Northern Spirit Shakedown – Days 5 through 8

What a busy week.

Monday started with a follow-up appointment with my doctor that I had to leave the campsite for at 8:30 a.m. Monday’s are generally bad enough, but for those of you that know me and my aversion to waking earlier than 8:30 a.m. you’ll appreciate I wasn’t looking forward to that morning. As it turned out, it did not ruin my day, I wasn’t in a bad mood, and despite dealing with Edmonton rush hour the drive as actually quite pleasant. My appointment took all of 45 minutes including getting bloodwork. I spent the rest of the morning doing some shopping at Kingsway, indulging in Shumka and Purdy’s Chocolatier while there, and getting a fantastic lesson from Bill at Sport Chek on proper foot supports. After picking up Dan at the campsite, we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing more trailer supplies shopping.

Tuesday morning was the first relaxing moment we had before meeting up with Greg and Liz Merrithew for a lovely lunch at The Canadian Brewhouse in Spruce Grove. They’re friends and colleagues from Yellowknife who happened to be stopping in St. Albert on their annual journey home after wintering in Florida. When I heard they were here at the same time we were I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet up. We had a nice visit and they offered great advice about RVing as they are only two years into the experience themselves.

Valve Attachment Thingy

Unfortunately the rest of the day ended up dealing with a black water tank issue that turned out not to be our own fault. Dan couldn’t figure out what was blocking the drainage tube and had to get a special valve attachment (I forget what it’s called) that would let him poke at the blockage without getting sewage all over the place. We went to a great little place called RV Mobile Edmonton actually looking for Classic Campers Holding Tank Treatment and happened to also find the part that Dan was going to jury-rig himself. No jury-rigging necessary; the RV community already thought of and manufactured the part.

Dan proceeded to spend the rest of the day ultimately discovering that the manufacturing facility that put together the trailer failed to ensure the holding tank was cleared of debris before sending it to the dealer. Dan found a stiff plastic bubble-wrap type square of material (hereafter dubbed the Turd Stopper) jammed in the outflow tube. Further investigation also discovered pieces of spray-foam insulation floating around in there and getting stuck in the valves. Needless to say this is an issue we will be asking Trailblazer to remedy when we drop the trailer off to them tomorrow.

The Turd Stopper

Wednesday was the designated “laundry and cleaning day”. Me being me, I have to have some sort of structure or routine in my life, so I came up with this idea to designate every eighth day on the road as “laundry and cleaning day”. I now realize that “laundry day” at least needs to be every four days. The size of the laundry bag of dirty laundry (clothes, towels, bedsheets, etcetera) was daunting and would have been laughable if I had actually carried it to the laundry room. The size sufficiently intimidated me into driving the bloody thing to the laundry room. Yes, driving, around the lot to get this thing 100 yards from our trailer. I ended up doing three loads of laundry. Despite this eye-rolling turn of events, the chores were not difficult and actually made for a rather pleasant morning.

The whole day was rather pleasant. We did only minimal shopping in the afternoon, had supper at Sorrentino’s that was fantastic, went for a walk in the evening, finally set up the TV and Blu-Ray player, and enjoyed watching night sky while sitting in front of a fire.

Top of the Hill at the Dog Park
Out for a walk at the Dog Park
At the Dog Park

Toasty Toes

Thursday morning we had a pre-retirement meeting with my financial advisor at Metric Financial, after which we took an ultimately useless jaunt to the “Premium Outlet Mall” by the airport. The meeting was great; the shopping was not successful. But we detoured to Cabela’s, Canadian Tire, and Home Depot on the way to my Mom’s and those stops at least were more productive. The short visit at my Mom’s was to pick up the paperwork my Daughter sent to her place so that I could pick up her new-to-her car. She had found this vehicle for sale last week and mentioned they were trying to figure what the extra cost to ship it to her would be. I asked her why she would need to have it shipped when we’re in Edmonton anyway and I could drive it home for her? She said she didn’t want to burden us on our holidays. Good lord. It’s not like we had anything actually planned that picking up her car for her would interfere with, and I prefer to drive (as I believe I already established) so bonus for me. Doing this is so not an issue. We had taken the car for a test drive on her behalf last Friday and gave it the “Parental Seal of Approval”, she and her beau purchased it on Monday, she got the insurance, registration, and plate Tuesday and couriered them to my Mom, who received it Wednesday. I talked to the dealer and he had it ready for us to pick up this afternoon. We checked the car over before driving off the lot, but on the drive back to the campsite Dan (driving his truck behind me in the car) noticed the rock(?) shield on the underside of the car was visible. So we’re going to bring the car back to the dealer tomorrow to take a look at that before I drive it home. Otherwise there were no issues.

