Have Chariot – second thoughts

One of my daughters liked the idea of my plan to once again cross the country and camp on the way but wondered why I had not considered pulling a small trailer or perhaps finding a van. A reasonable question and one I have lobbed back and forth in my brain. Now that the bouncing has stopped I remain firmly on the side of car camping. (Until I started researching everything I was not even aware that ‘car camping’ was a thing) However, I also came up with ways to make this latest plan less crazy. Or, I thought I had. Most likely just as well we are looking at next year!

First, why not pull a small camper, tent trailer or trade in my car for a van that I can kit out to suit me needs? Besides finances – always a major consideration – I just cannot envision being comfortable driving very far with a behemoth non-motored two wheel (or four) sleeping space attached to my backside. Even a small behemoth. In addition, it would mean constantly having to back into a space, uncoupling and setting up in specific areas meant for more than just tents. So why not a van? Well, finances again. Also, what does one do with a van that is camperized once a trip is finished? I doubt I would be going on other major driving trips. So. Back to my 2002 Hyundai Elantra. I know the car, I am happy driving it. I feel safe in it. Yet, is it realistic to take two plus weeks to travel across Canada with only a hatchback to sleep in? With a passenger.

After checking out 10+ tents of various shapes, sizes, colours, and space, we think this MEC Camper 3 best suits our needs.

We decided to look at tents. We even think we found one that is not too outrageously expensive – many would would consider it relatively cheap. Which brings me to how does anyone decide which tent is the right one? There are so many! Knowing we have the car as a back up for a sleeping space we still decided that a three person 3 season tent would suit our needs. Not so big as to be cumbersome yet have enough room to give us about 18″ between us. We chose to not look at lightweight backpacking tents which will most likely limit campsites (so far the main plan) we can stay at unless we are willing to carry a 3.07kg tent plus everything else. In other words, my daughter would have to carry it! My plan is to buy it, then drive up to maybe Rathtrevor on Vancouver Island for an overnight test. Baby steps. Hoping less chance of cougars and bears. Besides, if all else fails I know someone who lives nearby.

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Evening at Butchart Gardens

A couple of mornings ago I discovered a nasty mosquito bite on my neck. Seems I am allergic to Canadian mosquitoes. Like last summer when my leg became infected after being bitten this bite hurt by the end of the following day. However, I was not about to let this prevent me from going to the world famous Butchart Gardens where my sister was singing in The Chorus choir – not to be confused with The Choir choir. (https://www.thechorusyyj.com) The two choirs blended into one for two songs.

The Chorus and The Choir

They had a wonderful stage that helped project stupendous voices. Although a non-audition choir there is no lack of talent. The setting was stellar, the audience appreciative of music and surroundings. There is always a bit of magic when a blanket can be placed on cooling grass, a picnic is laid out and music begins to drift over the landscape.

The sunken garden, probably the favourite for photos – also recognized worldwide

I had time to discover the Rose Carousel with 30 hand carved animals, (horses, frogs, cats, an orca are just a few) installed in 2009 – it had been probably 20 years since I was last visited the gardens. I also had never been on a carousel! For a twoonie a delightful 3 1/2 minutes, and even had a fleeting dream of springing off like Mary Poppins, were mine. In reality I had trouble dismounting the horse I was riding! So much fun I convinced my sister to give it a whirl which meant I had two rides. We laughed and giggled like little girls the whole time.

Photo shared by the parent of a child riding behind me – he even asked permission to take it! Beside me are two dear friends – my second ride I was on the cat with the fish. Cats have tails – not easy to climb off!

Only the rose garden has labels to name the flowers – I believe this is a Pope John Paul rose (of course I deleted the label photo)

Alas, I did not have time to truly enjoy the gardens, There was time enough to take in some of the lush gardens, like an appetizer. At 33.10 CAD plus tax it is unlikely I will return soon. There is also a yearly pass for 60.50 plus tax. (Choir members were given a free guest pass – quite a treat) However, what I did see was lovely and I even enjoyed a quick bite and coffee from the coffee shop. Everything is made fresh on the premises – my chicken curry wrap was delicious! In other words, despite mentioning a picnic I did not actually take one with me. I may have to rethink my budget.

