Category: VanLife

Trans Canada Hwy – BC

Trans Canada Hwy - Kicking Horse Resort
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

After six hard months of work, we finally made it out on vacation.  Michelle and I love to travel, and we decided we would explore the Trans Canada Hwy.  We spent a month and a few thousand dollars to upgrade Freedom Freddy, so we were able to get out on the road and explore this beautiful province. 

Trans Canada Hwy – Revelstoke & Golden

After a marathon week of renovations and some repairs, and the final installation of the Cubic Mini wood stove into Freddy was ready for her median voyage of the year.  Our plan was to head East on the Trans Canada Hwy towards Lake Louis and Banff Alberta.  We wanted to spend time exploring the mountains hiking shooting pictures and flying the drone.

We left Merritt late on the afternoon of our first day.  Hoping to make it to Salmon Arm on our first night so we could start exploring side roads.   We never really stopped anywhere on the way, so we made pretty good time.  Our first night was spent in a cute little town called CanoeCanoe was pretty easy to access as it was just off the Trans Canada Hwy, and right down on the Shuswap Lake.  

Our next morning we played around on the beach with the drone, trying to get some pictures.  We had to fight the fog and smoke from the forest fires that were in the area, though a couple shots worked out.  After an hour on the beach, we decided we were going to head off to get to Golden.  As we started to drive the idea of stropping for a good coffee started to take over our daily mission. This is how we ended up at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.  

Stop back in next week as we describe the incredible Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.  We only had an opportunity to spend the afternoon there, but it was an incredible place with so much to see and experience.  

Exploring Merritt

Exploring Merritt & Nicola Valley

Exploring Merritt
Exploring Merritt – Nicola Valley

I can’t believe it but we have been in Merritt now for almost 3 full months. I am always amazed how fast time flies.  We’ve only ventured out to explore the area mainly because we have been working some pretty long hours.  Two weeks ago I was about to make it back to Abbotsford to pick up Freedom Freddy.  With Freddie back in the picture, we will be able to spend more time exploring Merritt.

Douglas Lake is an area we want to explore.  Photography is our main interest, we are constantly on the search for grand vistas to shoot that spectacular image for our Instagram Account.   Logan Lake is another area that has been recommended for us to explore.  However, finding the free time to get there is our issue.  As the weather improves and the long hours of daylight I am sure will make it possible to get the opportunity for Exploring Merritt.

Freedom Freddy  – Exploring Merritt

Exploring Merritt
Exploring Merritt – Nicola Valley

The Clearwater River runs right past where we live, giving us an excellent opportunity to shoot the river during the sunrise and sunset times.   It’s challenging to find the best composition, however, due to all the areas are private property.  I thought I would in most cases simply ask permission to enter the area for the image, but it is difficult to find the owner, or who the property belongs too.  One option I have been leaning towards is starting Drone photography.  I think this could be the answer to many of the problems, but there is quite the cost involved.

Drone Photography – Phantom 4 Pro

Exploring Merritt
Exploring Merritt – Nicola Lake

The Phantom 4 Pro would be an excellent selection to help Exploring Merritt and surrounding areas.  Using the Phantom would allow us to find various trails as well as points of interest to hike to in order to spend time shooting there.  It’s pretty difficult not knowing the area overly well and not really knowing anyone in the area that is truly into Photography in the manner in which Michelle and I are.   Hopefully, over time, we will meet some like-minded people but until that point in time, we will slowly explore Merritt.

Anyone in the area interested in going out to spend the day exploring Merritt to shoot some excellent images.  We look forward to hearing from you.


Clearwater Hotel

Honey We’re Moving to Merritt

Moving to Merritt
Moving to Merritt – Clearwater Hotel

So far 2018 has kicked off to an exciting start.  Michelle and I had deiced we needed a break from the Van life.  We had one problem arise right after another.  The primary issues were the lack of heat and condensation the past couple of months.  The next thing that popped up was the possibility of moving to Merritt, and with that came the need for an apartment.  My employer asked if we could relocate to Merritt, so not one to turn down an adventure off we went.

Moving to Merritt

There it was the middle of January and the opportunity to take a promotion but it was in Merritt, I mean really what can you say other than “Hell Yes”  The funny part neither one of us have been in Merritt, and here we are deciding to move there.   Michelle liked the idea of living in a small town and well if you know me, I really don’t care where I live….so off we went.  Starbucks is fantastic since it is pretty easy to transfer, though Sue, Michelle’s manager from Seven Oaks Starbucks, worked so hard to screw her around it was disappointing.  Having had the displeasure of watching Sue in action, how she would demean her employees, and she especially disliked Filipino’s so we could not get out of there fast enough.

