Bon Voyage, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I have no words or pictures, just soft tears.

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Epilogue

Read part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE.

In the immortal words of Sophia Petrillo, ‘picture this’ … Kamloops, the summer of 2022, the middle of summer 2022. We’re sleeping with blankets and hot water bottles. It was bloody freezing!

A bit of authorial musing ..,

… what started out as a simple recounting of the path of our Wunder-Lusters Adventure has ended up including so much of what has gone on throughout the entire world over the last handful of years. Political, climactic, environmental, metrological, virological, social, etc.

But these are the times we live in, the times we have to live through, probably for the rest of our lives. The butterfly effect of our appetites has turned into a cyclone, sweeping all up in its path, will-we-or-nil-we, and to not acknowledge that, even within the confines of the story I’m telling, feels inauthentic, perhaps even dishonest.

Our world is a beautiful place, full of terrible wonders and beautiful dangers…

And so, to continue my weather report of the past handful of years.

It wasn’t until the very afternoon before we were due to leave Kamloops we found our next camping spot. Turns out campgrounds throughout the length and breadth of British Columbia fill up very quickly when a long weekend is nigh. Who knew? (I think Mrs Widds and I were too knackered at that point to pay attention to such minutiae)

The very last campground on our list of ones within a reasonable (4 hours max) drive had a spot available.

We hitched up ol’ Bessie and off we pootled.

For the next two weeks we called iRVins RV Park and Campground in Valemount, our home.

Two cold, glorious weeks.

Glorious, because I could see snow-capped mountains everywhere I looked, and cold, how cold? One morning we discovered that our ‘city water’ hose had frozen overnight.

We figured two weeks, (where at the very least it wasn’t raining all the time) was long enough for us to rest and gain an appreciation for what we’d actually accomplished, rather than just be so fucking exhausted that we could barely put one foot in front of the other at the end of the day. After we’d done that, we estimated a few days at the most, (hah!) we’d take a look around Valemount and see what we might see.

It wasn’t until about day 3 that I noticed how long I was sleeping each night and realised how far into total exhaustion I’d pushed myself. I was ready for bed by 7pm, sometimes earlier, and I wouldn’t wake until well after 9am. I averaged thirteen hours sleep for almost the entire time we were at iRVins (that’s how they spell it) Even when I was up and moving around, I had so little energy that walking across the campground each day to have a shower took all the strength I could muster. (if you’ve ever tried to have a decent shower in a very tiny ‘shower’ in a very small RV then you know why I made that trek)

Throughout our last days there, we reevaluated our priorities.

Our dreams of those early years, to travel the country, perhaps the whole of North America, and beyond, had crumbled beneath the harsh realities of the Covid pandemic, an on-rushing climate crisis, and a culture, a society, of increasing scarcity, that inexorably polarised (to the point of violence in some instances) on just about any issue, real or imagined, and more and more, we felt held no place for a couple of old woman nomads. (although, the nomad community is far more accepting of ‘oddballs’, like us than than the ‘traditional’, one) We had to find our own place, make our own place.

So, what to do, what to do?

We certainly weren’t going back. We’d come too far and struggled too hard to leave, to even contemplate that option.

We couldn’t stay where we were. (for longer than our allotted two weeks) Valemount in the summer of 2022, was defined by snowcapped mountains, (which I absolutely adored) and a complete and utter lack of housing options or long-term camping due to a natural gas pipeline construction running the entire length of the Southern Yellowhead Highway and soaking up every site it could for its workers.

There was only one thing for it then. North, Miss Teschmacher. (gold star if you get the reference. I’m looking at you, Admiral Hutson)

Prince George was our first stop, a mere three hour pootle up the road, (Hwy 16) where we restocked our supplies. They had a Costco – our favourite store!  … and a Nissan dealership, which we desperately needed because of ongoing brake issues with our trusty steed. (the truck) That fix took longer than we anticipated, and along with other time-devouring delays that sucked up the very last of our contingency funds, we decided to stay in place for a wee bit longer than we’d initially planned.

Enter the BeeLazee RV Park and Campground, run by an octogenarian couple who’d owned the place for the last fifty years. Once upon a time it would’ve been a showcase, but time and wear-and-tear catch up with the best of us eventually, and the old gal was showing her age. There’s a charm in run-down rustic, and in contrast to the almost sterile campground in Valemount (not counting my beloved snow-capped mountains, of course) it was a welcome change to the senses.

Mrs Widds fell in love with it immediately. Me, not so much, I was still grieving my snow-capped mountains … and it finally had warmed up enough for the mosquitoes to come out of hiding and do what they do best – try every way possible to drain me of blood, to which they were more than moderately successful.

The strain of living in the RV, getting in and out of it, and generally moving around it, had taken a grievous toll on my knees as well. That coupled with the strain I placed on them during the move meant that I could manage a hobble, leaning heavily on my cane, on a good day. I came to appreciate the tiny shower in our RV. At least there was always a wall close at hand for me to lean on.

-oOo-

Summer, such as it was, (cold-and-rainy with a few sunny-and-warm days here and there) was slipping through our fingers like fine-grained sand.

The thought of not having a home base to over-winter in, in a region where the snow depth can often be measured in meters, and winter temps well below freezing was not something either of us found at all attractive. Even if we did find a campground that stayed open all winter, our little RV would turn into an RV-cicle at the first hint of snow.

We would have to find a place with four walls instead of four wheels.

Enter Craigslist.

Mrs Widds found our home on Widder Island via a Craigslist ad so we were cautiously hopeful that the odds were in our favour this time too. (they were – but that’s another story) Which was just as well because La Nina, that pesky Pacific weather phenomenon, (she who had kept summer at bay until well into July) was forecast to smack us with a Winter colder and longer than usual, once she’d finished chilling the ass-pidistra out of Spring and Summer.

-oOo-

And so, our great Wunder-Lusters Adventure has come to a close for the season.

We have no idea what the future holds, but here’s what I do know …

I estimate that I’ve probably taken five to ten years off the lifespan of my knees. Time to find an orthopedic surgeon.

Mrs Widds and I are far stronger and more resilient than we ever thought we could be. (we had inklings but now it’s confirmed)

Always carry duct-tape and a roll of wire, and a water bottle, at all times.

