Our Travel Blog

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Driving Miss Donna - what does this mean? Whenever I want to go somewhere, if Don is home he will usually drive. He always says he is driving miss Donna! This blog is for our travels, usually with our truck and fifth wheel trailer, but sometimes in our other wheels. When we are not vacationing check in for updates, although less frequent, about our life at home and our wonderful family:)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Not Only Did November Pass...

But I am embarrassed to see December almost has as well.  I believe I said that back in October.

Rather than make a list of excuses, I will simply state we have had an overwhelming November. From work to social life, and many many amazing hours and days spent with our precious family of kids and grandchildren, the time has sped by.

Christmas is fast approaching and besides preparing for the season, we are also preparing for a house guest, my mom, for 2 weeks, and the annual DWS Aggregates Christmas Party.

Here is the "usual" Christmas letter, and I will catch up with you after the big turkey day is over.

Hi everyone.  I won’t start with the traditional where does time go.  This year I know where it goes…
Another year of changes but things stay the same nonetheless.  And I have determined staying the same is just fine with me.  I’m looking at the past year, and using my calendar to see what I want to talk about.
January was full of company – Aunt Doreen and Uncle Micheal, Darrell and Shirley Hueser – and work and my regular visit to Fort McMurray to see the Stecyks.  Don trudged through the frozen north.  See -  same but different.
February was a special month, as we gained another grandbaby.  Mason Theodore Stecyk was born on February 3.  Now I could tell you all about his birth, size, etc. but as you can imagine over 9 months down the road, that has changed.  Suffice to say we love him ridiculously, just like the others.  I got to spend 2 weeks in the north, helping the new mom out and spending time with Connor.  Did you know we have 6 family birthdays in February?  In a family of 11.  In order – Mason, Cal, Emerson, Donna, Jeremy and Connor.  Lots of cake!  LOL
March was also a life changer, as the Stecyks moved to Edmonton from Fort McMurray!  We are so happy to have our girls and their families close to us.  As happy as we are, we waited until the day after Lindsay and Jeremy moved here, then we made our annual trek to the south for a couple of months.  It was a LONG trip this year, as we went all the way to Louisiana, then headed home north through Manitoba/Saskatchewan.  I will take the easy way out by saying if you want to learn about March and April, read our blog at www.drivingmissdonna.blogspot.com.
So flash ahead to May, the month of the annual May long camping trip.  Phenomenal weather, friends and foods.  And more birthdays!  June, July and August more of the same.  Oh and we bought a boat.  An older one, but a pretty blue streak on the water, fits almost our whole family, and power to burn.  It was later in the summer but will provide hours of fishing and tubing for years to come.  We also had a great camping trip with Ken and Brenda, attended our godson Murray’s wedding, had a new furnace installed, new ceiling in the basement, etc.
September we escaped for a few weeks to Washington area, and camped and discovered new places.  Check the blog.
And the fall has sped by too fast to remember.  Don has kept as busy as usual with his company and “working part time”.  I have accepted client after client, along with numerous facilitation opportunities, and will be nothing but glad to sign off the last 2014 invoice and take a breath.
We are so honoured to be a part of our kids’ lives, attend hockey, soccer, swimming, recitals, etc. and be able to drop in for coffee and meals, and just see everyone.  The grandkids are aging fast; Blake - 7, Emerson – 5, Reese – 4, Connor – 2 and Mason – 10 months.  They bring Christmas to our house and hearts all year long.
Love and Merry Christmas!

So that's it.  Don't worry - we are planning our spring trek already, and will get back to blogging when that happens!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hope You Had a Spooktacular Halloween

I'm not in the habit of posting every time something occurs unless we are on vacation, but Halloween seems to warrant a separate grandma post!

Every year we've made it in to Edmonton to see the Camerons and I was excited to also see the Stecyks this year. These things would be easier if the girls didn't live on opposite ends of the city, but a way shorter drive than Fort McMurray. These are the cutest 5 grandchildren and so my apologies to all other grandparents for that!

So here are the photos...

