Tag Archives: camping

A-Camping We Went (Plus Some Luxury Living, and a Bit of Thomas the Tank Engine)

We’re back from our long weekend at Long Point provincial park, on the shores of Lake Erie.

It was the most interesting experience, to say the least.

Downpour

We arrived in the midst of a rain storm. I took this picture from inside the van, while waiting outside the park office for Ward to get us registered. Yes, I stayed nice and dry.

But that wouldn’t last!

You know the expression, “the rain was coming down in buckets”? That is a very apt description of the weather at the time.

So we pulled onto our site and waited until the buckets were set upright again.

That’s the thing with Ontario rain storms. There’s a lot of water involved, but it hardly ever rains for extremely long periods of time. Unlike Vancouver, where I grew up – there, the rain is more like an everlasting drizzle, rather like living in mist all the time.

When the rain stopped going “whoosh” and “splotch, splotch, splotch”, and became more of a gentle pitter patter, we began setting up our tent.

I actually found this fun. But then again (maybe due to growing up in Vancouver), I like being out in the rain.

We got all wet, but it was quite enjoyable. (At least, I enjoyed it. I’m not so sure my husband did.)

Campsite view

The rain stopped midway through our setting up. All the camping pictures are from my iPhone, so they’re not great quality – you can’t read the sign above, but it’s the one that warns there are no lifeguards so parents are responsible for their children.

The beach was literally less than a minute away.

I loved that! At night, we could hear the pounding of the surf. The only downside was the comfort station being farther away than I’d like. There is, I have decided, an optimal distance to a comfort station while camping – not too close, but most certainly, not too far. We discovered that cutting across the beach made the walk almost (but not quite) close enough.

First day on the beach

The skies started clearing (it was only mid-afternoon by then), and we headed out to the beach.

There was a lovely wind blowing (because, you see, there were severe thunderstorm warnings in effect for the evening).

Wind + camping = NO BUGS.

I really enjoyed our first night there.

The most lovely thing happened that evening. Mother Nature put on a gorgeous lightning show. We all stood on the beach and watched as light flashed from far across the horizon over Lake Erie. It was absolutely breathtaking. I managed to video some of the event, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch any stills. Here’s what the skies looked like from the beach:

Sunset

Sunset

We stood watching the lightning show until it got very dark and started raining. That night, heavy winds with a smattering of rain fell on the campsite. It was an incredible experience, lying in the slightly-shaking tent, the window flaps down, listening to the wind and the surf.

Day One: Very enjoyable.

Day Two began with more rain; there was another rain storm mid-afternoon, and then it cleared up and became beautifully warm and sunny.

Unfortunately, that meant very little wind.

Very little wind + camping = BUGS.

Biting ones.

I collected an assortment of bites, and as soon as it got dark, I retreated into the tent and read the evening away. It was okay, but not ideal.

Day Two: Not as enjoyable.

The weather forecasters had predicted that the series of thunderstorms would result in the “perfect day” on Day Three. But we woke up to a downpour again. Which was okay with me (because, you know, NO BUGS), but by then, I’d had the perfect amount of camping experience. Enough to last me for the next little while, anyway.

Since we couldn’t cook over the campfire, we headed out to the nearby town and had breakfast. At the place we went to, we were handed a full page menu with the following choices: Breakfast.

So we decided on, um, breakfast. (I’m having a bit of fun here with this, but it was actually a very delicious breakfast, lack of choice aside: eggs, choice of bacon/ham/sausage, toast, hash browns, fairly decent coffee.)

The perfect day showed up by noon but we’d already decided to go, a day earlier than planned (which was, you might recall, already four days earlier than originally planned). So we took down our tent in the hot sun, and got the van all packed up.

Here’s when our camping trip got really good.

First, we stopped at the park office to let them know we were leaving, in case any last minute campers came by and needed a site (after all, it was booked through until Thursday).

They gave us a full refund for our unused days! We certainly hadn’t expected this.

Then, things got even better. On a whim, we called the Kettle Creek Inn, a deluxe inn we stayed at in Port Stanley, Ontario, about ten years ago, and managed to land a luxury suite on a last minute deal.

Perfection. Jacuzzi tub, gourmet dining, lovely soft bed.