People are far more willing to be of help when one is ‘travelling’. It’s the nature of our species I suppose when we encounter those outside our ‘tribe’, to offer assistance, and help them on their way.

For all the stress and tears, laughter and awe, for every kilometer we travelled, and didn’t travel, for all that the world is irrevocably different now than when it was when we first conceived this madcap idea, I wouldn’t’ve missed a moment of it.

-oOo-

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 3

Read Part 1 HERE, and Part 2 HERE

The summer of 2021 was also when our little Widder-cottage started to experience electricity ‘brown-outs’.

Here’s the thing with old houses, when things start to go all agley-googly, they really go agley-googly. In this case the electrical wiring, still the original stuff from when the house was built in the 1970’s, was in serious need of updating.

Over time we’d gotten used to using only one appliance that produced heat, the microwave and the kettle for instance, otherwise the circuit-breaker for that particular area would be tripped. That was OK, but when the ‘brownouts’, started, (also during the infernal summer of 2021) it was a horse of an entirely different kettle of kittens.

When we ran any major appliances at the same time, like the clothes dryer and the oven for example, (in different rooms and on different circuit breakers I might add) half the house would be without power until an electrician could be called to replace a major, and very expensive, fuse, (not expensive for us, thankfully, but certainly for our landlady) which sometimes took a couple of days. (different from your average fuse that we were able to replace ourselves)

In spite of our best efforts we blew that bloody fuse three times.

Even our little cottage, that had sheltered and nurtured us through all sorts of trials and tribulations and celebrations and laughter, was telling us it was time to leave.

That hellish summer of 2021 ended, as summers tend to do in these uncertain times now, with a sudden shift in temperature. The long lingering evenings of yore (the stuff of fairy-tales – be they film, book, or spoken around a campfire) are almost gone from the land. All is abrupt and extreme, and suddenly it was Autumn.

Covid numbers soared and provincial health region borders were again sealed.

Also, it started to rain.

Well, I lived in a temperate rainforest, what did I expect?

Ah, but we were also living in ‘interesting times’, and the rain didn’t really stop. In fact it just got heavier and heavier … then heaviest,  as a new weather phenomenon entered the collective consciousness, ‘atmospheric rivers’.

As our little blue marble of a planet warmed up, the atmosphere (now all toasty and warm) was, and is, able to hold more moisture. Unfortunately, what goes up must eventually come down, and with the help of another atmospheric event called a ‘pineapple express’, (so called because it usually originates near Hawai’i) down it came.

Drainage ditches filled up in the blink of a eye. Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks. Water, with nowhere else to go, pooled in low-lying farmland. Still the atmospheric rivers kept coming, and more and more land, and people’s homes, kept flooding.

The annual ‘melting of the snows’ regularly produced such freshets throughout the Fraser Valley, (where our little island was, and still is, of course) so most folks in the usual at-risk areas were well prepared for such events when they occurred in the appropriate season (late spring through summer) but in Autumn? No-one was prepared.

This was the extreme weather event that did indeed show up on our very doorstep. We were on a flood evacuation alert for over a week. Waiting, like so many people in and around our little island, and indeed throughout the Lower Mainland, for that knock on the door, and be told to leave immediately.

We’d winterised and covered our RV, just a week before, those ‘rivers’ started drenching everything, so with practiced ease, we dewinterised (which consisted mainly of draining the ‘anti-freeze’, out of the water systems) took the cover off, prepped our escape supplies just in case, and waited, and waited.

Like some sort of slow-motion train-wreck, the floodwaters rose higher and higher. Low-lying parts of the island disappeared underneath the silently creeping brown floodwater. (once you’ve seen that particular colour of water you never forget what it means) People were evacuated with barely enough time to gather their long-prepared belongings and head for higher ground. Neighbours helped neighbours. Shivering dogs were rescued in the middle of the night by volunteers who waded from house to house to make sure everyone got out.

Our little cottage was on a slightly higher part of the island, but the uncertainty of not knowing if or when we would receive that dire knock on our front door was nerve-wracking.

The knock never came. We dodged a very close bullet there. Others were not so lucky.

The torrential rain did however, wash out parts of every access road, highway, logging road, railroad track, bridge and tunnel into and out of the Lower Mainland. No road or rail freight, or traffic of any kind was able to leave or enter.

With the entire region basically marooned, gasoline rationing was introduced.

-oOo-

For reasons I won’t go into here, the one thing guaranteed to give me the ‘willies’ is feeling trapped …

Surrounded by floodwaters – check.

Floodwater only centimeters under the only bridge off the island – check.

Gasoline rationing, so even if we left, how far could we get? – check.

Not able to leave the Lower Mainland anyway, because of Covid, and destroyed infrastructure – check.

Yep, I had the willies.

(I’m amazed I actually got through these years with my sanity, relatively, intact. Although, sanity, especially mine, is a very subjective concept, I’ll admit)

I actively restrained myself from wondering, ‘what was next’? (out loud at least, because winter was coming)

-oOo-

Winter of 2021/2022 in our little corner of the world became the season of arctic outflows. During one such event the external fuse (the one that required an electrician to replace) blew yet again. Three days without power in half the house and daytime temperatures never getting above zero. We had extension cables everywhere, but remained very careful that we didn’t overload the rest of the house. That would’ve really, really pissed us off.

We’d had enough. Come hell or high water, as soon as the high passes were clear of snow, as soon as the roads through those high passes were repaired, (the damage to them being as a result of the atmospheric flooding mentioned earlier) we, were, leaving.

Unfortunately all the stern resolutions in the world didn’t alter the fact that we still faced the same dilemmas … Where to go. How to get there. How to cram everything we weren’t taking with us in the RV (almost the entire contents of the house, 2 storage sheds, and a well-stuffed patio) into a 20x10x8 storage locker.

Those storage locker dimensions are in feet, I have no idea why Canada has a dual measurement system, when ‘officially’ we’re using metric, but there it is. I suspect it’s because our neighbour to the south still uses the ‘imperial’ system and politicians lack the will, and captains of industry, on both sides of the border, remain unwilling, to adapt. One of my biggest challenges when I first arrived here from Australia in 2004, was to retrain my perception of distances, measured in centimeters/meters/kilometers to include inches/feet/miles at the same time. My brain freezes up only ever fifth or sixth time I have to convert something, which I think is a pretty good average.

