More of our tale of unseasonal weather here in deepest Ontario.
Thursday had me waking up to dark, dank skies and a drizzle of rain. The lake out front had gone, thankfully, but the lower lying area was still covered in water, and everywhere else was just squelchy to walk on. This was not the carefree break we had been looking forward to.
Walking the hound was a necessary evil and, as there was the tiniest bit of watery sunshine breaking through and the drizzle had abated at least temporarily, we ambled around the campground, looking at the tree debris from the winds yesterday. I did find a storm drain just up at the top of the area that flooded; it had obviously been overwhelmed during the course of the storm but was now functioning as it should, hence the lack of a lake.
The day soon closed in again, though, and we were confined to barracks essentially. I guess we could have gone for a drive or something, but the prospect of wandering around St Mary's or Stratford in the rain really didn't appeal. The wind had died down at least, and changed direction, but the promised showers arrived with monotonous regularity. No matter, though; rest and relaxation is the name of the game.
I did break out the Sewer Solution, something we don't often get the chance to use. It's a water powered macerator that is used to drain the waste water holding tanks, if you have a handy sewer connection available. Most people will use the dreaded "Stinky Slinky", a four-inch wide flexible tube that relies on gravity to allow you to dump the holding tanks, but with our low-slung Airstream, we don't start with gravity on our side, and often the sewer connection ends up being higher than the outlet. That's no problem with the Sewer Solution as it uses a narrow jet of water to both break up the solids and to push it all along a pipe to the sewer, and uphill doesn't faze it. I'd cleaned the macerator and re-greased it to prevent leaks, and it worked beautifully. I also use a six-inch clear plastic extender at the holding tank outlet, which creates a bit of space to allow the tank valves to be pulled open, and you get to watch progress, which is fascinating if you like watching turds and toilet paper getting obliterated. Although it's a slow process, it works well, even to the extent that you can direct the jet of water back into the holding tank to give it a rinse around. All in all, the Sewer Solution was one of our better buys.
Fast forward to Friday morning and some very slightly better weather. It was packing up day so we were up and about a little earlier. My big concern for the day was getting the Toadmobile and Towed Haul off the sodden grass and onto some firmer ground. I'd parked in such a way as to have a slight downhill run to cover the ten feet or so to the roadway, but after the storm there was still a ton of water just sitting on the lower parts of the ground, and there were big puddles formed in trenches where earlier trailers had gone off the roadway. Just reversing the car back to the hitch had me slipping around, and I had no load to haul.
Applying myself to the problem, I thought if I tried to pull Towed Haul left and tackle a slight incline with good grass rather than roll down into the water and mud, I'd have a better chance of getting off the site without getting stuck. I'd have to move the fire ring, and fortunately it wasn't staked down, but going left looked the better prospect. People in the trailering world will tell you that front wheel drive tow vehicles are no good, but when you're in this potential bogging down situation, front wheel drive is the best because it's all pull rather than push and pull.
I repositioned the Toadmobile before hitching so that it faced to the left and up the incline. Hitching at an angle isn't easy but we did it without issue, and then prepared to haul. I'd already said to Mrs. T that once rolling I wasn't going to stop until I was properly on the roadway, then go back for all the stuff on the ground like the Lego blocks and the patio mat (which I had left out in case it was needed). The Toadmobile's right front wheel was in the ash of the fire ring, which was a good thing, and I put the doormat in front of the left front wheel, giving it a wee bit more traction. A little bit of power and off we rolled! No slipping at all. Mind you, the tire tracks the trailer left on the grass were horrible as they sank into the soaked ground. Thank goodness for grass roots.
We fished the packing and rolled out of the very wet Science Hill Country Club into the improving day. I took care to slow down before some of the steep downgrades this time so we weren't barrelling too fast down the hills. At the bottom of one hill was a river with a campground lined up along its banks. It was flooded out. I think had we been there we'd have hitched up and left early on Wednesday morning.
