Mia Culpa .... Mia Culpa  This retirement thing is really getting to me .... I have been trying to get this edition of the epistle off now for the past 3 weeks and there always is an excuse that allows me to put it off ....   So ... now that we have been home for almost two weeks, the time has come for me to get off the "retirement cycle" and complete this epistle ....

The "Shakedown Cruise Continues" ....  on Thursday, May 29th

Well, we picked up Harvey hoping that the worst of the problems and shakedown difficulties were behind us.  Guess what ... once again, we were wrong and the RV Gods continued to meddle in our affairs.  I wonder sometimes if they have nothing else to do but make our lives tough.  Are there no other RVers available to keep them occupied and off our backs?  What the heck, it makes life, if nothing else ...fascinating!!!

Last week, we had interrupted our voyage in Barriere so we decided to head back there to commence our second leg.  The drive up was uneventful, and Harvey just purred along.  Going up the Coquihalla, we passed a line of rental C class RV's heading back to Vancouver.  There were 19 of them all in a long line, and all rented from the same place we had purchased Harvey.  Apparently, as we found out later, this phenomena is not unusual.  The Germans, Swiss and the Dutch are flocking ( if that is the right word ) to our little corner of the world.  Whole groups come over on one plane, rent a fleet of RV's and then travel as a convoy.  They start in either Vancouver or Edmonton, and all of them cover much the same ground ... Yellowhead to Jasper and Banff, Rogers Pass and the Fraser Canyon.  We tend to take the beauty of this area for granted, but it sure impresses the hell out of them.

We arrived in Barriere and got set up in the local campsite which wasn't too bad.  This time of year most of these sites are pretty empty, and we can get the "pick of the litter" when choosing just where to drop Harvey's anchor.  The site we chose was almost perfectly flat and grassy.  There was no sewer on the site so we would have to visit the dump station on the way out.  This is no problem, but the woman who ran the place casually mentioned that if we wanted we could just empty the grey water (shower and sink water) right on the site as she felt the grass could use the moisture.  Somehow, this just did not feel right to a properly brought up, overly polite Canadian eh?.  So we hit the dump station the next morning.

The main reason we stopped in Barriere was to visit a very old friend of Richard's and mine, Ed Gagne and his wife, Margaret.  When I was first teaching in Salmon Arm and Richard was in Kamloops, we got to know Ed and his family quite well.  He was involved in sponsoring some of the sports teams that Richard was coaching and as we all know, Richard loves (loved?) to party.  Many fun times were had with Ed as he too loves to party.  I, of course, innocently went along for the ride.... and some rides they were!  We dropped in for the afternoon and enjoyed chatting and catching up with them.  Old friends are often the best friends.

The next stop was Valemount where we instituted a new policy.... the "Paynter Three Day Rule".  If the campsite was reasonable and the weather OK, we would stay a minimum of three days in each site so we could wander around and see some of the lesser know areas.  This thought came from the realization that we had too often, in the past, imposed artificial deadlines on ourselves where we had to be someplace by some date.  This causes a lot of rushing around and lots of miles covered, but not a lot of off-the-beaten track, sightseeing.  The remainder of this trip was too be much more eclectic and less organized.  We did, however, decide that it would not be possible to get all the way to Fort St. John this time since we had lost almost a week waiting for Harvey in Vancouver.  So the North will have to wait for another trip.

Valemount is a beautiful spot.  Three mountain ranges meet there and, as a result, there is a 360 degree mountain view from all places in town.  The campsite is only a few years old so all the trees are quite small yet, but the site shows great promise.  Everything is very clean and all sites are concrete with grass patios.  All in all, a great place to institute the new law ... 3 days here.