Time, dancing to its own tune, and be damned to the effect us humans were having on the environment, passed. Snow melted, the days grew perceptibly longer, and the outside thermometer I’d sacrificed to record just how cold it did get throughout winter, breathed a sigh of relief as its mercury started to slide up its glass tube. Strangely enough though, it didn’t move quite as high or as often as I expected.

The reported numbers of people infected with Covid slowed (I doubt none of us will ever know the fullest extent of the pandemic) and our regional borders started to open again. Emergency repairs to the Coquihalla Highway, the main route up off the Lower Mainland, the one we would have to take, and damaged in the flooding, were completed in record time.

Spring sprung into action, and it rained.

I felt as though, except for a brief snowy interlude, it had been raining since September the previous year, but a little rain wasn’t going to stop us now. Our resolve to leave was unstoppable.

We packed in the rain. We took trailer-loads of boxes and bags, (the things that couldn’t be boxed or bagged, we taped together with duct tape) to the storage locker in the rain.

We re-dewinterised the RV, in the rain.

Mrs Widds lost her footing on a soaking wet board and fell, injuring her back two days before we were scheduled to leave, in the rain.

Our wonderful landlady allowed us an extra week to take care of the myriad last minute things that needed taking care of, which we did, in the rain.

On Friday, the 6th of May, we finally hitched up the RV to our truck and hauled it out of the driveway for the last time. Note I said the RV left for the last time.

We parked it at Cheam Fishing Village and Campground, where we’d camped previously, (in the rain then too, I might add) and merely slept there while we returned to the cottage several times to finalise the cleaning/tidying up, and videoing the final results to send to our landlady … in the rain.

-oOo-

For the following ten days most of the entries in my day-planner simply read, ‘too bloody exhausted to do anything … and it’s still raining’.

On the 16th of May we left the Lower Mainland behind us, and headed up into the coast mountains with only the RV campground in Kamloops, where we’d stay that night, as a fixed destination. We had no idea where we’d go after that.

We broke through the rainclouds at the top of the Coquihalla Summit. Blindingly bright sunlight bounced off the snowdrifts, piled high by the snowploughs, bathing us in all its glory all the way to Kamloops. We stayed for two days, visiting with Mrs Widds sister, the Melodious One, and replenishing supplies … and it didn’t rain. However we did experience a few icy snow flurries.

People we met there, (and by my own observations) said it was the coldest, longest winter they’d ever experienced.

La Nina, responsible for the seemingly never-ending rain, had decided she was also going to delay spring, for months.

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE.

… Wherein we find ourselves at the very beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic …

Apart from a few highly qualified virologists I don’t think anyone really knew what was happening, or what to do. Most of those in authority seemed to be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, and/or trying to protect their arses at the same time.

Would this be the ‘armageddon’ event that so many people feared it would be and civilisation would degenerate into warring tribes, (not that we weren’t doing that anyway) bent on claiming the remaining resources for themselves? Truth was, no-one knew how bad it would get.

Across the world people started dying in the hundreds, then the thousands, then finally, horrifically, millions. Talks, (let alone taking any sort of action) between nations, about closing international borders started far too late to stem the tide.

As the days passed it seemed the only voice of reason we could find in a sea of inertia, arse-covering, and ineptitude, was Dr John Campbell. We watched his daily updates with a growing sense of dread.

I was (still am) immune-compromised, and Mrs Widds wasn’t (and still isn’t) a spring chicken, which made both of us prime candidates for this global killer to target.

We pulled our RV out of storage, de-winterised, and provisioned it so that if one of us caught the virus we would be able to isolate from each other. We were unclear how effective that might be, but at least we had a plan.

Even before borders, both international and domestic, finally, and with the speed of a snail on valium, began to close, it was obvious, at least to us, that any sort of long-distance travelling was completely out of the question. In fact we picked up our RV only days before travel in our entire province shut down.

Growing up in the country, albeit in different hemispheres of the globe, we both understood the value of a well-stocked larder in times of crisis. (we tended to have a fairly well-stocked larder at the best of times) And if those early months of the pandemic didn’t constitute a crisis, I don’t know what did.

Face masks were suddenly as rare as hen’s teeth and what stocks were available were slated for first responders, so we sewed our own.

Only ‘essential travel’ was allowed. After the Canadian/USA border closed, and with no-one having a clue about ‘essential services’ needing to include the trucking industry that kept every aspect of modern-day living running smoothly, things started to look dire indeed.

Where previously we’d topped up Mrs Widds baked goods supplies only when we were running low, we now doubled up. Two bags of flour at a time instead of one. Two boxes of baking soda instead of one. Never emptying a shelf though.

(And we certainly didn’t contribute to that ridiculous run on toilet paper in any way. I understood the reasoning behind it, the fears people had, supply-chain disruptions, etc, and most people didn’t buy more than they immediately needed. But seriously, those bastards who bought it by the truckload and profiteered off other people’s fears, and not just toilet paper … there are no words to describe how fucked-up that was)

Fresh fruits and vegetables soon joined the ‘hen’s teeth’ brigade, so we bought canned or frozen varieties.

Thankfully Mrs Widds was working in an essential industry at the time so we still had an income, unlike so many, many, people who lost everything.

I remember very clearly, developing this little twitch, where I would constantly run my thumb across the insides of my fingers. At first it was an involuntary thing, but even when I noticed what I was doing I couldn’t seem to stop. I don’t know if it made me feel any better, but it was an action that I could take, it was something I had control over, which was a far cry from the world around me.

Human beings showed their very best side, doing things for each other, reaching out, (as best as could be done from afar with masks and gloves) and sharing the burdens of ‘lockdowns’.

We all saw the news stories, and perhaps we were some of those doing the reaching out, sharing a friendly word over the back-fence with the neighbour we’d never talked to before. All of us have stories like that, and each one I read about or watched had me weeping with the true humanity of our species.

