Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Trans Canada Highway

That sounds impressive, a road going all the way across Canada, stitching together British Columbia with Newfoundland, and along the way including all the southern provinces, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec) plus all the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland but not Labrador). That's 4860 miles of highway. But I have to tell you it's not what I thought it would be.

Most of the highway is a winding, two-lane country-type road. Occasionally there are sections with three lanes, and around some of the larger cities, it's even 4 lane divided. But the majority is 2 lanes, and it is winding, not limited access; there are lots of traffic lights as you go through the towns. And the speed limit is like something out of the US in the 1970's.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who remembers when speed limits were reduced to 55 MPH back then.  Beginning in Manitoba, that's about what it is – 90 km/h, which is just about 57 miles per hour. The fines for speeding are steep, starting at $95 and increasing with your speed. For someone who has a place they want to be to start a major trip, it's really hard to keep my speed down. But I remember getting a ticket in Canada 4 years ago (Banff National Park) and I'm determined not to get another one! The best thing though, is that there are not very many trucks! I'm not sure how goods get transported in Canada, but the roads are almost blissfully free of those behemoths. 
Thunder Bay roadside rest 
Alberta was OK, some interesting topography, although not a lot. Saskatchewan was flat and straight.  It was so flat that the lakes and ponds were at the same level as the ground around it. They looked more like a puddle on the road (although a very LARGE puddle!). It was so uninteresting that I didn't even take photos.  Nor did I take photos in Manitoba, which had a little more rolling hills. It wasn't till I was in Ontario that I thought I might like to do this blog post, and realized that I didn't have any photos to go with it.

Through Ontario
On Wednesday, I started taking some photos out the windshield as I was driving (or stopped at a constructions site). They certainly show the winding country nature of the road.

Some of the characteristics that I saw of the different provinces were in the nature of both road signs and stuff growing along the road.  Saskatchewan had the lakes that I mentioned above, and there were lots and lots of reed-type things growing up in patches. It made me wonder if it might be wild rice. Manitoba was notable for the fields of sunflowers.  They seemed shorter than the ones that grow in my garden, but all their heads were pointed toward the sun. In Manitoba, it was the signs for moose that intrigued me – lots and lots of signs for moose. I didn't see one, but saw a lot of signs.  Once I got to Ontario, the signs were warning me of both moose and bear.  One large sign just outside Sudbury said very boldly, "Please don't feed the bears." I didn't see any, but wouldn't have fed them anyway. Another thing I noticed in Ontario is the cattails -- the ponds and lakes are full of them, acres and acres of them.  I've never seen anything quite like it. 

One thing that I have really liked about this highway is the rest areas.  They are designated by a picnic table sign, and, aside from the dirty outhouses in some of them, they are very nice. Most have some shade, they all have picnic tables, and often they are in very scenic areas. I've had some delightful lunches, and even an afternoon nap or two, at some of these spots.

A great roadside rest
I'm almost to Ottowa – will probably get to Montreal tomorrow, if the construction is not quite so prevalent.  Today I had to wait as much as 20 minutes for my lane to move across a one-lane section of road. The most frustrating was after waiting a good while to move and finally being on my way, the sign holder stopped traffic one car in front of me, so we had to wait again. Oh well, it is that season!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Glacier National Park

(Note: if you click on the pictures, you get a bigger version and it's easier to see what's there!)

There is something very satisfying in realizing that you have passed your love of something on to your child.  It seems I have managed to pass on my love of camping to my youngest son and his family. And that all came full circle last week at Glacier National Park, where we all camped together for four delightful days.
All 5 of us at Glacier
 The first day we drove to Logan Pass, the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun road that bisects the park, providing access from East to West. The views were amazing, and even though I had been to Glacier 4 years ago, I saw lots of new things that I had not been able to see that time (that happens when you are the driver – concentrating on the road, not the view!).  When we arrived at the visitor center and parked the car, the first thing we saw was four bighorn sheep about 100 feet from the wall at the edge of the parking lot.  They stayed in the meadow there for quite a long time, and we were fascinated to watch them.  Then as we left the park, we saw five mountain goats on a cliff just past the visitor center. What a day for wildlife! 
Bighorn Sheep
George checking them out

