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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Summer Home!

We've been kicking the idea around of buying some property to park the trailer on when we are back home in Alberta. We had some criteria: close to Red Deer, near a lake, four season availability, and affordable. There are a number of choices within an hour of Red Deer but there were disadvantages to pretty much all of them. There was one though, Sandy Point on Gull Lake that always kept drawing us back to have another look. We've actually been looking at that resort for about four years now but the timing was never good for one reason or another. We looked into leasing an RV site somewhere but they are very hard to find and none we really liked. After our marathon trip of last year we knew we wanted to be closer to Red Deer for a good portion of the six months we are in Canada. So......we are moving ahead with purchasing a lot in Sandy Point Resort.

This is a four season resort (deep water and sewer services). Most folks start by parking their RV on their lot and many then place a Park Model or Cottage Model on the lot and live there year-round. For us, we'll be parking the trailer on the lot, but who knows maybe we'll eventually put something more permanent on the lot too. There is a Condo Board so we do pay monthly fees. They include water and sewer, garbage and of course common property maintenance. Taxes are reasonable and the power cost is not bad either. Each site has 100 Amp power available. The financial calculation we have made is that we could maintain our lot for a year for the cost of a campground in Red Deer for three months. Now there is a capital outlay, but for us the advantages convinced us to make the investment. So even if we decide to go on a summer trip we really won't be paying more than we are now for campgrounds. The advantages of having our own place is that we can make it our own, build a shed, deck, buy a boat maybe, and have a family use summer place for many years.

If you'd like to learn more about the Resort or see some pictures, click here. We are lot 107 in Phase 2.

So we've started the process of purchase. Contract Conditions come off tomorrow. We will be moving out to the Resort roughly May 3 and onto a vacant site until our site is ready. We hope to get possession May 15 but the developer will let us start bringing in landscaping gravel and stone earlier than that once the frost is out of the ground and road restrictions come off.

Home dirt!

View of the Lake

Blank canvass
Certainly a lot of work ahead of us. Getting a good base of gravel and stone is the first priority. Next will be getting a shed built, then a deck. If we get that done this year we'll be happy. Maybe a fence next year and complete the landscaping. We might even get a chance to put our feet up and enjoy it!!

Stay tuned for updates!

.....and that was Our View From Here!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Our mega-trip is over but memories to last a lifetime

We left Red Deer on July 23, 2018 and arrived back on April 5, 2019. About eight and a half months. Yes, it was a long time to be away but we certainly had a great time and saw some amazing sights. Definitely checked off a few things from the bucket list!

The truck and trailer both performed well. We drove 37,177 kilometers (23,100 miles). We pulled the trailer almost half of that number (17,500 km or 10,900 miles). I put a new set of tires on the truck in New Brunswick before we crossed into the US. Other than that it was just oil changes (three) and some oil changes in the transmission and transfer case that were due in Louisiana. Our average fuel consumption for the entire trip was 16.8 liters/100 km or 14.0 MPG US gallons. That includes all the towing. I'm very pleased with that.

We did some maintenance on the trailer. It needed a new water pump and of course the usually re-caulking, but nothing major.

We traveled through 8 Canadian Provinces (missed Newfoundland and BC) from July through October, then passed through or stayed in 20 States and Washington, DC from October until April. Pictures? Yes we took a few. Just under 30,000!! Maybe even a couple of 'keepers'.

So we thought about all the great things we saw and tried to narrow it down to maybe a top 3 or 5 or 20! We made a few lists and categories and wanted to share them with you. To be honest we enjoyed every day, every mile, every location and sight. If we had to narrow it down, here it is in order of date we visited.....

