Off the Rails More Than on Them

Thot for the day if you just turned 60…(click here)

Our scheduled appointment with destiny and McDowell was intended for the Jordan Valley Campground, near Niagara on the Lake in Ontario. We were planning to get to the campground on the 20th; they were to arrive 21 June (having just sold their house, so now “full-time wanderers” like us). And as an added bonus, friends Heshy and Steve Altbaum were going to come down from Trono for drinks and DinDin that evening.   So a pretty fun, but complicated plan,  with many moving parts. 

And things went off the rails almost right away!

Actually, even before “right away.” It seems the McDowells actually had a reservation at the campground on the 22nd, but somehow (somehow’s name is Mike) told Steve Altbaum that they would be arriving on the 21st; which turned out to be the best date for a get-together (it was thot). Until nearly the date(s) in question, Mike and Steve were teeing up the dinner on the 21st, even asking me to find a restaurant and make a reservation, since we were arriving the day before.

Meanwhile the campground was expecting the McDowell’s on the 22nd. On the 19th, I was confirming everything with Steve and Mike, when suddenly… “ooops…gotta get back to you…” Whew…campground was able to change McDowell reservation to the 21st.

But that wasn’t the end of coming off the rails.

Arriving in the area on the 20th, our GPS guided us to the campground via a very small bridge which was clearly labeled “10 tonnes max.” I was not sure if a “tonne” was the same as a “ton” (why should it be…a dollar is not a dollar, and a litre is CERTAINLY not a gallon…). There was a pullout just before the bridge, so I pulled out and sought to consult Dr. Google. He disclosed that a “tonne” was 1000KG, which equals about 2,220 lbs. 10 of these is 22,200 lbs. I KNOW that the bus weighs at least 28,000 lbs, so we were NOT going to cross that bridge, even assuming a margin for error in the label.

Talk about coming off the rails…right into the creek, potentially!

We had seen a sign back a ways on the road for the campground that clearly went a different way – we normally follow the GPS if there is a difference, because it theoretically KNOWS how much we weigh. But in this case, we drove back to the sign and followed it. It took us to another route, where there was a sign that also said “10 tonnes max, ahead.”

Could this be the SAME bridge or a different one? Was it even a bridge or other obstacle, or just an attempt to keep commercial vehicles away? We routinely ignore “Commercial Vehicle” limitations. Now we were in a quandry. As we were stopped (essentially blocking the road), a local drove up, and unlike in the USA, did NOT immediately begin honking at the obstruction. Instead he asked if we needed help! I asked him about the sign. He said that bridge (the very same bridge, actually) is just AFTER the turnoff to the campground, so we would be A-OK. Emboldened, we forged ahead.

Jordan Valley Campground sans McDowell

As we were settling in to our campsite (a GREAT little campground, BTW), we had our next “Off the rails” moment…a text from Les McDowell. It seems Mike had hooked up the water for a moment, and found a MAJOR gushing of said water in all directions. Mainly centered on the piping under their trailer, but unfortunately also from the water heater. They quickly brought the trailer to an RV mechanic, who saw immediately that the HW heater had split!

Regardless of why (there is some speculation, which the McDowells will neither confirm nor deny, that Mike may have missed a key winterizing step?), it needed to be replaced.

Ironic, that our 40-year-old bus got us to Ontario without issue and on time, while the McDowells’ nearly-new Airstream had them stranded in Pittsburgh.

To be discussed over adult beverages, no doubt.

Colenari Winery, Niagara on the Lake

Anyway, a new one was available overnight, so it looked like the McDowells might be delayed by only one day. In the cosmic scheme, not a problem. But, the original plan had been to meet the Altbaums for dinner on the 21st and the McDowells were now certainly not going to make that! And now, off the rails even more, the Altbaums  had a conflict, so they weren’t, either. I cannot say for sure if the Altbaum’s  “conflict” was actually the promise of undiluted Harris, but regardless of WHY, Liz and I were left to our own devices.

Wine Tasting

Which is always totally fine for us…we used the opportunity to catch some unanticipated live music at a brewery in Niagara on the Lake, after we stopped at a winery. So quite a nice evening!

Wandering Niagara on the Lake

Spending more time off than on the rails, at this point, as it turned out, the McDowells’ new heater did NOT arrive overnight. Perhaps Mike and the dealer were confused about WHICH overnight was being discussed? Or Mike (he of the 21st and 22nd confusion) had the dates mixed up. Or they lied to Mike. No way to know, but if the latter, coal in their Xmas stocking is in order. Ultimately, it was delivered “over-overnight,” installed and the McDowells were on the way.

