It's not often we book weekends in advance and then get glorious weather, but this time we hit the jackpot. It's been warm this past week but the forecast for our last camping trip of the year, to Rondeau Provincial Park, was for 30C and wall to wall sunshine and do you know what? The forecasters had it right!
We'd packed Towed Haul over a few days, a bit here and a bit there, because we knew that Friday afternoons are always hectic. Even though I managed to get home a bit earlier than expected, we both had that nagging feeling that there was something, or rather quite a lot of things, that we hadn't done. However, we had done everything and all we had to do was to hitch up and roll off the driveway. Mind you, it was so hot, 30C and more, which was really strange for September 22nd.
The run down to Rondeau is always an easy one, especially when the weather's good. Towed Haul's waste tanks were empty so, for a change, I filled the fresh water tank at home rather than wait until we arrived at the camp ground. It adds a lot of weight to the trailer, but for such a short trip I wasn't too concerned; the gas mileage was awful by our usual standards, but still bobbled around 12 miles to the US gallon (14 miles to the Imperial gallon), which is not too bad. Yes, I know, that does sound dreadful but when you consider that a lot of vehicles here don't do much better than that when they're not towing, I thinks it's OK.
The campground office was open when we arrived, which was another surprise because they don't normally man it after Labour Day. However, the fine weather had resulted in a rush of bookings, I was informed, so the park people felt they could pay someone to deal with the extra traffic. We were on site 49, flat, grassy and fairly large and one we'd been on at the start of the 2016 season. A nice easy back in and we were up and running by 5.30pm, some sort of record for us on a weekend.
We sat out under the awning for our supper, reveling in the relative heat. It's always a bit cooler down there by the lake but 25C at six in the evening was very respectable. We cracked open some craft beer and wound down slowly as the light faded. It wasn't particularly buggy when we arrived but as the temperature slipped a little we had to break out the bug repelling lanterns. Still we sat out until the darkness was complete, and retired inside. Here, good readers, I have to own up to completely crashing out at 9pm. We just did the washing up, walked the dog and fell into bed at that oh so early hour, which is almost unheard of for me.
OK, so I did wake up at 4.30am, but that was still seven and a half hours uninterrupted kip, which I clearly needed. I didn't think I'd get back to sleep, but it was 7.30 when I awoke again and my back was telling me that over nine hours sleep was enough. Anyway, the hound was in my face so it was almost certainly feeding time for her.
Being close to the lake, the air was so moist in the morning that all the paper in the trailer had gone soggy and everything outside, even under the awning, was covered in dew. A very nice morning but a little wet underfoot when the hound decides to dive into the undergrowth at regular intervals.
We then had a curious morning where, without washing, we jumped into the car and headed home to watch the football on TV. A delightful 4-0 win over Stoke City was followed by a dip in the pool (26C), a warm shower and then a trip out to buy some groceries and a fridge! Oh, and we had lunch out, too, which was nice. It may seem odd to come home when we're away for the weekend, but we were able to shower in comfort, do some essential chores and we were still back down at the campground by four in the afternoon. Sitting under the awning again, we enjoyed the end of another hot day with some excellent food and another bottle of fine craft beer. I could feel my batteries recharging nicely.
When I took the dog out, before bed, I took the opportunity the look at the stars, there being very little light pollution down by the lake. I think it should be compulsory for everyone to head out of town occasionally, just to get a proper look at the stars, they were glorious.
We pushed it a bit and stayed up until 9.30 this time, and then clocked up another nine hours of sleep, which really has to be a very good thing.
Sunday started at Saturday had ended with high temperatures and everything coated in dew. Unusually, there was not an early morning exodus from the camp ground, I'm sure because the weather was so good. We rarely head out before 2pm so settled into an al fresco breakfast and yet more relaxation. The hound was quite well behaved this trip, too. She shares our bed but seems to have worked out that she should stay at the foot, and that was one of the reasons for the sleep bonus this weekend I think. She doesn't sleep during the day when we're camping but she sat on her outside bed, in the shade, and quietly watched the world go by. A restful dog makes for happy campers.
It was almost a shame to have to pack up to come home, but reality always intrudes on a Sunday. Still, lunch of fruit pie, cinnamon buns and crisps was a real luxury before we left. Of course, it being the middle of the day when we were hitching up meant that it was very sweaty work. It was even worse when we backed up onto the driveway at home and started to clear Towed Haul of the weekend's detritus, but that's where the still open pool came in handy; it's a great way to cool down.
