Woodsmoke and horses

The lazy hazy days of summer took on new meaning as we lingered in Alberta. The summer days were hot and dry, and in neighbouring British Columbia it was even hotter, and dryer. Forest fires bumped Covid-19 off the top headline. The skies looked foggy, and the nights a blaze of red glory. Luckily, we got to spend a lot of this time at D&S’s cabin on Beauvais Lake, so can’t complain — too much πŸ˜‰.

The hot summer days not only gave rise to vast forest fires, but also seemed to spawn powerful thunderstorms. A couple of days before we came down, Beauvais was hit with a particularly nasty thunderstorm, including some very large hail. Reports were of golf ball or larger sized stones. We arrived a few days later, and the area around the cabin looked like a war zone. The surrounding spruce and poplar trees had been completely pummelled, leaving huge amounts of debris all over the area and deck. It took us three days of semi-hard work to clean it all up.

And then, just as we’d got most things cleaned up, another heavy hailstorm hit:

Notwithstanding Nature trying to kill us with hail and smoke, our time at the cabin was wonderful (as usual). We did some paddling, and a bit of walking and (Ann) swimming. And we even got to spend a few days with the newlyweds when they came down to relax.

Eventually we shifted back up to Calgary to spend a few more days of good company and good ping pong.

We then shifted our lives to our little motorcycles, and headed for our house sit in Castlegar BC, with one more stop-over at the cabin.

We loaded up the little bikes and headed out early the next day, destination: Castlegar, BC. It’s a lovely 450 km ride through the mountains along highway #3, and it was pretty nice. But on this trip the temperatures were brutally hot, and we travelled through sometimes intense areas of smoke from all the fires. It was like travelling through fog. We arrived safe and sound, and got introduced to Jamie and the small gang of four-legged critters: Loki and Freya the two cats, and then Oliver, or Ollie, the dog.

The house itself was located outside of Castlegar, in a place called Robson. It’s on a largeish fenced-in corner lot. While the house is old (for the area), Jamie and her partner Andrew have done a tremendous amount of work to upgrade things. But most importantly, it’s surrounded by beautiful rock faces and lovely mountains, with the Columbia River just a couple of blocks away.

Unfortunately, we rarely saw much of the beauty since we were most often socked in with smoke. But equally happily, the animals were a constant joy to be around.

When we arrived, Andrew was already off climbing mountains with his friends, and Jamie was attempting to fly out of Castlegar airport on her way to Corner Brook Newfoundland where she grew up and still has family. Unfortunately, the smoke was so bad that her flights kept getting cancelled and re-routed. She eventually found a flight out of Kelowna — some 300 km away. Andrew drove back from his climbing expeditions, and managed to get her there and on her way.

BC Smoke map

It was like this for most of our stay

The smoky conditions persisted through most of our time there. Some days were so bad the air tasted like campfire. We often had to limit our outdoor time. But Ollie needed constant playtime… and so did we.

Our time was wonderful and pretty relaxing. Ollie was a great excuse to do a bit of running around, and of course Ann found the local swimming pool. She also tended their wonderful garden, and we got to reap some benefits with fresh veggies and greens.

Andrew ended up at the house more than expected, so we were able to get to know him a bit better. While we were there he managed to install a new sink, get the upstairs kitchen fully functional, and build a couple of end-tables. He’s an incredibly talented guy. And speaking of talent, we managed to get in a Sunday Jam session. Guess why we picked this song:

Most of our time was spent enjoying the space, and hanging out with the cute kitties and doggie. Even through the night, the four-leggers would join us in bed. It was cute… until I got up to pee and came back to find my place had been taken. Harumph😑

Sadly, our time in Castlegar came to an end. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Calgary where good family/friends and drinks awaited.

Monique and Phil even came over for an evening for food, godly banter and singing.

After a few more days of Calgarian bliss we loaded up our little red car and headed off to Cochrane to reconnect with Carol and Pete, and their zoo of amazing critters. We were last at their “Tudor House” in 2019, just before the beginning of the pandemic, so it felt a bit like a homecoming as we drove back through the gate.

We quickly got reacquainted with their collection of animals, including: Rocky, the little chihuahua that everyone loves; Sassy, the sneezy kitty; Aila, the weird Siamese; Oscar, the (near) bobcat; and Muckluck, the sweet but shy barn cat. Jade the quiet parakeet and Merlin the yackity-yack parrot complete the indoor compliment.

Moving outside we have the big critters: Angel & Mercedes, the “Pet me! No, pet me!!” mini-donkeys. And last but certainly not least there is Ibn, the horse with attitude, and big Tucker, the gentle giant.

It was really great to reconnect with Carol and Pete, and to experience their place in the warm weather. The house/farm is peaceful, and it’s a joy to be surrounded by little lives — yes, even the yacky parrot is kinda nice.

Having that many animals also kept the day fairly full and somewhat regimented. Mornings were spent servicing the needs of little dog (gotta pee!), changing bird cage waters (birds poop in their water☹️), and feeding and scooping cat poop. After breakfast it was out to the stables area for more poop cleanup.

I guess you can say I spent most of my time as a pooper-scooper.

One of the great things about the Cochrane house is that it entices people to come and visit. Monique and Phil came out very early, bringing with them their friend Abigail and her 18-month-old daughter. The little one was a real hit with the miniature donkeys. They just seemed to be utterly fascinated with the miniature human — perhaps they felt a personal affinity.

We had a lot of fun that day. Monique gave Ann (and me) some lessons in how to manage the horses better. Simple tips like blowing gently at their noses so they can smell you seemed to really help. Of course, as Nique was leaving we had to remind her that Rocky wasn’t for sale.

