I LOVE ferries!

I just do, and this one, the ferry that will transport me to my winter salvation is especially wonderful.

The smell of the Pacific ocean is different than the Atlantic. It's richer and earthy somehow.
In any event I love it and am so glad to be here.

I even splurged on a fabulous beef dip in the dining room. I had my first beef dip ever 37 years ago at the James Bay Inn in Victoria when I first arrived there. This one was even better.

The route the ferry takes through the Gulf Islands is quite spectacular, passing quite close to the rocky shores. beautiful really.

Once on Vancouver Island the first order of business was a car wash! The rig was filthy.
The only self serve one I could find was quite congested and only had a back in bay. To wash both the truck and coach required quite a bit of fancy maneuvering that impressed the locals to no end.

Although I was booked in at an RV park, I wanted to go straight downtown for a few classic Victoria photo opportunities. First at Mile 0 of the Trans Canada, right at the shore in James bay. Very near to where I once lived.

Being suddenly surrounded by flowers still blooming and lush green grass was a gift to my ice road ravaged body. Victoria is bliss!

Then posing outside the famous Empress Hotel on the Inner Harbour. Tea and crumpets anyone?

Down to the sea.

But first, more icy mountain passes!
I'm not overly pleased with my photography across this country. I rationalize that on my return trip I'll have better weather and more time. But the truth is and I'm a little ashamed to say it.
From Ottawa to Banff there is very little of interest to photograph, at least in winter. Prairie dwellers may object but to my sensibilities, it's largely a wasteland. There, I said it.
Then there's the Rockies....
I have about a hundred photos that look pretty much exactly like this one. While driving, every new pass, ridge or valley looks spectacular, but once captured in a photo, the magic fades.
Now don't get me wrong, there are fabulous photos of the Rockies and I took very little effort if my photography as I was mostly trying to stay on the road. Sight seeing pull offs were simply not an option as very few were plowed and those that were, were full of trucks fixing their chains.
So I really didn't get any decent photos.

Kamloops to Hope was an eye opener, although the new southern route is a divided highway I was overwhelmed by the grades. Leaving Kamloops is a very long steep grade that I barely had enough traction for. Thank God for four wheel drive and my locking rear differential or I simply wouldn't have made it. Uphill was treacherous but downhill simply terrifying. Braking with the engine or the truck only resulted in instant fishtailing so I had to rely on manually applying the coach brakes.
Normally on long hills I like to conserve the coach brakes in case of emergency, but I had no choice.
As a result I took the downgrades very slowly to ensure I didn't overheat the coach brakes.

I was so glad to roll into snow and Ice free Abbotsford, an hour from the Vancouver Island ferry!

Into the Rockies.

For the last several thousand miles, this moment had daunted me.
To cross the Rocky Mountains in a Series Land Rover towing a rather heavy Airstream.
OK I have a few more horsepower than stock, and my forays across the Blue Ridge mountains and Cape Breton's Cabot Trail have encouraged me, but this is the real thing!

In truth, crossing the Rockies from East to West has the advantage of starting at nearly 3500 feet above sea level at Calgary, so in fact, the first several hours are largely downhill!.

But the grades weren't the problem, again it was the packed snow and ice! From the Banff National Park entrance westward the roads continuously worsened.

By dusk the hills were also getting steeper and eventually I needed four wheel drive to keep traction on. All the big trucks had chains which along with the snow plows just chattering across the icy road made the ice surface horribly bumpy. To make matters worse, the slow lanes on hills were not driven in by any other vehicles so they were intolerably rough and snowy.

I pushed on through Kicking Horse Pass to Golden to spend the night. It was my birthday.

The long road west.

The weather forecast was daunting. I had planned to cross into Canada at Buffalo New York, but it sounds like there's some snow coming. Freezing temperatures meant at least partially winterizing the coach. First order of business was to dump the waste tanks, I was carrying full nearly tanks, about 100 gallons! This time of year however, there are very few campgrounds still open and as I head
north even fewer. With luck I found a place in Pennsylvania that let me dump for $25!
It had to be done, if the tanks and dump valves froze I'd be ruined.
I then dumped several gallons of RV antifreeze in both tanks and would only flush the toilet with antifreeze from here on.

