Follow our journey

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Growing roots in Prince Edward County


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Who knew that when we booked a seasonal site at Bay Meadows in Consecon (Prince Edward County) that we would totally fall in love with the area? PEC, as it is known around here, is an amalgamation of several towns/cities, most of them located along Lake Ontario. Is it because living near water brings the best in people that everyone we meet is sooooo nice? I think it has a positive effect on most. So living here is very pleasant to say the least.

As most of you know, we are having the worst summer EVER! Thank God for the unending bird songs that keep us entertained every day although it is sometimes frustrating to hear the birds but not see them. I have spotted some interesting birds right out of my window. For example, a Northern Flicker which I had never seen before, just happened to be on the lawn. I shot the picture through the window screen.

                                   


I also saw a beautiful young cardinal in the large tree in front of our trailer. Cardinals have a very special meaning for me. They are said to appear when a departed loved one wants to manifest their presence. When my dear cousin passed away (she was the older sister I never had), Glen and I were walking along Lake Ontario in Burlington when a cardinal landed on a bench. It then flew to the ground where it lingered for a while (making sure we could see him). It was weird since cardinals are normally but a fleeting blur of red that can't be easily photographed or seen. I turned to Glen and said very confidently: "my cousin passed away, the cardinal is a sign." About 10 minutes later her brother called me to tell me the sad news. Since then, when I see a cardinal that seems to want my attention, I say hi to my cousin and thank her for visiting. Am I crazy? Maybe. But it gives me joy to think that she is still around and travels along with me.


We have also witnessed young Canada Goose families strutting by the water in the bay and have watched the babies grow from cute little fluff balls to miniature replicas of their parents. There is also a pair of swans that had 6 babies but are down to only one. A woman whose house is right by the water told me she saw a snapping turtle bite and eat a small cygnet. So sad...








The water has been very high this year and it doesn't seem to subside very fast. Our lovely long beach is practically non-existent and to top it all off, a pair of Piping Plovers decided to nest on the best piece of beach we have and the authorities have completely barred off that area from the public as these birds are on the endangered list and are quite rare. We got to see one of them the day before they put up fences and barricades and were lucky enough to get a few pictures. I really hope to get to see and photograph babies but it will be pure chance as we can't get near the nest at all.









We have explored the area a little more than last fall when we spent 1 1/2 month here and have discovered some treasures. First and foremost, a very small general store in Consecon sells wine and beer! Yeah! Seriously, we went to our local library which is housed in a 200-year-old church building. A large stain-glass window still presides over the building behind where the altar would be. It is now a nice sitting area with comfortable chairs. Of course, the librarians are super nice and we can even borrow an internet hub for 7 days and get super good internet! Wow! Also, our friend told us about Point Petre and the Bird Observation station where they band migratory birds in the spring and Sawhett owls in the fall. It's a beautiful area where many different bird species can be seen.

Yellow Warbler


Rufus-sided Towhee

Common Merganser pair


I have also started painting on wood that we find on the beach. It's turned out to be quite original and my paintings are now in three stores in the area. All three store owners liked my work and thought it should sell well. One of them asked for more when I brought the three pieces I had left. I am painting mostly birds (I have no idea why) and am painting in a very different style than I did before. It's like someone else takes over when I paint. I never quite know how it's going to turn out until it's finished and I step back and think: "it's not bad at all".






I have also gathered my courage and joined aqua fitness on weekday mornings. It's a one-hour workout that leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to attack the day. I'm also playing darts on Friday nights. I remember playing darts with my brother in the basement of our home in Hull and that is the only time I played. Well, the darts don't go where I'm actually aiming but they seem to land in good enough sections of the board that I achieve good scores. It's a lot of fun and everyone is very encouraging.

We have a friend who lives 25 minutes from here. It's really nice to spend some time with her and do other things than hiking with the dog. We have changed our mailing address to be at her place as it's more convenient for us to pick it up there. Send me an email if you want our new address.

We're still farther away from my family than I wished we would be but we would never find a better place closer at this price level.

As we're gearing to go back to Florida again this winter, Glen found work to beef up our finances a little bit and pay some bills that popped up (like new brakes on the truck). He's working night shifts which are a bit of a disturbance of my schedule but he likes it as we can still do things together in the afternoon and he can enjoy the nice weather when it's here. The rain has been pretty consistent so we had to get loads of gravel to fill in the hole we had at the door that kept our carpet wet and smelly. It's much better now. We also acquired for a very good price, some patio stones from neighbours who have sold their house and are leaving at the end of the month. So we built a nice patio where we will put the table, chairs, and umbrella we're also getting from them. It's starting to look like we live here!