Everyone loves Rocky, and Rocky loves everyone.
Merlin having his evening chat with himself

Over the following days and weeks others dropped by. Donna & Sam came out to spend a few hours working with the horses, exploring the area, and of course playing with Rocky. A little later Peggy, Phil and Marc visited, and finally Donna came out on her own. It was nice that we could play host for a change.

The days slipped by. I mostly enjoyed hanging with the little critters, while Ann channelled her inner-Albertan and really took to big critter husbandry.

Under the tutelage of Monique, Donna and YouTube, Ann became quite confident and proficient with her horse work. She was able to get fly masks on and off easily, and started a daily regime of grooming and hoof cleaning. I stuck to where my skills were most appreciated; managing the dung pile.

Pete’s drone pic of the Tudor House

We really enjoyed our time at Pete & Carol’s, and would love to come back again if the timing works out. But as with all things, our stint here came to an end. We said our final goodbyes to all the animals, spent a lovely evening with the owners, and then headed back to D&S’s.

Our plans are a bit loose right now. We have to get our little motorcycles prepped and then stored for winter. They’ll once again spend the cold months stashed at the Crook Farm (Kevin & Barb’s place near Pincher Creek — Thanks you two!). So a drive to the cabin, and then to the farm, will be our last journey with them this season.

Sometime after that we’ll be heading east to begin our winter house sits in Ontario, but hopefully with an extended stay in the Thunder Bay/Kakabeka/Rossport area. We have so many good friends there. So we’re watching the growth of the 4th Covid wave, and hoping it doesn’t wash away all our plans as it has in the previous deluges.

Endings & Beginnings

After spending over two months at Sis’s place we packed our little red car and headed west once again. But we hung around long enough to celebrate Mom’s birthday — margaritas on the balcony! Leaving is always such sweet sorrow, but we know we’ll be back fairly soon, and this time hopefully we won’t have to live with masks and separations and all the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Luckily, there was time for one last sing-song (wait for it…):

So we loaded the car and were once again Alberta Bound. We’ve been doing this so often now that we have our favourite stops, the first of which is a little town of Cobden, not far north of Ottawa. It has one of the best chip wagons around, and makes the yummiest poutine. A small one feeds a growing boy for hours πŸ˜€

Although Covid-19 numbers had been coming down steadily everywhere, Ontario was still under lockdown and travel restrictions. We left not knowing for sure if we would be allowed to cross into Manitoba. And given the continued restrictions, we made the hard decision not to try and make our usual stops in Thunder Bay and Kakabeka to visit all our good friends. It was very hard to just whiz by. We knew Ben & Sherilyn would have welcomed us warmly — and we deeply missed our Olivia & Molly time 😒. Paul & Julie would have bent over backwards to make us welcome and safe, but we felt it was best for everyone to just pass on through. Don’t worry… we’re not making this a habit. We’ll be back πŸ˜‰.

The journey across was uneventful and easy. We arrived in Calgary on the sixth day after leaving Ottawa and entered the welcoming bosom of Donna & Sam’s home(s). We arrived to a small flurry of activity as the Big Day was fast approaching. Monique and Phil’s wedding was coming fast, and D&S were busy finalizing plans, organizing events and people, and generally marshalling all that is required for such a big event. We helped out where we could.

After spending a few days at their Calgary house, we headed down to Beauvais Lake to move into their beautiful cabin. This was part of my birthday present. I thought it was the whole thing, but then Ann had to go and make a yummy cake. And to top it all off Ann, along with an assist from Mom and Kathy, and some conniving by Donna, surprised me with a fancy new iPad.

We spent the next few days relaxing by the lake. Ann swam, I learned how to use my new iToy, and generally did nothing. It was great. We also connected with cousins Kevin and Barb over at the Crook Farm. They’d been storing our motorcycles for us. So we went over and spent the afternoon getting the bikes out of the barn, then helping with a few tree-planting chores.

Of course, Ann dove into the task — literally — and managed to first splash herself with mud, and then nearly break her ankle while carrying big cans of water. I look over and all I see is Ann doing a face-plant, and then water splashing up like a geyser. Luckily we had a nurse (Barb) on the job, who got Ann lying down and her ankle in ice packs. Personally, I think it was just her way of getting out of work πŸ˜‰.

With the big wedding day fast approaching, Donna and Sam came down to the cabin to finalize details and work on a few events. I helped Sam with the big Parents’ Speech by assembling a little movie/slide show. Ann helped organize and keep Donna calm πŸ˜‰. On the day before, we moved over to Gladstone Mountain Ranch to help with assembly and final preparations, including the rehearsal.

With everything hearsed and rehearsed, the wedding day arrived and went off beautifully. Everyone said “We Will,” and “Ah Men,” and most importantly “I DO!” at the right time and in answer to the right questions. Ann was in charge of streaming the whole ceremony to Phil’s family who could not attend due to Covid border restrictions. But the deed was done:

After that there was nothing left but the speeches and the parties.

And whatever the heck this is 😬 😳

And yes, Ann and I even got up to dance a little:

The following days were spent putting the Ranch back the way we found it, then relaxing at the cabin once again. It was peaceful and glorious, as usual.

Eventually we headed back up to Calgary to hang out at the Big House. This was during the heat wave that struck most of Western Canada. Happily our bedrooms are always in the basements, so we remained relatively cool. We whiled away the time, taking in the heat, and enjoying the storms.

One final excitement for us was to be invited to Cailan’s 33rd birthday. Holy Crow where does the time go!! Anyway… Peggy and Phil booked a picnic shelter at Lake Midnapore, which is their “lake” πŸ™„ in their neighbourhood. We spent the whole afternoon talking and eating and celebrating the whee little one.

