An early start and Les Enfants are reasonably co-operative. They all troop off to the toilet block, only to find that it's being cleaned (you have to question the wisdom of cleaning at 8am, don't you?), so they all sauntered off to another one somewhere else on site. As an old fogey, I discover that pyjamas, especially those worn by teenaged girls, are actually highly fashionable and will adequately double as suitable clothing in which to travel home; hey, what do I know?
With only a modicum of delay, we're all packed up, or rather the kids are, and we're heading out of the gate to dump them all home. I'm coming back later to break camp and bring Towed Haul home and Mrs T is making a start as she stays at Rondeau. It's all working out swimmingly as the Toad Woman and I can work so much faster when not hindered by kids and animals! I even manage to put a load of laundry in the machine before I head back to the campground; how efficient is that?
So, the breaking up of the camp goes well. All the tents are covered in rain from the previous evening but we lift off the fly sheets, shake them and hang them up on our super-sized washing line to dry. The inside of the girls' tent is a fright, even though they were supposed to have cleaned it out. Crisp packets, broken plastic cups and mud litter the floor, but Mrs T is on top of things and gets them cleaned up properly whilst I put other stuff away. We're practiced in the art of drying wet tents, so we go through the process of gradually folding them in on themselves, exposing sections of wet groundsheet to the sun, then brushing the mud off when its dry.
By midday we're all but done the major work and have time to settle down to a nice, and very quiet, lunch before starting the final pack and hitching the trailer to the car. I thought I might have a bit of a struggle negotiating the tight 180 degree turn to leave the site, given the proximity of the fire pit and the fact that the grass is very wet. People tell us that front-wheel drive cars can't tow, but this front-wheel drive car made the tight turn and didn't slip once on the greasy surface; they know nothing.
With just the poo tanks to empty, we looked around the campground as we drove out and wondered when we'd be back again, what with the school holidays fast approaching their end. I reckon that we'll get out again this year.
The short trip home was uneventful and we did a glorious one move back-up onto the driveway to park up; I'm getting used to this towing lark, I think.
What of camping avec les enfants? It was a lot of work, lots of extra mouths to feed and I don't think we'd anticipated that the three onto one dynamic would be so corrosive. Next time the big tadpole takes a male friend! The three nights seemed to pass awfully slowly, especially compared to the previous week we'd spent at Rondeau. The weather was its usual August self, major thunderstorms, but at least it was warm and they were all able to get on the beach and swim in the lake, which has to be a bonus.
The jury's out, I'm afraid, on whether we camp avec les enfants again.
There will be more trips, but nothing planned as yet; keep watching this space.
Well, the aftermath of yesterday's storm wasn't too drastic; some water ingress in the tents and quite a soggy camp site, but other than that all seemed OK. Indeed, as I strode out to the shower block, the sun was shining and the air was warming up rapidly.
The showers, though, were undergoing cleaning. Not one at a time so that some stalls could be used during the process, but all seven at once. My brain stumbled a bit; should I come back later? But then I remembered the small block over by the main tent camping area, a place that was curiously devoid of any tents and therefore also devoid of any people hogging the showers. It was a good decision, too, as I not only enjoyed the walk over there but I had the place to myself. The showers in Provincial Parks are excellent and this one was no exception, even though it wasn't quite as new and swept up as those in the big block that was currently being cleaned. Instead of the timed push button operation that the other showers had, this had a proper dial-type valve and proceeded to gush hot water without interruption. The shower head was on the correct wall, too. I'm convinced that the architect's drawings for the newer shower blocks were somehow transposed and the builders have put the shower heads on the wrong wall, making it almost inevitable that spray from the shower will fly out onto your clothes and towel. One day I'll draw a picture and you can decide for yourselves. Please note, Provincial Parks people, that this slightly older shower design also incorporated a nice little shelf for one's soap and whatnot, something that's lacking in the newer type.
Anyway, refreshed I walked back to the camp, fed the hound and took her on a walk around the campground. People were stirring and the big tadpole was set the task of cooking up two big packs of bacon on the portable gas stove, which had been moved to the olfactory safety zone at the other side of the site. These vegans, eh?
