Sunday, April 27, 2014


So, now with all things winter behind us I can get to telling you all about our summer plans. 

Although managing campgrounds is something we want to get away from - we knew this year we would in order to get ourselves in a position to relocate and settle down in the fall. 

We did have BIG dreams last November, you may recall, of heading up to the Yukon. We sent out a ton of letters with our resumes but didn't have much luck. In the end we figured that it was too far anyway. We could have secured a Park Manager job then at Muncho Lake way up in BC, just as we could have last spring, but in the end the distance, no cabin, no electricity, bugs and three hour drive (one way!) to get groceries scared us off.

So, we narrowed our focus. In the new year we sent out our info to all the Contractors operating BC Parks in the lower half of British Columbia. In February we heard back from the fellow who took over the bundle from our previous boss, who in turn offered us a park.


And the same park that in the fall of 2006, led us to look at each other and swear that we would never ever manage a park again!


Eight years later and three more years of park managing wiser - we decided to go for it. Mainly due to the fact that we didn't have any other options but also realizing that it wasn't such a bad gig after all.

We took ourselves way to seriously with ENFORCING rules to the letter the first time around.

Although the park doesn't open until May 15, tomorrow we are heading to:

Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park - click on the name to get all of the info. Since we don't have any of our own pictures I've had to borrow these ones.

A 58 site, fairly rustic campground in the forest, set on two lakes - Kentucky & Alleyne Lakes. Pretty - right? They sure are and very popular with the fishing crowd. You can see an arial of the area on Google here.

I got this picture from Family Outdoor Adventures - actually, the blogger gives a pretty good description of Kentucky Alleyne.

If you are looking for us - that is where we'll be this summer (unless you are a serial killer of course!) Starting May 8th for 147 days straight. That's right - when we work we work. Seven days a week for five months. No commute - no Mondays.

Last year we managed a park in east central Alberta. It was ok but not really our place (Too cool and wet for starters), on the other hand the campers were nice and they were very clean. For the two summers before that we managed Skihist and Gold Pan Provincial Parks.  If you would like to know what this type of job entails I wrote A Day in the Life of a Park Facility Operator back in September 2012 and I wrote my first post about being a PFO at BCP in 2011.

And the bad news?

Well, here's the thing. Unlike the last three summers - there is no cabin. There is no electricity. There is no internet.

No kitchen, no plumbing, no showers.

A bar sized fridge in our van.

At 3,400 feet = cold in the early part of the season.

We'll be camping in Hraefn for  f i v e   m o r  e   m o n t h s. (Drag that out as you read it as I'm doing).

Is that crazy or what?!

Boy, won't we be happy to move into a house (the house yet to be determined) next fall.

That is why we didn't leave the USA without investing in a tent - a very large tent, and a queen sized blow up mattress. It's going to be tent city in the K-A compound. Don't worry, I'll take a few pictures for you once it is all set up.

Of course you probably just caught the one part that will affect you - if you are a regular reader of course - no internet.

Yes, after pretty much stating last year that we would not go another summer without internet we are back to a summer without internet. Sigh. Back to a few posts a month I guess.

Fingers crossed that this will be our 5th, and final, year managing a campground.

Because no, we are not traveling next winter and yes, we are going to finally settle down - get a house and real jobs in the fall. Maybe. (I say maybe because although we are sure - you are not. You don't believe me - so guess we'll all have to wait and see - right?!)

Leaving here tomorrow, after totally overstaying our welcome with family (actually the strata rules), we were planning on taking a week to tour around before heading to the park.

Strike that.

After a month here in the lower mainland (read b u s y) we are headed straight there for the peace and quiet of the forest.

First chance we get, I'll post some pictures of our ride to the park and what it is like there now - certainly not like the pictures above at this time of year! We'll just be happy to see most of the snow melted!


Saturday, April 26, 2014


I'm glad that I have this chance to write a post looking back on our winter trip - 2013/14. Last year I missed out because we didn't have wifi at Jubilee Regional Park and by the time we went into Lloydminster for wifi I didn't really want to sit at the Home Depot doing the research. We did have a good year though - our 3 1/2 months in Mexico was much fun.

I did do a post the year before however which you can find here at Thoughts on our 2011/2012 USA Tour

And this year? Well, here it is. 

What a trip. I think I say that every year. Looking back always leaves me breathless - going over the pictures all in one go.

It wasn't our best winter south. Of the five I would put it fourth - only one winter worse then this one. A whole other story!

If you are late to the party - we weren't even sure we wanted to travel south this past winter. It was 50/50. Unfortunately we couldn't find a place to rent quickly (and the prices scared us off) in Castlegar so we decided to hit the road.

But it wasn't trouble free. The combination of missing the Appalachian colours, the cool and unpredictable weather and our mechanical issues meant that we weren't loving being on the road.

