Tag: Boondocking

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 - 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 - 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 SolarWarehouse.ca.  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.

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!!