So, our final day here in deepest Ohio. The weather's been good; warm and sunny, if a little cold at night, so no complaints there, and getting warmer each day. Even though we've not availed ourselves of the campground's facilities, I have to say that it's been a very good place to stay. Our site was on the lake, our neighbours were all pretty friendly and the services provided have been good. It's not really near anywhere, here, so other than for locals escaping the city or people like us have a need to be in Columbus, there's not much in the way of a reason to be here. It's the kind of place that we'd come back to, if we had a reason to be in the area.
Packing up went quite well, other than the process of dumping our waste holding tanks takes a little longer when using our handy-dandy "Sewer Solution" (Here's an eight minute video, if you're interested). It's a good system and works well for us as our waste valve is really low down and most sewer connections at campgrounds end up being sited higher than we are; pooh won't flow uphill so you have to have an alternative! This system will flow uphill, with the aid of the water feed, and can go some distance, too. It can also be used to flush the tanks out, so all in all it's pretty good way to do things, albeit that it's a little slower than a standard, gravity aided dump. But, even with the slow-poke Sewer Solution, we were all packed and ready to roll with a couple of hours to spare before official check-out time.
On the drive in when we arrived on Tuesday, I'd missed a turning notified by the SatNav; it was quite close to the campground so my failure wasn't a problem as the machine calculated a new route without us having to turn around. However, when we were going into Columbus on Wednesday, without Towed Haul, the SatNav took us down that same road that I'd missed before and it took us over a delightful, wooden, covered bridge. Very pretty except that the available headroom on the bridge was only 8'6" and the Airstream is 10' high - it was a good job I missed that turning on the way in! So, on this trip home, I ignored the SatNav instructions and avoided Chambers Road, not wishing to either damage a covered bridge or loose our air conditioner from the roof of the trailer!
The run up to Findlay and Interstate 75 was fine, just a few roadworks and very little traffic. Once on the main road to Detroit, though, it was an absolute nightmare. It wasn't that we were getting held up, but the entire section from Findlay to Toledo was under repair; that's 47 miles of cones, narrow lanes, speeding trucks and very bumpy roads. It was the same on the way down but somehow seemed worse on the way back. Around Toledo wasn't much better; urban motorways in the US are a bit scary at the best of times but many of the Bridges through Toledo are being replaced so it was a good 15 miles of construction sites to negotiate there. It's quite hard work navigating and towing a two and a half ton Airstream under those conditions so it was a welcome relief to stop at big Meijer's store on the Ohio/Michigan border for a rest and some lunch. We had planned to stop before getting to Toledo but the road construction and the forest of cones meant we couldn't turn off the I75 where we wanted to, but this break in the driving worked well for us; the parking lot was big and sparsely populated and there was a gas station there, too.
There's something immensely enjoyable about getting out of your car and into your own, private space when you're on a long trip. We had sandwiches from the fridge, cold drinks and, of course, a nice toilet at our disposal. Sometimes the towing thing can get irksome, but when you arrive at a big parking lot like that where there's plenty of space to stop, you can make full use of your private lunch area.
Gassed up and heading north again, the last leg up to Detroit went quite quickly, albeit that Michigan's roads are diabolical. It was a bit slow getting off the Interstate to get on the Bridge To Canada but in no time we were high above the Detroit River, $12.50CDN lighter for the privilege, and heading for Canadian customs. Me being me I managed to pick a line the that stopped dead whilst the officer in the booth clocked off and his or her replacement didn't show. We had to do a mid-queue line swap, with Mrs T negotiating with another driver so that we could change lanes. But, a few cursory questions from the border guard, and a passport check later and we were back in Canada and heading home.
All in all, that was a good trip. Road construction was a nightmare and made the drive much less enjoyable than it should have been, drivers in the US go way too fast, especially through construction zones and Michigan roads are a disgrace. On the plus side, though, Columbus was a pleasant and very clean city, both downtown and in the suburbs, and rural Ohio was most peaceful. It wasn't a big, long trip, either, with us getting home in around five hours, even with the stops.