After wandering around the visitor center for a while and asking the rangers a few questions, Ted and Carrie and the boys decided to hike a little bit and suggested that I come along – it didn't look too hard a hike. Those of you who know me are aware that I have COPD and sometimes require oxygen.  This was one of those times – Logan Pass is already at a higher altitude than New Mexico, and exercise is one of those things that require extra O2. I brought a lot of small tanks with me so that I could hike some, so I stuck one in my backpack and off we went. The path went downhill almost immediately, and kept going downhill, which was really nice for me, but I kept thinking that I had to get back up there.  The only access at the other end of the trail was 11 miles away!  There came a part of the trail that was a narrow path cut from the side of a cliff with a huge dropoff. They wanted to go to the other side of this segment, but I declined and sat on a boulder for a while watching them. Then I started back up – slowly, with lots of stops, but by darn, I made it!  And I beat them, too, by about 5 minutes! 

There were lots of pullouts along the side of the road on the way back to the campsite, and one of these was at a spot in the river where there was a deep pool with lovely rocks and small cliffs around. It was the perfect place for a break, and since they had brought swimming suits, they took advantage of the opportunity to play in the water for a while. Mine was a more vicarious enjoyment, but boy, would I have loved to be in that water with them.  (The climb down was just too much for these old knees!)
George goes in

Owen goes in

A couple of days later we hiked again, and this was what I had worked very hard beforehand to prepare for. It was a 2 mile hike with 200 feet of elevation.  I knew it would be challenging, but Ted and Carrie and Owen and George were all so patient with me having to stop to catch my breath much more frequently than they were used to. It was a really enjoyable day, and I felt like I had really accomplished my goal. Those miles I put in at the gym paid off in the end!
At our lunch stop one of the days

Sadly all good things must come to an end, including this part of the trip.  But as we said our goodbyes, I was heartened to know that our family tradition of camping would continue, and my grandchildren would grow up loving it, hopefully as much as I do!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sister Week

Every year my sister Jane and I get together for a week of camping at her property in the Colorado mountains near Lake George.  We've been doing this since 2002, with only one year off (when we both had knee surgery).  It's a week I look forward to all year, because it's filled with all kinds of adventures.

Jane's Mountain Home
View from the deck

We ride ATV's all throughout the area (sometimes putting 50 or more miles on in a trip), we swim (well, we paddle around since it's where it's deep enough to swim the current is too fast) in the South Platte river, we picnic, and barbecue, and have marvelous Scrabble tournaments. But above all, we spend time together, which is the most precious thing of all. 
The river at Happy Meadows Campground

One of our favorite activities is watching the hummingbirds from her deck.  She hangs a couple of feeders, and then the fun begins. Some evenings it's almost like hummingbird Top Gun, with 8 or more birds flying around defending the feeder.  We normally have Broadtails and Rufus hummingbirds, but this year we saw a Calliope, which was quite out of its range (Wyoming and north).  They are accustomed enough to us to even feed from a small feeder we can hold in our hands. Mornings we go out there in our nightgowns with our coffee and tea, and spend an hour or more just admiring our surroundings(and the hummingbirds) and enjoying each other's company.


We don't normally see a lot of wildlife, but this year was kind of special. The first night we were here we heard two coyotes yipping in the field behind us, then we watched them as they slowly loped across the field. The next day we saw a total of 7 deer, including a great session with 4 beautiful bucks with marvelous racks.  Of course there are the usual ground squirrels, the bunny that lives under the deck (and a few of his friends), and a herd of antelope.
Deer on one of the trails
One of our favorite ATV rides is to an abandoned trapper's cabin two valleys over. It's a great ride, with some exciting rocks to get over, but the treat is the beautiful little valley at the end.  We discovered the cabin about 8 years ago, and we love to go there and explore around the area. This year I discovered rose bushes growing against one end of the cabin – just as pretty as a picture! 

