Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 12: I’ve Got The Apple IPhone “SAY CHEESE” Blues

On the day we began our drive up the Dempster highway we were up at a leisurely 8:00 a.m.

“What’s the rush?” I asked myself.

Then I thought about it…

In the middle of town lies the famous MILE 0 signpost where all tourist head for the obligatory photo op.

Would it be busy? I wondered.

Both of us were anxious to hit the Dempster and in no mood to wait in a crowded parking lot for our turn to take pictures.

I didn’t want an elaborate celebratory portrait, just a quick…

1… 2… 3…

“Say CHEESE…”

… OK, we’re done, now let’s get out of here photo basically just to document the moment.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Looking back at the photos now, the framing was off and not properly centred but… what the heck, we don’t mind being the photography novices that we are.

Nevertheless… we took lots and lots of pictures on the Dempster Highway…

…and sadly most of them are not quite the intended shots.

You see… I was the sort of person who thought that my iPhone camera was more than enough for my photography needs.

Frank had procured a GOPRO for me last year, but I became frustrated when it became clear that the camera didn’t like me. I was continually fumbling with it’s buttons and attachments. It always took several tries to turn it on, work my way through all the settings then several more tries to turn it off. By that time, I had significantly worn down the battery so quickly that it was useless to me and out of frustration I returned to my trusty iPhone.

However, like friendships, family and marriage, there are always quirks that make themselves known to you later on in the relationship and you realize you just have to accept them.

Case in point:

While watching the scenery go by me, something will catch my eye. After a moment’s thought I realize this would make a good shot.

This is when the following happens…

1. Reach for the camera

2. Turn it on

3. Phone acknowledges being turned on by asking for FACE ID

4. Lift up phone to head level to enable face recognition

5. Phone screen shakes out a NO to convey that my face has not been recognized due to poor positioning or shaking car

6. Read SWIPE FOR FACE ID OR ENTER PASSCODE

7. Enter in four digit pass code

8. Phone conveys wrong code entered because I was rushing

9. Re-enter four digit password

10. Re-enter four digit code because the car is shaking

11. Phone acknowledges correct passcode

12. Swipe up to discard update information

13. Swipe up to discard low battery level

14. Swipe up to discard messenger notifications

15. Swipe left to access photo app

16. Swipe left again

17. And again

18. Click on app

19. Choose photo preferences

20. Find target on camera screen and position accordingly

By this time, I had missed the intended shot which was now half a kilometre behind me.

This happened not once, or twice but every single time I wanted to take a picture.

And it gets even sillier…

Many times I would reach for my phone to find it wasn’t even there. Being so small and sleek it easily slipped under the seat, between the cushions, even through my fingers.

So, you may be asking how this all worked out.

Well… I don’t know, and we’re only halfway through the trip.

I’m working on it.

But remember what I wrote earlier about family, friends, marriages and all the quirks you end up having to live with?

I’m guessing that it’s going to end up kind of like that.

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 11: Discovering The Dempster

And so we worked our way slowly west through the Rockies. From Bow River to Canmore, from Banff to Jasper, we made our way to British Columbia.

On June 3, our 42nd wedding anniversary, and after a great deal of discussion and contemplation, we embarked on a last minute destination that promised adventure, incredible scenery, danger, mosquitoes, dirt and mud like we had never encountered before.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen…

I am of course talking about the Dempster highway. A return trip from Dawson Creek meant an over 1,800 kilometres voyage on treacherous gravel highway.

We learned about the Dempster Highway from intrepid You-Tubers like THE MOTORHOME EXPERIMENT and LESS JUNK MORE JOURNEY.

To my pleasant surprise, not long before our journey, I learned of friends who were also planning a trip out west and were also planning to tackle this challenge.

I was tickled by both their bravery and their news.

Why?

You see, according to WIKIVOYAGE …

The Dempster Highway (known as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8 in those territories respectively) is a highway through the sub-Arctic wilderness of northern Yukon Territory and extreme northwestern Northwest Territories (NWT) in Canada. The highway runs 671 km (417 mi) from the Klondike Highway near Dawson City to the Aboriginal settlement of Inuvik. A 137-km (85-mi), all-season extension to Tuktoyaktuk opened in November 2017, although the extension does not seem to be considered part of the Dempster Highway, instead being referred to as the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.