To protect the fresh water tank I rigged a return line to the tank so I could run the hot water from the tap back into the tank thus warming all the water in the tank. This was all well and good as long as it didn't get really cold.

Then the news warned of a complete white out in Buffalo, a freak storm of lake effect snow that eventually dumped seven feet of snow on the poor town! I headed east and crossed at Brockville Ontario.
Then north to Ottawa and west on the Trans Canada.
I drove across and back in my teens but couldn't believe the Trans Canada was still a two lane road from just west of Ottawa to Winnipeg!

By Sault Saint Marie I knew this was going to be epic, the temperate was dropping to minus 10 overnight so I was having to get up in the night and heat the fresh water tank. This was no easy feat as I had no real heat in the coach, my saving grace was a very wise investment in a 12 volt electric matrass heating pad. What a delight to crawl into a warm bed.

Crossing the top of Lake Superior was on ice packed roads, hills and treacherous. White knuckled
driving to say the least.

By Thunder Bay I was in trouble. The nighttime temperature was minus 22 and I had to abandon the
water system altogether. I spent a frantic day thawing, draining and refilling with antifreeze.
I bought and installed heat tape for the drain pipes as I was concerned about dilution of the antifreeze.
which meant I had to run the generator all night to run the heat tapes and my heated bed.
after a frantic day including several hours under the coach with a hair dryer thawing the shower lines that cross under the floor I had successfully winterized. I'd also bought a monster propane catalytic heater to keep the inside reasonable, however I didn't dare use it at night.

Then at Regina the temperature dropped to minus 35 with heavy blowing snow.
I was snowed in for two days waiting for the snow to stop and the roads to clear.
All the while huddled next to the heater making strategic use of propane and gasoline for the generator as I couldn't drive anywhere.

Two days later when I emerged from this winter hell the roads were solid, rutted ice.
I needed four wheel drive to get around even this flat city.
The truck was a hero though, starting faithfully at these temperatures and all it's systems tolerating the inhumanity. It fact pup and I were quite cozy inside as the little pickup cab is easy to heat with my big heater.

At long last I passed through Calgary and the roads began to clear however the temperatures remained brutally cold. But the sight of the looming Rocky Mountains warmed me somehow.
I should have known better,......

Considering my options

This business of being denied access to the US, and it's sunny southern climate is perplexing.
When I have no need to be anywhere in particular for six months there is little appeal in returning north to snow and sleet.
So it's decided, Pup and I are off to England!
Well you might say it's still not exactly balmy there either, it's certainly beats Eastern Canada.
I'm a British citizen as I was born in London and currently one way flights are absurdly cheap, significantly less than half a return fare. The trick is Geordie.
The UK has a particularly stringent policy regarding importing dogs. After much research and many conversations with veterinarians experienced in the complex process of tests, vaccinations and chip implantation, I was all set. Pup just had to lose a few pounds to qualify for baggage compartment travel.
As I was booking our flight the attendant informed me that to qualify for the UK import scheme, pup must fly as livestock cargo independently of my ticket. OK I said, until I got the quote.
$4,800!! Not including the special livestock handling fees at Heathrow.
This would have been our new home.
That's it for that plan.
Devastated. I was on the verge of making an offer on a River cruiser we would have lived on on the Thames.
I spent days looking at alternatives. And then it presented itself!
The Queen Mary II!!!
A little Googling and I discovered that pets are welcome, there is a lovely kennel and a reasonable fare of $750 that qualifies for the pet import scheme.
True my fare would be almost $2000, but the combined cost is still less than half of flying.
And it's a double stateroom, I could have a companion accompany for free.
Of course there's meals and such on board, but for the experience I'd gladly accommodate.
And the QMII is berthed 10 blocks from where I am in Brooklyn due to sail in 14 days!!!
Then the downside,...kennels are booked 12 to 18 months in advance.

Our only reasonably warm winter option,...Victoria British Columbia.
Lovely city, fantastic climate that rarely freezes all winter. And a very marime culture.
Liveaboards and houseboats. It's perfect, except it on the opposite coast of a rather large continent, with a substantial mountain range in between.