We checked in, then walked down to the Main Beach. It was really hot, so when we got there, we slipped off our shoes, and splashed in the water. When it’s that hot, you don’t care that you’re getting your clothes all wet; it’s actually quite wonderful because you stay cool on your walk back!

The next day, after a nice breakfast (lots of choices), we took a ride on the Port Stanley train, which really thrilled our little resident train aficionado. After a very leisurely lunch, it was time to head back home. But by our calculations, leaving right then would have landed us in the midst of Toronto rush hour.

Not a good plan.

So we took a side tour into St. Thomas, to visit the Elgin County Railway Museum. And we got very lucky indeed. It turned out that A Day Out With Thomas took place this past weekend; over 15,000 people attended (most, I gather, being of the knee-high variety).

And guess who was outside the Elgin County Railway Museum, waiting to be stored?

Dylan and Thomas the Tank Engine

Yep. Thomas the Tank Engine.

To say Dylan was thrilled is to put it mildly. Thomas wore a black face mask (for copyright reasons, apparently!), but that was okay. I doubt very much we would have gotten such great pictures if we’d gone to A Day Out With Thomas, along with the 15,000 other wee ones.

We also got to see a 4-6-4 Hudson steam locomotive, the No. 5700 (it actually started life as the 5703), and it was so impressive. I’m not a train fanatic, but standing there beside this massive piece of machinery was quite an experience. The historic feeling was almost palpable.

No. 5700

No. 5700

And I have a better feel for the allure of Steampunk as a result!

When we left, it was the perfect time, traffic-wise.

All in all, this is my idea of the ideal camping weekend: two nights in a tent on a beach, followed by four star accommodations!

Camping … Or Should I Say, Writing and Reading

I’m hurrying to finish up an indexing deadline today, because tomorrow we are off on our camping trip!

I mentioned on Facebook that we are going with every car charger known to man, so hopefully the fact that the site doesn’t have an electrical outlet won’t be particularly bothersome. (I know, I know – electrical devices aren’t exactly roughing it, but I have never been a fan of roughing it).

A Writing Weekend!

My intention is to spend the next four days doing at least some writing. I’m bringing the first draft of my WIP, NANTUCKET, with me, and will be marking it up. I’m also planning to start writing a new WIP of mine, ELLA. (In case you’re wondering, my WIP names tend to be the first name of my MC – yes, very unoriginal, but at least I don’t spend ages agonizing what to call my WIP and can plunge right into the writing!)

The netbook is all charged, plus we bought a car charger in case it dies down, so I won’t have any excuses for not writing. I’m wondering whether the sand and beach environment will have a positive effect on my writing …

Books to Read on the Beach

Of course, a holiday isn’t a holiday without books, right? Since I’ve been pretty busy, I haven’t had much time to pick and choose, and there weren’t any new books that I felt like getting as an ebook (also, Kobo’s iPhone app, which I’ve been using, is kind of tricky – it allows offline reading on the one hand, but on the other hand, it requires Internet access first, before you can start reading (after which, true, you don’t need access), which kind of defeats the whole purpose of “offline reading”, if you ask me. And I’m not sure what kind of reception my phone will have on the shores of Lake Erie.).

So I swooped down to the library (well, not really – it was more like, I quickly scanned the paperbacks while my seven-year-old, Dylan, went through his selection of books, deciding which ones he wanted to take out this week).

Here’s what I’m taking with me:

Some Linwood Barclay books. I’ve been meaning to read Barclay’s novels for a while now. Back when I was still reading newspapers, Barclay’s humor column in the Toronto Star was a favorite of mine. I was pleased to discover a while back that he’s been writing mysteries and thrillers.

Too Close to HomeFear the WorstLone Wolf

Too Close to Home:

In a quiet neighborhood, in the house next door, a family is brutally murdered for no apparent reason. You can’t help thinking, It could have been us. And you start to wonder: What if we’re next?

Promise Falls isn’t the kind of community where families are shot to death in their own homes. But how well did Jim and Ellen Cutter really know their neighbors—or the darker secrets of their small town? They don’t have to look further than their own marriage to know that things aren’t always what they seem. Now the Cutters and their son, Derek, must face the unthinkable: that a murderer isn’t just stalking too close to home…but is inside it already.

