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Category - Travel

Thunder Bay 2017

With summer winding down and Shan already getting back into school mode I thought I would take a little trip to Thunder Bay with the girls. Not only would I get some Ratte time (that was missing this summer on the camping front) but I would also get some quality time with the girls that I am going to miss so much once school starts back up.

The Ratte’s were in Winnipeg for a couple days before so we just basically followed them back to Tbay. Paul drove with me and the girls so it was nice to have 8 hours to just hang out and catch up. The girls are incredible in the car now. Usually Ashlyn can be needy but we had a little talk about how it would be harder for me to sort her out when I am trying to drive safely and she was awesome the whole way there and back. In about Dryden I gave them these LOL Dolls that I had bought a couple days before we left as a surprise. They are a chore to open up so it took them some time to sort them out and once they were all open they played in the car with them all the rest of the way.

We had an awesome visit with the Rattes. The highlight for the girls was just playing outside with the kids every chance they got. Paul has a really nicely paved driveway where they just spent hours on scooters, shooting hoops, and practicing on the wheelchair Paul had in the garage. We also took in a boat ride, a movie, the Persian Man, the park and a place called “Boulder Bear” where the kids climbed for almost 3 hours.

Paul and I got out to play hockey a couple times while I was there. It’s another world in Thunder Bay. It’s a Thursday night skate at 9pm and most of the guys are older than me. Hard guys, that do the heavy lifting at the mill all week and on Thursday nights after hockey they go to this bar called the “Wayland” to drink beers and eat pizza. We got home around 1am and although I was dreading my 8 hour drive on Friday morning I am sure it beats getting up to go to the mill. I am pudding compared to these guys and it was an honor to get to play with them even for just one night.

On the way home we made lot’s of stops but most memorable was Kakabeka Falls and our stop for lunch in Blue Lake.

   Thunder Bay 2017 Album

Otter Falls 2017

Heck Otter Falls will always have a special place in my heart. More so after this week with the “Bickerson’s”.

I have done a lot of “laking” with JD over the years. Some camping, but mostly “laking”. Some of my fondest summers were spent on a boat with that man and so I was looking forward to this one as soon as Shan booked the sites. Shan was too, imagine a week of picture perfect camping with your two brothers, their families, and grandpa all together in one place. It was just that…perfect.

Tim, Les, Syd, and Riley all arrived in Winnipeg a couple days early (from CGY) so it was nice to get a visit in before we left. Lexi and Ashlyn were so pumped to have them here that it took a couple days for it to sink in that we were all going camping together. For Shan and I it was bonus time with Tim and Les who we don’t see nearly enough since Tim cut the apron strings.

For camping Shan booked sites as close together as possible so we could all be close together. We also needed something big enough to fit Tim’s rented house on wheels. A massive motor home that he managed to park in one move! Props for that. Shan even had shirts made!

It was an awesome family weekend. The kids all played, chased frogs, swam in the lake and ate giant marshmallows from JD. We made friends with our neighbour who even took them out tubing (thanks Clint, talk about memories). The adults swam too and drank a little, and played frizknock, and ate Jos’ Louis and little fancy sandwiches. Mike and Tara took us to Rainbow falls for a day and we all just hung out at the falls. It was the best.

Definitely a weekend our family will not soon forget. Big thanks to all who helped make this one happen.

Of Mice And Men

Last year Shan and I got away to Sioux Narrows for our Anniversary. While we were there we scoped out some amazing campsites and booked them immediately for this year once they were available. They are both non electrical sites but also both on the lake and one has a little island and private beach with fire pit. We booked five days almost just to see if we could do it.

We arrived on the Monday and had a great day setting up and settling in. We got into the lake and waited for the Morrison’s to arrive. We were also supposed to meet the Ratte’s out there but they just couldn’t make it. We had a nice dinner followed by a sweet fire on the island. Despite the mosquitoes who did everything they could to shut is down. Al and I shut it down around midnight.

Monday night, Tuesday, and Tuesday night it rained like I have never seen before. It kind of hung around Wednesday during the day so we spent some time in town and then drove to Kenora to hang out and have dinner. We ate at Cabin Jack’s and oh by the way they are out of fish and you can make a better nachos at home. Fries and poutine were awesome according to Lexi and Shan said the Quazzi-dilla was a good one.

It was Thursday when Shan noticed we had house guests…or should I say mouse guests. They had chewed through some plastic bags and left a few presents in one of the drawers. Al and I picked up a couple traps in town that afternoon and we set them up to see what we were dealing with and as soon as they were set we had our first kill. Shan and Larissa went to get more traps and somehow I managed to set them up wrong. Seems the little buggers cleaned peanut butter off two traps without them going off. Sadly we didn’t figure this out until I returned from the fire at about 1am. The kids were right freaked out (and I don’t blame them) so they were asleep on the couch beside our bed. I reset the traps and we went to bed listening to the mice munch on our latest investment and it didn’t take long for the first SNAP.