So I decided to return to Nova Scotia and leave the coach in the East and install one of my full length hardtops on the Rover and build a micro camper to head west.
After a few days of designing and costing I realized the time and expense was beyond my means.
It was getting cold, if I was going to get across the prairies before winter set in I had to get moving.
So we did,..

Westward ho!,......

More DC fun

There's no denying it, Bobeck is bottled fun!
I'll never miss the opportunity to go out on the town here with this man.
And Washington, or at least the parts I've seen, are an incredible mix of communities and culture, history and energy. I haven't been able to experience Portland or Austin yet, but I expect it's this kind of feeling. And I just love it.
Dave told me to arrive at precisely 6:55 to be able to catch some much sought after overnight street parking on his tiny downtown street.
I didn't think it was possible to park and stay overnight on a trendy residential street downtown, but I dutifully timed my arrival to the minute. No easy feat while negotiating downtown DC traffic and construction.
I rolled up opposite his door at 6:55 and by 7:00 there was not a spot left on the street!

Then it began,...
I didn't take any pictures of our evening to limit the damning evidence, but what an evening.
Let's just say I slept until nearly noon, then drove north, no parking ticket!

Thanks again Dave.

Back to Uwharrie

Ahh what a welcome!!

As I pulled into the crowded field full of Rovers and tents a great hurrah went up from all my good Uwharrie friends. It was truly moving. In moments I was parked and enjoying the moonshine that is the hallmark of this event, oh and Land Rovers,...

I didn't take many pictures as I was just so glad to be relaxing and enjoying their good company.

In the photo at the right I'm being presented with a gift of two mason jars of shine. Utterly heartwarming!

Even more amazing was that great numbers of these nutters bought kilts to wear at the event after last years foolishness.

Yes there was off roading too, and perhaps some late night riding on a roof rack but it's the people that I come here for, and will again, and again,....

Sunday came all too soon, and with it the realization that I was heading north again, banished from America.

Thank you to all my Uwharrie friends!!
See you soon!

(all pictures snagged from Facebook, thanks!)

Truck go boom!

Sorry, Rover tech post,...

Well regardless of my being kicked out of the country, I'm still going to the fall Rover event in the Uwharrie National Forest. That's in North Carolina, A hell of a long way south for a weekend trip.
Ah hell, I'll pop by Dave Bobeck's place in DC on the way back up, all in all it'll be a great week.

So I swung through Brooklyn to pick up the coach and headed down to North Carolina.
To be fair, "swinging by" Brooklyn to pick up a travel trailer is a project in itself, but I'm getting so used to bombing along these crazy highways in the Boston - Washington corridor that's it's actually becoming rather mundane. Except for the tolls, ouch!

bout 200 miles north of Uwharrie I had to climb a steep grade pulling out of a gas station so I used low range to ease the burden on the clutch. Well, I gave it too much oomph and BANG!
And I had no more drive....

Now if this were a standard Land Rover 109, I'd know I'd broken a halfshaft in the rear axle, but as I have the bulletproof Salisbury rear end I knew that couldn't be.
Therefore it must be the transmission or the transfer case. I knew it wasn't the driveshaft aster crawling under to check.
Rather than jump to conclusions I pondered for a bit, played with the transfercase gear levers and found it made a horrible grinding when trying to drive. I left it in gear trying to drive and had a look under to see if the driveshaft was spinning, IT WAS!

Yay, or maybe boo. well at least it's not the transmissions.
Maybe it is a bust halfshaft? or s stripped drive flange.
To confirm that it wasn't the actul differential I engaged the differential lock which will force the power to the side that isn't broken and wow we moved!
OK, halfshaft or drive flange, great, but I have neither in spares.
So I engaged front wheel drive and carried on to Uwharrie, carefully, stock front differential, heavy, heavy load!

Once at Uwharrie I removed the axle dust cap and with the truck running in gear the halfshaft was spinning in the drive flange, great, just need a good welder to weld them together and I'm all set.
After the weekend of not moving the truck at all I found a welder an hour north who did a lovely job for $20! good as new.