Most moving:

  • Swissair Flight 111 Memorial - Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
  • Arlington National Cemetery - Washington, DC
  • Vietnam Memorial - Washington, DC
  • Astronaut Memorial - Kennedy Space Center, FL
  • Hurricane Harvey Museum - Waveland, Mississippi
  • The Alamo - San Antonio, Texas
  • Little Bighorn National Monument - near Billings, Montana
Swissair Memorial

John F Kennedy gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery

Vietnam Memorial

Astronaut Memorial

Hurricane Harvey Museum

The Alamo

Little Bighorn National Monument


Natural wonders:
  • Perce Rock, Gaspe, Quebec
  • Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia
  • Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
  • Everglades National Park, Florida
  • White Sand Beaches of South Carolina and the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi
Perce Rock

Cape Breton Highlands

Peggy's Cove

The Everglades

Beaches


Animal kingdom:
  • Alligators - Florida
  • Manatees - Crystal River, FL
  • Gladys Porter Zoo - Brownsville, TX
  • Bird watching - Rio Grande Valley, TX
Alligators

Manatees

Gorilla at Gladys Porter Zoo

Parrots near Brownsville, Texas


Top Cities we enjoyed touring:
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Quebec City, Quebec
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Washington, DC
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
National War Memorial, Ottawa

Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal


Old City, Quebec City

Halifax, Nova Scotia


Boston, Massachusetts

Washington, DC

Savannah, Georgia

New Orleans, Louisiana


Prettiest drive:
  • Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia
  • Fall colours - Rural New Brunswick
  • Florida Keys
  • Texas Hill country
Cape Breton Highlands

Rural New Brunswick

Florida Keys

Hill Country of Central Texas



Top things we saw/did (and so many more):
  • Parliament buildings - Ottawa, Ontario
  • Coal Miners Museum, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia
  • Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Baddeck, Nova Scotia
  • Sailing in Halifax Harbour and seeing the Bluenose II, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • National Monuments - Washington, DC
  • Spanish Forts - St Augustine, Florida
  • Kennedy Space Center and watching a Space X rocket launch, Cape Canaveral, FL
  • Snowbird Extravaganza concert of top Canadian entertainers - Mission, TX
  • Sitting on a beach - Wherever!!

Parliament Buildings

Underground Miners Museum, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Bluenose II in Halifax Harbour

Washington, DC monuments

Spanish Fort, St Augustine, FL


Space-X launch, Cape Canaveral

NASA, Kennedy Space Center

A beach.....somewhere!


What helped make all the sights and locations memorable were the people. We met some wonderful folks along the way. Special mention must go to the hospitality of the folks of the Deep South - Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana; as well as the great folks in Eastern Canada and the Maritimes. They all made our trip such a pleasure.


I can't forget my old work team mates in Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax. It was great to see them again and for some it was the first time meeting them in person after working with them virtually for years!

This was certainly a bucket-list trip. Not sure we would tackle one quite that big again, but we're not done exploring yet so who knows.

Sunset over Arcadia, Florida

......and that was Our View From Here!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Headin' Home!

We've been on the road for over 8 months now and it feels like it's time to head home to Red Deer. Nice idea but there is 2200 miles (3500 Kilometers) between us and there! It's a long way and this time of year the weather is always a bit iffy, especially the further north you go.

Sunday, March 31 (Castroville, TX to Lubbock, TX)
We left Alsatian RV Resort near Castroville (just west of San Antonio) on Sunday. We enjoyed our month long stay in the area. Even though the laundry facilities are usually broken and the WiFi internet is pretty much non-existent. The folks here are nice and we'd consider coming back again.

Our first day trip took us up Hwy 173 to Kerrville where we joined Interstate 10 heading west. A short while later we turned off in Junction and headed north on some secondary highways which turned out to be smoother that the Interstate. We zigged and zagged along the west and northerly highway 87 until we arrived in Lubbock, Texas. We stayed the night in Walmart on the northwest corner of the city. The Walmart was just far enough from the major highway that we had a pretty decent and quiet sleep.


Lots of wildflowers along the road.

The Texas hill country

A caravan of 'Mini's' out for a run on the Interstate

No slowpokes in Texas!





Bridge construction near San Angelo

The stories this shack could tell.


Heading into Lubbock


Monday, April 1 (Lubbock, TX to Limon, CO)
North on Interstate 27 took us to Amarillo. We headed straight into the downtown on the highway. Fairly easy drive.....until we hit (not literally) the railway underpasses. They were 14 foot 2 inches and we are 13 foot 6 inches to the top of the vent covers. No problem!

From Amarillo we headed further north on Hwy 287, through the Oklahoma panhandle and into Colorado and up to Lamar, Colorado. We had intended to stay there but as it was still very early afternoon we kept going north and then west to Limon. No Walmart here but they did have a dumpy KOA that we thought was a step up from the Flying J and much quieter.

