Senior Couple forced into Involuntary Separation: Manitoba Government Minister of Health, Seniors & Active Living responds.

The long-awaited response from MB gov’t was finally received. I will let you be the judge to this response. If you are as disappointed and insulted as I was to get this apathetic and political response to doing nothing, then please circulate this petition to all in your social networks:

Senior couple forced into Involuntary

and/or email Minister Cameron Friesen: minhsal@leg.gov.mb.ca

Over 28,000 agree, this is NOT RIGHT and yet the government refuses to deal with solutions.

 

 

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California VS Arizona

After spending a glorious 2 weeks at Outdoor Resort in Palm Springs (an RV only resort) enjoying the greenery, mountains, golf and sunshine, we travelled over to the Phoenix area and settled into Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa, AZ (an RV and Park Model resort) for the next several months. The contrast and similarities between these two desert locations is quite visible and what attracts us to each is similar and yet quite different.

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Above: Outdoor Resort in Cathedral City (Palm Springs area), CA

Palm Springs has the charm of a smaller city with lots of green grass and manicured boulevards, plenty of palm trees, golf courses, 2 well-known outdoor artists markets, easy airport with direct flights to YVR and 2 hour drive to the ocean and Disneyland (attaction for grandchildren).

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Above: Venture Out, Mesa, AZ

Mesa has the beauty of the desert with variety of cactus, lots of palm trees, desert zero scaping, golf courses and is surrounded by Superstition Mountains and a large metropolis of the greater Phoenix area offering lots of activities like spring training camps for professional sports, professional golf tournaments, retail galour, restaurants and close proximity to Sedona/Tucson/Tubac offering world-class art and foodies dream. Phoenix airport is large, but easy to use and offers more flights to YVR and YYC.

Our original thought was to see which one of these beautiful areas we would be more attracted to and perhaps purchase a lot to leave our RV and travel back/forth from the US sunbelt and the lower mainland without hauling. The “why” of this thought process is yet another post. To choose between the two is difficult and is ongoing.

Stay tuned for more…

 

“Desert Dreamin’ Tour” (2017/2018)

It has always been on the bucket list – to spend the winter in Palm Springs and Mesa, so this is the season. For the second year in a row, we packed up the 40′ Grand Design Solitude and headed south to the desert areas of California and Arizona.

Our first reminder of how we (mostly me) hate traffic hit me while negotiating around Seattle, around 1 hour south of the Canadian border. Not that we didn’t expect it and delayed our Harrison Hot Springs departure until Saturday morning thinking we would avoid the work week traffic. We decided to take US 405 rather than stick to I5. The traffic northbound for miles and miles (I’m in the US so I can say that ;-)) was horrific, fortunately we were heading south. However, even the lighter traffic southbound was, in places, very thick. It’s not that Craig is a bad driver, on the contrary, he is an excellent driver, but it is other stupid drivers who don’t know how to merge, who cut right in front of you, who travel too fast or too slow…. It’s difficult when you are driving 60′ feet of large equipment to stop on a dime or manoeuver quickly. And the other trucks – semi trucks – who don’t seem to know the posted speed. Anyway, that is my traffic rant.

IMG_2361Here we are in a pull through in Centralia, Washington at Midway RV Park. It’s a clean park and very quiet at night. Lots of full timers around perimeter of the park. Did I  mention we try to travel no more than 4 hours/day otherwise too stressful. We stop at many of the lovely American rest stops along the way too, to walk around and use the facilities and have lunch or a snack.

Today, we travel around Portland and head for one of our favorite spots, Seven Feathers Casino and RV park. It’s super clean with huge concrete pull thru and a big casino complete with buffets.

Weather is good – sun is shining and we are excited to continue in a southerly direction. Here’s hoping the traffic is better through Portland area. Once through the two cities of Portland and Seattle, it’s good until we manoeuver around Sacramento and San Bernardino.

 

Full-Time RVing

Following our “virgin tour” to California last fall (2016), and working the winter in Vancouver and living in our 5th wheel, we are now comfortably settled into our seasonal recreational property at Harrison Holiday Park located in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia for the summer. We have stored the 5th Wheel and will be residing in our Golden Falcon park model here in Harrison Holiday Park until we depart on another epic voyage in fall 2017. Let the summer begin and pass the wine!

IMG_1955A seasonal recreation property in Harrison Holiday Park has suited our needs very well. For the past 11 years, while living in a townhouse in Surrey, BC and working full time, we have used our park model in Harrison as a weekend retreat. It has been a superb recreational property, allowing us to unwind every weekend (only 90 mins from Vancouver).