Some of the funny things you don't see from photos. Mason's back "hump" was adorable when he crawled. Emerson wore several different costumes through events this week. My favorite was her school costume of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz:). Reese's favorite teddy is a Dalmatian so I wonder if that influenced the costume. She was actually Arial for all other events. Connor loves monkeys and he is quite practiced at the sounds. Monkey might not have been Lindsay's first choice but the kid has to love it:)
Blake was set on his costume from the start, a Marvel comic character Rocket Racoon. And Mason still just goes with the flow:)

Lots of candy was gathered by all from what I understand. I hope they save me some chocolate!

Talk soon...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

There's Just No Excuse

It's actually embarrassing to see that I haven't posted for a month!  I hope you can appreciate that it only means we've been enjoying the quiet side of being home. 

Although Don has not been flat out busy he has had a steady influx of work, field and office. I've been in the same position as well. My work with the Co-op Board has been heavy, but enjoyable. 

Facilitating for Volunteer Alberta has also increased, and I have a new client with a longer term need, that should take me through the winter. So all is well:)

Our first order of business when we arrived home at the end of September was a family photo shoot. 

I think it's fair to say that this is my favourite!

We had a great Thanksgiving, a day with the family and a beautiful fall drive to see Ivan for a visit before he heads south. Days are spent doing some work, some play and some exercise. 

We've both been fighting some sort of cold/flu, and it has really set me back. I'm struggling with my yoga and weight training as my ears are blocked and I can't seem to move my head around too much without pain or nausea. Hopefully soon I'll be back on track. 

Blake is back into hockey full swing, Emerson and Reese have started playing Ringette, Connor is taking swimming lessons (although I haven't made it to see yet), and Mason moves around the house like a pro!

Don also celebrated a birthday in there and the cake was enjoyed by all. 

Fall is the company's annual safety audit time and I have just started the process. Good thing I like paperwork!

So the days go by and life is great. I will try to touch base a bit more often but sometimes no news is good news!

Friday, September 26, 2014

I've Got a Peaceful Easy Feeling

No we did not go to another Eagle's concert, but I'm sure this song was meant to highlight our second week of travels. 

After leaving Surrey we headed south and east to Wenatchee, Washington.  The skies were a bit overcast and foggy, but nonetheless still created a feeling of peacefulness. 

As I said before we have not travelled this area. Although we were looking forward to new places, we were not prepared for the beauty of the area!  We were primarily on Hiway 2. It climbed and winds through old towns, still vibrant with life and community, as well as coulees and farmland; all along offering a peek into the beauty of fall and what it presents. 

The region is known as the apple capital of Washington, and production was at maximum while we visited. Miles and miles of orchards that offered apples, peaches, nectarines and pears were being harvested. I kid you not when I say it even smelled like apples. 

The trees, row on row, are heavy with the fruit. 

We stayed at Lincoln Rock State Park. This park needs to be visited again. Not only were the campsites roomy and serviced, but they also offer boat mooring, an enormous playground and access to many walking trails. The trees were a mix of oak, maple and poplar, as well as others I didn't recognize. The show of colors almost decadent.  Especially when right out your back window. 

We took the opportunity to tour along theColumbia  River as well as the shores of Roosevelt Lake. 

Wednesday morning we headed off to a new destination. Farragut State Park just north of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Our readers will know this is an old favorite of ours. We spent our day here just wandering the area, and I must admit shopping. 

It has been a quiet little break as we did not set up our US phones and hence did not have wifi and phone service 24/7. That allowed is a few more games of Yahtzee and a few visits to Statbucks for wifi. 

Today we are headed home but first a night with Pat and Walter just south of Calgary. We always enjoy those stops. 

If you don't hear from us for a while  no alarms. We have a busy week when we return home!

Enjoy these days of fall, and check in soon. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Close To Home

Often we forget the amazing opportunities we have almost in our own backyards. It wasn't until I travelled to Japan that I finally understood just how privileged we are to have the Rockies in our province. 

Needless to say then that Jasper National Park is one of our favorite classic areas to camp. So the first night of this short escape was spent there. 

The scenery along the way was just as nature promises at that time of year. The leaves are beginning to change and the colors of summer and fall blend majestically!  Excuse the windshield but that's how most of my photos roll. 

