Tag: Ontario

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 - 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!

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.

On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome

On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome

It’s been a long few weeks, I’ve been on the hunt for a class B motorhome.  Not just any Class B, but the one that Michelle and I can enter into our time to explore living in a van.   We have searched and searched but we have not had a lot of luck.  We have a modest budget which certainly does not help our search, but here are some of the examples available.

On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome

On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome
Sun’N Fun RV Centre; On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome

The first class B we wanted to inspect was a 1987 van with about 90K KM on the engine.  Very very over priced and was for sale at an RV Center.  I was shocked on the poor customer service at the centre.  Having a 10 years experience in sales, I would have been spoken to by the shops’ owner if I handled any customers in the manner in which we were handled.  Though in the end, it really made no difference, as the van was not worth the $15,200.00 dollars they were asking for it, and there was no room to reduce that price.

The second Class B we looked at was the Diamond in the Rough.  For more detailed information about this van check out the post “The Diamond Certainly was Rough“.  Just a small review, the dry rot, water damage, spongy floor, and the leaking oil pan was the final straw.

1996 Leisure Travel Wide Body

We went today to inspect a 1996 Leisure Travel Wide Body class B in the Belleville area.  It is kind of ironic since I lived in Belleville for a few years when I was a teenager, and I always loved the area.  Last summer my friend Pat and I were down in this area shooting pictures for a weekend and actually drove past this gentleman’s house.   Bryn, my niece’s husband came along with me to help check this old girl out.  As soon we approached the driveway, I was almost 100 percent sure this was out girl.  She was looking great from the street.  She had great lines and a beautiful shape to her.  Not a speck of rust anywhere that I could find, which was very important.  Glenn, the current owner was very helpful giving me a tour of the all the compartments, and Bryn checked out the mechanics of the motorhome.

We took our time checking out each appliance, opened the awning, and took her for a test drive.  She ran so well, and the old Dodge van feeling was fantastic.  Once we returned to Glenn’s place, we headed down to the lake, so we could discuss what we were going to offer.  Glenn was asking $15,000.00 E-tested, but with no safety.  The tires would pass the safety but need replacing, so Bryn and I set a price we wanted, and I followed his lead.  My task was to sit there and just be quiet.  After some small talk, Bryn came in and offered $11,000.   Glenn thought for a minute and came back with $11,500.  I was happy to pay the $11.5 but to my amazement, Bryn stood his ground with $11 and that is where it stayed!

Our Hunt for a Class B Motorhome is Complete!!

On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome
On the Hunt for a Class B Motorhome

Michelle and I are proud owners of a Leisure Travel Freedom Class B motorhome.   We will be taking possession next week.  We hope to be living in it full time by the end of April.  Check back in a couple of weeks and we will have a fantastic Vlog tour of our girl!