Rose bushes along the side of the cabin

The one thing we have no control over is the weather, and while mornings have been just beautiful, sunny and cool, it's monsoon season.  Every afternoon the clouds come in and the skies open up. Of course, that has made for lush grassy meadows, but as Jane said in our prayer last night, "Please remember, God, this is a camper, not an ark."

Next stop will be Glacier National Park next week with my son Ted and his family.  I guess we can call that grandkid week!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

House Tour (of my tiny mobile house)

Traveling and living in a minivan for several months at a time requires a lot of organization, paring down, and choosing among necessities. Which of them is more necessary? I tried to keep as much as I could, and to that end, I've divided my van up into the same rooms or areas I have in my house.  I'll show you in the photos that follow.

Of course, the bedroom is the most important, since that's where I'll be spending 1/3 of my time;  to make the rest of the day the best it can be, the bed has to be comfortable. It's a regular twin bed with a gel foam mattress from Costco, and it's the most comfortable mattress I own!  Not bad for camping!  When I close up those curtains, it makes a very cozy little nest.

Under the bed is where most of the stuff gets stored. Let's take a look at all the room under there.

On the driver's side from the left, we have the junk closet, where all the occasional use equipment is stored: tarp, guy ropes, tent stakes (for the guy rope attached to the tarp), window screens and the magnets to make them stick. Next is the propane closet -- I normally use one tank every 3 days, so this is almost enough for a month. After that comes the liquor cabinet (it's so nice to end some of the days with a drink, and it's occasionally a way to meet my neighbors in a campground). After that is one of the pantries (there is another in the back); this is stuff I don't use very much, but it's nice to have it when I need it. Last of all is the empty (almost) closet that will get filled with stuff I want to bring home. The package is for a quilt store in Canada;  it's so much easier and cheaper to mail it from Canada, so I'm going to wait till I get there to mail it.

In front of those baskets are a portable gas grill and a 3 gallon water jug (it would be awful to be caught somewhere with no water).

Around the other side of the bed are 3 rubbermaid bins that slide underneath. They are the linen closet (towels), the clothes closet, (t-shirts and pants) and the coat closet.  I've got plenty of warm clothes with me -- a lightweight shirt, sweatshirts, a fleece-lined jacket -- I'm in no danger of being cold! (Plus there are a hat and gloves in another little compartment.) Up at the head of the bed is a narrow plastic chest of drawers to supplement the clothes closet.

That round "table"you see at the foot of the bed is actually the potty. It's a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat, and there's kitty litter in plastic bags inside. It's neat and clean, and easy to dispose of without any mess, and when it's necessary, it's really nice to have!

The other very important part of the house is the kitchen, which I have set up in the back of the van behind the bed. Before I decided how to set this part up, I scoured the internet for ideas and combined quite a few of them for my final product. I decided on a headboard made of pegboard that would hold all the utensils and pots and pans, leaving the rear well for a cooler, another pantry (this one gets used a bit more), a two burner Coleman stove, and the other miscellaneous bits and pieces that are necessary for cooking and eating outdoors.  For this trip I even managed to pack a TV tray table that fits in the back next to the bed, so that if it is raining, I can sit in there and eat, or work on my computer.

That white bin on the left in the photo says McGuyver on it. That's my McGuyver box, named by my son David when we went camping at the Grand Canyon last year. Whenever we needed something a bit out of the ordinary, I was able to pull it out of that box.  Extra batteries, screws, pegboard hooks, cable ties, toilet paper, bungee cords, carabiner hooks, tie-down straps, duct tape, WD40, empty food containers, you name it, it's probably in the McGuyver box.  Hopefully I'm prepared for almost any circumstance!