Harrison Holiday Park is a seasonal recreational park open from April to November and is tailored for residents of all ages, families, retirees, etc. As a member of the Harrison Holiday Park Association (www.harrisonholidaypark.com), you own your own property and participate in the operation of the park (in a strata situation). The annual fees are extremely reasonable at $1300/yr. Ideally you could have your RV parked here from April – November and then travel with the RV from November – April. Since we purchased the park model 11 years ago (and love it!) and have customized the lot for the park model, we store our new 5th wheel for the summer months.

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It is difficult to describe the lifestyle of full time RV living. For many people, parting with personal items and “stuff” is very difficult. I didn’t know how I would feel. However, after separating those items of value which truly meant something such as my mother’s antique dresser, photo albums and art pieces with the other “stuff”, it became very easy to say goodbye to the “stuff”knowing those things could be easily replaced should our needs change down the road. We rented a 10×8 temperature-controlled storage unit for those items of value and sold the rest. Done.

The key to downsizing to this extent is to understand the ultimate goal: freedom. Free to move about the country as we pleased. Free to travel or work in foreign countries if we wished. Free to make living choices and life choices which were stress-free, worry-free and cost-effective. We would not have to worry about leaving a house empty, or paying condo fees, or taxes or dealing with renters, etc. Freedom.

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Our next trip is scheduled for October heading again to USA – Palm Springs, California and Mesa, Arizona. The excitment builds….

The unexpected winter …

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After our amazing 4 month “virgin tour” adventure to California ended in December, we moved “grande” (our beautiful 40′ 5th wheel) into the Pacific Border RV park in S.Surrey, British Columbia. The park is nicely situated between our job sites and next door to the international border (for another quick escape). We both returned to our workplace, relaxed and energized and with a fresh perspective. And although there was no morning golfing or pickleball or the enjoyable 2 pm happy hour(s), we settled into our work lives.

To be clear, we have lived on Canada’s West Coast for some 20  years. We know what winter in BC can be like – rain, rain, and more rain. However, it is expected the temps are above zero and once in awhile the sun comes out to showcase our majestic mountains. We typically still BBQ on the deck and even some avid golfers still golf throughout the winter. This is the reason why prairie folks head to Vancouver and Vancouver Island to spend the winter in relatively milder climates. Well, NOT THIS YEAR!

This year, of all years to be in an RV full time,  we had SNOW and tons of it…accompanied with freezing cold temperatures from the time we arrived back into BC until mid-February. It was like trying to keep a tin can warm in the freezer. Our brand new RV has double-paned windows and insulated as best an RV can and dual heated both by electric and propane. Combined electric and propane costs were close to $350/month. But we were warm and I must admit quite cozy (good thing we like each other’s company ;-).

A couple of learning points for us on winter camping: We don’t like it! We also were told to get a de-humidifer which was a tremendous help in keeping the RV dry while the rains came to wash away the snow. Our cooking changed from mostly outdoors to inside using slow cookers, convection and a new electric griddle. Mostly, winter camping is not for the faint of heart. Guess that means we will have to be travelling somewhere warm next winter. Stay tuned….I can hardly wait to see where our travels will take us.

End of our “virgin tour” road trip…

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Here we are back in South Surrey, BC safe and sound at the end of our “virgin tour” lasting 4 months, having travelled 13,000 klm, visiting 4 provinces and 7 US states. This was our first opportunity to take “grande” (our 2016 5th Wheel, Solitude by Grand Design) on a maiden voyage. So now, the question becomes, would we do it again? What did we like or not like about this type of travelling? What pieces of new knowledge can we share with those of you who might be considering taking a grand road trip of this type? Here are a few of our recent discoveries:

Things we would particularily liked:

  • Loved our 5th Wheel – the Solitude by Grand Design which is beautifully appointed and functionally well-designed. With a few modifications it could even be better. Did I mention we immediately tossed the manufacturers bed and purchased a custom king for added comfort.
  • FREEDOM of choice for everything, where to go, when to go, what to do
  • Seeing new places in an every-changing landscape
  • Making new friends and acquaintances (mostly in RV parks where we stayed for longer stays – see earlier blogs)
  • Having our home with us means knowing the bed you are sleeping in, having family photos and your special stuff around us
  • Having a great cell phone plan with internet access continuously while we are travelling to search RV parks and read reviews, investigage places to visit, find convenient fueling spots , etc. (Rogers “Roam as you go” was added to regular phone plan – cost was $50 CND more per month and totally worth it for unlimited phone calls and texts to Canada)
  • The 2015 RAM 3500 Laramie truck pulled the trailer easily!