The Toadmobile performed well, with the higher octane gas returning 17.6 litres per hundred kilometres, which in old money is 13.4 miles to the US gallon, or 16.1 miles to the Imperial gallon. Good figures and consistent, especially as that's just about identical to the fuel consumption on our last run out to Alliston.
I'm not sure when our next expedition will be but I think it'll be a weekend after the schools have started again. Still, that gives us time to clean Towed Haul up again, and will give us something to look forward to once work starts up again.
Until next time, happy travels!
The morning starts get slower and slower and this time I think it's down to the small Tadpole. Being a teenager means that your body clock resets and you can't open your eyes much before noon. Oh well, we are on our holidays.
The day was geared around the young 'un, with a trip planned to Easton Town Center, out to the east of Columbus. Easton, I discovered, is like Bicester Village on steroids. It's a vast complex of shops, posh shops mostly, in a manufactured mini-town. There are streets with cars (mostly parked at meters, but that's the idea) lined with these posh outlets, but there are also plenty of pedestrian only areas, including one part of the complex that is under cover. The cars actually don't cause a problem because they're moving at a snail's pace and are obliged to stop at the hundreds of pedestrian crossings. I think that they allow cars in so that people can park close to the shops, but most ordinary folk just use the one of the big multi-story places around the outside (I'll come back to the car parking later). The complex also has a lot of places to eat; they're not cheap but you'd not starve on a day long shopping expedition.
Wide-eyed and slightly in awe of the place, the small Tadpole moved from one "Brand name" shop to the next, enjoying it I think, but being quite disappointed at the cost of most of the merchandise. There were plenty of places for the weary, or the just plain bored, husbands and parents to sit whilst their more shopping-addicted family and friends set about enjoying their day. I sat watching the people wander by most of the time (how can you spend so long in a shop?) and found the day to be quite pleasant.
The young 'un did eventually find an affordable clothes store and bought a few bits and bobs. This being the USA, she found a Bible verse in the bottom of her carrier bag, which was interesting. The owners of Forever 21 are, apparently, quite religious; I'm not sure where religion and shopping meet but hey, live and let live.
Mrs Toad and I are not shoppers but we suffered the jaunt quietly and were both quite pleased to see the back the place when it came time to leave. Here's where I come back to the parking. Apart from the interior of the "Garage", as they're known here, being painted white (a great move to reduce dinginess), we noticed the sophisticated system of getting people in and to a vacant space; lots of red or green lights above the parking bays and a little destination boards pointing you to the aisles with spaces free. I'm sure I've seen something like it before but this was all swept up pretty darned smart!
A point about Easton Town Center that applies equally to Columbus and it's environs is that it's very clean and tidy. The city elders clearly have a plan!
So, departing the retail equivalent of Mecca (which wasn't so easy as it was rush hour), we went west again and over to the Olive Tree Restaurant, the one we'd been to the day before. It may sound a bit mad to drive that distance, twice, but when there's a comprehensive menu of vegan dishes, you don't necessarily need to go anywhere else. Mrs T had a big bowl of something with carrots and potatoes in it and I had the (non-vegan) grilled salmon and rice; it was worth the run over there, especially as it wasn't particularly expensive, at least not in US dollars - the US/Canadian exchange rate will make it a bit a pricier for us when we come to pay the credit card bill.
We headed back to the campground after eating, albeit via a gas station and some frozen yoghurt place that the small Tadpole wanted to visit. The evening was marred, somewhat, by a bit of stupidity from the young 'un's boyfriend. No details, but she was upset and it put a dampener on the day.
Still, I sat outside Towed Haul in the dimpsy evening light, watching the bats zoom over the lake collecting their supper. It was idyllic, apart from the biting bugs which forced me back indoors. That's camping.
Tomorrow is departure day so just the business of breaking camp to be concerned about. It's not a long run home but Mrs T wants and early start - we shall see!
Yes, we're on the road again. This time it's to the town on Sunbury, Ohio, some thirty minutes north of Columbus. Our mission is to get the small Tadpole to a show by her favourite Youtuber, Miranda Sings (actually a very talented actress called Colleen Evans). We thought we'd make a trip of it and checked into the Autumn Lakes Family Campground, which I have to say is very pleasant indeed.