It is nice to not be traveling so much but I'm sure once fall comes upon us we'll be ready to move south again.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How much did it cost to spend 6 months in sunny Florida?

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We did it! We spent the whole winter in Florida! It was a blast! We didn't see a speck of snow and avoided the really cold days of Canadian winters by leaving October 31st and returning May 1st (OK, this year May 1st was less than balmy but still, there was no snow). But how much did it cost?

Well, the camping was cheap. We had paid for a zone pass from Thousand Trails for $445 US before leaving. The pass was on sale and they seem to have deals throughout the year. On top of it, when I called to buy the pass the lady on the phone asked me where we would spend most of our time and I told her Florida. So, since there are only three Thousand Trails campgrounds in Florida, she gave us access to six Encore campgrounds in Florida making our stay even more pleasant. So for the time we were away we could stay at any of the assigned campgrounds for our zone for free for 90 days and then pay the ridiculously low price of $3/day and as we later discovered, free at the Encore properties.

The zone pass lets you stay as long as two weeks at a time after which you have to get out of the system for one week. At first we weren't sure how to find free camping for that week so we stayed at a state park and a national forest. But then we discovered all the free campsites available through the Florida Water Management and the Wildlife Management and we didn't pay for camping during the off week again. So our camping fees turned out to be an average of $173.53/month and that includes paying for the Thousand Trail zone pass, camping at the beginning and paying for a campsite in Pennsylvania on our return. Not bad eh?




The gas was cheap compared to our prices here and the big expenses were driving down and back up. The only gas not included in the average is what was spent on October 31st and May 1st as they are part of months spent in Canada. Our average was $331.32/month which is exactly what I had budgeted for ($332).

Propane was also cheaper and the fact that they charge for the amount they put in instead of a set price whether your tank is completely empty or half-full makes a difference. We did find that the TSC stores' propane was the most reasonably priced. How did we do? An average of $25.17/month.

The laundry prices varied from campground to campground being as high as $3 per washer and $3 per dryer to $1.25 per machine. So we averaged $22.59/month. We used to pay $60 for laundry at the apartment! We did use our little manual washing machine from time to time but it can't do the big stuff and it takes a long time as it only does small loads at a time. Still, we used it when the laundry was too expensive for our budget. Our spin dryer works really well, getting the clothes almost dry so it takes only a short time on the line to dry completely.

We tried to avoid restaurants but at times we had lunch out for a treat. We did eat dinner out for my birthday and we ate out when traveling for an average of $80.68/month.



The killer was grocery shopping. Food costs almost as much there as here but we had to add almost 40% to all our purchases due to the money exchange. We ate simply but well and eventually found that the best deals were at Walmart (and Walmarts are everywhere) but still, our average was $728.80/month which is really high for only two people (and no, I didn't count the wine in that amount). The wine by the way, was very cheap (paying $2.86/bottle at Walmart -  not the best wine but it satisfied me).

Because it was hard to find the pet foods we were used to feeding our dog and cat we ordered from Chewy.com which delivered right to the campground! The prices were about the same as here plus the exchange so we changed our pet's diet eventually so it would be more affordable (something had to give!). We also bought bigger bags of dry food even though we didn't really have storage room for them (I did find that they fit quite well under the cat tree and neither of our pets tried to chew their way through the bags). I was concerned about moisture and possibly mold getting into the food as the temperature inside a trailer varies a lot more than in a house, but the food stayed fresh and cost a lot less than buying small bags that would fit in the pantry.



Those were our major and recurring expenses. We did however end up going over budget almost every month because of incidentals. We had to buy a solar panel in order to survive seven days without any hook-ups in the free campsites to the tune of $285.51 all together. We also lost the door to our water heater during a particularly bumpy trip and that cost us $63.41 to replace. The big booboo, the really big mistake, was ripping the rubber roof on the trailer trying to access a free site because we both failed to notice a side branch that was in the way. That cost us $150.77 to repair and $145.92 for a ladder since the top part of our attached ladder also got torn off by the branch. We had to find a ladder that would reach the top of the trailer but also could be reduced to a smaller size for travel.

When I backed into a tree trying to find my way into a small site it damaged the bumper where our sewer hoses were stored. Guess what? One of the hose was now stuck in there so we had to go out and buy another one as just one didn't reach most sewer connections.

When I suffered from a urinary track infection that couldn't wait anymore, it cost $210.25 to see a doctor and get the prescribed antibiotics. We also had to replace an exploded tire which cost us $146.54.

