Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 1: Highway High Jinks

Our landing in Montreal was on time and we took a cab over to the hotel. Jet lag didn't catch us too bad, so we were up at 8:00 a.m. to return to the airport to pick up our rental car. Wayne had reserved one in advance at Budget through West Jet (I love that airline!). We were an hour early, so they gave us a free upgrade to let us get on our way. We ended up with a Dodge Journey (SUV). It turned out to be the perfect vehicle for us. There's lots of room for our camping gear and the back seats fold down. We could sleep inside if the weather gets really rainy. In honour of his heritage and colour, I've dubbed him Monsieur Argent.

View Larger Map

The first day's drive took us through green countryside over mostly divided double-lane highways. Because it was going to be our longest (distance and time) travel day, we drove straight through. Our path took us east, then across the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City to Riviere-du-Loup. From there we followed Highway 2 southeast to a small town on the St. John River called St. Leonard. Most of the towns are either St, Ste, St. or Saint in this region. Must because of their French ties. Even though every local we met spoke French, they were friendly and accommodating with our English. That's a lot different than I remember from our last trip to Quebec by airplane.

We camped at a private facility called Grande Riviere just outside of town. We set up our tent next to a small river. I could imagine a French trapper paddling his canoe up such a stream to catch beaver. We had reservations, but wouldn't have needed them. We were the only tenters and there were hardly any RVs either. It was a nice park with lots of green grass, a few shaded sites, restrooms with showers, and a pool. Quite retro. I'm sure it looked just the same when my parents passed through years ago. After we set up our tent we went into town for dinner at the restaurant at the Daigle Motel. Good home cooking for a good price.

We had a bit of rain overnight, but today dawned sunny and warm. The mosquitoes were out last night, but I think the rain kept them to a minimum. Don't think I have any bites to show for my outdoor experience yet.

We stopped in Fredericton to find a hot spot. That's easy in this town because it has Fred-e-Zone or free citywide wireless service. We are sitting in Wilmot Park downtown under a tree to check e-mail and make this post. But I better get going, our destination of Halifax is still a long ways away. -- Margy

FREE HOTSPOT WATCH: Fred-e-Zone is Fredericton NB's free citywide wireless service. Excellent bandwidth, Wayne watching TV on Slingbox.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Up! Up! and Away

Wayne and I've been visiting Mom in Bellingham, so the first leg of our Canadian adventure started at Bellingham International Airport. That's where we caught the Quick Shuttle which provides international bus service between greater Vancouver (including to the departure gate Vancouver International Airport) and Seattle, Washington. See my May 2009 post if you would like more information.

We packed all of our camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, collapsible ice chests) in two 28" duffel bags we found at WalMart for only $17.00. They are sturdy with lots of pockets for smaller items. Our two older 24" duffel bags carry our pillows (Pikachu Pikachu), clothes, guide books and such. West Jet allows two free checked bags per person with a maximum weight of 23 kgs (50 lbs) and dimensions of 157 cm (62 in). We don't have much space for souvenirs, but that's OK.

We've flown in and out of Vancouver many times, but have never been in the Domestic Terminal. Today's trip to Montreal was our first. We chose to fly on West Jet because of price, and so far all has gone well. The check-in lines weren't too long, the agents courteous and the planes spiffy looking (now that's an precise aeronautical term). We chose to fly to Montreal because it was the furthest direct flight for a relatively reasonable price.

We depart at 4:15 and should arrive at 11:56 p.m. Montreal time. Because it's so late, we'll stay tonight at the Montreal Airport Courtyard. Then, in the morning we will rent a car and begin our camping adventure to Newfoundland. I can't wait!! - Margy

FREE HOTSPOT WATCH: Quick Shuttle Coach (slow) and YVR Domestic Terminal (excellent bandwidth).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Road Trip

Tomorrow, Wayne and I are leaving on our first vacation away from Powell River since we discovered it in 2000 and especially since we got our float cabin in 2001. In the beginning, we were still working in Los Angeles, so we wanted to spend every vacation day we had up the lake. Now that we have our Canadian permanent residency, we feel we can take two weeks to explore a bit more of our new country.

One aid we will have on this trip is our new Garmin Oregon 300 GPS. We have Mac computers and sometimes companies like Garmin don't offer software compatible with our machines. But we were in luck, according to our friend George (Mr. GPS) at Marine Traders in Powell River. We purchased the Oregon to use when we ride our quads in the bush. But we also got the City Navigator North America road map software for our upcoming trip.