We set off in good weather and made for Windsor and the bridge to the USA. Almost immediately we were into a road construction zone and, whilst it didn't really hold us up, little did we know that this was going to set the trend for the day. We did get held up approaching the bridge, and of course at the border, although neither hold up was significant. The border guard wanted to see the ownership paperwork for the Airstream, which we couldn't find. She sent us on our way with a merry wave, though, and the words "you could get impounded without the ownership papers". Happy days!
It cost us US $10 to cross the bridge (what happened to the $3 dollars we paid at the Bluewater Bridge on Sunday?), then hit the I75 southbound in sunny Michigan. It's never been a great road but with the State of Michigan having significant money troubles, it was even worse than I remembered, although the section down to the Ohio border was peppered with construction zones so I guess improvement is on the way. I'm not sure that such a vital trade route for both the USA and Canada should be left to the State of Michigan to patch, patch and re-patch, perhaps the Interstates should be Federally funded?
The roads did improve in Ohio but all round Toledo it was a construction zone and then, from Toledo to Findlay, where we were turning off the I75, it was one long construction zone. I'm only observing, rather than complaining, as it means improvements for the future, but we pretty much bounced all the way down that Interstate.
Having dined on Walmart's finest (we don't carry food across the border, it's fraught with problems), and re-fuelled, we made for Columbus using a good highway, but which wasn't an Interstate. Much of that was a construction zone as well, but the traffic was much lighter, moving well and at something less than the perilous speeds maintained on the Interstate. It's very flat in that part of Ohio, not unlike our part of Ontario, but there were more trees about and the place looked green and pleasant.
The last section of the run was across country, through rich farmland and cozy little towns. It wasn't quite as flat, either, which added to the enjoyment of the drive. It's when we do these cross-country sections that I thank my lucky stars for the SatNav. I always poured scorn on them when in the UK; I knew the geography in the south of England pretty well and never felt the need of one. Here, though, in unfamiliar territory, it's been an absolute boon, especially as North American roads will rarely have a signpost telling you where a particular road is going. It'll tell you the name and/or number of the road, but seeing a sign that tells you the towns and their respective distances is rare. I don't think I appreciated the comprehensive signage in the UK until I came here.
Directions aside, we arrived at the Autumn Lakes Family Campground in good time. I paid for the site in cash, which is rare, and had to give the clerk $10 back as she'd given me too much change. I'm as honest as the day is long, me.
Our site borders the campground's fishing lake and, although it's not large, has a little gravel patio area and, most important of all, full hookups. That's electricity, water and sewer. No using the Comfort Station on this trip!
Having set up we needed to head off site to get some supplies in (no food across the border, remember) and to eat. We made our way into the little town on Sunbury and spent a few minutes driving around looking for the big Kroger's store. It was odd that we didn't see it immediately because it's pretty big, but we were all looking the wrong way as we drove past it the first time. Anyway, getting over our disappointment that it wasn't a Wegman's store, they're mostly in Upstate New York, we did warm to the place because it was a pretty good shop with a wide selection of goodies. What it did have, and what will pique our Ontarian friends, was booze; beer, wine and spirits, on sale on the main shop floor. I know there are moves afoot to get Ontario grocery stores suitably licensed but some of the more puritanical elements there seem to be holding sway and the Provincial Government doesn't have the balls to brush them aside. Ontario's Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne needs to get down into this very God-fearing part of Ohio and see that the streets are not awash with drunks just because the grocery stores sell booze. Stop chasing the puritan vote, Kathleen!
Anyway, enough topical comment. We dined in a "family restaurant" that had no problem creating Mrs T a vegan pizza. The fragrant server (and she was fragrant, as Mrs T insisted on checking out) did a sterling job and was given a generous tip for her efforts.
Back at the campground, we worked out how to get the reasonably good Internet service working (it's not free and that makes it so much more effective) and we three spent the remainder of the evening buried in the World Wide Web, social creatures that we are.
Wednesday is Miranda Day, so we hit the sack in good time. The distinct lack of a dog on this trip is keeping the atmosphere calm and I anticipate a good night's sleep. Catch y'all tomorrow, as they say in these parts.