On the other hand, humans also showed their worst side. The me-first-and-screw-everyone-else brigade hoisted their colours from the nearest flagpole and posted their deeds of complete arse-holery on their social media blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

I was already aware of the growing divide between these two aspects of our humanity. The pandemic not only pulled back the drapes of civility behind which we hid our ravenous hungers but somehow was seen to be giving permission for some of us to exhibit our foulest natures.

Was this how we, homo sapiens – the current peak of evolution – had always behaved? Had society, civilisation, only coated us with a veneer of domesticity, so that all it took was a simple act of will, a choice, to crack it wide open and expose the festering wounds beneath?

I had no answers. (only opinions) None that would change anything. I stopped watching the news, barely glancing at the headlines before retreating to more sane pursuits …reading, sitting in our garden, drifting with the clouds …

… waiting, for … something …

Vaccine trials intensified and by the end of 2020 their results, in the form of mass-produced vaccines, began to trickle out into the most vulnerable communities. The conspiracy theorists put on their tin-foil hats and took to whatever social media platform that would give them their fifteen seconds of fame, (and there were so many platforms willing to do just that) to spew their idiocy to any audience they could find.

Sadly they always found an audience.

A simple internet search of those times will lay bare the hysteria exhibited by people from all walks of life, in all professions, from the very highest authorities, in quite a few lands, to the lowliest of the low.

The only thing that hadn’t irrevocably changed for any of us was the passage of Time, and eventually 2021 rolled around.

2021 – would we be able to get away this year?

Viruses, like all living organisms, including us, want to survive, to live, to thrive, and we do it with either our intellect or our biology.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, (aka Covid-19 – finally called thusly, to avoid offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities or stupid people wanting to be racist arseholes) was no different. Not having an intellect as we humans define such things, it used biology and mutated, again and again, until in May of 2021, the Delta variant reared its brutal head above the crowd.

Too few people had been vaccinated. Too many were resisting the simple ‘masks-and-social-distancing’ concepts that were either mandated or ‘highly recommended’, (depending on where one lived) to make much of a difference.

No, we wouldn’t be travelling anywhere in 2021.

With the beauty of 20/20 hindsight, had we braved the wildfires of the years before the pandemic and headed out anyway, our story would’ve been so much different. There were times in those early months of 2021 when, again as in 2020, no-one knew what was going to happen, we fervently wished we had. (hell, if the pandemic hadn’t happened in the first place, things would’ve been so much different)

In the midst of all this, quite frankly, terrifying new paradigm, and after feeling emotionally paralised for a year, I began to write.

I’d had a vague idea for a story rattling around in my brain, and computer, for a while but not enough to hang a whole novel on. I was in no particular writerly frame of mind either. I simply sat and read through my sparse notes one day, pictured the scene in my mind, and began to describe it.

Words flowed through me like the boundaries of my body were made of nothing more than the vaguest of tissue, porous enough to let the story, from where, I knew not, flow unheeded. A thousand words a day, (on my writing days – I still had the non-writing aspects of my life to attend to) became two thousand, and after a few weeks, evened out at three thousand words each day. They were good words too. About dragons, and living forever, and how a world wracked by, and recovering from, WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic, might respond to such wondrous things.

I wrote, edited, and published, The Last Dragon In London, in six-ish months. It was a glorious experience in the Time of The Plague. (as I called it on days when the never-ending, always-increasing, death-toll got me down)

By mid-Summer, the continuing threat to our water quality on Widder Island resulted in weekly water interruptions, as them’s wot knew wot needed to be done, purged the system of increasingly nasty bacteria. (we finally bit the bullet and bought our Berkey water filter, which paid for itself in a matter of weeks – In fact as I write this – August 2022 – it’s saving us a fortune in bottled water as the water here in our ‘home’, is too ‘hard’ to drink safely from the tap)

Mainstream politics, as reported by mainstream media, continued to fracture and polarise like nothing I’d ever seen before. Perhaps those who are a generation or two older than me could name what was happening, as could any student of history.

I discovered a brilliant series on YouTube called ‘Fall Of Civilisations’, which, apart from being highly informative and entertaining, reinforced my feeling that we humans have been stuck on this ‘rise and fall’, of civilisations since ‘civilisation’ began. And all we do is keep repeating the same cycle, over and over and over.

Yes, technology improves, and the overall quality of life takes an uptick each time around, but really, imagine all the resources, human and otherwise, that are completely and utterly wasted every, single, time. (perhaps this is why I’m fascinated by ‘alternate history’ SF – the ‘what if’, stories that start with a pivotal incident whose outcome is changed in this reality, and an alternate reality heads off in … who knows what sorts of directions)

Then it got hot, and hotter and hotter, then hottest. (so far) They called it a ‘heat dome’, and it killed over 600 people in our province alone.

The town of Lytton, only  a hundred and eighty kilometers away from us, burned to the ground.

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 1

This series of posts came out of me doing a bit of semi-regular ‘blog housekeeping’, wherein I check to make sure links are live, no trolls lurk in the shadowy corners, that sort of thing.

I opened up the separate page I’d created for ‘The Wunder-Lusters’, and lo-and-behold I discovered, nothing … except that at some point I’d typed the words ‘under construction’, and then obviously forgot all about the poor wee thing.

I hastily added a link to The Wunder-Lusters burgeoning YouTube channel and set about writing a bit of a blurb about what The Wunder-Lusters actually was, just in case someone who hasn’t been on this journey with me dropped by and had no idea what it was all about.

So far I’ve written over 5,000 words about what this is all about.

Don’t worry, it’s not all here in this post. I’m going to break it up into edible chunks, post each one here and then post the entire story, at least thus far, on its own page. (as usual, any words in green and bold are live links for a bit of further info – and, our 2015 and 2016 Adventures need to be read from the last one to the first. Something about WP’s ordering of the universe)

Here we go …

-oOo-

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 1

In the Fall of 2014 Mrs Widds and I embarked on a road-trip.

It started mostly as a whim, to visit all the hot springs within a reasonable distance of Widder Island, and with reasonable access, (because even back then, my knees were a shadow of their pre-motorbike-accident days) and turned into a pivotal Adventure that directly, and indirectly, led us to where we are today.

