So much for a good night's sleep; it was a repeat of the first night, unfortunately. I looked at the hound darkly, I can tell you.
My mood was not lightened when I walked over to the Comfort Station to have a shower only to find the the good people from ServiceMaster were in there cleaning. I will always question the wisdom of cleaning the shower block at 7.30am, the point at which it most used, but I think it's done for the convenience of the contractor rather than the facility's users. Still, looking on the bright side, the cubicle was nice and clean when I returned an hour later.
So, to the business of the day and a quick excursion off site to drop Mrs Toad at her friend's house, just five minutes away. They were off for a quick tour of the many fruit and veggie stands that line Highway 3 in Essex County. But for the heat, that looked like a great day out.
Back at camp, I had two restless Tadpoles, both itching to get lunch out of the way so that we could motor back into town to pick up respective friends for a day visit. Pay attention here, dear reader, it gets a bit complicated.
Small Tadpole had The Boyfriend coming and the big Tadpole had Not The Girlfriend booked in. The Boyfriend has been a fixture for a few months and only narrowly avoided accompanying us for the whole trip by having some surgery done on his toe on the preceding Friday; we weren't going to be responsible for changing his dressings three times a day so discarded him. Not The Girlfriend was a new addition to the mix, made spicier by the fact that The Boyfriend is her cousin. I say spicier because The Boyfriend threw a tantrum that Not The Girlfriend had been invited at all and threatened to visit all kinds of retribution on the small Tadpole should his cousin be allowed to come. How or why The Boyfriend felt he could influence who the big Tadpole invited was beyond us, and threats to call off his relationship with the small Tadpole met with pursed lips and much tutting from Mrs T and I. Knowing how the small Tadpole was already feeling the (unwarranted) pressure, we didn't take the matter up directly with The Boyfriend, but did suggest to her that people who wished to control such things, and in such a manner as he was attempting, probably weren't good boyfriend material. She said she knew that and we left it, but when I picked up The Boyfriend and he saw Not The Girlfriend in the car, he put on his best mardy face and shoved his ear buds in, steadfastly refusing to talk to anyone. I had a mind to just dump him right back out of the car there and then, but then the small Tadpole would have been crushed, so we rode the crest of a very grumpy wave back to the campground.
I need to also to note that the big Tadpole is greatly lacking in the social graces. On the drive back to Rondeau he kept up a stream of inane small talk, which was painful enough, but he wasn't conversing with Not The Girlfriend, he was conversing with me! Yes, Not The Girlfriend was peering intently at her phone a lot of the time but she seemed quite happy to give me proper attention when I spoke to her. Try as I might, though, I could not get the big Tadpole to see that he really needed to talk with his guest, especially as The Boyfriend was creating quite an atmosphere.
Anyway, back at camp the small Tadpole and The Boyfriend jumped on their bikes and disappeared whilst the big Tadpole and Not The Girlfriend headed out on foot to visit the beach. At some point in the afternoon, I'm not sure of the order of events as I was very drowsy and in and out of naps, Mrs T returned and it started to rain, which inevitably brought The Boyfriend and Not The Girlfriend back in close proximity. The impending evening meal also served to get everyone together but by then, relations had thawed a little and there was at least some conversation.
The highlight of the day, though, was bundling all the young people, and the hound, into the car and driving them back to town. Why was this such a highlight? Well, we were leaving them all at home! I motored back to Rondeau on my own to spend a night with the good Mrs T, sans les enfants et le chien. Bliss. Well, it was bliss apart from the heat and the bugs of course.
The morning promised a big packing up effort as the tent was still in position, but at least we were to be free of encumbrances. Maybe we'd get that sleep we really needed?
Bugged - Day Four is in preparation!
Taking a midweek break at Rondeau Park, just 40 minutes away, is an easy option for us. Even with the tented Tadpoles, we can make more than one trip so as to spread the load, as it were. The thing is, easy as it may seem, you just can't account for the weather.
Now you know that I'm not one to moan, especially about the weather, but it was hot. Very hot. We loaded up the car, hitched Towed Haul and set off (naturally forgetting to look at the fuel gauge), thinking all the while "what lovely weather". Unhitching and setting up the caravan was OK, if a little sweaty, but pitching the tent was a nightmare out in the searing sun and we were fit for nothing as we made our way back to town (via the gas station, we really were a trifle low!) to pick up the Tadpoles and the hound.