Day four dawned, as chilly as the other days, but with us both either getting used to the hound being on the bed or enjoying the fact that she wasn't on the bed for much of the night. I wouldn't describe us as perky, but we were better than we had been on previous mornings. Again I fired up the heating, but only for a few minutes, just to speed us along.
Given a heroic effort of the part of Mrs T, the fresh water tank on board was looking sufficiently healthy that we decided that I could use the the in-house facilities rather than heading off to the shower block, which was nice. I don't mind the Park provided services but it's good to be able to use your own from time to time. Our next camping trip will see us hooked up to both water and sewer, so I can shower all I like inside the Airstream, which will also be nice.
Packing up days generally follow the same pattern; a slow breakfast, a slow morning and a slow pack-up process. The day's weather was looking good so the awning went away dry, as did the big patio mat and door mat, which makes a change. We're both quite used to the process now so it all goes along quite nicely and I was ready to hitch up well ahead of check-out time. This pitch had been unusual in that rather than back onto it, the position of the fire pit and the electricity pillar meant that I had to tow the trailer on with the car in front. There was certainly plenty of room to unhitch and back out off the site so it wasn't any great problem; today, then, I had to drive the car onto the site, hitch up and back the Airstream off the site. There's a first time for everything, I suppose. Having said that, when we were staying at a campground near New Orleans, I did reverse off the pitch there, the difference was that I didn't have to; I was just making a bee-line for the dump station which was 30 yards to the rear of the trailer in a dead straight line!
This morning, we trundled around to the Park's dump station, which was hidden cunningly in the woods, and discharged the tanks. We've learned to put a pit of water back into the waste tanks when we're done, add the enzyme-based cleaning stuff and let it all slosh around on the trip back. It dislodges solids and helps keep the tank and its sensors in good working order. We always have to visit the dump station before we camp so we just discharge then and have a clean, or relatively clean, pair of tanks to start filling again. We learn as we go along.
The trip back was good, our gas mileage looking quite respectable until I was on the final leg and zooming down the highway at 70mph, rather than my normal, sedate and legal 62. We were still above 13 miles to the US Gallon (16 miles to the imperial gallon), which is quite good for a car that everyone says is too feeble to tow a two-and-a-half ton Airstream. There are plenty of vehicles here that would struggle to maintain that mileage without towing anything, so I'm quite pleased. Of course, we were still on the higher octane fuel so I think that might have something to do with the good figures.
So, back home safely and a quick review of the trip reveals a total towing distance of 666 Km, and two tanks of gas used. We decided that we liked Earl Rowe, even if we didn't use a lot of its facilities, including the big outdoor pool. The pitches were big and well separated from their neighbours, and all had good grass coverage. I know that grass, particularly when wet, isn't always your best friend when trying to get on and off it, but it does look nice, especially as everywhere was kept reasonably neat and tidy. My only complaint was the noisy neighbours, but then there's not a lot that the Park can do about that.
We are off again soon, and slightly further afield, so please watch this space.
Another dog-infested night, and a cold one, led to sleep deprivation again. It wasn't a sleepless night or anything, just broken sleep as the hound fidgets about. We’d left the bedroom windows open, too, and with early morning temperatures of around 10C, that probably wasn’t wise. Still, nothing on the agenda for today so no harm done.
A long hot shower was followed by some breakfast, some blogging and much lazing about. It’s really nice to be away but without having anything specific to do.
Eventually we decided upon a trip out into Alliston, with a view getting some more bug repellent, and then onto the town of Barrie, on the shore of Lake Simcoe, just because we’d never been there. Alliston turned out to be an affluent little town complete with a strip mall and a busy Main Street. Whereas Chatham’s Main Street is all but dead, Alliston’s was positively vibrant. It’s due, I think, to being within an hour or so of Toronto, and the presence of a humungous Honda car plant just down the road; work is everything.
Having stocked up on goodies at The Bulk Barn, we drove to Barrie. A section of the trip took us on Highway 400, the original Ontario motorway; like the M1 for my English readers. Also like the M1, the traffic was stationary, at least on the southbound side, so we thought it best to use alternative route on the way back. Thank goodness for not having to be somewhere.