Below is the Dragon Fountain, a gift in 2015 from Suzhou, China – sister city to Victoria

Fountain near the Blue Poppy Restaurant – take a close look at the snake and frog

Have chariot – will travel

Anyone who has read my posts may have realized I like the quirky, but not dangerous, side of adventure. Having barely settled back home with a good book it is time to pull out my notebook & pencil, power up my iPad, erase all traces of wedding plans from my whiteboard and start some research for an adventure that is definitely outside my comfort zone. Time to call a friend with more experience than my usual travel companions. (Pandas tend to appreciate the softer side of travel)

With my daughter seriously considering a move to Toronto to further her studies and two of her sisters already in Ontario it is extremely likely I join her, or take up temporary residence with each of the three on a rotating basis. Or permanently live in my golden chariot. This is where my lumberjack friend enters. A rugged individual with attitude and lots of hugs he should be able to help me figure out how to get from Point A to Point B (approx 4500km depending on where B will be) on a very thin budget. Driving.

I swear he is smirking.

I really do not intend to ride across the country on a dogsled although it might be handy if I end up being caught in a snowstorm. My chariot is a 2002 Hyundai Elantra 4 door hatchback. I also intend to turn the car into a camper. Probably the most challenging adventure I will undertake. I think the first venture will be a weekend somewhere on the island before the end of September – Tofino perhaps. Keeping this short for now, looking for any words of wisdom besides suggestions to stop now.

What do I have so far? Chariot, nerves of steel (questionable), sleeping bags, various backpacking camp items, tiny BBQ (hey, its only a list so far), navigator. My daughter does not drive – yet.

Homeward Bound: a day in Toronto plus

A weird water fountain but easy to find. (We were not looking for it)

My daughter from Kitchener joined to spend a few hours in Toronto before she had to return home by GO train and GO Bus. We packed in as much as we could without becoming too exhausted. First stop was our hostel where we dropped our bags and paid for our beds. It was time to explore – after a late breakfast. Hostels are great for providing suggestions for where to eat and things to do. Le Petit Dejeuner 191 King St. E) was highly recommended. To our mutual delight they were right! A funky 1950s look with eclectic decor, a massive espresso machine, somewhat grubby and worn menus and a friendly welcome, I was sure we would each find something to satiate our hunger. I am particularly fussy about how my eggs are cooked so never order fried eggs and rarely – as in probably over 35 years or so – order poached eggs. However, I found I could not resist this item: Toast Champignon – A halved bagel topped with sauteed mushrooms, herbs, onions and bacon. Served with potato rosti and apple slaw. Oh my goodness, fabulous even if the poached egg was too soft for my taste.

After breakfast we checked out St. Lawrence Market, very impressive. I expect one could easily spend a week’s salary doing grocery shopping there. Meat and fish counters, all sorts of seasonal vegetables and fruit, an extensive display of exotic rice, tea, coffee, breads, and pastries are some of what I recall. We managed to just look – good thing we went after breakfast. We came across a play park being constructed that looked like it will be a lot of fun for when children and parents need a break and perhaps a picnic.

Despite not making it to some of the places on our list, not enough time and unsure of distance, we kept busy. First, a visit Toronto’s first post office (260 Adelaide St. E.) where we each tried our hand at writing using quill pen and inkwell in the reading room. Various letters, artefacts, photos and information about the history of the building and Toronto (originally York) were interesting as well as providing us with 40 minutes out of the heat! The front room once again serves as a post office (originally 1834-1839) after several decades in various uses before a fire in 1978. The Post Office and Reading Room are replicas of the 1830s.

Replica postal boxes: William Lyon Mackenzie King (Canada’s 10th PM) collected his mail here. No idea which box # was his. (All my PO photos came out cloudy)

I love stumbling across events such as summer music in churches or parks. We had passed St. James Cathedral a couple of times before I stopped to take some photos and saw the notice for Music at Midday. Dr. Giles Bryant – guest organist. He certainly has a heady CV! In 1979 Dr. Bryant was the organist and Master of the choristers at the Cathedral. He was at the door greeting some of those who wandered in as well as giving hearty hugs to, from what I overheard, former parishioners/friends he had not seen in decades.

The single toll of the bell rang out 1:00pm. Five pieces by Healey Willan were on the programme; the first Fantasia on Ad Coenam Agni’ (1906) followed by ‘Slane’Prelude for Organ (1967) which may explain why the latter was so subdued. Although I love music, including the organ, I am not at all familiar with composers or pieces. Organs are the original surround sound. Clarion ups and downs like hills and valleys. The first piece was too heavy on clatters for me until the magnificent bass booming behind me. Smattering of applause indicated other audience members were also unsure of how to respond. Although most likely technically far more difficult to play quiet, gentle pieces the heat turned the listening into a soporific torture. We left just as the third piece was finishing. I found it interesting to later read that was Scherzo (Five Pieces), it did not sound too playful to me.