There were other unexpected expenses like $678.22 that the trailer dealer forgot to charge us to install the rear ladder (that ladder that got knocked off during our trip and that with shipping and installation cost us close to $1,000!) and installing the WIFI amplifying antenna and repeater that didn't work anywhere in the States as you need to be fairly close to the hotspot or have an uninterrupted view, and we got that email in December (nice Christmas gift). The WIFI antenna is however useful where we are for the summer as it gives us a secure network with the free internet (that sucks by the way - that's why I don't post anything on Facebood since I can't even get a simple post to go through - aarrrrrggghhghh).

We did have to purchase medical insurance which cost us $1200 for the two of us. The phone in the States cost us $300 for the six months and came with 4 G of data per month.

Was it worth it? You betcha! We had such a great time and neither of us had a cold or even the sniffles! I was and felt very healthy and alive as compared to being sick all winter and getting depressed because I can't breathe or can't go outside because I can't breathe. We learned a lot, met many different and interesting people and I got to visit someone I hadn't seen for years who also spends the winter in Florida. I was hoping to visit my cousin who stays in Fort Lauderdale and another dear woman I haven't seen for a long time who spends her winters in Boynton Beach but our travels didn't permit those visits. Next year we will be better prepared. We got to be on the beach and watch the ocean waves, their roar making it difficult to concentrate on reading, we got to breathe that healing salt air and walk barefoot in the warm sand, we visited different tourist sites and learned a lot about US history. The Americans we met everywhere were very friendly and polite. The businesses we dealt with were also very helpful and generous. All and all we definitely want to go back so now we will concentrate on making money this summer to pay for the inevitable expenses and the incidentals we are bound to meet on the way.



If you have any questions please reach me at wabacreek@gmail.com and I'll try my best to find an answer for you.

We did meet couples who spend the whole winter in free campsites but after a while it is nice to go to a proper campground and be able to watch TV and get good phone reception and internet. I don't think I would change a thing. Someone we met before leaving Canada travelled the States with a Passport America membership which gives you 50% off campsites but most places only give the discount for one to three days so she had to keep moving all the time which she found exhausting. It is nice to settle in for two weeks and get to know the neighbours. All the Thousand Trails campground have pools, pickleball courts, most have mini-golf and gyms, some have tennis and volleyball courts and billiard rooms.





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ponderosa Campground in Pennsylvania

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We needed to stop overnight in Pennsylvania and didn't want to make the same mistake as we did coming down in the fall when we overnighted at a truck stop and froze, so we booked a site at a campground with hook-ups just looking for something reasonably priced for the one night stay.

After driving on twisting and roller-coaster-like gravel roads that only had space for one car, we arrived at Ponderosa Campground in Honesdale. The owner was super nice! We had called earlier letting her know that we would arrive later than expected and she just asked to call her about 15 minutes from arrival and she would be there to greet us. 15 minutes away we tried to call but we had no phone signal. We got a signal back about 3 minutes away from the campground so we called her.

We only had to wait a few minutes and she arrived. She was very pleasant and it showed how much she likes this remote spot. Our site was by the small lake where apparently earlier in the day, a bald eagle had been fishing. How I wish we could have seen that! There is a lot of wildlife here, including bears, since it's away from dense population and the lake provides food and water.

The ground was soft from the rain so we chose a site that seemed a bit firmer. The view was really nice! It would be a wonderful place to spend some time in the summer. Too bad we didn't have much time to enjoy it. The next morning it was quite cold but we went outside and enjoyed the peace and quiet along with the view of the misty lake. I hugged Glen and reminded him how lucky we were to be able to see such beauty and to live those experiences.





We left fairly early since we had a long drive ahead before we got home. I drove in the rain and fog for most of the way but other than that the drive was without incident. Crossing the border was super fast and easy as the agent just looked at our passports, asked us how long we had been in the States and sent us off. No question about bringing food or alcohol, didn't ask for the dog's rabies certificate even though she was in plain sight between us on the seat. We must look like good people!

We arrived at Bay Meadows, our home for the summer, to discover a flooded and sad looking campground. They are replacing the pool but the work is not finished and there are mounds of soil where there used to be a grass field. All the roads have large puddles and the sites are full of water and mud. It was raining and setting up was not pleasant. Two days later it was sunny so we moved to a drier site at the end of a road by a treed area. It is more private than where we were and we don't step in the mud right outside our door. If it can stop raining, I think we'll enjoy our summer here.












Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chesapeake Bay RV Resort

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We had stopped at Chesapeake Bay on our way down to Florida back in November. Then the leaves had fallen off most of the trees and the campground was wrapping up their season and most everything was closed.

