In which Wade and Christine fix fuses like mechanics, go camping,
combat ROUS's (Racoons of Unusual Size), and enjoy the wonders of
technology in the great outdoors.
[Note: Part 3 of 8 (Tuesday, May 15th). Totally work-safe.]
This is a continuation of Christine's visit. You may want to first read:
First, a quick note. For reasons too deep and convoluted to get into here (i.e. spur-of-the-moment idea), Christine's nickname is Snowflake. I quite like the nickname, and it has unanticipated benefits, because oftentimes Snowflake gets changed into other things, like Sleepy-flake, Insatiatible-flake, Pansy-flake, etc. You'll understand some of the reasons why in this and subsequent entries. For now, just remember that if you see Snowflake, it means Christine.
Mechanics R Us!
Tuesday's activities had been planned long in advance; we had booked a campsite at the Pinery Provincial Park 2 months beforehand and were very enthused about it! During our pre-visit plannings, we had thought that an early start would be good, allowing us to explore Grand Bend (a popular town/beach 4km from the Pinery) before checking into the Pinery itself, at 2pm exactly (check-in/out time was 2pm, so we wanted to be there from 2pm on Tuesday to 2pm on Wednesday to maximize our camping experience).
Alas, no plan survives first contact unaffected. Rather than leaving at 9-10 am, we didn't leave London until about 12 noon. However, there were a few good reasons for this. A little background is needed :-) I have this handy dandy adapter thingee that plugs into the cigarette lighter of a car and creates AC power from the DC car battery. The adapter has two standard 110V 3-prong outlets that you can plug anything into. Alas, there was a problem in mudville. My DC-to-AC converter wasn't working! We could, of course, have camped without electricity, but ... why? I mean, that's like saying one could be mono. Sure you can be. But why? ;-) A wee bit of electricity just makes life so much easier (I'll leave the mono/poly analog for you to come up with). For example, for use in inflating the super comfy mattress, or powering the very-useful-for-watching-movies wide-screen laptop (whose 21 inch monitor makes its battery life truly dismal),
hitachi magic wands, etc.
When we woke up on Tuesday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I remembered the problem-in-mudville (I'd meant to look into it before the week arrived, and had forgotten about it!) While pondering this state-of-affairs, I hypothesized that maybe the non-functioning cigarette lighter was due to something as simple as a blown fuse! You must understand, I'm sooooo not a mechanic (totally clueless about cars, most pathetic farm-boy in the history of humanity), so this was in actuality quite the intuitive leap for me. I explained my little theory to Christine, and while I packed up Wade's Standard Camping Equipment1, Christine read thru the owners manual for my car and painstakingly identified three distinct location in the car where fuses exist, then identified exactly which fuse was responsible for the cigarette lighter. Sure enough, a little fiddling and viola, we had extracted a 20 amp fuse that was visibly blown!
1 For the record, Wade's Standard Camping Equipment fits comfortably into one of my closests. It consists of:
- A kerosense-powered three-burner grill
- A set of three durable multi-purpose pots
- A nice big box containing all sorts of useful camping things: plastic utensils, plates, cups, saran wrap, tin foil, tongs, axe, etc. etc.
- A bag of wood kindling
- A super-comfy, amusingly high (when fully inflated) air mattress with built-in pump.
- An amusing large tent.
- Four collapsable lawn chairs
- A small (solid) cooler
- A larger (collapsible) cooler on wheels
- Long blue extension cord and power bar
In addition to the closet, other standard equipment is found in the bedroom:
- 5 pillows
- 2 blankets
- 1 duvet
- A sheet
After filling the car to overflowing, we dashed over to a nearby mechanics place, acquired a replacement fuse, and 5 minutes later we had a working DC-to-AC converter again! Totally awesome! Then we zipped downtown, at Christine's insistence (I really am terrible about procrastination), to renew my health card (my back-attack had given new impetus to stop procrastinating about renewing, so I wasn't particularily resistant to the idea :-) However, the wait line was crazy long, and I was suspicious that I hadn't brought everything I should have, so we decided to postpone till Friday. We filled up with gas, bought some ice for the coolers, and off to the Pinery we went!
The Wee Little Tent
We arrived at the Pinery at 1:48pm. We checked in and found our totally awesome and oh-so-secluded camping site (very intentionally picked by us months earlier for its seclusion, although ironically this was entirely unnecessary since there was NOBODY else there!). We had fun setting up the amusingly large tent.
The amusingly large tent. $180CAN at Costcos, and quite simple to set up. Porch, back door, zippers and closures everywhere to allow or disallow sunshine and air from any direction. Curtains to divide the tent into up to three "rooms", each of which can fit a queen-sized mattress. Proven racoon proof (once zippers are properly placed out of reach :-)
I was all enthused about demoing the DC-to-AC adapter thingee to inflate the super-comfy mattress. Sadly, although the adapter worked wonderfully to give us electricity in a non-electricity campsite, we quickly realized that the mattress was ... leaking air. Flipping it over, we discovered a ginormous 1cm hole, and about 100 tiny pinprick holes. Obviously, my cats had somehow managed to destroy the mattress the last time it was out around them.