Frank and I had toyed with the idea of driving the Dempster highway while planning the trip, but knowing the havoc it would wreak on the camper, we passed it over as a potential destination.

It was only while we were in Watson Lake that Frank met a woman travelling to Dempster in her van who encouraged him to take up the challenge.

I will forever be grateful to her for this.

You see… to me, the myriad of colourful land and water formations that we encountered during our eight day adventure to Tuktoyaktuk and back was nothing less than life altering.

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 10: Alberta Bound

And so it came to pass that on the morning of May 24, which was day fifteen of our journey, I received a message from Koodo, my cell service provider that I had used fifty percent of my allotted data for the month. I had only 3072 MB left until the end of my billing cycle which would end June 11.

That was nineteen days away.

What to do?

First thing I did was delete apps which continually and automatically download news, notifications, photos, etc.

Next, I tried to take advantage of any available wifi, which was practically nothing. Some campgrounds only offer one or two free hours of wifi a day, and even that was sketchy because the signal weakened the further away you were camping from the campground office.

Then, I had to prioritize what I wanted to spend my precious cellular data on.

That would be posting to my blog.

Frank was finally able to resolve my dilemma by signing both of us up for another two gigs of data each for only five dollars a month. This brought me up to eight gigs a month. Now, I had at least four gigs instead of two until the end of my billing cycle.

Please insert happy dance here…

I was sad to say goodbye to Eagle Valley Park in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan with all of it’s colourful and continually fluttering birds and of course the resident doll house, but there was no doubt much more to see in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Our next stop was the Alberta border where of course we stopped for the obligatory selfie, then it was onward through Medicine Hat and Calgary.

By 11:45 a.m. we were ninety-one kilometres from Calgary and to my surprise, the terrain was still surprisingly flat. There was no sign of a hill let alone the Rocky Mountains.

Well, they can’t hide forever.

When we did finally hit Calgary, we were in the midst of thunderstorms and a very dim sky.

If anything surprised me about the city of Calgary it was the vastness of what looked like very expensive housing. This was obviously one very rich city. This reminded me of the Eagles song THE LAST RESORT written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey which can be found on their album HOTEL CALIFORNIA. This song is about how we destroy the places we find beautiful.

Row after row, kilometre after kilometre, all you could see was high end housing.

Still… no Rockies.

But little did I know what was waiting for me around the next bend of highway…

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 9: A Touch Of The Caribbean In The Prairies

Travel day fourteen brought us oil rigs, more salt flats, long trains, buffalo and even some dust devils skipping their way across the prairie fields.

After a long day’s drive just before 3:00 p.m. we pulled off the highway and made our way to the Eagle Valley Park in Maple Park, Saskatchewan.

We were told by the front desk to drive around the park until we found an acceptable sight.

Our drive through and around the camp was delightful.

The grounds struck me more to be an orchard rather than a campground. The trees were of medium height and plentiful. They struck me as about to come into full bloom.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

If I had to describe what came to mind as I looked around was Ann of Green Gables “white way of delight.”

We found something towards the front of the campground not far from the entrance, but a good distance from the campground office.

The regular campers were already well entrenched into their own little corners. They had gone through a lot of work and thought into decorating their decks and providing lots of play equipment to keep the kids happy. I was particularly impressed that there was even a doll house provided for anyone who would like to partake in mud pies and imaginary cups of tea.

I would join them in a heartbeat.

With our tour of the campground complete, we returned to the office to pay for our spot.

While Frank was inside the office I enjoyed looking at the Caribbean motifs dappled across the entrance to the office. There was a makeshift hut made from aluminum siding with a finely crafted mock straw thatched roof. This most likely housed their indoor pool which was available to guests for five dollars a person.

Pass.

