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!

If you have any questions please let me know, take a  minute and press the Like button on the post.  Sign up for our mailing list so you don’t miss any of our posts.

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.

Leisure Travel Freedom – Our Van Tour

Van Life Van Tour
VanLife – Van Tour

We finally did it!  We were able to finish the video of our Van Tour.  I thought I should write this post while our video uploads to YouTube.  Please be gentle with your reviews as it’s our first video, and we seem to be a little long.  Everyone starts somewhere and things can only get better!

Freddy’s – Van Tour

We are very proud of our home.  We moved into Freddy back over Easter in late April, and have worked at perfecting our new way of life.  So many people seem to want to look down their noses at us.  Oh well, can’t please everyone, and at my age, I am not going to try!  So we hope you enjoy the Van Tour.  Be sure to leave comments either here or on our YouTube Channel.  If you have been reading our blog you will know already we are moving back to Beautiful British Columbia so be sure to follow along.  We will try to upload a video every Friday, and if all goes well we will have a couple of blog posts a week.

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 - Solar Installation

Installing Solar, Batteries and the Niagara Region

VanLife - Solar Installation
Solar : Planning and Installation

We finally made the decision for our Solar, who we are going to buy from and how to install.  There are a large number of excellent YoutTube Videos out there to help in this journey.  One of the best videos is by Will Prowse.  Though he is just a young kid he has been living the VanLife for many years.   One of the most challenging things we found here in the Niagara Region, is finding someone knowledgeable to speak with person to person.  Most shocking is the RV Industry is the last place you should speak with here.  I spoke to a so-called Service Specialist at Sicard RV in Smithville and her information was outright wrong.

Selecting Solar – Who, Where and What do you Need.

Originally I planned to buy an RV kit from Renogy, as they are one of the big names in RV Solar.  Many different YouTuber’s have used Renogy and had fantastic luck with them.  I, however, could not get them to respond to an Email, or to return a phone call.  I am more than willing to pay a little more for a product if the company has good Customer Service, and in my opinion, Renogy was not offering that to me in any way.  Luckily I discovered a website for a place out of Calgary called  In my early research about solar, I called this company and got fantastic information from their sales people, but had intended to take that information and buy from Renogy.  But in the end, I went with the SolarWarehouse.

VanLife - Solar
Solar: Flexible 100 W Panels

Why did I use SolarWareHouse you ask?  I think the biggest reason is they responded to all my questions and offered recommendations to upgrade or downgrade items I was thinking of purchasing.  Even though the price seemed higher than Renogy’s once you figured in exchange, duty and shipping we broke even.  Once we placed the order, I know in my eyes it could not get here fast enough.  The thought of full power was so exciting since we had lived with the battery charge from moving Freddy around the Falls.   The original order arrived in just a couple of days, however, it was missing the 30ft of wire that was crucial to actually install the panels.  SolarWareHouse was fantastic ensuring our missing items got to us.

Installing our Solar Rv Set-Up

Since Freddy is an older Class B Motorhome I felt there were some challenges.  The first challenge was how to wire things to our existing house battery.  The battery is on the left side of the couch, in a small compartment outside under the head.  I am not overly happy with drilling through the floor, right by our black water tank.  We would need to run the wires from the solar panels to the MPPT charge controller in the shower area.  I know that is not going to happen.  It turns out it was a good thing the wire was late making it to me as it gave me more time to figure out how the wire run was going to work.

VanLife - Solar
Solar: MPPT Charge Controller

I finally watched a YouTube video that showed an excellent setup, and I was able to copy it for Freddy.  Our maintenance person at work also suggested I simply run the wire on the underside of the van instead of through the living area.  I am not sure why I did not think of that but it turned out being the best piece of advice I received during the planning sessions.  My niece’s daughter Becca helped me during the install.  She is pretty awesome and always seems willing to try something new!  Thank you, Becca.

I used 15 feet of #2 wire for the inverter, and I used 15 feet of #4 wire for the run from the MPPT charge controller to the battery.  It was an expensive purchase as the wire cost about $165.00, but it was well worth it!  I still need to finish the install for the inverter, but at least all the wire is in place!  We need to replace our old house battery with hopefully two 6V AGM batteries.

Thinking of adding solar to your RV?  Have questions? Feel free to email me and let me know, I am more then happy to give you some advice!

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.