The run home was uneventful in that Towed Haul dutifully followed us home without any problems. Not using the GPS, I still managed to turn onto the wrong road in Strathroy and we ended up on a different, although no less direct route. I needed fuel and had decided to fill up as we went through Strathroy, but with my wrong turn I missed all the fuel stations I was looking for. Mrs. T used her phone to locate a gas station in Glencoe, which is on the way home, but there was road construction which made getting into a very tight forecourt just too difficult, so we pressed on. As it happened, we had enough gas to get us home; Highway Two is a good road but seriously lacking in gas stations.
So, four days and three nights of really nasty weather made for a trip that wasn't the best. We were forced into doing nothing, which can be a good thing, and we spent no money other than the campground fees and gas. Any day of camping is better than day of working, for sure.
One more trip is planned for this season; I'm hoping we've had the worst of the weather already!
I left yesterday's thrilling installment on a cliff edge - what happened with the rain?
Well, the rain started early in the morning and simply didn't stop for a full 24 hours. It wasn't rain in the regular sense, it was monsoon rain, accompanied by some scary easterly winds that were strong enough to tear boughs from the trees and rock the trailer quite alarmingly.
We knew the rain was coming, and Mrs. T had decided on a campsite that was marginally higher than some of the other free sites realising that there was a dip in the landscape and some standing water on the grass. At the time we were planning on getting the trailer off the grass successfully come Friday, but as it turned out, parking where we did prevented us from being marooned in an impromptu lake. I don't think I had the vaguest idea of just what was going to fall from the sky, nor how it was going to affect the campground, but our ever so slightly raised position certainly eased things a bit.
So what do you do on a camping trip in the middle of a major storm? Just sit it out is the answer.
The power stayed on for all but a minute or two, the furnace and the lights were working, and that enabled us to relax, read and (in my case) write. I had to leave Towed Haul on a number of occasions, not least of all to walk the hound a bit. I also had to go out and get the power cable connection off the ground in case of flooding (I'd had to employ the extention cable to reach the power pillar), and also to deploy, then undeploy (is that a word?), the narrow awning on the street side. The reason for having the awning deployed in such dreadful weather was that we have a slight leak around the extractor fan vent. If the awning is out, it protects that side of the camper from rain, and there's no water ingress. That particular awning, although long, only extends a foot or two on a pair of quite sturdy arms, so can be left out in poor weather when the front awning has to be brought in. The wind, though, just became ever more ferocious and was hitting Towed Haul right on the street side, so eventually it managed to fold one of the awning arms up against the trailer body after one particularly strong gust. There was no damage to the awning or the trailer, but that meant we couldn't the leave the awning out any more. I must fix that leak when we get home.
I also moved the Toadmobile as she seemed to be partly in the newly formed lake out front.
At least it makes for an exciting and relaxing break, all at the same time!
Things did calm down later in the night and I woke to a bit of short-lived sunshine and the wind now blowing from the south. I think we have more rain today but hopefully the weather forecasters mean showers when they say showers.
I have a feeling this will be another day of enforced R&R; but who's complaining?
Another day, another camping trip.
Loading up and getting prepared for this particular excursion was strangely muted. I'd cleaned Towed Haul up soon after we had returned from Rondeau so that she could briefly moonlight as the Airstream Café, entertaining a couple of former workmates, but neither Mrs. Toad or I seemed in any great rush to load in clothes, food, etc. Not that it mattered of course, because we prepped, had lunch and generally dawdled around and still managed to depart with plenty of time to spare on that slightly gloomy Tuesday afternoon.
We were heading to the Science Hill Country Club, a golf course with attached campground, that sits in the gently rolling countryside close to St. Mary's, Ontario. We've camped there before following a recommendation from our (now dearly departed) neighbours, and found it to be a nice relaxing place to visit because it's usually very quiet. The journey takes a little over two hours, so still fairly close to home, but I like to take a less than direct route to get there so that we can avoid the northern fringes of London, so we found ourselves headed towards Highway Two and the turn off for Strathroy.
I've mentioned this before, but so many of the intersections on Ontario roads have no direction signage at all. Looking to turn off Highway Two at a point somewhere short of the outskirts of London, I had to look at Google Maps to both see the road name and to eyeball the road to see what signs there were, if any. No signs, of course, just the road name, and you can't see that when you're driving until you're right up close to the sign.
