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!

Alternative Living - A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster

A Day in the Life of – Zero Waste

Alternate Lifesyle
A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster

A day in the Life of trying to live a Zero Waste lifestyle is far more difficult than one might think! As you know we watch a video about Living a Zero Waste lifestyle.  It was, is very inspirational for us, but doing it is far more difficult then we figured it would be.  We discovered there are many items you can not purchase in bulk.  One place that is very helpful is “The Bulk Barn“, they encourage you to bring your own container.  However, once piece of lint may render your container none useable for that shopping trip.

A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster

Our shopping day will normally begin at the Bulk barn since we are Whole Plant Based eaters find really the best prices for what we enjoy eating.  Whether it is grains, spices or nuts and dried fruits.  We have over the past few months purchased some very nice sealable containers at the Bulk Barn.  At first, we thought they may be cheaper at Walmart, but to our surprise that is not the case.  We use the OXO containers for our Rolled Oats, Perl Barly and Rice.  These work perfectly and in our little pantry in the Motorhome, they are a perfect size!  We also have spice jars we found at the Barn and some yoghurt containers for other odds and ends.  So the difficult part is being able to find items such as Soya Sauce or various kinds of vinegar we like to use in our cooking in bulk.

I think using the Bulk Barn is a great first start in your road to A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster.  Then sales people are very knowledgeable and the people at the store in Niagara Falls are so pleasant and helpful.  Every time I go shopping there seems to be some spice I need that I have never heard of.  The staff are always there to assist in finding it for me, which I so truly appreciate!

Fresh Food is so Easy to Zero Waste

Alternative Living
A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster

Since Michelle and I try to eat only a Whole Plant Based diet (Forks over Knives) we only really purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, and this is one place where we find it so easy to go Zero Waste and that is we now don’t bag each kind of fruit or vegetable as we use to and that has to save at least 10 – 15 bags a shop.  I am amazed when I look around me in the produce section with the number of people using plastic bags.  Each kind of fruit or vegetable gets a plastic bag.  Those bags head home and then into the recycling or even worse the landfill.

Michelle has been making our own produce bags that are reusable. You can purchase them of course, this is a one time cost that can help reduce and reuse and it makes you feel good!  The pre-made bags can be rather expensive, where making your own are certainly cheaper in the long run!  For some of the containers we use for dry foods, we found a fantastic option at Dollarama, which you can see in the image above.  These are only a couple of dollars and reusable.

Liquids, Alcohol and Spreads

Alternative Living - A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster
A Day in the Life of a Zero Waster

This is one area where I struggle.  We have yet to find a place that will dispense liquids to your own containers for your use.  Over the past month, I purchased Organic Beer from the LCBO, in a four pack and of course I have the empty bottles plus the box they come in.  We have found uses for the boxes in the motorhome, but the bottles will be going back to the recycler.  I guess that does not make it trash, but we have no further uses for the boxes of anything we may purchase in the future.  In my opinion leaving the boxes at the LCBO, is no better as they will certainly be tossed out.

For us, it’s been small steps to improvement in our Waste output.  We will continue to improve, and hopefully be able to go fully Zero Waste like Mailyne who’s is our inspiration to change our way in the world!  Be sure to check her blog out and watch her video.

If you have and stories or advice to go Zero Waste be sure to leave them in the comments or email us directly.

VanLife - Waverly Beach Park

Waverly Beach Park – Fort Erie Boondocking

Mother Day’s weekend was pretty awesome!  Though Michelle had to work on Saturday, this gave me plenty of time to get some upgrades to Freddy completed.  Afterwards, we headed to Fort Erie to boondock in the parking lot of the Waverly Beach Park.  If there is one thing we both miss is the sound of the Ocean, and since we are currently living in Ontario we will have to be satisfied with the sounds of Lake Erie!

Waverly Beach Park and Friendship Trail

VanLife - Waverly Beach Park
Waverly Beach Park – Sunset

This is the first area where I took Michelle after arriving in Canada to go exploring.  Being an avid photographer, the park affords an excellent opportunity to shoot some water scenes with sunrises and sunsets as well as some pack ice.   When we first arrived we were careful to see what the rules were at the Park.  Whether we could boondock for the night or would there be another knock on Freddy.  The parking lot says it closes at 23:00, but after speaking to a couple of different people, they indicated it is not unusual for cars to be here longer.

