This is just barely started folks, it is pretty rough going at the minute...

We are travelers.
I've been to western Europe, but with such a large family we are confined to North America for now...

   We love a good road trip, we do it often. The kids handle it well. We often used to go down to the States to stock up on the bargains but now the Canadian dollar has slipped to only 70 cents American, we have little buying power now. Traveling in Canada might be a better idea for a while. Americans are lucky that they can apply to get some of our outrageous taxes back in some sort of a refund deal, check at the border for details.

We have travelled for years, although only recently began recording our trips to savour details years after the event. Several years ago we bought a video camera, but you know, I don't often have the hours to sit and enjoy a couple hours of tape. Infact I have never had the time to edit any of it into something worth watching. We don't regret the video camera, and will always bring it, but there is a place for still shots. Nothing like dragging out the old shoebox of photos to while away a rainy Sunday afternoon with a chorus of "remember this.."

Here are some of the places we have been and tales of our voyages...

Under construction, so it might seem a bit disjointed for a while. It's coming...

Mid Dec 1997 to Jan 1998 Quebec and Ontario
We have just got back from the Niagara Falls area during the Christmas holiday period , St. Catherines Ontario to be precise. It was a cold trip up with temperatures in the -20c region for most of the trip. Our aging but normally dependable van disappointed us in that it failed to keep running when we restarted it at a fuel stop. I assumed it was due to air drawn in to the diesel injection pump while I was decellerating with the tank near empty, so I purged the air from the filter and an injection line to get the motor started. This is a two person procedure that always sprays some stinky diesel fuel on you and puts you dangerously near the whirling fan blade. The sub-freezing temperatures don't make it any more fun either.

We stopped for the night at a hotel in Montmagny, not far from Quebec City. Temperatures were bitter cold over night and I was very concerned how the van would start in the morning. I plugged in the block heater in the morning (every hotel parking spot was equipped with an outlet for the purpose up here in Quebec) and tried to crawl underneath to see if I could spot the problem. Everything was caked with frozen slush so all I could do was check that the fuel filters were tight. After breakfast I went through the "purge the filter routine" and got the van started with little difficulty in spite of the bitter cold. The synthetic oil and block heater were a big help no doubt.

With the van working so poorly and the temperatures so cold we decided to pass on visiting Quebec City to make for Ottawa where I have family to visit, and could afford the time to get the van fixed. It was warmer there than Quebec but still too cold for bare hands so I decided to heck with the expense, I'd get the dealership to replace the fuel pump or fix the leaky line if that was the problem.

Warning, much griping and technical diesel talk begins:
Kanata Ford was very good to get me in on short notice but my hopes waivered when after my detailed explaination of the symptoms. The service manager only wrote "won't start" on the work order. I hoped to correct this by insisting he write down the need to purge the lines and mentioning that I suspected that the fuel pump was bad or a leaky fuel line was sucking air into the system.

   Bad move! All hope was dashed as the service manager poo-pooed my suggestion with a frosty "Yes... well I'm sure our technicians will check those items out" and wrote nothing more on the work order.

An hour later the service manager informed me the "O" rings were bad, allowing air to leak into the injection lines (he claimed) and it was going to cost $489 or there-abouts to fix it. These "O" rings are to seal the low pressure line that returns excess fuel from the injectors to the fuel tank. That line had cracked one time before and I had had to replace it, but it caused no starting problem at that time, just a minor fuel leak. Besides, these "O" rings are cheap and relatively easy to access so I told the service manager I did not want them replaced. They charged me $75 for the diagnosis and they washed my van.

The weather was begining to warm up as the day progressed. I went home and pulled on all the warm clothes I had and my coveralls from the van. I drove up to the local Canadian Tire Automotive store and bought some 3/8" and 5/16" clear plastic line and a pressure guage.

   I connected the 5/16" line up to the injector return line, run the engine a bit, tested the fuel pump pressure, it was low. I shut the engine down and watched for bubbles coming from the injectors, there were none. So much for the dealerships diagnosis.

   I hooked the clear line up to the fuel pumps output and could see air coming up as my son cranked over the engine. One final test, I braved the slush (full of salt and now melting because of the warming but still below freezing temperatures) and crawled underneath the van to hook the clear line up between the line from the tank and the fuel pump and restarted the motor. Air bubbles! I definately had an air leak in a fuel line.

   While the engine idled I tightened every pipe fitting and hose clamp I could find (there are several near the under chassis fuel filter) an extra quarter turn or so. The bubbles got smaller and disappeared. The fuel pressure was still low but the van was starting with no problem! I bought a new fuel pump due to the low pressure of the original one but by this time I was frozen to the bone. The van worked flawless for the rest of the trip.
End of griping and tech talk...

This was mainly a family visit but do some touring around as well. We saw the Mint were Canadian Collector coins are made, tried out one of Celine Dione's restaurants, visited the National AeroMuseum at Rockcliff and I met with a buddy from the internet to have a look at his unusual 4x4.