Plans for a gourmet supper under the awning went awry and we settled on chips (or Fries, depending on your bent) from Simon's Fancy Burgers, or whatever it's called, consumed at home prior to our return to Rondeau. So it was a little later than planned that we crashed out in our lawn chairs under the awning and started to unwind on our short break. It was a fine evening, too, with pink edged clouds in the darkening sky and a virtuoso performance played out in front of us by the bats of Rondeau Park. Hang on a minute, though, why so many bats and why such a great flying show? What do bats eat in great quantity at dusk? Bugs, that's what. Hundreds and thousands of the little blighters - or should that be biters - it was supper time for the bats but irritation time for us. We had three bug repelling lanterns going and yet we were still getting bitten to buggery; this was a new experience for us in our local campground. A bug biting bonanza!
It was humid down there, too, and the poor old hound was panting like an asthmatic athlete just sitting still. We took her out for a quick walk but the bugs chased us back and into the caravan for what turned out to an early(ish) night. The trouble was that inside was hot and humid, too. Yes, Towed Haul has a roof-mounted air conditioning unit but it's far too noisy to sleep through when running, so we settled in for a sweaty night and hoped that the morrow would bring some relief from both the humidity and the bugs.
Look out for Bugged - Day Two. The clue is in the title, folks.
A bright and sunny start to the day but at 9C, it was a tad chilly. Still, the piping hot shower at the "Comfort Station" helped as I settled into a lazy morning of eating breakfast and peering out of the window at the rest of the campground coming to life. I noted with some disappointment that the noisy kids from the night before hadn't actually been rounded up and fed to the bears and were chasing each other noisily all over the campground again. I did take a walk down to the bay (all of ten paces) and read the information boards before snapping a few photographs of the still water. I met with a very bold chipmunk who, I suspect, was used to be being treated with food by the park's visitors. It's not often these little creatures are so forward but I have to admit to regretting wearing my "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" shorts that morning as the little critter made a beeline for me. Thoughts of gathering nuts flashed through my mind.
Anyway, there wasn't much to do except prepare for a lunchtime departure and shiver in the cold, before Mrs Toad put the heating on, of course. A straightforward hitch-up and poo tank dump was followed by a swift departure onto Highway 26 and total disobedience shown to the woman in the GPS gadget. Mrs T had programmed the thing but for some reason today, it had decided on an entirely different route from the one it gave us on Wednesday. Still, my memory's not shot yet and I managed to navigate my way through Collingwood and out towards Orangeville without too much trouble and despite the GPS's shrill admonishments to "turn around as soon as possible".
The run back up the Niagara Escarpment is long and steep in places but the Toadmobile dealt with it all quite admirably. Sure we were down to 40mph in places but the speed limit's 50mph so to lose 10mph isn't so bad. Driving down Highway 10 towards Brampton and Toronto was quite pleasant, especially as the cool, clear air gave us an excellent view of Toronto's downtown lakeside area and the CN tower, all from about 40km away.
I should just mention what an absolute boon it is to be towing ones own toilet and fridge behind the car. Once again we stopped to fuel up, pulled over (into specially marked RV bays today) and used our own facilities rather than those in the Service Centre. The fridge stays cold for ages so a frosty Mars Bar was most welcome before setting off again.
Then we were home again. The dog was deliriously happy to see us and took about an hour to calm down; the kids were a little less animated, thank goodness. I was a bit hacked off to notice that the hitch receiver (tow bar) on the car was looking the worse for wear and I fully anticipate having to replace it, sooner rather than later. Still, I know a man who can do that, albeit that he won't be cheap. Sigh.
So, trip number one of 2015 passed off well and, as I sit here in quiet reflection, I recognize that the child and dog free environment was probably what made it a very good trip. Sorry, kids and Willow!
We are traveling again next week but details have been withheld. Keep an eye on Facebook, my friends.
Up with the lark on a sunny but unseasonably cold morning by the water; 12C is not summer weather!
I found the showers and, despite it looking a little tired, the stall was clean and the water was copious and hot. I know that I say it all the time but the washing facilities at Ontario’s Provincial Parks are really very good, and come as part of the price, too, with no slot meters that eat quarters. Some of the commercial campgrounds could learn a thing or two.
We breakfasted on toast; jam for me and Marmite for Mrs T, and headed into the busy metropolis that is Collingwood. I won’t go into the detail of hanging around the Ontario Courts of Justice all day but a result was achieved, albeit not with the perfect outcome. Anyway, that’s an end to the process so we can get back to normal now. It was quite nice to have a sort of picnic lunch in the car, tearing off chunks of bread from a big, crusty loaf; it was quite reminiscent of family holidays when sandwiches were eaten in the car. What was different here was that the sun was shining, unlike my memories of childhood car picnics which usually involved rain and wind.
