Combine a couple of weeks, three prairie provinces, very summery weather with blue skies, long stretches of highway flanked by a mixture of endless fields, leafy green trees, and watery patches of all shapes and sizes, add a motorhome and you have a formula for a pleasant memorable adventure. But add an air conditioner and you have hit Nirvana. Oh, and a can of bug spray, too.

We left Edmonton, headed south and then east avoiding the floods that hit the Calgary area. Our travels took us across Saskatchewan into small towns like Gull Lake (where David's father was born).

We came through Regina during a Supermoon. We pulled into a deserted campground in Grenfell. Just us and one other rig. We got our first hint as to how annoying the biting bugs would be.

We crossed into Manitoba and decided to drop down to Highway 2 and visit Souris. About this time, I began my capture photographically of vintage buildings and signs like the majestic grain elevators, giant monoliths that dot the prairies alongside the railway tracks, and the chocolate shop sign in Souris.

Made our way past Winnipeg using the Perimeter Highway, and out Hwy 12 to Anola and finally to Beausejour, the town of my youth.

From there we visited Lac du Bonnet for Canada Day fireworks and a very profitable farmers market (my books sold out in only a few hours), Lockport (home of the vintage Skinners restaurant famous for its hotdogs), and Milner Ridge to see pink Ladyslippers.

Homebound, we are on an ambling route from the Polo Park mall in Winnipeg to Oakville (home of a massive elevator), Gladstone (watch for the Mennonite peoples and their horse and buggy transports), Neepawa with its garden-class Riverside Cemetery, Minnedosa, Birtle, and Foxwarren, all towns dotted charmingly with vintage buildings.

Finally on to Russell and Inglis (you must see the long line of royalty here - huge vintage elevators), and overnight in Aesissippi Park alongside a fast-flowing creek with lots of mosquitoes. A beautiful spot that was hard to leave, but we have commitments at home.

From here, we have a business appointment in Saskatoon. Then through the Battlefieds to Lloydminster, and finally home, embracing the wide blue prairie skies and hot summer sun all the way. not another word for "wow."
Sheree says...

You climb out of bed, gather up the trash to take to the curb because it is pick-up day, and this sight greets your bleary eyes. Not a good way to start any day.

We usually have our RV tucked neatly up on our driveway where it blocks my car in. So, yesterday, to let me out, David parked the rig on the main street where we have parked it before. With no issue. But not last night.

Someone, with too much time and very little smarts, did drive-by graffiti on our motorhome. David was not impressed when I confirmed that the rig had been vandalized.

ZOOZA! What a stupid thing to write. But the good news is that they did not write worse words, and they wrote on only one part of the rig. Now to clean it off.

First came the Magic Eraser (worked before, might work again). It worked only slightly. Then came the kitchen scrubber. That was working, very slowly, but it was moreso working to make David steaming mad. So, I posted to Facebook. That is when a friend popped up and suggested something else.

PictureDavid with his happy camper face after 45 minutes of WD40 and elbow grease.
He suggested WD40, the lubricant that we are probably all aware of as a great product for getting stuck things unstuck, but it also works for getting spray paint graffiti off any painted surface.

Thanks to our friend, Bud Tymko, for that advice.

Lessons learned:
  1. WD40 is a must-have on your RV supply list
  2. Motorhomes parked on public streets are in danger of abuse and damage. Don't leave an RV on a public street if you can help it
  3. Facebook is full of great friends with great advice
  4. ZOOZA (according to my son and the Urban Dicitionary) means, "An electric coffee grinder used to chop up weed." Sheesh!

PictureI would like to credit this art that I found floating around on Facebook, but I cannot. It is wonderful whoever did it.

Sheree says....

You would think that after 3 kids and 9 grandkids, that I would be unbelievably smart...all the time. But alas, it is not the case.

We recently bought a very expensive product at the local RV show. We honestly thought it was a must-have after seeing the gunky graveyard of bugs that had accumulated on our cab-over and our motorhome grill. So we forked out nearly $30 for "Slick Auto Shot" bug spray.

The can says, "You will never have to scrub those pesky bugs off your auto again." Sounded like Nirvana to us. So I sprayed it liberally on the grill and all the areas of the rig facing the highway, the areas where the in-transit bugs would splatter.