So for now we hang out here in southern Alberta. We’ll be bouncing between the cabin and the Calgary house through most of July. After that we have a couple of house sits that will take us through to mid-September. Beyond that, we’re not really sure. Lewisporte friends have been checking up on our boat. One even got on board to pump out the bilge and take a look around. Everything seems pretty good, although there is a foot-long tear in the tarp. It doesn’t look too bad, and our wonderful friend Mark has offered to try and repair it in August. So we’ll see.

Living in lockdown

Ontario, and indeed all of Canada’s Covid-19 numbers, went from bad to worse over the last few weeks. Ontario went back into lockdown (or shutdown, or whatever Premier Doug Ford is calling it these days), so we’ve been holed up here at sis’s place ever since. But on the positive side:

We’ve all got our first shots!

This happened a lot quicker than expected for us. Based on our area code we were designated to be a “hot spot” when it comes to infection rates, so we were able to get our first jabs way earlier than expected. I always knew Kathy lived on the wrong side of the tracks, but this confirmed it 🀣.

And now even Colleen got hers!!

Comparing COVID-19
states and provinces

Unfortunately what this really means is that the lockdowns that were supposed to end in May have been extended here in Ontario. And worse still, the places we’d like to travel to are all doing bad, or even worse. Newfoundland continues to say no to people like us, although there is some hope we might get an exemption. But now Nova Scotia is barring everyone from entry, so we can’t get to the ferry even if we want to. And of course Alberta is a complete dumpster fire πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ when it comes to infection rates. So we’re staying put for now.

But life is still OK. Despite not doing much at all, days slip by quickly. Days become weeks, which slide into months. I forget which month we’re in most of the time — sometimes I even forget the year ☹️.

One thing, at least we’re eating and drinking well. And we haven’t killed each other despite living in rather close quarters here, so all is good! We’ve been watching good movies at night. The gals have been immersed in curling (as usual πŸ™„) while I play video games. We also get out for walks when it’s not raining, snowing or way too hot. We’re right next to a creek with a walking path, so we get to see a bit of urban life.

And of course there’s always Sunday Cacophony which keeps everyone on their musical toes.

One rather exciting thing that did happen is that Ann broke Kathy’s car ☹️😁. So now Kathy has a new one.

Connor with his letter from Grandma

OK, so it wasn’t quite as simple as that. The full story goes… when driving back from taking Colleen (and Connor) to get her first vaccination, Ann accidently engaged the air conditioning on Kathy’s car. It hasn’t worked for years, so when it tried to start up…, bad things seemed to happen. Bad noises, bad smells, bad times. The good thing was that Kathy and I got to see Connor (and Colleen πŸ˜‰); something we hadn’t planned on doing.

We got everyone back home, but a couple of days later the car still seemed unwell. Kathy took it into the shop, and it was indeed the defunct air conditioner. But this problem came short on the heels of another expensive repair. That was enough for Kathy to start seriously looking for new a car.

She wanted something small and reliable, and of course stunningly good-looking. So naturally a Honda Fit was at the top of the list 😁. But finding a used Fit is hard to do. They just don’t come up often in the used market, and when they do, they disappear very fast. Luckily one did show up, so we went out “just to look πŸ˜‰.”

So now our old Fit has a new brother, or is it sister?

We are getting close to the end of May now. Ontario has extended its current lockdown till about mid-June, but trends are looking good. Vaccinations keep going up, and cases are trending down in both Ontario and Alberta. We still plan to head west as soon as we can. We still plan to come back to Ontario for our second shot in August, and then maybe, hopefully, a trip to Newfoundland to see if our boat-home is still OK. For now, we watch the curves, and hope…

Back in the old neighbourhood

We settled into our latest house sit back in my old neighbourhood of The Glebe. The house itself is typical of the area; old, brick and thick with character and ambience. The original house had been added on, but without altering the original character of the place. It was a grand place to spend the winter.

This neighbourhood is where I grew up. My old house (which has been completely renovated) is a few blocks away. The Rideau Canal where I paddled, skated, and occasionally fell in was mere blocks away. The church where I spent oh so much time in various para-military groups (Beavers, Cubs, Scouts), in endless choirs, and yes even in attending church services, is right around the corner. And my elementary and high schools were all within an easy walk.

It was definitely weird being back there. Weird, but pretty nice. We’d definitely love to come back.

One thing about being back in Ottawa in the winter was, well, having a real winter. Memories of Ottawa winters gone past are still vivid in my aging mind. And this one did not disappoint. For a few weeks through January and February it seemed to snow every second day. Luckily the area that needed clearing was small. But unfortunately there was no place to put the snow. I ended up landfilling it along the street curb.

At least Ottawa has a civilized way of managing the street and sidewalk cleaning. Unlike some more backward parts of the country πŸ˜‰, Ottawa employs a fleet of specially designed sidewalk snow plows. So at least I didn’t have to shovel the walkways in front of the house. Since it is a corner house, that would have been a lot!

One of the reasons we jumped at the chance to house sit in Ottawa was to be closer to Mom and Kathy during the winter. We’d hoped to spend a lot of time with them over those cold months. Unfortunately surging Covid-19 numbers drove all of Ontario into lockdown shortly after Christmas, so we initially had to limit our contact to brief outdoor exchanges.

But once the lockdown ended we were able to play host. Kathy and Mom started making weekend visits to our big abode. We were able to spend a few days together each week, even though it was mainly so they could watch curling on our big screen (endless curling don’t-cha-know πŸ™„). At least the beer kept coming 🍻😁.