We settled in to relax at the campsite, but that was interrupted by the robins. We noticed what looked like a baby bird jumping around on the lawn and onto the neighbouring (empty) lot next to ours. We realized it was a fledgling and wondered where it actually came from. Further investigation of the small spruce tree on our lawn revealed the robins that had been hanging around our area had a nest there. Apparently we got too close to the tree because next thing I knew I was getting dive-bombed and squawked at by the robins. This has never happened to me before. I knew they were just protecting their baby, but never having experienced this protective action I found it very nerve-wracking (read: terrifying). Dan, having apparently experienced the angst of birds repeatedly on the farm he grew up on, just laughed at me. The damned birds’ aggressive action towards me compelled me to return to the interior of the trailer for a time in the hopes they would forget about me. Dan just stared them down when they challenged him. Eventually the mama robin led the baby towards the bushes at the back of the property, but the papa robin is still watching from the top of the tree in the neighbour’s lot. We did end up eating our supper in peace outside on the picnic table, but I wonder if there isn’t another chick in the nest… Tomorrow morning packing up the trailer could be interesting.

Supper was basically cooking almost everything we had left over in the fridge: potatoes, bratwurst sausages, eggs, and garlic bread.

That’s about it for today. Good night, all. I’ll do a closing post when we get home Sunday.

Adelle and Dan

P.S. You may have noticed I’ve actually included links to the places we’ve been. I only just discovered how to do that. Yay me!

Northern Spirit Shakedown – Glamping Days 1 through 4

Hi! Did you miss me? Just a little? I’ve missed you, but boy, has this learning experience ever taken up our days. We’ve had long days since picking up the trailer, what with orientation, figuring out how to use our new toy without breaking it, and kitting it out with the bare necessities. As green as we are at this glamping life we really don’t have a foundation to start from, so we’re trying to be as logical and practical as we can.

That’s us with our new Place!

The people at Trailblazer RV are fantastic and so friendly and patient with us. The orientation went smoothly, but it was a lot of information to take in. When we got to the campsite at Diamond Grove RV Campground it took a bit to get the hitch to disconnect, but we did not need to call for assistance. Then we thought we locked ourselves out of the trailer, but just as I connected with someone at Trailblazer Dan pulled the latch the right way and voila! The door was open! I told whoever answered the phone that all it took was to just make the phone call to them to convince the door to cooperate – Murphy’s Law in our world. We’ve had no problems with the door since.

Dan noticed some of the seals on the outside panels appeared to have gaps, so Trailblazer is going to take care of that when we return home.

Plug in the shower???

And the plug in the shower — yes, plug in the shower, I know, why does a shower need a plug??? — would not stay open and the little handle kept popping off when we’d pull it. We didn’t know what kind of plug it was, so we didn’t want to put too much pressure on it (you know, with a lever or something) because we didn’t want to break it. After consulting with Dale at Trailblazer (who also shook his head at the idea of a plug in the shower), he looked into it and confirmed that we could just pull that entire cap right off the drain and problem should be solved. They’ll take a closer look as well while they have the trailer.

As in all (most?) trailers like this one, the bed lifts up on hydraulics to expose storage space underneath. What’s different about our storage space is that the manufacturer has designed bins, drawers, and a seating area in that storage space, including a spot to keep the laundry basket. It’s awesome! I love the smart use of that area. The only problem here is the motion sensor light that was provided in the space. It switches on and off at the slightest movement or shadow, day and night. In other words, all night every night the light would start flashing on and off from under our bed. We mentioned that to Dale as well, and he suggested we could either have it removed entirely or change it from a motion sensor to an on/off switch. I like the latter idea, so they’ll do that for us while they have the trailer as well.

The only other issue is not one we’ll be asking the dealer to look into because it’s not a defect, it’s just an observation and one that I can remedy myself. And this one is odd coming from a Northerner like myself who is used to sleeping through sunlit night skies. The skylights and vent covers in the trailer (as I understand in most trailers) pretty much glow when there’s any external light. So we’ve found that despite having the blinds drawn in the bedroom, the vent cover is what lets us know that dawn has arrived. The easy fix, of course, is to velcro a dark piece of cloth over the vent at night, so I’ll take measurements and make something when we go home to bring back later in June.

Now, we have no point of reference from which to know how much rocking and rolling (without the obvious explanations for such, wink, wink) is normal and how much is because we haven’t applied the stabilizers properly. Whether what we experienced — which wasn’t terrible, but was definitely noticeable, especially when Dan is walking around (you can hear him walking around in our house, and our house is solid) — was normal or not is now moot. Dan being Dan has used 2×4’s to build additional stabilizers at the hitch jack (for the front/back rolling) and for the stabilizer jacks (for the side/side rocking), as well as the wheel chocks between both pairs of wheels. This trailer is barely moving at all now, not even in the gusts of wind we’ve experienced the last couple of nights!

