How to Stay Warm in Your RV

Digging out my van at Pinery Provincial Park
Shovelling out

Staying warm on a cold winter’s night can be challenging living in a non-four-season RV. On February 1st, it will be six years since I started this RV Life. I have learned a few things along the way. I hope a few will help keep you warm when that north wind blows.

Window Coverings

I learned early on that the thin curtains that came with my Roadtrek were not going to be sufficient to keep out the cold or the light. I had to figure something out that would block the street light when I slept in parking lots, and insulate me from the cold. My daughter, Tanya, and I got together and decided on blackout curtains with an insulated fabric sewn on the back. Pulled tight against the windows using the clip and rails already there (with some new ones ordered from Amazon), we created curtains that not only helped with the cold but also insulated and help keep the van cool on those hot summer days.

Display of curtains
Insulated curtains

With the back windows, I knew there would be too much space between the windows and the curtain to keep the wind out. My girlfriend Diane came up with a great idea of styrofoam insulated panels that would fit tightly into the window openings and cover the space where the back doors meet. We wrapped them in the same curtain material, and I had a nice picture I liked blown up. We glued them on and got a result I really enjoy.

Display of back window panels
Back window panels

Floor Coverings

Covering the bare metal floor was a must. Not only was it extremely cold in the winter, it was also hot in the summer after a long drive. The metal floor will get hot from the heat of the road and the exhaust. For the first few years, I had bath mats as flooring. They were thick and plush, keeping my toes sort of warm while also being wet-resistant with a non-slip back.

Bath mats on the floor
Bath mats on the floor

I then found something just in passing at a store called Hart in Seaway mall in Welland. Puzzle flooring that had the same grain as my cabinets. That adds that extra insulation I was looking for. I love how it turned out. It serves the purpose and looks nice. With the bath mats on top, it adds a nice layer of protection from the cold.

Puzzle flooring and finished floor with mats
Puzzle flooring and bath mats

The Walls

In the winter, when the wind blows hard or the temperature drops to minus OMG, the air hurts my face ,cold the cold will seep in everywhere. When I first moved into the van, I had the back as one king bed. I would buy body pillows and pack the edges of the bed with them to put a layer of protection between myself and the walls. I decided a few years ago I needed more living space. I took down the king bed and made a couch and a single bed. It opened the inside of the van up so much I loved the extra living space.

Back of the campervan as a King sized bed and a couch and single bed
More living space

It also opened the inside to more ways cold air could get in. The pillows against the wall would not work due to the lack of sitting space. Leaning against the wall while I sat or feeling the wind come through was chilling. I came up with an idea of a temporary wall. Something I could put up in the winter and take down in the summer. Something plastic to hold back the moisture that can develop but not plastic because it will be cold to lean against. I wanted something to cover the wall from the top of the window to the bottom, where the bench meets the wall, covering the whole window area. It also had to have the ability to be folded back to let light in. Well, that is not asking too much, is it? Haha!

It would have to be a material on the outside and plastic on the inside. As I got into a shower, I realized that was what I was looking for, a fabric shower curtain. It would have to have some kind of insulation, and I need a temporary solution to hang it on painted fabric. Talking with my sister-in-law, Yvonne, who is a fabulous sewer, she suggested quilting batting for the insulation and upholstery T-pins to hold it in place. This turned out fabulous. I enlisted my daughter Tanya’s help. She cut the pattern and folded the material with the plastic lining inside. Laying a piece of the quilting batting in the middle, she pinned it, and I sewed it. It is a great insulator, and I can open and close it with the push of a pin.

Temporary insulated wall installed
Temporary Insulated wall
Temporary wall opened to allow light
Opened to allow light.

Insulate Where You Can

Insulating the areas that are accessible can help keep the cold from moving in. I find that if there is a strong wind, I can feel a breeze come in from the air conditioning unit. I covered the front of the opening with quilt batting behind the plastic panel. Rolling the batting to put in any larger crevices.

Quilting batting used to insulate AC unit
Insulating the front of the AC unit

I took out the microwave when I first moved in. I have never really used a microwave unless I was warming a cold coffee, so for me, it was not a needed item. I decided to make it into a knick-knack shelf. The back of the shelf already had some insulation in it. I made a styrofoam board wrapped in a blackout curtain and glued a favourite picture on it. I noticed some cold coming through the shelf. I pulled the styrofoam panel away and found the insulation had fallen away. I used the extra batting material, cutting it to size and layering it until it filled in where the insulation would be. It worked well to keep the cold on the outside.

Quilting batting used to insulate Knick-Knack shelf
Insulating my knick-knack shelf

A Few More Tips I have Learned Along the Way

  • By far, the most important thing is to keep that furnace running. Making sure your propane is always more than half full in the winter is paramount. If a storm hits and you are forced to stay somewhere, you want enough propane to last you until you can get moving again. To keep the house battery charged you may need to start your engine, so make sure your gas gauge is above the halfway mark.
  • Keeping a watch on the weather so you can be prepared for a big snowfall or cold snap. Knowing when you need to find a safe place to go or find a plug to run a small space heater helps avoid an emergency. In the winter, the weather app is the most used app on my phone.
  • I always carry a small shovel. It fits nicely in the back of my campervan. It has come in handy a few times to dig myself out of a snowy situation.

Celebrating six years of RV Life on February 1st, I look back and revel at the things I have learned, how I have adapted, also how many times I have dug myself out of the snow. Lol. Check out my blog Living this RVLife, walk down memory lane with me.

I hope sharing some of the things I have done will help you keep a cozy home inside even when it is not so cozy outside.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. See you next week.

🐿

An RV Life Year in Review: 2022

Driving into the sunset of 2022
Highway Sunset

August was a busy RV travel month, the rest of the year would turn out just as busy. A truck-in in Rensselaer Indiana, a trip to Adler Planetarium in Chicago, and a daughter pick-up in Minnesota. It was a rolling RV Life for the rest of 2022.

C.A.V.E Truck-in, Rensselaer Indiana

Custom vans at a van show with friends
Friends and vans at C.A.V.E

September led me across the border to Jasper County Fairgrounds in Rensselaer Indiana for a weekend of fun and frivolity and looking at beautiful vans. I met so many people I had never met before, including Dominick, who walked away from the band to make meFrwnch Bread Pizza. It had been a long drive, and I had not stopped to eat. I got there after the food vendor had closed and had not gone to the grocery store. Dominick has this great pizza oven set up and made me the best pizza. Oh, my stars, it was sooo good. Thanks, my new friend!

Dominick's Pizza Bread booth
Dominick’s French Bread Pizza

I decided to pop over to my friend Dave’s place and visit with him, Molly and Maggie. While having a lovely visit I went to start the van and nothing. Not even a click. What???? I knew exactly what it was. The starter. I called Dave at work and asked if he could recommend a garage. He said, “Ya, me.” He came home from work and spent the afternoon putting a starter on my van. Turned the key and woohoo! We were rolling again. Thank you, my friend! 💜

David fixing my Roadtrek
Dave working on my campervan

Have you had a deep-dish pizza from the Chicago area? After a hot day fixing the van, it was the perfect ending. Eating hint: One piece will do ya!! So very good!

Chicago deep dish pizza
Deep Dish Pizza

My friend Howard was having a 70th birthday party in Mundelein, Illinois. I was in Illinois, you know I had to go. I have known Howard for close to 30 years. He is a wonderful man who gives the greatest hugs. It was a wonderful evening spent with friends.

My friend Howard and I
Myself and Howard

Back to Canada to hug my kids, grandkids, and friends then a trip east. I had made an appointment to do tours at the Sharron Temple and Base31 that I had missed in August. On my tour, I found a place called Primitive Designs in Port Hope Ontario. I have never quite seen a place like this before. As you drive in there are steel sculptures everywhere. Beautiful, magnificent, large sculptures. You can not help but stop and look.

Steel sculpture of Transformer
The Entrance to Primitive Designs

A few of my favorites.

Steel sculptures and displays
Steel sculptures
Steel sculptures
Steel sculptures

They also had an amazing array of antiques and crafts for your home. From beautiful wooden furniture to unique handcrafted displays and accessories, they have it all. I almost wished I had a backyard. I would have taken something home. If you are in the area, give it a visit. You will be glad you did. They are seasonal so make sure of opening hours on their website before you go.

Yard accessories
Unique crafts and gifts.

In October I had a surprise visit from a Roadtrek friend. I met Holly in one of the Roadtrek Facebook groups. We chatted many times online but never in person. She happened to be passing through Ontario on a road trip to the east coast. What a wonderful time we had chatting and touring Niagara Region. Visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, and dinner with the aliens at the Flying Saucer. It was so nice to meet Holly in person. Special thanks to my friend Dan who gave us a relaxing place to have coffee and chat.

Living the RV Life with my fiend Holly
Holly, myself and our Roadtreks

October meant Halloween! A few friends got together at Bronte Creek campground and had a Halloween Campout. It was fun watching the kids all dressed in costumes go from campsite to campsite collecting candy.

