Category: Ontario

Manitoba – We finally Made it out of Onterible

VanLife - Manitoba
Manitoba – Abandoned Railway Bridge

It seemed to take forever, to finally make it out of Ontario.  I had explained I thought it might take 3 days, even with the ferry from Tobermory.   But since we needed to replace the transmission in Thunder Bay it ended up taking us 5 days.  We got the go ahead to pick Freddy up for 16:00 on Friday, so we took a few minutes to go shopping and grab some fresh food and then off to the Mister Transmission.  I was hoping I would be well into Manitoba by now,  but instead the best we hoped to make it too was Dryden which we did easily.

Arriving in Manitoba

VanLife - Manitoba
Manitoba – Border between Manitoba and Ontario

We departed Dryden at 8:30 in the morning, bound and determined to make up lost time.   The people in Northern Ontario have been so very helpful.  Thankfully there has not been much of road construction so we were making pretty good time.   We arrived at the border around 11:30, with to our advantage, we had an hour time change so that helped on our trip for sure!

Michelle wanted to stop in at Jollibee, which is a Filipino restaurant we use to go to when we lived in Bacolod City.  She has been missing her Jollibee very much, so we had to stop for a bit to eat.  I also had the opportunity to visit with an old Navy friend of mine Colin.  We sailed together back in the late 80’s early 90’s  I have not seen him since my last couple of years in the Navy.    It was fantastic to see him and meet his lovely family!!  Way to much time between visits.

Next Stop Brandon Ma.

VanLife - Manitoba Jollibee
Manitoba – Jollibee

After enjoying a stop at Jollibee, we figured we would high tail to Brandon a short 200 or so km away.  Things were clear sailing, The van was running perfectly and Debbie has been equal to every driving task put out for her!  She has been doing a fantastic job, especially since this is the farthest she driven west, and by herself to boot!  We ran across a plane doing some crop dusting which very interesting to watch, and Michelle has never seen that before so she was very interesting.  I had to pull over to see if I could shoot a couple of pictures.

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VanLife - Thunder Bay or Bust

Thunder Bay or Bust – Nothing Like a Break Down

Here it is day four and we are still in Thunder Bay, and for good reason.  We started having problems about an hour after leaving Wawa.  I noticed the manual Over Drive light had illuminated on its own.  This would be the beginning of our troubles.

First Planned Stop – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

It turns out this overdrive light would be the beginning of our troubles, about an hour out of Wawa we needed to come to a stop at a road construction area and as I slowed down there was a strange grinding sound, and Freddy began to lurch, not a drastic one but it was noticeable for sure.  As the flag person gave us the go ahead, things were all good, and we went on our merry little way.  Though not known to us things were getting worse by the minute.  I think we drove on for another hour when we pulled over to check something, this would prove to be a bad decision.  As we went to pull away, I learned that I had lost Drive (D) on my transmission.   I still had Reverse (R), First (1) and Second (2).

Since we were in the middle of nowhere, I knew if this was to have a happy ending we would need to make it to Thunder Bay.  As we continued to limp towards Thunder Bay things just continued to get worse.  For a while, I was able to go into Overdrive or Fourth, as we climbed the hills in the area, but it was getting worse and by the time we were climbing the last hill into Thunder Bay was down to Third (D)  and manual starting from a dead stop.   Just on the outskirts we saw a Walmart and decided to pull into the parking lot and call it a day.

Transmission Work in Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

Where do you go to get transmission work done, finding a shop that would help us out proved difficult!  I did a search on Google, and the first place on the list was Mister Transmission.  As I waited for the call to go through I had all those terrible thoughts running through my mind at one time.  Crap this is going to be expensive! Will we make it to British Columbia to start my new job in time?  Can we find a rebuilt transmission or is it going to be a new one?    Mister Transmission was very helpful right from the very start.  The girls I spoke to did their best to answer all the questions I had, but the one thing I did not like was we can not look at it until the next day.

