Well, here's our extra day. More plunging temperatures at night, but bright and sunny during the day. That's what a keen north wind will do for your weather patterns.
Packing up day generally starts slowly with us, and today was no exception. We were putting off thoughts of co-ordinating four kids and two tents, I think. We never want to head home, either, because that means work; domestic and otherwise.
I took a quick spin down to Kincardine to put some gas in the car, a task that's much easier without a 28 foot aluminium tube attached to the back. Like their compatriots in Port Elgin on Saturday, the Canadian Tire gas station was curiously bereft of petrol. There was regular unleaded, but no Super or Premium, which was a shame because I wanted the Premium. Whoever plans for stocks over the long weekend needs shooting.
When we did get ourselves in gear, the older two were very good and dismantled the big tent quite expertly. It was wet underneath, of course, but we loaded everything that wasn't wet into the smaller car and sent them on ahead. The smaller tent was also wet but we had both drying in the sun and by the time it came to stow them in the Toadmobile, they were dry enough.
The two younger kids did a good job of staying out of our way while we packed up Towed Haul, which makes our task all the easier, and we were all packed and ready to go well within schedule. Check out time is 2pm at Provincial Parks and, as usual, we were rolling off the site 1.55pm which I always think gives us maximum value.
This being a long weekend and it being a full Park, the line up for the dump stations took about 25 minutes to negotiate. It was well marshalled by the Park's staff and apart from having to watch people struggle with what really is a very simple process, the wait wasn't unpleasant. We did glean a bit of information from one of the Park's workers when we asked what the Police presence was the previous evening, scaring our delicate large tadpole with lots of noise in the night. People, it seems, had been letting off fireworks, contrary to one of the (many) park rules and the Police had waded in to sort it out. I don't think there was a major issue but the noise had been quite apparent. Not to me, of course, I was asleep.
I rattled through the tank dumping far faster than those around me and we were out on the road and heading for home in no time. Once again, the traffic was light and the run southwards on Highway 21 was very enjoyable. The lake looked as blue as ever and the RCAF put on a nice display as a Hercules transport aircraft circled obligingly over Goderich before it came into the little airfield there.
The SatNav had a little upset as it consistently told us the trip would take an hour longer than it should. I deviated from its planned route to stay on the good roads around Bothwell and it suddenly righted itself; I have no idea why the lady in the sky was mistaken, perhaps she was recovering from a good weekend. We arrived home safely after a journey of just over three hours, having attained quite respectable gas consumption figures, averaging around 13.25 mpg (US), which is just short of 16 mpg imperial. That may sound a bit harsh but it's about right and certainly no worse than most other towing vehicles.
Inverhuron is quite different to the other parks we regularly visit in that it's deep in the woods and very rocky. That said, small though the sites may be, they're flat and clean. Yes, the power supplies are some considerable distance from the sites and the shower distribution is a bit chintzy for the busy weekends, but it's still a lovely place to visit. Then there're the three hours or more to get there, which is really going to keep it off our list, except for during the summer holidays.
The next short trip is already booked, so watch this space...
Sunday was a nice day after a cold night, much as Saturday. Mrs T and I went for a walk along the lake's edge, which was most enjoyable, and I walked in on someone who hadn't locked his shower door. Still, that's camping.
So, as there's not too much to report, this post will be given over to a gallery.
A cold night, to be sure, but one where I slept for almost nine hours straight; that's virtually unheard of. Even the dog failed to cause me sleepless time, although I don't think Mrs T saw it quite that way.
It was certainly bright and sunny outside, even if the thermometer was still in single digits. No sign of the kids so I fed the hound and took her on a little stroll around the immediate area. We were in a densely wooded area with such a variety of trees and shrubs that the only space to move about in was on the roads and the camping sites that had been cut out of the forest. Where the sun shone through, it was warming up, but where the canopy obscured the sun it was stubbornly cold.
