Monthly Archives: February 2021

Road Trekin Days

At the Pembroke Ontario Fiddlefest with our “new” RV

We were the very proud owners of a Roadtrek RV for 4 years after retiring. We had tried out an RV rental in Florida previously and really liked the freedom of roaming everyday and staying in nature at night. So we weren’t complete novices when we purchased our 1999 Roadtrek 190 Versatile in August 2010. Our friends Betty and Glenn had been RVing for years and were encouraging us. Glenn even came with me to kick the tires before we purchased from an elderly couple who could not climb in easily anymore.

Sanibel Island Florida

Some technicalities for those not familiar with RVs. There are 3 basic types of RV motorhomes. Class A refers to the biggest ones which are bus like in shape and size and cost upwards of $200K new. These are big enough to live in however the cost of upkeep and their huge size does make for some limitations we thought. Class B refers to a converted van – what we bought. The advantage is you can park these in your laneway or on a city street and easily move from place to place. The tradeoff is their relatively small interior space. They cost upwards of $100K new. The Class C are a compromise between the A and B and is what we had rented in Florida. They are extremely popular and cost $75K and up new. You cannot easily park these in your laneway (neighbours may complain) and some cities will not let you park them in public places due to their unsightliness in some circles. There are also trailers and various pop-up campers which we were not attracted to mainly because you have to tow it.

So we decided to buy a used RV and found a Roadtrek 190 Versatile (19 feet long) in the Gatineau area. Rather than explain it all here, if you are curious, here is a link to a detailed video of what this particular unit is all about. Skip if not interested and/or you are already familiar with RV technology. It is a very complex machine that does provide all the comforts of home in a new place everynight. Roadtreks at that time were manufactured in Kitchener, ON so we eventually toured their factory to see how they put these popular units together. It is the intricate cutting and fitting that makes these so expensive. Yes it is crowded and a real test of your marriage lol!

We knew we would like the lifestyle of hitting the road and camping but perhaps we did not realize just how much fun and freedom it would all be. We went places we would never otherwise have gone and enjoyed meeting so many interesting people. We usually stayed in RV and State parks when we traveled. We also would stay in casino parking lots or campgrounds very cheaply and use their facilities. I don’t remember ever staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot or a highway rest stop as we did not consider these locations safe. At one point we lived in our baby for 3+ months when we were between houses. All told I think we spent about a year living in it and put on 60,000 km in four short years. In the end we had had enough and moved up to the comfort of renting motel rooms and condos when we traveled. Will never forget the good times we had and we understand the current frenzy people have about getting out of the city and camping during the Covid pandemic. It is a great lifestyle if you enjoy travelling and the outdoors.

Some of the trips we took over the four years we had our Roadtrek were to:

  • Pembroke, ON Fiddlefest
  • Algonguin Park and Midland, ON
  • Washington, DC
  • Renfrew, ON Bluegrass Festival
  • Florida 3 times
  • San Diego, CA
  • Winnipeg, MB
  • Finger Lakes, NY
Friends Glenn and Betty

Our very first trip was to Pembroke for the annual Labour Day Weekend Fiddlefest. This is a big deal with hundreds of RVs crowded into the beautiful Riverside park. There are hundreds of “amateur” musicians playing fiddles, guitars, pianos, string bass and singing and dancing at multiple pop up sites. People come from all over Ontario, western Quebec, northern US to participate or simply enjoy. Our friends the Clarkes had been going for years and had a large camping spot reserved that we could fit our Roadtrek into. I remember pulling into the registration area and just as we did we heard a loud pop like a gunshot. Everyone ducked. When we got out we found that one of the tire valves which was old and cracked had simply failed with a loud bang and we had a flat tire lol! We managed to get the tire fixed that day I think and all went well from then.

Our setup with Glenn and Betty

We were soon introduced to the routine of making the rounds to the various music venues until the late hours and than sleeping in the next day, going for a walk, eating and then doing it all over again. The music, laughter and hospitality was absolutely great. Here are a few pics.

The highlight for sure was an original song that Debbie and Maggie Beschamps wrote and performed called Whippoorwill Betty. This talented mother and daughter team had a large RV on the same site that we were in and put on a great show every night that was very popular. They had become good friends with Betty and Glenn and in appreciation composed and sang this song about Betty’s distinctive laugh for the first time. You must see the live version below I recorded. Our RV provides the backdrop.

