Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Road to Silver Beach.

After finishing the build, I needed to test the "Off-the-Grid" capabilities of the Mack. The opportunity came my way in the shape of job; working as a Park Operator for BC Parks. Based at the remote Silver Beach Provincial Park in Seymour Arm.

Nearly two thousand kilometres is a long way to go to work but it was for 2 months; mid-July to mid-September. The journey was during the hottest days of the Summer. Worrying about over-heating tyres kept the speed down and it took three days to get there.

The last fifty kilometres were on Forestry Service Roads. Rough gravel beside the Shuswap Lake that filled the living quarters with a fine coating of dust, even with the windows closed.

I camped next to the storage shed and park compound; just a stone's-throw from the beach. It was the best spot to catch the sun for the solar panels. All the campground was shaded by tall trees.

I arrived in mid-season, so everywhere was busy. The lay-out of the campground was old-fashioned and not suited to today's huge RVs. They were very close to each other and I was glad to be away from the main camping area. 

The village of Seymour Arm has a marina and floating convenience store. It was the source of all my food and drink during my stay; apart from the Wheelhouse Pub and the Country Kitchen restaurant.

Seymour Arm is not connected to BC Hydro, the provincial electricity supply company. All power comes from private generators and solar panel systems. Tap water has to be boiled before drinking although there is one drinking water tap for the village, supplied by the community's water purification plant. The campground has three taps but no flushing toilets or showers. The lake water temperature was pretty warm when I arrived so I made do with a daily swim to keep clean.

Besides the Silver Beach campground; I had another drive-in campground and seven marine access provincial parks to look-after. There was a speedboat for the park operator to use; moored at the marina which also supplied the fuel on-account. It was 14 foot long with an 80 horse-power Mercury outboard; made of aluminium, it was ideal for beaching at the boat-only parks.

Luxury house-boats are a very big part of the tourism on Shuswap Lake. Four big rental fleets are frequent visitors to the marine parks. My job was to keep these areas litter-free and tidy. I visited boat-only sites every other day and the drive-in campgrounds every day.  

Another part of the job was to check on the Albas Falls. This is a series of five cascades on Celista Creek with footpath running from the lake-shore; up one bank of the creek, across a bridge at the top and down the other side. I had to collect litter, check on signage and report any fallen trees or damage.

The Albas Falls are a very popular hike; both with boaters and the campers at the drive-in Albas campsite. I didn't get to hike the picturesque falls as many times as I would have liked; the work-load was so heavy that I didn't even have time to shave.

Overall, the weather was very good during my stay. Only one big storm hit the beach although smoke from forest fires in British Columbia did cut visibility for three weeks at the end of August. 

The storm brought down a big tree on one of the Silver Beach pit-toilets. Luckily, nobody was inside at the time. Cleaning the pit-toilets was also part of the job; it was a bit more than holding your nose, kicking open the door and lobbing-in a couple of toilet rolls. But not much.

My day started at 7 o'clock in the morning with an early morning trip down the lake to the furthest of the day's marine parks. The best part of the day with no-one else out on the water. The high-light of my time on the Shuswap was when I came across a moose, swimming across the lake in the early morning.  Black bear, beaver, eagle and osprey could also be regularly seen from the boat.

After the 20th of August; the campground was nearly always empty during the week. The Kawasaki side-by-side was invaluable in collecting rubbish from the bear-proof bins and for running to the marina. 

With less work to do, I was able to relax more and do touristy stuff for myself. This included watching the sockeye salmon run in the Seymour River.

By September, the marine parks were almost always deserted. Beautiful places with names like Encounter Point, Two Mile Creek, Wright's Landing, Beach Bay, Fowler Point and Bug House Bay; etched in my memory forever.

The view from the window of the truck. Silver Beach, Shuswap Lake and the jetty of the Wheelhouse Pub.