The arrangement of three girls and one boy wasn't working out so well, especially when the girls were being orchestrated by the evil small tadpole; three against one is never good. We took pity on the boy, though, and loaded him and the hound into the car and made for the Dog Beach, leaving the girls playing a game of killer Monopoly. The storm clouds were brewing up, those great big Cumulus things that go thousands of metres into the sky and look fantastic as the sun lights up one edge. The thunder was certainly rumbling but the storm was keeping just off to the western side of Rondeau Bay and whilst we kept an eye on things as we were walking on the very exposed beach, the storm stayed away. The big tadpole splashed around in the waves and the hound enjoyed a four pee/one poop afternoon of unleashed excitement.
We stood and watched as some Turkey Vultures circled overhead before swooping in very gracefully on a dead fish at the lake's edge. They're big buggers, those Turkey Vultures (about the size of a turkey, strangely enough), and ungainly on the ground, but when they're airborne they fly so elegantly on long, broad wings. Anyway, we tried getting in close but they were just too wary, so we left them to their fish supper and made our way back to Towed Haul. Up at the campground, some 5Km north of the Dog Beach, there had been some rain, although not too much. Curiously the girls had followed instructions and brought the towels in out of the rain; a first, and on only one issued instruction, too. Are we getting through, I wonder?
Pasta and tomato sauce was the quick meal of the evening before les enfants decided to hit the beach again, scuttling out in the already fading light. We'd part cooked the pasta prior to setting off as keeping a big pan of water boiling for ten minutes on a propane ring isn't the easiest thing to do. I thought it was alright, but Mrs T wasn't enthused, so pasta gets relegated to a back up meal only in future.
One of my little quirks is to walk around the campground to see the other trailers and tents (and dogs, it seems, as Willow tends to get every dog in the place leaping from its camp site, barking furiously). We tend to use the South Campground, mostly because the toilet block is newer, but it's interesting to tour the North Campground as it seems to have a different feel. On this trip, there were some odd looking set ups "oop north", not least the old school bus that had been converted to a motor home. I say converted but it was definitely a home-made conversion that made the bus look ramshackle in the extreme. It had been hand-painted in white and there was a long awning on the side, under which sat an old man who was watching a television. He was sat about three feet from it and it wasn't one of the slinky LED models, but a big old fashioned cathode ray tube device. Mind you, he had a satellite dish that matched the TV for bulk so I guess it all went together. The bus also had a huge roof rack, or viewing platform, I couldn't decide which, built up on its roof. Elegant it was not! Still, each to their own; I'm certain they spent considerably less on their RV than we did, so good luck to them.
In the dark, les Enfants sat up and made some more s'Mores whilst using up the remnants of the firewood, and I struggled to get some details from J2 about when her dad was coming to pick her up in the morning. She was vague, and I'm being kind here, so Mrs T made the arrangements for her. The result of negotiations was that we were all getting up early-ish in the morning and I was running all the kids and the hound home before we grown ups broke camp - in peace, absolute peace. Despite the threat of an early morning, the kids still sat up half the night giggling and talking and occasionally firing off the air bed pump. I suppose it was indicative of them having a good time, but we were only a gnat's whisker away from having the Park Ranger come and quieten them down.
Me? I went to bed at a sensible hour and gathered strength for the exodus in the morning.
It had been a warm night that the hound wanted me to share with her. She wriggled around on the bed as soon as the dawn showed through the skylights so I was forced to enjoy the grey light with her. Thanks, Willow.
As I had to go into town, I pulled on some clothes and headed out before 7am. The dew was thick on the ground, and the car, and although the day ahead was looking good, to start with at least, the dew was a reminder that here in southern Ontario, autumn is already in evidence in mid-August. Indeed, the day time highs of around 26 or 27 Celsius are a good five degrees down on July temperatures and some of the trees are already beginning to adopt their autumn colours. Some people on the radio were sounding surprised about the trees but ever since I've been here, I've noticed that mid-August is their turning point.