On Saturday we wandered around the town and hit the grocery stores ... there are two of them there ... to replenish our larder.  Now, Valemount is not very big, but the people are extremely friendly and talkative.  After completing our shopping, we went for a drive to have a look at "Greater Valemount".  As we wandered down one of the adjacent roads, we saw a little sign that said "Pottery for Sale".  We thought, " Often we just pass these sorts of signs by.  What the heck.  Let's go in and have look".  The driveway wound its way for quite a distance through the bush and ended up in a nice house tucked between the trees and mountain vistas.  The owners were a husband and wife team who gave up the pressures of owning and managing the local Shop Easy store and decided to focus on his pottery hobby as a source of income.  They were delighted to have us drop in, and we spent several hours having a tour of his pottery setup and looking at his pots he had for sale.  Interestingly, he had been working on a new technique that had him partly firing his jugs in the kiln and then removing them still very very hot ... I forget the actual temperature but it was impressive ... with gloves and newspaper.  The newspaper would burn, of course, and leave a black residual on the neck and base of the pot.  He would then drop either horse hair or unbleached cotton hairs on the middle of the pot where they too would burn and leave interesting shapes.  Then he would return the pot for its remaining time in the kiln.   He had a name for this procedure ... something about being past Raku ....  The results were very interesting and eye catching.  We purchased one of them that appealed to both Elsie and I ... unbelievable as that sounds ...  and we have it now in our living room.  Experiences like this, proved to us the value of our new Three Day Rule.  It was a good day.

On Sunday, we jumped in the Honda (the Toad) and headed down to Blue River to take the road to Murtle Lake in Wells Grey Park.  Now, you might wonder why we did this, but please remember that Elsie has not lost her "moose inity".  She is getting desperate to remove this blot on her Canadianism.  We had met a young Dutch couple in the campsite who mentioned that they had seen moose and bears when they went up to Wells Grey and Elsie was not to be restrained.  The only slight problem was that they took the southern entrance to the Park from Clearwater and we, as I mentioned, were going in on the northern entrance.  But, what the heck ... it is still Wells Grey and maybe there was a moose or two "chilling out" in that area.  Off we went.

It turned out to be a gravel road that quickly turned into a logging road that was not maintained very well.  Several times I thought that perhaps we should turn back as it was some 40 kms to the lake and the road was definitely getting interesting.  Being adventurous we stuck it out until we hit the end of the road at Murtle Lake.  There was not a hell of a lot to see when we got there and you guessed it ... no moose were spotted on the way in.  One thing that did surprise us ...perhaps shocked us ... was the presence of a 28 foot rental RV C class motor home parked by the side of the road.  I thought that this guy did have his nerve but the surprise was only beginning.  As the roads were gravel and not a lot of traffic had been on them, we could see just where that guy had taken this rig.  We took some of the logging roads that led off the main logging road and could see the impression of the dual back wheels in the dust.  One road we finally had to stop because of a washout that would not allow the Toad  pass, but we could see that he had just put his foot down on the accelerator and plowed over the chasm.  If the rental company could see where he had taken their machine, they would not have been very impressed.  A good reason to be VERY CAREFUL when purchasing any ex-rental RV.

The roads got to be almost impassable and Elsie, in one spot, had to get out and roll (Sisyphus like) some of the larger rocks off the road so we could get through.  Eventually, we made it back to the paved road with a new appreciation for the Honda as an off road vehicle and a greater sense of urgency for Elsie to break through and actually see a moose.  So great was the pressure that often she would claim to have seen one, but as I had not seen it, it had to be put down as a UMS (unsubstantiated moose sighting).  Stumps and rocks all became moose for the poor women ... her desperation was approaching "critical mass"!  Something had to be done ... and quickly! 

Monday, June 2nd saw us heading north and east to Jasper, Alberta and a camping site in the National Park.  You would think that on this road we would see moose.  But oh no ... all we saw was one impressive mountain scene after another.  All the trite and over used descriptors came constantly to mind ... "the purpled majesty" etc.  I won't carry on about the views, but suffice it to say ... they were even more stunning then I remembered when I first drove this road many years ago.  The real pressure was in Harvey.  Elsie is getting even more distraught and desperate.  Conspiracy theories abounded, sleep was being denied ... was there no end in sight????