Still holding onto a thread of hope for a quick fix, I decided to call another transmission shop.  One shop told me lots of information, but in the end, he could not handle a conversion van on his hoist.  Another shop would be able to take the transmission out, but then it would need to be worked on somewhere else as they do not do transmission work.  The earliest he could get me in was Thursday, and then a couple of weeks for a transmission, and I would need to be the one to find a replacement.  I was directed to contact the Dodge Dealer in town, they could do the work, but no they could not take me.  They however offered to find what transmission I would need.  We are still waiting for an answer a day later.

Mister Transmission – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Mister Transmission

In desperation, I call back Mister Transmission and I lay it out there on the line.  It’s 16:52 they close at 17:00 and I’m between a rock and a hard spot.  I speak with a gentleman named Daryl who was so very helpful.  We discussed the symptoms, and then the reason for the rush needed, and he tells me to have it there for 8:00 am the next day for it to be trouble shot.  I explain to him we are living in the vehicle, and I ask if we could stay in their parking lot overnight.  He said for sure, no worries, and I decide to head over there now so we can be in place and ready for first thing this morning.

Arriving the night before turns out to be a good idea for a couple of reasons.  The first one is I’ll be at their door at 7 am, so I will certainly be the first in line.  I’ve been warned they are jammed with work but I am going to do my best to get pushed in there.  The second reason, we happened to meet the owner, who tells me to plug Freddy in so we have power.  This turns out to be a fantastic offer, we were able to run the AC a little, and not worry about our battery power.

Sure enough, I’m at the front door of the shop at a couple minutes after 7, and I happen to meet up with Daryl, and he begins my paperwork for the truck.   We discuss a plan of action to find out what the issue is with Freddy, and then we head off to Starbucks to give some room for Mister Transmission to do their work.

The Bad News

Late in the morning, I receive a call from Mister Transmission with the bad news.  Freddy’s transmission is not fixable and needs replacing.  There is a company in Winnipeg who is working to get the transmission off to Thunder Bay if all goes well it will arrive late Friday morning.  If it arrives in time there is a chance we can head off late Friday afternoon.  The bad news is if it does not arrive on time, it won’t be done until Monday, as Mister Transmission is not open on the weekend.  So here we sit in a motel keeping our fingers crossed hoping Friday is our lucky day.

The staff at Mister Transmission here in Thunder Bay has been fantastic.  Not just because they are helping me out, but because they answered my questions and provided fantastic customer service.  You can tell they take their jobs seriously, and they are very professional!  Thank you, Mister Transmission!

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VanLife - Algoma Country

Algoma Country – Northern Ontario

VanLife - Algoma
Algoma Country – Black Bear

We are on Day three of our adventure and so far it’s been fantastic!  One of the highlights for me was Algoma Country because from seeing the Algoma named ships in the Welland Canal.  There was such a liberating feeling as we left Niagara Falls, where we’ve called home for the past two years.  Sadly over the past couple of months living the VanLife we finally started meeting some open like-minded people, but to quote someone “Too Little Too Late”.

South Baymouth, Algoma Region, Sault Ste. Marie, and Wawa

As we approached Tobermory and the ferry terminal the scenery started to become quite picturesque, and if you ‘ve driven with me before you will know I was looking for some opportunities to shoot some images.   We lucked out at the Ferry Terminal.  There was a lovely young woman working there and she was so helpful.  She could tell we were a little lost about where we could boondock for the night, as we passed by the Terminal entrance she called out and asked if we were going to catch the 7:00 am sailing.  I had become so used to everyone’s indifference and not open to help, I was shocked!

The ticket agent said we could buy our ticket and line up and spend the night there while we waited!  We were on a roll for sure!  The 7:00 am ferry left on time and as I have become accustomed to Michelle’s question, “Ocean Hun?”, “No babe just a big lake.”  I know she is missing the ocean as am I, soon though.  After arriving in South Baymouth,  we stopped at a nice little Shell gas station on our left.  The people there were so friendly and helped us with a couple of small “fuse” issues.  Just as a point to note, not many gas stations actually have 12 v fuses in their stores.  So badly so one guy was not sure how it was spelt.