On the other hand, there were many bright lights that kept us from totally loosing our way. And the breweries? Well, they became islands in a stormy sea for us. Places to drop anchor and relax for an evening. With their friendly atmosphere and welcoming nature we felt like Norm at almost every craft brew we entered.

In the end, the Wood Clan made the most of it and are thankful for another safe trip seeing such beautiful sights and meeting wonderful people - we made some good friends this trip as we always do - internet friends included of course!

How the trip started out - hmmmm - hopefully Rufus can endure Cassia this trip! At least we were traveling in style with our newly renovated van.

We are particular fans of our silhouette shots - we have them from one end of the USA to the other. This was early on in the trip at the beginning of our trek through Yellowstone.

And we finally made it to Old Faithful.

We found the best pizza ever in Dubois Wyoming. 

I have to say that Cassia is up for almost anything - these pools were COLD. Guess most kids are like that …..

Happy to be back in Idaho Springs, Colorado which we had stopped in and discovered in the spring on our way home. Here we are on our way to Tommyknockers. 

Jumping ahead to Rolla Missouri and the Public Brewing House where Derek spent the afternoon learning how to home brew. Here we met a great couple that we still keep in contact with - Daniel and Jennifer - avid home brewers.

On the blog we show you a lot of pictures of the places we visit but actually we spend quite a bit of time in the van. We have been known to have a kitchen dance party or two.

Who cannot forget the five weeks we spent visiting with our friends in Hendersonville, North Carolina in addition to housesitting. Thanks again to Curt and Debbie for providing us with a respite - and the comforts of home - for a while.

It was all good until the weather started going this way….

We did stick around long enough for Cassia to be totally traumatized by meeting Santa. She still talks about the fact that on the trip she wasn't a fan of meeting Yogi Bear or Santa.

We began our trip down the Natchez Trace the way it should be started….

Our 444 mile trip down the Natchez Trace was cool but quiet. We stayed overnight at two of the free campgrounds having them to ourselves. 

We pulled off for Christmas Eve spending it in Tupelo, Mississippi. 

Following a great visit - as always with Pastor Jerry and his wife Barbara in New Braunfels, we were headed to Mexico. Sadly, we decided at South Padre Island that it probably wasn't the best plan and so continued west through Texas.

The Gage Hotel in Marathon was a highlight which just goes to show that something good can come out of a bad - we ended up staying the night because after our tour of the town we came back to a flat tire.

And who can forget our one week of boondocking in theTerlingua/Study Butte area. This is my favourite picture of the entire trip.

And my second favourite picture - mainly because it represents how much we enjoyed our boat ride at 
Elephant Butte State Park. A big thanks again to Shane who offered us a free ride and once again showing that there are some great people out there.

We were happy to return White Sands National Monument. Derek and I had been back in 2006 but it was nice to visit with Cassia. Kids + sand = a good thing.

Looks like our craft beer drinking was rubbing off on Rufus - what a booze hound.

A winter south wouldn't be the same without our annual stop at the Shell Gas Station just outside of Gila Bend.

And a stop at the Lowe's in Buckeye for Cassia to visit her Desert Cassia bush.

We made quick work of the space between Buckeye and the California coast. It was unanimous that Carpinteria was our favourite coastal town. Beach + playground + craft brew = priceless.

One of my favourite days was the one we spent exploring at at Pigeon Point Light Station SHP.

We certainly made some serious progress on our craft brew sticker collection - right?! So, what is your guess on how many craft breweries we visited this trip? Yup - I counted them - I'll let you know below.

And finally - after five months we were once again crossing the border.

Here are the numbers:

By the way - I only keep tabs on the amount of milage we make and how much we spend on gas. Oh - and how much we spend on overnights. I try to keep a tally of the rest but it never works out - this year I gave up trying. 

total miles driven: 11,121 miles (17,897km!!) from Lloydminister Alberta to our most southern point in the USA - South Padre Island - and back to Chilliwack BC.

total gas cost: $3,681 (ouch!) that is a whopping 86 gas stations visits. Since we have to pay cash at gas stations in the USA that was a lot of trips into the gas stations for me (except for Oregon of course). If you like those kinds of stats that is an average of 33¢ per mile. I think last year was 30¢ - so that's what we get for pulling the trailer this year. This year I didn't keep track of the price of gas - the lowest was probably the $2.99 in Missouri and the highest in California at almost $4.00 per gallon. I'd say the average was probably around $3.50 per gallon. Still better than the cost at home right now which is $1.39 per litre = $5.56 per gallon!

total propane cost: $110 pretty good - right?! Considering that is for running the fridge, stove and furnace for five months - and it was a cold winter!

total overnight cost: $246 also pretty good considering we were gone for 152 nights and that number represents paying for 16 nights which is an average of $15 per night. Thanks again to Home Depot, Lowe's and the various craft breweries where we spent most of our nights.

and a drum roll please…….

total craft breweries visited: 44 that was fun! And hey - not that costly because even though it looked like we drank a lot we didn't - really. Usually one flight and a pint. I'd say that we got out of most breweries with a tab under $20. 