Barrie itself is a nice little town. It fronts Lake Simcoe, quite a large body of water to the north of Toronto. Barrie was once quite industrial but the harbour is now fronted with high-rise apartment blocks rather than factories and warehouses. Lake Simcoe isn’t part of the Great Lakes chain, or the St Lawrence Seaway, so it was never going to be a port like Hamilton on Lake Ontario or Montreal on the St Lawrence. It does form part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, though, a series of canals linking Trenton on the St Lawrence with Port Severn on Georgian Bay. It was, at one time, the only route for ships to get past the Niagara Falls that sit between lakes Ontario and Erie, and onto lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan, so Barrie could have been a bigger port than it actually became. However, the Welland Canal, directly by-passing Niagara Falls, was built before the Trent-Severn was able to get a hold and Barrie become more of a backwater quite quickly. The Trent-Severn system is now for pleasure craft, and Barrie’s harbour, now a Marina, was stuffed full of such boats; sleek and expensive-looking they were, too.
We had a stroll down the boardwalk onto on towards the beach, which was very nice and very empty. It being midweek and the somewhat unsettled weather had combined to make it look deserted. Talking of unsettled weather, as we walked the showers began, so our run into Barrie was curtailed a little.
We made our way back to Alliston via Borden which is, like the Borden in England (or was that Bordon?), a Garrison Town. I’m not sure why it’s located there but there’s still a big, active military base.
Back in Alliston, we singularly failed to get any fresh bug repellent supplies, probably because even though it’s still only the first week in August, the shops have either run out of it or are clearing their shelves for their Autumn lines. It seems to be a feature here that you have to stock up on seasonal goods at least two months before you actually need them because if you don’t, they’re simply not available at the appropriate time. It’s hard to buy winter clothes in February, the coldest month, because all the warm clothes have had to make way for the spring stuff. Retail madness. Tsk.
By way of recompense, to ourselves of course, we stopped at Just Judy’s chip truck, just down the road from the Park’s gate. It was going to be Just Chips, but I was talked into the accompanying cod, so that was either a late lunch or an early supper. The chips very good, by the way.
To follow our lazy morning, we had a lazy evening. Normal activities were slightly curtailed when we were informed that we’d racked up some “overage” charges on our mobile Internet deal, so tooling around on Facebook was no longer deemed economically viable. The reason we’d gone over our download limit was that I’d connected up my laptop and in one day, or rather an hour or two, had used up half of our monthly allowance. I hadn’t been doing much on the laptop but I’d guess that Windows had decided to do a heap of updates, no doubt in preparation for the imminent Windows 10 upgrade. Whilst it’s probably good to put Facebook and other Internet things down when camping, it’s frustrating to think that our provider, Rogers, gets a good deal from us as through ten months of the year we get nowhere near our monthly allowance, but during the camping months we go over by a small amount and get dicked for charges. It’s not right I tell you (moan, moan, moan).
We also had a system failure with the DVD player in that it refused to link to the TV. It’s a car-based system, built into the Airstream, and whilst I was able to check connections at either end of things, cables buried in the workings of the trailer are inaccessible. I don’t know if it’s the TV, the player or the cabling that’s at fault. All I know is that it was reading time last night and not DVD time! Like the Internet, though, we shouldn’t be watching TV when camping. That said, I may just pick a cheap HDMI cable today so that we can link the laptop to the TV and play DVDs through that. It’s the electronic age, eh?
And so to bed. Another cool evening and we’ll no doubt get dogged in the night, but it is very peaceful here. Peaceful except for the people on site who insist on having very loud conversations in the road and burn very powerful electric lights on their site that illuminate the entire corner of this campground. Tut. Mind you, they were dragging fallen branches out of the woods to build a fire, too, and that’s a complete no-no at Provincial Parks. Bad people!
We do have an agenda for tomorrow so, if it’s not too boring, keep an eye out for Earl Rowe – Day Three.
PS Because of the limitations on our Internet access, this may not get published until we get home. *sad face*
We'll skip past the bit about the dog on the bed, suffice it to say that we're considering putting her in the kennels next time.