Skating on the rink in Nathan Philips Square before City Hall. Toronto City Hall is a futuristic couple of curved skyscrapers around a spaceship like center building. Built in the 60s it was heralded in many Canadian movies and photos when I was growing up. I always wanted to go see it in person and when I first did, I was not disappointed, it feels like a special place. They had ice sculptures from a competition on display around the outdoor rink. Wish I took more pictures, it was a beautiful day, beautiful spot. Rented skates and spent the afternoon skating. When we left there we went a couple streets over to the Eaton Center. Dated now perhaps, it is still a marvel to my eyes. Even after traveling Europe and the US the spectre of an inside city, several floors high, with trees and gardens and glass elevators all under a tall roof, still amazes me. After a smorgesboard of unusual foods we head deeper into this designed metropolis to the subway entrance. The kids had never been on a subway before so it was a ball. We rode the first car in the train, and then the last, we stood at the tunnel entrance to watch the trains whizz by inches from our faces. Yeah, I kinda had fun too.

Quebec City:

More to come...

Spring 1997 to Disney World
   We had been planning a trip to Florida for December but a friend at work had a timeshare condo unit booked for two weeks from april 5 to 19 and he couldn't get the time off work. He offered me an excellent deal on the place and the local travel agent had a special on a Disney 7 day "Hopper Pass" so we jumped at it.

We had planned on taking the monster van but a couple days before leaving I had a rear brake cylinder start leaking. I replaced it but with the short trip notice I had a lot of work to get done before we left and couldn't give the van a good overall inspection before we left. This kind of shook my confidance in the old beast, so we took the Crown Vic instead. The Crown Vic is a 92 with the new 4.6 overhead cam V8. It gives great fuel mileage, it only cost $129 US to go the 3278 km to Florida at breakneck speeds. It was a bit cramped compared to the van though.

   We left for Florida on the 3rd of April in a blizzard(no joke, plow + RCMP escort across the marsh at Sackville NB). The first 400kms were a nightmare but the weather was fine from Maine down. I love the high speed Interstates. The trip was a blast, went very smoothly except for a couple minor incidents. We stopped in Washington to see the White House and some of the sights at night.I almost got arrested/impounded/fined for some creative parking at the Lincoln Memorial. 36 hrs later we were on the beach at Daytona. Each time I make the pilgrimage south I feel more convinced this is were I should live. Florida may be just a bit too warm but traveled through many fine places along the way.

        Loafed on the beach at Daytona on our first day and off to Orlando the next afternoon. These timeshare condo units are wonderful accomadations but they really put the pressure on you to buy into it.

Our next pick-up truck! :-) In front of RaceRock in Orlando.

Disney was great, better than I expected. Crowds were light and the fact that we got 7 days at the parks and 7 days of the waterparks meant that the whole 2 weeks was filled with activity. Took every ride except for the "Tower of Terror" and "Humunga Cowabunga" waterslide. I would have done both but the kids chickened out (thank goodness). Got a monster wedgie from the second highest waterslide. To anyone with any dignity, I warn "DON'T DO IT!" Space Mountain almost cost me my lunch as I lost my bearings and had a complete case of vertigo. Parenting is hell, people... :-)

The food at Disney was excellent but pricey. EPCOT was our favourite for food, although those big smoked turkey drumsticks at Frontierland in Magic Kingdom were pretty good too. I have to go on a diet some year. Japan, Morroco, and especially Norway were where we ate at EPCOT. Of couse hit Sonny's BBQ and Outback on the outside, big novelty for us up here in the Canadian woods!

   There was a light rain on in downtown Orlando. A guy ahead of me was turning left on a yellow, I was bound to follow him through. At the last minute he had a change of mind and locked on the brakes. I hit the brakes but the wet pavement was slick, I bumped him. I got out of the car to apologize but the poor fellow was terrified that I was about to rob him! He refused to get out of the car! No damage was done so I got back in the car and waited for the next light. He must have been a nervous wreck, he turned the wrong way up a one way boulevard!

Tanned and over-fed on southern all-you-can-eat specials. Boys I love the food down south! Barbeque ribs, pecan pie, Mexican, crayfish, and one of our favourites, southern fried steak with country gravy I believe it is called. A tenderized steak is coated in a fried chicken type batter and deep fried. Mmmm good.

Stopped in New Jersey any ferried out to the Statue of Libery on the way back. 3 hour line up to get in to see it. Not to bad though, met a lot of friendly folks in the line. The Statue sways in the wind! Scared the dickens out of the family. Waited 3 hours to get up there and only stayed for the view for 3 minutes. It is a walk to the top but got a ride down on the hydraulic elevator due to minor personal technical difficulties. Awesome elevator, it must be the largest one piece ground and polished shafting I have ever seen in my life. There must be a heck of a deep hole in the ground to allow it to lower. Cool weather but still huge crowds, I guess it is impossible in the summer. Saw Elis Island as well.

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