We’d gone camping in a tent for several summers prior to 2014, having decided, perhaps years before, that, being born-n-bred in the country, neither of us were of a temperament to take to city life and we didn’t want to stay in Vancouver and be ‘city-folk’, for the rest of our days. Going camping was our low-key, low-cost, way of exploring the possibilities.

Relocating from urban Vancouver to rural-ish Widder Island in 2012 was the first step toward living in the Interior. ( the ‘Interior’, being loosely defined as anywhere in British Columbia that wasn’t the coast or the Lower Mainland)

The next conundrum to be solved was, where. The Interior of B.C. is a very big place, and by extension, the whole of Canada is a very, very, big place. (about 1.3 times bigger than the whole continent of Australia. I know, technically, Australia is an island, but I still maintain that technically, Pluto is a planet)

(We weren’t closed to the idea of moving to another province, but after our 2015 Adventure,  wherein we speed-pootled from one side of Canada to the other, (near enough anyway) we decided B.C. was the place for us. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself …)

After settling in to our new life on Widder Island, and after my run-in with cancer in 2012-13, we began a series of camping pootles to get a feel for the lay of the land. No one area really spoke to us and said ‘pick me, pick me’, although the North Thompson River valley from Clearwater to parts north, came the closest. (it was the route we chose on our way up here to Prince George)

It was about this time too, the tides of Climate Change (it wasn’t called ‘Climate Crisis’, yet) began to lap at the shores of our lives. Not quite impinging on our little island, but warning signs of what was to come made themselves known, mostly with unexpected weather patterns, micro-climate changes, etc. The data was there, clear as day, if one choose to look.

Our road-trip of 2014 circumnavigated a goodly portion of the south-eastern corner of B.C. Although I made some posts about it, I seem to have deleted most of them when I did a major ‘clean-up’ of my blog. The remaining two give a feel for it …

‘A Perfect Ten’, and ‘Hot Springs’

One of my two favourite memories from that trip was discovering Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park. To sink into that glorious crystal-clear hot water, flowing directly out of the earth and into the Lussier River, all held within giant water-smooth river boulders, was a treat for all the senses.

My other memory was standing on top of Sulphur Mountain, in Banff National Park. At 2,400 meters above sea-level, the air was so clear I could see forever. The air was also noticeably thinner up there, and lowland me felt a tad out of breath if I moved too fast.

Just to be clear, I didn’t actually climb the mountain under my own steam. My bad knee vetoed the strenuous hike and opted for the more sedate, but no less thrilling, gondola ride up and back.

Which brings me to my two worst, perhaps not ‘worst’, but certainly very sad, memories of the trip.

The day before we left Widder Island, I had an obscene amount of fluid drained from one of my knees. By the time we’d dipped our toes, and the rest of our anatomies, in the Lussier Hot Springs, (near Columbia lake – the start of the mighty Columbia River) and then headed for Radium Hot Springs, I knew my days of sleeping on the ground, (albeit on an air mattress in a nice comfy tent) were numbered … and that number had finally wound down to zero.

Thankfully we were able to book hotels for the rest of our journey, but it was the end of an era for me. One that began a year after the motorcycle accident that buggered my knee in the first place, (1983) and required that I do everything in my power to live as ‘normal’, a physical life as was womanly possible.

Looking back, almost 40 (and still counting) years, isn’t a bad innings for a knee that was given a maximum life-span of 10 years before being replaced. But still, it was a sobering realisation.

My other memory in the ‘sad’, category was taking a guided tour up onto the Athabasca Glacier. It groaned and creaked beneath my feet, existing, probably, long before the last Ice Age ended. Because of Climate Change, it was, (and still is) retreating beyond the ability of any amount of snowfall on its high reaches to ever replenish.

That afternoon, spending time with such an ancient entity, Climate Change became Climate Crisis for me.

-oOo-

We’d often talked about buying an RV of some sort, at some point in the future, but by the time we returned home from our 2014 Adventure, it was obvious that ‘some point’, had arrived.

We went to a few RV shows. The ones where they showcase the $400,000 coaches with 9 slide-outs, 15 gold-plated toilets, and Italian marble countertops. (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly – those things are insane) A glorious fantasy they were, but I ask you, who in their right mind wants (very heavy) marble countertops in their RV? (someone with enough money to not care, that’s who)

We liked the idea of a 5th-wheel, (which is a type of travel trailer (caravan) that hitches up inside the tray of the towing truck, mostly for the ceiling height as I recall) with slide-outs for more room. We liked them, that is, until we started looking into costs and financing. We eventually settled on our trusty 8m/25’ ‘Canyon Cat’, travel trailer and started planning our first trip while we waited for delivery, and thereafter, our modifications, to be completed.

Out came the maps to be pinned to the wall and stuck all over with post-its. We’d surprise each other with, ’what do you think about this’, and ‘maybe we should go here’,

We initially planned a few-hundred-kilometer pootle, a ‘shake-down cruise’, while we learned the in’s-and-out’s of RV-ing. (something neither of us had ever, ever, done before)

 … yeah, about that …this is what we actually did …

10,000 kilometers in 31 days. From Widder Island, on the West coast of Canada to Niagara Falls, and back again.

It was one of those Adventures that usually have the appellation ‘… of a lifetime’, tagged on them, but somewhere along the way we wondered if we could do it more frequently, perhaps even as a lifestyle. There was nothing really to hold us to one place. The possibilities were … exciting, challenging, tantalising … endless.

Our steep learning curve turned vertical the moment we pulled out of our driveway, but we did it, and we made some truly memorable memories and saw some truly spectacular sights. (I was, however singularly unimpressed with the Prairies though. Not a mountain to be seen … for days, and days, and days and … I wrote a story about it that I might publish one day … perhaps in a collection of short stories inspired by our Adventures)

Elsewhere in the world ‘extreme weather events’, started making mainstream media headlines, and we took note, even as we planned our next RV-ing excursion (albeit a more modest outing than our maiden voyage) to Otter Lake in 2016.

On the way to Otter Lake, we drove through hundreds of hectares of devastated pine-tree plantations. Decades of forestry mismanagement and Global Warming provided the perfect environment for an opportunistic little bug, the Pine Beetle, to launch an invasion. Trees were dying everywhere, and when trees die in such numbers it’s only a matter of time before wildfires take their turn to ravage the land.