Anyway, another cold morning at Earl Rowe. Cold enough, in fact, to put the heating on for a few minutes to take the edge off things. It was warming rapidly outside but that aluminium construction that Airstream is so proud of doesn't do you many favours when it gets cold. Still, that's what the furnace is for, even if it is the first week in August.
I noticed that our noisy neighbours, who'd been illuminating the campground with their own personal floodlight, still had it burning at 9.30 in the morning. They're a couple with a boy aged about nine or ten and I think they're trying very hard to do the camping thing for the child, but I'm not sure that they're natural campers. Their tent was a tad flimsy and not at all well put up; the fly-sheet was incorrectly fitted and exposed a fair bit of the mesh roof of the tent and, given that it was a very dewy night, I'd imagine that they were getting a little damp inside. I did wonder if I should offer to help but I'm not so sure that I'd have been welcomed; I guess you have to learn these things bit by bit. The kid seemed to be having a good time, though, so I'm sure his parents thought that sleeping on the ground in a damp tent was worth all the pain and suffering.
We had a plan this fine morning, and that was to motor northwards to the historical site of Sainte-Marie-Among-The-Hurons. (Click here to see the official website). It's the site of a very early settlement in New France where French Jesuit missionaries set up a base to work with the local Wendat tribe. I say "work" but I mean convert and trade, of course.
We'd decided to avoid the motorway, having seen the density of traffic yesterday, so had a meandering journey up to the town of Midland, on the south edge of Georgian Bay. It's not a fast run when you go across country but you do get to see, and to appreciate, the countryside. The roads are mostly arrow-straight and the terrain reasonably hilly, but the views across to the Niagara Escarpment over in the west were excellent once we'd attained some height. The field divisions are a bit smaller here, I guess because it's not all flat like in Chatham, and the array of crops was a little broader than the usual cash crops of Corn and Beans (that's Maize and Soya).
We did pass a zoo on the way, one where a lot of the animals were out grazing in big enclosures. It was quite odd to see animals like Zebra and Giraffe in a field in Ontario, but it made the trip a little more interesting.
On arriving at Sainte-Marie, we were struck immediately by the Quebec flags everywhere and realised, of course, that this site was more significant to the people of Quebec, and Francophones in general, than to us non-French types. Indeed, there were many Francophones to be heard enjoying the site; it was almost like being back in Quebec.
Because the site is largely outdoors, we were able to bring the hound with us. She was only restricted from access to the museum and the restaurant, which meant that she trailed around with us and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells (particularly the smells) on offer.
Sainte-Marie isn't a direct reconstruction of the original but it does have buildings, reproduced faithfully in every respect, that may have been on the site when it was first established. It also has a lot of university aged students working there, dressed in character and offering interpretation and demonstrations of some of the things that the original inhabitants may be been busy with. I've said it before but North Americans do history really well. All the buildings were constructed, as far as possible, as the originals would have been, complete with wooden hinges and hand-worked beams. There was no lighting in any of the buildings and, in a lot of them, there were log fires burning (gently - it is August) in the grates or in pits outside. The dog was a bit spooked by the darkness in the buildings but was very interested in the fires, especially where meat had obviously been prepared earlier in the day.
There were small amounts of corn and beans (runners in this case) being grown on site, along with squashes and herbs. There were chickens in the chicken run, pigs in the sty and cows in the enclosure; all very authentic.
My favourite buildings were the two native Longhouses, replicas of those used by the Wendat. You have to see the size of these things to appreciate them and, whilst they had benches inside for visitors to hear lectures, they were pretty much as they would have been, complete with a fire burning in the middle and the smoke drifting around in the roof before it made its way out of the hole in the roof. Wonderful!
The hound behaved, we saw all that we needed to see, albeit that Mrs T was limited to a very quick spin around the museum, and we left the place feeling very content. It cost $12 each to get in and I think that was quite reasonable; run by the Federal Government, you see, not by someone requiring a profit.
Before making our way back to Earl Rowe, we did take a diversion to the town of Penetanguishene, just over the hill from Midland. We'd been there a year or two back and enjoyed a cruise around some of the islands in Georgian Bay, so we thought we'd go and have another look. The old cruise boat, the Georgian Queen (an eighty-year old tug and icebreaker), had been replaced by a fake paddle steamer (The Georgian Queen was up for sale, apparently, but I couldn't find out what had happened to it), which was a shame, but it was nice to stand on the dock and feel the wind blow in on a warm and sunny afternoon.