My initials are carved at the top of the dome.
“Tomes for Gnomes” bookstore

The days rolled by. Ann got in a lot of swimming at the Big Pool (50 meters!) and I did the occasional walk, mostly for more beer πŸ˜ƒ, along with the more frequent snow clearing adventures 😭. One area which was fun to wonder around in was part of my old stomping grounds as a kid. Lansdowne Park used to be a playhouse for my gang. It houses a number of buildings, including a stadium and a monster-sized barn like building called the Cattle Castle.

My friends and I used these buildings as jungle gyms, climbing all over them and occasionally breaking in (but never actually doing any real damage). We would skateboard down the stadium ramps, break into concession stands and change all the prices on the display boards, set off homemade bombs, and sneak onto the park during the annual Ex (the city’s exhibition/fair).

Our time eventually came to an end with the return of our homeowners. They had their flights changed two or three times by Air Canada, but they managed to find their way back to Ottawa from their BC chalet. Due to all things Covid we left the house before their arrival. When we made contact again they were very pleased with how they found things; so much so that we’ve been invited back. We’ll see…

So now it’s back to “Ottawa”, which means living with Mom and Sis in the small condo. It’s compact, but we all seem to get along — most of the time πŸ˜‰. One good thing about the move was we were able to help Mom attend her first vaccination session. She’s the first in our gang over here. Hopefully Ann will be next. I’m still waaaaay tooooo young 😁, and so is Kathy πŸ‘Ά.

For now, we’re just hanging out here, awaiting our turn at the jab, which will hopefully come before the end of May (for me). Newfoundland remains locked down, but there are some positive signs. It is looking like we may be allowed back in to at least see our boat sometime this summer. And we still plan to head west for a wedding, and to hang with the Alberta gang. But the timing is still unclear.

For now, it’s back to endless curling …

Back to the Future (or Forward to the Past?)

The Calgary days rolled on. We read and played, ate and drank, and generally took it easy. Well, I did. The slave driver Donna had Ann hard at the grindstone, working away on all her client files. Me? I played video games, did some writing, plucked my new ukulele and watched magpies.

Donna, being the mother that she is, arranged for Ann and I to get our flu shots. Given that other virus raging across our lands, we were happy to get the jab. And since we now have an American in our midst, we had the perfect excuse to have a turkey meal to celebrate ‘Muricuhan’ Thanksgiving — all properly distanced, as you can see.

Lake Superior from the plane

We had booked a flight back to Thunder Bay a couple of months ago, and with Covid-19 wreaking such havoc on all travel, we’d been watching and hoping the Westjet gods would come through for us. Initially we’d booked passage through Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, but the airline decided it was better if we flew south to go north, so we were routed through Toronto.

But it all went off without a hitch, even though we had to fly directly over Thunder Bay twice (once on the way to Toronto, and the on the way back from Toronto). We arrived to friends Paul & Julie, and mouse-pissy-smelly car.

Yes, while we’d been away mice had taken up residence in our little red car sometime over the summer. Paul had found the vermin, and had already done an incredible job cleaning it all up. But it must have been horribly disgusting, because it still smelled pretty bad once we arrived. Julie and Paul, ever the sweethearts that they are, gave us the loan of their wonderful Bunkie shack on their land a ways outside of town. They had set the little cabin up for us, and even had a bottle of wine waiting. We have the most amazing friends (and family) πŸ™‚ .

It was grand just hanging out at P&J’s camp. It is right on Superior’s shore, just a short distance south of our old home. Thankfully, it has a fancy, large and warm garage that we were able to move the car into. We spent the next few days stripping everything out, clearing out all the little mouse poos, and then steam-cleaning using a rub cleaner. It was an annoying task, but it worked. The car now smells as it always did — kinda old and musty, but at least it’s not mousey!

Despite the stinky car situation, we had a wonderful time at the camp. It was the perfect place to self-isolate following our travels. But even so, we were able to spend a fair bit of time with Paul and Julie. We all wore masks, and enjoyed physically distant meals and outdoor campfires. It was lovely just being in that space. We had the woodstove for heat, and the lack of running water and an outdoor outhouse just added to the ambience. We are so blessed with such wonderful friends. Sure hope we can return the favour this summer — if Newfoundland stops holding our boat hostage!

Sadly, our time in Thunder Bay had to come to an end. Ann had a medical appointment coming up in Ottawa, and we still had many miles to go before we could sleep (on the floor πŸ˜‰ ). So we said our goodbyes, and headed east. Our first stop was just down the road at Selim, the suburbs of Rossport πŸ™‚ . Even though Covid-19 didn’t allow us to stay, we had to stop in on our favourite Maggie, and her caretakers Cathie and Joe. We had a good, outdoor, and properly distant visit. The best that we can do in these times of woe.

We moved on from there, staying at the Sault, and then North Bay (for two nights) where we celebrated the old(er) gal’s birthday. We ordered special yummy takeout food from a great local restaurant, and of course we had a nice bottle of wine. It wasn’t a big celebration, but at 58, she’s only good for a couple hours of excitement anyway πŸ˜‰ .

After the big party we carried on, finally making it to Ottawa where we were greeted by the most important person of all: Hammi! Oh, and Mom and Sis were there too πŸ˜‰ .

We moved into our suite-a-la-floor and got reconnected with all that is Ottawa. Coming back felt a bit like completing a circle. We started this whole Covid catastrophe here, and now we’d come back. Sadly, Covid-19 has not gone away, although with the vaccines finally starting to roll out, we might see a beginning of the end … hopefully.

Being back in Ottawa meant we could revive the quartet for Covid Cacophony!