My employment session went well and, as is the way with these things, the computer programme that helps you determine your best career options had decided that number four on my initial list was going to be “Lifeguard”. Quite how the system determined that I don't know; had it asked “Are you a good swimmer?” then it'd have known that I am not lifeguard material. Anyway, a load more questions later and it determined that I'd be OK in pretty much all the roles that I'd already worked in. Hmmmmm.
Back to camping, though, and the fine weather had les enfants up and about at an early hour and swimming up a storm in the warm, if quite polluted, waters of Lake Erie. So exhausted was I at the prospect of becoming a lifeguard that once I'd eaten lunch, I retired to my bed and grabbed a short nap.
Les enfants were already bored and laying inside the big tent together getting hot and bothered. They did emerge for a long round of Monopoly, where we discovered that J1 has an ultra-competitive streak and the small tadpole gets bored easily.
Supper was complicated affair with the rice-cooker rolled out for some outdoor action and the two burner portable propane cooker dusted off and fired up. Meatballs in mushroom soup for the meat-eaters and vegan curry (that's curry for vegans rather than curry made from vegans) for the non-meaty people. J2 ate about two mouthfuls of curry, which is normal for that particular J, and J1 ate one or two meatballs before complaining about a headache and passing her supper to the big tadpole to finish off. How impressed she was, I just don't know. Once again, les enfants buggered off without cleaning up anything but it's hard to complain too much as you know that had they cleaned up then we'd have still had to clean up after them – parents, you know all about this!
The big news of the evening was the weather. Thunderstorms were forecast and it certainly looked like we'd cop at least one. The kids hit the beach again, but with strict instructions to come straight back again on first sight of lightning. Come back they did, and with good reason. The sky grew dark, the thunder rumbled and then the rain started; goodness did it start! The girls were in their tent and the big tadpole in his as the rain hammered down on the lightweight summer tents. One big flash of lightning had the boy tadpole out of his nylon shelter and into the trailer, absolutely convinced that he was going to get fried at any time. The girls stayed put, but curiously in a darkened tent. I'd rigged an electric light in there and was surprised that they'd not used it to cheer themselves up as the wind and rain battered their sleeping quarters. We dispatched the big tadpole to check them out and it turned out that they'd broken the light. They said that it had “just popped” but when I splashed over to have a look, J2 admitted to “tightening the bulb up” and had actually broken the curly tube of the energy saving bulb. Tut. Again. Ever resourceful, Mrs T suggested that I run around to the campground store for a new light bulb as, even at 9.15pm, it would still be open. Ten minutes later I returned with the last light bulb in the shop, albeit a 100W incandescent model, and the girls had light. At 100W, quite a lot of light!
Whilst I was in the girls' tent, small tadpole pointed out that water was coming into the tent near the base. When I say pointed, she jabbed her finger into the material, which is exactly what you don't want to do when your tent is wet. I don't remember how many times I'd told them how to prevent water coming into their tent but clearly they had not listened. On my way out of the tent, I noticed that there was a big puddle of water sitting in the flysheet over the entrance. Sensible me steps outside to lift the flysheet and get the water off, big tadpole pushes up from the inside. I don't remember how many times I'd told them how to prevent water coming into their tent but clearly they had not listened. This repetition of instructions seems to be a feature this year; tell 'em and they ignore or forget. I don't know if they don't listen or they don't understand, but either way it's so frustrating to have to keep repeating things all the time. Once again, parents will no doubt understand.
Well, the storm continued and I have to say that I was impressed that the young 'uns stayed in their tents. The boy tadpole was trying to wangle his way into staying the night with the girls (Scared? Him? I don't think so!) but they rejected him and he slunk away to his tent to listen to his music. Mrs Toad and I wilted rapidly and both turned in very early, to be enveloped in the arms of Morpheus in no time at all.
An eventful day, but enjoyable, especially as the lightning was flickering around and the thunder was cracking and booming. Certainly the rain was a bit scary but hey, that's what camping's all about. Isn't it?
More tomorrow, folks.