I fabricated some screens for the windows -- it can get pretty hot inside, and some nights it's to hot to sleep with the windows closed, but the bugs can be ferocious.  The back window screens are held on with magnets and the front ones go entirely over the top of the door, kind of like a pillowcase. It helps keep the inside bug free and, along with my battery operated fan, I can stay pretty comfortable.

There's almost all the entertainment here as there is at home -- my Kindle is full of great books, I have my iPad for games (words with friends ) and news whenever there is Wifi, and my computer to email and write the blog (and post whenever there is Wifi!).  My phone (which works in Canada!!) is full of audio books and music. There's no TV, but I'm learning to live without that.  I can charge everything with car chargers or my little inverter, so power isn't much of a problem either.

See, all the comforts of home, but a whole world out there to explore! It's going to be an exciting summer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another Epic Trip Begins

Hello friends, it's that time again.  I'm about to set off on another epic journey (2-3 months this time) to the Canadian Atlantic Maritime Provinces. I'm going all the way to Labrador -- that's about as far as you can go.  Someone asked me why I was going there -- my best answer, because it's there and I haven't seen it yet!

I've spent months preparing for this trip; getting guide books from all the provinces, surfing the internet, pouring over maps, and corresponding with folks on the internet. One of the funniest experiences I had while preparing was determining how I would get to my starting point, and what would that point be?  I finally decided that I wanted to start in Labrador and work my way back.  Of course, this is after a week in Colorado camping with my sister and another week at Glacier National Park camping with my son and his family. Then I could actually start on the big trek. I thought it would be fun, and beautiful, to drive along the north shore of the St. Laurence River -- so I checked it out on the map (a AAA map of all of Canada -- not much detail).  I followed the road on the map, and the line got thinner and thinner, and finally disappeared at a town called Kegasha in Quebec. Off to Google to find the roads that went to Red Bay.  Alas, Google told me to fly or take a ferry, although there is a road. Here's the map...
It's 2275 kilometers -- more than 1300 miles and when I explored further, I discovered that much of it is a gravel road!  Oh heck no, I'm not doing that (although if it had been paved, I might have considered it!). Sadly, there is no road that goes directly from Kegasha to Red Bay.  

I finally decided to drive quickly through Central Canada and get to Newfoundland as a starting point. I'll begin the trip by driving up the west coast of Newfoundland, take the ferry to Labrador and visit Red Bay, then come back by way of the east coast of Newfoundland (with a detour to the northern tip of Newfoundland to see L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site, a Viking settlement site reconstruction. 

From there, I'll be able to see the rest of the Maritime Provinces as I work my way back home, coming through Maine (Acadia) and stopping in Pennsylvania to see my other sister. 

I'll be back home sometime in October -- having missed the worst of the Albuquerque summer heat! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Vintage Shirting and Dressmaker Prints Blog Hop

It's my turn to play with Barb's great fabrics, and what fun it has been. For those of you who may know this as a travel blog, bear with me!  

My block is called Wyoming Valley Star.

As a star lover, and a native of Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley, how could I not love the Wyoming Valley Star! This block has stars inside stars, and stars set on more stars (those corner units form their own star). So it has to be my choice for this special Blog hop.

But let me tell you a little about Barb and me!  We met in a quilting class while we were both living in Hawaii, and became friends almost immediately.  Both our husbands were in the military, so we had that in common as well. One of my favorite memories of those years was our Friday night dance classes.  It was just the four of us taking lessons from Miss Sylvia, and we had a lot of fun during those classes (and when we went for dessert afterwards!). Later on, when I needed help with writing a book, Barb was right there to become co-author of Traditional Quilts with Painless Borders. Now we enjoy each other's company every year at our annual retreat with several other quilting friends. This is a friendship that has spanned many years and many locations, but quilting remains the constant.  

This quilt block appears in several of my books, most recently in Savvy Sets for Scrappy Blocks, and I'll be giving away a copy of that book to one lucky winner. It's also a good place to show off a method I have of making 2 ½" half-square triangles from 2 ½" strips with no waste. 