Vanner's dressing up for Halloween
Candy and pirates are ready

Funny story… My friend Matt was there with his Scooby Van, parked with my Hugh and his M&M van. As I drive in parents and kids are starting to wander out to collect candy. A few dads were standing on the road. One said to the other, “you know we are sending our kids to strangers’ vans to get free candy.” I laughed and said, ” but Scooby is there so they will be ok.” They laughed and agreed.

It was a fun weekend spent with friends.

Halloween with friends
Fun and friends

October also is the month I put my 1969 Econoline away for her winter’s nap. Sprinkled with whole cloves to keep the mice away, she will sit in a nice warm building until spring. Sleep well darlin!

1969 Econoline van
My 69 Econoline

My friend Diane wanted to go to a Halloween-themed craft show, Frightmare in the Falls, in Niagara Falls. Halloween is Diane’s favorite time of year. She decorates their house where some people will not enter. Sounds like fun. Let’s go. Walking in you were greeted by horror movie vehicles as well as a variety of antique hearses.

old hearses and horror movie car
“Christine” and antique hearses

I also got to meet Marky Ramone of the band The Ramones. It was interesting sitting and chatting for a few minutes. I thanked him for making me bounce because I know I cannot listen to a Ramones song without bouncing. Lol.

Myself and Marky Ramone
Myself and Marky Ramone

November brought me back across the border for a daughter pick-up up in Minnesota. I had never been to Minnesota so I was very excited to go. Crossing in Sarnia Ontario on the Bluewater Bridge, across Michigan, through Illinois.

A stop in Illinois to see my friend Dave and Molly and Maggie. I had told them I wanted to take them to the Adler Planetarium. I love science and the stars. The following Saturday Molly, Maggie, and I were off to Adler Planetarium. I was so excited. Like most trips it turned into a Chipmunk Adventure with a reminder….always take your van with you.

It all started so wonderfully. A great drive to Chicago’s waterfront. It was windy but this is the windy city right? I parked at Dave’s work at one of the large hotels on the waterfront and we grabbed a cab to the Planetarium. The girls had been there before and told me I would love it. They were right. It was interesting and intriguing. Want to read a little more on Adler Planetarium, hit the link and check out my blog.

Maggie and Molly at the Planetarium
Maggie and Molly at the Adler Planetarium
Displays at Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium

After a great tour through the Planetarium, it was time to go. This is where things went a little awry.

I stopped at the desk and asked to phone a taxi. They did not know the cab number. They googled it and wrote it on a piece of paper. I called and got an automated service. They asked for the address. I asked the people at the desk for the exact address. They did not know. Hahahaha! What? I got the address and tried to give it to the automated service. It hung up on me. I tried again. This time it transferred me to a person. Yea! She asked for the pickup point. I told her “The Adler Planetarium.” She told me she did not know where that was. What??? It is a Chicago cab company, right? It is a world-renowned Planetarium with the third-largest telescope in the world. I gave her the address to both the Planetarium and the hotel where my van was parked. The cab would be here in 20 min.

We went outside to wait for the cab. We stepped outside and got the true meaning of “the windy city.” As we tried to make it up the steps of the Planetarium the wind was so strong ( gusting to 80 mph) I thought it was going to blow Maggie off the stairs. After huddling in the corner (it was a cold wind), it had been over 40 minutes since I called the cab. My phone rang and it was the cab company. Our cab was delayed but would be there in 20 minutes. After another 40 minutes and a trip to the washroom, my phone rings again. It is the cab company’s automated service telling me a cab was not coming. OMG! This is crazy. How the heck do I get myself and the girls back to my van? I called Dave and he called an Uber. Finally, we arrived back at the van and I hugged her and told her I would never leave her again. Lesson learned.

With a warm goodbye and see you next time up into Wisconsin, and the Minnesota border. I got lucky with the weather for November in Minnesota, it was beautiful.

Minnesota Welcome sign
Entering Minnesota

I had to take a walk through the Mall of America in Minneapolis. I had never seen an amusement park in a mall before. It was both interesting and amusing as you walked under a Rollercoaster.

Mall of America Minnesota
Mall of America

One thing I did not realize was that the Mississippi River starts in Minnesota. When I saw signs that I was crossing the Mississippi River I had to Google it. Sure enough, when they say it is the “Mighty Mississippi ” they mean it. I should have guessed because even in Minnesota they have a Mississippi Riverboat.

Mississippi Riverboat in Minnesota
Mississippi Riverboat in Minnesota

After picking up my daughter, Katelyn at her fiances, we headed across the top to go back by way of Upper Michigan. Upper Michigan is beautiful at any time of the year. With vast forests and scenic lakes, it is a wonderful place to explore or just pass through. To get to lower Michigan or into “the mit”, you need to cross the Mackinac Bridge. It is a beautiful Bridge crossing the joining of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Macinack Bridge Michigan
Mackinac Bridge

On the east side of Michigan, there is a little town called Frankenmuth. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland boasts that it is the world’s largest Christmas store. I must say I believe they are right. Anything and everything Christmas was in this huge 7.35-acre store. From the moment you enter, you have no doubt you have reached Santa’s workshop in the North Pole.

Bronner's Christmas Store
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

December was spent with family and friends. A quick trip back to the US for Kim and my annual shopping trip and of course breakfast at Cracker Barrel.

My friend Kim and I
Kim and I at Cracker Barrel

Thanks for coming down memory lane, and remembering 2022. A year filled with travel, fun, family, and friends. Here is to 2023 being filled with even more Chipmunk Adventures.

See you next week.

🐿

An RV Life Year in Review: 2022

Highway in Northern Ontario
Ontario Road Trip

Earlier in the year, I had decided to write another book. What should the book be about? Something I love and am passionate about. Travelling is my first love, Ontario travel destinations is something I am passionate about. Ontario is a vast, beautiful province filled with a variety of travel destinations. I have travelled throughout Ontario for both work and pleasure, discovering some strange and interesting places. Creating a book to share the places that I have found for everyone to enjoy. As I checked my list for places I had not seen and marked them on a map, I realized this was going to be a wonderful Ontario Road trip.

Mapping my Ontario travel destinations
Mapping it all out

Grab a coffee and drive down memory lane with me on this 5,600 km, 30-day road trip on my search for Ontario’s Strange and Interesting. If you would like more details on these different places, check out my blog posts. Ontario: Strange and Interesting.

The Big Apple

The Big Apple Cobourg, Ont
The Big Apple

Starting in Niagara, I made my way east. My first stop would be The Big Apple. This large apple sits beside Hwy 401 in Colborne, Ontario. This 12.1 m (40 ft) apple serves up, you guessed it, apple products. When I was a little girl and travelling with my Mom and Dad, we would always stop and get an apple pie for the road. I had not stopped there for a long time. It was now much more than just apple pies. A full restaurant, gift shop, brewery and Maple shop, and even a petting zoo. You can still climb to the top of the apple for an amazing view of the landscape. You, not me. I do not do up. Lol

The Stone Arch Dam

The Stone Arch Dam
The Stone Arch Dam

This Stone Arch Dam, located in Elgin, Ontario, is almost 200 years old and still holding water. One of the first of its kind in North America and the third largest in the world at its creation. Built in 1831, it is an imposing structure made of sandstone. Standing 18.6 m (61 ft) tall and 106.6 m (350 ft) wide, it diverts the water from the Rideau River through a gorge into Whitefish Lake. Sliceways were added to generate power in 1947. An incredible piece of architecture.

Jones Falls Lock

Jones Falls Lock
Jones Falls Top Lock

I found this beauty on my way to find the Stone Arch Dam. Jones Top Lock has been operating since 1831 in the same fashion as it began. It takes human power to open the gates and raise and lower the water by 4.62 m (15 ft). The Lock keepers need to turn a wheel with a series of pulleys attached that open and close the gates. It was interesting to watch. Three locks lower or raise boats a total of 1.6 km (1 mile). There are shops along the dams and a visitor center that you can peruse through while seeing why they call them the prettiest Rideau River locks.

Rockwood Insane Asylum

Rockwood Insane Asylum
Rockwood Insane Asylum

Built in 1859 this imposing building would become the catalyst for treating the mentally ill. Starting as a country villa, it was purchased by the government in 1856. The Rockwood Insane Asylum was built of limestone by the prisoners of Kingston Penitentiary. Closed in 2000, you cannot go into the buildings but you can walk around them. Some of the outbuildings have been repurposed, and some are abandoned. Around the back is a dock. A boat is tied to the dock. I am not sure if this was an abandoned boat, but it made a very eerie scene.

Ship on abandoned dock
Boat at the abandoned dock

Vic Cafe

Vic Cafe
Vic Cafe

I love finding great little places to eat. The Vic Cafe is located in Picton, Ontario. I loved the colourful outside and the friendly colourful atmosphere when I walked in. It reminded me of an old fashion diner with a modern twist. The first thing I noticed on the counter was an old fashion milkshake machine. I had to try and was not disappointed. Great food and wonderful service. It is definitely a place I would stop in again.

