If you are reading this, we either found wifi or Verizon service somehow. Funny how much we miss our accustomed connectivity. We thought Tim Horton’s restaurants would all offer wifi service after we saw it in Dayton, Ohio. But none of the Canadian Tim Horton’s we’ve visited (we’re a little embarassed to admit, but we’ve stopped at Tim Horton’s almost every driving day for the past two weeks) have offered wifi.
You know, we’re only stopping in Tim Horton’s to look for wifi and use the washrooms. And once we’re in the restaurant, the sirens call. “Over here, sweethearts, over here — look at all these yummy fresh pastries and muffins. Smell this wonderful fresh coffee. You know you want it and you really didn’t think you’d find wifi here, did you? You are just here for the coffee and doughnuts, aren’t you? Come on, grains and dairy and all goodness right here. This is good for you.” And so we continue stopping in Tim Horton’s restaurants (read: really great doughnut shop) to “look for wifi”. This we do for you, dear friends, so you can peruse our ramblings while you munch on your doughnut and sip a little coffee.
The low temperature last night was 46F, the coolest we’ve seen this summer. We’re stationed at approx 4,400 feet elevation in Cypress Hills Provincial Park near Maple Creek, SK. Yesterday the high, driving from Moose Jaw to Maple Creek, was 52 degrees. We had light rain almost the entire 240 mi trip. The rain placed a little more emphasis on driving caution and a whole lot of road dirt on the truck and trailer. Oh well, they’re washable and we have time. We plan to stay at Cypress Hills three more nights before we move on.
We’ve stayed in five Provincial Parks this trip so far. Birds Hill by Winnipeg, MB, Spruce Woods near Carberry, SK, Crooked Lake near Grenfeil, SK, Buffalo Pound near Moose Jaw, SK, and now Cypress Hills Park. This is the first in which we have taken electricity service, and it is nice to have “full power” again. We can get along well without commercial electricity as almost everything in our RV is battery-powered. Battery power, though, is not at all the same as commercial power.
Solar panels afford us full batteries during the bright days and serviceable batteries even on cloudy days. Sunset means the batteries settle into a slightly lower power, from a high of 13.8 volts to no more than 12.8 volts. Not even a ten percent drop, right? You can tell the difference in the lights, the pump, the fans. Everything is just a little dimmer. And after a few hours of darkness outside the battery voltage drops another few tenths. The reduction has exceeded ten percent from peak battery power. So what?
This really is just a matter of degrees. Everything still works very well. We continue to have required voltage and power to operate all our 12vdc appliances and are able to obtain 110vac (through our small inverter) if we need to, all from the batteries. But it becomes, if only mentally, a bit like paddling although your canoe has a motor you aren’t to use after a certain time each day. Paddling works perfectly well, is quiet and free, and is as much as some people will experience. Your motor allows you to take your canoe a little faster, a little more effortlessly, a little longer even. And now with the motor off, the canoe is back to just a paddling boat. Still goes everywhere but. . .
But we sure do like full power, too. The ham radio works just a little better on 13.8 volts than on 12.2 or 12.6 volts. The lights are just a little brighter. The fans and water pump operate just a little faster. We ignore battery capacity and avoid rationing battery usage. What a luxury to have full power at every light and appliance! This reminds Jim of his dad telling about growing up in Mississippi in the 1920’s. Many rural houses lacked electrical power of any kind. Jim’s dad was remembering, when the house lights would dim or the fan would slow, going out to start the generator to recharge for awhile the storage batteries.
The aggravations with the batteries and generator were better than only having oil lamps and hand fans. Solar power and batteries provide us nice flexibility. They allow us to use all the juice we want during a sunny midday. We can charge the battery-powered electronic stuff (laptops, iPod, Palm, phone) and still get a great charge to the house batteries. We also have lighting and water pumping and fans wherever we are. We can refrain paying for electricity, water, or sewer connections at any campground, saving between $3 and $10 per night. We like the flexibility and economy.
We have never parked between so many and so tall trees.The trees are spaced, off the roadway and immediate parking site, every six to ten feet apart. These pines (we’re pretty sure they aren’t cypress, despite the park name) all seem to be at least sixty feet tall. Jim’s a little tempted to string my ham radio wire antenna between the trees. If he did he would realize great reception and transmission with the radio’s long distance bands. Hmm, why not? We’ll see.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park has a resort hotel, a golf course and mini-golf, a swimming pool, a couple of stores, a pizza place, and more. We arrived between rain showers yesterday, set up the RV, and built and enjoyed a roaring campfire before supper. We will take time over the next two days to explore the Park while getting our daily walks.
The drive yesterday was interesting for the change of scenery — less apparent were zillions of acres of verdant farm acreage and instead we saw miles and miles of grassy moguls. Agriculture is still happening, evidenced by tall grain elevators every twenty to fifty miles. But we’re seeing signage for mining or quarrying, we’re seeing a lot of oil wells pumping up and down. Gone are the blue flax or yellow canola fields which stretched out as far as we could see. More cows and horses, more industrial-looking stuff. Maybe it’s differences in the soil? More on this later.
Our schedule, for several weeks, has been driving on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. This plan is a little minimalist for us — it almost feels like we’re hurrying again because we are driving three times a week. By this schedule we stay three nights through each weekend to avoid hunting a site on Fridays. The concept has seemed to work in a couple of parks and allows us to continue without arranging reservations for sites. This Park has a golf course (about which we know nothing so far) and so we’re thinking we will stay two extra nights to make worthwhile the small chore of extracting Jim’s golf bag from under twenty different things in the truck’s bed.
The truck’s bed is well-enough organized and only five feet wide by six and one-half feet long, so it doesn’t take so long to locate and grab anything. But removing a large object, like the golf bag, also will entail putting it back in place and putting twenty things back in place above it. Why not leave the golf bag on top, so it is easy to reach? Unfortunately for Jim’s golf game, our schedule predicates using the electrical cords and water hoses and chairs and the Cosco stool and — wait a minute. Maybe there aren’t twenty things in the way after all? Items at the bottom of the truck’s bed seems a bigger project to access than they are. Five minute is all it takes to reach anything anywhere in the truck’s bed, and five minutes suffice to return the truck bed to general order.
The RV’s interior temp was 52F degrees this morning when Jim awoke to check the ham bands. Jim lit the catalytic propane heater (and aimed it at himself and the wall thermometer) before he made himself a cup of tea. Now Deb’s stirring and the RV is 71 degrees. She’ll leave her warm bed and make us some hot oatmeal before we walk about.
Let’s go find some golf clubs so Debbie can have a little peace and quiet in her home this week while Jim tries to play golf. Talk to you later, next time we find wifi. Maybe in a Tim Horton’s restaurant, eh?