Fear the Worst:

Tim Blake is an average guy. He sells cars. He has an ex-wife who’s moved in with another man. It’s not a life without hassles, but nothing will prepare him for when his daughter, Sydney, vanishes into thin air.

At the hotel where she supposedly worked, no one has ever heard of her. Even her closest friends seem to be at a loss. As he retraces Sydney’s steps, Tim discovers that the suburban Connecticut town he always thought of as idyllic is anything but. What he doesn’t know is that his every move is being watched. There are others who want to find Sydney as much as Tim does. And the closer Tim comes to the truth, the closer he comes to every parent’s worst nightmare—and the kind of evil only a parent’s love has a chance in hell of stopping.

Lone Wolf:

Newspaper writer, family man, and reluctant hero Zack Walker has stumbled onto some dicey stories before, but nothing like what he’s about to uncover when a mutilated corpse is found at his father’s lakeside fishing camp. As always, Zack fears the worst. And this time, his paranoid worldview is dead-on.

While the locals attribute the death to a bear attack, Zack suspects something far more ominous—a predator whose weapons include arson, assault, and enough wacko beliefs to fuel a dozen hate groups. Then another body is discovered and a large supply of fertilizer goes missing, evoking memories of the Oklahoma City bombing. But it’s when he learns that his neighbor is a classic Lone Wolf—FBI parlance for a solo fanatic hell-bent on using high body counts to make political statements—that Zack realizes the idyllic town of his childhood is under siege. The fuse is lit to a catastrophe of unimaginable terror. And with time running out, Zack must face off with a madman.

A Stephen Booth Novel. I’ve been meaning to check out British novelist Stephen Booth’s mysteries, so when I saw Black Dog (his debut novel) at the library, I thought it might be a good one to start with.

Black Dog

Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. I saw Red Pyramid last month on a trip to Costco. It looked interesting. I haven’t yet read the Lightning Thief series yet (although I do own the entire set X 2 – don’t ask – and they’re all sitting on my TBR shelves). But I decided to put a request in at the library for Red Pyramid; it just came through, so I’m going to take it with me camping!

Red Pyramid

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe–a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

And of course – Agatha Christie! I also picked up a copy of Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel, as a “just in case” precautionary move; you know, just in case all the above turn out to be not quite my cup of tea. I’ll have something old and familiar to fall back on, right? And there’s something about cozying up to a Miss Marple mystery that fits with toasting marshmallows over an open fire …

At Bertram's Hotel

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service – and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day …

Let’s Not Forget Audio!

And for the drive there and back, my husband and I decided to purchase a headphone splitter so we can both listen to an audiobook on my iPod. Our choices?

Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, Compulsion and Rage. These are all re-reads for me, but new for my husband.

A handful of BBC radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries. These wonderful two-hour audios are really wonderful; last year I splurged and gifted myself this boxed set of Hercule Poirot’s Greatest Cases, so we have a lot of titles to choose from.

Hercule Poirot's Greatest Cases

I also have a couple of new releases on hand. First up is Janet Evanovitch’s latest Stephanie Plum installment, Sizzling Sixteen. I don’t think I’ll ever read another Plum story in print again, but Lorelei King’s wonderful narrative abilities will keep me listening to each new novel. Evanovitch seems to have stopped with the plotting and/or mystery in her latest books, but she has a talent for a comedic turn of phrase, and with King at the audio helm, I suspect we will enjoy the book just for the dialogue.

And finally, we have the latest Jack Reacher, 61 Hours, by Lee Child. Reacher isn’t really my cup of tea (the only Reacher novel I really enjoyed was the one where it was a team effort – Bad Luck and Trouble – I’m just not really into lone wolf types of novels) but I suspect my husband will enjoy his exploits.

So … I think I’m going to be well-equipped along both the writing and reading front. Just not too sure how I’ll handle the camping end of things!

Fabulous Reading Streak – Ending, or Just Beginning?

image Last night I finished This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George, and breathed a happy little sigh. I realized I’ve been on a wonderful reading streak, during which I’ve read one enjoyable book after another.

True, This Body of Death wasn’t quite as good as earlier George mysteries, but it was still a lovely read, and very nice to really have Inspector Lynley back, if you know what I mean.