For my blocks, I chose two color combinations; one is a dark and medium black with red (my school colors!), and the other is a dark and medium blue with red. Both will work well, but the placement of the colors/values is essential to making each of the parts of the block visible.

My first step in making one of the blocks is to audition the fabrics in the order that I will be using them. There are three parts – the large star made of chevrons, the small inner Sawtooth star, and the star that is formed by the corner units.  I call that one a "sitter backer" star, because it is not prominent, it just kind of sits back there. I arrange the fabrics so that the sawtooth star fabric is between the large star and sitter backer star, then have a good look at them, perhaps squinting at them, to make sure that there is good contrast.
I'll be using the red and black combination in the order you see, but I changed my mind about the blue and red one -- I'm making the sawtooth star out of the red. 
Once I'm sure that the contrast works, it's time to cut. Here's what you'll need for one star:
           From the large star fabric:             8 rectangles, 2 ½" x 4 ½"
                                                                 1 square, 4 ½"x 4 ½"
           From the Sawtooth Star fabric:     8 squares, 2 ½" x 2 ½"
           From the sitter backer star fabric: 6 rectangles, 2 ½" x 3 ½"
           From the background                    6 rectangles, 2 ½" X 3 ½"
                                                                 12 squares, 2 ½" x 2 ½"
Place the 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" background rectangles right sides together with the sitter backer star rectangles. Draw lines as shown (45o lines from two opposite corners) using a square ruler or Sally's Gizmo. 
Using the Gizmo
Using a standard ruler with a  45o line.
Sew on the drawn lines, and then cut apart between them. Press the seams toward the darker fabric. Don't forget to trim away the little dog ears!
Arrange 3 half-square triangles with a 2 ½" background square and sew them together as shown.  
Press the seams in opposite directions, pressing the triangle unit toward the background square. Then sew the halves together. 

For the large star points, I use the technique of sewing diagonally across a square, then folding the triangle back on itself. Many people draw a line to follow, but I have developed a technique whereby you do not need to draw that line; I draw the line on my sewing machine. Just line up a ruler with the sewing machine needle (in the down position), square it up with the machine, and use a Sharpie marker to draw the line from the needle toward you. Then, by guiding the bottom corner of the small square along the drawn line, you have perfectly sewn diagonal lines. Make sure the top corner of the small square is right at the needle. 

Sew the Sawtooth Square pieces on one end of the Large Star rectangles. Sew 4 units in one direction, then make sure to sew the other 4 in the opposite direction. I don't start sewing at the corner because my machine likes to eat those little points -- by starting on the other side, I avoid that!

Sew these 4 in the opposite direction

You can chain piece these, but don't forget to use a scrap of fabric to lead on then lead off your stitching. This saves lots of thread and helps prevent those thread pileups that are so annoying!

Trim away the triangles 1/4" from the seam. 
Press the seams as shown -- there is a reason for this which will become apparent when you sew the units together. Just follow the pictures below.

Add the background squares to the other end of each of the rectangles just like you did the Sawtooth Square pieces. Sew the seams in the same direction so that the rectangles end up as parallelograms. Press them so that the seams in one unit all go in the same direction (either toward or away from the background triangle). 
 Sew pairs of units together like you see below. This is where the seams pressed in opposite directions will be very useful -- opposing seams will nest together beautifully and you'll get perfectly matched seams. 
 Arrange the corner units, the large star units, and the center square as shown and sew them together. 

 Here's a hint for making the seams match when you are sewing the corner unit and large star points together. Run the point of a seam ripper along the ridge formed by the seam on the bottom layer; where it stops is where the intersections should meet up. Keep the seam ripper on that intersection and as you sew, aim the needle toward the point of the ripper.  Don't sew over the ripper though, pull it away just before the needle gets there! 

There you have it, a beautiful Wyoming Valley Star block!  I tried another one using the black and red fabrics; which combination is your favorite? 

Don't forget to comment below and be sure that your e-mail address is included -- next week I'll pick one commenter to receive Savvy Sets for Scrappy Blocks and a Gizmo!