Given that we were on a business trip, we neither of us felt like doing much after the business was done, so we mooched back to Craigleith and squatted in the Airstream for the rest of the evening. It was just too chilly to sit out for too long so we sat in, had our supper, had some beer and watched people in very expensive motor homes set up their camp sites.
One of the modern facets of camping is having some Internet access, but Craigleith isn’t too good for that. It’s in the lee of the Niagara Escarpment, known as the Blue Mountains here, and the mobile signal is poor. It doesn’t help, either, that the Airstream is a very effective Faraday Cage and is quite good at keeping radio signals out. Still, we were able to do a bit of Facebooking and send a few texts. I know that we shouldn’t be wedded to the technology but it’s quite hard not to steal a glance at Facebook every now and again. I’m sure that the Provincial Parks people will set up some WiFi systems and, if they do it right they could make some money from it, but they’re not there yet. A tip for the authorities is that you don’t offer free WiFi, because then people kick the arse out of it and it becomes next to useless (Kampgrounds of America please note). Charge for it and people will use it wisely and not be streaming movies all day!
Tomorrow is leaving day so activity will be at a slightly higher pace. Tonight we head to bed in the hope that the kids running around the campsite at 11.30 pm and making an unholy racket will be corralled by the Park staff and fed to the bears. G’night all.
Setting off on a camping trip on a non-working day is simply the only way to go. All morning to get prepared and were rolling only forty minutes later than planned, which is probably a record for us.
This first trip of the season is for business rather than pleasure; sorting out an ongoing issue with the tadpole’s father. Courts are involved so you can probably surmise what the issue is. Anyway, we needed to be in the Ontario town of Collingwood for July 2nd, so had booked a couple of nights at Craigleith Provincial Park, just twenty minutes west along the edge of Georgian Bay. The run up from Chatham isn’t that straightforward and I resolved to let the SatNav decide our route, which would have been fine except that the Park wasn’t listed in the device’s database. It picked up every other Provincial Park for miles around but not Craigleith for some reason. So, I had to approximate its position and let the electronics sort it all out and we found ourselves heading up the Highway almost to Toronto before striking north through Brampton and Orangeville.
Travelling on Canada Day I thought would be fairly quiet and, whilst it wasn’t weekday busy, there was so much commercial traffic on the road. The weather forecast said sunny and warm so naturally we drove up under cool, overcast skies and some nasty winds – you kind of get used to the way weather operates here. Towed Haul tracked nicely behind us and I was very pleased as we scaled the Niagara Escarpment on Highway 10 that the Toadmobile was pulling strongly. Mind you, the less said about the fuel consumption the better.
We duly arrived at Craigleith, a little strip of land between Highway 26 and Georgian Bay. The Bay, as you scholars of Geography will know, is a very large lake, 5,800 sq miles to be precise, formed at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment and filled from Lake Huron. It`s considerably deeper than Huron and, as a result, the water is very cold even if it is a fabulous shade of blue. It`s a great place for boaters, from kayakers to sea-going cruisers and is a very popular place for Torontonians and visitors from the US. Anyway, back to Craigleith; the signage at the entrance is a bit confusing but not as confusing as the directions given by the Park staff to get to the RV dump station. We did a little detour around the place along some very narrow tracks and we surfaced at our camp site to find it occupied. It wasn`t really a problem as the people there had only acted on the Park staff`s instruction to pick any unoccupied site. You`ll note that the Park staff are playing a blinder here. The people on our site moved without complaint, though, whilst we eventually found the dump station and somewhere to fill our fresh water tank. We were able to `pull through` (that is, not back) onto the site, for a change, and set up without a problem. It had clearly been raining a lot in the days prior to today as it was a tad boggy underfoot, but it didn`t cause us much of an issue. The only downside was the unseasonably cool temperatures; definitely not sitting out weather. I did, of course, drag Mrs Toad on a walk around the Campground as I like to look at the RVs and trailers, and to count the number of Airstreams. This evening it was one. Towed Haul.
I have to report that after Gumbo, bread heels and beer, we turned in early to read; something we don`t often get the chance to do. I managed about a page and a half before falling asleep and I don`t think Mrs T was that far behind.
We were looking at an early start in the morning with a 9.30 appointment in Collingwood, so an early night was good, really.
Stay tuned for day two`s excitement; let`s hope the weather warms up a bit. As to when this blog will get published, I can`t really say. The phone signal is poor and that`s our only Internet access here; technology hasn`t reached Provincial Parks yet.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
The Old Blog