Two Mile Dump; the lumber operation of Canoe Forestry Products. Logs floating in the lake, waiting to be towed to the sawmill.

When it came time to leave; I took a chance by heading back to the Trans-Canada Highway on the Forestry Service Road known as the Gorge. Follow the power lines that come from the Mica Dam were my instructions. 80 kilometres of gravel instead of  50 but saving a hundred kays overall.

I knew it was only re-opened recently after some land-slides but didn't realize that construction crews were still finishing the clear-up. The track was really rough but dry enough for two-wheel drive vehicles. 

The hills were steep and single track. Meeting a loaded logging truck was a distinct possibility on the twisting hillsides but didn't happen. 
Shuswap Lake is in the shape of an "H" with four arms that join at "The Narrows."
Salmon Arm, south to the town of the same name.
Main Arm that goes towards Sorrento.
Anstey Arm that goes north from Salmon Arm at the Narrows
Seymour Arm is what you have with short sleeve shirts.

On checking the Mack at the end of the dirt road revealed it had taken it's toll on the underside of the motor-home. Broken rear leaf-spring, weeping diesel tank and leaking front hub seal; probably costing two months wages to repair.
The road in from the West: Squilax to Seymour Arm. The final 50 km is gravel.
The road out to the East. Seymour Arm to Craigellachie. All gravel and rocks and terrible.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2018: Impressions And Photographs.

From July 5th to July 8th, 2018. With over 70 performers on a multitude of  stages; dotted around Birds Hill Provincial Park. Most of the acts were on the Main Stage for the finale on Sunday night.

Sheryl Crow was the headline act and the only performer that I had heard of. Enough hit songs and a good backing band; so everyone could sing along.

The 45th edition of the festival and well enough established to have a long row of food vendors covering all the bases in World cuisine.

Camping is a big thing at the Winnipeg Folk Fest, with the young in tents and most of the older generation in RVs. Partying and music going on long into the night after the show shad finished. reckoned by many to be the best part of the four days and five nights.

This the official photographer of the festival; a volunteer with his 112 year old camera. The tripod looks a bit younger.

First outing for the new awning on the Mack. It stood up well to some high winds and a couple of showers on the Sunday morning.

A lot of the smaller stages have "Workshop" type events in the daytime. Some better supported than others and not just the old style finger-in-the-ear folk music. If the organizers could go back 45 years; then I think they would have called it "The Winnipeg Music Festival" because there was a awful lot more than just folk.

Volunteers are a big part of the festival with 2800 people helping to put on the event. Many come back year after year, giving a few hours of their time each day and partying for the rest.

Big Rock Brewery has the concession for the two taverns. A cold beer and a sit down in the shade was a welcome relief from the hot sun and the endless walking. It's a big site with every stage being out of earshot from it's neighbour.

A folding chair is essential as the grass is the only alternative. It can be a long day; 11am to 11pm, on your feet.

The smell of dope on the campsite was the most powerful I can remember and lasted for all the festival. Just like the relentless drumming that went from dusk to dawn. Surprisingly, I slept well. Maybe from all the walking or maybe from sleeping in noisy truckstops for most of my life.

Leonard Sumner was one act I enjoyed. A young Native American from Saskatchewan; he delivered a powerful message in a friendly humourous  style with a mix of poetry and songs in English and Cree.

Scott H. Byrum is a blues guitarist from Austin, Texas. One man filling a stage with a driving rhythm and showing what a diverse set of performers that Folk Fest assembles for it's vast audience. 

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is on the eastern side of the Bird's Hill Provincial Park, 20 miles out of town and on a well established site.

The Mack was parked in the RV section of the festival campsite. It was crowded but the friendliness of my neighbours was overwhelming. I didn't imagine  that the old fire rescue truck would attract so much attention with people whose passion was music.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sound Proofing The Cab Of An R-Series Mack.