There's a hole in my mattress, dear Snowflake, dear Snowflake, there's a hole in my mattress!!!
Did I mention that it was sunny and warm? And that we were in an intentionally secluded campsite? And that we quite literally never saw another occupied campsite the entire time we were there? Au naturel, as always, was oh so natural. Which led to certain outdoor activities involving a supportative picnic table, echos from the hillsides, and some confused spectator wildlife.
Engelbert, however, was definitely not confused, and objects to being classified as wildlife. He was a spectator though. Don't be fooled by his small stature and innocent appearance, he's not even remotely innocent.
The Beach. And Shrubs
Around 4pm, we decided to go get some firewood, go to the beach, explore a few places we'd seen nearby, get some bug repellent, and hopefully find some mattress patches to see if we could save the mattress. We went to the beach first, which was absolutely packed with people! Oh, wait. Packed with sand! Yeah, yeah, that's it, sand!
Um, yeah. See, in Canada, the May long-weekend (usually around May 24th, and called the "May two four" weekend, is the unofficial "start of summer". We were at the beach on Tuesday, with the upcoming weekend being the long weekend. The Pinery was booked SOLID (and had been for 6 months) for the weekend (but was completely empty on Tuesday). It is an amusing contrast, seeing the beach almost entirely free of people, and knowing that in 4 days, the place would be crawling with obnoxious drunken revelers trying to drink their way thru a "two four" of beer so they can claim to have brought the summer in properly. Ugh.
Although the day had started warm and sunny, it was beginning to grow overcast in preparation for the predicted thunderstorms that night. However, this in no way affected the balmy temperatures of Lake Huron, and we frolicked in the warm waters for hours and hours...
Christine and Engelbert enjoy the relaxing warmth of Lake Huron.
On our way back from the beach to our campsite, we stopped to take some amusing pictures of some awesomely designed shubberies in the shapes of animals, etc. It was a home/business selling greenhouse-related greenery, and the entire (very large) front yard was covered with shaped shubbery. We talked to the owners, and they seemed very nice. They missed out on some serious humor potential by not having signs posted saying "Don't feed the shubbery" though.
Please do not feed the shubbery!
Alas, we did not take panoramic pictures showcasing all of the greenery as a whole - we only have individual shrub pics. How sad.
Next, we stopped to picked up the wood, repellent and patches, and were back in the tent diligently patching the crazy number of holes by 5:30 or so. Although things looked promising for awhile, and was fun to work on together, we eventually concluded (after patching/testing/inflating multiple times) that our sleep wasn't going to be as air-filled as we'd hoped. Ever-resilient campers that we are, we didn't let this phase us :-)
We built a fire together, which is always fun. The secret to starting a fire is a fanning device; it makes everything 10 times easier. Normally, I have an old chessboard in my supplies, but it died from excessive flapping awhile ago and I haven't replaced it. We used the board that came with the MindTrap game as our source-of-ultra-oxygen, since I never use it for its intended purpose anyways.
Da fire. Mmmm, hotdogs coming up!
After the fire was merrily crackling away, I tortured some branches into the shape of hotdog sticks, Christine put down some tinfoil on the grill part of the firepit, and we cooked like cave-people do (well, specially augmented cave-people with industrial-revolution-era technology, that is). Digging into our cooler-of-plenty for cheese and berries and bread, we discovered ... that the bread was missing!!! Egads!!! It wasn't that I'd forgotten it; I knew I had packed it. Then I remembered that when we came back to the campsite from our beach/shrubbery/wood-acquistion activities, I had noticed some "litter" near our site that had reminded me of a loaf of bread (I'd dismissed my hypothesis because I, being oh-so-canny, know that loaves of bread do not grow in foresty areas!). Putting this memory together with the sightings of amusingly large racoons nearby while we were setting up the tent, I concluded that we'd be the victims of Rocky The Infamous Masked Racoon Bandit. Damned Rocky! Us coming home had interupted him in mid-heist (hence the dropped loaf of bread where I could misperceive it as litter), but we then went into the tent to attempt to salvage the mattress, spending an hour inside, during which time the daring Rocky presumably came back to snag the "litter" (aka my loaf of bread!) from right under our noses!!!
Rocky the Roguish Ruthless Ravenous Racoon Reluctantly Retreats to Re-develop Revenge Responses
We sat in front of the fire revelling in our cave-person prowess, enjoying the universally fascinating effects of fire, and eyeing the omninous clouds developing overhead promising a thunderstorm. We savored the hotdogs and cheese and berries and warmth and each other. We asked each other more mindtrap questions, I chopped some wood like a proper caveperson-with-access-to-high-quality-iron, we snuggled, etc, etc. We continued to enjoy the fire as the sun went down and we were surrounded by darkness, except for the fire and our handy flashlights.