As usual, I prepared my camera equipment, while Michelle was more intent on just taking some time to enjoy the peace, fresh air and the sand on the beach.  Lake Erie in May is a far cry from the beaches in the Philippines but it would have to do this time.  For photography, I find it challenging to find a good composition.  We have some of the factors I love in images, sand, water and beautiful colours in the sky.  It can be challenging to find good foreground interest.  You know what they say though, “a bad day doing landscape photography is better than a good day at work anytime!” 

Boondocking, Parking, Urban Camping

VanLife - Waverly Beach Park
Waverly Beach Park – Freddy

I think it is safe to say that one can boondock at Waverly Beach Park quite easily.  Though I think it would be one of the places where you one night no problems, two nights should be ok, but the third night you might be pushing it!  I have to say it was a nice break from our weekly routine of our day parking routine and sleeping in the local Walmart parking lot.  One of the nice things about where we chose to boondock is there is a public washroom (comfort room) with running water, though the sink water is still isolated due to the time of the year.

Directions to Waverly Beach Park is really very easy.  You will need to take the QEW towards Fort Erie, and head towards the Peace Bridge.  You will pass Ext 5, which is the FlyingJ Truck stop with Sani dump facilities and remain on the Hwy until Ext 2.  Take that Ext, and keep to the right as you come off the hwy.  You will turn right and travel towards Lake Erie.  You will pass the LCBO, a Walmart if memory serves me correct and if you remain on this road it will take you right into the parking lot of the trail.  Really pretty simple!

 

 Mothers Day at Waverly Beach

It just so happened that Sunday was Mothers Day, and Michelle is a fantastic mother, needed a little pampering!  It must be so difficult with Iya and Nicole still being in the Philippines, and Michelle here in Canada.  She is the strongest woman I have ever met!  She always tries to find the best in all situations and people.  But during those special moments, you see the upset in her eyes, though she tries to hide it.

VanLife - Mothers Day
Mother’s Day at Waverly Beach Park

Iya and Nicole sent me a special message for Michelle’s Mother’s Day card, so I was sure to add that for her.   Michelle’s Mother’s Day was healthy breakfast in bed, fresh coffee and the beautiful views of Waverly Beach!  We will certainly be returning to this area to explore and enjoy some peace and quiet.  If you have a place you find peaceful, be sure to let us know!!

VanLife in Ontario - Weekend Spent Organising Freddy....

Weekend Spent Organising Freddy….

It’s Sunday night, and we are sitting in the Walmart Parking lot after a weekend spent organising Freddy.  Hotel California from the Eagles playing in the background, enjoying a beer and Michelle is working on her corner.  This post may end up being mostly about her, but once you see the designs she has come with you will understand what I mean.  I am pretty sure up until she came to Canada, she never knew what a motorhome was, or even what you could do with one.  Not long after moving in, she says to me, “Hun we need to get some peg board, I want to do something with it.”  Do something with it?  Really, what could you possibly do with peg board?

Time Spent Organising and Repairing

VanLife Ontario
Weekend Spent Organising Freddy….

I completed Michelle’s peg board install last night, and she went to town organising and ensuring everything had its own spot.  I have to admit she has done a fantastic job.  The past two weeks has seen a large amount of rain, with cooler than comfortable temperatures.  We have had our challenges for sure, but there have also been some fantastic victories!  We went down to the Flying J to fill our domestic tank and see if we could get some good old fashioned pump fed water so we could stop living out of 4 to 8 water jugs.

The fresh water taps will not be back into operation until the 15th of May at the earliest, so we started a bucket brigade.  After what we figure was twenty-two 4L jugs we were ready to test out the water pump.  The time of truth was upon us, would the pump work, or was this going to be our first real problem?  Sure enough, though the pumped started up right away, we could not get the water to flow.  While living in Nova Scotia, my place was on a well, and there were many times that I had pump problems.  My first thought was figuring out how to prime the pump.  Ok, my first thought was where was the pump, then how do I prime it.

Priming the Pump

VanLife Ontario
Weekend Spent Organising Freddy….

