Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Spring jaunt to Ohio

It's been a long winter at home this year, and the snow continued to come down, right up til April 17. We decided to take a couple of days and see what the US shore of Lake Erie was like this time of year.

Sat Apr 21
We headed south to Buffalo to start the drive. The usual route of Hwy 10->410->403->QEW got us there well before noon. After crossing at Fort Erie/Buffalo we got on to I90 South for a short bit, then off to #5. This was a nice change, going right along the waterfront. It also took us right to Camp Rd (#75) in Hamburg, where we had a visit to the Camping World store there.

We've been using a Mr Buddy propane heater in the van for the past 4 years when we don't have electricity. It has worked well, but kicks out more heat than we need most of the time. We decided it was time to replace it with a Wave 3 heater, and Camping World had them at a relatively decent price. We can't get these in Canada, although we can get the larger Wave 6 and 8 models from, for an exorbitant price.

From there we just drove along southwest, sometimes near the lakeshore and sometimes on I90, ending up at Geneva State Park for the night. Unlike most of Ontario's Provincial Parks, the Ohio parks seem to be open this time of year. Self-registration, but electric sites are available, the main washrooms are open and some even heated. This park is right at the lake, so cooler than inland, but still slightly above frosty overnight. Sorry, no pictures for today.

Sun Apr 22
Today we could be tourists for a while. Unfortunately most of the lakefront viewing was of cottages and fish camps, until we got west of Cleveland and stopped at Lake Erie Bluffs.
This is a large park with hiking trails and camping, and a tower view of the lake. Pretty cool today though.

As you can tell, it was cool and windy. But no snow!

Later on we got to East Harbor State Park, a little north of Sandusky Ohio. This park was also open with self-registration and good facilities. $30 for a back-in site with electric. There were a number of other campers, but hundreds of sites to pick from. It's pretty close to a wildlife area we want to visit, Magee Marsh.

Lots of water around this park, as it's out on a peninsula:

Mon Apr 23

We had a good night’s sleep overnight. The Park was quiet, and we had  turned up the electric heater so we were both more comfortable. After a pretty leisurely morning with showers and some reading, we packed up about 10:00 and headed out to Magee Marsh.

What a nice area Magee Marsh is! It was still cool near the lake, but sunny and pleasant. The main warbler migration wasn’t in full swing yet, but there was lots to look at anyway. Because it was pre-season and a weekday we didn’t have crowds to contend with. Apparently the place gets extremely busy through May.

Welcome and info center, and gift shop

Lookout from the Welcome center

 Interesting Martin houses

A new Goose family already
Turtles catching some rays

A highlight of the marsh right now was the nesting Bald Eagles.

A patient photographer waiting for a picture

One parent at a time at the nest

Apparently there were 3 nestlings, we could see extra heads sometimes
The area right around the nests was closed, but we could see them pretty well.

This was definitely the highlight of our short trip. After this, we just headed west to Toledo, north via #23 to I69, and home.

The seasonal difference between our place and south of Lake Erie was remarkable. No snow at all down there. Away from the lakeshore, people were even cutting their lush green lawns! A nice break.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

No southern trip this year, after all

Well, colour us disappointed! Some medical issues have cropped up and although minor, will keep us in Canada for the next month or so. This is later than we would want to start heading southwest, so we'll make other plans in the upcoming weeks.

Meanwhile there are compensations around here. We enjoy roaming the back roads in the area, and the gravel roads are often at their best this time of year, well-plowed and smoother than they are in summer.

Here are a couple of snaps taken with my cellphone on a recent drive back from Owen Sound, :

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One less obstacle to our Getaway

We got the van into the "local" Mercedes dealer today (in Kitchener, only 1 1/2 hours away) to deal with the coolant leak. They found the problem this time, and replaced the water pump and a couple of related valves. 

As sometimes happens, all did not go smoothly though. I had driven to Waterloo yesterday and stayed at our daughter's place in Waterloo for the night, to make it easier to get to the early van appointment. This morning the van wouldn't start! It had started and run fine yesterday, but wouldn't even turn over today, not even a "click". The Check Engine light was on, but no other diagnostics. The battery was fine.

After some fruitless head-scratching and discussion with the dealer's service manager, it was clear I needed a tow to the dealer. For the first time, I tried out our Good Sam Roadside Assistance service, and it worked fine. They had an Active Towing truck on the scene within an hour.

In the process of hooking up the van, the tow operator accidentally turned the key to Start, and the van started right up! This after at least 1/2 dozen earlier tries.  The Check Engine light stayed on but it ran ok all the way to the dealer. The tow guy followed behind in case of problems. Cost of the "tow" covered by Good Sam.

Even with my late arrival the techies still managed to find and fix the leakage problem. However no reason for the non-start was found, so no fix for that. Hopefully it was related to the Check Engine light, which was caused by the bad water pump. 

I know people talk about how expensive maintenance is for Sprinters, but today was a good example of getting our money's worth. This coolant leak was hard to track down, but they stuck with it. Once they found the problem, they had the parts to fix it, and they squeezed our van into their schedule and fixed it today. All this covered under warranty for our 4+ year old van. Good service and zero dollars today, great combination!

I did feel that I earned this very late breakfast, a short walk from the dealer. It was a long cold morning:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Getaway Day is approaching (maybe)

When poking around the van a couple of days ago, I noticed an odd puddle under the engine:

It seems to be a coolant leak. Very odd though, the van has just been sitting in the shed for the winter, hasn't been running since November. We've had a couple of very cold days recently though.

The dealer couldn't diagnose it from the pictures I sent, so I'll be taking the van in next week, weather permitting, and hopefully it will get resolved. I sure wouldn't start south with a problem like this lurking.