Rocky the Racoon Wreaks Revenge! subtitled "Snowflake screams like a girlie girl!"
It started raining, so we put everything into the tent that was water-soluable. Then we sat out by the fire in the pitter-patter under an umbrella. Not my Amusingly Large Umbrella, which would have been perfect (it had been bought at Costco's at the same time as the Amusingly Large Tent). Alas, the ALU was currently helping protect Maria in rain-infested BC (I forgot it when visiting with her in Ottawa during Rebecca and my roadtrip in late March). However, the Modestly Sized Umbrella gave us an excuse to cuddle more closely together under a blanket (we of course needed such an excuse, being all shy and inhibited around each other).
Apparently, Pinery racoons are absurdly habituated to humans. As the darkness got more and more pronounced, we noticed there were at least three ginormous racoons hanging around our campsite. At one point, we heard a zipper moving, and sure enough, when I went around to the back of the tent, a racoon scurried out of the back-door of the tent and ran off. It had actually known how to get into the tent by using the zipper, and could smell the food in the cooler!!! Some judicious movement of zippers to the top of the doors increased tent security dramatically, and we moved the food into the trunk to avoid teasing the racoons with human food smells. A little later, back at the fire again, I noticed a racoon climbing up on the picnic table not 2 meters from us. I had Christine look over, and the unexpected sight of the admittedly rather large racoon, its sharp teeth glistening in the firelight, its beady eyes glowing with evil intent, .. it all combined to make her ... scream like a girl.
Night falls. If you look veeeery carefully, you can see Rocky the Ravenous Racoon preparing to pounce on Poor Unsuspecting Snowflake (no, not really).
Sadly, we didn't take pictures of anything else that night, which is a pity! Visuals aids are always so useful.
Normally, a girl squealing when startled would not be particularily noteworthy. However, Christine was immensely embarassed by having done so. She is, after all, doing her PhD in evolutionary biology, and apparently you lose nature-cred1 when you get startled into screaming by small furry woodland creatures. All the other biology students might point and laugh at her, or something along those lines. Besides which, some girls don't like coming across as girlie girls :-)
1 nature-cred: like street-cred, only without the streets.
I listened with a sympathetic ear while she explained how her parents had instilled a strong racoons-equals-rabies association in their children living in New York. And then, wanting to comfort her wrt her concerns about her academic brethren mocking her for such an egregious faux-paux, I decided it was best to prepare her, being the kindly, empathetic soul that I am. So I proceeding to tease her mercilessly. I'm good that way. Her embarasament was, and will continue to be, a vertible gold-mine of teasing potential for years to come. You, the compassionate reader, can of course commiserate with her and express understanding and sympathy, but I assure you, it really is much more fun to tease her about it. Your call.
Technology in the Wild: Love, Actually.
After snowflake's shriek had stopped reverberating throughout the entire provinicial park, it started raining much more heavily, so we decided to move inside. But first, we went for a drive down to the restrooms for water filling and other standard restroom activities. Then back to the campsite where we arranged furniture and got everything set up so that we could watch a movie within the comfy confines of our tent while listening to heavy rainful, peals of thunder, and the whispered strategy sessions of the Rabid Racoons trying to decide how best to overwhelm us.
Movie watching consisted of an extension cord from car to tent, the wide-screen laptop resting on a "tv-stand" (aka. the big box containing all the camping paraphrenalia), us comfortable nekkid sitting in our chairs, wrapped up in a huge cosy duvet. I had brought many movies (the spoils of pirate-like activities on the high internet seas, arh matey!), but we decided on Love, Actually, since it isthe best movie. Evar! We turned up the volume so we could hear over the boisterous thunder, and proceeded to watch the movie. We soon moved the laptop up off of the "tv-stand" onto our laps for increased comfort, then later on we moved onto the slowly deflating air mattress with the box-cum-tvstand/laptop-cum-tv resting at the foot of the bed. We watched about 90 minutes before the DC-to-AC converter automatically turned off to avoid draining the car battery too much.
We got all ready for bed, did various things one does when in bed without clothing lying beside a member of ones preferred sex, and not yet asleep. Then we went to sleep, around 2am.
- I totally recommend acquiring an DC-to-AC converter, they are useful for sooo many purposes! Of course, cars nowadays often come with AC-style plugins builtin, which is even better.
- For those peeps cursed with vehicles, I strongly recommend taking a wee bit of time to identify where the fuses are! It is surprisingly useful knowledge. They really are amazingly easy to replace, and knowing which features of the vehicle correspond to which fuses can be useful when you want to disable certain irritating things as well.
- I'm always happy to hear about useful additions to my standard camping equipment.
- My tent was a wonderfully good purchase. Costco rox.
- Have you heard about the uncannily warm waters of Lake Huron?
- Are you aware of the dangers of feeding shubbery?
- Which side of the fence are you going to land on? Empathy? (boooo, booo, hiss) or Teasing? (yaaaaay, whoohooo, do it!)
- Is there any movie better than Love, Actually?
More pics here.