We settled in for a few weeks of relaxing times, with good chats, lots of game playing, and Babylon 5! This is a sci-fi series from the 1990’s. If you haven’t watched it, you should. It is eerily prescient on some of the Trumpian times we live in.

Before…

One great thing about our time in Ottawa was being able to spend Christmas with Mom and Kathy. But it was even better because we were able to have Connor and Colleen over for the first part of the day. There’s nothing quite like having a kid around for the paper massacre of wrapping paper.

When the mayhem settled down, and Colleen and Connor went back to their own place, we cooked a full turkey meal with all the fixins. Then, for the next few days, we ate nothing but turkey, turkey, turkey, turkey…

Although we could have stayed at Kathy’s place, one of the reasons we were here was because we’d managed to land a three month house sit here in the Nation’s Capital. In fact, it’s on Third Ave., down in The Glebe, which is not far from where I grew up. Happily the home owners had moved up their departure, so we were able to move in a couple of weeks early. But we decided to delay a couple of days so we could celebrate the other old gal’s birthday.

Kathy is another one of these December 27th kids. We’ve got a bunch in Ann & my collective families. I guess the coming of Spring (nine months earlier) warms more than toes.

After all the parties and celebrations we finally did move over to our new temporary home. The house is pretty large, fairly old and very interesting. It has been renovated over the years, and is very easy to live in. We feel very privileged to be entrusted with its care while the home owners are off for their seasonal skiing holiday in BC.

So now we settle in for an Ottawa winter. It’s weird being back in The Glebe. Everything is so very familiar … yet it’s also very different. They say you can never go home… I guess that’s true. But it’s still pretty darn nice.

A change in the wind

The days at Beauvais Lake continued to be languid and wonderful. The beautiful warm and dry weather lingered, and we enjoyed the tranquility and the easy living. We walked, biked (Ann), and watched the wildlife.

While there we also got word from a friend from Newfoundland (Brian Beck) who had checked in on our boat for us. He reported things were looking pretty good, and even sent us some pictures. He did this all on his own, without even being asked — that’s just who Newfoundlanders are. Thanks Brian.

And then later in the month our other great friends, Paula & Byron — the ones we owe so much to already for their kindness and assistance — they too stopped in to check on our baby. They checked things out and made some more minor tweaks, but report everything looks pretty good. More kindness unbidden, but not surprising given who they are. Many thanks.

Although the weather remained beautiful, a hint of autumn was creeping into the air. Motorcycling is an awesome way to travel, but it’s not so good in a Canadian winter, so our two-wheeled days were numbered. We had already made plans to store our bikes at Kevin & Barb’s farm, which is the old Crook farm where June grew up near Pincher Creek. So the day finally came when we went for our last ride up to the farm.

Ann’s cousin, Kevin and his Barb, are the new sailors, and now they are the keepers of our little bikes. They’ve taken over the old Crook farm, and have built an amazing home on the land. We spent another wonderful afternoon with them, getting the bikes safely stowed, then doing a bit of gardening, and checking out the animals; horse and donkey a work mule and an ass πŸ˜‰ .

With the bikes safely tucked away we packed up our things and moved back up to Calgary with Donna & Sam. Our planned Penticton house sit with little (grumpy) Maxi was coming up soon, but first we got to spend a few more fun days hanging out with the kids of cow town.

The travelling day to Penticton turned out to be the first real taste of winter — of course. Donna & Sam, ever the generous ones, lent us one of their cars, and even made sure we had good snow tires for the journey. Good thing! The drive through the mountains was a bit snowy. But we made it without incident, and were soon greeted by the ever-loving Maxi!

It was wonderful coming back to Dave & Leslie (and Maxi)’s place in Penticton. Felt very much like a home coming. This was our first house sitting place, and it still felt very familiar. There had been a few improvements to the decks, and Dave had drawn a pickle ball court in his driveway, but otherwise it all looked pretty much the same — which was wonderful. We spent the next two weeks relaxing and hanging out with our little orange kitty. Fun, fun.

Dave & Leslie’s trip turned out to be a fairly quick one since most fun places were still closed and locked down due the continuing (and growing!) apocalypse. So all too soon we said our goodbyes to Maxi and headed back to Calgary.

We got back to Calgary just ahead of the spooks and ghouls of Hallow’s Eve. Even though the kids were few this year, the day demanded pumpkins be carved and costumes be worn.

Monique and Phil also came over to help celebrate the spooks and goblins. This meant the guitars, ukuleles and voices came out … Nique and Phil make us sound way better than we normally do πŸ™‚ .

The days passed easily and slowly. Good conversation, good food, relaxing times. Ann spent the days swimming and working on Donna’s files. And I pissed around doing not much at all. And then the day finally came for that big election. The one we’ve all been waiting for, with a combination of anticipatory elation, but tinged with fear of how it might go … again …!

Finally … What a relief!

So for now we are just hanging out here in Calgary. We are scheduled to fly back to Thunder Bay at the end of the month, assuming Westjet doesn’t cancel our flights or go into bankruptcy or something. From there we’ll pick up our mouse-infested car (more on that later), and drive to Ottawa. We plan to spend much of December with mom & sis, including doing X-mas, which will be fun. Then we move into our next house sit; a home in my old neighbourhood of The Glebe:

Island time

We settled into our new temporary home and slowly got to know the area and our new charges. We were warned that Bobo the dog was a bit of a drama-queen, and she certainly lived up to it. She seemed very moody, initially depressed, then lethargic and mopey, sometimes playful and fun, with always the big sad eyes whenever we had to put her in her little room. But over time she got to know us, and we started to have fun together.