We're flying commercially from Vancouver to Montreal, then renting a car to drive to Newfoundland, camping along the way. I'm not sure if I'll be able to post about our adventures along the way. If I can find Internet connections, I will. A special thanks to Elaine (a Newfie by birth) over at A Scattering for the list of free library hot spots. I'll try to use one or more of them along the way. Stay tuned. - Margy

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Skagit Regional Airport

One of the benefits of returning to Bellingham is flying our airplane, 997. While we're in Powell River, she patiently waits in her hangar for an aerial excursion.

It's blazing hot right now, so we got up early to beat the density altitude. Wayne went to the hangar yesterday to plug in the battery charger. With all that sitting, 997 sometimes gets tired of waiting. There are so many benefits of having a hangar.

Today's flight was multi-purpose. We wanted to get current with our take-offs and landings, we wanted to exercise 997 and all of her systems, and we wanted to heat up the oil to make it easier for a change. Our next visit to the States will include a long distance flight to Los Angeles and we want to be ready to go. So, our destination of choice was Skagit Regional Airport.

Skagit (KVBS) is located thirty miles southeast of Bellingham. It's on the coastal plain near the mouth of the Skagit River and Padilla Bay. The elevation is 144 feet (43.9 metres) and Runway 10/28 is 5477 feet (1669 metres) long. That was good considering the density altitude and 997's performance requirements. Skagit can be a busy place on weekends with student pilots and visiting aviators, but today was a quiet Tuesday morning. Just right for our touch and go needs.

After some much needed exercise for 997 and practice for her pilots, we headed back to our home base in Bellingham (KBLI). First we gassed up from the Bellingham Aviation Services truck (check into their fuel discount program) and then started a quick drain while the oil was hot and thin.

Then it was time for 997 to settle in for another a long summer's nap. Sleep well and dream about your trip to the big city! - Margy

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Preparing Container Gardens for Vacation Time

This year we've had a most unusual summer here in Powell River, BC. In July, we only got 51 mm (2 in) of rain and the daytime temperatures have been above average, mostly in the 25º C (77º F) plus range. Now that may not sound all that hot, but when you have container gardens, that's plenty to dry them out in short order.

This year I have lots of plants in pots. I need to water my pots every two or three days, or the plants begin to wilt. And here comes the glitch. We are preparing for a three week absence. Of course, my good friend John will come up to lake (a 25 minute boat ride each way) to water for me, but the time between his visits might exceed the plants' tolerance. So I decided to try mulching to help reduce surface evaporation.

Last spring I did a post about the benefits of mulching. I took some of my own advice. First, I watered the pots really well. Then I took newspaper, crumpled it up and spread it over the surface of the exposed soil in each pot. Then I gave each of them another watering to soak the newspaper through. The next morning I collected salal leaves and layered them over the newspaper. A final watering hopefully prepared my container gardens for a several day wait until John can return to give them a needed drink. I'll let you know how it goes when I return. -- Margy

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Online Friends Join Us Up the Lake

Sometimes I think I spend too much town time on the Internet. Of course, I spend quite a bit on my blog and reading other people's posts. Then there are forums, YouTube, Flickr and just plain Google. It can become addictive, as you probably know. But it has also introduced me to some really great people along the way.

I first discovered a picture of Jordan water skiing while searching about Powell Lake. Then I stumbled onto a video about his family's summer vacation up the lake on YouTube. And most recently, I've been reading Jordan's tweets. This year, we were both at our cabins (which are amazingly close) at the same time. So Jordan and his sister Janis stopped by to say hi and have a cuppa.

Jordan grew up in Powell River and has been coming up the lake for as long as he can remember. It's part of his heritage. Now he lives in Vancouver, but gets away from hectic city life at least once a year. This time is extra special. He's introducing his son to the lake for the first time.

Staying in a cabin up the lake is a whole lot different life than Jordan's web-based media and marketing career. But he's comfortable and happy in both roles. Wayne and I enjoyed hearing about what Powell River's been like over the years from two members of a very large and extended local family. Thanks Jordan and Janis for stopping by to say hi and to welcome us "newcomers" to the neighborhood. Oh, and the Kokanees were great! -- Wayne and Margy

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pea Pods A'Plenty

Space in my floating garden is limited to four 3X10' beds. Last year I grew Snow Peas in one corner, but they took up quite a bit of space. This year I decided to grow them in a half blue barrel with drainage holes in the bottom. I filled the barrel half way with peat, compost and a top layer of potting soil. I built a support structure out of scrap cedar boards and twine. It worked well until the plants got their full growth. Next year I'll know to make it taller.