What is a visit to Jasper without a picture of the bear?  However faced with several vertical differences between Don, Jasper and myself, it's not the best. 

After walking the town, stopping in at my favorite stores, and a great dinner back home, the day was complete. 

We set off to Kamloops on Wednesday morning. We have some old friends that live in Falkland, which is about 40 km from Kamloops. The history with Keith and Marcia is that Don went to high school with Keith. After they were married they ventured to British Columbia. Fast forward the years and here we are. We try to touch base every couple of years. The best part is after all that time we still have such wonderful visits. Keith recently was ordained in the Anglican Church, and I only wish I could attend his services. Many challenges and events through his life allow him a unique perspective of life that shows through in conversation. Every darn time we are together we forget to take a picture. Maybe next time!
Normally we would stay at Kamloops RV park, but this time we tried Steelhead Provincial Park. Great choice!  Best spot for 2 nights in the area. 

Friday morning we were off to Surrey and home of Stewart and Susan. As with most visits we abscond their driveway and allow them to play tourist guide. Always a great time - eating, drinking, walking White Rock, eating, drinking, visiting uncle Ed and Auntie Ethel, eating, drinking. You see the theme here?  Oh and this time we added a hike!  Saturday we headed out to Quarry Rock in North Vancouver. Although we are used to elevation changes on our hikes I have to admit the humidity challenged me. And although my hiking boots are broke in, I got the worst blisters for the first time in years.  Thankfully the end of the climb was worth it, as we were greeted with the most inspiring view of North Vancouver!

I was trying to look as tall as the guys. LOL. Still didn't work!

After our descent we lunched at a local pub, then continued our adventures. Ever the patient tour guide, I wanted to see the Lululemon lab, and Stewart complied. 

Anyone who knows me will understand the shattering impact this stop had for me!

With a drive through Stanley Park and a short walk on a beach completed, it was time to... you guessed it - eat and drink!

We had dinner at a fantastic Greek restaurant and enjoyed the warm summer weather on the patio. 

Not to be outdone by Saturday, Sunday found us walking the boardwalk at White Rock. Of course this included EATING and DRINKING!  How exciting to discover that our favorite pub had a Sunday breakfast special with mimosas!   

We had to eat earlier than usual to make room for dinner at Auntie Ethel's. It is always special to visit with Ed and Ethel. They open their hearts and home to us time.  

Tonight we are packing up as tomorrow we are going to venture a bit south, then east to Wenatchee, WA. This is unusual for us as we will be driving completely new territory. 

Talk to you soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hate to talk about the WEATHER!

But it's been quite some time since we had snow in September.  Absolutely disgusting weather for the season, but hopefully we see some Indian Summer now.

This post is mostly about grand-kids, so if you read this for our travels talk to you later...

September so far has been kind of a sad month.  Our grandchildren are growing up way too fast.  I thought that pace might seem slower with grandchildren than it does with your own kids, but not at all.  So sad in that every day we need to capture the memories and file the pictures.

Mason - well Mason feels like our last chance to hold and cuddle a bundle of babyness :(  He is 7 months old now, and his smile is ever present and fills your heart.  It is so great to watch him learning to get up on all fours, laugh at his brother, and just hold him.

Connor - nothing more precious than a 2 year old!  Connor takes delight in all things that move - trucks, planes, trains, loaders, tractors, school busses, etc.  He is happy, funny and ever cuddly.  But because he is 2, sometimes you are told no when you want a kiss or hug.  LOL

Reese - Sweet Reese, who should still be Mason's age, has all of a sudden grown up.  She is in pre-school 3 days a week, and loving it.  She is the coolest little 3 year old, soon to be 4, that I know.  So independent.  And quick with a hug.

Emerson - There has never been a little girl ready for Kindergarten as much as Emerson, except maybe her mom at that age.  Emerson soaks up life with a big smile, and has quite the outlook on things.  Conversations with her are always entertaining and her hugs are easily shared.