Milkshake
Now that is a milkshake!

Graveyards and Gallows

Gallows at Picton Courthouse
The Gallows

A Graveyard. A story of murder and mystery with a few ghosts thrown in. That is my kind of tour. Graveyards and Gallows Tour starts at St. Mary of Magdalene Church at Macauley Heritage Park in Picton. The tour starts with a walk through the graveyard. Stories of tragedy and sadness in the 1800s. Also one of a little laughter after one of the headstones made it to Ripleys Believe It or Not. A tour through Picton to the courthouse where a set of gallows stand representing a story of murder with a little mystery. Catch the whole story in my blog Ontario: The Strange and Interesting.

Base31

Base31 Picton
Base31

Base31 in Picton was a WWII airbase. I was excited to tour the base and take a walk back in time. What I found was a place of both history and modern culture. Unfortunately, my guided tour was cancelled, which was sort of ok since it was really hot outside. Base31 is huge. You can take self-guided tours. I drove around with the air conditioning on because I am kind of wimpy that way. That small tour gave me was an undeniable feeling that I needed to know more. I went back in September and had a private tour. I was amazed and delighted by the concept they were using to revitalize and restore the amazing history this place has. Check out the story on my travel feature blog Base31: Celebrating the Past by Creating a Future. 

I would like to stop and Thank Andy and Becky for letting me use their private event park for a base while I toured the area. It was so much fun spending time with them and their family. Andy bringing me a coffee every morning is a great start to the day! Becky and Brittany for making lunch every day and Cindy who I know read my blog every Sunday. Thanks for your hospitality!

The Sharon Temple

Sharon Temple
The Sharon Temple

My first visit to this interesting travel destination had a wonderful surprise. The day I went the Temple grounds were being used as a giant car show. Wonderful. I love looking at good-looking rides. Unfortunately, the Temple itself was not open. I knew I had to go back. As I read the information in the small museum, I knew I had to learn more about the builders, “The Children of Peace.” I circled back at the end of my tour and was delighted to learn the history of this 1800s structure. Check out my Feature Travel Blog: Sharon Temple.

Haliburton Wolf Center

Haliburton Wolves
Haliburton Wolf Pack

Haliburton Forest is 100,000 acres of privately owned forest in the middle of Ontario. I went to visit the Wolf Center. What an interesting place. The story of how these wolves came here and how a forest came to be privately owned is fascinating. They also have a campground and adventure attractions. I did not explore as much as I wanted and can not wait to go back.

Haliburton Sculpture Forest

Haliburton Sculpture Forest
Sculptures in the forest

Haliburton Sculpture Forest is a very unique place. A trail leads you on a walk of sculptures made by both Canadian and international artists. As you walk through you have to keep an eye out as some will blend right into the foliage. What a wonderful find!

The Shaw Woods

The Shaw Woods
Shaw Woods

Shaw Woods near Eganville is what they call an “old growth” forest. Trees that are 100’s of years old. As you walk through you cannot help but feel the calm that an old forest brings.

The Diefenbunker

The Diefenbunker
The Diefenbunker

This was very cool. I had never heard of it before. A wartime bunker was built for Canada’s Military to coordinate rescue and defence strategies in the event of a nuclear war. In 1959 John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister. Talk of Nuclear war was in the air. Prime Minister Diefenbaker commissioned the bunker to be built. I was so looking forward to this tour. My friends Ray and D’Arcy went with me on this tour. It made it twice as much fun. I met Mr. Diefenbaker as a little girl and remember him as a very nice man. Check out my Feature Travel Blog The Diefenbunker for all the great details of the very unique and interesting walk back into the 60s.

Myself and John Diefenbaker
Myself and Mr. Diefenbaker

Brent Crater

Sign for Brent Crater
Brent Crater

Brent Crater is a meteorite impact zone. 450 million years ago, a meteorite hurtled through space and slammed into the earth in this spot. It created a Crater 3.2 km (2 miles) wide and 426 meters (1400 feet) deep. They have a trail that will take you to the bottom of the Crater and a beautiful lookout where you can see the rim of the circle. There is also a wonderful campground at the end of the road beside a quiet little lake. It is a no cell phone or internet zone, so when you go, get all your texting in before you head down that road.

Dionne Quintuplets Museum

Dionne Quintuplets Museum
Home of the Dionne Quintuplets

I was looking forward to going to this museum in North Bay. Growing up, I had heard stories of the Dionne Quintuplets from my parents. In 1934 five little girls were born. It was a miracle they survived. What happened next would make most parents shiver. The government came and took the little girls, putting them on display. The story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Check out the entire story in my blog Ontario: The Strange and Interesting.

The Big Nickel

The Big Nickle
The Big Nickel

Driving into Sudbury you cannot help but notice the 9.1 meters (30 feet) tall replica of a 1951 Nickel. Nickel mining in Sudbury was started in 1901 by a man by the name of Alva Edison. Sudbury became one of the top producers of nickel in the world. In 1964 the city erected this monument to the industry.

Elliot Lake and the Tailing Walls

Taling Walls from Uranium mining with my campervan
Tailing Wall

Elliot Lake is a beautiful little town in Northern Ontario. At one time, it was one of the largest producers of Uranium. As you drive the backroads, you will come across these huge walls of stone. Black and shiny, these rock walls are over 10 feet high and go for as far as you can see. When I first saw them, I had to wonder what that was. I was told it was Talings. The material that is left after the uranium is taken from the rocks. There are signs everywhere telling you they may contain some radioactive material and not to climb them. The mines here closed in the 1990s. Elliot Lake is now a quiet retirement community. A beautiful community where tranquillity and nature surround you.

Trans Canada Highway Halfway Point

Halfway point of the Trans Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway crosses Canada from East to West. Starting in John’s Newfoundland, crossing all Ten provinces to Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Perry Doolittle was the first to cross Canada in 1925 in his Model T Ford. There was no highway then. For over 800 km (500 miles) of the 39-day journey, he had to change the wheels on his car to railway wheels to ride the rails where no road yet existed. Dr. Doolittle was a big advocate of creating a roadway and is known as “the father of the Trans-Canada Highway.” Sadly, he would not see his vision come to light. It would not be until 1966 that the last part of the highway would be completed. When you get to Chippewa Falls, you will be 1/2 way across this beautiful country.

A Little trouble comes my way

Highway 17 along Lake Superior
Highway 17 Ontario

Highway 17 between Sault St Marie and Thunder Bay is one of the most beautiful drives. As I was driving, enjoying the views of Lake Superior, there was a funny noise coming from my tires and a slight vibration. A friend at Dunlop Lake Lodge, where I stayed in Elliot Lake, pointed out a funny wear pattern on the front tires. I thought I better get it checked out as the next leg of my journey would take me to some no cell phone services areas. Better to be safe than sorry.

Fountain Tire Thunder Bay
Fountain Tire

A friend’s brother worked at Fountain Tire in Thunder Bay. I called and they told me to bring it right in. Both the alignment and the camber were off and I would need new front tires. Darn!!! They took care of everything that day and I was back on the road safe and sound. Thanks, guys!

Panorama Amethyst Mine

Panorama Amethyst Mine
Panorama Amethyst Mine

Working in Thunder Bay a few times, I passed the sign for this Amethyst Mine many times. I had to stop and “mine” some Amethyst. Amethyst is my favourite crystal. Not just because it is purple, well maybe it is, but it also has some healing qualities that I enjoy having around me. I had no idea driving up this dirt road what an enjoyable afternoon it would be. Not only did I learn about Amethyst and how it is mined from our guide and mine owner Tim but got to experience the field of amethyst. I cannot wait to go again and bring my grandkids. Check it out on my Feature Travel Blog: Panorama Amethyst Mine.

The Beardmore Snowman

Beardmore Snowman
The Beardmore Snowman

Driving up Highway 11 I had to go see the Beardmore Snowman. It was easy to find being 10 meters (35 feet) tall. Depending on the season he may be holding a fishing rod or a curling club. This giant roadside attraction was built in 1960 to promote the local ski hill. Summer or winter it is a sight to see.

Macleod Provincial Park

My Roadtrek at Macleods Provincial Park
Campsite at Macleod Provincial Park

I decided I wanted to get a campsite, have a warm shower, and have a quiet place to take notes of my journey. What I found was a campsite almost surrounded by trees, hydro at the site with my own private beach entrance to a beautiful lake. Perfect! This beautiful Provincial Park is definitely on my stop-again list.

Poof There is a Dinosaur

Dinosaur at the side of Highway 11
Dinosaur

Driving down Highway 11 near Mattice Ontario there is a statue of a dinosaur. It just kind of appears in the middle of really, nowhere. I am not sure why it is there but it sure was fun to come across it.

Moonbeam’s UFO

UFO roadside attraction Moonbeam
Moonbeam UFO

The early pioneers of the small town of Moonbeam would see flashes of light in the sky. They would call them “falling moonbeams.” They described them as flat, round disks that flew with great speed and made a terrible noise. In the late 1990s this UFO was built to celebrate this beautiful little northern town.