I planted my Snow Peas directly in the soil in late April, but they had a hard start. I then tried soaking the seeds in water overnight and letting them sprout in a plastic jar before transferring them to the barrel. That seemed to do the trick, and I got enough for my little pea garden. By late June, they were well on their way, and by early July they started producing. When we returned after a week away from the cabin, we had quite a batch of peas to harvest.

We enjoy Snow Peas raw as a snack and in salads, and add them to simple stir fry dishes with our other garden vegetables. Another easy way to prepare them is in a sealed packet of foil on the BBQ grill. You have to be quick if you want them crispy, they cook really fast. So, if you have limited garden space, try planting peas in pots. You will be rewarded with pea pods a'plenty. - Margy

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Now Available Online - Up the Lake

A Great Book
for the Outdoor Enthusiast

Up the Lake

Coastal BC Stories

Head up Powell Lake to experience life in an off the grid float cabin, take a boat to world famous Desolation Sound, ride a quad into the back country and fly overhead for a unique view of this incredible place. Read Up the Lake by Wayne Lutz and see how much fun it can be.

Go to for ordering information.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park

After leaving our friends in Campbell River, we decided to stay out one more night in Halcyon Days. This time we wanted a place to anchor. We left Campbell River and cruised around the bottom of Quadra Island to the Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park. Along the way we did a bit of trolling for salmon, but from the looks of the boats out on the reef, we were in the wrong place.

Rebecca Spit is a very popular park with boaters and non-boaters alike. You can drive into the park for picnics and hiking along the beach. You can kayak across the protected bay (check with the Taku Resort for rentals) or take a dinghy ashore. No matter how you get there, it's a beautiful, restful spot.

The long spit divides protected Drew Harbour from the outer waters of the strait. It provide a protected anchorage with good holding in most weather. Driftwood piles up on the sloping beach and is often relaunched at high-high tides. One night I remember waking to something bumping along the side of the boat. When I went out I saw a parade of driftwood passing by.

Nearby Heriot Bay Inn and Marina offers fuel and moorage. It is also a good place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner if you don't want to cook aboard. If you need provisions for your cruise, the Island Market is within walking distance from the marina dock. Short term parking is available if needed for meals or shopping. Moorage is also available at the Taku Resort.

Wayne and I spent the day just enjoying the sunshine and reading. Just what the "doctor" ordered. -- drmargy

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cruisin' to Campbell River

Our good friends Ken and Sam have been out on the water for three weeks now. We got in Halcyon Days at the Lund Public Dock and headed over to Campbell River to meet them as they are making their way south to Gibsons. Wayne and I have been to Campbell River before, but only to get fuel and shop at the nearby Real Canadian Superstore (Walmart on steroids).

The cruise across the Strait of Georgia was smooth and the sun was shining. You can't ask for more than that. Along the way we saw lots of boats out fishing for salmon. Campbell River is we got a slip at the Discovery Harbour Marina to visit with them and take in a bit of the town.

For the boater and non-boater alike, the Discovery Harbour Marina has lots to offer. For boaters, it is a full service marina offering moorage for 300 boats from 16 to 150 feet at daily, monthly, 6-months and annual rates. There's electricity (metered), water, washrooms with showers, laundry and trash disposal included. The adjacent Discovery Harbour Centre with lots of stores for provisioning and restaurants is a huge plus. There's even a funky restaurant, Patti Finn's, right on the dock. Other services at the marina include lots of boat adventure and fishing tour operators. After all, Campbell River is the "salmon fishing capitol of the world."

Eagle Eye Adventures
Hurricane Jack Adventures
Mid Island Cruiser Boat Rentals
Way West Coastal Adventures
Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventures
Coastal Island Fishing Adventures
Cruise on over to Campbell River on Vancouver Island in Coastal BC in your boat, car or by airline. Then "discover" a marina with a little something for everyone. -- Margy

Monday, July 13, 2009

Texada Aerospace Camp a Huge Success

Thanks to the vision and hard work of Doby and Bob of Texada Island, with a host of volunteers, the First Annual Aerospace Camp was a huge success. It was a pleasure for Wayne and I to be involved in a small way. Wayne gave a class on aviation navigation, instruments and careers for the 25 youths aged 10-18.

Other activities included testing model aircraft in a wind tunnel, kite construction, rocketry, planetarium, and a visit to the airport to meet pilots and see their aircraft.

The goal was to inspire the next generation of pilots, aviation technicians and astronauts.

A ceremony in the gymnasium of the Texada Island School included speakers from the military, women in aviation, education and the lead pilot from the Fraser Blues.