My reading streak began when I picked up The Passage, by Justin Cronin, last month. (This is one of my “best books I’ve read this year”, by the way, and I highly, highly recommend it – you can read my review here.)

image What drove me to pick this 784-page book as the first book to read on the iPhone (the first non-reread, that is) is beyond me. All I know is, I downloaded the first two chapters as a free preview and before I knew it, I had bought and was deep into the full ebook itself.

I call this a reading streak, but I did have a few clunkers here and there. But the beauty of my reading method is that I have very low tolerance for a book that doesn’t hold my interest really early on (and by that, I mean by the end of the first chapter), so when I come across a clunker, I end up not having to spend that much of my reading time on it.

In other words: next!

So let’s just say that, for all intents and purposes, I moved, albeit not absolutely smoothly, from The Passage to Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy.

As it turned out, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was my favorite of the three Larsson books, with its government conspiracy angle.

image Which may have been why I enjoyed Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother so much. That link is to Amazon, but if you like reading ebooks, you can download it for free at Doctorow’s site. The free download comes in all flavors – I chose Epub, and read the book on my iPhone (of course).

I moved from Little Brother to Elizabeth George’s This Body of Death, another read on my iPhone.

In case you’re wondering who’s responsible for my decision to read both these last books, the blame falls to Jill of Rhapsody in Books, who posted wonderful reviews of both these books here (Little Brother) and here (This Body of Death); I would have read This Body of Death sooner or later – her review just made it sooner – but I’d forgotten about Little Brother until I read her review.

So now I’m asking myself, is this the end of a lovely reading streak? Or just the beginning? I’m hoping it’s just the beginning, as I’m now gathering together books to take with me camping (yes, that camping trip is coming up soon, very soon), and I think I’m off to a good start already.

In fact, I began reading Marisa de Los Santo’s Belong to Me the other day, and I’ve been loving it so far. (You can blame this one on Jill, too.)

Any recommendations on your end, to help me continue this marvelous reading streak?

Camping (Gulp …)

I’m sitting here right now, wondering, What did I just do?

You see, we just went online and booked a campsite at Long Point provincial park – for an entire week this summer.

Long Point

Yes, I know – it’s a beautiful place. But I’m taking deep breaths right now, because I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

My kids like to say that my idea of roughing it is a three star hotel. They’re not really joking, either.

I’ve been camping twice before, both times at Long Point. That’s because if I’m going to be sleeping outdoors in a sleeping bag on the ground, that ground had better be sand. Sand and I have an affinity – I’ve always loved beaches, and the campsites at Long Point are right along the beach. Most of the campsites are all sand.

Since we left our booking so late, we weren’t able to get a campsite with electrical access. And both of the times I’ve gone camping before, we’ve had a campsite with electrical outlets.

As for why I agreed to go camping this summer rather than renting a cottage on a beach like we normally do, it’s because Dylan, who will be seven, has never gone camping before. And Ward, who grew up going camping with his family, thinks it’s the ideal family vacation. And both my teens aren’t sure whether they’ll come with us on vacation this summer or not, and camping is something they can decide to do at the last minute.

Ward assures me that all will be well. Hayley tells me that no electrical is the way to go – after all, you’re camping, right? Easy for her to say, since she gets to decide at the last minute whether she’d like to come along.

Me? I’m not so sure I’m ready to rough it for a week – and I’m wondering why I was the one who said, Hey! Look at this campsite! No electrical but it’s available for an entire week! Really! Isn’t that great! Let’s hurry and book it before someone else does! Yes! Yes! Rah! Rah!

That was me an hour ago. (Long Point is popular and most of the campsites are already almost all booked for the summer – only a handful were available during the time we’ll be able to get away this summer.)

But right now? Right now, I’m thinking … but what about my coffee? What about my iPod and audiobooks? How will I read at night? What about the bugs? What about my contact lenses? Exactly how many adapters can we plug into the van? And wait … does this mean an entire week without the Internet? Will there be cell phone reception? OMG, did we just book the campsite for an entire week??

Ward’s a seasoned camper, so all he keeps saying is, Don’t worry, you’ll have a great time.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be investigating the latest, greatest things in camping provisions and equipment that don’t require electricity. There’s a reason why I’m known as the Comfort Queen in this house.

All you seasoned campers out there – your words of support and creative suggestions would be extremely handy right about now …