I have to admit, I was not sure the easiest way to prime this tiny little pump.  Do I take the pickup hose off the pump, and fill it with water? Should I take the hose off the tap, and fill it?  I would not be able to open the pump to prime it that way, so how would or how should I do it?  Yes, you guessed it, I turned to Google.  I read a number of articles, and blog posts, but one stood out to me, and I have to say, it had crossed my mind but I thought it a little too crazy even for me. After trying a couple of different options, I decided to go crazy and try the simple but what turns out to be the most effective way to prime the pump.

As it turns out, simply switch on the pump, and in the kitchen sink, give a good hard suck on the facette, and you have enough suction to get that water to flow.  Strange possibly, did it work, it certainly did!  As the pressure built I kept a close look on the various water fittings in the bathroom, because if you remember, I have this wet spot under the driver’s seat.  At first, I never saw a leak, but the next day Michelle found it, and as it turns out (I hope) there is a small leak on the hot water connection and I can see the floorboards of the van directly below the facette, so I am hoping this is the culprit for the water leak.  It’s still early but after the addition of some plumbers tape and a couple of extra turns to the fitting and done.

Weeks Passing By

It was important the time we spent organising Freddy for our future.  It is an ongoing chore we will need to do every few weeks.  You spend your time cutting the lawn or doing renovations we spend the same amount of time organising and perfecting.  I think the only difference is we can move whenever and where ever we want.  Sadly though it would appear there are many people out there who will judge us as we make our travels.  A perfect example is believe it or not the Service Person I was speaking with at Sicard RV in Smithville.  At first, she was helpful, almost even friendly, but as soon as she found out we were living in Freddy full-time, she quickly changed her tone and helpfulness.  Our next purchase for Freddy is a Solar charging system, and I will make sure our money is well spent elsewhere.

What’s up next for us?  We are working on our Tour video so you can come and check Freddy out.  I am organising a photo shoot and the theme is “Ontario Yours to Discover”  It’s not what you’re thinking so be sure to check back and see what we are up too!!

 

Our First Dreaded Knock on the Door

Our First Dreaded Knock on the Door

Boondocking – Our First Dreaded Knock on the Door

Another fabulous weekend behind us living the Van Life.  We spent Friday night Urban Camping in the Niagara Falls area.  Specifically under an overpass with fabulous graffiti covered walls.  If you want to see some of the images be sure to read our previous post.  The second night we were in Jordan Station boondocking on the shores of Lake Ontario, right next to the Abandon Ship, when that dreaded knock on the door came to us.

The Dreaded Knock on the Door

Michelle finished work around 3 PM, which gave us plenty of time to finish the few chores we had before heading off to Jordan Station.  We needed to do some shopping and a trip to World Gym so we could grab a nice hot shower.  If there is one thing I know, it’s how important it is to have that clean feeling, especially when one is on the road.  It takes away the aches and pains and makes you feel human.  Once completed on to the QEW we went. We could feel our spirits lift, as we headed off, knowing how much we wanted out of the Falls even if for a few scant hours.  We arrived at the Beacon Motor Inn area where there is what we learned is a private parking lot of the marina, which we will discuss more in-depth later.

Once we were all set up, dishes completed, Michelle pretty much fell asleep immediately.  I, however, had other plans.  There has been far to much time between my opportunities to get out with the camera to do some Landscape Photography. While we were living in the Philippines, I would be out everyday shooting Street Photography scenes, or landscape and I always had my camera with me.  Living in British Columbia, I would travel as well with my camera every day, even while at work.  The scenery though not as beautiful as the Philippines, but still beautiful.  Here in Ontario though, there are so few things I have an interest in, and at this point, I have shot everything, in the area that I have found accessible.

La Grande Hermine

With Michelle fast asleep I headed down to the La Grande Hermine to shoot some sunset images.  This is an area I have shot many times in the past and I never tire of it.  There is so much to offer, the Abandoned Ship, the breakwater, or the marina, there is always something to catch your interest. I spent a good hour and a half shooting the ship from different angles, some of those pictures you will see here on this post.

