Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Red flag: Magnolia Beach, Texas.

____ Day 8: Away from Schulenburg, mid-morning, onto Victoria with a long shopping list of everything we will need for the next installment of the adventure. We are entering the World of Boondocking with supplies from Wally’s World. Boondocking is the name given to living off the grid in a RV without paying anything for your parking spot. Facilities will be sparse, distant or non-existent and all food and water has to be taken for the planned length of stay in your chosen wilderness. Boondocking sites were once passed on by word of mouth or found by chance but now there is an app for your phone and plenty of information on the Internet. Magnolia Beach is on Google Maps along-side the words “Free RV Camping.” We arrived at 2.30 in the afternoon and neatly split the 200 yard gap between two travel trailers. 

____ Day 9: Our arrival in warm sunshine was followed by a stormy night and the worry of possible beach erosion. Parked only 20 yards from the high-tide line; I got dressed and went out to check the safety of the Mack, twice. Fortunately the beach is made up of hard-packed crushed sea-shells and very little sand; there was no noticeable difference to the shore-line throughout the day as the rain and strong winds continued until dusk. Magnolia Beach is on the mainland side of the Intra-Coastal Waterway and sheltered from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Island. It was a day to stay inside, play crib and wonder if we had picked a good time to visit the South Texas coast.

____ Day 10: There are two types of Boondocker: the Nomad and the Snowbird. The Snowbirds are from the frozen North and escaping from the cold, harsh North American Winters; the Nomads are living full-time in RVs and each and every one is escaping from something or other. With an overcast but dry Saturday; we had a chance to meet many of our neighbours as Snowbirds and Nomads came to check-out the ex-fire truck on the beach.

____ Day 11: Another dull but dry day as we rode the bikes to the nearby village of Indianola; once the largest seaport in Texas before hurricanes destroyed the town in the 1860’s and Galveston took away the sea traffic. Now it is the site of a few scattered houses on stilts and the Indianola Fishing Marina. We took advantage of the all-you–can-eat pancake breakfast as plenty of veterans came to fish-free on Remembrance Day. The solar panels struggled to keep up with the demand of the last few cloudy days and the generator was needed to give the house batteries a charge; the first time since the system’s installation. Probably due to the shorter daylight hours of November with the interior lights being used so much more. Might need to get some candles. 

Parked by the shore at Magnolia Beach

The first camels in America arrived at Indianola shortly before the Ameican Civil War. They fought for the South.

Our neighbours on the hard-packed shingle beach.

Many local buildings have suffered from the ravages of the wind.

Big ships and barges pass close to shore as they navigate the Intracoastal Waterway.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Into Oklahoma.

Days 4,5,6 and 7.
____ Day 4: Out of the Love's at McPherson and down to the only bit of toll-road on the trip; $2.50 for the Kansas Turnpike from Wichita to the Oklahoma state border. Good Wi-Fi connection at the Belle Plaine Service Area helps soften the blow. Bright sunshine all day as we  make our way to the Flying'J at Oklahoma City for the overnight stop and a shower. Fifty gallons of fuel gets you a free shower but with just a 48 gallon fuel tank on the Mack; we have to do two fills of over 25 gallons to qualify.

____ Day 5: Flying'J and Pilot are very accommodating to motor homes and it is never a problem to tuck the Mack into a parking spot on the car park. I don't want to take a spot in among the big-rigs as I know how some places get full and the last thing that an over-worked and over-tired trucker needs is to find that a motor-home has taken the last empty stall when their hours are about to run out. We are the only motor-home staying over-night but there are at least twenty people sleeping in their cars and pick-up trucks. In the morning we take the bikes off the rack and ride the nearby river trail. Seven miles of paved cycle track between the Oklahoma River and Interstate 40 terminating at the state-of-the-art rowing facility of the US Olympic team. On the road again in early afternoon; the day's drive is just a short hop down to the Winstar Casino at the OK/TX state line.

____ Day 6: A rest-day in the finely manicured grounds of Winstar's own RV park. Very posh with very posh clientele but very good value. The first night is free for first-timers, $20 a night for casino club members; this includes electrical, water and sewer hook-ups. All very nice and with sunshine all day; some quiet country roads to ride the bikes and hot showers afterwards. The only disappointment was the end of the free breakfast buffets for over 55's on Wednesday and Thursdays; it now takes far to much gambling on your members club card to qualify. It seems far to many local seniors had been rocking-up just for the free grub and never playing the machines.

____ Day 7: Interstate 35 West is now virtually road-works free through Fort Worth after I had continually been held-up for the past twelve years. The tolled express lanes are finally up and running! After Waco we take the US Highway 77 for a night at the Pilot at Schulenburg; temperatures of 29 degrees C make the truck too hot and uncomfortable when we stop but the fact that I had left the heater running in the living quarters might have had something to do with it.

Self-catering is the key to economic road-trips.

Out of Kansas into Oklahoma.

The Mack, parked among high-end RVs at the Winstar.

Cycle track beside the river in Oklahoma City.

Wind turbines. I wonder if a small one would help power the house-batteries in the Mack.

Cycling the back roads in Southern Oklahoma.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Adventure Begins................

Day 1 to Day 3.
____ Day 1: Heading South for the Winter in a re-configured fire-rescue truck maybe not everybody's idea of retirement but that is what I have chosen. October was full of bureaucratic bullshit as I battled to get my five pension-plans to pay me what I had planned for. It was like getting blood out of a stone with endless paperwork. The end result will not amount to enough for a pot to piss-in but I'm sure I can have one winter in the Sun and reconsider my future afterwards. Meanwhile the Mack went into Integrity Ventures for new leaf springs on the back and a new fuel tank.

So it was November the First when Cheryl and I finally left home on a frosty morning. Final banking, insurance and  wheel-nut re-torques meant it was late into the afternoon when we crossed into North Dakota. Fuel at the Grand Forks Flying'J and into the Petro at Fargo for the night; slipping into a bob-tail spot as the rain settled in for the night.

____ Day 2: Rain for most of the day as we took Interstate 29 to Watertown, South Dakota, and our first visit to Walmart for supplies and drinking water. Then US Highway 81 to Norfolk, Nebraska, but not before soaking myself with diesel when the pump blew-back at Casey's in Freeman. Just what I did not want; the living-quarters reeking of fuel-oil after just Day 2.

____ Day 3: Love's at Norfolk didn't have a laundry so the clothes didn't get washed until the Petro at York. From there, the weather brightened-up and we reached McPherson just before dusk. Much warmer already but not hot enough for shorts.

It's not everyday that you get to park next to a legend.

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.