I started with the roof and the back of the cab. The vinyl covered cardboard panels were held on by self-tapping screws so came off with out any trouble. The problems came when trying to find the screw holes after they had been covered with the butyl rubber backed aluminium foil.

A visit from Mocha the Cat. Absolutely no help whatsoever. 

Some of the floor had been done with a bitumen based insulation. But most was bare metal, including the fire wall which just had a thin foam and cardboard sandwich to stop the noise.

Dynamat is the name of the sound insulation sheets that come in 12 inch by 24 inch sheets. I used 36 sheets on the cab; two packs of 18 sheets that came from Summit Racing of Arlington, Texas. Not a hard job to do. Cut to size, peel the back off the sticky black butyl rubber then run over it with a roller to get out all the air bubbles. Make sure everything is clean, dry and dust free. Also work in the warm, the product is a lot more flexible on a hot day. 

The original floor covering was rubber mats and had worn badly in places. Replacements are available but I went for carpeting, to also help with noise suppression and to add a little luxury.   

I went for a short-pile rubber-backed 36 inch wide carpet. It's suitable for both indoor and outdoor use and sold by the foot at most home improvement superstores. Both floor and firewall were done using the old mats and panels as patterns while a piece of carpet trim finishes off at the doorstep. 

I used a fabric underlay on the floor and finished off with a full width heavy-duty rubber mat. Just two pedals to cut round. I did away with the  foot-operated siren and air-horn switches. All too often my left foot was going for a non-existent clutch pedal as the truck came to a halt and I was blasting the air-horns by mistake.

The cab is now a lot more user friendly with the new supportive seats and the quieter interior, although with the lack of air-conditioning, there is a lot of wind noise with the windows open on hot days. To be honest; it is still a basic truck  cab that was designed in the 1960's, so it is never going to be like a motorhome or modern truck that is comfortable for a long day's driving but I think that driving days of over thre hours will be few and far between.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Weekend At Falcon Lake.

East on the Trans-Canada Highway.
____ Just over a 300 kilometre round-trip in the Mack on the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway. A good chance to record the fuel consumption for out-of-town driving. Around the town, it is about 7.5 to 8 mpg. [US 3.85 litre/gallon] It was just over 9 mpg for the weekend as I filled up, there and back, at Deacon's Corner on the edge of Winnipeg. It would have been better if I hadn't done about 30 kilometres on the dirt roads to the Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes and Mountain Bike Trail Area. I also found out that you cannot leave the windows open when driving on dirt or you will finish-up with a dust-coated vehicle interior in a very short time.

____ This was another trip to fine-tune the living requirements of the Mack. The insect netting for the doors worked well; held-up with magnets and clothes pegs. The shower wasn't so good. Water pressure was fine but the shower hose needs to be longer and the Off/On switch for the pump needs to be more accessible. The soak-lather-rinse routine  would be better and save water if the water could be turned-off easily after the wetting-down. But three and a half gallons of water does give a good shower when pumped at 2 gallons per minute.

 ____ The solar panels and house batteries seem to be coping with the demand very well The fridge is drawing power all the time from the 12 volt system with just occasional use of the water pumps and interior lights. 300 watts from the sun and 800 amp/hours of storage means the batteries have yet to show less than 75% capacity and are always showing 100% by mid-afternoon; although it has been a sunny June and the sun is at it's highest in the sky.

____These first trips are about finding a place for all the things that get used regularly and discarding all those items that will never be utilized and take up too much space. Too many wine glasses when all the beer is being drunk straight from the can. Having guests is great but carrying enough crockery to feed five thousand is not an option. Same with space in the fridge: half-full bottles of different salad-dressings and bar-b-q sauces take away too much valuable beer-chilling capacity. Milk for the coffee and HP sauce for the bacon butties are enough for the fridge door.

The beach at Falcon Lake Provincial Park; within earshot of traffic on the TCH, sadly.

Photo-opportunity for the Mack at the new Centre of Canada sign, just east of Winnipeg on Highway 1.