(Thank God I was not in a position to also spray the cab-over. Sheesh. We would still be scrubbing.)

Need exercise? Then this is the product for you. If you have the time to scrub, and scrub, and scrub.
What the product's manufacturer does NOT indicate, however, is how much scrubbing you will have to do to get the bug spray off your rig!

See how happy David is? See that mucky mess of grime held fast to the rig by the bug-free spray? A hot, soapy sponge could not budge this stuff. It came off the chrome grill okay, but not off the paint. Grrrr....
David unhappily scrubbing off bug spray gunk and road grime.
The only advisory that comes with the spray is "Do Not Apply on Windshield." God help you if you get any of this stuff on glass. Be prepared to scrub! And I mean....SCRUB!

But scrub with what? Water will not remove this stuff. So what other cleaner will make this mess go away?

We began to experiment.

First came the Goo Gone and paper towels. This method worked on teeny sections, but there was way too much surface area for this inefficient method.

Next, we tried a kitchen scrubber (sponge on one side, gritty scrubber on the other). This worked somewhat, but we were concerned about what the gritty side was doing to the paint finish, so we dumped that idea. Besides, it was slow and ponderous.

Then I had a flash. What new-fangled product removes waxy, greasy stuff off walls? (My years of experience as a mother and nana were kicking in.)  Of course. That would be Mr. Clean "Magic Erasers." I also had LIFE brand erasers that I buy at Shoppers Drug Mart, so I tried those.
And the winner is?
We hit pay-dirt. The Magic Erasers worked. Along with much elbow grease, that is.

Hours later, much later, the lesson was learned.

Anti-stick bug spray is meant for GRILLWORK only! It must NOT be sprayed on glass or the motorhome body.

Next time, I will use inexpensive PAM cooking spray on the grill and keep my dollars for more important things like Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream bars. :)

Next adventure?

Our very first Good Sam Alberta Samboree in Irvine, Alberta, June 19-23, 2013. We are very much looking forward to it. Bugs and all. :)

(Watch for my inspired use of pipe insulation as we continue our Albertan battle against cold night temps.)

We get beautiful sunrises and sunsets in Alberta.
PictureBrass Quick Connect Coupling Set
David says...

I have it on good authority that I sound like Donald Duck when I am trapped outside our cozy RV in the rain, trying to connect the stinking hose to the stinking pedestal in the stinking campground.

It's a mess: my hands fumble with the stupid end of the stupid hose and the damn thing won't turn the way it's supposed to. And when it's all connected and I turn on the stupid water, it shoots out on both stupid ends of the hose.

This is the point at which I will stop, briefly reflect on my predicament, and revisit the outraged Donald Duck  sounds.

It's exactly what you want, right? At the end of a long day behind the wheel, to stand in the stupid rain making sounds like an annoyed cartoon waterfowl.

But you can put an end to your Donald Duck show!

See those wonderful things in the shot above?

They are half of a Quick Connect Coupling set. One connects to the RV outlet, while the other connects to the campground water supply.

You know what makes these beautiful? You simply pull back on a coupling unit and click it smoothly into place. No spurts of water. No messing with the hose. No duck sounds.

The key to doing this properly is to get brass fittings (which ran us about $16 at the hardware store or Canadian Tire for a complete set) as opposed to the much poorer plastic varieties. Ours comes with a two year guarantee.


It's really a lovely system that pays you back double your investment in terms of self respect the very first time you use it.

PS See the image below...the couplers store beautifully in the city water compartment on the RV.

"YARDWORKS" brand: Brass QUICK CONNECT Coupling Set
PictureOur first day with our new rig just hours away from our newbie mishap
Sheree says...

There is no horror like the cold horror of being in the dark, on a mountain road, in the middle of nowhere, and the RV engine is dead.

Do we need a Good Sam membership?

That's the question I asked myself during my research in prepping to collect our used motorhome from a British Columbia dealership.

As RV owners for the very first time, we were completely clueless as to driving a motorhome, propane usage, generators, solar power, holding tank dumps, and club memberships. We had heard of Good Sam, and we had seen the Good Sam sign on campgrounds, but we have AMA coverage. Did we really need Good Sam, too?

Luckily, for us, I decided that we did need a membership. And bought one online. Ironically, we used that membership almost immediately on a lonely stretch of highway, in the mountains, in the dark, between Revelstoke and Golden, B.C. (within hours of pulling away from the dealership in Salmon Arm).