What madness possessed us? A trip out with the tadpoles is bad enough but to take some of their friends, too? Well, that's just pure folly.
The plan was to take the two Tadpoles, each with a well-chosen friend, down to Rondeau park for three nights. What could be better than leaving the kids to their own devices, thus freeing us up to relax and get over the stress of actually bringing them?
Of course, children are now banned from Towed Haul so they were allotted two tents. That sounds like a fine idea but that's two tents to pack, four air beds, four sleeping bags and four backpacks and sundry other things, plus the transport of said children, to concern ourselves with. Throw in the added confusion that the male Tadpole's nominated friend was female (and not even a “special” friend) and the female's friend has to leave a day early and you'll see that the logistics were getting complicated.
Two trips would be required. Mrs T and I packed the hound and up rations for four, and dragged Towed Haul down to the park, sans les enfants, where we went through the usual routine of emptying the poo tanks and filling up with fresh water before checking in and setting up on our site. The site was not the one we'd been eyeballing during our visit last week, though. Not site 64 as we'd thought, but rather it's neighbour, site 63; cock-up on the memory front there. It was quite a good site but required a bit of thought to position the trailer in such a way as to allow the two tents to go up, and for them to be slightly above the lowest point on the site so as not to be concerned with flooding. Planning is all.
So, trailer positioned and unhitched, we set about putting the tents up. Now you know that I'm not one to complain about the weather but working on the tents in the blazing sunshine wasn't a very pleasant experience; even the poor old dog was suffering in the shade-free zone that was the camp site.
I departed the site some hours later than originally planned, bathed in sweat and not entirely in a cheerful mood, and made my way back to town to collect les enfants. At least the tadpoles were ready to go when I arrived, so we then made our way across town to pick up J1 and J2 (Code name for the young ladies who both have names starting with a J ). It was J2's turn first, then J1, then back to J2's place because she'd forgotten her sleeping bag. Tut.
Back down at the campground, Mrs T was very organised and had all the air beds out ready for inflation, set up a shaded little sitting area and even fed the dog; a camping veteran indeed.
Les enfants headed out to go to the beach but, due to a basic navigational error, turned right instead of left and wandered around looking for said beach for an hour. It gave the big tadpole, who'd declined such a girlie expedition, a chance to build a fire, cook the night's supper and impress J1. Actually, he did OK with the mix of meat and non-meat burgers and we all enjoyed sitting out in the evening warmth, munching our way through the big tadpole's (not very) burnt offerings.
All the kids (this time) decided on a swim in the lake as the light was fading, and turned the right way this time as they made their way to the beach. Mrs T and I did our usual amble around the campground, hound in tow, to look at the various caravans, motor-homes and tents that were settled in for the night. We'd followed an Airstream into the campground earlier in the day, and now we discovered two more, one a 25' Safari (a guess!) and the other a relatively rare 30' with a slide-out. Four in the one Park almost constitutes an Airstream rally.
On their return, the sand-encrusted children all showered (such clean people!) and then settled down to making s'Mores, a North American delicacy that consists of a couple of Graham Crackers (biscuits to us English folk), some choclolate and some marshmallows roasted over the fire. Squidge the hot marshmallow between the biscuits with the chocolate and there you have it, s'Mores. We cheated a bit with some biscuits that already had a thick layer of chocolate on one side; much less messy of course.
I don't know much about the evening's shenanigans because I retired early and slept like a baby, hearing nothing until 6.30 the next morning. There was chatter late into the night and the sound of the air bed pump, apparently, until les enfants where rightly chastised by Mrs T. It doesn't help that so many campers seem to go to bed as soon as it gets dark, so the sound of three excitable girls and a cool, never excitable boy (ha ha), was going to be a major irritation to most of our neighbours. Anyway, I believe that they settled at about 2 am!
The morning promised an early start for me as I had to head back to town for another appointment at the employment place. How was day 2? Stay tuned to this channel, folks.
Time stop returning and return home!