And the cat Assy, short for Asteroid, well, he was a classic cat. In other words, as long as you fed, watered, and opened doors for him upon demand, he didn’t seem to really care one way or another. Kidding of course. He was very cute, and despite warnings, became pretty affectionate. He spent most nights on our bed with us, and enjoyed the occasional cuddle.

The home and the area was easy to fall in love with. There’s a gentleness to the climate, and everything seems quite lush. We did a little exploring on foot, and by motorcycle, checking out the area with an eye to a possible move out this way sometime in the medium to longer term.

As you know, I tend to babble on a couple of sailing forums online. One of the good virtual guys on Cruisers Forum lives in Nanaimo and suggested we meet for lunch. Robert and wife Carla flew their small plane from Nanaimo up to Courtenay. We had a wonderful lunch (outdoors, and appropriately distanced) at a local eatery. It was lovely to put a real face to the virtual name.

The days rolled by and we settled into our easy pace. Mostly our jobs consisted of opening doors for pets, and keeping ourselves comfortable and fed. Bridget’s home was full of family warmth, and lots of character, including spiders. Lots of cool spiders. Kinda reminded me of living in Belleville where the boat became infested with dozens of pounds of the arachnids .

The weather was warm and dry. In fact, we hadn’t seen rain for weeks. This was true of the whole west coast, which would soon erupt into a conflagration that would blanket the area in smoke for weeks. But for the first week it was beautiful and quite warm. So we enjoyed the time, the space and mostly the critters.

But then the smoke blew in…

Sadly our time in Black Creek went all too fast. We said goodbye to Assy & Bobo and headed back to Nanaimo. We had arranged a bike servicing at a local shop there. We also met up with Carla and Robert again for another outdoor lunch, and further cruising chit chat. These people are true cruisers. They’ve been all over the world with their boat, and are a real inspiration for us. We even discussed moving our boat to the west coast. Robert has done a similar trip many times, so maybe…

After lunch with Robert and Carla we spent the next few hours wondering around the Nanaimo waterfront and downtown. It’s a lovely small city. I could definitely see us here in the future.

With the bikes in tip-top shape, including fancy new tires for us both, we headed off toward the ferry to begin the journey back to Alberta. Even though the ferries have been quite busy due to Covid-19 changes, we had no problem boarding. Motorcycles are always ushered to the front of the line, so we don’t have to book ahead, or even worry about how early to arrive. It’s great! The crossing was gentle, but due to the dense smoke, we hardly saw a thing.

It was Ann’s turn to lead this day, and so she diverted us down to some goat trail that ran right along the USA border. We almost inadvertently came right to the border crossing, but bailed at the last second! The trail was small, with lots of big speed bumps and surveillance cameras. Had we stopped we could have touched the pyramid-shaped international border markers, but the presence of all the cameras, and the US Border Patrol vehicle, convinced us to keep moving.

We drove back to Beauvais Lake via the same Highway #3 as before. It’s a fun ride, with enough twistys and passing lanes, and pretty light truck traffic. The drive was fun, and uneventful. We stopped for lunch a few times at some of BC’s great highway pull offs.

Now we’re back at our current temporary home at Beauvais Lake, thanks to the kindness of Donna & Sam. We really are blessed with incredibly generous family and friends. We’d be lost without you! We’re going to hang out here for a few more days. Our plans are to store the bikes at Ann’s cousin’s farm (the Crook Farm where June grew up), then head back up to Calgary.

We plan to spend Thanksgiving with some of the family before heading to Penticton to do one more house sit in BC. We were contacted by our first home owners. They want to travel to the Ottawa area for a few weeks, so we get to go back and see our grumpy little wonderful Maxi!

Ride Forever!

We spent a few more days at D&S’s cabin on beautiful Beauvais Lake. Did some paddling and walking, and Ann did more swimming and bicycling. After a few more days of bliss we were ushered up to the big house in Calgary. So we hopped on our little bikes and Rode Forever! back up to Calgary.

While in the big city we connected with Peggy and Phil (Sr.). I discovered the joys of no-name IPA beer and Ann did some small repairs on her delicate little bike. We also got a taste of urban wildlife as we watched a family of deer chow down on S&D’s backyard plants. Very cute.

We spent a little over a week in the big city — long enough to hold a mass gathering of all western-based Cacophoniers. They insisted we all perform …

RIDE FOREVER!!

Wait for it…

The next day we hopped back on our little bikes for the ride back down to Beauvais Lake. We settled back into the cabin, and eased into the tough life. OK, it wasn’t all fun and games, or naps and paddles. We also helped Sam re-varnish a lot of both the interior and exterior cabin logs. It felt a lot like being at home. Our boat also has a lot of wood. Varnishing or oiling is just part of life.

Days came and went. We enjoyed the semi-wilds of the lake, paddling and swimming and generally taking it pretty easy. One day Kevin and Barb (Ann’s cousins) showed up with their ‘big’ sailboat. We managed to help launch it, and they sailed it on Beauvais in some pretty incredibly strong gusty winds. Way too hard for Ann and me.

Besides, we had more Cacophoning to do while Barb and Kevin were sailing.

Again, wait for it…

In preparation for our journey west to Vancouver Island we decided to get our little bikes serviced. I needed some air filters changed and Ann wanted a new front tire. We booked our bikes into a shop in Pincher Creek, so dropped them off and spent most of the day wondering the mean streets of Pincher. Most of the day was spent down by the crick, and generally trying to stay cool. It was HOT!