I kept getting out of bed and emptying traps trying hard not to wake up the kids. At about 3am I set our last 3 and went back to bed helpless at this point. We heard the first 2 go off and didn’t budge but about 430am the last one SNAPPED and I could hear it being dragged around under the dining bench where the hot water tank sits. Shan shone the flashlight in there and I could see it looking up at me. He was caught by the tail and was having trouble getting out of there. I couldn’t reach him so Shan went to get me some tongs and while she was away I watched him drag himself and the trap behind the cupboards. That is when we called it and started packing up. We were out of there and on the road by 6am.

We figure the crazy rain we had drove them out of their nests looking for warmth and high dry ground. No idea where they were getting in though. when we got home my dad was here so I asked him to reach in and pull out the moving trap! Thing was still alive too! Dad took care of that one and then we set the traps and caught one more soon after. Nothing overnight and we spent 2 days taking the camper apart and cleaning everything. We did some steel wool and spray foam too so I hope that helps when parked. We will see at Otter Falls this coming weekend!

All in all a great week with great friends. The girls had a blast swimming, catching “crawfish”, just hanging out by the fire.

   Sioux Narrows 2017 Album

St. Malo Short Trip

Once again I am finding it hard to write. We move so fast in the summer it seems to fly by and I find myself in the last week of holidays before I know it.

We bought a camper this year so we didn’t wait long to test it out. We bought a 2009 Surveyor Hybrid off a really nice couple on Kijiji. It was the nicest one we had seen in our price range and the first time in the history of buying anything that Shannon didn’t try to haggle (that’s how I knew it was a good deal). It took a lot of figuring out and few car mods to make it all work but we are all set now. If you ever need anything hitch or tow related don’t waste you time with anyone other than Mitch’s Welding. They set me up with a brake controller that GNR would have butchered. When I couldn’t get my shank to work with the height of my trailer GNR wanted to add a lift kit to my camper for $1000 and told me that the right shank for my vehicle didn’t exist. I went to Mitch’s and was in and out in 10 mins with a new shank. They even put it together and adjusted for the height of my trailer. They are awesome there.

We started with a close trip to St. Malo just to get the feel for it. I have never towed anything like that before so I wanted to get the feel of it on a short trip knowing that our big one to Sioux Narrows was coming up. There were a few things to learn but for the most part it was smooth. A lot less set up for the hybrid but more crap to take care of like filling up with water and of course the dreaded dump before you leave. I put some strict bathroom rules in place to make sure it was a little more smooth.

As always St. Malo did not disappoint. The beaches were a little murky for the kids liking but we found the east beach a little more clear. We found the best place to play in the water was at the river on the south side of the park where people drop in their tubes. I was there with the dog the night before so on our last day we all went in the morning to play and explore. It was so nice that we decided we would likely just spend our last day down there. That was until we were walking back and Shan noticed Penny fussing over her leg. At first we thought the pests were getting to her and then we noticed the BLOOD. Lots of it running down her leg. I got her to the vet quick in St. Pierre Joly and in less than an hour they had her all stitched up. It looks as though she was impaled on a stick or something but it’s hard to know. The worst part for her is the cone she has to wear for the next 12 days. The worst for us was leaving her behind as we took off for 5 days in Sioux Narrows.

   St. Malo 2017 Album

Blue Lake 2016

Last year we camped at Blue Lake on the way to Thunder Bay and the kids loved it. This year we asked the Ratte’s and Morrison’s to meet us there for what would be the most epic camping trip to date!

We were supposed to leave on Sunday but I received a text from Paul letting me know that they were going up Friday. I looked online and could not get the site I booked early so I figured I would just stick to the Sunday departure time. After talking with Shan we decided to pick up a different site for the extra couple of days and we rushed to get packed and ready to leave Friday morning. Seven days is officially the longest we have been camping as a family to date.

campers

Now camping with friends makes it all worthwhile. The kids just entertained themselves it seemed. Lexi was gone from the moment we stepped outside until bedtime. She played with Alyssa, did hand knitting, played games, and read her chapter book by the fire. Ashlyn has become such a swimmer this year it was hard to keep her out of the water. She also kept busy collecting worms, teasing the boys, and playing with her babues. She also loves to play with Haddon so when he arrived she was in heaven. It was such a nice trip.