Just to make it interesting, I'd programmed the Satnav, knowing that its preferred route would take me the most direct route, which I didn't want. Sure enough, having located and made the correct left turn to Strathroy, at every road intersecting the one we were on, the lady in the satellite implored us to turn right, and even to turn around! I knew where I wanted to go and pressed on gamely to Strathroy, ignoring her all the while, but there I fell foul of the dearth of direction signs again and made a right when I should have gone straight on, letting the lady in the satellite have her way this time.
Following the GPS directions was always going to get us where we needed to go, but I was irked that I was not heading to my intended target, the delightfully named Ailsa Craig, but now trusting wholly in the GPS. I do like to use GPS but, if you're like me and need to see the bigger picture, that little screen only gives you a 500m square window to view and you don't see any of the surrounding roads and towns; I find that a touch annoying. Anyway, following the instructions now, we were doing fine and heading in the right direction when we came across another Ontario bugbear, the closed road.
It happens a lot here; work needs to be done, a road is closed off but there are never any advance warning signs, just an intersection that you cannot proceed through, blocked by a big orange sign. And that's exactly what happened on Ilderton Road, just east of Ilderton. The diversion signs took us south towards London, the place we were trying to avoid, and boy did it take us south; far further than we needed to go. This is where I applied the knowledge of the GPS and simply took the first left turn, on its instruction, knowing that the lady in the satellite would not fail us. I was also backed up by Mrs. Toad and her Google Maps, on which she could view a much wider area. So it was that we headed northeast, through the corn and bean (and sprout!) fields towards our destination.
The change of route added about twenty five minutes to our journey time, but that mattered not.
It's all very relaxed at here at Science Hill. I went into the Clubhouse to pay, and the owner took my money with a smile and said "we're in for some crap over the next couple of days". By that he meant the forecasted rain, but more about that in my next entry. He told us to find an empty site and set up, and when we were doing that the owner's son came up and unleashed his sense of humour on us, which was nice.
Here we are then parked on a grassy site, next to a lot of seasonal campers, comfortable in the knowledge that we have nothing we need to do for the next few days, but getting somewhat more aware of everyone's dire predictions about the weather.
The evening went food, beer, music, chat and sleep; lovely.
In my next blog entry, I'll let you know what transpired and whether of not Towed Haul floats.
With the last camping trip being more than two years ago, I can honestly say that it's been a while.
In 2020, we took COVID seriously and didn't travel, even with the Provincial Parks partially opening mid-season. We also had the arrival of the grand-tadpole, Charlie, to keep us busy (he and his mum live with us), and of course there was always work getting in the way.
In 2021, though, things have changed. COVID isn't keeping the parks closed, Charlie is more than a year old and both of us have retired from the cursed work.
We didn't get Towed Haul out of storage until I'd retired in July, and then discovered that there wasn't a camp site available in Southern Ontario until September! Still, it meant that we were able to bring Towed Haul back to her full glory in slow time, and our first trip, to our local Provincial Park, Rondeau, became even more eagerly anticipated.
In this blog, I'm not going into excruciating detail, I'll just highlight some of the more notable events, assuming of course that there were or are notable events.
So, the weather has been hot, hot, hot all through August and in prepping Towed Haul for travel in this second week of September, it wasn't any cooler. I have sweated more this past month or so than I ever have in my life, and the weekend was no exception. Dripping sweat on the wheels as I leant through to get to the drain tap; how attractive.
Hitched up, I was pleased to see everything looking reasonably level, even with a full load of fresh water and partially full waste tanks. The run down to Rondeau was easy, even hauling that extra weight. As usual we were driving into a keen headwind so that, combined with the weight, made for disappointing fuel consumption. Of course, it's only a short run and we barely used any fuel anyway, but on longer runs, even heavily loaded, the Toadmobile tends to get used to the extra work and the mileage figures generally do settle down to their usual 12-14 mp(US)g.
Site 50 in the Rondeau South Campground was new to us and actually a bit disappointing; shallow, not level and very little grass. After taking a few minutes to decide the best place for Towed Haul, we positioned and levelled, realised that the sandy area that comprised was most of the site was going to be a nightmare if the predicted storms materialised. I say disappointing, but any time camping beats any time working, so it's all relative.