Those are the numbers: 

The highlights for us I think were: 

+ Kansas and Missouri - we had never been to these two states and from what we saw they are very nice places with lovely people - we certainly enjoyed the lower prices of most every thing in Missouri. We found the cheapest gas there at $2.99 per gallon.

+ The Natchez Trace - although cool it was a nice way to spend Christmas.

+ South Padre Island - I was last there back in 1994 so it was nice to return - it hasn't changed much. It was misty but it was our first trip to the beach since Mexico.

+ Terlingua/Study Butte - what can I say -  we LOVE that area!

+ El Paso and Gordon Lightfoot - definitely one of the best parts of our winter. I'm glad that after driving through El Paso on the interstate for several years we made the trip downtown. Not once - but twice - to see Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot at The Plaza with the tickets we won on Facebook.

+ New Mexico - we had been to New Mexico a few times here and there - it was nice to spend two weeks getting a really good look. Albuquerque and Taos were highlights - Santa Fe was not. Some great craft beer in New Mexico with Taos Mesa and Sierra Blanca as our favourites - although really - it's best not to have to choose. 

+ The California and Oregon Coast - well, it started out with good weather. Looking back I could have done without the #1 Highway experience but at least now we can say we did it. Highlights were definitely Carpinteria and Morro Bay. If we had had more time I think that Cambria would have also been a fav.

+ The Redwoods - those are some BIG trees - totally worth all the talk about this area.

+ The Columbia River Gorge - for a place that started out as a place to kill some time we truly came to appreciate all that this area has to offer - even during a cool and wet spring.

And the low points:

- all of our mechanical issues - sheesh - about $1,500 worth - batteries, alternator, voltage regulator, fuel filter and two tires. It got so we spent most of our time holding our breaths wondering what would go wrong next.

- and those places we had high expectations for that fell flat. I'll be nice and not mention any names.

That's looking back - next post I'll tell you about what is ahead. 

Sorry Cj - one more night! 


Friday, April 25, 2014


Shock - right?!

An actual - honest to goodness - new post.

Yup - I have crawled out from the rock under which I have been hiding to bring you this post of our trip to Vancouver Island.

Sorry. But here's the thing. On the road, after Cassia is in bed, I have very little to do - I can either read, surf the net or write a post.

Here?! In the comforts of a home? Well, let's just say there is a very large black box with a shiny black screen that once turned on provides me (and the rest of us here) with a whole evenings worth of entertainment ….. even if there isn't anything on.

Ahhhhh….the luxury of a TV. I know, I know - far from a luxury for most of you, but for us - TVless since 2006 - we tend to over indulge the few times of the year that we get a few days …. or weeks of TV at our disposal 24/7.

Anyway, enough of that. Being the procrastinator that I am I have been slow to get a new post up. But now with only two more nights left at Derek's mom's place before we once again find ourselves seeking out hotspots for our wifi time, I'm realizing that I should at least get something up to show you what's been going on in our world for the last few weeks.

If you recall, following the last post, Cas and I were on our way to Vancouver Island, and Victoria specifically, to visit with my mom and sister. 

Here's how it went.

Getting on to the ferry at Tsawwassen (a mouthful right?! Ta-wa-sen). Thankfully Derek's mom was headed to Salt Spring Island for a few days so we were able to hitch a ride with her. The ferry terminal is 1 1/2 hours from her house so we had to make sure we left with plenty of time because you never know what the line up will be like. We were lucky today - we left at 9:00am and arrived at 10:45 and JUST got on the 11:00am sailing. Close - good thing it was Thursday and not Friday - cheaper too. 

Cassia with her Grandma - we are on our way up from the vehicle levels.

And where do you head on a big ferry with a 4 year old? Why, the play area of course. Audrey and I sat and enjoyed the mayhem fun from the comfort of our seats with some coffee.

It was a coolish day so I just went out for a few pictures.

The black line is the border between the USA and Canada.

At one point along the 1 1/2 hour journey two BC Ferries pass.

Pulling into the Swartz Bay port on the Island. Here, Cas and I parted company with Derek's mom who drove off to only get in another line and board a second ferry to get to Salt Spring Island. Cassia and I walked off the ferry to the bus stop where we boarded the express City Transit bus to downtown Victoria and my mom's apartment building. No more pictures of our trip - we arrived at my mom's at around 3:00pm - happy that our travel day was behind us.

