There were lots of small (18"-24") Jacks and they were hitting everything I threw in the water.















I landed 4 and had several more throw the hook and a few that just followed the lure. A fun hour or two.

A busy day Saturday. Tess and I went for a hike along the trail and got back just before Mark, Isla and Kim arrived about 1:00pm.

After visiting and snacking for a while, we went to the beach. It was a perfect day for it with bright sun and no bugs. We played in the water for a good hour and even though she was shivering, Isla didn't want to come out. She loved the swings too, laughing with every swing.


We came back to the campsite for BBQ - dogs, kubi, pork and chicken. We all ate so much that we didn't have room for veggies.

















The kids left around 8:00pm and we settled down to a quiet evening.

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August 26 - 30, 2015 Miquelon Lake Prov Park

It has been 15 years since we camped here. We arrived in the early afternoon and settled into our reserved site.

It is spacious but not very level, front to back. I had to put 6” of wood blocks under the rear jacks and extend them full length to get level. This lifted the rear tires well off the ground so the rig wiggled a little when walking around or turning over in bed.

Brian and Lorrie came out for a couple of hours to visit and eat. It was nice to see them again in a camping situation. They left about 7:30pm and we let the fire burn down then went for a walk.

 The lake is smaller than we remember and I bet I could walk across it. It has been shrinking for decades but at this rate, it will be completely gone in another 25 years.








On Friday we went to the seafood buffet at the Camrose casino as planned and it was excellent. We oinked out on crab legs, Atlantic salmon, roast beef, shellfish and more. Great food and a great value.

After dinner I tried the blackjack table and lost 8 straight hands so I decided to try the slots.










Tess suggested a particular nickel machine and within 5 minutes I had hit the bonus game with free spins. The bonus games kept re-triggering more free games – about 300 in total!


It took a half hour to finish the free games and I won $353.80 in the process. That’s a lot of nickels! That paid for dinner and campground fees with a little left over for gas!

On Saturday a strong easterly wind blew the forest fire haze back to BC and we had a nice day. It was mostly a do-nothing day with only a short trip to the Camrose Hutterite Colony to buy some farm fresh eggs.

The campground is nearly full so I guess the lack of a swimable or fishable lake is offset by the closeness to metro Edmonton. We played Scrabble and had a good BBQ steak dinner.


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Sept. 23 - 26, 2015 Carson-Pegasus Prov Park

This will be the last trip of the year and we hit the road around 1:00 pm on Wednesday. Tess tried fishing for an hour while Camper and I had a nap.






She got a few bites but no fish landed. We bbq’d dinner then stayed in and played Scrabble. Not even a fire tonight! It got very chilly early and will no doubt freeze tonight. The electric blanket kept us toasty warm.

On Thursday we were up at the crack of 9:00 am ready for breakfast. Tess was out fishing by 10:30 and Camper and I followed her to the seawall around 11:00 am. By noon we had 6 nice trout on the chain and by 1:00 pm Camper and I were cold so we went in for hot soup and my afternoon nap.

Afternoon fishing was slow with only a few bites and one more fish landed. We had a nice dinner, a fire and finished the day with long, hot showers.


Friday was all you can eat crab legs night at the casino restaurant and of course, we did. We waddled out of the restaurant an hour later stuffed to the gills. Tess played the slots and I headed for the card tables as usual. I came out even and Tess won more than enough to pay for dinner and the campground fees so it was another free week!







At 9:30 Chubby Checker came on stage and entertained the sizeable crowd. For a guy who turns 74 next week, he looks great. Lots of energy, voice still good and really seems to enjoy being on stage and interacting with the crowd. He even danced with Tess for a few seconds! We stayed for an hour and enjoyed the show then back home to a very happy dog.


We spent most of the day Saturday on the seawall trying to reach our possession limit of 10 fish. Tess caught one nice sized fish and I got skunked. It was one of those days where everyone else is catching a fish every 10 minutes with exactly the same setup we were using but we got only the occasional nibble.

Some of the trees are now naked because of the wind and the ground is carpeted in yellow leaves. It really is the prettiest time of the camping season.







It was too cold and windy for a fire so after dinner we stayed inside and watched a couple of movies.

Back home tomorrow – another camping season in the books.  

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