Our destination for day 2 was Wawa and having made this drive in the past, I knew it would be a long drive.  I have to say, my sister,  Deb has done a fantastic job driving “BlueJay” this is by far the longest trip she has driving on.  We arrived in Wawa around 18:30 and settled for the night.

Day 3 Wawa to Thunder Bay

VanLife- Algoma Country
Algoma Country – Lake Wawa

We decided to Boondock on the Beach at Wawa Lake, what a fantastic quiet area to enjoy the sunset and sunrise to start our Day 3 journey.   We had a fantastic sleep the air was cool and clean, in stark comparison to the air in Niagara.  Michelle and I started our next leg at around 9:00 am.  The road between Wawa and Thunder Bay seems so long.  The highway is cut through the dense bush there is not much to see until you get into the Nipigon area and start to head towards Lake Superior.  Though in the end, it is still so beautiful.

We have decided to spend a couple of days in Thunder Bay to recoup and pick up some supplies.  Thunder Bay is a beautiful town, the people are friendly and helpful.  I highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been here before.

VanLife - Ontario Yours to Discover

Canada 150 – Ontario Yours to Discover

VanLife - Ontario Yours to Discover
Ontario Yours to Discover – National Steel Company

As our time is drawing to an end here in Ontario, I am torn but excited at the same time.  British Columbia has been my home for so many years and I have been away for almost 3 years now.  Though I was born here in Ontario, it’s never been home.  It’s so difficult to explain to people, but there is a burning inside of me to get back to my home.   There are some very beautiful areas in Ontario, places such as Belleville, or Cottage country, Northern Ontario is breathtaking.  I, however, live in the Niagara Region currently and there is truly so little to offer.

Ontario – Niagara Region

VanLife-Ontario Yours to Discover
Ontario Yours to Discover – Steel City

During my stay here in the Niagara Region, I have been introduced to many different people, some very interesting and some not so much so.  A perfect example was just the other night at Starbucks.  Three young ladies likely in their late teens, talking rather loudly about how they hate immigrants.  I thought this kind of funny since they were not Native Americans, so their families were immigrants somewhere down the line.  They looked over and saw my wife sitting there, and Michelle is from the Philippines.  One would think they would maybe cool it, but no a simple “awkward” and they continued their discussion.  As far as I am concerned this is not the Canada I grew up in.  It sickens me to hear things like this being said by the next generation.  I can somehow understand my parents thinking like that though I would never agree with it.

This is certainly not the first time I have heard such comments.  I have even heard things like that from some of my family.  One reason that makes us want to move from the area.   There is nothing here that we can relate to,  we are explorers, travellers.  Our enjoyment certainly not sitting in the backyard weekend after weekend seeing how many beers we can down.  This seems to be the extent of many in the Niagara Region.

Time to move on from Ontario

Now that we are in the early stages of the summer, and we have been able to work the kinks out of our Motorhome it seems like a perfect time to move on.  Since Michelle is new to Canada, it seems like a perfect idea to do a drive across the country so she can get an idea that there are wonderful places in this country.  There are many places that immigrants can be at home, respected and treated as equals.  I have learned over the years that people become “institutionalised”  where they are too afraid to learn and grow.  Once this happens they become closed to anything new or different and then all that is left is judgement.

Our plan is to depart late afternoon on the 2nd of July, and we are going to do our best to travel no less than 500 km a day so we can arrive in the lower mainland of British Columbia 10 days later.  I have made this trip on a number of occasions, and I have to say there is something so special watching the amazement on someone’s face during their first cross country journey.   I know Michelle took joy when we were travelling the Philippines watching me as we travelled all over Negros Occidental, now it’s my turn to watch her.