A few days later Sam and Donna came down and we went off to Waterton Lakes National Park. This was our first visit back to Waterton since they had the big fire in 2017. According to the official site the Kenow fire burned 35,000 hectares, including 19,303 hectares in Waterton Lakes National Park. The townsite was threatened, but in the end only the park’s visitor’s centre was destroyed.

We drove up to Red Rock Canyon along the rollercoaster road — the one Ann scared my mom on 32 years ago 😯 . From there we did an easy hike in past the canyon, then followed a horse trail down to a creek. The walk took us through some of the burned out areas. Most of the trees were killed off, but it appeared the fire didn’t burn very hot, so the soil wasn’t too damaged. The regrowth is already coming along wonderfully.

The bird-poop tree

We then wondered the Waterton townsite, checking out the various sights, and eating beavertails.

The days slipped away, and soon it was time to RIDE FOREVER! We loaded the bikes and headed west towards our first house sit since the Covid Apocalypse struck back in March. A nice young family on Vancouver Island was taking a short holiday to deliver their eldest to university, and to visit some family. So we arranged to look after their home, and their two pets, for a couple of weeks.

We travelled highway #3 along the south edge of BC. It was a wonderful ride through some interesting twisty paths. It took us three nights, staying in Castlegar, Princeton and finally Langley on the mainland.

We decided to take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Due to the whole pandemic stuff we knew ferry sailings had been reduced, and therefore each one was pretty busy. But they would not take motorcycle reservations, so we just decided to show up and hope for the best. And indeed the best was on offer. Even though the lines were already loooong, we were told to go to the very front πŸ™‚ .

We were first on, and first off! The seas were calm for the ride over. Caught sight of a couple dolphins/porpoises, and a bunch of sailboats. It was amazing being back in the salt air. Made me a bit homesick for the other coast … hopefully next year.

We arrived at our new temporary home in Black Creek and checked in with the family. We arrived to a small crisis. We’d originally signed on to look after a dog, a cat and five chickens. Sadly, the chickens had just been all killed by a mink. The family was in shock, and in mourning. But we were still greeted warmly, and given the tour.

At least our two main charges, Bobo the dog and Assy (short for Asteroid) the cat, are alive and cute:

The home is a lovely place in a gorgeous location not far from the ocean. We’re going to spend some time exploring the area, snooping on marinas and generally seeing if this might be in our future. We also had just enough time to work up our act for one more Cacophony session. We traced our recent journey through the songs of James Keelaghan.

Plan B

Dear Michael O’Reilly and Ann Philips

Your request on May 28, 2020 for an exemption of the Special Measures Order (Travel Exemption Order) of May 5, 2020 to enter Newfoundland and Labrador has been reviewed based on the information you provided. Unfortunately, your request has been denied, meaning you are not permitted to enter Newfoundland and Labrador at this time.

So…

Yes indeed, our sailing season became a motorcycle season with kind, but very clear message from the government of Newfoundland. All “come from aways” have been told to stay away this year. So we decided to get our little motorcycles out of storage and hit the road. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

We whiled away our time in Ottawa, watching winter turn to Spring, and then slam headlong into Summer. The chill air spent two days at reasonable temperatures; not too hot, not too cold. After that it was HEAT WARNING after HEAT WARNING after HEAT WARNING.

Ottawa

But the company was great, and Kathy and Mom continued to put up with us, so we lingered through May and June. We walked the nearby creek trail , ate and drank well, watched lots of kitties both virtual , and real , and most especially enjoyed Wednesday Quarantini Salon where we plumb the depths of our collective souls, and Sunday Cacophony where we let our musical souls shine.

In between all the philosophizing and singing we also celebrated a few big days: Mother’s Day, Mom’s Birthday, and also mine. Mom got flowers, and a funny card. I got a yummy chocolate cheese cake!

First stop: POUTINE!

Finally, after nearly four months, it was time for us to move on. Sailing was no longer going to be possible this year, but when one door closes another opens up. We packed our little red car, said our goodbyes, and headed north to near Rossport. Our good friends Cathie and Joe live in their own Shangri-La on the north shore of Lake Superior. And they’ve generously been storing our little motorcycles for years. So north we went!

We drove to North Bay that first day, and no sooner did we settle into our little motel room and Ann started to feel a little unwell. A tinge of sore throat, and a sniffle led to a full blown case of Covid Concern! So Ann booked herself in for a Covid-19 test and we settled in for a five-day stay to get the results. The next few days were spent doing not much at all, but it was pretty in places.

News finally came that Ann was plague-free, so we continued our journey north, hitting Sault Ste. Marie first , then stopping at Katherine Cove for lunch and a quick wade , finally arrived at Cathie and Joe and Maggie’s place.

We are blessed with such good friends and family. Cathie & Joe opened their home and their hearts to us once again, and the best part of this stop was that we had the time to linger for a while. Our work plans involved getting the motorcycles road-ready, but there was no rush, so rush we did not. Time was well spent talking and eating and drinking, with the occasional dog joust and even a bit of work thrown in just so we could earn our keep.

Work progressed well on our bikes. Or rather I should say my bike started immediately and worked perfectly from the get-go. Ann’s prissy bike decided to throw a little tantrum πŸ˜‰ , having spit all its coolant out, then demanding a new battery, and then later needing some work on a mystery fuel leak. Ann was practising Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for a while. But after much ado, including a back-and-forth to Thunder Bay, we got both bikes running well.

After many a good days with our wonderful Selim (suburbs of Rossport) friends we bade them a fond farewell, and headed back to Thunder Bay.

Judy & Julie
Paul & me

We arrived in TB to the welcoming but appropriately physically distancing, embrace of friends Paul & Julie. They own both a big house and a wonderful camp on the shores of Lake Superior, not far from where our last land home used to stand.

