Sunday, 7 September 2014

50th Anniversary

2014 marks the 50th weeding anniversary of my parents. For the occasion, we all went on a trip to the Caribbeans. We spent an amazing week in an all-inclusive resort, the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort, in Cayo Coco, Cuba.

Like every summer during Labor Day weekend, we went up to the Lac St-Jean area, about 300 km north of Quebec City, for our annual family gathering and corn roast. This took place at my uncle's place, in the rural town of Ste-Jeanne-d'Arc. This years again, along with some relatives, my parents drove the Travco up there and parked at my uncle's place for a few days.

This years we wanted to commemorate the 50th wedding anniversary with the family.  Mom and Dad had no idea that we were going to do anything or even mention the 50th anniversary during this weekend, since for them we had already celebrated the event in July with the trip to Cuba. But we had a few surprises in store for them...

We started at first light on saturday morning. It was like 5am, with Mom and Dad still sleeping in their motorhome, we quietly put some decorations on the Blue Whale and on the ground around it. Then we got back to bed...

When Mom and Dad woke up a few hours later, they just couldn't believe it!

On the grass in front and around the Blue Whale we planted about 25 large plastic flowers, and about 60 white balloons. The motorhome also had been decorated with white ribbons, including a big bow on the nose, with a sign that said (translated from French): "Just Married...  50 years ago!"

(As a side note, you should have seen us, me, my wife and daughter, the previous evening, blowing all those balloons while camped in our popup camper, set up only a few meters from the Blue Whale. You can only blow so many balloons in a popup, I can tell you that the camper quickly filled to the roof with balloons, they were everywhere, we literally had no place to do anything, a really funny sight! We slept among balloons that night!)

In the afternoon, as the whole family was there for the gathering, we had our second surprise for our parents: we had a ministry from the local parish who presided over a short ceremony where my parents renewed their wedding vows.

After the outdoor picnic of corn, burgers and hot-dogs, we had our last surprise: we had a big 50th anniversary cake, and a small glass of sparkling wine for everyone! Cheers!

Then we had nice fireworks, for the pleasure of everyone!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The latest from the Blue Whale...

Yep, we're still there ! But before I go on with the Whale, a few words about its owner.

Dad injured its left knee last winter, just after the Holidays. A stupid thing, he simply missed a step going down the stairs. He didn't fall or anything, nothing broken, he just landed hard on its left leg, the kind of thing you usually forget right after. But not this time: the pain got into his knee and never left.

Went to see a doctor a few times, some bonesetter, got X-rayed, massaged, was given various medications, nothing would do. A sharp pain, that prevented him to walk and even sleep, and that only subdued - briefly - with a lot of pain killer drugs.

Normally Dad never stops. Always tinkering around the house. Just last fall, he fell 3 huge trees on his lot, pulled out the stumps, redid the landscape, cut and then carried all that wood, etc. Big big job. In his shop, he always has something going on: metal working, welding, working on the cars, etc. At 79, he's still hard to follow !

Well, not this winter. With this knee pain that prevented him to do just about anything, Dad felt like a lion in a cage. Pain, lack of sleep, strong medications, frustrations in the face of all the undone jobs around the house piling up...

Last month Dad finally had some stuff injected in his knee. Not sure what is was, but it's supposed to heal the knee and cure the pain. Well it did, but it's a slow process. Dad still feels some pain, but not as much. He doesn't take as much medications as he used to, he sleeps better, and he slowly began to tinker around the house. He now has to walk with a cane.

The return of warmer days and some ability to do things (although still limited) certainly helped boost his morale. Sometime with the help of one of his brothers, or with his good friend Gerry, Dad was able to go through most of the little springtime jobs around the house: take down the car and the Travco winter shelters, cleanup of the backyard, put the summer tires on the car, and of course de-winterinze the Blue Whale and get it ready for it's first trip of the season, possibly in mid-June.

The Whale

The Travco spent the winter in comfort, in the temporary shelter that Dad builds around it every fall. The only issue noticed this spring: the battery was completely dead. That's rather strange, since everything on the vehicle was OFF, that battery should have kept most of it's charge through winter. But this battery, a big and heavy 8D battery that's fairly recent, was never really good, with poor capacity right from the first day, according to Dad.

So the big thing was taken out of its tray and brought into Dad's shop. Then it was submitted to a "smart" charger's maintenance and desulfation cycles, then fully recharged. Not sure how really "smart" that charger is, but anyhow once stabilized the battery showed 12.7 V, which is the normal voltage of a fully charged battery, but doesn't guarantee any Amps capacity.

Today I helped Dad to put the heavy battery back in its compartment in the Travco. Boy this thing is heavy, it must weight well above 100 lbs. Then I did a few tests with the multimeter, trying to figure why the battery got discharged like that during the winter. I couldn't find anything wrong, I got a real open circuit (infinite resistance) between the battery leads of the vehicle, and I couldn't read one single milliAmp of current flowing when the battery was hooked up.

So for now Dad decided to give this battery one last chance. We'll see how it goes, if the battery doesn't deliver the juice, Dad will replace it.

Lets crank it up!

Now it was time to start, for the first time this year, the good old 440. The Travco had been sitting there since late October last year, so the engine had not run for 7 months. Dad engaged the starter for about 10 seconds (pretty good battery by the sound of it) then paused a little, while pumping the gas pedal a few times. Then he re-engaged the starter and the big V8 instantly roared to life !  You should have seen the smile on Dad's face!  No sputtering, no clicking or suspicious noises, just a smooth idle, the engine just ran like if it had just ran the night before.

I caught this first start on video:

While at it I checked on the Travco's charge system: if the battery remains suspicious, no worries about the alternator, which was putting out a healthy 14.7 volts at the battery.


Last winter was even harder for Gerry, Dad's good old friend.

Gerry and his wife Pierrette used to be snowbirds. Every fall they left Quebec and went south to Arizona for the winter, driving down in their nice Winnebago Class A diesel pusher. However last winter Pierrette fell ill and they had to quickly fly back to Canada. Unfortunately, Pierrette passed away this last spring.

Gerry's motorhome was left behind in Arizona, and now must be driven back to Quebec. It's a long trip for a man alone. Finally, Dad will make the trip with him. Dad and Gerry will fly together next week, all the way down to Yuma AZ, then they will drive the motorhome back to Quebec City.

Both men are experienced drivers. Gerry has done the trip many times. Dad spent his life driving semi-trailer trucks, and is very excited and eager to drive the legendary American Southwest country.

Gerry and Dad are both from the same little Lac St-Jean town, and know each other since infancy.  They lost sight of each other in their early 20s, due to work.

The two friends didn't see each other for 37 years. Then Gerry retired and moved in the Quebec City area, and both friend were finally reunited. Boy did they had a lot to talk about !!  And they still do !!

A few years later, Dad, Mom, Gerry and Pierrette planned a trip to the Canadian West. Each couple had a small Class C motorhome, and that trip brought them all to way to Alaska in 2001.

I've probably written it before, but it's worth mentioning again. Gerry was a master mechanic by trade, he's in fact a extraordinary mechanic, his vast knowledge makes him and absolute reference for anything that runs an engine, and his support and advise to Dad has been of utmost importance during the restoration and repairs of the Blue Whale and Dad's previous Class C.

This 5000 km trip from Arizona to Quebec will take some time. They should be back home around mid-June. I wish them a good and safe trip!

Agrandir le plan