There are upwards of 200 camping sites at Inverhuron, but such is the woodland that unless you're on the access road, you can barely see any of the other sites, so hidden are they. Of course, this being Ontario, the place was busy with people who'd no doubt been up since first light, which is what they do here. The smell of wood smoke and cooking bacon filled the air and the hound's elongated snout was more flexible than ever, getting in some of those lovely bacon fumes.
When I arrived back at our site, the big Tadpole was cooking a huge pan of "Homefries" (diced, fried potatoes out of a bag), eggs and bacon and looking quite pleased with himself. He hadn't slept much but this boy will endure anything for a big breakfast. He was cooking on the little propane range rather than the camp fire, but I think speed and efficiency were uppermost in his mind. Must. Have. Bacon; his motto.
As I was about to head out to the showers, I discovered that I'd not brought any shower gel with me, proving again how unprepared we were. We had to go out later, anyway, to pick up some other camping supplies that we'd either forgotten or decided that we needed now we were out and about, so I decided to shelve the shower and go out in stinky mode.
Mrs T hadn't had such a good a night as I and was looking at the hound in such a way as to suggest an impending dog killing, but other than that, spirits were a little improved from the previous evening. In fact, so improved was the mood that we jumped in the car and headed out to the Canadian Tire store in Kincardine where we picked up everything on our list, including some shower gel; who knew they sold that stuff?
Back at camp, we settled into a quiet afternoon and soaked up some sun. Actually, it was really quite warm when out in the sunshine, but get into the shade and it was really more like April than May. Our plan was to head out for supper in Port Elgin; fish and chips from Lord Elgin's and alfresco eating on the boardwalk whilst enjoying the view of the beach and marina. It all went as anticipated, except that my memory of the streets around Port Elgin was a little sketchy and it took me two attempts (including going down a closed road) to get where we needed to be. The hound went crazy for the fried food, and more than a little anxious as part of our enlarged group walked out onto the harbour wall; I think she imagined that they weren't coming back. A curious thing in Port Elgin was the big Canadian Tire gas/petrol station with no gas/petrol. I know it's the long weekend but you'd have thought they might have provisioned a little better, especially as all the other gas stations were fine.
On our return to Inverhuron, Mrs T and I settled into a DVD and some beer and wine as the evening closed in and things became a little colder again. I mention the beer and wine because it was completely illicit. This weekend is traditionally alcohol-free in Ontario Provincial Parks due to some past years bad behavior from the High School set. Why grown ups can't be trusted with a drink or two I don't know, but had we been found out we could have been fined. That said, we did get news that a boy from Will's school had been killed in a drink-driving incident the previous evening after being ejected from Rondeau Park by the Police, so there's obviously still a problem. On the DVD front, we were trialing our new $95 Blu Ray player after the built-in DVD player in the Airstream gave up on us last year. Not using the built-in sound system left us with the tinny TV speakers but a quick tie up with my Bose portable and we were back in full aural business.
The night was getting colder, even more so than Friday night, but the tent dwellers decided to tough it again, even though they were all suffering from a lack of sleep. At bedtime we caved in and fired up the furnace for a short while, just to take the chill out of the air. It was just 4C out. Tsk.
The weather looked set for the weekend, despite a late shower just as we were turning in. It just needed to warm up a bit. Still, we were nice and snug even if the kids weren't.
Our first trip of the year and we are so unprepared. Two cars, four kids and a dog add hugely to the logistical nightmare of heading out for a long weekend, and yet we've struggled to get to grips with the most basic tasks required. Why? Because us adults are both now working full time and the tadpoles are in serious teenage mode where even the tiniest task that doesn't involve a cell phone is just too much for them because they're exhausted after their day at school. That's irony, by the way, thick and creamy irony.