Moving to Merritt
Moving to Merritt – Clearwater Area

Since moving to Merritt, Michelle has had many opportunities, she is at the Starbucks here with an amazing manager and staff, and she has another job working at a local hotel as Front Desk staff, she is fantastic with this sort of work.  Michelle has this amazing bubble personality that screams happiness and she is always very welcoming.  For me, I have slid into the new position, having had the opportunity to develop new skills, and I am able to utilize my organizational skills honed while in the military.

Transitioning to Life in Merritt

Life in Merritt is certainly much slower pace than in Abbotsford or the Lower Mainland.  That is good in some ways.  When you think of traffic, here in Merritt that means 4 or maybe 5 cars, not the standard 3 or 4 mile stretch of cars that you see on Hwy 1, when you are heading into Vancouver.  Choices are few after 4:00 pm for stores that are open.  Kekuli Café is closed by 5 pm, there are not many stores open, though Walmart and Extra Foods seem to be your only choices for many things.

Kamloops about 45 minutes up the road offers the big box stores like Costco, London Drug, Home Depot etc are not far away, though in the winter there seem to be constant snow storms and highway closures.  Moving to Merritt has certainly been an adventure, we are looking forward to some free time to get out and explore so we can shoot pictures to post.  If you get a chance, be sure to come visit Merritt, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Little Buddy Heater – One Year In

Little Buddy Heater
VanLife- Little Buddy Heater

Today is gear review day, and we are going to review the “Little Buddy Heater“.  When we first moved in to Freddy, it was early April in Ontario and the weather was improving.   We made the decision to move into the van on Easter Long weekend.  We learned early on that we needed a source of heat with the early spring rains starting.

Little Buddy Heater

After watching a couple of reviews on YouTube, I wanted to buy the “Portable Buddy” or the “Big Buddy” Heaters,  but there were none, since it was spring and all of the stores had already stored away for the summer season.  The only one I was able to find was the Little Buddy.  When we first got the heater, though it was a little small to warm a 19ft Class B, it was enough to take the chill out of the air.  It was easy lighting, which is important, since who has the time to stand there and wait ten or 15 minutes attempting to get it to light.

One thing I noticed right away, was the amount of condensation that is caused but the Propane Heater.  This contributed substantially to some of the on going issues we would have in the van during the months  Oct – Dec.  As the year went along, we noticed that the heater became more and more temperamental.   Some days it would light rite away and other days I would need to stand and hold the feed button for 10 – 15 minutes in order for it to warm up enough to light.  I would often change out a partially used cylinder for a new one, and the Little Buddy would light right away and on other occasions it would not.   Now when I say light, I mean I could get the pilot light lite, however it would not ignite the Ceramic dish that would produce the heat.

We had planned to use the Little Buddy heater as a stop gap measure until our wood stove came in.  We however, were unable to continue using the Little Buddy because we could not get it to lite.  Thankfully we were in the Lower Mainland with warmer temperatures.

Minus Temperatures for Little Buddy Heater

As the year went along it was really quite obvious the the Little Buddy Heater was not overly useful so we decided it was time to jump in with both feet to buy a Wood stove for the Freddy.  If we wanted to make it a go in the van through the winter it would be a must

Overall, I would have to rate the Little Buddy Heater as a 4 out of 10.  Fresh out of the box, the heater did a great job, but after a years worth of work for us it became more and more temperamental, to the point we had to stop using it.  In the end we gave it to a homeless gentleman we met, with some of the remaining propane cylinders.  The Little Buddy Heater retails for around $89.00, and if I had to do it over again, I would have saved my money and put the $89.00 into a Cubic Mini, which we will review in a later post.

If you have any comments we would love to hear them, just post them below.

Home on Wheels or Homeless

VanLife - Homeless
VanLife – Homeless vs Home on Wheels

“All who wander are not lost” this saying screams Ken and Michelle.  We decided to move into a van as our choice of homes, for various reasons.  One of our main reasons for choosing VanLife is being Minimalists at heart we like simple over complicated.  The other big reason is to help pay down some of our debts and to help save money.    Just because we choose VanLife does not mean we are Homeless, it just so happens our home is on wheels.

All who wander are not lost

Vanlife - Homeless
VanLife – Not Homeless, just walking a different path

This saying is so much us.  Michelle is from the Philippines and she has always wanted to travel and explore.  I am retired from the Canadian Navy and I have travelled all of my life, so having a home on wheels is right where we want to be.  So many people look at us kind of strangely.  Nights after showering at the “Good Life Fitness” where we have our gym membership, we stop at Tim Hortons for a coffee, sometimes we are in the van, and the people working will offer us the remaining soup, or timbits, and though we are so very grateful,  but we are not homeless!