On entering the park the gate attendant, after extracting $14.00 per day for the privilege of driving through this Federal Government wonderland, told us that a semitrailer truck had hit a moose the night before and it had to be towed away for repair.  The moose, of course, was beyond repair.  Elsie just groaned and closed her eyes.  At this point, I should mention the cost of these parks.  You can either pay the $14.00 for each day you are there or you can purchase a yearly pass for $89.00.  Now that works out to be profitable if you plan to spend at least 6.3 days as a guest of the Feds in one of their parks.  Add the 14.00 per day to the cost of the campsite which had just jumped that March 1st from $ 24.00 per night to $30.00 and you get a pretty significant amount.  This is your Federal Government at work.  When you consider the huge cost to the Canadian People created by our ever traveling politicians to one silly conference after another, the imposing of a 33% increase in one jump for the use of our Parks becomes even more frustrating.  Anyway, since we were going to stay in Jasper for the three days and then visit Banff and before heading to Waterton National Park, we thought that a yearly pass would pay for itself.  Now, if any of you plan to visit these parks this year, call and we can do a deal for you ....  have decal .... will mail ...

Whistlers Campground in Jasper turned out to be one of our favourite spots.  It is huge with 400 plus sites most of which are pull-throughs.  Each site is quite a distance from the neighbour and is nestled among the pine trees.  Extremely quiet and beautiful and the smell of the pine trees added to the experience.  Just after setting up, I heard a gasp! from Elsie as she was pointing over my shoulder.  A female Elk was wandering by quiet close to us.  On her knees she begged... "Can't we just say that it was a moose???"  I, of course, held firm.  It was NOT a moose.

When we entered the campsite, the park wardens were warning people to stay away from the Elk as it was "birthing time' and apparently they become very aggressive and unpredictable.  There is always a parallel in nature for us to wonder at eh .....

After dinner that night, Elsie decided that we should take an evening "game drive" as we used to do in Africa.  We headed out filled with hope, and dread at the same time.  Sure enough, animals ... on the side of the road we spotted a number of Big Horny (Horn) Sheep.  So, we stopped and took the appropriate pictures of these animals almost within arm distance of the car.  It was neat to see, but it only wet Elsie's appetite.  We continued to drive for quite a distance and were just thinking of turning back for Harvey and enduring yet another disappointment when it  DID HAPPEN!YES, IT DID!!!  Finally, Elsie lost her "moose inity"  There it was.  As BIG as life and just as beautiful.  A female, 2 or 3 year old Moose, quietly munching just on the shoulder of the road.  It stayed there for several minutes as Elsie swung between taking pictures and gasping for breath.  It was a moment for the history books!!!  After driving across Canada twice and driving all around BC for years, Elsie finally had her wish.  This was indeed a SMS (Substantiated Moose Sighting).  Can the trip get any better????

Suffice it to say that Elsie did not sleep much that night and the next three days were filled with touristy things in Jasper.  We continued to see many more animals ... from Mountain Goats to Elk, from Deer to Cariboo. We saw them all.  We even went up the gondola and hiked up the mountain overlooking Jasper.  It was a really neat three days.

We were sad to push on from Jasper but it had to be, so on Thursday June 5th, we headed to Banff.  Banff was not as neat as Jasper, but a couple of things worthy of note occurred.  The campsite, like Jasper, was mostly filled with rental RVs but it was not as nicely laid out. The sites are just pull outs on the side of 6 parallel roads so you have the feeling that you are parked in a downtown area somewhere.  However, the amazing thing was the number of ground squirrels that infest the place. There must be literally thousands upon thousands of the little critters digging holes all over the place.  These holes are about 4 inches in diameter so you had to be careful when you went for a walk.  I now have a greater appreciation for Frank's attempts to rid his backyard in Dunbar of these damn things.  Maybe, we should send him to Banff with his BB gun .... hmmmmm this has possibilities....

On the road just up from us was a couple from Ontario ... one of the few non foreign tourists we met.  What was remarkable about him was his choice of musical instrument.  As we were setting up, I could hear him playing his Chanter so I had to meet him.  He was impressed that I would know what a Chanter was (for you uninitiated, or non Scots, a chanter is the stick that you attach the rest of the bag and pipes to and then you have a Bag Pipe.  The value of this is that you can practice playing the Chanter without having your neighbour complain).  Soon after our conversation, he had put the Chanter and Bag and Pipes together and he was marching up and down the road playing.  It was really quite neat to hear..

