Sunday, 16 October 2011

Our Last Trip This Season (Sniff, Sniff)


Well here we are down at not so sunny Rondeau Park, enjoying our last outing of the 2011 camping season. The rain is clattering down on the roof and the wind is howling in the trees around us, so we're ending just as we started back in April. Consistency is our watchword.

The forecast for this weekend predicted near monsoon conditions and for once, both Accuweather and the Weather Network were right, which is surely a feat to be celebrated. We have been fated this season to pick camping weekends that have been wet and windy, but are we downhearted? Never! Should we have had that periscope fitted to the Airstream? Maybe...

Preparations for the weekend went as usual; step outside to do anything and down comes the rain. Come back inside to dry off and out comes the sun; it's a cycle that we're well used to. But we were hitched and ready to leave even before the Tadpoles had made it back from school so a quick trip out to Mr Horton's fine coffee and buns dispensary was called for, something which always bolsters a pair of hungry and keen campers like us. Having waved off the Tadpoles for a weekend with their other toads, we hit the road in the wind and rain, waving briefly to Mr Tiffin who was gamely mowing his grass in the downpour; what a man!

It's only about 35 Kms to Rondeau so it was a gentle run down, the gas mileage looking quite reasonable thanks to the immense tail wind. By the time we arrived the rain had stopped and we wondered over to the dump station to take on water, chatting with other campers whilst there and generally winding down, as you should on these trips. Our site was a pull through and looked to be acceptable, apart from the big fruit tree overhanging the parking area. We'd not have given it a thought except that the fruit was tennis ball sized, weighed a fair bit and was scattered all over the place; I pictured our pride and joy getting well dented if we parked under the tree in this wind. However, some careful placement of trailer and car and we had ourselves sorted fairly quickly.

Towed Haul and neighbours
Much to our surprise there are plenty of people here this weekend, enjoying the rain and wind, obviously. As we drove in there was a big party of people sitting around outside their trailer and all turned to stare at us as we moved past. I wanted to wind the window down and shout out “yes, it's magic!” but thought better of it. They may have just been admiring our trailer rather than thinking “you can't tow that with that”. I've no doubt that we'll see them later this weekend. I have to say that no one has yet told us that we can't tow the Airstream with the Toadmobile but they do make enquiries as to how heavy the trailer is and raise their eyebrows when I tell them them; “With a Sienna? Phew!”, they say.

So, set up and bursting for a baked potato, we retired to the cozy interior of Towed Haul and settled in for a quiet night. Friday night is film and flatulence night with the toads and we cracked open the Guinness, the wine, the chocolate raisins and the chocolate almonds to create our own special ambiance. Our film for the evening was Cassandra's Dream, written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. Well, all I can say is that Mr Allen must have been having a bad day when he made that film and that the two male leads can't have read the script before agreeing to take part; it was dire. We had an Irishman and a Scotsman trying to do London accents and failing badly, Tom Wilkinson stumbling over just about every line and a story that went nowhere with no suspense other than the audience spending the entire movie wondering if there was going to be some great twist in the tail that would redeem it; there wasn't.

When we peered out of the door at about midnight, the clouds had moved on and the moon was bright. On another day we might have wandered out for a walk but, both being tired little toads, we decided to turn in, even though it was really quite early for us. My plan for Saturday morning was to get out and have a walk before Mrs T was up and about, because Guinness and chocolate raisins really need to be walked off. Would the weather allow me? The odds were not good...


What was I saying about odds? The rain was thundering down and the wind was enough to blow the stripes from a Zebra as I squinted through the doorway because the windows were all steamed up. My normal morning routine of heading out to the “Comfort Station” for a shower was going to have to go on hold.

Lurking in the trees
I don't know that it had been that cold in the night; the heating had come on once or twice, but inside Towed Haul it was a bit steamy. The night's peace was punctuated by the occasional squeak of the smoke alarm as its battery faded, so I was feeling a bit grumpy already, but the sight of the predicted monsoon didn't cheer me up any. I did venture out in the end, armed with my $2 golfing umbrella and made it to the showers without getting my towel too wet, so that was a plus. Then I perked up even more to be presented with quite a clean shower that had oodles of very hot water, which was just what I needed. Say what you like about Provincial Parks but they all have good washing facilities, Rondeau more so than most, which is why we keep coming back.

Freshly spruced up I sat in the trailer and wrote a bit, made some tea and coffee and eventually, at almost midday decided to head out for a walk. Mrs T opted not to join me so I set out in my best wet weather clothing and made for the beach. Curiously, the rain stopped about then and by the time I'd hit the sand it was still very windy but it was dry and beginning to look like a better day. Strange, I thought, me outside on a camping weekend and it's not raining; odd, very odd.

