Tag: Boon-docking

VanLife - Solar Problems

Solar Problems in Abbotsford

VanLife - Solar Problems
Solar Problems – No Damage to Panels

It all started about two weeks ago.  We are boondocking in the yard where I work.  Things have worked flawlessly so of course, that means something has to go wrong and sure enough we encountered solar problems.  After plugging in a USB fan, we would wake to a dead battery.  So I decided to pay closer attention to the Solar Charge panel and we noticed that our charge volts from the panels were cut in half.

Solar Problems

We first noticed the problem when we were boondocking down in New Westminster.  Our battery was only charging half way, and we were running out of power before we would head to bed.  I climbed up on the roof of the camper van and metered the panels individually.  One panel was putting out 12 volts as it was supposed to.  The second panel, however, was only reading an output of 58.4 m/volts.

Seriously, how could a panel that was less than 23 months old not be working properly already?  Though I know with my luck, if something could go wrong it would, and it would happen to me.  The last thing we need is solar problems.  Michelle is about to start her new job, I am working tons of hours, and we have yet to get a BC address so even if I was able to get replacements, we had no place to have them sent!!

My first thought was to contact Solar Warehouse, which has now changed their name to Solar Wholesalers.  Hmm, strange, but sure enough I was able to get ahold of them and at first, they were none too interested in standing behind their product.   But after some conversation and emails, they said they would contact the manufacturer and have them RMA’d (returned).  I had to prove I had not damaged them, so I sent a series of pictures.  But this past weekend something interesting came about.  A friend of mine (Mike) was down and I was telling him the problem, and being a handy guy that he is, he climbed up and took a look.  He discovered that one of the leads coming from the panel as loose.  He decided to loosen the cap, and while doing so the entire wire fell free.

Really What Can Go Wrong with Solar Panels

VanLife - Solar Problems
Solar Problems – Disconnected

It’s kind of interesting, as a kid I used to be very much into taking things apart, but in this situation, I reverted to the brain washed consumer and was simply happy to return the panel for replacement, paid the shipping and away it went.  I have to stop thinking like that and dive back in and trouble shoot things more closely.  Today, I went to Fraser RV, looking for Cabinet Catch for one of my doors in Freddy.  I thought I would ask some questions about batteries for my solar and sure enough, as soon as the Service Department person got a look at the camper van his attitude changed and wanted to get rid of me as fast as possible.

In the end, I am glad Mike took a look and I was able to repair the panel right there.  I needed to be reminded we can fix most problems, whether they are solar problems, electrical or mechanical.

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 - 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!

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!!