The other neat thing that happened here was our day trip to Lake Louise.  As per usual, Elsie had us on tiny secondary roads that made me happy that we were in the Honda and not Harvey.  By this time we had become pretty sophisticated animal viewers and often would not stop just to see some more ...Big Horny Sheep or Deer or Elk.  But, we had to stop twice on this day.  The first time was when we rounded a corner and came suddenly upon a large number of Deer ... these were remarkable because they all were males, varying in age from 1 to 4 plus years.  At this time of the year, their horns are all covered with felt, and it was impressive to seem them.  Soon after this sighting we one-upped it by coming across a similar grouping, but this time they were all male moose.  The ages here were varied and all their horns were still felt covered too.  We have now seen everything but bears ....  We were feeling pretty cocky.

Harvey was running well and we were having the time of our life.  The weather had been very nice for the main part, and we were looking forward to heading south to Waterton National Park located in the south western part of Alberta.  On the American side, in Montana, is Glacier National Park.  Unfortunately, it started to rain when we left for Calgary and continued to Fort Mcleod where we spent two nights in the campground we stayed in last year just a few miles from Buffalo Jump Indian Park.  The weather slowly cleared and we set out for Waterton.  This time, instead of paying $30.00 per night in the park, we found a little campground just at the entrance that was owned by the Waterton Historical Society for $16.00 per night for a full hookup.  From there we wandered all through the park looking for the ever elusive bear sighting.  This desire was quickly satiated when on the second night there we were driving along a small road and there were a female brown bear with two cubs feeding on the road side.  As we approached, they were a little spooked and headed immediately up a tree.  It did look a little funny having about 1000 lb. of bears sitting in a little Hemlock tree, but I guess they felt more secure there.  I have to mention just how fast they cleared the brush and climbed that tree. It sure reinforced the warning you hear all the time about never getting out of your car when bears are around.

The last day there, we headed to Montana in the Toad.  We were told about a really neat road that was worth driving in Glacier National Park called, "Going to the Sun Highway".  It was indeed a spectacular drive!   As you made your way to Logan Pass you climbed about 4000 feet on a two laned paved highway that wound its way up the side of the mountains without the security blanket of a barrier on the downhill side.  There you are .... straight up on one side and straight down on the other ... often several thousand feet of "down".  They have put a limit for vehicles on this road ... no wider that 8 feet, and no longer than 21 feet due to the tightness of some of the switch backs.  It was an experience I can tell you!  It was easy to tell if the driver ahead of you was from the prairies or was used to mountain driving.  There were some very worried people on that road and "that's fer damn sure"!!

The RV LifeStyle course that the Okanagan University College offers in Kelowna each year was taking place this year on June 27, 28, and 29th.  This was the only deadline we had to meet and it was by now getting close.  So, it was time to head west, back into BC.  We wanted to spend some time in Cranbrook RV Park just beside Fort Steele where we had enjoyed ourselves so much last year.  Nothing too exciting happened here, but it was fun to just relax and look around.  Actually, we met a couple from California who were paid by TrailerLife to evaluate campsites for the "bible" we use when we select where we are going to stop.  It was interesting to hear from them what the actual criteria they use in their evaluations was and just what their favourite parks were.  This was their first year doing this and their territory included BC, Alberta and Sask.  They had only covered Vancouver Island and the Okanagan by the time we met them so the list of their "Fav" spots was a little short.  But, when we hit the Island, we now have some idea where we should spend some time.  Anyway, after 3 days in Cranbrook, we headed to Osoyoos.

This turned out to be a really interesting visit.  We have  friends, Carole and Lou, who have forsaken the soggy Wet Coast and have moved to a beautiful Osoyoos house, complete with swimming pool.  It was a fun visit that turned out to be an important moment in both Barley and Hop's life.