We had an appointment in town in the afternoon so we were uncharacteristically early both in getting up and in getting packed away. Fortunately it was a fine morning, if a little cold for August, but the lack of precipitation was everything.
When we're without the tadpoles, everything just breezes along. We were packed and ready to hitch up in no time at all and, having said midday to leave, there we were, on the dot. We might have been earlier but our neighbour came over to see how things were going with the hitching up, surprised as he was at us connecting our little mini-van to our big caravan. I think that I like people asking questions, especially polite Canadians. This fellow listened, sucked his gums a bit, but resisted the temptation to say "how can you tow that with that?". I struggle a bit with people who tell me that it can't be done, is illegal or we're off out to kill ourselves and everyone who comes within half a mile of us, especially when the evidence is right there in front of them. Clearly it can be done, isn't illegal and we're not killing anyone, least of all ourselves, but it's difficult to shake some people's mistaken beliefs.
So, there we were heading back out onto the road in the sunshine, having enjoyed our first trip out for quite some time. As ever when we're towing, the wind was strong and in our faces, meaning that the car has to work that bit harder, but at least we only had a 40 minute drive. Back at the old homestead we backed onto the driveway with remarkable ease and started the unloading.
Next week we tackle the same trip, only this time with the tadpoles and their small fry friends - four kids - Argh! Watch this space to watch my hairline recede even further.
The wind had come around to the north and the air was definitely getting cooler. Sure the sky was blue and the sun rising high, but there was a need for a jacket when I walked the hound around the campground after her breakfast. It's been a cool summer, for these here parts anyway, and today was no exception.
We walked around to look at the Government Pier, the dock that juts out around a hundred metres into Rondeau bay. The ice this winter had been awful and had shifted all the upright supports to a jaunty angle and forced the park authorities to take up the buckled walkway and fence the area off. It's quite sad, really, because there's a great view to be had out there, and the kids love to jump into the bay from the dock, but there'll be none of that this year as the parks are broke and can't afford big repairs like that.
Our big event for the day was to go back into town again, Mrs T for a hair appointment and me to get some job applications finished off. I'd been working on an Android Tablet with a keyboard, but the word processing app was poor and I needed to get back to a proper computer to tidy things up. Call me controversial but I think that these tablets, including iPads, are really little more than toys.
Back with Towed Haul later in the day, Mrs T and I toured the campground, scoping out the individual sites and comparing trailers. It seems that nearly everyone has a dog with them when camping, and they nearly all appear, yapping and barking, as we walk Willow The Brave past. She is such a wimp, though, because even with the slightest of challenges from another dog, her tail slips between her legs and she tries to make herself invisible. She won't go near the big garbage dumpsters, either; afeared of raccoons, probably.
So, it's dozing in front of a video (again) and another early night. That said, I downloaded a couple of e-books on to my (earlier dismissed) Android Tablet and have enjoyed reading in bed without falling asleep after the first half paragraph. My current read is "Are we nearly there yet?" by Ben Hatch; funny, poignant but definitely not a manual on raising children!
We vow to get up earlier in the morning as it's packing up day and we need to be in town (again) for another appointment. Whether we actually get up earlier is another matter of course....
It was an early start for me this damp Tuesday morning, as I had to drive back into town for an appointment at the Goodwill Career Centre.
Prior to leaving, though, the hound and I splashed around the puddles on the campground and marveled at the hardy people who'd slept in tents overnight. Most tents here are not made to withstand any proper rain, with flimsy half-cover flysheets and groundsheets that don't extend up more than an inch. Lots of people rig big sheets of plastic up between the trees, making a rain-free area not only over their tents but their cooking and eating areas, too. Known as "Tarps" (short for tarpaulin I suppose), some are impressive in their coverage but a many are not hauled tight, gather huge amounts of water in them and sag all over the place. Much easier to have a proper waterproof tent and fly-sheet, but they don't come cheap.
The weather was closing in as I headed back to town and sure enough, the lightning, rain and hail was in full swing by the time I arrived home; typical camping weather I think.