Here is how it went:

After a night and a morning at Country Camping, we felt we had had enough tutoring to comfortably hit the road. We pulled out, the very definition of "happy campers," innocent of the shock that was to come.

We ambled for a few hours, enjoying the freedom that comes with a motorhome: making tea, exploring tourist spots, taking photographs, and finally stopping to take a much needed rest.

We pulled over late afternoon in a trucker turnout. I laid down to catch a nap. My husband, David, decided to catch up on some computer work and treat himself to tunes on our new stereo. But he made a wee mistake. It could have been a devastating mistake were it not for Good Sam.

I awoke a couple of hours later, refreshed and happy. David wore a big smile. He nodded. We silently agreed that we had found the good life.

We decided to get back on the road. It was chilly outside and the gloom was deepening. We wanted to get closer to Alberta where we would be getting the rig safety-checked and registered since we had bought her out-of-province.

We settled into our seats and David turned the ignition key. Nothing. Just clicks. Oh, dear God. He tried again. Clicks.

We stared at each other in horror. Had we bought a lemon? We were still clueless as to how much power we had to stay warm. And we had no idea what to do for an engine that would not turn over.

Our first thought was to call the dealership, but it was closed. No help there. We began to panic. That's when I remembered.

Only a day before, something had arrived in the mail: our Good Sam paperwork and tiny key tag that we had slipped onto our key ring. I examined it and discovered a number. Honestly, I did not expect much help, not way up in the mountains, and not at night. But...

David called the Good Sam number and a young man answered. Fear had made David short on patience and he fairly growled at the man, but the Good Sam rep calmed him down, got our membership number, our GPS coordinates, and then he began to work his magic.

Within a few minutes, we were assured that a tow truck (one big enough to tow our rig, should that be necessary) had been dispatched and would reach us within 45 minutes.

David and I looked at each other, still in shock. Really? Was it that easy? One call and help was on the way? I was still skeptical.

Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, through the gloom, we saw a huge tow truck, headlights blazing. The friendliest man, Bill with Columbia Towing, jumped out and came over to assess our situation. He convinced us to try a jump start first and while he hooked up, he regaled us with a story about a man with a brand new BMW, a dead battery, and a happy ending.

My heart leapt as our engine rumbled to life. Bill disconnected the cables and continued to chatter. We asked what we owed him for the visit and the boost. His answer made our jaws drop: Nothing. Not a cent.

David and I said good-bye and clambered back into our rig. Bill had advised us to keep driving for at least an hour to charge the battery. We were only too happy to oblige. From then on, it was smooth sailing, not a single issue.

Are you wondering about our dead battery?

David would rather I don't tell, but there is a key position on the steering column that is meant for playing a stereo when the vehicle is not running: Accessories. David did not use that setting; he had 1/2 turned the key instead. It took only a couple of hours of grooving to tunes to completely deplete the chassis battery. It is something that will NEVER happen again.

But there is something that will happen again. We will pay for a Good Same membership every year for as long as we own a motorhome.

Thank you, Good Sam!

Oh, and the good times? We are headed to our very first Alberta "Samboree" in a week. We have heard nothing but good things about these get-togethers.

BTW, with huge kudos to the folks at Country Camping, our rig amazed the Alberta safety service technicians. It was perfect. Our 2005 Travelaire has been an absolute joy to own and use.

  1. Good Sam has mobile apps for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone
  2. Good Sam offers 20 emergency medial and travel services
  3. Good Sam will bring emergency fuel, do battery jumps, change flat tires, or tow your rig
  4. Good Sam offers assistance in Canada, the U.S, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico
  5. Good Sam benefits include discounts at Camping World
  6. Good Sam is on FACEBOOK

David relieved with the arrival of Columbia Towing
Sheree says...

Get off the power grid and stay in that secret hideaway. Indulge in light and heat without a power cord.


Solar power!

Are you getting into the RV lifestyle? Maybe you have been in the lifestyle for a while, but have still not fully investigated solar power? Or you have decided that solar power does not merit the cost of equipment and installation.

How wrong you are! Don't wait another moment.

Solar power (the initial equipment and installation) may look expensive, but once you have made the investment, you will never look back.