Throughout the summers of 2017, 2018, and 2019, wildfires wreaked untold devastation throughout BC, and blanketed whole regions in massive palls of cruel smoke and ash. Even on Widder Island, untouched by the fires themselves, visibility was reduced to a few hundred meters, and the smoke-filled air reduced any sort of outdoors venture to necessities only.

The regions we had planned to explore fared far worse, and it would’ve been the worst kind of irresponsible to visit them as tourists.

Through an abundance of caution and common sense, we cancelled our RV-ing plans for those three consecutive summers, although we still remained relatively untouched by the fallout from our rapidly changing climate until the summer of 2019 when Widder Lake was closed to swimmers for the first time. An algae bloom rendered the water too risky to human health. (no mention was made of the other species of creatures that used the lake, but isn’t that just like humans?)

As the summer of 2019 faded into Autumn and Winter, we took the time to finalise our plans to leave the coast permanently. Population pressure was driving the cost of living sky-high. We were lucky with our mostly absent landlady, but as renters our home could be pulled out from under us at any time.

We started ‘The Wunder-Lusters’, YouTube channel to document our journey, not only for ourselves, but for others who might be feeling the same way. To show what two older women could accomplish when they set their minds to it.

We waited for the high-passes to be free of snow, usually April/May-ish, so it would be safe to cross over them with our travel trailer, and then we would truly start our ‘wunder-lusting’, in the summer of 2020.

Plans which, as it turned out, were already 6 months out of date.

(It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when Covid-19 first started, but this report, (along with others, I haven’t linked to, but they’re out there if you want to do a bit of research) reasonably deduces that late Autumn of 2019 is when the world changed for us all)

Well, I Guess That Was Summer

We painted our awning yesterday.

When we unpacked our trailer back on Widder Island, after that prolonged Winter, (and Spring-that-never-was) and rolled down the awning, we noticed that the fabric felt a little brittle. It was, after all, seven years old, and designed to have a limited life-span, as all such ‘add-on’s’, are made in order that as much money can be prised from RV owners wallets as is possible and still adhere to the minimum legal standards. (like just about everything where there’s a profit to be made)

The fabric itself is made of three layers, fabric (of some sort) sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. (of some sort)

And it’s black. Why it’s black I have no idea … well yes I do, it costs less to manufacture a black awning than it does a white or coloured, (or heaven forbid, a patterned one!)

We love our little home-on-wheels, but we’re certainly discovering just how much of it was constructed out of the cheapest materials possible. Thank goodness both Mrs Widds and I are ‘Ms Fixits’, when it comes to making repairs on the fly, or maintenance-y stuff that wouldn’t be necessary, or done as often, were the quality a little better. (I feel like I’m being a little too curmudgeonly today. Might pause and have a cuppa tea and a bikkie. That always changes my context) Having said that, we have the essentials for a comfortable day-to-day life, in the short-term, and that’s OK.

Back to the awning – having been out in the midday sun for days on end, for so many years, and being black, and layered, the poor thing’s layers had started to part company and a few tiny stress holes were showing. (that would swiftly become large stress holes if we didn’t do some repair work poste haste)

That was back in April. I don’t know if you remember April, but in the Lower Mainland, it was wet and cold. Not ideal conditions to even contemplate a major bit of outside work.

We researched the cost of buying a new awning – north of $800 – not an option, and settled for a special vinyl paint that would dry flexible enough so that it wouldn’t hinder the awning being rolled up and down as required.

Then we waited for a stretch of dry sunny weather … and waited … and waited.

April didn’t deliver, which was just as well because we were packing like dervishes to leave Widder Island for good.

May didn’t deliver. For the first half of the month we were at Cheam Fishing Village and Campground in Agassiz. (where it rained every, single, bloody, day) The second half of the month, we were amongst the gorgeous mountains in Valemount, where it didn’t rain every day, but it was too cold, and we were too buggered from the move to do anything more than bundle up and sit outside for a bit of fresh, very fresh, mountain air before the cold drove us inside again. (certainly not the recommended temperature range for doing a spot of outdoor painting)

We’ve been here in Prince George for a bit over two months now and between late-afternoon thunderstorms, rainy weather in general, and still being too cold, we still hadn’t got to fix our poor awning, who by this time had developed a bit of a tear. (which we were able to hastily patch with a bit of awning tape)

Finally, FINALLY, a few days ago, the skies cleared, the sun came out (and started to bake everything, but that’s another story – we’re having a heat-wave, not a heat-dome, it’s just waving) and we could begin!

Unfurling – if you look closely you can see the tape above the door ... a very common stress-point, apparently

Unfurling – if you look closely you can see the tape above the door … a very common stress-point, apparently

Day 1 – Mrs Widds, whose knees both work just fine, (mine couldn’t muster half a knee between them) ascended the ladder and washed the accumulated detritus off the awning.

Day 2 – Waiting. (we had to let it dry completely)

Day 3 – While I remained the designated ladder-holder, Mrs Widds again worked the ladder like a pro and slathered the awning with liquid vinyl … white liquid vinyl.

For the above mentioned reasons, we chose to paint it white.

White reflects heat – t’aint rocket science RV designers

White reflects heat – t’aint rocket science RV designers

The temperature waved at us as it merrily sailed past 30°C, but we forged on and finished the job …

You can’t beat a nice shady tree in Summer, for the extra coolness, and the dappled sunlight effect

You can’t beat a nice shady tree in Summer, for the extra coolness, and the dappled sunlight effect

You see that wavy valance-y thing along the bottom edge of the awning? This is what’s on the inside …

I think it looks like other-worldly dancers, ghosts and sprites

I think it looks like other-worldly dancers, ghosts and sprites

I’m in favour of leaving it as it is. (not cleaning the scuffs off) Mrs Widds remains undecided.

This is the weather forecast for the next 7 6 days …

Weather forecast – A bit all over the place, in’it?

Weather forecast – A bit all over the place, in’it?

We’re due for a thunderstorm tomorrow afternoon/evening and then, that’s the end of the heat, and going by the past few years, the end of Summer. (hence this blog’s title) We’ve had 6 days of glorious sunshine, just long enough to get the awning done, and after tomorrow, it’s business as usual in our corner of the world, a bit of rain, a bit of sun, and 10 degrees cooler.