My favourites decorations were the plastic palm trees. Don’t ask me why, they just seemed to fill this silly void in me where I question…

“Why has no one ever thought before to bring the Caribbean to the prairies?”

Something tells me that you’ve often wondered that yourself too.

For the rest of the evening Frank and I watched the red-breasted nuthatches play tag in the trees. He asked me at one point if I wanted to walk up to the office and see their cool Caribbean restaurant and bar complete with wifi.

That’s when I couldn’t help but take a glance over to the dollhouse. It seemed painfully lonely and empty. That’s where I really wanted to be. I wondered if there were any kids who could help me make up a batch of mud pies and some imaginary tea.

You see…

… I just happen to have this really great recipe.

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 8: “Mac The Moose.”

By the time I awoke in Moose Jaw at 8:00 the next morning, Frank was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t take long to figure out where he had wandered off to. Besides, what harm could he do?

Plenty.

On the brighter side, the coffee was hot, and thankfully enough, the camper still had a morning coolness about it. All was well except for the explosion of coffee grinds from my pretty new blue enamel percolator all over the sink and counter top.

I really hate it when that happens.

After cleaning that up it was approaching 9:00 a.m. I was on my second cup of coffee when I could hear the rattle of a full shopping cart approaching.

Sure enough, it was Frank and he had the look of “Mission Accomplished” all over his face.”

I looked into the bags as he lifted them into the camper:

Bottled water

Bathroom tissue

Melitta coffee maker

Paper towels

Car battery

Okay, so we’re installing another battery, which is a good thing and hopefully it will solve the problem of the power loss.

“What happened to the coffee pot?” I asked.

“Grinds were too fine.”

“Buy courser grounds…”

“Not possible unless you go to Starbucks.”

Oh well… I was looking forward to seeing my blue speckled enamel coffee pot every morning but I guess sacrifices have to be made when you’re roughing it like we are.

After Frank did a quick battery installation, we had a bowl of cereal then started packing up our gear.

Once everything was stowed we exited Camp Walmart and I didn’t look back. I don’t think I’ll ever get to enjoy boon-docking in parking lots. Yes, it’s free and convenient but I just don’t like the idea of hanging out amidst asphalt and fumes.

Call me silly.

Of course, we could not leave Moose Jaw without paying homage to “Mac The Moose” the world’s second largest moose statue. He is the most photographed roadside attraction in Canada.

Yay Wally!

As for me I find myself looking forward to our next camping spot.

It’s called the Eagle Valley Park Campground near Maple Creek Saskatchewan.

Trip advisor cites it as…

“A touch of the Caribbean in the prairies.”

I cannot wait to see this.

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 7: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

On our last morning in Winnipeg, Frank and I were out of bed by 6:00 a.m. and on the road by 8:00 a.m.

We filled the tanks for $1.23 a litre.

By10:00 a.m. we were 161 km. from the Saskatchewan border. The terrain is all flat and farmland. To my surprise I see lots of birch trees, far more than in Ontario.

We passed by many road signs with big letters stating…

“Turn In Poachers @1-800-….

At long last, we were finally in Saskatchewan and a new time zone which was two hours behind home time.

We stopped for gas and in the time it takes took for the friendly gas station attendant to clean our windshield we had heard from him three different recounts of bear attacks on his family and friends in the past two days.

Just imagine how much you can learn from him over a cup of coffee.

All of my life, I’ve been told stories of how flat the prairies are.

From my far left to my far right there are only fields. No trees, no brush, just wheat covered fields.

Even though the flat land gives a wide berth for the eye to see, at no time can I ever see more than a dozen cars and trucks travelling up and down the length of the highway.

At 12:30 we took the turnoff which would take us to Moose Jaw.

It was at about here where I could not help but notice how unusual this terrain was for me. There was nothing at all familiar about this ground which proved to me that there is always more that we are unfamiliar with than there is more that we are familiar with. For someone with a negative sense of direction like me this can be disconcerting to the senses.

Then, there are the abundance of salt swamps along the highway which makes me wonder if maybe we hadn’t been somehow invaded by salt dependant alien life forms who currently live among us, not unlike Natasha Yar’s demise in STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION episode SKIN OF EVIL.