More Photos

Camping tips for Blue Lake:

Firewood: The first night we arrived I bought firewood at the park like a dummy. I spent $21.00 on 3 tiny bundles that we burnt through sparingly between 6pm and midnight. I like to have fire in the morning sometimes as well so you figure at least 4 bundles a day at $7 each will add another $170 to the fire over the 6 days there. On top of the $300 we paid for the site that adds up. On the second day Paul and I drove to Oxdrift Country Store (about 20 mins past Vermillion Bay). There we met a nice lady who was selling 3 larger bundles of wood for $10. She ended up giving us 12 bundles for $35 which we burnt constantly at $3.00/bundle. Feel free to call ahead to make sure she has stock 1 (807) 937-4052.

The Poopers: At first I always liked Blue Lake for it’s flush toilets. It added that taste of home just in case you wanted to rough it and still have the dignity that comes with a flushable toilet. Of course you must bring your own toilet paper from home. This year I found it much better in the “plop toilets”. My reasoning for this is simply for the privacy it provides and the accessibility. I found myself competing for the flushers too often. Walking toward them with my toilet paper in hand and making eye contact with another camper who also has toilet paper in hand…both our pace quickening…butt cheeks clenched in anticipation just to be elbow to elbow in those tiny stalls! Not me, this year I went plopper. Just me and the clicking the of the automated light timer. Use as much toilet paper as you like in there as well because you’re not going to bung anything up.

Dogs: Bring em. There are lot’s of dogs here and as long as you keep them off the beach nobody complains. There is basically a “no dogs past this point” line on the beach but it’s reasonably close so you can bring your dog to the beach and sit a little further back with your pet and still go in the water. I also noticed several spots for them to swim off the hiking trails so that is nice too.

Busters BBQ: Just because you are camping doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself! “Busters” is a five minute drive from your campsite and guess what? It’s air-conditioned and there are no bugs inside. It was super nice on our last night to break away from cooking and eating in the heat and covered in bugs. Make a reservation though (1-807-227-5256) because we went on a Wednesday night and it was packed.

Vegas Baby

OK, Shan hates when people ask me “how was Vegas?” – I usually go on a rant about taking the bus in that heat, how the Luxor can’t take a reservation, and just an overall lack of WI-FI. Truth is we had a great time with great friends and the city is something you have to see at some point in your life. I loved the people from all over the world I chatted with while sipping whip cream drinks at 9am playing poker tournaments each morning we were there.

We ate and drank like kings from “Ramsey’s Burgr” and food as far as the eye can see at the “Spice Market Buffet”. Also had an amazing lunch at a place outside Caesars Palace called “Serendipity” worth visiting for their frozen hot chocolate. I even went Lone Wolf one day and took auntie Barb’s advice to check out the In & Out Burger just off the strip. I was talking to a local in front of me in line and he told me to order “Animal Fries”. Apparently there is some kind of secret menu they don’t advertise but is still available if you ask for it. Don’t let anyone tell the shake is something special there though. Also the place was packed to the balls and although the food was good and cheap it still wasn’t worth the 30 minute wait in line. Glad I went though if that makes sense, it was something I had to check out.

Do’s and Don’t in Vegas

  • Groupon like a savage before you leave. Spice Market Buffet has a great one, or at least they did.
  • fly direct.
  • Take the bus or cab to a supermarket off the strip and buy a bunch of water, fruit, snacks, for the hotel. Price of a bottled water at the hotel was $4.
  • Wear comfy shoes. There is a lot to see and everything is further than it looks.
  • Walk indoors whenever possible. Most of the hotels are linked by skywalks and trams.
  • Cabs can be hard to get at night at the busy places like the MGM. Walk across to the Flamingo and get a cab no problem.
  • There are $45 poker tourneys throughout the day. Good way to extend the playing time and down some drinks on the casino.
  • At the Luxor the big $20 drinks you buy at the casino for the refills are not allowed in the pool area. There is another $20 cup you need there. You can avoid this by taking the plastic cups from the pool and two-fisting those on your way in.
  • Careful flushing the toilets at the Luxor.

Shan and I went to this show called “Zombie Burlesque” at the MGM. It was the best show we saw on the trip and I would highly recommend it to someone heading out there.

It was so good to see Mel and Jeff too considering we haven’t seen them since our wedding. Joel and Jen met them for the first time and it was like we had all been friends for years. Jeff even said how much he enjoyed meeting Joel and Jen and just how easy the whole trip was. A trip I will truly remember for a long time.

Of course we missed the kids while we were there and after almost a week away it was great to reunite with them. Huge thanks to Gerrie for looking after the girls and making it possible for us to go on this adventure. It was awesome and overwhelming all at the same time.