-oOo-

May your awnings never crack, your ladder stay sturdy, and your sunlight be dappled.

The Adventure continues.

P.S. This stretch of sunshine is why we didn’t do our ‘road trip’ Adventure to Vanderhoof this week. Awnings before road-trips. We have it planned for the week after next, fingers crossed.

Leaf Puzzles And Assorted ‘Shrooms

A few oddities caught my eye as I surveyed my little patch of land I currently call home …

That’s a 30cm/12” ruler next to the ‘shroom, which has increased its girth by a third since I snapped this pic

That’s a 30cm/12” ruler next to the ‘shroom, which has increased its girth by a third since I snapped this pic

That thing could feed a family of starving ‘shroom-eaters for a month!

Also, there’s something snacking on the aspen leaves hereabouts…

I suspect whatever it is has been imbibing in far too much elderberry wine to gnaw in a straight line

I suspect whatever it is has been imbibing in far too much elderberry wine to gnaw in a straight line

It reminds me of a find-your-way-home puzzles I used to get in those jumbo puzzle books, with my Christmas presents when I was a kid, that were about an inch thick and printed on really cheap paper. Kept me occupied on-and-off for months.

Next we come to your bog-standard bit of lichen, just trundling along, minding its own business, connecting with all the other cyanobacteria all over the world …

Lichen – plotting world domination

Lichen – plotting world domination

When you think about it, all life-forms, by the very definition of ‘life’, are plotting world domination. I’m surprised they’ve let us humans have our delusions of grandeur (adequacy) for this long.

Finally, this little oddity kinda made my skin crawl …

Those bleached and wavy tendrils are just waiting for me to come close enough

Those bleached and wavy tendrils are just waiting for me to come close enough

-oOo-

And entirely on a different note – I came across this graphic the other day that is probably the best visualisation I’ve seen so far of why humidity kills, (more than just heat) in the sort of dastardly weather the northern hemisphere is dumping on us this Summer …

-oOo-

That’s it until our next adventure, probably some time next week.

May your humidity be low, your fungi edible, and your plants snack on … someone else.

The Adventure continues.

A Bit Of A Health Scare

We know what the inside of the ER, (Emergency) at Prince George Hospital looks like.

The other night Mrs Widds woke up with excruciatingly painful chest muscle cramps, as though a steel bands were crushing her ribs. It lasted for 5-10 minutes, and then was gone … completely.

Naturally we speed-pootled to the hospital, (thinking, as you probably did reading that last paragraph, that it was, at the very least, heart-attack-adjacent) whose location I had taken note of very soon after we landed here.

Almost every evening we are graced with a vigorous downpour from what are euphemistically called ‘localised thunderstorms’. The one that evening left the roads slick with rain, and I hadn’t driven at night, in the rain, for at least a decade.

I am nothing if not cool in a crisis, so my ‘speed-pootling’, was of the white-knuckle kind. Thankfully at that time of night there wasn’t much traffic around.

I may have known where the hospital was, but finding the ER entrance was a horse of an entirely different kettle of kittens. The rain-drenched, badly-lit, signage didn’t help … but in the end I got us there safely.

After not too long a wait, (it being just before midnight on a Thursday. If it’d been a Friday or Saturday night, we’d probably still be there) in a curtain-shrouded space on a fairly uncomfortable gurney, (no pillow nor blanket to be had in these uncertain times) the tests began.

Three vials of blood were removed from Mrs Widds person. ECG monitoring cables were attached to her person. Soon thereafter her person was whisked away for a chest X-ray.

We were thence ejected from our cozy little cubicle, (it was about 1am by this time) and sent out into the general ER waiting area … and waited …

The seating arrangements in these kinds of areas are designed to find a moderately acceptable balance between comfort and indestructability. They were however, wide enough to accommodate my generous derriere, so I wasn’t complaining. Neither of us were complaining about much really. We were too tired.

We told each other that if it were something serious we probably would’ve heard something already … probably.

1.30am – One-by-one, our fellow ‘walking wounded’, both literally and figuratively speaking, had their final consults with one of the ER doctors. They either passed through the sliding doors and disappeared into the rain-soaked night, with only the spattered light from the streetlamps to guide them, or were wheelchaired away into the well-lit depths of the hospital, never to be seen again. (by us at least)

As each person departed, we dwindling few, shifted positions in our not-horribly-uncomfortable chairs, gazed unseeingly at the TV screen playing the same healthcare messages over and over, and stared, (through the double-glazed plate-glass windows) into the night, awaiting our turn, and wondering by which means of locomotion we would be exiting the waiting room. (I’d be walking, either way, but where’s the poetic license in that?)

Mrs Widds’ assigned doctor, an impossibly beautiful young man, arrived at last, to tell us our fate.

The blood-tests – clear.

The ECG – clear.

The chest x-ray – clear.

NOT A HEART ATTACK!

No idea what had actually happened, but the three of us, Mrs Widds, the beautiful young man, and I, agreed that it was probably some kind of (excruciatingly painful) muscle spasm.

We thanked him profusely, and left that strange and unfamiliar world, filled with the energies of humanity on the edge, to its own devices, and wandered out into the rainy night, filled with our relief.

We didn’t speak much on our way back to our campground, probably too tired, I expect. Mrs Widds climbed into her bed not long after we got back, but I needed to unwind a little.

I played a few rounds of solitaire, not thinking about much of anything, on auto-pilot mostly, and by 3am I was snug in my own bed too.

Life throws us these little whirlwinds every so often, doesn’t it? One moment we’re facing a familiar path, then next, there are hundreds of paths in front of us, leading we know-not-where. And just as quickly, we’re back on the familiar path as though nothing has changed.

Everything has changed, of course, but only within ourselves. The world turns as it will, uncaring of our mortal plight. There’s comfort in that thought though, knowing that She, (Mother Earth) will always carry on.

-oOo-

May your night-time drives be incident free, and your test results negative.

The Adventure continues.

Flowers And Flours

We had an early morning visit from this wee beastie …

A Mistress of Camouflage

A Mistress of Camouflage

I took it as a sign that it was high time I did a bit of flower-gazing. Since it started to warm up the wildflowers around these here parts blossomed overnight. Much to the delight of all the pollinators who’ve been patiently waiting for them.

