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Report 7: Ottawa ON

We arrived in Ottawa intending to spend only a couple of months here to see our children and grandchildren, and to take care of some financial, dental and medical matters. Seeing the kids and grandchildren went well; we were here in time for the birth of our new grandson, Grey Nunas. Unfortunately, the medical system in Ontario has seriously deteriorated since we left in 1993. Despite trying to line up appointments before we entered Canada in April, we only completed all the doctor's visits and tests in mid July. Even finding a suitable GP to be our family doctor was a challenge, as most of the good ones are not taking new patients. Lucky for us, our old GP, though semi-retired, took us back on. In addition to the usual check-ups, Maurice was way overdue for his cancer check. We were a bit worried, as his right ear went deaf. But, that's over, we are fine, Maurice got a new tube (grommet) in his ear (URLhere), and we are “good to go”.

We have been staying at Recreation Land RV Park (rec-land.com) in Cumberland (the easternmost neighbourhood in Ottawa). It's a nice park, populated mostly by snow-birds who make it their base for the summer. We have the nicest lot in the transient section, with a large lawn and a view of the Gatineau Hills. We even have a 50-amp 240-volt hook-up, rare around here. Had we known we were staying so long we would have signed up for the snow-bird rate and saved some money, instead of paying month to month.

While here, we finally made the decision to buy a dog; we'd been discussing it since before we returned to Canada last spring. We found Molly, an Australian Labradoodle (laa.org.au), on Kijiji at a bargain price. Little did we know before we arrived at the kennel, she had been kept confined for most of her three years, as a breeder at two different puppy mills. Lucky for her, though, she had small litters and the kennel was being downsized; so she was being dumped. When we got her, she had severe yeast infections in both ears, and five pounds of mats and dirt in her coat. The groom had to cut off nearly all her coat with a sheep shear. We've posted photos on facebook (URLtojoinusonfacebook). She's now healthy and happy, although she is still rather skittish, but improving every day. We left her at a boarding kennel for a week, during which time we hired a trainer to work with her; we noticed a difference when we got her back. He said that she is one of the toughest cases he's ever seen. Being confined as a brood bitch for three years caused her to develop a defence mechanism...she simply shuts down and goes into a zombie-like state when she does not want to cope with something. To stimulate her brain, we are devising mind games, like hiding the food and teaching her to play with toys. It's working and she's gradually coming out of her shell.

Visiting all our relatives and friends has given us cause to reflect on our life as 'Gypsies'. We've even been looking at a few homes in the area...not seriously, just drive-bys. We conclude that we still want to travel, and we are not missing out, as it were, on the things one has in a house. After spending years living aboard a 50-foot boat and nearly a year living aboard our 39-foot motorhome we realise that we don't really need much 'stuff'. Not that we live like hermits; we have most of the requisite household things, including two TVs, two computers, two bikes, two MP3 players, a satellite receiver, a cell phone, a barbecue, an espresso machine, a couple of boxes full of tools... What's missing is the clutter. Gone are the stacks of old books and magazines that we'll never re-read. Gone too are the home gym and other exercise gadgets—most little used—all adequately replaced by riding the bikes and, now, frequent walks with the dog. Banished to oblivion is the basement hoard of of outdated and broken items, being kept “just in case”. And, we have discipline—when we go shopping we have a mantra, “Will it fit in the motorhome?” When we bring replacement goods home we don't just add them, we dispose of the old items. Since we don't have a lot of stuff, we don't need a lot of space. Everything we have fits easily into a living space that is minuscule, compared to even the smallest house we've owned.

We tour around everywhere we go, so, why not do likewise at home. This year we circumnavigated Georgian Bay by car, with our friends Darius and Mary. During the first few days we loosely followed the Trent-Severn canal (TrentSevernURL). The high points were the lift locks at Kirkfield and Peterborough and the marine railway at Big Chute. The lock at Peterborough is the largest of its sort in the world. Next we crossed over to Manitoulan Island by ferry. Manitoulan Island (URLhere) is a quiet and scenic place to spend time. Then we went north to Sudbury, returning to Ottawa via the scenic, secondary highways. It was a most relaxing week.

So, what's next? Well...we are not exactly sure. What we do know is that around the end of August, we will leave Ottawa and head west across Canada to British Columbia, where we will stay until it gets cold. Once we get to BC we don't know where we will go. Certainly, we'll head south for the coldest months, but we're not sure exactly where we will go. The plan at the moment is to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, to San Bernardino, or maybe San Diego. After that we are not sure. We had hoped to get to New Orleans for the Jazz Festival in April, then make our way north along the Mississippi, perhaps taking in the Natchez Trace Parkway. Maybe we still will, but, that is a heck of a lot of driving in one year, even for us. This may be the year for us to go to Alaska in the summer; we were going to do that this summer, but postponed it due to the need to stay in Ottawa for so long. If so, then we will stay in the US south-west, go to Alaska, then return to Ontario across northern Canada.