Blake - Grade 2, hockey evaluations, etc.  All the signs of growing up.  The other day after hockey we had a great conversation, which was so sad for me.  Little kids don't have conversations, so this new grown up skill is just another indicator he is getting old.

All of the kids are quick to hug, still act excited no matter how many times we see them in a week, and we live them all like crazy.

The whole family got together on the long weekend to help Lindsay and Jeremy build a shed.  The guys built, the girls cooked, and I took 3 of the kids to an indoor play gym called the Treehouse.  Fantastic place!

My mom stayed with us for almost 2 weeks this month, while my brother and his wife had a break.  It coincided with Don working away, and I enjoyed the company.  It was so wonderful having her around.  I may have exhausted her taking her all over, visits with the kids, dinners out, a fishing day, shopping and hockey and ringette practices...  But she has gone back to my brother's now and is probably sleeping.

I also had my cousin Diane and her son Rylan visit.  Rylan has just been sworn into the Canadian military, and is on his way to Quebec for basic training.  I really enjoyed my visit with Diane, and she really needed a friend by her side as she waved good-bye to her son on Saturday.

Tomorrow Don and I are getting on the road for a couple of weeks.  People still always ask me if we are taking the trailer.  Yes we are.  How else can I pack everything I want, all my exercise stuff, and still be in the comfort of our own home.  Trust me if we ever go on a holiday and hotel it, you will know, as we will probably both be cranky (in a good way I hope).  I'm not really sure where we are headed but first night stop is Jasper, and after that you will have to read the blog to find out.

Enjoy the rest of the month - the weather is predicted to be nice, school and schedules are settling in, and Don is Driving Miss Donna.  Doesn't get better than that!

Monday, September 1, 2014

“It’s a Great Day to be Alive"

“It’s a great day to be alive, I know the sun’s still shinin’ when I close my eyes / There’s some hard times in the neighbourhood, but why can’t every day be just this good?”

SInce I like songs so much I picked this one to talk about August.  What did we do in August?  Well nothing really, just went to a Rod Stewart concert, enjoyed a 5 day camping and boating trip by ourselves, went to the zoo with the girls and our fantastic grandkids, had the basement insulated and a new ceiling put in, had supper with the Ken Smith family and some of ours in Saskatoon, attended our incredible godson Murray's wedding to the beautiful Stacy, visited Don's mom and dad in Tisdale, had the Cameron kids for a 2 night sleepover, numerous coffees and visits with friends, completed the company year end, Co-op meetings and finished it off with a few days at the amazing Abraham Lake, camping by ourselves but having company drop in.


Talk to you in September

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Fun Side of Life

Now that I've bored you with house details let's talk trailer life!

We spent 4 days at Ole MacDonald's Resort with the girls and their families. It was perfect weather, perfect activities and perfect people. So nice to have some family time with everyone in a setting where the kids are so happy. 

Pictures say a thousand words so here they are:)

Our next trailer adventure was a trip to Saskatchewan to join Ken and Brenda. I think we were more excited to hear that they bought a trailer than they were to have it!  We spent a lovely two days together. Slow and easy days visiting and catching up. Life has sped by for us and now we are all grandparents, enjoying our families and long healthy marriages. It's great to be able to share that with them. 

 I had meant to take at least one more photo but here we are.

Home for a day and then we were off again. Here's our newest news. WE BOUGHT A BOAT!

So our next adventure, after trying to ensure that all parts and pieces were working, the Journey had a hitch, etc was a trip to Cross Lake. I was tentative about this journey with my Journey, but was pleased with how it pulled and the experience. Don has been a saint in teaching me to back up, hook up and everything else involved. Not unexpected we had a few mechanical snags, but we are very pleased with the performance of the boat, and the power of the motor. It is a 1985 16' Edson with a 140HP Evinrude. Out first trip was to ensure it floats, followed by an evening fishing outing. Don caught this magnificent perch. 

I caught air. 

The next day Tracy and the kids came out to try the tube. We had a delay due to the warning horn, which turned out to be done and needed replacing. But the kids were oh so patient and we finally got them out!

I can't wait for the next trip, and days and weeks to follow as they grow up enjoying the water. Hopefully we can find a time that Lindsay and her family and our schedules work so they can join us for a day this summer, but if not we have forever. 