Cochrane Ontario

Polar Bear statue in Cochrane Ontario
Polar Bears at the train station

Cochrane is a wonderful, welcoming Northern town. You cannot go much further north by car. You can however catch the train to Moosonee. The train station also has overnight parking so it is perfect for us wanderers to have a safe place to spend the night. It is also home to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. A great place to visit to see these huge majestic animals up close. Be sure to make it a travel destination when you are in the area. You will be glad you did.

Arctic Watershed

Arctic Watershed
Arctic Watershed

A line in the sand, or should I say earth. At this point, in a little town on Highway 11, a sign marks the line where on one side of the line all rivers flow north to the Arctic Ocean. On the other side of the sign, all rivers flow south. I find mother nature amazing. Diverting and feeding the areas for all its needs.

Elk Lake Wilderness Resort

Elk Lake Wilderness Resort
Sunset at Elk Lake Widerness Resort

My daughter had invited me to spend the week with her family at a wilderness resort. What a beautiful place to rest and relax. Sitting on a small river they had everything you need to have a complete wilderness resort experience. The hosts Mallory and Jay are wonderful with a dream come true story. Check it out on my blog, Elk Lake Wilderness Resort: The Perfect Northern Getaway.

Cobalt, Ontario

abandoned silver mine mill
Silver Mine Site in Cobalt

Cobalt, Ontario is home to the Heritage Silver Trail. A 22 km trail that takes you to the history of Silver mining in this quaint northern town. You can visit the Glory Hole as well as feel the cold air rush at you from an adit. Walk on the ruins of a old mining mill or see the mining equipment used to mine the Silver “back in the day.” To find the story of how it all came to be check out my blog Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues.

Discovery Harbour

ships in Discovery Harbour
Discovery Harbour

Located in Penetanguishene Ontario is a harbour with a lot of history. The harbour held two tall ship replicas from the 1800s. You can tour the outside and go below as the tour guide tells you the story of these mighty vessels. When you are done touring the ships you can tour an 1800s Naval base with people in costume performing the duties as they had so long ago. It was an interesting and informative travel destination. Check it out on my blog Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues.

The Cheltenham Badlands

Myself at the Cheltenham Badlands
Cheltenham Badlands

Located in Caledon Ontario this rock formation dates back thousands of years. Rolling hills of Queenston Shale, created by streams of water over 450 million years ago. It is interesting to see. Unfortunately, it is very delicate so you cannot walk it but it is worth the trip to behold this very strange site.

Wow, what a tour! Thanks for coming along with me as I walk down memory lane of 2022. There are still a few months left, so be sure to check in next week as I finish my drive down memory lane.

🐿

An RV Life Year in Review: 2022

My Roadtrek and My 1969 Econoline
My vans

2022 was filled with family, friends, fun and adventures mixed in with a few “firsts.” At my age the first time to do things is still just as exciting. As I strolled through my pictures of last year, it sent waves of warmth, laughter, and a few wow, that was fun. Come along as I walk through the Chipmunk Adventures of 2022.
In December 2021, we welcomed our newest family member, my grandson Cassius. Born four weeks premature, we finally got to hold him in January of 2022. Oh, what a long-awaited joy that was.

My grandson Cassius
Cassius, home at last!

February brought the snow, a lot of snow. It was all about digging out and going back for more baby cuddles.

Campervan Buried in snow
There is a home under all that snow

A call came from a friend who asked if I would like to go to the Freedom Rally in Ottawa. It was a great cause, and I had never been to a rally before. I am in. I picked up my friends Tom and Dan. Our first stop would be Trenton to stay with our friend Jano. We would leave for Ottawa in the morning. I got up and made coffee. It was mighty cold out. How cold? When I threw the hot water left over from making my coffee outside, it made snow. That was cool, so I had to do it again. Lol. The rally was a wonderful experience, and I even met a few people I knew, that I had not seen in quite a while.

My friends in Ottawa
My crazy friends!

March began with a trip to Belleville to see and play with a few friends. C’old School Van Club are a great bunch of people and so much fun to be around. It was a welcome winter break of laughter and hugs.

My friends Jano and Cesar
Jano and Cesar

In April it was time to get the cottage van ( my 1969 Econoline) out of storage and ready for summer play. The first tour with Tom and Kim and their Vanbulance is always something I look forward to. It is almost like a reward for making it through the winter. Lol

My 69 econoline and Tom and Kim's Dodge ambulance
The Vanbulance and my cottage van

May brought me to Strathroy to Glenn and Kathy’s for a campout weekend. What a wonderful weekend spent with friends. Great bands, great food, and great friends are a perfect blend.

Friends in Strathroy
Vanners at play

June brought us Vanfest 25! A custom van and truck show that I have helped with for 25 years. After a two-year hiatus, it was finally time to show your shine. Not only is this enjoyable to be at, but it is also a privilege to be a part of. A family of people that work all weekend, together, not a misstep to put on an event that includes bands, vendors, and the largest outdoor custom van and truck show in Canada. A four-day, which started 25 years ago at two days, an event that not only features some of the best custom-built vans and pickups but also hosts a full camping event.

People come from as far away as California, Florida, Massachusetts, and PEI, across Canada, all the way from British Columbia to attend and be a part of the Vanfest experience. With over 200 custom vehicles on the show field, there is something for everyone to go…ohhhhh that is sweet! It is held at Springwater Conservation Area in Aylmer Ont. This year the dates are June 8-11, 2023. If you are in the area stop by and check it out. You will be glad you did!

Vanfest 25 sign, custom vans
Some of the incredible vans
Vanfest 25 sign, custom trucks
Some of the incredible pick ups

July started with a road trip to Tweed, Ontario. I had no idea that this small, in my opinion, road trip would introduce me to a wonderful friendship that has blossomed. My friend Tony had told me about Andy and Becky’s private event park they were building. I had seen pictures and decided I would stop and take a look for myself. Little did I know I would not only fall in love with the place but the beautiful people that own it. Andy’s creativity and fun nature is contagious. Becky has the most beautiful soul that lights up your world when she walks in.

Andy and Becky run two businesses from the park. An auto tinting business called Tint Tek 20/20. Any vehicle you have they have a tinting pattern for your needs. They also have BBQ in a Box. As you drive in, there are race cars and muscle cars parked around a large building. Getting closer, you could tell they did not work as cars. They were barbecues. Oh, how cool! The wow did not stop there. The small airplane was also a barbecue. I stopped by a couple more times this year. A friendship that feels like it’s been forever, and I hope it will last just as long.

My 69 econoline, BBQ in a box trailer, airplane BBQ
BBQ in a Box or an airplane

While I was in the eastern part of Ontario I wanted to visit Kingston. I love the city of Kingston. It is a beautiful mix of history and modern culture. The Kingston Penitentiary had just opened for tours. I was excited to go for a visit. I was not disappointed. Check out my blog Kingston Penitentiary: A Tour Through the Ages.

Myself standing in a prison cell doorway at Kingston Penitentiary
Oh don’t close the door. Lol

Tweed was not far, so I took the backroads according to my GPS. I did not realize how backroads it was going to take me. Maybe I missed a turn, but the next one took me down a dirt road. A small tree had fallen across the road. I could not fit my 69 around, so I had to stop and break the tip to get around it. Now that’s backroading in my 69 Econoline.

Tree blocking dirt road
Tree removal on the dirt road

Arriving at Trudeau Park in Tweed I was greeted by so many friends I had not seen in so long. Not only a beautiful array of people but an amazing variety of custom vans. C’old School’s Custom Van Show Vanamania was a fun weekend spent with ooh’s, ahh’s, and a lot of laughs. Check out the show on my YouTube channel.

custom vans in Tweed
Vanamania

Tweed Ontario is a cute little town with fire hydrants painted like little people and rumours Elvis lives in town. It also boasts the smallest jail in North America. It was pretty tiny.

Tweed Ontario Tiny Jail
North America’s Smallest Jail.

Just as I was about to leave the park after a fun-filled weekend, I noticed my front passenger tire was flat. Luckily my friend Jano and Maddy had a tire repair kit and kindly fixed my tire for me. Little did I know that would be the beginning of an adventure in van repair.

Fixing my tire on my 69 econoline
Fixing my flat tire

Leaving the park and still wanting to tour, I had heard of the Brockville Tunnel but had never been. An old railway tunnel that they have made into a colourful, lighted musical experience. It was fun to walk through a tunnel built in the 1800s, experiencing the fun of the music and lights. Be careful when you start to dance. The floor is a little slippery. There is also a train you can take to tour interesting parts of Brockville.