We were given the keys to the camp-castle, and invited to stay as long as we wanted. This is a dangerous offer to make to homeless vagabonds, so what was planned to be only a few-day stay stretched into over a week πŸ˜‰ .

Julie & Paul seem to have an open door policy for everyone they meet. They’d make good Newfoundlanders πŸ˜‰ . While we were there other friends Tony & Maryanne moved both their 5th-wheel trailer and their boat to the camp. And then friends from Winnipeg came by to spend a wonderful night of good food, good conversation and excellent singing. It was glorious.

P&J have been doing a ton of work (many tons actually) on their land. They’ve built a large, and beautiful garage. They’ve completely rewired the place, and they plan to build a full home in the near future. All the landscaping convinced them to actually buy a good-sized backhoe. Julie is the main operator, and she even gave Ann a few lessons.

The days slipped by. We worked on the motorcycles, changing the oils and doing some general maintenance. I repaired a tarped shed while Ann focused on her fuel leak. With some help from Paul they managed to trace the gas tank vent and then blow through it to hopefully clear any blockage. It seemed to work. We then spent a couple of days downsizing our already downsized lives so they could fit into motorcycle saddle bags.

In between all the work and play at P&J’s we managed to connect with our other wonderful friends out past Kakabeka. Ben & Sherilyn have two incredibly sweet and equally cute daughters, Olivia and Molly. We connected with them and spent a grand afternoon just yackin’ and reconnecting. It’s always so much fun to spent time at their small farm.

Tony & Marryanne
Luxury living

Good company, bike work and a series of nasty storms gave us reasons to stay, but eventually we were ready, and the weather cooperated, so we ran out of excuses to stay. We spent one last night in the luxury accommodations provided by Tony & Maryanne’s 5th wheel, and then we hopped on the bikes and headed west.

It took us another five days to reach Beauvais Lake, which is in south Alberta near Pincher Creek. The drive was unneventful, but mucho-funno! Even the Prairies are interesting when viewed from the seat of a motorcycle πŸ˜‰ .

With the Alberta winds howling under our helmets and nearly cutting my mileage in half we finally arrived at our destination. Donna and Sam were at the cabin, ready to greet us. It was a great drive and an even better greeting. So now we settle in to Alberta life for a while. We’ll be back and forth between Calgary and Beauvais. At some point we’ll have to figure out what we’re doing for the winter, but for now, life is good!

Time stands still

IMGA0246A couple of months ago we were enjoying life in our temporary Kincardine home, with plans to move on to Wakefield and then Newfoundland. A couple of months ago we had plans to visit friends up north, to linger in their company, and to freely travel across the eastern provinces. A couple of months ago we had plans to sail Notre Dame Bay, to explore without schedules, and hopefully to welcome some friends and family for a summer of leisurely sailing.

All those plans have evaporated. It’s amazing how quickly the world can change…

Johns_Hop

IMGA0275IMGA0264With the coming of Covid-19, all plans have blown up. We fled to Ottawa where my sister and mom graciously opened their home and their hearts to us homeless vagabonds, giving us shelter, grand company, and a cozy floor to sleep on. Our days are now filled with good conversations, Trudeau’s babblings and video game playing.

Games are nothing new for me, but it’s a new world for Ann. She’s endlessly entertaining. Even my mom has been getting into it. She can often be heard saying “KILL THAT GUY! KILL!!!!!”

 

But in addition to these more brutal pastimes, we’ve also been swamped with lots and lots of cute kitty-cats, thanks mostly to TinyKittens website. Endlessly cute…

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 5.16.22 PMΒ Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 8.51.45 AM (1) Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.16.46 AM (1)

Cacophony1Cacophony2One silver lining in all these dark Covid clouds has been the virtual time we’ve been spending with family out west. For the last month or so we’ve been holding virtual coffee houses where we get together via ZOOM to perform and sing along to some great tunes. It’s a Covid Cacophany of music, and has been a wonderful diversion, and a great thing to look forward to each week.

And as if that wasn’t enough to keep the blood flowing, we’ve also been Zooming in together at the mid-week to explore various philosophical topics. These Quarantini Salons have touched on topics ranging from Truth (or truth), the nature of reality, free will, ‘the good life’, and how one lives their values. All very light and breezy topics :shock: .

Quarantini Salon

Next week’s topic is “fear”, which should be frightfully fun :mrgreen: .

IMGA0266So we muddle along, day to day. There are good meals IMG_3513, and lots of great local craft beer delivered right to our door (Calabogie Brewing). The two favourites are: beer (but Bleep Bloop is best πŸ˜‰ ).

 

 

IMGA0287_IGP8175We walk to the grocery stores, and in the nearby parks _IGP8171. Ann goes for runs and forgets she’s a creeky old woman now, so breaks her ankle.

 

 

There have been haircutsΒ IMGA0297 and crosswords IMGA0300. Kathy keeps working hard IMGA0302, and we keep fighting over the thermostat setting. When the two young’uns win, the old gals get cold:

IMG_3510 (1)IMGA0305IMG_0439On May 10th we celebrated Mom with a new plant, yummy roast chicken dinner, nice wine and nummy beer!

So life rolls on. It’s looking increasingly like Ann and I won’t be sailing at all this year. Newfoundland remains closed to come-from-awayers. Given the short season, we may simply not have enough time, even if things do open up in a month. So we are left in a bit of limbo as to what to do, and where to go.

Luckily we have incredibly welcoming and loving family whom we know would always take us in. So whatever happens, we know we’ll be fine. It’s all just life after all.

IMG_3500
Donna’s homemade masks