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) ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). So we said our goodbyes, and headed east. Our first stop was just down the road at Selim, the suburbs of Rossport ๐Ÿ™‚ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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 big 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฏ . 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ .

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ , 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

Julie & Paul seem to have an open door policy for everyone they meet. They’d make good Newfoundlanders ๐Ÿ˜‰ . 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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…

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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

 

 

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 haircutsย 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

Sit, interrupted

We arrived at our second Kincardine home and were greeted with this:

IMG_1823Wendy & Bob were out doing last minute socializing before heading south, so we were told to let ourselves in. Cooper was sitting in one of his favourite chairs (he has many), but hardly raised an eyebrow for us. He could tell his people were about to abandon him to this new motley crew of two.

IMGA0157IMGA0162But we quickly gained Cooper’s approval once he realized we were the ones feeding and walking him. In fact, we all went for a drive and walk down along the beach at Barry & Rosie’s beach house that we had just left. We had promised to keep an eye on their house for the final few days they were gone.

This latest house is located just south of Kincardine along the main highway. It’s a fairly large and beautiful home on a multi-acre lot, surrounded by copse of trees, corn fields, and a creek that runs along one edge. It’s beautiful and perfect for Cooper-walks, which we did everyday; in sun and rain (and snow and sleet and freezing drizzle…).

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IMGA0166IMGA0179We settled in for what we thought was going to be nearly six weeks (more on that later). The house is beautiful, and very easy to care for. The kitchen is spacious and fun to cook in. And all the appliances were very modern. Everything from the fridge and toaster to the stove and microwave had it’s own ring, or bing, or chime, or even whole tune that it played. It was a melodious culinary experience.

 

IMGA0220During our time at Wendy & Bob’s place the weather went from Spring-like, to intense blizzard, to torrential rains, then back to sunny Spring. It was wacky. The blizzard blew in and closed the highway — our ONLY road. We were completely isolated for nearly two complete days. But of course, the Cooper walks went on…

 

 

A few days after this massive blizzard the temperatures went up, and then we had a deluge of rain. This melted most of the new snow, and swelled the little creek that runs along the property. It overflowed it’s banks and flooded parts of the low-lying sections of the acreage.

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IMGA0185IMGA0249It was an easy and fun time. We loved getting to know Cooper, and thoroughly enjoyed our time looking after the house. We got into a routine with Ann settling in the living room, and me in the dining area. Cooper would spend many hours curled up with Ann, but occasionally would come to my door and “ask” me to come out (my room was the one area Cooper was banned from). Sometimes Ann joined him…

Unfortunately our time got cut short when the world succumbed to the Covid-19 Apocalypse. Bob & Wendy decided (wisely) to come home a few weeks early, and because they had to self-isolate once they got home, we had to leave before they arrived. We cleaned up, said our goodbyes to Cooper and to Brian (the tenant in the basement), and headed for Ottawa.

Kathy and Mom once again opened their home and offered their floor to these homeless vagabonds.

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Back to the (inland) sea

IMG_1799IMG_1810We pointed the car east and began our trek towards our new temporary home on the shores of Lake Huron. The drive was mostly uneventful, although we did hit a nasty stretch of white-out blowing snow in the Prairies, and then icy conditions through northern Ontario.

Because of our very tight schedule we blew past Thunder Bay and Rossport. This wasย  hard to do, and pretty sad :sad:. Normally we spend time with all our wonderful friends up there. But time did not allow it. The only consolation is that we expect to have more time in May so we can hang out with everyone :grin:.

IMG_3492IMG_3493We did spend one (expensive!) night in our old home town of Marathon. It felt weird being there. So many good memories are tied up with that place, but most of the people we knew are gone (or we’ve lost contact with). But the town looked pretty much the same, and Pebble Beach is still spectacular.

 

 

We arrived at our new temporary home and were warmly greeted by our new hosts: Rosie and Barry. We got moved in, and Barry gave us a quick tour of the surrounds, including a drive through Kincardine. The house is located about 15 minutes outside of town, right on the shores of Lake Huron. The home, the views and the area are spectacular.

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IMGA0106The first evening we joined Rosie and Barry for dinner with their neighbour, Jan. We’d agreed to look after her place as well, so we got the tour of her lovely cottage, and had a yummy meal to boot! It was great to meet them all. Barry and Rosie are definitely fun loving people. Really great to be around.

IMGA0113The next day we saw them off and got settled in. The house, and the location, really are wonderful. We had a clear view of the Lake, so get to experience its changing moods. Over our time there we watched it move from calm and clear to churned up and stormy. It was so nice being close to water again.