Things we didn’t like:

  • Traffic through large cities (some very inconsiderate drivers out there)
  • Interstate highways such as I5 and I15 with all the semi-trucks
  • Inclement weather restrictions

Things we would do differently:

  • Not take so much tupperware (tehehe). Actually we took almost too much of everything -clothes, dishes, accessories, etc. We will trim down considerably more next time.

In summary, it was a great experience! Would we do it again – absolutely!

RV Parks on Steroids, the Baby Boomer Mojo

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I remember 30 years ago my parents would vacation “down south”(typically Arizona, Texas, California) visiting friends in RV parks where they would enjoy the lifestyle of the day which included golf, woodworking and knitting dishclothes with some games of bridge and square dancing in the afternoon. Although you can still find those activities in the more leisurely parks, most of the RV parks we have stayed in this fall are RV parks on steroids….now, RV resorts.

These resorts come to life early around 6-7 a.m.with joggers and people biking to the gym for morning workouts. The hardcore fitness nuts head to Bootcamp at 8:00 for intensive explosive routine workouts while the Zumba music and it’s participants get fired up with loud salsa music in the activities centre. At 9 a.m. starts the Strength and Tone (one of my favorites) and various levels of yoga and Tai Chi activities. The unique popping sounds of pickleball and tennis can be heard as well as the volleyball enthusiasts at 9:30 either in the pool or in the sand (they are a exuberant group). Water aerobics at 9 and 10 a.m.and on the morning goes.

The park has other morning busy-ness as hikers meet up for their hike of the day; golfers haul out their clubs; artisans head to various club rooms for a morning of woodworking, rock stuff, painting, stainglass; and yes, quilters, sewers, knitters too. The chatter of all can be heard with cheerful morning greetings, friendly waves and lots of smiles.

Then there are always those Sunday mornings when one just wants to relax, spend time on the computer or choose to sit outside in the sun on the front deck with a morning coffee watching all this busy-ness go by with a wave and cheery “morning” for your new friends…

Why are new friends so easily made in this environment?  I think there is a real case study to be made here. To begin, everyone is basically in the same stage of life, age (50-90 yrs) ethnicity, originate from Canada/USA and income level so many demographics align closely. The community is geographically small ranging in size from 1000-1700 RV/park model spots with populations within the gates of 2000-3000 people. A tightly designed park layout, with relatively small dwellings (400-900 sq. ft), allows for close proximity to neighbours. You basically can not exist without knowing your neighbours and meeting people.

Beyond the stats, it’s the commonly shared values and interests that draws people together and fascinates me. Values like health, fitness, doing what you love to do whether it’s golfing, painting, or staying fit. Between block parties/street dances, happy hours, karaoke, sports events, music by pool with root beer floats, cards, Mah Jong, shuffleboard, and tournaments of all kinds, day trips to local casinos and tourist areas, dances with live bands, cooking classes, and the ever-popular Texas Holdem, if you can’t find at least 2 or 3 activities of interest there is something seriously wrong. Shared interests, shared spaces, shared life experiences (point in case: popularity of rock tribute bands) bring people together for laughter, fun and engaged enjoyment of life.

Needless to say, the health and wellness industry is alive and well in the RV resorts we have stayed in this fall. A clear sign of the baby boomer pop culture. Baby boomers turning retirement on it’s head is no surprise as they (we)  are known for defying expectations; never wanting to get old nor gracefully accept the aging process. These RV resorts offer baby boomers the rebellion tools to stay young.

It is without a doubt, a healthy way to spend the winter with new friends and we will return next year.

Cruise Ship on Land (a day in our luxury RV resort)

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We have been parked now in Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California  for 6 weeks. At this point several “light bulb” moments have struck me, and in no particular order here they are:

  • How quickly one becomes entrenched in the resort community. It takes very little time to meet your neighbours and make new friends.  Given the beautiful weather and sunshine, everyone is out and about involved in activities and hobbies. You meet “like-minded” people with whom you have lots in common, the least of which is this attractive lifestyle of RVing and communal living. There are many opportunities for pot lucks ; this American Thanksgiving we are tables of 16 each with a turkey and everyone bringing the extras; happy hours (that start at 3); and evenings sitting around and chatting as the weather cools nicely. The live entertainment is excellent however, many of the tribute bands start visiting here in January.
  • How physically active everyone is. Morning is a very busy time. We go either for a hour walk around the park, then play a game of pickleball or walk then water aerobics (both are very popular). Others are playing sand volleyball or water volleyball (both seem very exciting as there are lots of hoots and hollers). Others are in the gym with zumba and/or weights and stretching. Lots head out for golf, women on various days, men on other days and mixed on Fridays. There is a putting green in the park as well as a driving net for practice. Evenings are filled with Texas Holden (very popular), billiards and shuffleboard. Afternoons have mahjong, crafters, and so many 0ther special interest groups.
  • How this RV resort community is located inside another community of Hemet. One, at times, could feel as if to exist solely within this park with a few exceptions. There is a farmers market on Tuesday bringing in fresh fruits/veggies; crafts and local merchants display their goods for purchase. Each Friday, a different local restaurant will serves lunch around the pool. You can get flu shots, take a class in various subjects or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of your own RV site. One really doesn’t have to leave this oasis for anything other than groceries and yet, this park is located 40 miles from the ocean as well as many interesting tourist areas of Palm Springs and San Diego.
  • How little one needs to be truly happy. The above points highlight the fact that living in a smaller space, surrounding by sunshine and lovely people, opportunities to learn or try something new can be a very satisfying and enjoyable lifestyle.

Reality Check on Living Expenses in USA

img_0901So I decided to do a reality check list of staples (groceries, fuel, liquor) that we regularily purchase and compare the prices from Canada (BC) to USA (California). I used flyer specials and used a conversion rate of 1.32 exchange rate. I am using the app Flipp – which gives me weekly flyers from both our local retailers in Harrison/Chilliwack (BC) and also around Hemet, CA.

*Indicates cheaper    **Indicates really cheaper

Liquor

USA:                                                                                           Canada:

**18 Coors Light Cans $13.99 US = $18.46 CND                     $21.99 for 15; $17.79 for 12 + taxes

**Wine Costco Chardonnay $6.99 = $9.22 CND                  $14.99 (AB price)

**Jack Daniels (750 ml) $13.99 = $18.46 CND                         $33.59 + deposit

**Crown Royal (750 ml) $19.99=$26.38 CND                         $32.18 + deposit

** Bacardi Rum (750 ml) $17.99=$23.75 CND                         $26.43 + deposit

Fuel in California (Higher than other states we have visited)

**Diesel $2.55/g US gal = .88/litre                                               $ 1.03-1.25/litre

Groceries

**Lean Ground Beef $1.99-2.99 / lb = $2.62-$ 3.95 CND               $4.99/ lb

**Boneless Chicken Breasts $1.29-$1.99/lb = $1.70-$2.63  CND   $4.49/lb

Coke Cans 4 (12 pks) for $12.00 = $6 for 24 =$7.92 CND                * $6.99 for 24

*English long cucumber 2 for $1.00 = $1.32 CND                              $1.47

Grapes .99-$1.50/ lb = $1.30-1.98 CND                                                $1.97

Sockeye Salmon $8.99/lb = $11.87 CND                                             *  $9.03

**1 Gallon 2% Milk – $2.79 = $3.68 CND                                            $5.00

**Eggs 1 dozen $1.19 = $1.57 CND                                                         $4.39 Brown Eggs

**Cheddar Cheese $1.99 (8 oz block)                                                    $8.99 (600 grams)

Shreddies/Cheerios (13oz) $2.49 = $3.28 CND                                   $4.49 (550 grams)

Peanut Butter  $2.00  =$2.64 CND (Skippy)                                        $3.97 (750 grams – Kraft)

NOTES: I had initially thought that groceries were more expensive here in the US however, when I compared all the above, I realize that even with the conversion rate of 1.32 our grocery bills are less here.

The biggest winners here are liquor which is WAY less as is diesel fuel and dairy products.

All in all, it was a good exercise to spend time on. Now I know, and so do you.

It’s a Snowbird Lifestyle…

Well, we arrived at our seasonal location in Hemet, Oct. 1, apparently the first of the Canadian snowbirds to arrive. We feel quite lonely as the park is half empty. However, we are using this time to get familiar with the local area – markets, malls and grocery options and do the “touristy” things. Plus we are practicing pickelball so we will be primed when the rest of the gang gets here. Pickleball is played like tennis and/or badminton with a larger racket and a plastic ball full of holes (causing it to slow down, which is a good thing). It is typically played with 4 people on a much smaller court than tennis (which is also a good thing). So you can work up a sweat chasing the ball, but not so much as to damage yourself (which is a very good thing). Perfect game and lots of fun!