Yuk.

My primary school teachers always did write in my report card that I had a very vivid imagination.

Add to this mixture the fact the Frank has told me that tonight we would be boon-docking at Walmart’s. This is because enlightened campers everywhere know how Walmart welcomes campers to stay for free in their parking lots.

This was something that I always knew was possible, yet thought would never happen to me.

By two in the afternoon we were somewhat comfortably situated among the other campers in front of Moose Jaw’s Walmart.

When Frank checked the tanks he found out we had only one third of a tankful of water and electricity was down by a third as well. We were suspecting that the water was somehow able to slosh out on the rougher roads. As for the electricity, that turns out to be more of a continual problem.

Frank had suspected that the battery had always been somehow deficient. He discovered this during his monthly treks to the camper during the winter months. Yes, it was under warranty however it was able to hold enough of a charge that fell within owner’s manual limits.

We did invest in another battery before leaving home. However, Frank thinks he may have mistakingly left the furnace on after our practice shakedown at a nearby campground a week before our departure.

Now, this is the part where I learned that I could only look at a parking lot in the glaring sun for only so long. It was only 3:00 p.m.

Sunset was scheduled for 9:30.

After a warm afternoon nap we decided to keep things easy and opted for McDonald’s for dinner.

Frank and I found ourselves quietly sitting at the kitchen table watching the daylight slowly dim around us.

At 10:00 p.m. both the sun and Walmart’s indoor lights went out despite the steady stream of customers still entering the store in search of Walmart booty.

Let them shop, I told myself as I called it a night…

It had been a long day and I was more than ready for bed.

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Part 6: Four Days In Winnipeg

Our arrival in Winnipeg was a happy one. Plus there were many introductions to go around. My youngest daughter Aria and her husband had never met Ginny, their new niece.

Since we visited them last summer they had adopted a beautiful dog and called her Nymera. There was a whole lot of lip smacking and tail wagging and everyone was happy.

Our camper fit easily into their backyard and we were able to hook into their water and electricity which effectively turned us into… “moochdockers.”

The weather was accommodating, welcoming and unseasonably warm.

Aria had prepared a spare bedroom for Jen and Ginny.

Now that Jennifer and Ginny were no longer staying in the camper that freed up a significant amount of space, which we filled right back up again after we had restocked. We had also booked an appointment to have the camper’s oil changed.

In the meantime Aria and Steve kept bringing on the meals and treats and continued to spoil us with good cooking and happy times.

It was lovely staying with them.

#Grateful

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Day 5: Heading to Thunder Bay

One of the perks of traveling within the confines of a camper as opposed to staying in a hotel/motel is that all your stuff generally follows you wherever you go. The chances of leaving something behind is smaller. So, when you have someone like me who has tendencies to panic over missing items whether it be prescription pills, lipstick, cellphone or wallet, one finds solace in the fact that whatever you can’t immediately find, chances are strong that the missing item is still located within the safety of the camper walls.

Case in point: I happen to have misplaced each of the above items within the five days since we left home, and I am happy to report all were eventually found… within the camper.

Insert happy face here.

In my defence, there is a little more thought that goes into the organization of a motorhome than you might think. You see, when you’re driving down the road in a R.V., a cacophony of clanks, squeaks and squawks always seem to resonate behind you.

It can drive you mad.

I learned very early on in my early camper adventures that there’s nothing that can drive me faster to madness than a case of 23 water bottles. The reason I say 23 is that one has been removed from it’s tight quarters to leave the other bottles nice and loose and free to rub up and down against each other.

(Warning: please do not try to attempt this at home.)

You do not want your dishes clattering together with every pothole either. Neither do you want your knives and forks clang-clang-clanging or your bottles breaking against each other every time you go over some railroad tracks.