The never ending beach
I thought I might walk for half an hour or so along the beach then turn around and come back but, in a very rash moment, I decided I'd walk all the way down to the Visitor Centre along the lake's edge then head back to Towed Haul through the woods. The beach was not too heavy going and the noise of the waves was being cancelled out by the noise of the wind so the walk was pleasant enough, but the Visitor Centre took about 45 minutes to loom into view. When I looked back down the beach, it looked like I'd only walked a few hundred metres when in fact I'd done nearer 5 Kms, such is the foreshortening effect when looking down a flat sandy beach! The walk back along Harrison Trail through the woods was less windy, but it was really difficult to judge how far I'd walked as it really did all look the same. The only wildlife I saw other than birds was snake, and that had been squashed flat. Mind you, the walk was easy and beneath the fallen leaves was a good firm track, so progress was swift and I emerged out of the woods just a few hundred metres from the camp site and about five minutes shaved off the time I'd taken on the outward leg. I used to walk a fair bit but I'm so out of condition these days that even that 90 minutes or so had me feeling well knackered. Still, I'd arrived back for lunch, so that was OK.

A lunatic windsurfer
The weather stayed dry so Mrs T and I went to have a look at the Blue-Green algae in the lake, toured the campground then headed over to the bay on the other side of the peninsular. It was there that we realised just how windy it really was as that side of the park was getting the full force of the south westerly. The bay is only a few feet deep but it was being whipped up by some ferocious gusts, as were a couple of lunatic windsurfers who where skidding along the low waves at breakneck speeds. We stood on the dock getting buffeted about but gave up our forced intake of fresh air after a few minutes as it was getting a little difficult just standing up. Mind you, the views were great across the bay and we certainly appreciated the lack of rain.

On a whim, we decided to get in the car and go to Ridgetown to search out a bakery, or more specifically the buns and doughnuts produced by said bakery. I suppose that I should mention that the rather excellent brochure that the Rondeau Park people produce had pointed us at a baker, but I wouldn't want them getting too big headed. Anyway, the baker was duly located and, unlike most of the shops in Ridgetown, it was still open. We had a good attempt at clearing the the remaining cakes and buns from the bakery shelves and then, after  perusing Main Street for a while, went to find one of Mr Horton's coffee establishments before scuttling back to the campground. We had a mad idea that we might sit outside and make a start on the cakes but the inside of Towed Haul was just too warm and inviting. Essentially, we are a pair of wimps!

When the darkness fell we had another whim moment (we have a lot of those) and headed out again, to Ridgetown again, this time to pick up a battery for the now constantly squeaking smoke alarm and (I'm almost ashamed to say this) to pick up some indigestion tablets to counter the effects of the buns we'd scoffed. Still, it was a pleasant ride out and put us in the right mood for our supper of pizza and, er, pizza. We may have had a salad with it but I'd have rather have had a plate of chips or a baked potato. Unfortunately over here it's against the law to have any kind of potato dish with pizza so we settled on just pizza. Exciting, aren't we?

The campground was full of groups this weekend, four or five trailers grouped together and the occupants gathered under large makeshift shelters all having a jolly time in the rain. It appeared that it was an early Hallowe'en for some groups with kids as carved pumpkins were much in evidence. It certainly made the place quite jolly in the evening with camp fires and music all around. Us being the miserable sorts that we are just hastened inside and settled to supper and a film (a better one than last night) before turning in at a much more respectable time of 1.30am.

We weren't holding out much hope for fine weather for Sunday, it being packing up day the fates weren't going to help us, that much was certain. Still, it was lovely and toasty in Towed Haul so all was well with the world.


We were right about the weather, as I woke to dark skies, wind and rain. All set up in our lovely warm trailer, I was surprised to see others sat outside their trailers under their shelters, watching the rain fall along with the leaves and strange the tennis ball sized fruit. Thwump! There goes another one. Still, each to their own I suppose.

Apart from the regular ablution trip to the Comfort Station, this morning we did nothing at all other than get lunch. Having sorted lunch, and eaten it of course, it was time to pack up so we didn’t have time for long walks on the (rain sodden) beach, which was a pity (ho ho).

Packing up was a bit of a melancholy affair, this being our last packing up of the season. At least we were ending as we’d started, at a cold, grey and wet Rondeau Park, so at least there was a certain symmetry to it all.

Backing the car up to the trailer was a triumph today, especially as I had an audience. It was straight back, some minor adjustment and click, straight on the ball (as it were). Our trailer/car combination always attracts attention so I was really pleased that despite being dangerous lunatics for towing with a minivan, we certainly looked like we knew what we were doing; for a change!

Finishing the hitching went well and we were, for a change, ahead of schedule as we splashed our way out of the site, anti-sway bars groaning and popping and attracting all sorts of attention from our fellow campers. At least they were able to see a couple of one-season toads driving confidently out with their lovely, shiny Airstream in tow; what a treat that must have been for them.

Then we were out of the park gates and off home for the last time this season, wind howling through the extension mirrors but Towed Haul rock solid behind us. Now where’s that calendar so that we can start crossing off the days until next spring?

Mr Toad reflects on a wet and windy first season