The area of Hemet is better than I had expected. Location is superb – 64 miles to Disneyland; 74 miles to San Diego; 44 miles to Palm Springs (great for attracting your family down here ;-)).  We are surrounded by the San Jacinto mountains and southern California vineyards and golf courses although we haven’t ventured out that way yet (its on the day tripping list). The outlining areas are sandy and deserty so it’s not all greenery unless it’s irrigated. Hemet is also more populated than I had anticipated and although it has the advantage of lots of shopping & large markets, it is busy, especially on weekends. Traffic can be heard from the major roads surrounding the park especially motorcycles and sirens.

From Golden Village Palms Resort, we can walk to grocery store and Target, several restaurants and other services. The park is extremely clean with nice wide spots for RVs. Very friendly guest services and employees who work here and there are lots of them constantly triming, cleaning pools and groundskeeping. About 15%  of the park has park model lots and the rest is for RVs. No one owns the lots, they are leased by month or by long-term months. The rates vary depending on the time of year and where your lot is located in the park ie in proximity to activities centre, pools, etc.where the price is a little higher rate. We are not that close to the clubhouse and activities area (3 mins walk) and are paying $695 US/month for Oct Nov and Dec. (includes cable TV and wifi  – which is really excellent at the moment) plus you pay electrical (which can get expensive if you are constantly running air conditionners).  If we stayed for Jan. Feb. March the rate would be higher as that would be peak months.

The temps have been in the high 70’s to 90’s. However, we haven’t felt really stinkin’ hot. I think it is because there is often a breeze (Craig thinks its more of a wind than a breeze) either way, it is keeping us cool. And we haven’t turned  our a/c on yet, just a fan. So I would have to say very comfortable weather. (What…Saskatoon got snow, no kidding, that sucks!!) Anyway, ants, who knew. Apparently, while the temps are still quite warm these pesky tiny water ants like to climb into your RV through anything that touches the ground. So we had to quickly go buy some vaseline and borax – I know eh! The ants can’t make there way across the vaseline so it’s gobbed onto the botton of the jacks, the water lines, etc. and the borax is sprinkled around the tires and other possible climbing things. The park came and sprayed our site as well, so we should be good (here’s hoping anyway). They should disappear when the weather gets cooler.

The average age in the park for residents, so far, is quite young – 55-60 years I would say. We have met people playing pickleball who are Americans from California, Oregon and Washington State.  Its an active park with lots to do. My week, so far is shaping up to look like this: Mondays 9 a.m. Strength & Stretch class; 10 a.m. water exercise (there are 3 pools) then 1:00 p.m. Maj Jong. Tuesdays 8 a.m. Art Group (yeah!!); 10 water exercise; Wednesday 9 a.m. Yoga Flow (?); 10 water exercise; Thursday 10 a.m. water exercise; Fridays Zumba or Aqua Cardio morning. I haven’t any information yet on the pickleball schedule nor the ladies golf so will fine tune my activities as we head into November. Craig, is considering pickleball, shuffleboard (they have a HUGE floor shuffleboard building), Texas Holdem and billiards.  I am predicting that we are going to get into a routine here and not want to leave! There are so many other activities to get involved with from crafty things to card games, to water volleyball & sand volleyball, running/hiking club, all kinds of dancing too. Be as busy or not, as you like. I’m such a keener, I’ll try it all!

Every week they have w/end poolside music and food. And apparently, the tribute bands booked for Jan, Feb. March are awesome. Unfortunately, we will miss all that entertainment. Lots of music and mixers like Spud Night (next week), pot lucks, etc. They also have a local farmer’s market starting next week right in the park.

Budgeting Insights:

Laundry in the park is $2.25/wash and $2/dryer (expensive I think). Groceries are about the same as at home (only paid in US dollars makes them more expensive). Local veggies are super tasty and less than at home ie. brocolli and cucumber (currently in season). Gas is more expensive in this part of the US than center US. We will pay here $2.69/US gallon diesel which still translates to 30% cheaper than our diesel at home. The BEST NEWS is….wine is cheaper by FAR…now that’s important!

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As you can see, we have located our nearest Costco (about 12 miles).

So far, things are going really, really well. We still have lots to see and do, so stayed tuned for my updates and insights as we become more seasoned in this “snowbird lifestyle”.

PS Trying to steal TRUMP lawn signs as I think there might be a market back home ;-))