So, not fully prepared and attempting to take two extra children (and two tents as well) but not being able to leave home before 5.30pm is concerning me somewhat, given that the drive is in excess of three hours. We don't normally go that far for a weekend but, as it's Victoria Day on Monday, we have an extra day which kind of makes it worthwhile. It also has something to do with not being able to get a spot at a Park nearer because I'm not quick enough (nor willing to get into that booking frenzy nonsense, frankly) to be booking on the day the sites are released.
Anyway, it is what it is and we are duly loaded and ready to roll at 5.30. We've sent the big tadpole and his current squeeze on ahead with instructions to get the big tent up before our arrival, and the weather is looking pretty good, so feeling very tired and wholly unprepared, my spirits were lightened by getting Towed Haul's wheels out onto the road.
It's a lovely run up to Inverhuron. Along the Thames River for a bit, then strike north across country towards the south end of Lake Huron at Lambton Shores. My British chums would appreciate the almost eerily quiet country roads, as straight as arrows, but with the occasional right angle turn to make. We all look forward to going through the little farming town of Watford, where the relatively recent addition of a surprisingly steep bridge over the railway raises you up higher than all the surrounding land and you get an aerial view of the Main Street as you crest the rise and start down the other side.
Once at the lake, we join Highway 21 and take Huron's eastern shore up through the fashionable (and busy) resort of Grand Bend, then past Bayfield, Goderich, Kincardine and Tiverton. The road is straight, hugs the lake and goes through some rich farmland, dotted all the way up with wind farms. The names are Scottish and German up here, which is interesting. We're driving at 80Km/hr, the legal limit, but are the slowest on the road, as the streams of people passing show their impatience. The Police, too, were out and about so a few people saw their run somewhat extended as they chatted with officers of the law at the side of the road.
About an hour away from Inverhuron, Mrs T's phone started to chatter as the big Tadpole arrived at the Park and showered her with questions about putting the tent up. She dealt with it all with more grace than I would have, but then my mind was set on getting there with as much usable light as possible. One of the issues relayed to us was that the electrical point was miles away from the actual site and that the lead the boy had wasn't long enough. I doubted his estimate of 150 feet to the supply but Mrs T made a note to borrow an extra lead from the Park store when we arrived.
We duly rolled up at the gate at 8.50pm, checked in and made for the dump station to lose the waste in the tanks from the new season's cleanup process and to take on fresh water. As we negotiated our way through the narrow loops through the trees to our site, the light just disappeared and we found our narrow campsite entrance flanked with some rather scary trees. With the narrowness of the access road this would have been a little nasty to negotiate in daylight, but in the dark, a real humdinger of a back up. No problem, though, we have walkie-talkies. Yes problem, the little blighters were not charged up! I said we weren't prepared. So, because I couldn't hear Mrs T's instructions, or see them in the dark, we had a relay system of instructions coming via the big tadpole. In the end it took me twenty minutes to get backed up into that space. My mood was not the best.
So, having un-hitched and let Mrs T loose on setting up, I rigged an electric light to work by. The boy was right that the supply post was a long way off but the leads I carried were sufficient, so we were at least allowed the gift of power. I had intended for the girls to put one of the tents up but with the crushed limestone pad resisting all but the most insistent whacking to get the pegs in the ground, I did it. My newly purchased $5 (regularly $9.99) rubber mallet endured a severe workout in its first outing!
It wasn't until around nearly 10.30 that we sat down to supper; this had been a long day. Realising that the temperatures were plummeting, and thinking about the kids in their tents, we did offer them shelter in Towed Haul, but they were all looking forward to a night under canvass (or more correctly, Nylon) and declined. We eventually retired, absolutely shattered, at a little after midnight and eyed the thermometer dipping down to 5C. I really didn't want to fire up the furnace with the kids outside in their cooling tents (see, I'm not that bad), so we went to bed, complete with the horrible hound, and tucked ourselves in for a cold night.
Look in for day two. How cold did it get? Did the dog allow us any sleep at all? Is all this worth it? Read on, my friends, read on.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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