Shooting Pictures for Canada 150

VanLife - Ontario Yours to Discover
Ontario Yours to Discover – Quaker City

I am most excited about 10 days free to shoot images as we cross the country.  I am hoping to find the time to shoot celestial images as we cross through the Prairies.  There should be some fantastic opportunities for night shoots, and if we are really lucky there will be some fantastic opportunities for weather pictures.   I am looking forward as well shooting in the mountains if possible.  There is a special spot in my heart for sunrise/sunset and water.  I am wanting to shoot long exposure if possible.  I am also doing a review of a set of presets and brushes for Lightroom so be sure to keep an eye for that review!

Since this is Canada 150, and we have the opportunity to travel across Canada, explore like we love to do.  Memories last forever, those are the only things we can keep with us forever.  Houses, cars, pools they are material, but memories are forever!  I am so looking forward to shooting images as we go.  On “Instagram” I use a tag called #seenthroughyourbedroomwindow, I am hoping to be able to add many shots under this heading.  I love the fact that every day we will have another amazing view to take in.  My sister Deb is coming along with us, and I am very excited about her joining us.  She will be piloting “Little BlueJay” as we make our way across the country.

It All Started in Ontario

As a child, I played competitive hockey here in Ontario, first with the Penetang Jr Kings and then with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL and the Trenton Bobcats their farm team.  I spent most of my teens living with a billet in a different town and travelling by bus to games.  Most of the time I was on the road and I loved that feeling of being on the move.  Later with the Navy, and then of course when I retired I lived abroad.  Michelle keeps asking if I am excited about the trip, and so far I have been pretty calm but I know once I am on the road all of the stress from getting the trip organised will drain away and this will be another trip of the lifetime!

Be sure to follow along with us, enjoy our stories and hopefully many many pictures.  Are you on an adventure want to share? Let me know we would love to hear about your adventures as well!!

VanLife - Port Colborne Ontario

Port Colborne – Explore Canal Side

Once again this weekend Michelle and I were able to get away and explore some of the areas we love.  Port Colborne is certainly one of those places!  There is a little stretch from the last bridge on the canal to Lake Erie that is simply adorable.  It reminds me of Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia minus the salt water.  Turn left as you cross over the Clarence Street bridge onto West Street.  There are these quaint little shops with this atmosphere of a small seaside village.  I think if we were to come off the road early, it would be for one the little apartments above the various businesses on this street.

Canal Side – Port Colborne

Port Colborne – Canalside Restaurant

If you have been to Port Colborne before you will know the dual meaning in the header above.  Yes, you are certainly canal side, but there is this small Restaraunt/Pub about three doors down from the corner perfectly named for this adventure, “Canal Side“.  It was late when we arrived, but the barkeep was very pleasant and helpful  Michelle was looking for something to eat, and I a new experience in Beer.  I am ever hopeful I will find a place that knows what beer is all about!  Craft beer, something with body and flavour.  I have been surrounded by stock beer since returning to Canada and having lived in some of the places I have…I long for a good beer!  The barkeep knew his stuff, he had experience working in Banff and boy did he know his beer!

After our stop at the restaurant, we headed out to Freddy and for what we hoped would be a good sleep.  Having been in the Navy for 20 years, I love the sounds of the water of boats and birds.   Throughout the night, I could hear the screams of seagulls and the sounds of boats on the canal.  I was brought back to another time in my life, a time filled with many wonderful memories!

Port Colborne – Freedom Freddy

I knew Michelle would want to sleep in, so my original plan was to wake up around 4:30 am, and head out to shoot some sunrise images with the canal as my background.  As my alarm sounded its cry to wake, I just could not bring myself to get out of my bed.  With the good early morning light behind me, I decided to make a cup of coffee and venture out.  I was hoping to capture a couple of good images and I think things worked out wonderfully!

Deep Sea Bearing Down

It was not long after setting up my tripod and camera that I rewarded with a subject worthy of shooting.  I love shooting images of water, there needs to be some kind of water in the capture.  As I stood on the edge of the canal, I saw the pilot boat return to the dock, and sure enough, the “Federal Rideau” entered the mouth of the canal.