Homeland Security.

Hmm, bit of a snag,.....

Upon re-entering the US after visiting my daughter in Montreal I was denied entry at the border.
They told me I didn't fit the profile of a snowbird. Too young, too poor and too smart, their words.
Although I was able to show them the lease to my apartment, my travel insurance and my healthy bank account, it seems I couldn't convince them I wasn't smart.

He insisted that I wasn't allowed to "lollygag around the USA".
Isn't that what being a tourist is?

It seems entry is completely at the discretion of the officer you end up with.
As he discussed it with his supervisor, the supervisor said "I don't see a problem, but it's your call"
And it was, no reasonable argument would sway him. I did manage to get him to give me a limited entry to collect my coach.

So no US road trip this year,.......

Quick Montreal trip.

I ran up to Montreal for the weekend to see my youngest daughter and celebrate her birthday.
She turned 18 which is a big year in Quebec,......
We had several days together including a wonderful big group supper hosted by a friend.

For some reason I neglected to take many pictures other than a batch or touristy ones while touring around with an old friend.

The fall is certainly lovely in Montreal.

Back to New York and then south!

Bill Caloccia

The day of our walk across the Brooklyn Bridge a great Land Rover mentor slipped away.

Bill Caloccia, Most notable for having essentially created the on line community of Land Rover enthusiasts, at least in North America. But he was so much more to those who knew him or even met him once.

Bill was generous, knowledgeable and compassionate. His loss was felt the world over, but most acutely in the North East where he had so many friends.

I was very fortunate to have known him well and when his funeral was scheduled for a few days later in Massachusetts I ran up to attend.

The precession included a fleet of Rovers led by Bills own, a beautiful truck he'd just completed restoring.

We sent him on his way with a proper wake and associated good cheer.

Goodbye Bill,....

Photo credits Quintin Aspin.

Back to New York

After a summer of writing software in Nova Scotia I'm going to drop by my client in New York for a quick follow up meeting. It was an easy run down to New York, The I95 is old hat now.

I write software to manage cemeteries and my client is a huge cemetery right in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. Amazingly they agreed to let me stay INSIDE the cemetery in the coach!

The gates to the cemetery are amazing old stone arches.
The only catch to staying in the cemetery is that the gates are locked at six o'clock and I'm locked in.
Very strange,...

The meetings went well and the software works well, I'm done working until next spring!!

They kindly let me stick around to spend some time in NYC.
First we were off to Battery park for a souvlaki and a beer!

Except we walked,......

From the cemetery it\s over an hour to the Brooklyn Bridge and then across the historic span. What a rush walking across the East River with Manhattan in view.

There were thousands of people crossing the bridge on foot, all taking selfies,...

If you've never done it it's one of the greatest New York experiences, and it's free.

Once on Manhattan, we headed south towards the financial district, past the throngs taking pictures of the raging bull, I couldn't bear to.

I did like this juxtaposition between St. Paul's Chapel, built in 1764 and the new World Trade Tower.

It was a lovely day for walking but Geordie was slowing down, and we still had to walk back!
So we slowed the pace a bit, he's 9 years old!

Then on to Battery Park and my favorite souvlaki street vendor. Heavenly, now for a beer in the beer garden down by the water,....

The walk home was much slower as Pup was really tired, we took lots of breaks and strolled back through the cemetery gates just before they closed, about seven hours from when we started,...

A great day!

More renovation

With summer coming to a close I'll be heading south again soon.
Amazingly I really haven't got much work done on the coach.

Time to get moving.

So I ripped out more of the original interior, the whole starboard side from the bed to the entry door.
I build a large chest of drawers in the bedroom that gives me a nice credenza surface under the window and by overhanging the wheel well it created a space for the batteries directly over the axles. Perfect.

It still needs drawer pulls and a top but I just love it.
It also works as a night table for the bed.

Just ahead of the dresser will be a big new hanging locker.
I've decided on a really big locker as most of my clothes can be stored compactly and neatly hanging up.

Ahead of the hanging locker we're in the kitchen and the counter over the fridge which of course remains.
This area is complicated by the vent for the fridge.