We were warned at the orientation that the oven temperature would not likely match the numbers marked on the oven dial, and my first lighting of the oven proved her correct. We were very glad we took her suggestion to get an oven thermometer. I have to set the dial at the highest setting of 490 to get it to reach 400, and about 432-ish to get to 350 (which is what I needed to bake brownies…). I still couldn’t bake the brownies the first night I turned the oven on and learned about the temperature gauge, though. I’m sure there are those of you out there who have probably guessed why. It turns out there’s ‘stuff’ that needs to burn off in the oven before you should use it the first time. It got really smoky and smelly in the trailer there for a bit…

Our first cooked meal in the trailer.

We did get to use the range sooner than intended. We had planned to roast hot dogs over a fire for our first meal at the trailer, but shortly after purchasing the wood and before Dan could actually start making kindling out of some of it, dark clouds started rolling in, the temperature dropped, and it eventually started to rain. Yeah, we fried those hot dogs in a frying pan with some onions on the range instead. It was actually pretty awesome, and damn, does the gas range ever cook fast! Totally have to get used to adjusting the heat levels down from what I’m used to. We had purchased the ‘camping condiments set’ — ketchup, mustard, relish — to compliment our meal, but decided not to partake of the provided ketchup upon discovering the seal had not properly set at the manufacturing facility. Still trying to find a small bottle of ketchup to replace it.

Adelle, Dan, Paul, Sarah – First visitors!

We had our first visitors at the site Saturday morning, which was pretty exciting I do have to say. My Uncle Paul and Aunt Sarah stopped by and received the grand tour of our new wheels. They’re glamping veterans themselves, so they duly appreciated what we have and offered invaluable advice as well. We had a nice visit and hope to see them again later this week.

After getting some more shopping done that afternoon (it seems never ending!) we finally took some time to ourselves by going to West Edmonton Mall for supper and a show. Bourbon Street has changed its selection of restaurants over the years since we were last there, but we ended up going to Earl’s because the wait wasn’t terribly long and gave us time to go across the hall afterwards to Rick Bronson’s The Comic Strip. I have to mention, the clam chowder at Earl’s was amazing! They tweaked the recipe to really make it their own signature dish with a subtle smoky-sweet taste. Totally worth it, and likely all I’ll be ordering at future visits.

ISMO at The Comic Strip

At The Comic Strip we were entertained by the host (who’s name I now forget, I’m sorry), the opening act named Gulliver Twist, and the main attraction: ISMO. Look him up, he’s a Finnish fella now living in LA giving a solid bit on the oddness of the English language and the varying uses of the word “shit”. It was a good show and I’d recommend seeing him if you get the chance.

Sunday ended up being a fuller day than intended, starting with taking longer than I’d hoped to update our books (i.e. pay some bills) in the morning before managing to get out to another fun event: the Leduc Rodeo and Car Show. Specifically this afternoon we watched some barrel racing, which I thought was a lot of fun, and then took a closer look at the vintage vehicles at the car show.

Carmen on Posse
Julia on Navajo
Cassie on Crimes Times Nine
Ford F100
Mercury
Check out the plate.

We finally ended the weekend having my Mom and Step-Dad over for supper, which was entirely made on the range/oven. Fried chicken breasts, fried baby potatoes with green onions and spinach, orzo pasta salad, and garlic bread. My mom didn’t know what to do with herself because the kitchen is way too small for more than one person to work in it, lol! We followed up with brownies, which almost turned out except that I didn’t know I had burned the crust until I served it. But the inside and top were still good, so I’ll take it as another learning experience for this oven. Mom and I played a game of Canasta while Dan and Andy watched some local TV.

So that pretty much catches us up here. It’s already Midnight again and I have an early appointment tomorrow, so I’d best let you all go.

Adelle and Dan

Northern Spirit Shakedown – Travel Day 1

Good evening, Family, Friends, and Followers! I know, it’s been a while, at least a year and a half. All I can say is: COVID-19. What with the various restrictions, lockdowns, and inherent pandemic risks, the only travel this family has done in the last two years as been for medical reasons. Not exactly what one would call fun or relaxing. But that all changes this year! While we may not be travelling overseas for a couple more years (sniff, sniff… Scotland…) and we may not yet venture into the US just yet, we are finally able to take time off from work and travel domestically.