Nice sunrise in Lubbock. Should be a nice travel day.

Not many hills north of Lubbock. Flat and lots of huge farms.

Big grain terminals around here.


Downtown Amarillo.

Can we make it through with the trailer??

Yikes! 8 inches to spare on our height.



Piles of grain. If you look closely there are two guys with shovels on top. I hope they don't intend to move that pile by hand!

Grain processing plants.


We passed through some smaller towns. Some more prosperous that others.


Cinder cone from a dormant volcano out in the middle of nowhere.


We were in three states today. Texas....

......Oklahoma (for an hour or so)......

.......and Colorado.



Tuesday, April 2 (Limon, CO to Casper, WY)
We started out on Interstate 70 heading west toward Denver. We had originally thought we would take the 470 bypass around Denver, but that is a toll road without tool booths meaning they invoice the toll using your license plate. The toll.....$40! Plus admin charges. Yikes. So we took our own bypass. We turned off I70 at Bennett about 30 miles east of Denver. We took secondary highway 79 north to Hwy 52 where we turned west and eventually intersected with Interstate 25 heading north toward Wyoming. The bypass was ok, but lots of truck traffic (I assume saving the toll like us) and the road was quite narrow and no shoulders in places. You also go through some small towns and traffic lights so not sure we would use that same bypass route again.

We continued to follow I25 past Cheyenne, WY and up to Casper. We stayed at a Walmart lot there. We did see one sign that said no overnight stays but the Walmart staff assured us many people stay in their lot and no one gets kicked off the parking lot. Lots of traffic early but it quieted down later. The weather report was for light rain and sure enough it did rain several times through the night. No snow though.

Lots of wide open spaces. We're not used to seeing this type of landscape. The Eastern portions of Canada and the US are covered in trees.

A brief glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

The toll-free bypass around Denver. Narrow in spots and no shoulder.

Busy traffic in places. This idiot pulled out onto the highway in front of us. Hard braking avoided him.

Gas plant just outside of Denver.




Entering Wyoming.


Starting to see snow in the gulleys and ravines.





As we head further north and west we get closer to the foothills of the Rockies.




Wednesday, April 3 (Casper, WY to Billings, MT)
We drove through rain showers for the first couple of hours as we headed north on I25. The rain subsided, the visibility improved and the temperature rose as we headed through the gorgeous Wyoming scenery. At the town of Buffalo I 25 ends and we got onto I 90 which takes you north and west. We left the state of Wyoming just north of Sheridan and into Montana.

About an hour into Montana we stopped at the Little Bighorn National Monument. This is the site of the historic battle where General Custer and about 265 men from the 7th Cavalry were defeated (and died) at the hands of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians under famous chiefs such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. It is a fascinating story of the lead up to the battle and the battle itself. Historians have been critical of both sides in the conflict. Regardless is is a somber place and an important one in history. You can read more here.

A word of advice to those travelling there with a large RV. We asked if we could drive the five mile road out and back to the historic battlefields and markers with our truck and trailer. They said yes so off we went. About a half mile in we knew this was not a good choice. A very narrow road with steep drops and very little space to pass oncoming vehicles. Oh, and the only place to turn around is at the end of the five mile road! I would strongly advise you do NOT try this. Thankfully we only met one vehicle but on a busy summer day this would have been a disaster.

We spent well over two hours here and could have stayed longer but the wind was cold and we had some more miles to go so back on I 90 north west to Billings. Another overnight Walmart stay at a very nice and secluded parking area.

Heading north from Casper.



Rain and snow in the distance.

Some creeks had water but a lot were already dry. Runoff from snow melt was done.



We saw countless antelope along the road in the pastures.

Snow/rain mix.

The skies started to clear a bit.



We stopped at Little Bighorn Battlefield. Just off the Interstate.

The interpretive center did a good job of explaining the circumstances which led up to the battle and detailed account of the actual battle.

Some of General Custer's uniforms.

Artists depiction of the last stand.

Cavalry and Indian weapons used in the late 1800's.

Artists depiction of the battle.

There is a national cemetery on the grounds here as well. Many soldiers from various conflicts, including Little Bighorn and buried here. This is still an active Army cemetery.

