Golden, B.C. – In the Heart of the Rockies

October 14, 2008

Our family spent Thanksgiving Weekend in Golden, British Columbia at a family reunion. For my American readers, Canadian Thanksgiving is on the second Monday in October each year. That’s Columbus Day for you. Here it’s a statutory holiday and we get a long weekend.

We took our motorhome and camped three nights in the campground. It was very cold, but sunny during the day. Thank goodness for the furnace in the RV. We only paid $25 CDN per night with electric and water to stay. Compare this to $100-$150 per night if we had stayed in a motel. Besides our kids love to camp. Most of the meals were associated with the reunion so we didn’t cook.

Golden is located on Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, three hours west of Calgary, Alberta. It’s also the northern terminus of Highway 95 that runs from Canada down into the United States. This is one of the most historic routes in North America.

For those interested in history, Golden was settled in 1882, but the area was first explored in 1807 by the famous cartographer David Thompson. Later surveyors for the railway came. Sir James Hector, a geologist with the railway surveyors, narrowly escaped death when he was kicked by a horse. Thus the name for the pass, Kicking Horse.

The town itself is on the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway. This was the first trans-continental railroad in Canada. The Kicking Horse Pass is the route followed through the Rocky Mountains by the railway and the highway. Wildlife abounds. On the drive home we saw Bighorn Sheep including some trophy size males. Then we saw an elk herd including the large dominent male. He had a large set of antlers and was closely guarding his harem of females.

Up on Kicking Horse mountain at Golden there is a Grizzly bear refuge. There we got to see a 6 year old, 600 pound male named Boo. He was rescued as a cub and they hope to reintroduce him to the wild some day. Incredible creature.

One of the other neat things we did was ride the gondola up to the highest restaurant in the Canadian Rockies where we had lunch. The day was crystal clear and we could see the Rockies forever in every direction. For those flatlanders who want to see what real mountains look like I highly recommend this place. It takes your breath away.

The present population is 4,373 with another 3,155 living in the immediate area.There are two main industrial employers, CP Rail and Louisiana Pacific. Louisiana runs a timber related mill. I believe they produce composite board which is similar to plywood. There is an excellent ski hill and golf course which serve to attract tourists year-round.

Most important of all Golden is where my wife was born and raised.

A Day at KOA

July 30, 2008

During our recent RV trip we decided to stay at parks that had electric and water hook-ups as a minimum and a pool for the kids. Sure our motorhome can be self-sufficient. We can camp in more primitive parks without hook-ups, but with three little ones and a spouse who is not into the wild, power is essential. I have to agree.

Kampgrounds of America (KOA), who by the way I have no financial interest in, run campgrounds all over North America. Almost all sites have electric and water as a minimum, many others also have sewer connections.

To illustrate this I will take the KOA in Billings, Montana. Located just off Interstate 90 (I-90) at first glance it appears rather plain, but after you exit and enter the park one finds it’s in a beautifully wooded area right next to the Yellowstone River. Huge shade trees at throughout the park. Amenities include pool, hot-tub, playground for kids, restaurant serving specializing in ribs, store, and showers.

After registering at the office, you are given a map directing you to the site. Some KOAs have staff who actually take you to the site and ensure you are happy before leaving you.

Our site was close but not too close to neighbors, fairly level, and best of all a pull-through. What is a “pull-through” you ask? Access to your individual site is by driving in and out, with no backing up. This is a big plus when you are driving a 25 foot motorhome from which you have zero visibility out the back other than via rearview mirrors.

After spotting our RV on the level pad and making sure access to the hook-ups was easily available, translation does my electrical cable and water hose reach, the family piled out. I made the electrical and water service connections in less than ten minutes. This was important because the temperature was in the upper 80’s F. Running the air conditioning was a priority.

The site we had also had a cable TV connection so the kids were able to watch their favorite cartoon channels. Trust me this is essential.

We had arrived at about 5:00 p.m local time. I took the kids to the playground while Cindy started part of supper on the stove. Once I got the kids looked after, I returned and barbequed some burgers on our portable propane grill. After supper our six-year old did some skateboarding (the laneways were paved), then we all went for a swim to cool off and relax.

Swimming tired the kids out, so back at the RV they got into PJs and family movie night started. A DVD was selected and they watched along with mom and dad before retiring after a long day. By the way noise or party animals are not an issue at this or other parks. Quiet time after 10:00 p.m. is strictly enforced.

We had planned to stay only one night, but the family so enjoyed the park we signed up for another night.

Camping: Comedy of Errors

June 2, 2008

Our family purchased a previously enjoyed motorhome this spring. This weekend we set out on our first excursion to test it out. The destination was a campground close to home.

Before leaving I attempted to fill the propane (LP) tank. Several attempts at a couple of stations brought the realization something was seriously wrong. I contacted the dealer we purchased from and took it in so they could have a look. Examination showed that a third party had repaired the tank and a couple of things were screwed up. First the filler connection was slanted down so much the pump connection could not be connected. The tank mounts had been improperly installed, and there was a leak at the regulator. Result, we couldn’t use the propane. This meant no stove, no hot water, no shower, and no heat. The unit will have to be repaired, but not until after the weekend. Decision time, do we still go?

The kids were really pumped about camping, my sister-in-law was coming along with her motorhome, and the weather looked good. We decided to go for it. Cooking wouldn’t be a big problem because we intended to barbeque, also my sister-in-law said we could use her stove. If we brought lots of blankets and sleeping bags the cold mountain air at night shouldn’t be a big issue.

Friday evening after work we headed out of the city only to run into a major rain storm. This slowed us down and made driving dicey. Out of town and heading west into the foothills we managed to get lost and had to waste time doubling back. At last we found the campground, which is a private one owned by the company I work for. At last we get parked in a nice spot. We do have a power connection so we can run the fridge and lights without worrying about running the batteries down. All seems well, at least for the moment.

Then we find out the potable water tank still has anti-freeze in it. This renders the water unuseable. What the heck else can go wrong. I should have checked this earlier, but being new to the game I had no idea of what to do. We do have a water source at the campsite so we can haul it for cooking and washing. I did have the foresight to bring lots of bottled water for drinking. Guess we can rough it out.

That night I am converting the table/dining area into a bed. When I undo the table from the wall the brackets flop down and it is obvious they were already broken. Fortunately I can still use the table to make the bed. The next day I delicately connect the table to the wall again, surprise it’s still usable. Another item to add to the “dealer fix it” list.

In the end the weekend worked out well. The kids loved running around outside. The site had playground equipment and a sandbox. I did bring my son’s bike so he rode around all weekend with another kid he met. There was lots of firewood so we had nice campfires both nights and cooked on the barbeques. Best of all the sun shone warmly both days. Nighttime was cold, but we managed to keep warm with lots of bedding. There was frost on the windows both mornings, but the sun warmed things up quickly. The kids didn’t want to leave and wanted to come back for more.

On the way out there was a sani-station (trailer dump) for emptying the sewer and gray water holding tanks. I got out the rubber gloves and hooked up the hose. Then I opened the valves and the tanks began draining. Wait is that a leak in the hose? Yes and suddenly the entire hose disintegrated, I closed the valves as quick as I could. Fortunately I didn’t get splashed. I just shook my head and packed the hose, now in shreds, into a garbage bag. This is something the dealer just has to see.

At last we headed home, parked the RV, and unloaded. In the final analysis, even with the comedy of errors, it has been a very good family weekend. The unit will go in next week for repairs so the next outing will be almost luxurious.

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