This time around the landscape had changed to a colourful display of azaleas and irises, along with other flowers and grasses. The pools were not opened yet but were being prepared to be enjoyed soon as the staff cleaned them and treated the water. The adult pool looked ready to go but I don't think the water is heated.




Azeleas in full bloom



The activities were picking up especially on the weekends. There was a blind golf cart race planned for the Saturday but it rained all day so it was cancelled. A dog show is planned for next weekend along with a shelter bringing adoptable dogs that will be available for anyone not having a dog to show. The little store was opened from Thursday to Sunday and is really cute, offering souvenirs and camper related items. But the most popular is their fabulous ice cream! Glen got the Apple Pie which he said tasted just like having apple pie with ice cream and I had the Crunchy Cappucino which was scrumptious! Truly the best ice cream I ever had! And their portions are VERY generous!

We also saw crab for the first time in the water.



We had a tire blow-out on our way here and since there was no place to pull over we drove very slowly for the remaining 5 minutes to the campground where we parked at the first available site. Our roadside assistance could only send someone the next morning to change the tire so we got settled in with the possibility of moving to a better site after the tire change. After spending the night and the next morning we decided to just stay where we were since most of the work had been done. So we levelled the trailer, took out the rest of the "breakables" that were still put away in baskets and we were home for the next 10 days. The blow-out caused the trailer to jump and buck causing most of its contents to shift and move like never before. Opening the door after such an event is truly like going to your house after an earthquake.

Our view

Our site

A visitor to our site


We love Chesapeake Bay and I wish we could spend the summer here. Everyone is so nice and friendly! The laundry is cheap and the machines work well. The firepits are made of pavers which look good and keep everything neat.

The pond as you come into the park

The ranger's station at the entrance

After four days of rain, the weather changed and it got very, very hot. So we decided to go visit Virginia Beach which was apparently about one and half hour from the campground. Well, it took us two hours to get there as our GPS was taking us to the city, not the beach. Coming back we hit traffic even though we left at three thirty, because of an accident at the entrance of the long tunnel that goes underwater for quite a distance. It took us over three hours to come back! Our poor pets must have thought we had left them forever! They were very happy to see us and demanded lots of attention after they were fed.




Virginia Beach is very nice. There is a three-mile long boardwalk that separates the walkers from the bikers and the skateboarders. You can rent a four-seater bike that is more like a pedal-powered car and many were using them. The beach is wide and very long. The sand is golden brown and on that day was extremely hot. Walking on the boardwalk we got all sweaty but as soon as we got closer to the water the breeze was cooler and it was comfortable. There is a long fishing pier but there is a charge of $2.00 to go on it or $8 to fish. You don't need a fishing license as it is paid by the city. There weren't many people on this Thursday in April but I'm sure the beach is very popular during the summer. We found parking on one of the side streets from Atlantic Avenue - they offer metered parking for $1/hour which is cheap and convenient. There are public washrooms off the boardwalk and they are relatively clean and well stocked. I did test the ocean to see how it was and it was very, very cold even though young kids were playing in it and a few brave souls were swimming. There are numerous souvenir shops on Atlantic Avenue and many fun restaurants and bars. There is a restaurant right on the beach where the pier is.





  


SipSip

The water is freezing cold!


You can also rent a horse and go for a ride on the beach. Pretty neat to see them riding amongst the sunbathers. It's a great place to fly a kite as there are no obstructions. The only problem is that the beach is located close to an army base and fighter jets were flying above all day making a lot of noise. Sometimes they would be fairly low and the noise was almost unbearable. So don't go there for a quiet time. It's worth a visit but next time we would go earlier in the morning so we can come back shortly after lunch and avoid the traffic jams.








We decided to take Cheeka for a walk at Beaverdam Park which we had enjoyed last Fall. Even though the temperature was a bit lower, it was very humid and we were very hot within a short time. We cut our walk a bit short and opted to drive to the main entrance which we had never seen. It's a really nice spot for a picnic, renting a boat or canoe/kayak or docking your own boat. There were three Muscovy ducks on the property and at one point, as I was photographing them, they all started to waddle towards me. Obviously, they are pretty tame. We also saw a tiny baby turtle that was on a roadway so Glen got it to move into the grass so it wouldn't be such an easy prey for raptors. There were quite a few Canada geese and some coots. The flowers were beautiful and the whole atmosphere was one of peace and quiet with only the birds singing and of course, the geese honking.


The beautiful trail



Riders coming back from a trail ride



These ducks were marching right to me

We were glad we went to see that other entrance to the park as it gives us another area to go to next time we're camping here.