This was the first of several visits to this Ottawa Valley festival. Sadly it was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid. We are hoping it will be a go this year. Wow, our first local RV trip was truly a great one. Thanks for reading. As usual your comments and questions are welcome.

Dave and Marie

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Jesu Ufam Tobie

It was exactly 90 years ago today that Sister (now Saint) Faustina Kowalska saw a vision of the Lord Jesus who told her to paint an image according to the pattern she saw. She was in her cell in the house the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy had in Plock, Poland, about 90 min NW of Warsaw on the Vistula River. We visited Plock on our trip to Poland in 2016 and wrote about it at the time. The reason I remember the date – Feb 22, 1931 – is because my mother’s 10th birthday was on that day too. So Mom was born exactly 100 years ago today!

Just recently Fr. Seraphim Michalenko of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge MA, passed away. It was he who successfully smuggled a copy of the manuscript of the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, out of Communist Poland, thus enabling it to be accurately translated, published and spread across the world. Initially the Vatican banned reading of her writings for 20 years due to grammatical errors and an earlier inaccurate translation. In 1979, Pope John Paul II lifted the ban just 6 months into his papacy after having her diary thoroughly examined for its authenticity.

We have a copy of the beautiful leather bound edition that Fr. Seraphim produced. It is truly an amazing spiritual book, one that I will read again soon. Sadly, the house in which Saint Faustina baked bread, helped out in the kitchen and had this vision, was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. The Sisters were rebuilding it when we were there. Hopefully their excited dreams have now come to fruition. Here are a few pictures from our visit to Plock in honour of this 90th anniversary.

Jezu Ufam Tobie – Jesus I Trust in You

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A Rumour of God

Meet Jizo the little buddhist monk figure that guides thousands of pilgrims on the ancient Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. Isn’t he cute?

No I am not converting to Buddhism. Rather, I just finished reading Ottawa journalist Robert C. Sibley’s 2010 book wherein he talks about his pilgrimage there. I was amazed at the length and physical difficulty of this 1200 km hike up and down mountainous terrain on the island of Shikoku, Japan. He visited some 88 sacred temples along his 54 day long walk. Little Jizo serves as the trail marker just as the scallop shell on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage does in Spain. Wow, what an endurance!

Sibeley’s book is ostensibly not about this though. It’s larger theme is his seeking to restore a sense of mystery and enchantment in our world that has become analyzable, calculable and explainable in a scientific way for many people. Rather, if one listens deeply and really opens one’s eyes, one can learn to have a mystical experience at any time proving that the world still is enchanted despite our modern misgivings. A mystical experience is one where the truth of our being and our knowing of the world is laid bare for a few unforgettable moments. Where one feels the spiritual presence of God in everyday mundane activities and indeed within us. Anyone can become a mystic through training explains Sibley. Wow, what a breath of fresh air from the daily pandemic news these days, lol.

I liked the book but it was up and down. In a series of essays (on place, solitude, wonder, etc.), Sibley talks about his own experiences with enchantment and delves into the thinking of dozens of philosophers, theologians and writers from Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Rahner, Merton to Virginia Woolf and Wordsworth. I found myself constantly referring to the footnotes in the back as everything was very interesting and I wanted to learn more… Too, I liked his framing of things through wilderness trips to the north of Canada and Vancouver Island as well as on the Camino itself. There is a good bibliography.

At times though, my interest lagged. He seemed to have a set formula for each subject and would drone on sometimes too long it seems, just to complete the template. Is this a book about philosophy and spirituality or is it a book about walking and thinking? Ostensibly both it seems. I really enjoyed his discussion of Soren Kirekegaard wandering the streets of Copenhagen and then rushing home to jot down his thoughts while still standing in his coat and hat. For Rousseau who changed the world, it became “I walk, therefore I am.” In praise of walking.

I certainly agree that walking is a great way to unburden my thoughts and to find new connections and possibilities in life. Come to think of it, it’s time for a walk right now. I give the book 4 stars out of five because of the somewhat formulistic style but overall great content. Needs some distillation.


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