It's the Victoria Day weekend (celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday apparently), our first run out of the season and I'm feeling, well, unprepared.
Towed Haul has been on the driveway for a couple of weeks and yet I've only just cleaned her inside and out, forgetting even then to wash the floor mats ready for the summer. The weekend was going to throw up lots of examples of our lack of preparedness, but I'll come to those later.
We were heading north to Point Farms Provincial Park, which has now become our annual Victoria Day destination, and I was thinking that after two years of fabulous weather, this year couldn't be so good. Oh, how right I was. In the week we'd had some awful rain; lots of it in a short time, and now the temperatures were dropping. But this is May so how far could they drop? Read on, my friends, read on.
For reasons various, we are going to have the tadpoles with us on most of our trips this year so, as we don't really like them cluttering up our beloved Towed Haul, we packed the big "Cabin Tent" so that they could sleep and generally hang-out in a place other than the Airstream - this will be our normal practice from here on in. Kids love camping out, don't they? (He says, optimistically). I'd made them erect the tent on the front yard last week, in true Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme style, so that they knew how it went together and to make sure that all the component parts were there. We knew that the weather might not be the best so we packed them two sleeping bags each, sorted some power cables for phones and DVD players and brought along a little electric heater, selected for safety because you can't be too careful in a tent (remembers open-flamed Gaz propane cookers in tiny two-man tents on camping expeditions and blanches at the thought).
Hitched up, we were heavily loaded, partly because of the tent and partially as this was going to be a four night stint rather than the usual two. Despite the load, the Toadmobile looked level enough and we set off along the Thames River to Bothwell, then struck north to Lambton Shores at Lake Huron's southern end. I love the run up to Point Farms; the land becomes a little less like a billiard table as you move away from the Thames and the whole route is always remarkably traffic-free. The gas mileage was settling at about 18 litres/100 Kms (13 miles per US gallon, 15.7 miles per Imperial gallon), which was OK given the slight north wind we were driving into and our heavily laden status.
Once at Lambton Shores, we joined the Bluewater Highway and drove for an hour up the eastern flank of the lake, keeping to 80 Km/hour (50 miles/hour) and enjoying the scenery. Towed Haul tracked straight and true behind us, it's hitch creaking a little on some of the tight turns, just reminding us of the load.
I always seem to under-estimate the time that trip takes and it was 6.30 by the time we turned into the park, half an hour later than I'd anticipated. You'd think that the number of times that we've made that trip I'd be a bit better on my timings but no, and this was perhaps one of those reminders about our preparedness, or lack of it. Gulp.
At the gate we met up with an AirForums member and fellow small tow vehicle enthusiast, Andy from Toronto. I knew he was going to be there with his family, his 34' triple axle Airstream and his Honda Odyssey minivan; it was really nice to see him so early on, and to meet a Forum member in the flesh for once.
Checking in, I was listening to some of the conversation going on around me and started to fret a little as it was clear that a number of camp sites had been flooded in the week and were unusable for the weekend. The Park Ranger said that our site was likely to be OK, so off we went to set up, via the dump station and water fill area of course. Filling the tank is essential before setting up and we dutifully joined the back of the line. People were taking a while to fill up and when it was our turn, a couple of the Park's staff turned up in response to an earlier complaint about the speed of the water flow from the tap. It wasn't fast but then it didn't seem any different than normal to me so they trudged off again. I don't understand why people complain about such things when they're camping, it's supposed to be a slow and relaxing process, not a place for getting riled because the tap's not pushing out water fast enough.
Anyway, over to the site and we had to approach it from "the wrong direction" as there was a Park's vehicle blocking the road. Not that it made that much difference to the backing in procedure, us being terribly efficient Toads when it comes to parking the trailer. The real problem, though, was the bulk of the site didn't look wet but it was covered in a layer of sticky mud. Towed Haul's wheels went into it, as did our feet, and in no time our shoes were caked with it. We sent the kids off with the dog so that we could get set up quickly and the Airstream was operational quite soon, but the mud was everywhere. When it came time to set the tent up, that was a real struggle trying to keep messy shoes off it and in it. Still, up the tent went, in went the power and the inflatable beds (hardly Duke of Edinburgh equipment) were inflated. An old airline blanket went into the tent's vestibule (fortunate to have one, I think) and a towel at the door of the Airstream, but still the mud was getting traipsed in to both sets of accommodation. Oh, and did I mention the cold?
As we were travelling up, the temperature went from 10C to 7C and it was now 6C as we set up camp. I seriously doubted that the tadpoles would manage even a single night in the big tent as it's never pleasant having to try to stay warm - the bigger the tent the colder it is and this tent is pretty big. It was down to 3C when we turned in. May? I don't think so.
Throughout the evening we were discovering things forgotten; nothing major you understand, just stuff that would have been nice to have remembered. I think I was right to feel under-prepared. We'll get better as the season progresses, I'm sure.
So, we settled in for the (cold) night. The dog, as is her wont, joined us on the bed and proceeded to do her best to keep us awake. Just another night's camping then!
Tomorrow is another day, of course, and things looked like they would get a little better as the weather was due to improve. Read on to see just what actually happened in part two, Victoria's Saturday.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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