We are surrounded by the most delicate of wild rose bushes. They flower in a day and the next day the petals have fallen to the ground, but while they’re here they are a delight to see …

Intermingled with the roses were these little ‘five-leaf-clover-ish beauties …

A Five-Leaf-Clover-ish – on a stem, on a bush

A Five-Leaf-Clover-ish – on a stem, on a bush

… and these Magenta Two-Toes …

Magenta Two-Toes ... I have no idea of the names of any of these flowers so I’m making them up as I go along ... as usual

Magenta Two-Toes … I have no idea of the names of any of these flowers so I’m making them up as I go along … as usual

The RV/camping spaces behind us have been left to their own devices and this is the result …

A field of pollinator’s dreams

A field of pollinator’s dreams

Close-ups …

Daisies being pushed by the breeze

Daisies being pushed by the breeze

(Pushing Daisies – greatest 2-season TV show, ever!)

Dandy-Lions getting up close and personal

Dandy-Lions getting up close and personal

Dandy-Lions after too much sun

Dandy-Lions after too much sun

When you stare at the fruit and the fruit stares back …

Wot ch’oo lookin’ at?

Wot ch’oo lookin’ at?

It grows on this bush, and I have absolutely no idea what it is …

Probably best not to know

Probably best not to know

What about this one. An Elven hat-rack perhaps?

Elf hats – cheaper by the dozen

Elf hats – cheaper by the dozen

Self-explanatory …

I hope, because I have no idea, except that it’s not a wildflower

I hope, because I have no idea, except that it’s not a wildflower

-oOo-

In the film ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, Will Ferrell’s character brings the woman he’s courting, played to perfection by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a ‘box of flowers’, which turns out to be a box of flours. (the entire movie is worth a watch, or in my case, several re-watches, but that moment struck a chord with me)

When I was thinking of a title for this post which is a collection of photos of flowers and Mrs Widds latest baking effort, (she is pleased, and like all artists – if you think bread-baking isn’t an art then you’ve never made it from scratch – she’s very hard to please when it comes to her own creations) that scene came to mind, because the main ingredient in bread is, of course, flour …

The buns in the foreground were dipped in melted butter and maple syrup before being baked – divine!

The buns in the foreground were dipped in melted butter and maple syrup before being baked – divine!

Fresh bread burgers for dinner … (with potato salad on the side)

Bread this fresh is notoriously hard to cut evenly. I’m rather proud that they all look like decent slices

Bread this fresh is notoriously hard to cut evenly. I’m rather proud that they all look like decent slices

-oOo-

May your wildflowers bloom and grow, bloom and grow for ever, and your bread slices never be too thin.

The Adventure continues.

Mrs Widds Bakes – In the RV

I’ve been cutting my own hair with a fabulous set of hair clippers since 2019. I got tired of not being satisfied with the cuts I was getting from a salon, and as my styling needs are simple, (#4 blade on the back and sides, #9 on top) I decided I could do a better job, or at least have no-one but myself to blame for a bad haircut. It took me quite a few try’s to get it right, (trimming the back of my head using a mirror took some mental gymnastics) but now I can knock off a decent cut in about 10 minutes.

The other day I decided it was time to do the deed once more. Only this time I didn’t have the privacy of a nice big bathroom, (our bathroom on Widder Island wasn’t all that big, but compared to what we have now …) in which to be naked. (for purposes of jumping straight into the shower to wash all those stick-to-your-skin tiny scraps of offcuts)

No, this time I stood outside, (with all my clothes on – we may have a secluded camping spot but it ain’t that secluded) and a split black plastic garbage bag pegged around my shoulders. With clippers in one hand, hand-held mirror in the other, I proceeded to trim my flowing locks.

This would’ve all gone swimmingly had not a brisk breeze suddenly blown in from the south-west. Scraps of leaves and pine-needles fled before it, my be-pegged cape began to flap as it tried to escape its be-pegged confines. The (empty and dry) plastic wash-basin I was capturing the majority of my shearings in also shimmied across the picnic table and tried to make a run for it.

The end result of all this wind and free-standing/flapping plastic was that my off-cuts, now being thoroughly electrified, stuck to everything … everything. Believe me static electricity is not your friend in the tonsuring business.

-oOo-

On to the bread baking.

Mrs Widds too, has had to make some adjustments to her usual modus-operandi, being bereft of the kitchen as we knew it.

All she needed though was our handy folding table, a fabulous silicone pastry sheet (the blue thing underneath the dough), a bit of nice weather, and away she went …

Ah, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen

Ah, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen

Speaking of nice weather … a heat dome is supposed to descend on our heads in a day or two, so one could reasonably expect the temperatures to start leaving the single digits, couldn’t one?

It was 4C last night. Today never got above 9C, and tonight is forecast to be a luxurious 7C. Apparently we can blame this on La Nina deciding to stick around for a while longer. However, as Ms Scarlett O’Hara was wont to say, ‘Tomorrow is another day’, and it just might be a warmer one than today!

(unfortunately, as I’m writing this and preparing to publish it, our campground Wi-Fi is nowhere to be found, so you won’t be reading this until tomorrow anyway … I’ll let you know if we have sunny skies or cloudy ones … )(Update: We had sunny skies and now we have clouds. I’ve given up even guessing any more)

Chemistry in action – the dough riseth

Chemistry in action – the dough riseth

The last outside action is to knead the dough one last time, form it into loaves, and place in a well-oiled bread tin … and wait …

The dough riseth some more

The dough riseth some more

You see what the pans are sitting on? That’s pretty much the extent of our kitchen. Roomy eh?

The raw dough has been turned to sheer golden deliciousness by the application of heat – Chemistry for the win, again!

The raw dough has been turned to sheer golden deliciousness by the application of heat – Chemistry for the win, again!

Actually, it has taken Mrs Widds five rounds of bread baking to get a feel for how the propane gas oven works in order to have that all-over glow-y crust. A genius, is she not?

-oOo-

May static electricity never intrude upon your haircuts, and may your bread rise perfectly.

The Adventure continues.