There have been many stories in the CBC of late about the number of people, “Homeless” who are living on the streets of Vancouver.  This story talks about a large number of homeless people living in vehicles.  Of course, the general public fear those that do not conform to what is considered the norm.  Some of the article I agree with, we who live the VanLife, should not leave garbage on the street.  We need to be respectful of others in the area.  It is no different if we are your neighbour in the house next door, the only difference is we are on the side of the street.

They also reference a “Drug Lab” in a vehicle, ”

Leanne Daw got used to watching the van-dwellers roll up behind the East Vancouver warehouse where she worked. “It was pretty bad. They used our dumpsters and one time there was a drug lab in one of the trucks,” said Daw.

How is this related to living the Vanlife?  Drug Lbs are found in areas of all walks of life, not just van dwellers.

Living the VanLife not Homeless

If you have read any of our earlier stories you will know that my sister travelled and lived with us for about 15 days.  She has never questioned our motivation behind what we are trying to do.  However, some of my other so-called family have judged me from the very beginning.  In the end, though, I will have done what I set out to do, never afraid to actually do the things I have wanted to do.

VanLife – Homeless, NOT!

I say to hell with what the general public have to say or think!  We are not homeless but free of that crushing debt of being tied to a mortgage payment.  Instead, we are able to save to travel, to do the things we want to do.   Do not stand there, hand on hip, with the smug look on your face, looking down at me, and laugh.  Instead, know that I pity you, your close-mindedness,   I feel sorry for you, for the life lost because of fear you are not strong enough to overcome!

Here are a couple of Links to other stories of people living in their vehicles.

Global News “Residents living in RV’s

VanLife - Lower Mainland

Boondocking – The Lower Mainland

Michelle and I have not had the opportunity to enjoy a weekend exploring the Lower Mainland since we arrived. We spent this past weekend exploring and taking pictures.  The area around the Science Centre in False Creek offers the photographer excellent opportunities for sunset images.

The Lower Mainland

Lower Mainland – Sunset @ False Creek

We spent Saturday afternoon searching for my ever elusive “Honey Bee” beer from Fullers.  This was one time my favourite beer which I could only find in the Lower Mainland.  Finally, after searching for 6 weeks, I found someone at the BC Liquor store that was able to find 48 bottles of this fantastic brew.  As is my luck, there was not a bottle at the branch I was at, but a short 15-minute drive to Cambie street, and there before my eyes was my quest!

Michelle, having a craving for pizza, was telling me how I needed to find her some good pizza.  Since we were near my old stomping grounds, I knew where to take her!  Bella Pizza, arguably the best pizza in the Lower Mainland!  We settled on the Bella Gourmet Vegetarian as the one of choice.  This had been my favourite pizza and after three years it certainly did not disappoint!  Living in Ontario like their beer is the land of assembly line pizza.  The same taste from every pizza joint.  Here in the Lower Mainland, however, there are fabulous unique flavours and tastes for those open-minded enough to give a try!

Our Boondock on the First Night – On the Lower Mainland

We decided to use one of our previous boondocking locations for the first night.  We went to St Mary’s church down off Joyce road where would go to church in the morning.  I get such a kick sleeping in the van while parked on the road.  Especially off Joyce there, the sounds of the city, the conversations that take place around the van no one the wiser of Michelle and I sleeping but a few feet away.  There is something so cool and interesting about that.

After church, Michelle and I headed to Granville Island.  I did my first Photowalk there back in 2014.   It was so much fun shooting around Granville Island that time, this time around since it was during the afternoon, I was there more to show Michelle around then to shoot images.  I love hearing the words Michelle says when she experiencing something new.  I love that she is getting to explore, something we both love to do.

False Creek Sunset Images – The Lower Mainland

VanLife - Lower Mainland
Lower Mainland – False Creek Panorama

Sunday evening was spent down near the Vancouver Science World where I set up some of the Sunset shots I was hoping for.  The area provides an excellent opportunity for the beautiful city scape images you see hanging on walls.  Truth be told, some of these shots are for sale in the Granville Island stories and since we are down here, I figure we need to give it a try.

We only have one tripod and Michelle knows how much joy I get from shooting landscape images she always refuses to use it, so she sacrifices her night shots for me, so try to do my best for her.  I’ve shot at False Creek a couple of times, though I think this time I got my best images.  I was sure we were there plenty early enough to be set for the Golden and Blue hour, and then I did some bulb exposures after it was totally dark. There is something so peaceful abuot Sunset photography!  If you get a chance be sure to give False Creek a chance for your images!