The last non-medical trip we took was in February 2020. We went to the Edmonton RV Expo and started looking at travel trailers. You see, our retirement plan is to do a North American Road Trip. Some parts of that trip will not be with the travel trailer, but most of it will. Since we’ve never actually used a travel trailer or RV of any kind before, we thought it would be a good idea to invest in one now to get used to and figure out what we actually like, what we don’t, and what we can get used to. The original plan was to go look at the options at the 2020 Expo — which we did — and then take the year to surf and consider what we’d seen, then go to the 2021 Expo with a more focused approach and purchase the travel trailer then. Clearly that didn’t happen as planned, but we can be flexible sorts on occasion so we pushed the purchase date to the 2022 Expo.

The Mackenzie River at Big River Station near Fort Providence

That only sorta-kinda worked as planned. It would have worked exactly as planned, except that the 2022 Expo got cancelled due to a pandemic outbreak after we had purchased our airline tickets. We rolled with it, though, and decided to go to Edmonton anyway. Instead of going to one location to see multiple dealers, I did a little research on line and chose four local dealerships to make appointments with to see what they had to offer. As I said, we had already narrowed down what we were looking for to a specific type of floorplan, so now we really just needed to shop around for which make/model and compare prices.

As it turned out, we didn’t end up purchasing our travel trailer from any of the four dealerships we had pre-booked appointments with. By dumb luck, or the universe working in our favour, we had some time on our hands between appointments and decided to stop in at a fifth dealership to see if we could look at a trailer that caught my attention that had just been posted as available earlier that week. Long story short, the Manager we spoke to was fantastic and super accommodating, as were the rest of his staff that we worked with that weekend. He set up and showed us this trailer and not only did it check off the boxes for every feature we were looking for but it had the bonus of being smartly engineered to use dead space for accessible storage. It was expensive, but everything is mid-pandemic, and we were expecting that. So we purchased the 2022 Coachmen Northern Spirit 2557RB — look it up on the Coachmen website and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I even love the name, it totally suits us and where we’re from.

So now we’re driving down to Edmonton to pick up our new treasure, get oriented to it, kit it out, and figure out how it works. We’re not going to drive it very far away from the dealership, just in case we need them to talk us through something. We’ll be staying at a campground just down the highway from the dealership and staying there the entire time. I am so ridiculously excited to be doing this.

Us at Enterprise standing in front of the ravine that the Hay River flows through.

Travel Day 1 consisted of Dan driving the entire way to High Level. I say this because it is not how we usually travel. I usually do the driving. But then, we’re usually driving in my car, not Dan’s truck. Which obviously we need to tow the travel trailer. I am admittedly a control freak and prefer to be driving, but I also tend to get car sick as a passenger. But Dan’s truck, Dan drives, and I have to accept that and learn how to be a good passenger. So I did. Today I learned that as long as I stay facing forward and don’t try to read or watch anything but the scenery that I won’t get car sick. Yay me! In other words, it was a pleasant, uneventful drive.

We passed clear evidence of the recent flooding near Enterprise where the highway had been washed out, and the ditches otherwise were noticably water-logged. There were two stretches where they had single lanes only, so traffic was controlled with lights while they worked to repair the washed-out sections. At the second stretch there was a string of at least half a dozen large pumps working to drain the water from one side of the highway to the other. We were so busy observing that we didn’t think to take a picture… gonna have to work on that remembering to take pictures thing…

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Mirage in High Level, and had supper in their restaurant. The servers were really great, despite accidentally ordering the wrong meal for me. I ordered the Wild Mushroom and Chicken Fettucine, which the server did write down correctly, but she punched into the computer as the Lobster Fettucine (the two fettucine’s were right next to each other in the system, so an honest mistake). I like lobster, too, so it really wasn’t a big deal to switch, and they comped me a dessert in apology. What was the dessert? A brownie, of course. What else would I choose? The bonus was they topped it with dark chocolate ice cream. It’s like they knew what I’d like or something! I only ate half the fettucine, and the ice cream, and a little bit of the brownie; the rest was boxed to have for lunch later.

After driving all day and eating that meal we were obliged to go for a walk before settling down for the evening. Somehow my Fitbit came up with 8,200 steps today, so we walked until I got the fireworks for hitting 10,000. And no, I don’t think those numbers are accurate, I think the bouncing around on several portions of the highway probably triggered a bunch of those recorded steps, but I’m just going to accept it anyway.

Black Bears – Momma and two Cubs

I forgot my notebook in the truck, but wildlife sightings today included maybe 9 bison, 8 ducks, 3 herons, and a whopping 7 black bears, including a Momma and her two cubs.

Adelle and Dan