I wanted to check if there any last minute tickets available for this production – next time

We continued to wend our way past historic buildings, parks and dizzying glass towers before it was time to walk back to Union Station to see my daughter board the GO and a final farewell. We headed back to the hostel to check in, find our beds and hide from the sun before venturing out again. This time to Eaton Centre. This is where everyone goes if they want to be out and about without getting scorched or frozen depending on the season. There may be a gym on one of the floors although there is no need for one – just walk up and down the corridors in a quest for elevators and escalators. Lots of ramps and stairs give a little more oomph to the workout. We found lunch on the bottom floor – we both chose beef and chicken shawarma. I was rather surprised when it came with rice and potatoes, also slaw of some sort. Or was that breakfast? I was rapidly beginning to fade yet glad to walk off some of my lunch before calling it a day.

HI Toronto is an extremely popular, busy hostel. Trivia, chocolate & whisky sour. Don’t forget the caffeine kick at 6:02pm – new pot of coffee made for me despite it being past the time for the free cup and two, count them, hotdogs. I ate one bun but both dogs. Did I even sleep? I should explain. A bed in a four bed dorm, mixed, will set you back $54.00 per person plus tax. This includes breakfast. But wait, just in case breakfast is not your thing dinner (wraps after 7:00) or even lunch (no idea what that might have been) can be chosen so long as it is under $15.00. Except Tuesdays are free dinner – that is where the hotdogs came in. Chicken or vegan – this place has nearly everything covered. Too bad there was not any relish. The free coffee (or tea, pop, maybe juice) was on the receipt – one only.

By the time I was ready to call it a night a Trivia game was about to start. Anyone could play using a mobile device. Mine were at the reception lounge and I was not really interested. I thought it would be recent trivia. However. With my daughter helping I found the App and signed in. Also with her help I did rather well, even coming on top for the last game despite it being all about Friends. My daughter said blank blank money in student loads and she has a useless degree and an encyclopedic memory of Friends. The organizer of the game had to find me though – I was still upstairs. I got a chocolate bar, and she gave my daughter a bar coupon. Which was exchanged for a ‘real’ whisky sour – I would not know the difference. Before the music started, live music most nights, open mic that night, I finally headed to bed.

My last morning in ON I was up with the birds despite not having slept well. Hostel dorms, and beds, do not make it easy for a good night and even less so when someone arrives at 4:00am, then their devices start to ping several times before 6:00am! As mentioned, Breakfast is included in the cost of the bed which is great except for having to wait until 7:30. It makes me wonder just how much sightseeing young backpackers pack into a day. In desperate need of coffee I asked where I could find the nearest Starbucks. At the corner. It is not that I am a huge fan of SB, I was trying to not spend anything which meant using rewards points – yay for my daughter who put her card on my phone!

Crossing the street I saw a man sitting in his wheelchair asking a young woman for something. As I approached, and while waiting for the next light, he asked me if I could buy him a coffee. I honestly said I have no cash. He said he did not want cash, just coffee then asked me if I as buying coffee for myself so I said yes. He asked how – rather impertinent but I responded anyway along with the side comment it was all I had. To which he said he understood being house poor. Of course I had to laugh, then I said no house but definitely poor! I crossed the street with the intention of possibly getting him that cup of coffee. Until I saw him accosting drivers on the street, using his wheelchair as a chariot flying full tilt. He did not get his coffee. However,he did unwittingly provide me with some early morning entertainment. I joined my daughter at the hostel where we each had a hearty Backpacker breakfast. Guess what, nearly all backpackers take the best of the free.

Rundown to home. UP to the airport. Then the inter-terminal train. Breezed through security. Flight delayed. Ate leftover toast, bought more coffee and some yogurt. Ate that. Finally departed about 55 minutes late. Very worried we would miss our connecting flight. Hurray for carry on bags and a great computer system. We arrived at the gate with a scant minute to spare before our next flight was to depart. Someone came on board, called our names and a narrow, Moses like parting of a path was made down the only aisle for us to follow. Our luggage was tagged and checked free of charge as we scurried to our seats. Fantastic views of the Rockies! Somehow the 65 minute flight from Calgary to Vancouver arrived ten minutes or so early! We grabbed our checked bags, raced for the Skytrain (yet another train) then the bus to the ferry terminal. Our first glimpse of the ocean in three weeks and all the tension of the wedding, intense heat, humidity, and all the rushing just melted away. My daughter asked, “Why would we want to move?” Why indeed – yet, we might.