In these cases tea-towels, paper-towels and washcloths have been my best friends. Take for example my Insta-pot on the kitchen counter: If I place one tea towel into the aluminum pot as a noise proofing liner, it suddenly becomes sound resistant to whatever I nest and stow inside that pot. Now, I can safely store my teapot inside the insta-pot and silence will prevail. Everything glass or metallic must me soundproofed against each other or the ensuing clatter will quickly sour the nicest of travel days.

Every time we pull up stakes and move on I try to improve on how I store our noisy gear. Hence, from time to time I experiment and stow things in different places. The next thing I know, something isn’t where it use to be and the searching begins.

On Tuesday, May 14th at 8:00 a.m. we pulled out of the KOA Sault St. Marie.

Before hitting the highway, Frank filled the gas tank for $1.48 a litre which came to $160.00.

Although it is mainly pine trees that line the Trans-Canada highway I was pleased to occasionally see clumps of birch trees trying to break through. Their branches still appear bare with no sign of imminent budding.

Batchawana Bay was the first scenic town we encountered that day which was full of many such encounters.

Terrace Bay, Schreiber and Pays Platt are among the last we passed before reaching Thunder Bay.

Having sorted mail for almost thirty years these names are familiar to me and I am always grateful when I can finally see these places for myself.

Just as we are nearing Thunder Bay the rain begins.

Before checking into the KOA Thunder Bay we made our obligatory stop at the grocery store, this time mainly to get the distilled water needed for Ginny’s bottles.

Our last stay at this campground in Thunder Bay August 2018 was not a particularly happy one as I felt we had been sorely gouged with an $85.00 a night spot with only electricity and water, no sewer. They explained it was their last spot. It was also one of their fancier ones. It came with a barbecue, wooden swing chair and a fire pit complete with wooden lawn furniture. It was a real busy spot too, right between the swimming pool and mini golf.

Yup, we met a lot of people during our three day stay there.

This time, we were placed more on the outskirts, with a shower right across the road.

There we caught some sun and had a campfire each night we were there.

We had a good rest stop before hitting the highway again. Three days later we would be leaving here for Jen and Ginny’s final stop in Winnipeg.

#ThunderBay #Camping #Family #Travel #Alaska2019 #Epiphabets

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Day 4: Sault St. Marie

Our first full day of camping in Sault Ste. Marie was a busy one.

Frank was up at 7 AM for the sole purpose of hitting the camp showers early.

Why not use our own showers you may ask?

Well, these KOA camp showers are really exceptional. It’s like a country club or pretty close to it I imagine, not that I’ve ever been in a country club before.

These showers are big, shiny, modern, clean and equipped with rainwater shower-heads and blow dryers.

Jennifer was the next one to indulge in a hot shower. I went last.

Then, it was time to give baby Ginny a bath which we did in the kitchen sink.

I wish I would’ve taken pictures.

Unfortunately both my hands were busy propping up three month old Ginny as her Mother soaped up and rinsed her off. Ginny mewled, splashed and kicked in protest.

Looking back, I realize now that my small and humble kitchen sink will never wash anything so precious again.

I decided for dinner that day I would make a pot of my beef barley soup in my handy-dandy Insta pot. This proved to be much easier to prepare in my tiny kitchen than I had expected. Twenty minutes to prepare, thirty minutes to cook and finally twenty minutes to vent.

As they say in the movies… “Easy Peasy.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Frank had insisted that I accompany him to the KOA campground store. I didn’t have to think too hard to figure out why. The day before he had gone to the same store and purchased two small lawn ornament poles, one for each of his brothers.

Along with the polls he bought two Harley Davidson flags to go along with them.

He got the idea for these tenting flagpoles while camping here last year. One of our neighbouring campers who approached us and asked if we thought the camp would allow his MIA flag.

We told him no. There would be no problem.

As it turns out, he also purchased a pole for us as well and now he wanted me to go and pick out a flag for it. Once at the store it didn’t take me too long to find my flag. In fact it was pretty much the first one I had seen.

It was whimsical.

It was colourful.

It was my kind of kitschy.

The flag depicted a gnome sporting the customary felt red pointy hat standing next to a red and white polkadotted mushroom. The caption read…

“Welcome Gnome.”