Now, as most of you know, Barley and Hops have attained the ripe old age of 6 years.  After saying that, they have lead a pretty sheltered life.  Granted they have been across the continent twice, peeing in the Pacific ocean, the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  They have smelled smells that other, less travelled dogs, have only dreamed of.  But, there are many things with which they simply are not acquainted.  The case in point here is ... swimming pools.  When we arrived in this beautiful town, Elsie immediately called Carole and Lou and invited them to the campsite to have the obligatory nickel tour of Harvey.  That accomplished, we proceeded to consume all the beer we had on board, and the decision was quickly made to head to their house and repeat this procedure.  I have to tell you that they have a truly beautiful home.  Once you get past the three hundred plus Beanie Babies Carole has collected, you immediately notice that the family room sliding door opens out onto a large pool deck complete with deck chairs and umbrella.  Wow we thought, we have died and gone to heaven.

Of course, I immediately ensconced myself in a very comfortable chair with a view of the pool.  The dogs are brought in to meet their new friends, Mr. Bains and Belle.  They are a pair of pugs ... not in the descriptive sense, that is their breed. 

Hops, ever the original one, walked into the family room and immediately peed on the carpet.  This is something she has NEVER done before.  Of course, Carole, ever the gracious hostess, laughed this breech of etiquette off and said that, "It doesn't matter!  Just forget it!".  You all know Elsie and can imagine her chagrin at this point. Had we been smarter, we would have realized that things could only go from bad to worse, but ever the optimists, we took Carole's advice and forgot it.  Out to the pool side we went and the pizzas were ordered.

As you can see, the pool is ground level and the back yard has lots of interesting things to look at.  So, off goes Elsie to have a look around.  I call it just plain nosey ....  Hops, being of similar nature, follows Elsie on her tour of snooping.  By this point, we had achieved a sort of armed truce between the 4 "hounds" and peace was reigning.  I'm sitting, of course, chatting with Lou when all of a sudden, we hear a small splash and a loud scream from Elsie followed by a substantially louder splash. We look up and see Hops in the middle of the pool desperately trying to learn how to swim.  Elsie was several feet behind her attempting to push her to the pool side.  Casually, I got up and wandered over to pool side and grabbed Hops by the collar and whipped her onto solid ground.  I was about to do the same thing for Elsie, but as there was no collar, I returned to my chair and my conversation with Lou.  Now, we had one soaked dog, and one soaked Elsie.  Towels were produced and off Elsie went to change.  Lou and I went back to our conversation; I think that we were on the cusp of solving one of the world's most critical problems ... world hunger, SARS or the common hangnail, when we heard yet another slightly larger splash then the one that proceeded the previous excitement.

We look up and see that Barley, who must be one of the world's slowest learners after Hop's experience, was in the middle of the pool trying very desperately to learn how to swim.  You must realize that these dogs had never been near water at that depth and with their large chests and relatively small hind quarters swimming is a chore for them to learn.  Another fact that must be mentioned here is that Lou is a retired fire fighter.  The outcome was forgone.  With no thought for his personal safety, and the fact that he still had his wallet in his pocket, Lou sprang up and leaped into the pool.  I did notice that he entered the water in the approved manner with feet apart and nose held.  Good training always is noticeable.  Quickly, he reached Barley and pushed him to the pool side where once again, I got up and grabbed him by the collar and hauled him to terra firma.  Elsie, hearing the commotion rushed out to the pool in time to see me, with both Barley and Hops in my arms, pronouncing that their names will for ever more be Barley and Hops.  I figured that rather than waste this moment, I would officially christen  both of them.

So here we were; two wet dogs, a drenched Lou...  we never did finish solving that world problem... , a changed Elsie, and Carole and I dry as a bone.  Ever the progmatists, Carole and I looked at each other and went back to the pizza. 

The only question that remained after this night of chaos, was would we ever be welcomed back ....?  I fear that next time we call, all we shall see is Lou, Carole, Mr. Bains and Belle, in their RV heading for the hills.... and who can blame them ... but, in our defense, at least the evening was not dull!!!!  We snuck out of town the next morning.