We tend to stay close to home (my mom's place) when we visit but we did plan to take a day trip to downtown Victoria. It is a bit of a walk but it was such a nice day it worked out ok. Once on the Island I realized that Victoria, in fact, has quite a few craft breweries. Who knew? 

For a few minutes I entertained the thought of visiting them all but then realized that that probably wasn't going to fly. Me and Cas going from brewery to brewery for some reason seemed a bit weird without Derek there. Oh well. We did however make our way past Phillips Brewing Co. since it was on our path. 

A little further along we found this wall. I'm not a fan of graffiti myself however when it is presented like this I am more inclined to call it art.

This is the Capital Iron building, a place we usually stop, but not today - today we are continuing a little further for our annual trip to look around Value Village. I always stop in when in Victoria to see if I can find some clothes for Cassia. Today, I was on a mission to find some work pants for us for the summer.

A beautiful mural facing a large parking lot.

And another across the street. I parked in this parking lot for 3 1/2 years while I worked in Victoria in the mid 2000's.

Our next destination was Chinatown to pick up some spices for my sister and her husband. 

It was a little more challenging then I expected. Although I loved it - Cas wasn't' to fond of the fragrance of the Chinese food shop.

You just have to love the buildings and pedestrian friendly feel of downtown Victoria.

Many stores sell Northwest art and tourist items.

A short detour to show Cassia where I used to work as an Intern Architect. Bas Smith Architect Inc. was located on the second floor of this green building.

And…the first Architect office I worked at in Victoria - we were on the third floor of this building.

We then headed down to the harbour.

Hmmmm …. apparently someone with some BIG money was in town.

We stopped to look at the cute little harbour taxis.

Nice painted whales outside of the Visitor Center.

As well as beautiful flowers. Nice to see at this time of year.

We continued our walk towards the Parliament Building and then headed to the left - we were headed to the park.

Along the way we came across this display of Totem Poles. Funny, I actually didn't know that they were here.

Beside the Totems is the Historic Site of Helmcken House.

And finally, our destination - Beacon Hill Park.

United once again with the Canadian Geese back in Canada.

Hard to walk by a large Magnolia tree and not take a picture - right?!

So - I was thinking to take Cassia to the Royal BC Museum and Imax this year but then I realized that the petting zoo and a trip for ice cream was probably going to be a more popular choice!

Cassia was last here a few years ago with my mom.

All that goat time made us hungry for ice cream so we made the trip over to the Beacon Hill Drive In. Derek came here when he was a kid. 

Then back to the petting zoo - through the daffodil field of course.

Funny how, not one, but two stamps can bring so much happiness.

As your can imagine we were pretty tired by the time we made it back to my mom's just before dinner.

A nice mom and daughter day for Cassia and I.

During the week we also made three trips to the playground near my mom's place. On our last trip there Cassia took the shovels and rake that my sister - her Aunty Dee - gave to her. They'll also come in handy this summer with our container gardens.

Cassia made a few friends over the days - here she is with Keegan.

As these things do - our trip seemed to pass in a flash and it wasn't long before we were leaving. My sister came down from up Island for a day grabbing a bit of away time from a busy spring at Damali Lavender Farm and her and her husband David's two businesses Fresh Start Edibles and Warm Land Waterworks
Here's a parting shot of Cassia with my lovely mom and her Oma. 
Derek's mom came to take us to the ferry and back to her place. 

This time we were about 1 hour early for the ferry so we once again visited the playground that they have at the ferry terminal.

Hmmmm …. I think my eyes are closed.

Like deja vu - right?! Back on the ferry and back ….

to the play area. Gosh, I remember when Cassia was the littlest kid and looked up longingly at the big kids up on the top of the slide. 

Once again passing the other ferry.

As we boarded the 5:00pm ferry, this time we also had dinner on the ferry, it wouldn't be for another few hours until we were home. 

A view of Mt. Baker in the USA on our way back to Chilliwack.

So, that was our trip. I distant memory now…….

Funny how time can go so slow and so fast all at the same time. It seems like a long time since we arrived back into Canada and to Derek's mom's place. On the other hand it seems to be taking forever to get to May when Derek and I start our new job.

Our new job? 

Hmmm…..have I neglected to tell you what we are up to this summer and where?!

I have - haven't I.

Sheesh. Guess we got the job and just carried on - happy with knowing that we would soon-ish be making money again. It's been awhile since we last received a pay cheque - back in October.

I'll save all that for next post. 

Ha ha! Ya - in a few weeks you are thinking. Nope - I'll try my best to arm wrestle Derek away from the laptop to get that up for you this weekend.

Thanks for checking back in with the Wood Clan!

And dare I say, not giving up on us!

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