As it was quiet, and still early in the afternoon, we took our time to set up, then didn't do a whole lot more than read and relax. Willow the geriatric Greyhound was with us, so it was walkies and poop time more than once, but other than that we did bugger all, as the Anglo-Saxons say.
There were all sorts of weather warnings out; thunderstorm watch, thunderstorm warning, severe thunderstorm warning and even a tornado watch. Now call me cynical but I have been more than a little sceptical about the weather forecasting recently. The people in the know tend to predict the worst possible situation, then go curiously quiet when it fails to materialise - remember the great "Snowmaggedon" fiasco of a few years ago. Also, these late summer storms are notoriously local, that is they can hit one small area and avoid the rest of the region. And so it was that evening. Windy, for sure, but just a short rain shower and the faint rumble of distant thunder. Mind you, I did step outside to shut down the front window guards and realised my worst fears about the sandy campsite getting stuck to my shoes and ending up inside the trailer. Tsk.
The night didn't pass peacefully, though, thanks to Willow the Wonderhound. Keeping it short, she disrupted our sleeping arrangement and I wasn't at all happy. Still, she's for life, so I'm sure we'll survive.
Day two of the trip had us heading back home. Not with Towed Haul you understand, she stayed firmly at the Campground, but there were appointments in town to be attended to so we motored north again for a few hours. Staying close to home does have its advantages.
The remainder of the day was taken up with with refreshment and relaxation. Just as we like it.
Day three saw the visit of Charlie, the latest addition to the Toad family. He's only 15 months but loves thundering up and down inside the camper and climbing onto any surface he can. We did take him to the beach for a short while, which he loved, but the sand flies were numerous and biting with abandon. I don't know that Charlie was too bothered, but poor old Willow was covered in the things, so we withdrew back to Towed Haul sooner than we'd have preferred. Bugs are common at Rondeau and you kind of learn to live with them, but Willow really had no defence.
Day three was also a bit of a red-letter day because we cranked up the roof mounted TV antenna for the first time in many years. Broadcast-to-air TV is getting ever more limited, and what's on offer usually pretty naff, but this particularly evening we wanted to watch the only English language leaders' debate featuring in the upcoming Federal election. Having found a good quality channel, we settled down to watch, but came away two hours later singularly disappointed by the so called debate, both in presentation and quality. The format of the show was horrible, and presided over by a less than impartial moderator who was both waspish and unfair, stopping some debate in its tracks while letting other parts ramble on. Trudeau was panned at every turn as you'd expect. The PCs O'Toole just stuck to his script, not answering anything remotely difficult and banging on about partnerships while repeating the same annoying hand gestures. Paul for the Greens did OK but didn't field questions about her leadership very well. Blanchet for the Bloc Québécois made us all laugh by saying he didn't want to be the Prime Minister and constantly referring to Quebec as a nation rather than a Province. Only the NDP's Singh looked any good, and I say that as someone who really isn't one of his fans. Politics, eh?
Hitching back up on day four was just as hot and sweaty as on day one, but a bit easier as we're quite practiced at packing up these days.
It was good to be back camping, but the not so great site was an irritation, especially as the rest of the campground wasn't nearly as fully occupied as the online booking service said. The next site along from us, flatter and grassier than ours, was marked all week as being occupied, and yet there was no one parked there the entire duration of our visit. I'd have happily booked that site, but it wasn't available. What happened this year with the limitations on travel was that people just booked and booked, whether they intended to visit or not. Indeed, apparently there was quite a trade in selling camp sites on for more than the list price, something the Parks did try hard to stop. The cancellation terms in the Provincial Parks are quite good, so I see why people felt they could do that, but all week many sites on our campground were still showing as booked but were actually unoccupied. That's a real bummer for people who just want to get out and camp but can't find a site. I trust those unoccupied sites had been paid for.
We're back at Rondeau in October, not site 50, and looking forward to a bit of fall camping. Next week we head off to St Mary's, and a full-service site at a golf course. Different, but still camping.
More blogging? Yes, and a bit less tardy I hope!
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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