The same slow run home was just as pleasant and we settled into a home cooked meal back at Towed Haul. The evening was getting cold again so we sat in and read, which was nice.
Day four is to be packing up day, so our plans were more or less set. We sorted the hound out before we went to bed and she was not on the bed as we settled in - you'll have to read tomorrow's entry to see how we fared in the night!
The Toads are on the road again, this time heading to Earl Rowe Provincial Park in Alliston, Ontario. It’s 333Km from home, according to Google Maps, which makes it relatively local.
Yes, I know that we’ve just returned from the swamps of Rondeau but this trip was initiated by the need to get the Tadpoles up to their father’s place in Collingwood and Mrs Toad’s desire to make sure they arrived safely. We’re not normally so generous to the man, that is, running the little ones up on a four hour trip at our expense, but we saw the opportunity of delivering them under our control and getting some Tadpole-free camping at a new to us Park, so plans were made.
Because we were already in Camping Mode, Towed Haul required very little preparation, other than a good clean, so it no time we found ourselves rolling off the driveway at home and onto the open road. That said, I and the lady in the Satnav had decided to take an alternative route to the highway and that really spooked the big Tadpole as he thought he was being kidnapped.
There are three grades of Gasoline here in Canada; Regular Unleaded, Super (I think), and Premium. The octane content gets higher with each grade, as does the price. I mention this because I decided to opt for a higher octane type when re-filling, just to see if it made any difference to the gas mileage. Unsubstantiated stories from other Airstreamers had told that it was worth the extra money and I was keen to try it out, so a tankful of Super was added to the Toadmobile and I watched both the consumption figure on the trip computer, and the good old fashioned fuel gauge, with extra interest. When we’re towing we can go about 250Km at full highway speed before needing to fill up so that was going to be a good marker.
The run up the highway towards Toronto was uneventful; the weather was fine, the wind not too bad (not against us, for a change) and the traffic was light (it was a national holiday and the trucks were thin on the ground). We’d planned a lunch stop at the Cambridge Service Centre and apart from being unnecessarily excited about getting parked in an RV Only parking slot there, the gas consumption figures had me smiling. Based on the consumption thus far, I reckoned that we could comfortably go about 375Km on this tankful of gas, and certainly we’d make it to Earl Rowe without filling up again. Now, how much of that improvement on the mileage was down to the better gas and how much was down to the wind conditions, I shall never know, but we did set off for the second and final leg of the trip without topping off the gas tank.
The stop also gave us a chance to do that caravan/trailer thing where you go into your little mobile house, use the facilities and sit down to lunch. It feels almost deviant to do it but, when all’s said and done, you might as well make the most the thing you’re lugging around behind you.
Back on the road, we negotiated Highway 407, the toll road, then made our way up to Brampton on the 410 where we turned off and allowed the lady in the Satnav to guide us across country to Earl Rowe. The roads out in the country are every bit a grid-like as those in the towns so you end up driving an arrow straight road before turning left or right at a junction, driving along another straight road and turning at another junction; on a map, the route looks like a squared off graph. At least on the country roads there was a bit of scenery to see, as well as some hills, both up and down. Hills are an oddity when you come from Chatham, where the land rivals that of a good billiard table, so it’s always quite good to do some “uppiny and downiny” driving.
Then we had arrived, still will some gas in the tank. We dumped out Towed Haul’s waste tanks (we travel with some water in the tanks, which gets sloshed around on the trip, then dump it on arrival), filled up with fresh water and made for our site, number 206 on Fletcher Field. It’s a nice looking park with a man-made lake and a couple of beaches, and was much to chagrin of the Tadpoles who were about to be whisked off for a week of “fun” with their dad. The camping area had a metalled road and the sites were all grass-covered with trees separating each one. We arrived at 206 and had a little debate about where to park on the site when it occurred to us that instead of backing in, as is the norm, we were going to have to drive in car first. It wasn’t a “pull-through” site so when unhitched I had to go forward a little then reverse back past the trailer and park between the back of Towed Haul and the access road. A curious state of affairs but, given that the site was big, certainly posed no problems. Indeed, as I walked with the hound later in the evening, quite a lot of other trailers had been parked sharp end in first. Actually, as a camper I can feel myself full of curiosity and wonderment about such details, but you non-caravan folk must find it all crushingly dull!