So, that's the last trip of the year, and the best weather of the year. We haven't been out camping much this year, but I can think of worse ways to wind up the season.
It's not often we get a child and dog free weekend, but last week we had just that.
Knackered from some heavyweight working at the bus yard, we packed up Towed Haul and headed east to St Marys, or to be specific, Science Hill Country Club for a couple of days R&R. It's actually a golf course, reclaimed I think from agricultural land, that has a rather nice full hookup camp ground.
Because it's a bit out of the way, Science Hill is rarely busy. The sites are neat and grass covered and, while you're quite close to your neighbours, the tall trees do give you feeling of being in the woods, albeit a very well tended wood. Anyway, this trip we weren't planning on being at the campground much.
We've visited before and now, as then, we were struck by the lovely, informal manner of the owners; the "park anywhere" instruction was nice to receive. The $40 per night charge was also very encouraging.
Our run up there was uneventful, which is always good, even if the lady in the SatNav took us a quite unusual route north of London. That was no problem, of course, as we just dawdled along and enjoyed the evening drive through the Southern Ontario landscape. It's beans and corn in the fields, so it was a two hour drive through the ripening greenery; very bucolic.
The Toadmobile seemed to be a bit heavy on the fuel, as it was on our last trip. I'm not sure why that should be as the wind was fairly light and there were precious few hills to climb. We had new tires fitted to the Airstream and that's about the only change we've made; perhaps I need to investigate some more.
We arrived a little later than we'd hoped, picked a site and unhitched. The only problem was that we'd not levelled Towed Haul from side to side and she was on a bit of a tilt. There was no option but to hitch up again so we could drag the old girl up onto the plastic Lego blocks we keep for such instances. Even seasoned campers like us get it wrong sometimes, eh?
So, once levelled, we settled into our traditional first evening meal of vegan Gumbo, washed down with some Chatham craft beer; all very civilized. We did fire up the BluRay player but I think I fell asleep quite quickly so only managed to see about three of the Magnificent Seven.
Saturday dawned, quite late for us thanks to the handy dandy covers Mrs Toad had stitched and Velcro'd to the underside of the Fantastic Fans, and a dog-free night. I couldn't quite face breakfast outside under the awning as it was so cozy inside with the sunshine streaming in, so we ate indoors and revelled in being able to use the shower in the trailer as we knew we could dump the waste tanks without moving her, what with the sewer connection and all.
Saturday morning and early afternoon was spent browsing and lunching in Stratford, enjoying a particularly nice meal at Keystone Alley, a new restaurant just off the town's main square. Home of the famous Stratford Theatre Festival, the place was fair buzzing with visitors and it all seemed quite vibrant in the summer sunshine.
Our evening's entertainment was to be at a theatre, but this was in the small town of Blyth, about an hour north of Stratford. Blyth, too, has an annual theatre festival but it's not nearly on the same scale as Stratford. The town's little playhouse puts on a season of plays each summer and they attract visitors from all over Canada. The theatre's company is professional but the entire event is not-for-profit and has a lovely small town feel. We had a fabulous evening in the tiny, but perfectly formed, theatre, watching a play called Ipperwash, a story about real events around a First Nations stand off near Sarnia a few years ago. I'm not sure that I fully "got it", but it's always nice to have a cultural evening every now and again.
Driving back to Science Hill in the dark was fun, and I'm very grateful that we have a SatNav, because even in the daylight, one field of corn looks very like the next. We did pass through Brussels and Dublin (complete with The Liffey Drain) on the way, though, which was exciting.
Sunday was cooler and we did the sum of bugger all in the morning before packing up to leave. We did get to use the rather excellent Sewer Solution to drain our waste tanks. Essentially, you connect it up to the trailer, the sewer and to a water source. You open up the valve to the poo tank and the water supply sends a narrow jet into a chamber where the solids get mashed to bits and sent down a two inch hose to the sewer. It's slower than just using the usual 'slinky' pipe but it has the advantage of working up gentle slopes, rendering gravity unnecessary in the waste disposal process; handy when our waste tanks are so low down.
Our return trip to Chatham was a nice run across country again, although a different route again thanks to Mrs SatNav. The ToadMobile was much better on fuel this time, so it must have been all downhill or something. We're still a bit heavy on gas but getting better.
We'll probably get one more weekend run out this season, which we'll look forward to. This weekend, though, was a very pleasant outing and I'm very happy to recount it here.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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