 

 

IMG_1813Shortly into our stay my mom accepted my invitation (and all our encouragements) to come visit for a while. This place really is a little slice of heaven, so I was happy when she said yes. So I hopped in our little car, and headed off to Ottawa. The drive was longer than I normally do, but other than getting through Barrie, it was pretty easy, and I arrived in time for a pub night!

I’d planned to spend an extra night in Ottawa, but a storm was threatening, so Mom and I piled into our little car and headed back the next day. Again, the drive was uneventful, and we only got lost a couple of times ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

IMGA0118IMG_1818We spent the next week and a bit just hanging out, reading, cooking, eating, and generally taking it easy. For our anniversary (32 years — it’s getting serious!) Mom took us out to the Erie Belle. It’s a locally famous Kincardine restaurant that claims to have the Best Fish ‘n Chips. Not ‘in the region’, or ‘in the province’, just “The Best.” I was skeptical, but after tasting them I’m now a believerย :razz: . Or maybe it was just the good beer talking ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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IMG_1814Mom spent about 10 days with us, and then I drove her back to Ottawa. Hammi missed her too much ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

The days moved on. We enjoyed the walks, the snow, the bird watching, and of course Ann enjoyed the swimming. Mostly we just loved being in such a beautiful place. It was very much like a holiday.

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IMGA0169IMG_1830Sadly though, our time on the beach came to end. But happily we get to move onto another beautiful rural home in the same area. Wendy and Bob are friends of Rosie and Barry, and it just so happened that they needed house sitters at just the right time. They have a wonderful home on its own acreage, with a beautiful copse of trees out back, and a huge front green space that runs along a creek.

But best of all they have Cooper!

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Our little house on the prairie

IMGA0066 (1)We settled into our new temporary home just north of Cochrane, AB, and slowly got to know the critters and the routine. It took a bit of adjusting for all concerned, including having one of the cats tell how displeased he was with his new servants. A nice pile of poop was left on our bed that first night :shock: .

_IGP7984But it didn’t take us long to become best buddies with most of them — most especially little Rocky, the killer chihuahua who everyone learned to love.

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IMG_3475But it wasn’t just little Rock-a-dock who demanded attention. The big horse Tucker was on a special diet of beets, oats and molasses that he got three times a day. We had to prepare the mixture and deliver it on time. If we were late Tucker would stand by the gate and stare at us through the kitchen window.

IMGA0637Ibn, the other horse, became a bit jealous of Tucker’s special food so we started bring him carrots as a treat. We became best of friends after that — unless we forgot his carrot.

So, with five cats and two parrots inside (along with little Rocky), and the two horses and two donkeys on the outside, we kept rather busy. All these critters meant a lot of cleaning and feeding. And then there was the shoveling out of the stable every morning. But it really was rather fun.

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One of the really great things about this place was how close it is to Calgary and the Ann part of the family. So with the full blessing of our wonderful house owners, Carol & Pete, we were able to invite everyone to visit, and even to stay overnight. But the highlight was that this allowed us to host a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmin’sย  — something we’ve never been able to do.

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Ann did the turkey and everyone else brought one of the side dishes. We drank the wine Mom and Kathy special ordered (and sneakily shipped to Donna :twisted: ). Everyone says they had a good time. It certainly was fun for us, and nice that we could finally play host for once.

The days rolled on, and we celebrated the coming of the New Year — except we only made it to Newfoundland time. Ann’s getting old you know :grin: .

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IMGA0619IMGA0623Over the six weeks of our stay the weather was mostly pretty nice. Temperatures hovered in the normal range (not too cold), and we only got a few small dumps of snow — nothing major. But we did get a number of foggy days, which seemed very strange for Alberta. It did produce some pretty spectacularly frosty scenes though.

So the time moved on. I experimented with some new bread-making techniques IMG_3481, and drank lots of good local beer. Ann made good use of the Cochrane fitness centre to go swimming as much as possible.

_IGP7980_IGP7978We also both tried to teach the parrots new phrases. Mine was “Eat me!” It didn’t work, but Merlin did start saying phrases that sounded like us. This was his way of getting back at us because it would cause each of us to start yelling at each other, “What? What?!?!

 

IMGA0052A few days into the new year slave-driver Cailan showed up to assess Ann’s health and create a slave-driving workout plan. Ann’s loving it, of course, but she is a bit of masochist ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

IMGA0041IMGA0054Later Peggy and Marc came to visit for a few days. We ate, drank, played silly games, and generally made merry. It was really great to spend time with everyone.

 

 

IMGA0010_IGP7972The days rolled on. Horses got fed, donkey stalls got shoveled, cages and litter boxes got cleaned, bread got made and laps got swam. It was both relaxing, yet busy at the same time.

As we moved closer to our end date the weather forecast started getting scarier and scarier. We’d had it pretty easy so far, but now they were calling for a deep freeze of near record proportions, with temps dipping to -44ยบC.