Brockville Tunnel

Looking at the map, I noticed a place called Long Sault Parkway. A Parkway that spanned 11 Islands along the St. Lawrence River was created purposely by flooding the land. An interesting story and a beautiful place. I had to go and see. What I found was a little island paradise. As you drove the Parkway, you passed over causeways from one island to another. There are three campgrounds on the islands. It was a wonderful evening listening to the waves of the river splash on shore. Check out the story on my blog post, Eastern Ontario: A Gem Around Every Corner 

Camping in my 1969 econoline
Long Sault Parkway

Back to southern Ontario to prepare for my next adventure. I pulled into a roadside picnic area to make a coffee and went to start her and nothing. She was absolutely dead. Oh, my stars!!! I put out a call on Facebook to see if any of my friends were in the area. Jano to the rescue again. Not sure what the exact problem was we called other friends Karl and Sue. Karl said to bring it over and he would have a look. They found a loose wire on the back of the alternator. With the fix, she started right up. Woohoo! She is fixed! Or was she????

Jano, Sue and Karl and My 69 Econoline
My fix-it crew!

Where to go in July? Ohio. Hahaha! Only if a thousand of my friends are going too. The 49th National Truck-in is a once-a-year week-long event featuring the best of the best in custom vans. Every year the event is held in a different state throughout the United States.

In 2022, the National Truck-in was held at Jasper County Fairgrounds in Old Washington, Ohio. I have been to this park before. Ohio in July is hot and the weather, well, it can be unpredictable. I decided to take the van without the AC because, it is a van show and I like to show her off, plus all my friends will have their toys and I will miss mine when I got there. Little did I know that what should have been an eight-hour tour would turn into an adventure I would be ok not to live again.

Everything was moving along nicely. A smooth border crossing, then breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Erie, Pennsylvania. I came out, turned the key, and nothing. The battery was completely dead. Oh, ugg! A call to AAA, a nice gentleman came out to boost my van. He attached the cable to the battery, and the van began to try to start. He told me not to turn the key, and I got out of the van with my keys in my hand. Oh, that is not right. Fortunately, his boss knew about older vehicles and said to lightly tap the starter solenoid. It worked. The engine started. But something was still wrong.

Maybe the solenoid needs to be replaced? I headed over to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and they were extremely helpful. They took my battery and fully charged it while I attempted to change the starter solenoid. It did not help. I was not impressed. It was close to 90 degrees, in a hot parking lot and I still had an issue.

Fixing the 69
Getting dirty

Back on the road, I knew I had a full battery, but I did not know if it was charging. I was only three hours away from the park. The 69 Econoline is a mechanical engine. What I mean by that is that it takes very little electrical power to make it run. The power is needed to start the van, and run lights and wipers. It was still light out and a clear sky. I should be able to make it. Until Mother Nature decided that she was going to make it a challenge. I saw the dark skies ahead. Oh no…I will have to put my lights and wipers on.

Before I could even reach for my wipers, I drove into a wall of water. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Intense winds mixed with a severe downpour, and the next thing I knew I was hydroplaning. I felt the van lift onto the water as I started to float toward the side of the road. I put on my four-way flashers, put the van in neutral, and began to slightly move the steering wheel from side to side, hoping to get the tires to cut into the water. If I can get the van slowed down enough she will cut through the water and touch the pavement. As it happened, the people around me slowed and let the van slide. As we hit the shoulder, I felt the pavement under my tires. Pulling over when it was safe to do, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

A stop at a Pilot Truckstop meant a good night’s sleep and a warm shower. The next morning I crossed all my fingers and toes and she started right up. With a pat on the dash and a good girl we headed the last 30 minutes and arrived at the 49th Nationals.

entrance to the 49th Nationals
49th National Truckin entrance

What a wonderful week it was. Although it was very hot, and another storm blew through. This fairground is the only fairground I have ever been to where you always seem to be walking uphill. Even though the weather did not cooperate, the party and show were not to be outdone. It was so nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. I was thrilled to hug Kirsten and her husband Uwe from Germany. People come from all over the world to come to experience a Nationals experience. It was wonderful to finally meet them in person.

Uwe, Kirsten and I
Uwe, Kirsten and myself

The vans and the show were amazing. Such creativity and imagination are all put into these custom vans. It was a wonderful week spent with wonderful people.

Custom vans at the 49th Nationals

After a smooth trip back to Canada, thankfully, it was time to change vans and get ready for my next adventure.

That is another story for next week’s blog. Thank you for coming along and taking a walk back into the first part of 2022 with me.

See you next week.

🐿

When Santa Comes in a Roadtrek

December is here and Christmas is right around the corner. Even though I love to wander, when Christmas comes I still want to be with my family and friends. Living in my Roadtrek has not changed that.

When I had my house, dinner would be at my place with Christmas everywhere. I love the lights, the tree and most of all that warm Christmas feeling. Every year for as long as I can remember our family has had the tradition of cutting our own tree, followed by hot chocolate and tree trimming. The trimming comes when the tree did not look that big in the field but now it is filling the house. Lol. My daughter Tanya still continues that tradition with her family. Although now we only get one tree it is still a fun filled day finding the “perfect” tree.

My daughter and her family and their perfect tree

This is my 5th Christmas in my van. Although my tree is not alive it is kind of flashy. Is it different? Oh absolutely. I miss the excitement of decorating and getting ready for everyone to come “home” for Christmas. Now we gather at my daughter’s home and she carries on the tradition. It is wonderful having both of my children together and listening as laughter fills the house. Watching my grandkids excitement as presents get handed out from under the tree and their glee as they see what Santa brought fills my heart with warmth that cannot be surpassed.

Presents are another issue. Stuff in the van. Right now as I type I am sitting on my bed because my couch is filled with bags. I cannot wrap until I am done shopping because I forget what I have bought. Lol. I know, make a list, and as great a thought as that is. I never do it. One more tradition that is an unintentional tradition is the misplacement of at least one gift. Every year I misplace one gift. Sometimes I will notice as they are opening them and sometimes not. My kids would bet on who was going to get the surprise gift. It was always something small that I had put in a different place for whatever the reason was at the time. Do I still do it in the van? Yes, yes I do. Lol.

There is a couch under there

Although I am always “home” for Christmas, I love that I now can experience Christmas in different places. Last year was my first just before Christmas adventure.

Off to Florida to my friends Museum of Vanning Christmas Party. Of course not straight there. A little “dilly-dallying” as my Dad used to say, would be in order. Down through Illinois with a stop at Dave’s to hug the girls and pick up some supplies then turning south. What a fabulous roadtrip that was. My first stop was the home of Superman in Metropolis Illinois.

Metropolis, Illinois

I learned a lesson here…I am not Lois Lane! Walking through town looking at the fun attractions of the adventures of Superman the sidewalk had a little curb and yes you guessed it, I fell. Scrapped my knee and twisted my ankle a little. Where was Superman at that moment? Home enjoy tea and cookies I am sure. No superhero flew into save me from hitting the pavement and I was in his home town! A nice lady rushed over and asked me if I was ok. Which proves Superheroes do not always wear a cape.

I continued my trip south down through Kentucky, then into Tennessee. I have been to Tenessee before and loved it. There was one place I wanted to see as I passed through. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey has always been a favorite of mine. I do not drink often but if I am going to drink I prefer a Gentleman Jack straight up in a whiskey glass with three ice cubes, slightly chilled. Lol. A little particular I know but sometimes I am like that. I had always wanted to go on the tour of the Jack Daniel’s facility in Lynchburg Tennessee. I am so glad I did. What a great experience. You can read all about it in my feature travel blog A Chipmunk Tour: Jack Daniel’s Distillery. If you are in the area do yourself a favor and get the Angel Share Tour. Maybe you will be lucky and the angels will share.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg Tennessee

Down through Alabama and a stay at a great place Jackson Lake Island which I spoke about in last week’s blog. I decided to travel down the Gulf side of Florida. Panama City was beautiful, with long sand beaches and Palm trees dotting the landscape. As I drove along the coast I noticed the houses were built on stilts. For a visitor on such a beautiful calm, sunny day it is hard to imagine the volocity of hurricane winds.

House on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Everyone told me to watch out for alligators as they know I like to explore but no one said anything about the birds. I quickly learned that early mornings on the coast of Florida was very foggy. Usually by 10 am it was gone. I set out one foggy morning with the plan of stopping at a Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a coffee cake muffin, while the fog dissipates.

A foggy drive along the coast

As I was driving down the highway I saw something coming towards me in in my lane. What was that? I slowed as I watched what looked like a drunk pelican landing in my lane. If he had not been coming right at me it would have been comical. Luckily the car coming towards me seen what was happening and slowed right down. The pelican swerved to my right and I swerved to my left and we just missed each other. OMG! I was almost hit head on by a drunk pelican!!! Explain that to my insurance company! Lol.