Business concluded, I made my way back with some resumes and cover letters to write, arriving at the campground just in time for lunch and a little bit of sunshine. The forecast wasn't looking good but I set to, writing my (job) begging letters and relishing being outside whilst doing it, albeit under the awning.
Now the sun was out properly and folks were heading off to the beach, with no sign of the thunderstorms that had been promised. We hit the dog beach and, skirting around the newly fenced "Fowler's Toad" conservation area (a place very dear to our Toad hearts), we let the hound run free. She jumped into the waves (yes, the lake has waves), rubbed her neck on the beach-bound fish carcasses and generally went loopy. We had a paddle in the warm, if muddy looking, water as well. The peninsular, and the beach area, is 14 Km long and the dog beach is about half-way down it. Even on a busy day you'd be hard pressed to see more than a handful of people this far south and it's in this relative solitude that we love to let the hound run as we amble along the shoreline with just the birds (and toads) for company. It's idyllic is what it is.
Mrs Toad actually caught sight of one of the aforementioned Fowler's Toads, and it had strayed from its compound, too. It soon retreated to it's safety zone but it was good to see something that's high on the endangered list, clearly thriving behind its fence; let's hope that none of the birds of prey circling about caught sight of it.
The campground was about half full and it being midweek in August, there were plenty of kids and plenty of grandparents to be seen. There were lots of older trailers around, the sort borrowed from family members, the sort that make only a few trips out a year. I always wonder what those things are like inside; musty smelling and dark I imagine, but as they're always bursting with excited kids they're obviously great places to be!
It was only day two and already we were slipping in to camping mode; watch a video and doze, then go to bed early. That's early by our standards, which is still late for most people in these parts; when I walk the dog at around midnight, the campground is silent and mostly dark. As I slip into sleep, I can't help thinking how lucky we are to be here, enjoying the park and wishing that our little trip was longer.
More tomorrow, folks.
Following almost three months of summer inactivity (don't ask, it's a long and tedious tale), we finally hit the road again and dragged Towed Haul to Rondeau Provincial Park. I say dragged, but the Airstream may well have been water-skiing behind the Toadmobile, there was that much rain.
Monday morning saw warm and sunny weather as we packed our final bits and bobs into Towed Haul's interior and waved the Tadpoles off with their dear Papa as they went for an exciting break "oop north".
The rain started after lunch and down it came in a veritable summer deluge but, as luck would have it, eased off just in time for me to get out there and hitch the trailer to the car. Did I say it had eased off? I was lying. The rain started down again after I'd been out there a minute or two and just kept coming. Working quickly I soon became a Category II (Damp) Camper, and as we set off with the windows of the Toadmobile fogging dramatically, the watery stuff just became heavier and heavier.
Every pull away from a standing start had the front wheels spinning, the result of rain on the previously dry roads, but we enjoyed peering through the murk as we trundled through the corn and soya fields to the park.
At the park, I became a Category III (Quite Wet) Camper as I stood outside emptying the trailer's waste tanks and filling up the fresh water tank, before progressing to a Category IV (Really Wet) Camper as we backed into a tight and quite well waterlogged site. Mrs T soon joined me at a Category V (Soaking) Camper as we busied ourselves unhitching and setting up, before finally succumbing to a Category VI (Drowned Rat) Camper.
We deployed the awning in an attempt to provide some shelter whilst we worked but so much water was cascading off the corner that we sort of gave up and just wished more rain to complete the full power shower effect.
Once set up, though, and inside our little aluminium cottage, things started to look better, especially with the coffee on and wet clothes jettisoned. Sitting inside and looking at the rain coming down outside was far better than being outside, looking at the dry interior.
We ate, watched a video and had a drink, all the while watching the lightning flash in the sky through the uncovered skylights. It was a wild and stormy night that did, eventually, peter out enough to allow us to splash around the campsite in the dark whilst exercising the hound (her first mention today). I brought the awning in before retiring to my pit, it being a trifle fragile for these stormy conditions.
What would the morrow bring? Drowning? Electrocution? Crushed by falling trees? Read on, fair Toad fans, for all will be revealed in the next installment...
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
The Old Blog