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Pete and Carol were also watching this from their warm spot in California. They decided to head for home early — news we were happy to hear.

It was sad though, because it meant we’d be saying goodbye to all the critters a bit earlier than expected _IGP7971. We’d both become rather fond of them all — even the parrots, which sometimes drove me bonkers! But I’ll miss even them…

IMG_4368Carol and Pete did arrive back five days early, so we said our goodbyes to everyone and moved back into the welcoming bosom of Sam & Donna. This was an unexpected bonus because the original plan would have had us staying only a day or so. This way we got to hang out, do some work, and even get to see the new Star Wars movie with Sammy (wild horses couldn’t drag Donna to sit through another Star Wars movie).

So now we weather the deep freeze that did indeed settle over all of Alberta. It’s been very cold — thankfully it’s a dry cold ๐Ÿ˜‰ . But at -40ยบC it doesn’t much matter.

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We expect to begin the journey east in a day or so. We head to Kincardine next, where we’ll meet Rosie and Barry, and get to look after their wonderful looking house right on the shore of Lake Huron.

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Winter wanderings begin

IMG_1149 (1)IMGA0441The next couple of months went by all too quickly. We moved into our little nook at sis Kathy’s place and spent our time hangin’ with Mom, Kathy, Hammi, and occasionally Colleen & Connor. It’s wonderful that this vagabond lifestyle of ours now lets us spend more time with family.

 

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Of course no sooner did we arrive in Ottawa that Mom and Sis took off for their little rented cabin in the Prince Edward Country woods. They left us to look after the little Hammi monster IMGA0445, cook our own turkey IMG_3402, and do a little painting IMG_3410.

As Halloween approached one really fun thing we did was make Connor a Jack-o’-lantern, or as it became named, a Jack-o’-Connor.

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Time went on. We celebrated birthdays (both late and early), we had fun playing in the park, we got in our various health checks (at least one of us is still perfect ๐Ÿ˜‰ ),ย  watched lots of movies, went to a concert, and drank copious amounts of beer and wine.

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While in Ottawa Ann took in the Rememberance Day ceremonies downtown IMG_3427.JPG, she visited Kathy’s office at the National Gallery IMG_3441, and we both spent a couple of lovely evenings with new sailing friend Mark IMGA0468who also happens to live in Ottawa. We first met Mark when he sailed into Corner Brook. Then we followed him around Newfoundland and reconnected in Lewisporte. Funny how life happens.

But like sands through the hourglass, so too were the days of our lives in Ottawa ๐Ÿ™‚ . Eventually the time came for us to pack our little car, and head off into the western sunrise once again. Our first house sitting gig began December 5th, so we were somewhat pressed for time.

IMGA0569IMGA0497We left Ottawa and headed north. A winter storm was brewing, so instead of our normal stop in North Bay, we pressed all the way on to Sault Ste. Marie. And it was a good thing we did. The winter storm dumped about a foot of heavy wet snow. It closed the highways, and forced us to stay put for two nights. We even lost power for a few hours in our little rented cabin. Luckily it came with a wood stove.

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Shangri-La (1)The storm abated and we headed north, first to our good friends Cathie and Joe near Rossport, and then on to Thunder Bay. It’s always such a joy spending time with Joe and Cath. They live in a little Shangri-La on the shores of Lake Superior. And they are always so welcoming.

We arrived in Thunder Bay and reconnected with long time sailing friends Paul & Julie. We were able to spend a couple of nights reveling in their warm hospitality, and also made good use of their car jack and torque wrench to make the switch to winter tires on our car.

IMGA0527IMGA0532Our tires, and indeed much of our other landlubber stuff, continues to be stored at Ben & Sherilyn’s farm west of Thunder Bay. It’s always a joy to reconnect with these wonderful people. And best of all, we get to spend time with the cutest little girls: Olivia and now Molly.

 

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IMGA0567With time ticking away we had to say goodbye to our north shore friends, and keep pressing on towards Alberta and our new temporary winter home in Cochrane. Although we both are sad not to be heading back to Penticton this year (and we miss Maxi the grouchy cat ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), we’re excited about the coming weeks. We get to look after a small farm which includes,

One small dog (Rocky):

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Two parrots (Merlin & Jade):

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Five cats; Indoor cats, Oscar, Ayla & Luna, and then ‘barn cats’ Sassy and Mukluk:

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And finally, there are two horses (Tucker and Ibn) and two miniature donkeys (Mercedes and Angel):

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This whole barnyard of critters is normally overseen by our hosts, Carol and Pete. They’ve packed up their RV (taking two other dogs with them), and headed for warmer climes. And they’ve graciously left their animals and their wonderful home in our hands. It’s all a bit of a handful, but we’re loving it.

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