On the port side I ripped out the old sink and stove counter which was an absolute disaster, the original waste plumbing was such a convoluted mess. Here you can see a nice simple new drain down through the floor to the grey tank below and the draw pipe for the fresh water system coming up from the fresh water tank.

The new cabinetry is all oak as well.
The countertop will be slate with an undermount single bowl sink. I used a bar sink and cut the extra flange off and set it in a reveal in the plywood sub surface that the slate will be bonded to.

This single larger sink is a joy over the crappy shallow double that was there before. And so much more counter space.

Advancing the bathroom

This bloody bathroom I've designed is just too ambitious.
It's set up as a "wet" bathroom so the whole room is the shower.
If the room was shower stall shaped, I'd install a premade shower, toss in a toilet and sink and be done with it. But it's not!, it's all curved with a big wheel well across it. As a result I'm making a custom slate shower pan. I created a pan in 1/2" plywood by cutting a slit in the piece of plywood and forming into a very shallow cone. To add strength I injected expanding foam in the tapered void below the pan. The picture is the foam oozing out the injection holes. Not mushrooms in my bathroom.

I'm also overly ambitious with the cabinetry. Like the rest of the coach it's all oak. The trick is keeping it all waterproof when the shower starts dumping water on it.
Careful sloping and shoulders on the cabinet doors.

Here you can see the slate floor finished and the new residential elongated toilet. No more tiny toilets. I've been crapping in a porta potty for a year!

The top was a challenge, I wanted a small stainless steel undermount basin, which are ridiculously expensive so I cut a hole in the bottom of a $9 mixing bowl and screwed it underneath the counter.

The top and walls still need to be stained.
Oh, and a wall and a door!

Mariposa Folk Festval.

I've always wanted to go to the great southern Ontario folk festival and have never been.
So I loaded up and headed west just before Canada Day.

Early morning in Mahone Bay on the right, gorgeous little town.

First stop was Montreal for a few days handing out with old friends Kate and Al.

I always enjoy Montreal, as you all know, for the food. BBQ duck in Chinatown,...

I stayed in Montreal for Canada Day and some spectacular fireworks that Geordie didn't think much of. Odd, he's never been bothered by them before,...

And on to Orillia for the big event. Mariposa is a huge event, with a dozen stages, a couple of pub tents, endless workshops, kiosks and vendors and of course food!!

What's also amazing about the festival is that if you're camping in a tent, you can be within feet of the main stage, hundreds of tents huddled in along the shore.

One of my favorite tents, well besides the pub, was a big tent full of instruments to try. What a great opportunity to have a go at some pretty neat stuff. I was particularly interested in some of the percussion instruments.

This thing with the metal tines was just amazing.

It was a long haul for a festival but I'm so glad I went, I'll try to work it into my upcoming summers as well,...

Back to Nova Scotia,...

Summer life

I'm not sure what I expected I'd be up to, but summer life just seems to have a life of it's own.
It's great to be back in the South Shore with so many old friends to see.
I spent a couple of days building a new deck with my good friend who owns the local corner store.

I must admit, I do love to build stuff, we really pounded at it but not bad for two days work.

Then I ran up to Antigonish for a friends birthday party. Opted out of hauling the coach up and slept in the back of the Rover with the full canvas top. Remarkably comfortable if not all that roomy. Pup slept in the front seat,...

And not to be missed, my youngest daughter's graduation. A very proud father was I.

The Cabot Trail

The highlight of my summer was a trip with my daughters around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

I've been looking forward to the trip ever since saying goodbye to my girls as I sent them home from New Orleans.

We took our time and spent almost a week on the loop some people do in an afternoon!

It was early in the season and the campgrounds were closed so we camped on the many pull offs all along the trail. Spectacular!

The girls and I have such a wonderful travelling style, they grew up in this coach and it's been such a part of so many great memories.

On the west coast my youngest scouted out a tiny little trail along the shore that led to the site of an ancient fishing village. Nothing remains except the impressive timber and early concrete wharf that seems more like some natural geometric obelisk. Really moody.