Solar power means freedom. No more plugging in. No more worrying about the AC voltage coming off an old campground power stand. No more being restricted to civilization.

Imagine a power outage in the mountains during a summer snowfall. Your family stuck in a poorly insulated and unheated trailer or motorhome will be miserable. But that doesn't happen with solar power.

Even without bright sunshine, the solar battery charges, miraculously. With full sun, the results are fast and furious.

Should you decide to go ahead, be sure you speak to a knowledgeable dealer first. You will need at least a single solar panel, a battery (preferably two 6 volt or 12 volt) in which to store the solar power, an inverter, and a solar controller. Here is a tool to help calculate your power needs: GoPower

A bit of an education is advisable, too: how batteries work, how they discharge and charge, the ins and outs of wattage, volts, and amp hours, and the care of solar panels.

After reviewing your family's amp hours usage requirements (light, heat, entertainment), you will be very able to determine how much power you will need to last several days off the grid in that secret hideaway fishing spot. Or even just to take advantage of free parking in a Walmart parking lot.

Solar power is free and clean. Maintenance is minimal. Clean off the dust and dirt or snow...and you will be good to go.

Cost? Stay free and off the grid for only a couple of weeks using solar power...and you will see your solar power investment pay for itself.

I promise! As the sun is my witness. :)

Portable solar power solutions in Canada
More info on solar power kits

Sheree says....

We have just attended our first (and the very first RVDA annual) RV learning weekend. What an eye-opener.

The good news is that we made many smart decisions like installing solar power and an electric fan.

The bad news is that we made some mistakes like using tap water instead of distilled water to top up the coach batteries.

About 90 people, mostly couples, attended the RVDA event held east of Red Deer, Alberta at the Ol' MacDonalds resort on Buffalo Lake.

Friday was reserved for arrival and a "meet and greet," while Saturday and Sunday were stuffed full of seminars overflowing with must-have info for the newbie and seasoned RV owner.

Don't know how to empty the poop chute (the black water tank)? That was covered in all the gory details. (Kidding) Dumping the holding tanks is not as scary nor as disgusting as it might sound. Clever tips shared by John Clarke and KC (2 Guys RV Education) makes the process simple and sanitary.

Want to boondock off the grid? Never let plugged-in power stop you from adventuring again. Doug Grafton of Carmanah Technologies gave a packed schoolroom the lowdown on batteries and solar power. We had already installed a solar panel when we purchased our rig, but we still had questions. Doug visited our motorhome, took a look at our set-up, answered our questions, and gave us his stamp of approval.

Other seminars included RV plumbing, towing tips, rig customizing, RV insurance, and RV checklists. All were well attended.

Saturday night included a hearty beef dinner, entertainment, door prizes, and a bonfire.

Sunday was still full of seminars into mid afternoon, but we were allowed a late checkout time by the resort, so no rushing was necessary. That's good since a black water tank dump was part of our "strike camp and get going" ritual. No rushing that.

David and I wish to extend our heartiest thanks and congratulations on a very successful first-time event to the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Alberta. We look forward to many more of your educational get-togethers.

Special thanks to John and KC (2guysrveducation), Doug Grafton, and the folks with AVIVA and RV Direct insurance.

BTW, the Ol' MacDonald resort is very pleasant. An early morning walk to the lake is a must. Especially for birders and photographers. A feast for the ears and eyes.

Our messy but very comfortable Gypsy Turtle abode
Sheree says...

We arrived in Kalispell, Montana on a bright, sunny afternoon. Not much sleep the night before because we drove most of the night. So, we are tired. We want to stop the world and rest. With no camping fees.

That means boondocking or "dry camping." No plug-ins. So, we go in search of a friendly big box store parking lot.

We tried the Home Depot where the manager said too many slobs spoiled it for everyone else. Who in their right mind would dump tanks on pavement? Pigs! But they did and now motorhomes are not welcome overnight at Home Depot.
He suggested Walmart up the road.

A Walmart customer service rep said the police are cracking down on overnighters. But the assistant manager, Ray, told us to go ahead and park. Too early in the season to be bothered by cops.

Thank goodness. And look at that view.

Photo by Sheree Zielke
An Alberta sunset shot from near our motorhome in Elk Island Retreat RV park. Still lots of snow at the end of April.