I also forgot to tell you about our beach lunch with everyone. Lindsay and Jeremy live on the south side of Edmonton in a community called Summerside and they have a beach!  It's so cool. 

Anyway I'm sure I've missed lots of adventures. Some day I will tell you about our new adjustments in health and exercise, but for now we are getting ready to head out for an overnight visit to a retirement party for a colleague of Don's. 

Enjoy life - we are!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Updates and Fixes

Well I did tell you that after our Yellowknife I would slow my posts down. True!

But our time at home has hardly been at home, which is a trend for us it seems. 

Every year we do some home repairs, maintenance and cosmetic surgery to our little house. This year we decided to take the leap and install a new furnace. This is a hard decision to make because although the existing furnace is the original it has never had a problem. The professionals will agree that the call outs and higher percentage of problems today are the newer furnaces with electronics galore. But estimated at over 40 years old, we knew we were starting to play roulette. So one thing leads to another and the first order of business prior to the furnace was a full duct cleaning. Then the furnace. 

Next on the list of house things was upstairs painting. The last time the main living space was done was about 15 years ago. We had since then updated the main floor bathroom and the offices, but the living room, dining room and kitchen were in bad need. Now why not throw in the cupboards for good measure?  And so began the vigil of taking down art, cleaning things up and moving furniture. 

The painter, who is a wonderful gentleman, is almost finished. I can only say his skills are evident and we are thrilled we chose him. There is a noticeable difference from the last one, mostly in the prep work, which of course affects the final results so much. 

Next on the itinerary is replacement of all the ceiling tiles in the basement. For all of our basement party friends I know you are sorry to see the orange tiles go. But life moves forward. 

The last house fix this year is new carpet in the bedroom. Our room seems to be last for flooring etc. but is going to be great to have done. 

I think the interior is done now. Maybe backsplash in the kitchen some time but no rush. 

I already have plans for next years work, but it will be outdoor items. 

Our little home looks fresh, clean and updated. Or it will once the furniture and pictures are back in place!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Last Days in Northwest Territories

Our plan for this trip was to be in Yellowknife for the solstice, but as mentioned earlier we didn't make reservations soon enough. So we departed Yellowknife yesterday with reservations at Hay River. This gave us the opportunity to day trip to Fort Smith and be somewhat north for the solstice, as well as visit some portion of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The trip to Fort Smith was uneventful. However the one challenge I haven't talked much about on this trip is the bugs. Namely horseflies and mosquitoes. We have never encountered so many of these in all our travels, including Alaska. They have been so bad that at times we have limited our walking and hiking and sitting outside. Add to that the fire bans and evening fire pit visits have been seldom. 

The trip to Fort Smith was the first time we allowed those nasty critters to totally stop our sightseeing and walking plans though. We applied 2 layers of bug repellent and still couldn't gain any comfort. So we took some photos of the salt flats but not from too close. And we couldn't get anywhere close to the rapids on Slave River for a great photo.

But the town of Fort Smith was a pleasant surprise!  Don had visited a few years ago during a work trip, and noted that the community seemed to have pulled up its boot straps in the cleanliness area. We observed the residential areas, and although the businesses weren't plentiful, they were very nice. And I had the best cappuccino this trip at the Rusty Raven Gallery and Gifts. I can guarantee you that is a strong determining factor for me!

Although the roads were not very busy on this day trip we did encounter these young men making their way south. Quite friendly, although they were looking a little bushy.

Our solstice evening was spent visiting and reminiscing. A perfect end to the NWT part of this adventure. 

We are starting the journey home tomorrow, and although Don and I would typically drive the 10 hours and just be there, we are going to take a few days and relax.  Don has mentioned several times that when we return to Alberta highways he will kiss the pavement.  Turns out he was correct.  I didn't know he was this traumatized!  LOL

This trip to the Territories has been amazing. The scenery is breathtaking. The skies endless blue oceans. The waters and waterfalls strong, you easily fall in the spells they cast, making you want to see more or spend just another few moments watching.  You gain a new respect for the people who live here, as it is easy to imagine the challenges the weather offers in the winter months. But also easy to imagine the land covered in a still prairie whiteness, and the sense of community that weather and these roads require. Miles of endless trees line lanes of highway, spattered with wildlife, allow your imagination to wander as you travel. 