The Great Locomotive Chase: Part 3

Despite having to fly home next week, rather than take the train, I have certainly found enough varieties of rail rides to keep me happy. I even found a show on Knowledge Network about the narrow gauge India Hill Railway – very interesting. However, sitting on a train is far more fun. With that in mind my daughter asked us if we would like to go on the Great Train Robbery that starts next door to the massive St. Jacob’s Market.

Once again two buses, altogether about an hour, this time stopping before the village of St. Jacob’s. The parking lot is huge, on both sides of the market, not many horse and carriages as I though there would be. The Mennonites who do not have booths at the market most likely avoid the place or do their market shopping closer to the 7:00am opening when everything is fresh. (I really have no idea how many still use horse and buggy. We did see some in St. Jacob’s the previous day and one on the main road near the market) We arrived at 10:00, everyone else was in need of breakfast and I certainly did not say no to more coffee. Breakfast was served on real plates! Cutlery was plastic. We then spent 3 1/2 hours checking out all on offer indoors and outdoors but could easily have spent much longer. Of course there were beautiful quilts and all sorts of cured sausages in addition to delicious looking baked goods and bread. I finally gave in and had a pretzel. My only wish was for really good mustard rather than the packaged stuff.

Knowing we would have to carry everything we tried to take care with purchases. We returned with raspberries – somewhat squished by the time we put them in the fridge, lots and lots of cherries – my D discovered after 10 years of marriage her husband does not like cherries! Peaches, a large all beef summer sausage that will go home with us if we can resist opening it, spicy apple jam and strawberry jam, alpaca wool and new, heavy duty water bottles. We dallied over beans, tomatoes, strawberries, more baked goods, flowers and so much more. Our bags were very heavy. We were there long enough I needed lunch so I grabbed a baked vegetable samosa. They even served naked samosas as a GF choice.

Just some of our purchases! Everything would not fit on the table

Well sated, and burdened down with our purchases we headed for the train. The Waterloo Central Railway offers all sorts of fun throughout the year with their themed trips. I counter 19 on their website – if I visit in December I might do the Polar Express. The Mennonite Excursion to Elmira includes a farm wagon ride and a chance for a visit to a farm for lunch and a chat. I realize this is marketing to tourists but why not? If it helps to keep everything running without too much damage to culture and environment I am in favour. Back to our trip. Despite arriving early, as requested, I did not have a chance to take any photos of the engine or cars, the platform was too narrow and busy. I am quite sure we were not being pulled by the steam locomotive used for some of their trips. Slated as a one hour trip we felt lucky to have an hour & 20 minutes of rocking and rolling. I happen to enjoy the swing of trains although the cars used seem to sway far more than modern ones. Even the words often used for train travel have a dance rhythm.

The whole Robbery is hammed up by conductor and sheriff with jokey comments to fit into conversation with passengers. We kept hearing about the valuable valuables that were being carried to Elmira – then brought through each car as proof. We later discovered that one of the young men playing a role was on his first day – he did an excellent job. Also while out of character he mentioned he has a degree in Theology. Before these sidetracked bits of information we were kept entertained by fields of corn gently swaying, cows grazing, horses neighing (I assume) and stopping traffic at various crossings. We passed by decommissioned cars and engines, one had the 1867-1967 logo on it from Canada’s centennial – I had hoped to get a photo on our return, no luck. I have fond memories of those white symbols flashing by and stopped at the grain elevator in Prince Rupert.

Gold? What gold?

Of course the pinnacle of the hour was sighting kerchief garbed bandits riding in the distance, parallel to the train before galloping alongside us – and they were definitely moving swiftly. The train came to a standstill, the train robbers, all female by the way, boarded and quickly divided their booty of goodies to passengers. The conductor and sheriff were in hot pursuit. My companions quickly hid their portion of gold and my SIL seemed to be in cahoots with the bandits. Basically a fun way to while away 1 1/2 hours before heading back to Kitchener. My daughter who lives there and I had just enough energy left to walk to the Cherry Park Festival that was winding down its last hour – we shared a cup of cherry cheesecake ice-cream then called it day.

seeking witnesses and the stolen gold. Middle photo- caught!

If becoming a professor does not pan out she might make a good train robber.