So, set up and settled in, we passed the Tadpoles off to their dad. Mrs T prepared the evening meal and I walked the dog. As is often the case, I spoke to some of my fellow campers and had a little gander at the other trailers on site. The campground was tidy, the pitches large and the Park as a whole seemed to have lots to keep us from even going out of the gate.
A couple of pints of beer and a snooze on the sofa later, we made for bed at an early hour. The hound was being a bit anxious again and we knew that occupation of the bed was going to be an issue. Still, the weather was a bit cooler and the presence of a 70lb dog wasn’t going to be so critical.
What to do tomorrow? Rain’s forecast so excursions will be limited. Tune in later and see what we did (or didn’t) do.
Oh my, what a much improved night on the previous two! It helped that the temperature was down a bit but the lack of a dog was probably the clincher.
We'd brought in the awning just before we went to bed as the wind was up and lifting the darned thing up and down. ZipDee awnings are very nice, very expensive but not too brilliant in the wind. The arms that hold it up are aluminium and necessarily have bends and and holes in them. This makes them a touch on the feeble side when things get blowy and, as any good Airstream owner will tell you, they're best brought in to save any catastrophic damage. I think the people who design these things only ever camp at the height of summer in the most benign places; in the real world, awning supports need to be a bit stronger. Still, the awning does roll up nicely, is pole-free and is transported safely on the outside of the trailer, all good plus points when camping.
So, a good night's sleep was followed by a leisurely breakfast and a slow pack up of the site. The sun was creeping up, as was the temperature, so the good Mrs T swept the inside of the tent after I'd removed all the gear. The fly-sheet was still a little wet but we hauled it off, gave it a shake and put it to dry in the sun. Actually dismantling the tent is quite easy and in no time at all I was folding in the floor, exposing a section at a time to the sun and brushing it off as it dried. I must have looked quite fussy getting it all brushed and folded so neatly but it's such a rare thing to be able to do that; it's normally pouring with rain at this point in the proceedings.
I've said before that the lack of tadpoles makes the whole camping atmosphere so much less stressful. We had Towed Haul secure and everything stowed in the car in double-quick time without their "help" and were hitched and heading to the dump station well ahead of schedule. Not that we have a schedule really, but we're supposed to be off the site by 2pm.
Talking of vacating the site, how is it that new campers can be arriving on site at 11.30 in the morning and yet you don't have to be off the site until 2pm? I've never had anyone sitting waiting for us to vacate a site but I'm equally sure that if I tried to get onto a site before 2pm I'd be sent on my way. If anyone from the Parks organization is reading this, perhaps they can enlighten me?
Of course getting moving relatively early was a good thing in order minimize the bug-fest. I was trying to get the hitch sorted out and was being bitten to bits as I worked, and the air temperature was rising sharply, too. I love the warm weather but it's sometimes difficult to work in.
So, hitched and rolling, we made our way out to dump the tanks (such a sweet-smelling task in the current weather) and to make our way home. The wind had really picked up, unnoticed by us in the wooded campground, and I could feel the trailer being resisted by it was we drove northwards towards Chatham. People talk about coping with steep hills when towing but it's wind-resistance that's the real killer; trying to drive for hours at a time into a strong headwind really tests the mettle of the tow vehicle. The fuel consumption rates gave the game away as it was running at about 20 litres per 100Km when we'd normally be at 17 or 18. Still, it's not a long run home so no real issue there.
Back on the driveway, we set about clearing things out in preparation for the next trip. Sometimes this camping lark can seem to be quite a lot of work, but when you've reached your destination and are sipping beer in some quiet country campground, all the effort is worthwhile. That said, this years crop of biting bugs at Rondeau really took the shine off this visit.
We're off again soon, slightly further afield this time. Watch this space if you'd like to see how we fare.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
The Old Blog