Later that evening we watched the movie Pure Country, one of our old family favourites starring George Strait.

We were all in bed by 10.

Tomorrow we would head for Thunder Bay.

#BlackCloudChronicles #SaultStMarie #Travel #Camping #Family #Blog #Alaska2019 #Jayco

Black Cloud Chronicles ~ Day 3: Sault St. Marie

Woke up at 7 AM, left the park by 9 o’clock and pulled into Tim Hortons for breakfast.

Goodbye Parry Sound.

Today was Mother’s Day. Actually, it was a very special Mother’s Day because Jen was celebrating her very first one.

For the very first time I wished my daughter a very happy Mother’s Day.

Later, at about one in the afternoon, my interest was piqued when we drove by a very scenic resort called Lake Lauzon Resort and Marine. With Lake Superior on the left and forests on the right, this looked like a place where I could really spend some serious camping time.

We pulled over for lunch and to give Ginny her bottle.

By the beautiful scenery, it was obvious that we were working our way in to a more and more picturesque terrain.

Later, as we rambled down the highway now leading to Blind River, I couldn’t help notice Bobby-Dog perched in between me and Frank atop layers of cushions and pillows covering our cooler and barbecue. He seemed stoic in his determination not to give into bobbing his head the the bobble headed dogs familiar to any souvenir shop…

…although I rather wished he did.

Meanwhile, Jen’s attention seemed focused on the scenery from the grand vista courtesy of the large window to her left.

About 112 kilometres outside of Sault St. Marie and just on the outskirts of Blind River it looked like the trees were just coming out of their dormant stage and had yet to get that soft green dusting that heralds the imminent budding of leaves.

So far this trip, I had seen only cows and horses. I am happy to report that I could now add yaks to the repertoire.

84 kilometres outside Sault St. Marie we passed a sign saying that if we would turn left ahead, the road will take us to Tessalon.

The lakes we have seen so far are the colour of my father’s star sapphire ring, a nice accompaniment to the powder blue skies.

I had told Jen earlier in the day that we would indeed be witness to the beauty of Ontario.

We were not disappointed.

By 2:00 p.m. we were entering the township of Bruce Mines. We had already passed barren fields where evidence of mines could be seen in the distance.

At this point Echo Bay was 40 kilometres ahead and Sault St. Marie was 64.

As I contemplated that, I promised myself at one of the first things I would do when we arrived an settled at the camp I would seek out a long, hot shower.

By the sound of Ginny’s rising squeaks coming from behind me I sensed that my three-month-old granddaughter was pretty much feeling the same way I was.

As this is going on, Bobby dog moved his head back and forth casting a sorrowful glance towards Ginny and her mewling. He then looked at me and seemed to implore me to make it stop.

As Frank predicted we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie at 3:30 PM. It was close call because we first had to find a propane dealer and fill our depleted tanks. After scouring the streets for 20 minutes very nice lady at the Sault Ste. Marie trading post directed Frank to go down a few more lights where they have a propane dispensary.

Sure enough, there it was. Thirty dollars worth of propane later we were heading for the campground.

The sight of the KOA campground came as a welcomed relief after the mud and grime of the Parry Sound campground. Everything here is orderly and neatly groomed. We were allotted to the back of the campgrounds next to the rental cabins, out-of-the-way of continual traffic from the head office.

I was the proverbial happy camper.

After we were all hooked up Frank and I decided on sandwiches since the majority of the meat was in the freezer. I made turkey on rye with cheese alongside a pot of soup.

It turned out to be a pleasant and quiet evening.

That is until we turned on the television shortly after eight and tuned in to the Toronto Raptors game. The three of us watched while Little Ginny slept oblivious to the game and the high tensions being felt by all the fans including us.

During the last five seconds of the game the Raptors threw the ball towards the net where it teetered on the brink until fortune favoured the team of the true north and gently, the ball tipped into the basket. The crowds went wild and so did we.

It was at that very moment of jubilation when we woke our sleeping princess and she was not happy.

She did not go back to sleep until 1:00 a.m.

Ouch.