With the sky almost completely dark, I made my way back to Freddy.  I took one more shot of the ship, through our dining room window, then decided to dedicate my time to more domestic chores as Michelle caught up on her sleep.  There is one thing for sure and that is this area is lovely in the wee hours of the evening and wee hours of the morning.  My plan for the morning is to get up for 5 AM for the 06:09 sunrise to shoot what I am hoping will be an epic sunrise.  Epic is a word I feel is overused, but when it comes to sunrises it seems to fit the bill.  I have seen sunrises at sea on the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea, so I know when to use that magical word.

Once completed my morning shoot, I headed back to Freddy.  If there is one thing I love to do whenever possible is to prepare breakfast for Michelle.  I made Michelle our usual oatmeal, bran, kasha, nuts and fruit cereal, and a nice fresh coffee press.  After all, we need to have good coffee or there is no point in living!  After breakfast, we crawled back into bed for a nap.

Then it Happened – That Dreaded Knock on the Door

Our First Dreaded Knock on the Door
Boondocking – Our First Dreaded Knock on the Door

Fast asleep, enjoying the warmth from the early morning sun, we were awakened by a pounding on the side of the van.  It had finally happened, that dreaded knock on the door the voice said, “Hey Buddy you can’t stay here!!”  I jumped out of my skin by the pounding, but I knew what it was right away.  I searched for words as I tried to wake myself up enough to respond to the voice outside.  “Move on, you’re in the Way!”

Not to cause problems we quickly complied.  We had a lot of luck this weekend and we knew we would sooner or later experience that dreaded knock on the door.

Urban Camping - Niagara Falls Overpass

Urban Camping – Week One Under Our Belt

Urban Camping - Niagara Falls Overpass
Urban Camping – Niagara Falls Overpass

After our weekend shakedown trip, we spent this week trying to get everything arranged and set up or put away in Freddy.  We have quickly discovered we have far too much to fit in this van.  At least I have come to that conclusion,  but we will continue to pare down and streamline and see how well we can load.  We officially started our “Urban Camping” last evening.  I had work today and Michelle school, so we tried to be as organised as possible.   My biggest concern is where we can safely leave Freddy, especially in an area that Urban Camping seems not to be acceptable.

Urban Camping in the Niagara Region

Michelle goes to school in the city we are in while I work some 40 minutes away so the big question is, “Where is Freddy going to be safe”?  I find people especially family are not overly receptive to our plan with the exception of a couple of people.  We are trying to be totally self-sufficient without including anyone.  We had an idea of parking in the parking lot at Michelle’s school, after all, she is allowed to have a vehicle there at least through the day.  But what do we do on the days she works?

I neglected to say, Michelle does not have a drivers license yet.  So on the days she works, she will have to leave school and head to work, leaving Freddy all by himself which could prove problematic.  There are days that I do not make it back from work until well after 19:00 (07:00 PM) so that idea is out.  The other big issue is that we have a car, so we need to play the good old shell game of hide the car, hide the camper!  Interesting is it not?  Last night, as we prepared for our first night out and about, I came up with the idea of asking a Manager at a local business if I could park my van in the back of his parking lot during the day, so I can carpool to my job.  I know, a small white lie, but it worked!

Don’t Over Think Urban Camping

We think the biggest piece of advice we can give is don’t over think your Urban Camping plan.  The issue is, you know it what you’re doing, and everyone in your inner circle might know.  But, the general public simply sees a van, in a parking space, and not a couple camping, in the parking lot.  We kind of cheated last night because we spent the night in the Walmart parking lot, right near a big Class A with a tow vehicle.  Rather obvious what we were doing, but let’s get some positive experiences at the beginning.  Tonight’s plan will be to head down near one of the beaches on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.  If you have never lived close to the water, there is nothing more beautiful then the sound of water crashing on the beach.

We can not wander off too far tonight, Michelle needs to be at work for 10:00 am tomorrow.  So once again we will keep it close to her work.  I hope to work on some coverings for the windows, as well as some video for the tour video of Freddy we are hoping to get finished.

I am thinking of using some of the ideas I have seen on American Renegade’s YouTube channel.  We like his idea for window coverings using reflectex, earth magnets and some flat black paint.  I would also like to get up early tomorrow and shoot some long exposure images down by the old tallship, there is nothing more beautiful than a sunrise or sunset.  If you want to see some excellent images, stop by www.kendunlop.com and see some of his long exposure work.