Pelican in Homosassa Wildlife Park

Apparently they are not the only clumsy bird I would come across. Walking down a path in Homosassa Wildlife Park I noticed these big black birds in the trees. They were vultures and they were everywhere. As I walked the path through the trees I heard branches breaking above me like something falling through the trees. Looking up it was one of those big black birds. OMG I am going to get “falled upon” by a bird falling out of a tree. Luckily he caught air beneath his wings about 3 branches above me. People walking towards me yelled “look out” as I ducked and ran thinking I was about to get slammed by a large bird. I emerged from the tree and saw the bird take flight. I actually felt the swoosh of the wind on my face as he winged his way upward. I immediately started laughing. The people also laughed, probably because I was laughing so hard and told me they were a clumsy bird. Not the first one I had experienced on this trip. Lol

Watch for falling Vultures

Christmas in Florida was different and delightful. Warm and sunny with lots of Christmas lights. It was funny to see the Palm Trees decorated with ornaments and lights. It was fun celebrating Christmas with my friends in Florida.

Palm Christmas Tree

Back up through Georgia to meet up with my friends Jim and Jill Bulger for dinner at the Marietta Diner. This was a cool place. Boy do my friends know me well. They all know I love cool. This diner reminded me of a steel fifties diner. The food was absolutely fabulous and the company divine. It was so nice to see them both.

Jim and I at the Marietta Diner

A beautiful ending to a wonderful roadtrip at my friend Dave’s with his two girls Molly and Maggie. It was fun to walk through the Christmas Light display in their little town.

Molly, Maggie and Dave

Then a call came that my grandson Cassius had decided that he needed to be here for Christmas. One month early. Now it was a scramble to get back. Lol. He did not wait for me but was a beautiful Christmas present. He turns a year old this year and is a healthy happy baby who is on the move.

This year for a few reasons I decided to stay close. That is the nice thing about vanlife. You can come and you can go.

From my home to yours I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. I appreciate each and everyone of you! 💜

Next week is Christmas Day so there will be no blog. Look for a Year in Review in 2 weeks! It was a busy year and so much fun.

🐿

A Few of My Favorite Places

Road to everywhere

I have enjoyed some blog worthy roadtrips. Travel destinations that when I arrived I knew I would want to go back. Come along as I share a few of my favorites.

Northern Ontario

Northern Ontario has been my go to place for rest and relaxation my whole life. It is such a vast and beautiful area that is hard to choose just a few places. The Nickle Mines of Sudbury, mining for Amethyst at the Panorama Amethyst Mine near Thunder Bay to the wilderness of the north in Pickle Lake, anywhere you go there is beauty to behold.

Kettle Lakes Provincial Park

Woodpecker at Kettle Lakes

Just north of Timmins Ontario on Highway 101 is Kettle Lakes Provincial Park. I had the pleasure of staying there when I worked in Timmins and have since went back a couple of times. All the comforts of a modern campground deep in the northern forest.

One of my favorite things about being that far north is the animals and critters that I camp with. The wood pecker above woke me every morning for a week. Only it was not wood pecking I was hearing. Each morning I woke to a sound of something metal being hammered quickly and lightly. It took me a couple of days and a few, what is that, before I found it. Just outside my campsite was a metal sign. One morning while trying to track down the sound as it sounded close, I discovered that my alarm clock was a woodpecker that had decided it was time for everyone be up. Lol. Check out the video on my YouTube channel

Kettle Lakes was also my first bear encounter. He stopped by my campsite as he (guessing it was a he) was walking down the roadway. I was in my lawnchair reading, when I looked up to see a bear looking at me. He was beautiful. I said hello and told him how pretty he was and he turned away and carried on his way. From Woodpeckers to chipmunks to bears and moose it is a nice setting to enjoy the best of nature.

Dunlop Lake Lodge, Elliot Lake

The view from the Patio

Dunlop Lake Lodge sits quietly on Dunlop Lake in Elliot Lake. The serenity of the waves softly landing on the shore mixed with the rustic cabin feel of the Lodge is a place you can truly lay back and relax. I became good friends with the owners, Trish and Randy when I worked in Elliot Lake. I was not only impressed by the Lodge itself with a patio looking over the calm of the lake while enjoying a wonderful dinner but also the diversity of the ways you can enjoy the lake and trails. Not only can you pick a campsite or stay in the Lodge but you also can choose a cabin or even the bunk house for large groups. The ATV trails are some of the best in Ontario and you can go for miles. The next time you go to Elliot Lake make sure you stop by and tell them Chipmunk sent you.

Newfoundland

Newfoundland Lookout

There was so many beautiful places in Newfoundland. My girlfriend Kim and I spent three weeks on the island. That was not enough time. From our first stay at the Genevieve Bay Inn until we got on the ferry at Port aux Basques it was magnificent everywhere we went. Waking up with the moose at Pistole Bay Provincial Park, walking on rocks that were alive (Thrombolites), one of the only two places you can find them on earth. Touching the earth’s mantle at Gros Morne National Park and experience the colour and beauty of St. John’s. There are a lot of favorites! Here is a few but if you want to go on tour check out my blog series Exploring NewfoundlandExploring Newfoundland

L’Anse aux Meadow

A Viking at Norstead

One of my favorite exploration adventure was the Viking settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows. The history of the Vikings has always fascinated me. Seeing where and how they made their homes and villages was an experience I will always remember. Touring Norstead with their re-enactment of how real norsemen would have lived in those days was interesting. Get the full story here on my blog Newfoundland: Exploring the Viking Era

Dildo

The night view of Dildo

This little town was so much fun. Of course we went for the name but we went back for the people. We entered town later in the afternoon. Talking with one of the local residence we asked him where we could park for the night. In true Newfoundland fashion he told us anywhere we wanted. There was a park on the hill or we could park right there on the warf by the water. What a wonderful night with a full moon shining over the water. Later the next day we stopped at the Dildo Brewing Company and had a wonderful meal and a few laughs with the locals. It was a fun few days.

Alabama

I went to Alabama for the first time last year. I cannot wait to go back and explore more. The scenery was beautiful and the people, outgoing and friendly. I even had a gentlemen pay for my breakfast at a Waffle House there. Let me explain.

I love the Waffle House for the food and the atmosphere. I walked in and sat down and ordered. A waitress kept walking by me and looking at something on me. She did it twice, then three times and now I was thinking maybe I had spilled something on myself. When she noticed me watching her watch me she said in a very loud voice with that cute Alabama accent, “Does that say Dildo?”. I then remembered my jacket which I had gotten in Dildo Newfoundland. Now everyone in the restaurant was looking at me. I replied, “yes it does. It is a small town in Newfoundland Canada”. She started to laugh and told me she thought that is what it said but thought, no that could not be it. Our conversation had people laughing and I could hear the gentleman behind me laughing hard. As he left he thanked me, mentioning that was the most entertaining breakfast he has ever had. When I got to till to pay my bill, he had paid it. Who would have thought that the little town of Dildo in Newfoundland would get me a free breakfast and some very good laughter in Alabama?

Jackson Lake Island

Enjoying the sunset at Jackson Lake Island

I found Jackson Lake Island on a fluke. Driving through Alabama on my way to Florida I googled interesting places on my Google Maps. It led me to a place that I definitely will return and spend more time at. When I looked at the information it said I could park on the island for $15 per night and was home to the abandoned movie set of Tim Burton’s movie, The Big Fish. How cool! What I found was a little island paradise with the most unusual inhabitants. These creatures would give me a little, “what was that” my first night there.

Fictional Town of Spectra

After getting registered the gentleman told me I could park anywhere on the island. There was one hydro spot by the washrooms and showers. I did not really need hydro and as I pulled across the causeway I parked in a beautiful spot by the river. It was just getting dark and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset sitting on a bench by where I parked. As darkness fell I decided a coffee and a movie was in order. I locked the doors and pulled the curtains. As I stood by the stove waiting for my water boil I thought I heard a quiet scraping noise and the van rocked a little. What was that?? I peeked out the curtains but it was so dark I could not see anything. It happened once more than not again. I had no idea what kind of animals were in Alabama. Were there alligators here? Were they big enough to rock the van?? I could not think of anything that would be able to rock the van. I must tell you I did call my friend Kim in Canada and tell her what happened. Not that I was worried but just because I like to freak her out. Lol. Yes I am that kind of friend.

The next morning began with a beautiful sunny day. When I awoke, before pulling my curtains I put on coffee. Then I heard it..that sound. The van rocked a little. Ok what is that??? I opened my curtains and looked out to see a herd of goats. Little goats. Oh my stars. As I stepped out of the van there was a Billy goat scratching his butt on my bumper. Hahaha! That’s what the noise was. Just satisfying an itch. I had a good laugh, a beautiful view and some great company with my coffee that morning!

My morning guests

Florida

Silver Springs State Park

Florida has beauty every step of the way. I have had the pleasure of traveling to many places in Florida. I have more than a few favorites but some has given me some giggles and one a heart warming memory.

Ocala

I have to say that Ocala is one of my favorite places in Florida. Everytime I go there something wonderful happens. Last time, it was heart warming.