Kelowna and the RV Lifestyles Conference was the next stop.  This conference we attended last year before we had purchased the Folly and now that we had some experience as RVers, we expected this to be even more worthwhile than last year.  It did not disappoint!  We highly recommend this weekend to anyone who is thinking about purchasing an RV or has one now and who is not sure exactly how they work!  My old friend Ross Oborne and his wife Connie are in the throes of thinking about purchasing some sort of RV unit.  We talked them into attending this year with us so we met in the parking lot of the college.  Part of the deal of the course, is the ability to dry camp in the school parking lot.  Imagine if you can, 40 plus RV's all lined up with slides out, awnings out and BBQ's at the ready, covering the student lot.  I think that they enjoyed the weekend experience as our entire conversation on the last night centered on just where in Mexico should we go this winter and where we can meet up to make the drive south.  It will be fun.

At this point, I choose not to mention the fact that upon first arrival at the College, the Harvey's stabilizer feet would not go down and the awning would not extend.  I also choose not to mention the 1 1/2 hour maintenance project that proceeded me finding out that a fuse had fallen out and that a breaker had, for some inexplicable reason, blown.  I certainly will not mention the new ... very descriptive words ... that Elsie learned by following me around!!!  Suffice it to say, repairs were made and things went better from there!

The plan from here was to return to Vernon, of course for the obligatory three days ... remember  the "Paynter Three Day Rule"?  ... visit with Roy, the B'Day Boy of last month's fame, and Diane, and spend some time just relaxing after the intensity of Kelowna.  I must mention here that I sure learned a lot about the electrical systems of Harvey.  It will not "shock" those who know me well if I say that my knowledge of electricity is limited to signing the cheque after repairs have been completed.  So, I now understand somewhat the use of and the value of inverters, converters, battery generators, diesel generators and solar panels all of which Harvey is equipped.  So what you may ask?  Well, armed with this knowledge we now can safely dry camp anywhere we wish.  Dry camping, or boon docking, for the ill informed is simply parking your rig anywhere you wish and existing solely upon your on board systems with no exterior hookups.  This is exactly what we had done in Kelowna and were planning to do at our next stop in Gun Lake.

For those who have never experienced the beauty of the Goldbridge and Bralone area of BC, it is located west of Cache Creek and north of Whistler.  That is a very general description but it is the location of Elsie's Brother and Wife's summer property on the shores of Gun Lake.  In order to drive there from the north, one must head from Cache Creek to Lillooet, and follow the gravel road along the shores of Carpenter Lake.  Not much you might say...???  Well Harvey does not much care for steep, narrow gravel roads!!  Nor does the Toad appreciate rocks being thrown up by Harvey's very large rear wheels.  In some places the road is about 10 feet wide and Harvey is 8 1/2 feet wide.  This makes for some "awkward" passing situations.  But, with Elsie driving the Toad in front of me, with the two-way radio warning me of on coming traffic, we did make it to the road behind the lake front cottage where we eventually found the best place to set up Harvey.

What followed was a great 4 days!!!!  They sure have a fantastic piece of property there!!!!

During this 4 day hiatus, it was decided that instead of returning home over the Carpenter Lake road as we did on arrival, we would use the much shorter route over the Hurley.  This would take us directly to Pemberton from where the trip through Whistler would shave off many hours of travel.  Frank had assured me that the road had been recently graded ... that means leveled out ... but upon completion of that piece of roadwork, I did indeed "grade" it.  Poor ole Harvey was shaken in ways he has never experienced.  The washboard sections added to the excitement when all 37 feet of Harvey started to slide towards what appeared to be a very serious drop off!  But two things good appeared out of this experience ... the first is that I learned how to keep Harvey in first gear so the engine helped the brakes slow us down without overheating them, and the second thing was that if he survived this experience, then perhaps he is indeed a well-built vehicle.

You can imagine my sense of relief when we did finally hit real tar again!

Well, taken all in all, this trip was one of the best ones we have done to date.  We were not at home more that couple of days when we began to plan our next foray.  Newf ... here we come!!!! 


Click here to return to Spring 2003