Sheree says:

I admit it…this whole RV water system, lines and pipes, tubes and pump, and holding tanks…in freezing weather is really freaking me out.

We just picked up our newest acquisition, a used 2005 Travelaire in Salmon Arm, BC, where the dealership was storing it for the winter. When we picked it up, the winterizing had been flushed out and we were able to use the unit as per normal. But we live in Alberta and despite it being the end of April, beginning of May, we still are getting snow and freezing weather.

I realized how cold it had gotten and I began to panic. What if? What if? We have water in all the tanks: the black water, the gray water, and the fresh water tanks. What if? My brain is struggling with just how cold -7 Celsius actually is. I know it is below freezing, but we keep hearing that the magic number or disaster number is -10C. Our unit is in such good condition. Were we newbies stupidly wrecking our unit by inviting frozen lines and cracked holding tanks?

We can legally keep the unit on our street for 72 hours, so we had already decided that we will pull it across our driveway, plug into the house electrical, and run some heaters. That should work, but what if the damage is already done?

I am freaking…and that’s when I look out my kitchen window at the bird bath. I watch as the wind and snow blow around outside causing little tidal waves in the bowl. Waves. Waves? Wait a minute…those are waves. The water in the bird bath has not frozen. Oh, thank God for small miracles.

Tonight, we will take precautions in anticipation of tomorrow night’s -17 Celsius temps.

That and prayer should take us into an Alberta spring and milder temps…FINALLY!

Photo by Sheree Zielke
David waits patiently at the registry for our paperwork

Sheree says...

So, you are thrilled to have purchased your used RV. Nice, but wait...if you bought that new/old motorhome outside of the province you reside in, you will have to jump through a few hoops if you ever want to have it registered in your home province.

How many hoops?

Well, here is my journal of the many steps I took to get the process started:

Where can an Albertan get an out-of-province inspection done on a motorhome?

I called a local RV dealership here in Edmonton and asked a service agent if I could set up an appointment for an inspection with them. Lawrence at Carefree informed me that they don't do inspections there. But he courteously suggested First Truck at 780-413-9422.

The woman at First Truck asked me if my request was personal or commercial, because no personal inspections are done there. She gave me the number for Buses 'R Us at 780-413-6496. They are located at 16750-121 Avenue. Great, thought I. But no...

I called there and hit another wall. Did our unit have air brakes? Buses 'R Us services only rigs with air brakes. Otherwise, motorhomes must be taken to an automotive outlet like Fountain Tire or Canadian Tire. Sigh...

Okay, I had already done some searching around prior and remembered speaking with a friendly fellow at Fountain Tire in Camrose, AB. Since we are picking up our unit in BC, we will come through Camrose, so a stop at a Fountain Tire there seemed like a good plan.

I called...well, I called the wrong outlet first (the Camrose downtown Fountain Tire does not do inspections). The fellow there gave me the number for the outlet on the highway.

I spoke to Dale who confirmed they do out-of-province inspections for motorhomes, but only the smaller ones. Ours is 25-feet, so it was acceptable. Price $225.00 plus tax. We set an appointment for a few days after we pick up the RV from the dealership, giving us time to get to Camrose. I took an 8 AM appointment since the inspection will take 4-5 hours.

The Fountain Tire in Camrose is located on the highway, near the Tim Horton's at 4720- 36 Street.

What will I need before taking my used RV/motorhome for an out-of-province inspection?

Oh boy, another hoop. The RV owner is responsible for picking up an out-of-province inspection form from any licensing/registry agency. Without one, the automotive outlet cannot perform the inspection. Be sure to have your sale papers and your insurance papers when you go.

Great news!
We went to our neighborhood registry and discovered there would be no running around looking for a registry in B.C. because we could get, along with our out-of-province inspection form, the in-transit permit, dated for any day we wished, and good for 7 days from that date.

The process was nearly painless and ended up costing a mere $30.90 for both items: the form and the permit.

Next step? A 13-hour Greyhound bus ride to get us to Salmon Arm, coaching for a day and a half on all the features of the Travelaire, then on to Camrose, and then (if we get the red stamp of approval) we can register the rig.

Hoping there won't be any surprise repairs, although I suspect we may be hearing about shocks needing replacement.

This is proving to be a major monetary undertaking, but we strongly believe the freedom will be worth it. Looking forward to seeing how the new solar panels perform.