I was in Walmart for a few items. This Walmart allows you stay over night which is wonderful. I have used Walmart for a touring base a few times. Sightseeing during the day and parking at night. Works perfectly! Standing in line to pay, as I was putting my supplies on the belt, I noticed a young man standing behind me with nothing in hands. Ummmm that is kind of strange. I asked if he only had one item. He explained that his shopping was already at the till and that he had forgotten his wallet in his car. Oh no. I told him to go ahead of me. He asked if I was sure. I told of course, I was retired and in Florida with nowhere to go in a hurry. As he slipped in front of me I continued to load my items. I did not have many. The lady behind him asked if I was Canadian. I laughed and said yes. We chatted for a few minutes while she told me mentioned letting the young man go first was a nice thing to do. I responded with I truly believe…It only takes a moment to be nice. When I turned around the lady was bagging my items. I looked at the young man and asked if he had paid for my items? He said he had. I told him he did not have to do that. His response, ” It only takes a moment to be nice”. Haha! He almost made me cry. How sweet. What was he buying? A flower arrangement. How perfect! One of those moments when a stranger touches your life and leaves the most wonderful mark.

Silver Springs State Park

Everytime I go to Ocala I go to Silver Spings State Park. Why? Oh yes it is beautiful. The foliage is so green and different from what I see in Canada. I love walking the trails and listening to the birds, enjoying the energy of the forest. But what I am watching for…monkeys. Yes you read that right. Wild rhuses macaque monkeys. There is said to be about 300 wild monkey that live in Silver Springs State Park. How on earth did monkeys who’s home is Asia end up in Florida? It is an entertaining story and one that makes you shake your head and maybe giggle.

Is there a monkey in that jungle?

In the 1930’s a Riverboat Captian by the name of Colonel Tooey wanted to create greater tourism for his cruises on Silver River near Ocala by creating a jungle themed cruise. Not realizing monkeys could swim he released six monkeys on an island in the river. They promptly jumped into the water, swam across the river and went into the forests. Lol. That’s my giggle part. But wait, there is more. The captain determined he could lure the monkeys to the shore for his customers with food so he released another six monkeys into the forest. Almost 100 years later there are over 300 rhesus macaque monkeys estimated that roam in Silver Springs State Park. I have not seen one yet but I know that the next time I am in the area my search for Florida’s monkeys will resume.

I must mention that while seeing animals in their natural or not so natural Habitat is very cool. They are wild animals and can do major damage to your day and to you if you are not careful. Be respectful and give them plenty of space. You are the visitor to their home. This is when the zoom feature on your camera comes in handy.

The Museum of Vanning

Museum of Vanning, Hudson Florida

I cannot talk about my favorite places in Florida without mentioning The Museum of Vanning. A two story museum dedicated to the history of custom vans. Owned and operated by my friends Joe and Bonnie Madonia, it is an interesting walk through the world of how vans and custom vans have been celebrated over the years. From little tiny vans to full size vans, you will find something you have never seen before. Tributes to those friends and their fantastic vans who have gone before us, memorabilia from Custom Van Shows of the past events is around every corner. I bought my first custom van in 1986. A beautiful, well not beautiful at the start 1974 Ford Econoline. I would fix her up with a stunning paint job of blue and pearl. I proudly drove her for 23 years. But it is not just about the vans. The friends I have made through van shows I know I will have for a lifetime. The places that I have traveled to hug these people and see all the pretty vans has brought me across North America. It is a world I will forever be grateful I drove into.

My wonderful friends! ♥️

These are some of my favorite places and a few stories of what makes them memorable.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next week.

🐿

The Problem with Snow and RVLiving

A snowy afternoon

The first snowfall of the season came to Southern Ontario this week. We all knew it was coming but still it always seems to arrive too soon. I am not a big fan of snow and living in an Class B RV has not improved that thought. Not that it can be all bad of course. Snow brightens the brownish grey ground with a sparkling white. It can be pretty and for those that like to play in the snow, very fun. I am not one of those. Lol

My first winter camping was done in my Roadtrek. I went to Silent Lake Provincial Park near Peterborough Ontario. It was beautiful as the snow sparkled in the sunlight. Walking the groomed paths and roadways created an exuberant feeling as you breathed in the crisp air while taking in the beauty of the snow covered forest.

Snow covered forest

When you are trying to move and boondock when it is snowing, well that is another story all together. This is my 5th winter in my camper van. I have been snowed into places a couple of times. Including a campground once. I was staying at Pinery Provincial Park. It started to snow and kept snowing. In the morning when I looked out there was no longer a roadway, just snow. I stepped out and it was knee high in some places. Oh boy! Lol. I carry a small shovel just for those occasions.

Shoveling out at Pinery Provincial Park

One of my biggest issues with snow is the amount of snow on top of the van. My Roadtrek is 9 feet 3 inches high. Clearing the snow on top is impossible for me to do. I am always afraid that it will come off and hit another car. So far I have been able to get the majority of snow off with no incidents.

Normally when I know a large snowfall is coming I will go to my daughters or a friend’s and hunker down. That way I know if I have to dig out at least I will have help.

Buried in snow

This time I enlisted my Son-in-law and my grandsons help to get her uncovered.

My helpers! 💜

Although having that much snow on the van means a lot of work to uncover her, it also provides insulation in the van. It is easy to keep it warm on the inside. I wonder if that is what it is like to live in an igloo? Maybe but I think I will stick to my Class B.

Another problem that will arise is condensation along the rubber door jams. With the heat inside, and the cold layered snow on the outside it will create a layer of water on the door jams. If the temperature dips that water becomes ice. I have had to break out of my van a couple of times. It is only in certain conditions this will happen. If I know the conditions are right I will take a finger full of olive oil and apply it to the rubber in the door jams. It does not keep the ice from forming but it does help keep the ice from attaching to the rubber.

Ice will also form on the roof and sides of the van. Again, it is from the heat inside and the cold outside. If I can get it hot enough on the inside and we get a nice sunny day I can melt the under layer of ice and it will slide right off.

Snow can be a hinder but also a beauty. Living in Ontario I try to remind myself that every season has its fun side. Four months to go until running water. In the meantime I can remind myself of the beauty as I am shoveling out.

Pine Martin in Mew Lake Campground

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next week

🐿

Roadtripping to Minnesota

Minnesota state line

What a wonderful week in Illinois with Dave, Molly and Maggie. The Adler Planetarium was so much fun, even if the wind tried to blow us into Lake Michigan. The downtown Chicago Skyline was something to see. I was amazed at the different shapes of the high rises. One was shaped like a fidget spinner with three wings. You have to wonder how they do not topple in the wind. After all, it is the windy city. This building has a wind tunnel built in so that does not happen. Still I wonder if the top does not sway with the wind?

Building with built in wind tunnel

I also got to have lunch with my good friend Lynn at Panera Bread. It was so nice to get together with her. We do not see each other often but when we do it is a lot of laughs and twice as many hugs.

Myself and my friend Lynn

With many hugs for Dave and the girls and a promise I will be back I headed off to Minnesota to pick up my daughter Katelyn who was visiting her fiancé. Up through Illinois and into Wisconson. I have been to Wisconson a couple of times and each time immensely enjoyed it. It is a beautiful state even in the late fall. I happened to stop at Wisconsin Dells. I do not think I have seen that many water parks. It looked like a children’s playground.

On through Wisconson into Minnesota. What a pretty state. With highways lined with trees and then miles of farmland it was a beautiful drive.

Beautiful Minnesota Highway

Driving along the highway as I was enjoying the trees and the open land, every once in a while there would appear out of nowhere a large rock formation. Like a tree it looked like it just grew there. Getting closer to Winona Minnesota I started to notice something on the mountain ahead. A large home or a castle maybe. It seemed to jut up from the top through the trees. What is that??

Strange formation

As I got closer there happened to be a Walmart close by so I pulled in to get a better look at what that was. It was a large rock formation like the ones I had seen on the side of the road. Wow it was huge. Strange how it looked as if the mountain had popped its top so to speak and a large rock just protruded up the middle.

Is that a rock??
Large rock formation

Winding my way north in Minnesota on Hwy 14 then on Highwy 61 I was following a large river. As I crossed a bridge, that I read on a sign that I was was crossing the mighty Mississippi River. What? Really? Wow! I never knew the Mississippi River was this far north. Looking a little deeper into the Mississippi River it actually starts as a small creek out of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and travels 2,348 miles (3779 km) until it pours into the Gulf of Mexico. Incredible! I knew I was beside the Mississippi River when I came across a Riverboat. Unfortunately they were closed for the season. I could have gone on a Riverboat Fantasy! Lol.

Mississippi Riverboat

With a quick stop where my daughter was staying to tell her I am going sightseeing I headed off to The Mall of America in Minneapolis. I had been told that the mall was huge. I was not disappointed. I lucked out in finding a parking lot I could fit my Roadtrek in and wandered inside.

Entrance to the Mall of America

Walking in the door you are greeted with a Sea Life Aquarium. How cool. Looking from above you could see Sting Ray’s swimming around.

Sealife at the Mall of America

The size of the mall itself was vast. Four floors of store shopping with an amusement park in the middle. As I entered the amusement park area there is a two story M & M store. I immediately thought of my friends Ganice and Hugh who have a custom van all done in a M & M theme.