The narrow road that takes you out into the battlefield. Too narrow for large RV's we found.

Historians have placed markers where soldiers fell in the battle. They are not actually buried by the marker.


The hill that Custer and his men looked out to see the advancing Indian warriors. Custer was vastly outnumbered and didn't stand a chance.

The memorial to the 7th Cavalry on the Last Stand Hill.

Locations of Custer's men where they fell. The marker with black on it is where Custer fell. Just beside him was his brother.

Indian warriors also fell. Their markers are depicted in red granite.

There is a beautiful memorial to the Indian warriors on the same hill as the Custer Memorial. Such a sad day in history for both sides.

Heading into Billings, MT.





Thursday, April 4 (Billings, MT to Lethbridge, AB)
We headed northwest on secondary highway 3 and 87 toward Great Falls, MT. Thiese roads are in decent shape (except for a few areas) and took us through some nice foothills country. It was shorter taking these roads than using the Interstate to Butte and north to Helena. Not as much mountain driving either. The only issue was the wind. Lots of open country, valleys and passes that the wind really whistles through. We had some pretty strong crosswinds and headwinds in places. Only a couple of times did the trailer feel a bit unsettled. The fuel gauge was in free fall for a while though.

We stopped for a break in Great Falls then made a run north on I 15 for the Canadian border. The crosswinds we encountered heading into Great Falls now became more of a tail wind which was much more enjoyable.



Can you tell the wind blows here?





Just before the US border the Montana Department of Transport had a check stop for all diesel trucks. We pulled in and a nice gentleman asked to test our diesel fuel. They do these checks to ensure only qualified farm trucks use dyed fuel. Dyed fuel does not have State taxes added to the cost like the regular fuel you buy from gas stations. Some folks try to save money by using dyed farm fuel. The fines would be very high if you are caught. So a quick two minute stop and we were back on the road.

The stop at the border went well. The wait in line was maybe ten minutes. We knew we had some excess purchases beyond our personal exemption so we were asked to park and head inside. Last year we had a mess of our records and the kind lady behind the counter gave us some tips on how to record our purchases on a spreadsheet. This year we were ready and the fellow behind the counter was VERY impressed with our record keeping. He was very fair with the duties and taxes and we were back on the road in under twenty minutes. Whew! Nice to be back in Canada!

It was about 4 PM when we got to the Lethbridge Casino. We had enough for the day so we registered with security and set up in the parking lot. It was a popular spot for returning snowbirds. The lot was full by dark.



Parking lot at the Casino. 14 rigs stayed the night.


Nice western themed sculpture outside the Casino.


Friday, April 5 (Lethbridge, AB to Red Deer, AB)
I counted 14 rigs in the Casino parking lot this morning. Nobody was in a big hurry to leave but we wanted to hit the road for the final push home to Red Deer. We were blessed with very light winds which is a rarity in these parts.

We headed north up Highway 2 and made a quick stop in High River at the Cedar Creek dealer. The shop foreman was kind enough to have a look at one of our slide-outs and answered my questions about it. We've had a bit of water wickage into the floor of the bedroom slide and I wanted to be sure we had applied caulking in the right places. The good news is he thinks the issue is resolved and he advised us not to worry about getting it into the shop. Yes!! Big money saved!

From High River around the bypass of Calgary (likely the roughest section of road we had been on this trip) and on toward Red Deer.

We took the time to take the trailer through the RV wash before we headed to the campground. It has been a long drive and we had bugs and road grime on it. May as well park it clean! We checked in at the Westerner Campground with no issues and got the last full hook up site that had water. It's been a cold winter and the campground only has a few sites with heated water hydrants. The rest of the folks have to fill their onboard tanks with a hose until the non-heated hydrants thaw.

We had to stop for a coffee! First Tim's stop since late last year.

Farm equipment on the move. It won't be long before they hit the fields.

The Bow River near Calgary

City of Calgary

Highway 2 heading north to Red Deer.

Time to give the trailer a bath.

We can get the truck and trailer inside and still close the doors.


We're paid up for the month of April. We'll see what happens after that. We have our eye on a piece of property so stay tuned for updates. For now though we have three Grandkids that desperately need some hugs.....or is it the other way round!

......and that was Our View From Here!