I'm not sure if you will hear from us for a while, until our next adventure. We are spending a few days with all our kids at Ole MacDonald's Farm by Stettler. CANNOT wait to have all our babies on the beach together!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our Most Northern Stop

On this trip...  We were farther on our Alaska trip in 2009

So Yellowknife?  Home to the Canadian Shield, an old community surrounded by new and diverse things. From a bustling centre to rather desolate areas, in 0 to 10 seconds.  Surrounded by more rocks and water bodies than I've seen, but reminiscent of Newfoundland as well. There is no doubt this is a dynamic and unusual place. 

And this campground finally had water. Now don't think we ran out because we didn't. Besides being great at dry camping our trailer has huge tanks. But I will admit we were at the end of our supply when we arrived. And the fill hose was slow, and I mean really slow. Oh well!

So set up, and ready to explore. Off we went in search of?  LOL. You guessed it, Boston Pizza!  When in Rome...  And then off for a few groceries. I can honestly say in all our travels this is the first place where the food prices made my eyes a bit googly. Especially items like milk and frsh produce. Oh and as I discovered the next day - alcohol!

Wednesday we started out relaxing and resting. We really don't slow down much in these holidays and it is always nice to stay somewhere 3 nights and get In a full 2 days of touring. I made an appointment for a tour of Buffalo Airways, the same place Ice Pilots is filmed. What a FANTASTIC idea!!  I must commend this company for the open arms stance they take with visitors. Tours are booked at lunch time as to not get in the way of the action, mechanics and planes, etc.  This tour was free, and upon completion it compares with any paid tour we've ever been on. They are welcoming of all questions and inquisitive minds, and let you walk around and through anywhere you wish. 

When we first were taken on the apron, and saw the DC3, the tour guide noticed the door closed and said she would try to get us in before we were done. Right at that time a gentleman came over and said hey take them in, let's get the door opened. And that was Joe McBryan, the owner. He first offered himself up for photos, then made sure the DC3 was accessible, and invited everyone in and made sure we knew the best angles for photos in the pilot seat, etc. his son Mikey once described him as a combination of Howard Hughes and Al Bundy, and I would have to say that might be accurate. What a non assuming personable guy!

So the tour continued to wow us as we saw more DC3's, a C46, CL215 water bomber, and several bird dogs, and parts and parephanalia. We spent a lot of time in the hangar, which incidentally once was owned by Ward Air and stands on 6 feet of cement, to counteract any permafrost issues that might arise. 

Don was studying a rotary motor (R2800 twin wasp radial engine) he believed was nicknamed the corncob, which the tour guide wasn't able to confirm, when a mechanic on his way back from lunch stopped to talk. It was Chuck!

Again I cannot say enough about Buffalo Airways, simply because of their open door approach and friendliness!  We picked up a few souvenirs,my-shirts and a stunning coffee table book about the business and staff. 

The DC3 in our pictures was actually at Normandy on D Day and flew paratroopers behind enemy lines. This year, on the 70th Anniversary, Joe told us he flew 12 Canadian and 12 American Special Forces for a commemorative jump. The circular decal shows the date, squadron etc  

Today I found a nice "little" walk that led to Cameron Falls. There were some obstacles on the way though. The Ingram Trail, highway 4, is under construction almost every time you turn a corner or go up and down. And roads here appear to be mostly blasted rock underlays, so it was unique. 

Second obstacle was I thought it was a gentle 1km walk, however I was out to lunch. It was about a 6km up and down climb, sometimes over bedrock, sometimes up man made stairs, and other times through bush. The reward?  The most breathtaking falls of the trip!  I think Don, Paul and Mary forgave me eventually. I will let the rest of these photos finish the story. 

Tomorrow we off to Hay River, as a place to rest the trailer.  Our real destination on Saturday is Wood Buffalo National Park!  Talk to you after that trip...