M & M Store
Ganice and Hugh’s M & M van

The amusement part of the mall had everything you would expect in a amusement park. Rides including a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a flying bat ride and even a roller coaster. With carnival games, bouncy houses and cotton candy stands you almost forgot you were inside a shopping mall.

Amusement park

As I walked out into the shopping portion of the mall I could help but stop amd admire the beauty of the Christmas decor.

Christmas decorations at the mall

I waved a wonderful goodbye to Minneapolis and headed south. The weather was starting to turn. The wind a little colder and then the rains came. I stopped in the town of Hastings and stayed at the Walmart there. What a wonderful town with a beautiful old courthouse. Interestingly there is also a attraction there called Extreme Sandbox. There you can play in a large sandbox with actual digging equipment. Can you imagine building a sand castle with an excavator? A definite have to do on my next trip to Minnesota.

Courthouse Hastings Minnesota

I loved this bridge as I was leaving town.

Bridge in Hastings

Off to pick up my daughter, Katelyn and head across Michigan’s U.P. ( Upper Penninsula) back to Ontario. I have been to the “U.P.” many times. It is a scenic area at anytime of year. Across the Mackinac Bridge is majestic trip every time.

Mackinac Bridge, Michigan

Even though I have been to Michigan many times I had never been to Frankenmuth and Bronner’s, The Worlds Largest Christmas Store.

Entering Frankenmuth, Michigan

Bronner’s is a Christmas wonderland. You can find everything Christmas in this huge store. Walking into the store you are transported to the north pole. Sparkling lights, tree toppers and ornaments galore. What a fun wander through a Chriatmas wonderland.

Santa at the entrance to Bronner’s
The beauty of Bronner’s

What a wonderful roadtrip and a great adventure with my daughter Katelyn.

I cannot wait to go back to Minnesota and play in a sandbox and enjoy the beauty that the state has to offer.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next week!

🐿

Roadtrippin to the USA

Hooser Heartland Highway, Indiana

It all started when my youngest daughter Katelyn asked if I would like to do a roadtrip to Minnesota to pick her up from her fiance’s house where she was visiting. Roadtrip to Minnesota? Oh ya I am in. With an addition of a stop in Illinois to see my friend Dave and his girls, Molly and Maggie. This was going to be a fun trip.

Heading over the US border from Canada, I took the Bluewater Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario to Port Huron, Michigan. I like this bridge for a few reasons. It is not usually as busy as the Niagara Border crossings and the Duty Free has a little coffee shop with delicious Butter Tarts. Since I was stopping to see friends I knew I had to pick some up. They do not have Butter Tarts in the US. I know I feel bad for them too, that’s why I always bring some with me.

Crossing the border is always a roll of the dice on what questions they will ask. Pulling up to the kiosk, my passport ready, it was the general questions. Where are you from? Where are you going? It was funny when I told him Minnesota because I am sure most people in RV’s are going South not North. Then I got Why?? Lol. Do you have any food, as in fruit, vegetables or meats? I never bring food with me. My fridge is empty except for the odd can of ice tea. It just makes crossing easier. I guess I answered right because he handed me my passport back and said “Have a great trip”.

On down Highway 69 towards Flint. It was later in the afternoon when I crossed. Highway 69 between the cities of Port Huron and Flint in Michigan is what I call dead deer highway. I have never seen that amount of dead deer along one stretch of highway than this one. I have traveled this stretch many times and always, always make sure I am on one side or the other before dusk.

Cracker Barrel

I stopped at Cracker Barrel in Flint because, well I am in the US and I can. It is one of my most favorite restaurants here.

I parked for the night at Walmart and met 3 other people from Ontario that are full time living an RV Life. They were on their way to Arizona. When they asked were I was going and I told them, they laughed and told me I was going the wrong way. We had a chat and then off down the road we all went.

It was a great drive to my friend Dave’s house. I had told Molly and Maggie I would take them to the Adler Planetarium the next time I came to visit. We planned on Saturday to make the trip to Chicago’s waterfront. I was so looking forward to it as much as they were I am sure.

Chicago Skyline

Saturday proved to be a very windy day. With gusts of up 65 mph Chicago was proving itself as the Windy City. We parked at the Sharaton Hotel where my friend works and caught a cab to the Adler Planetarium.

Adler Planetarium

When you walk in, there are blue walls leading you to an auditorium where we would watch a show later in the day. The main floor had planets hanging everywhere with story boards telling you about each planet. It was interesting to see the size differences from earth. They also had meteorites that you could touch. One exhibit let you see how a meteorite hitting earth would impact. It made me jump and I knew it was coming. It was very interactive.

The moon and earth

I loved the Mars Rover they had on display. This full scale model is of the Mars Rover that landed on Mars February 18, 2021. It will gather samples, looking for “ancient fossilized micobial life” on this desolate planet. As it gathers, it will put it into tubes and leave it in a designated spot for a future mission to Mars to pick up and bring back to earth for further study. It is a cool looking machine.

Mars Rover

On another floor was the history of telescopes and gadgets they used to see the stars. This telescope from the 1650’s is an example of the length of these devices. They discovered that if you increased the size of the length and reduced the curve of the lense, they could reduce the halos that they would see with the other, shorter telescopes. This one was 20 feet long. You could see Saturn! Lol

20 foot telescope

There are five different shows you can see. The theater is a domed theater. You sit back in your chair and looked up to the sky above. It was very cool. The movie we chose was Planet Nine. It was all about looking for the real ninth planet in our solar system. With the technology that is used today they can see farther and farther into space. They have discovered many other planets with strange orbits and even a planet that is egg shaped. It was very interesting to see what they had found and the equipment they used to find it.

It was a very interesting and fun day and I am so glad I got to share that with Molly and Maggie.

Tuesday I leave for Minnesota and my next adventure. Thanks for coming along on this Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next week

🐿

Halloween: Vanlife Style

Glowing skull

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Not just for ghosts but also the children in costumes and the feel of fun in the air. I try to be with my grandkids for Halloween just to watch their fun as they run from house to house. Looking at all the displays people do to celebrate this fun holiday.

When I had my house, it was so much fun watching the children of all ages come to trick or treat. Ghosts and goblins, witches and cowboys. I kind of miss that.

Some of my vanner friends called and asked if I would like to go camping at Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville for the weekend. They were having a Halloween weekend where everyone dresses up and trick and treats from campsite to campsite. Oh that sounds fun.

A haunted campsite

I had never been to Bronte Creek Provincial Park before so it was kind of a double bonus. Note to self…put the actual campsite into the GPS when navigating. My navigation system brought me to the day side of the park. The Day visit side is beautiful but does not connect with the campsite side. It’s is a long block to go around especially in Oakville traffic. The park itself is situated in the middle of a large city. Once inside though you forget that city is there.

My friends, Cesar and Jano
Jano’s van decorated and ready for Halloween

I got there a little late so the trick and treaters were just starting. It was so fun to see the kids going from campsite to campsite yelling trick or treat. My friends Matt has a Scooby-Doo van. It’s so really you expect Scooby to jump out for a Scooby snack at any moment. My friends Ganice and Hugh have a van that is M&M themed. It was fun watching the kids and adults looking at the vans.

Matt’s Scooby-Doo van,
Hugh and Ganice’s M&M van

As I was driving in I overheard a couple of people say..”you know we are sending our children to get free candy from a van”. Hahaha! I laughed. I told them yes they were, but Scooby is there so no monsters over there. They laughed and said that all the vans were very cool.

Tom and Kim’s Vanbulance,
Cesar and Tracy’ van

The campsites were huge. Tom and Kim own the Vanbulance which was once an actual ambulance. Cesar and Tracy came up with this wonderful idea that I hope turns into a vanning tradition. It was a lot of fun and a great evening was spent around the fire with some great friends.

If you get a chance to go trick or treat camping, give it a go. It was a spooky good time.

My friends! 💜

I cannot talk about Halloween without mentioning my girlfriend Diane. She is a Halloween freak. Her house becomes a frightful adventure at Halloween both inside and out. It is so much fun. Some of the kids will not go even go into the living room because the creepy girl is in there. Ok, yup she is creepy. My grandson Jensen who is 2 1/2 years old walked into the living room and the little girl turns on. She has glowing eyes and a creepy little voice. His reaction…he tried to share his chips with her. Hahaha! That will make her all better. Lol.

Diane’s haunted house
Diane’s haunted house

Tonight we take the kids out. Hopefully a beautiful night so we can hear the children’s laughter in the streets and maybe, just maybe see a couple of ghosts.

Tuesday I leave for Illinois to visit with two beautiful girls and a guy who just makes me laugh then a roadtrip to Minnesota to pick up my daughter who is visiting her fiance. I have never been to Minnesota. I have been through Minnesota but never actually visited. I am excited to go and experience another Chipmunk Adventure.

Thanks for coming along. Have a Howling good Halloween.

See you next week

🐿