Not without further drama,  however.  It seems the Border crossing for the McDowells was anything BUT routine.  They were separated from their vehicle(s), which underwent a THOROUGH search.  This in stark contrast to the 30-second smile and look-see we experienced,  followed by the usual, “Enjoy your time in Canada” exhortation.   I can only assume that the McDowells looked dangerous in some way.  

Retired, so “late” is no longer a relevant concept
Two Coozies in Inventory!

They arrived on the 23rd; only late by 2 days, but of course the McDowells are also retired, so “late” is no longer a relevant concept. Mike’s biggest concern, in fact, was whether there was any chardonnay left in the box we had bought in anticipation of their arrival. YES, there was…and a brand new coozie for it…Liz having spent a rainy day perfecting her product!

HARRIS LAW OF RETIREMENT: Don’t MAKE plans and then there are no Snafus

This date snafu proves not to make “plans,” especially ones that involve aligning the orbits of THREE separate parties. That is fraught with danger! Best to keep it to “wishes” and then be pleasantly surprised when you DO manage such intersections.

When the McDowells were actually rolling, I texted to ask Mike how much they weigh. Remembering the confusion (and Liz’s dagger eyes) when Steve Aidelbaum asked us OUR weight, I clarified whose weight and why I was asking. I am sure Mike knew I could not care less about HIS weight and would not rudely ask Fran’s. Nor did I want to hear about their successful stint on Weight-Watchers. It was the TRUCK/Trailer..stupid!

I was going to offer an alternate route to the one with the 10-tonnes bridge. They (the truck and trailer) weigh about 12,000 lbs or 7 tonnes-ish. The bridge should have been OK, but Mike decided it was easy enuf to miss it, armed as we were with our knowledge of local conditions. He begged for the alternate route which I provided. Fran was totally OK with the 3 tonnes margin, for the record.

Our campground host ultimately told us about the bridge’s history. It is one of three left in Canada that were built expressly for Sherman Tank Crossings. There is NO DOUBT whatsoever that the bridge would have supported RV WHERE YET — even a caravan of RV WHERE YETs. Still, the detour was pragmatic.

Totally Roughing it in Jordan Valley Campground

Ultimately, the McDowells DID arrive in Jordan…though they seem to have brought water (in this case, rain) with them. Not a problem…Liz had the Coozie Factory going at full capacity!! In a day of rain, she cut 6 and sewed 3. We are RICH BEYOND IMAGINATION, though we haven’t yet sold even one. We also visited Niagara-on-the-Lake proper (a really nice little town) and several wineries. We stoked up a campfire one fine evening (the rain, like the hot water heater issue, passed), and shared several communal meals.

As we spent a few hours cooking and drinking at NOTL, I helped Mike install and configure his new DISH Satellite setup, having had ours for almost 2 years. There was some integration needing to be done in the Airstream, for which I had all the necessary tools, cables, ties, labels, coupling etc in my kit. We drive a 40-year-old vehicle, albeit more reliable than the new one parked next to us. So, our kit is extensive!!!

I also had to ‘splain to him the concept of “local channels” in the context of travelling and in this case of being across the border.  Told him to tell DISH we were in Buffalo. The “Reward” at the end of the evening was a Pirates Game on TV.  If you can call that a “Reward.” Have you seen the standings, lately?

3 thoughts on “Off the Rails More Than on Them

  • OUCH!!! Kinda tough on your “friends”, aren’t ya?
    And, we’ll defend the comfort, nimbleness, and reliability of our AS (hmm, three services since 2015, two of which were graciously covered under warranty, compared to, what, 40ish, on the bus?) any day. Come on Dan, all one has to do is actually follow your blog to know that you have a string of service folks helping you lumber along across the United States!!

    • It’s TOUGH LOVE, you know that! I can’t deny any of what you say. But at least I am not embarrassed about causing or needing said repairs and service folks. 😉 “Lumbering across the USA” is a good day for us!

  • The Off the Rails title had me concerned! Relatively speaking not too bad since it sounds like no one completely went off the rails. Let that be a lesson to you retired folks for actually pulling out the calendar and making plans. Hope to see you all sometime soon!

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