Port Colborne - Canal Side
Port Colborne – Canal Side

I had everything set up, I just needed to have the patience to wait for his approach so he filled the whole frame.  I hoped he would be a worthy subject and I an equally worthy photographer.  Once he passed under the bridge I returned to Freddy so I could make Michelle breakfast as I try to do for her every weekend.  With the weather being perfect this morning we decided to venture out on our “deck” and enough our meal outside.

Let us know what you think of our post.  Let us know of any of your cool or not so cool boondocking experiences!  We just finished shooting out Van Tour Video so keep an eye out for that on our YouTube Channel.




VanLife - Fort Erie Explored - Poster

Fort Erie Explored – Beautiful Border Town

Michelle and I spent the long weekend on the run which seems the norm now.  I completed work late afternoon on Friday, but Michelle had to work on Saturday and Monday, so with broken days like this, we needed to stay close to home.  We decided to head back to Fort Erie to explore the old town right on the Niagara River.  I used Google Maps to search out what I thought would be a good place to boondock.

Fort Erie Explored - Abandoned Building
Fort Erie Explored – Abandoned Building

There is something romantic about these small border towns.  With the old building in what I call the town centre in Fort Erie reminds me of some of the bars, I frequented while in the Royal Canadian Navy when we would sail up into New Westminster in BC. Old, run down and dirty are the only words that come to mind, but dirty in the sense of old greyed or weathered area.

Old Fort Erie on the Niagara Parkway

Our first stop was at the boat launch just next to Nicolls Marine, there is a nice little parking lot right on the Niagara River.  It was so peaceful, a couple of people fishing and someone shooting bird pictures with what looked like a Canon 70 – 200mm lens.   Sadly the first sign we see plain as day was indicating that there was no parking between Midnight and 6 AM.  We contemplated spending the night in the Parking lot, I mean after all how far and how often does the Niagara Parks Police patrol the river.  In the end, we felt it best if we did not get on anyone’s radar if you follow me.

I thought that the road was quiet enough we could simply pull out and park on the street.  There are no signs indicating that there was no parking there overnight.  Michelle noticed an old building almost directly across the road with a for sale sign in the window and was obviously empty.  This building had a perfect place for us to boondock for the night.  The lot was dark, though close to a street light, and with a gentle rain very peaceful place to sleep.

Back to the River First Thing in the Morning

Once morning came, we could not help but return to the boat ramp to enjoy the birds diving into the water hunting for a good fish for their breakfast.  I made a pot of coffee for Michelle and me, and our breakfast cereal.  As our lazy morning moved forward we decided to take a walk around the area.  One of my loves is shooting Street Photography though there were not many people, there were some fabulous old buildings and signs to record.   I could not help but feel like I was back in New Westminster walking along the Fraser River past the old buildings, that housed the crazy busy bars the night before.   I have very fond memories of that time in my life.

Fort Erie Explored - River Side Bar
Fort Erie Explored – River Side Bar

The one thing that stood out, was the lack of people.  Realising it was a Sunday early afternoon, the riverside bars and restaurants were empty, void of people.  This would not be the case in New West or Vancouver.  The Brunch crowd would be packing in these areas with not a seat left open.  I guess this is why the downtown area of Fort Erie seems dead, void of a future of prosperity.  Though when I come to think of it many areas in the Niagara Region are the same way.

I love watching Michelle explore the area.  Everything is new for her, she especially loves being down near the water.  I know she still thinks every body of water we come by is salt water.   I know I miss being near the ocean.  The smell of the sea air, there is something so heart warming being near the ocean.  If you get an opportunity head down to the area, visit the restaurants, or have a beer in at the bar.  Help bring back the area, it is really quite lovely.

Next weekend there will be a new adventure in a different area of the Niagara Region.  Maybe we will explore Niagara on the Lake or should we try Port Colborne?  See you out there, stop by and say hi!