Every time we go to Texada, Wayne and I are so impressed with their sense of community and support for island activities. That showed in the number of people who came out for the Star Party we held at the airport on Saturday night. We thank everyone for their patience in waiting for the dark sky. The night's best included the ring nebula, jupiter and the moon. And thanks to a participant, we even got a great view of the Space Station passing overhead.

The weekend culminated with the Annual Airport Fly-in. Lots of locals and Powell Riverites attended the pancake breakfast, BBQ lunch and aircraft displays. The highlight of the day was a flight by the Fraser Blues Demonstration Flight Team. Thanks again Doby and Bob and all the volunteers. It was a great celebration of aviation at its best. See you next year! - Margy

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Barn Swallow Update

Wayne and I were so sad to see all five of the Barn Swallow chicks at our float cabin not make it. We thought maybe some of the first chicks to disappear were pushed out of the nest by their siblings (siblicide). But now we aren't so sure about that. The survival rate for barn swallows is quite good. The hatching success rate is 90% and the fledging survival rate is 70–90%.

The parents are very protective of their young. Both the male and female participate in nest building, incubation of the eggs and feeding the chicks. The day we returned to the cabin, I noticed one of the birds cleaning the nest. I hope it was the female getting ready to lay a second batch of eggs. To help any babies that fall might out of the nest, we've put some padding on the roof. It's worth a try.

When our pair of Barn Swallows aren't busy catching insects and raising babies, they like to sit on our swim ladder preening and singing to each other.

Hopefully their second brood of the season will end on a happier note. -- Margy

Saturday, July 11, 2009

And Then There Were None

Last year a pair of Barn Swallows built a nest under the peak of our roof. Last year's nest was reoccupied this year. They say nesting pairs often return to the old nest, so maybe these are the same birds. Pairs typically are monogamous and the male is very protective of the female, fighting off any other male interlopers.

I know Barn Swallows build mud nests in some locations, but here it is a mixture of mud and grass. They pick the most precarious spots. The one under our roof has no support other than a 1/2 inch ledge of wood near the eves. Somehow they are able to concoct a substance sticky enough to hold everything up straw by straw. I've been watching our nest with binoculars and recording the developments on film.

On June 30 (the 1st shot), there were five chicks in the nest. Then on July 2 (the 2nd shot), there were only four. On July 4 (the third shot), the number had dropped, this time to three. One of the three was definitely smaller than the other two. Then on July 5 (the 4th shot), we were sitting on the front porch. We heard a loud thud on the tin roof. Wayne went up the ladder and found a chick below the nest. Further inspection led to the discovery of two additional dead chicks in the gutter.

We weren't sure what was happening. Was it sibling rivalry or were the chicks just getting too big and falling off the edge? After all, it's pretty precarious up there. It made us sad and a bit afraid that the mother bird might abandon the last two, but so far so good. Some web research indicates that barn swallows may lay their eggs asynchronously (over time) and start incubating the first eggs before the last are laid. This can result in larger siblings who are more aggressive and kill their "younger" and smaller siblings (siblicide). Not a very pleasant thought.

And that's not the end of the story. We returned to the cabin after a day in town. There were no chicks left in the next. We don't know what could have happened. Maybe the metal roof just was too unforgiving for their first flight.

Have you had any experiences like these? I'm curious what might have happened in the end. -- Margy

Friday, July 10, 2009

Star Gazing at the Texada Island Fly-in

This week there was a full moon gracing the skies over Hole in the Wall here in Coastal BC.

After a full week of sunshine, high wispy clouds moved in, a precursor to an arriving warm front. We love sunny skies here on the Sunshine Coast, but we do need the occasional rain to keep our forests so green. But now it is back to sunny days and starry nights. And that's a good thing.

Powell River Books will be hosting a Star Party at the Texada Island Airport Fly-in on Saturday, July 11, at 10:00 pm. Wayne (with a little help from me) will set up two telescopes in the airplane camping area. The goal is to introduce people to astronomy and the availability of affordable telescopes. The Star Party is part of our contribution for the International Year of Astronomy and to encourage everyone to look to the skies.

Wayne is an enthusiastic amateur astronomer. He has three telescopes, a Meade ETX125 (125 millimeter) Maksutov-Cassegrain, a Meade LX90 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, and a Edmond Astroscan (for fun). For newbie amateurs astronomers, here are a few of his recommendations:

Thanks to everyone on Texada Island who came out for the Star Party in the airport camping area. We hope you enjoyed your evening. Look for us again next year at the annual fly-in. -- Wayne and Margy