June 20, 2015

Camping is Not for Everyone Why?

Simply because it is not comfortable as your own bed or a hotel room.  And for some, it can be a very vocal adjustment.

So there is tip #1  Find out how your family can take it.  The younger they are the easier to withdraw from creature comforts – generally but not all.  Try an overnight first before going on a weekend long adventure.

Second tip, check out the weather forecast.  Camping in wet conditions is a major turn-off.  With long days and short nights, if it is dry, it is so conducive to chat, sing, bond over a meal and campfire.

Tip # 3   And since temperatures can dip at night and/or at higher elevations, make sure you carry jackets and sleeping bags good for minus Celsius -  that can be snug and toasty even though it’s frosty.

Tip # 4   If possible, research in advance on two or three campsites in the area – so you can switch to Plan B or Plan C.  It might look good in the website photos but images lie.  Once you are there, what looked like a postcard by the sea camp site can turn out to be a rocky RV slum.  Thanks to photo cropping. 

I say if possible, since sometimes at the spur of the moment I just want to  jump into my car and go where the wind blows that day.  But in BC there are so many campgrounds –  so there is no need to worry of not finding one.

There are Provincial Campgrounds (labeled BC Parks), National Campground (labeled Parks Canada), Private campgrounds, and Municipal Campgrounds.  It can range as low as $10 a night per site for a family of 4 to as high as $45 per.   Average $ 25 – $ 35 a night.  In some campgrounds, there are group sites where for 4 – 5 families or more can be together.

A number are fully-booked for the summer on weekends (Alice Park and Porteau Cove along the Sea-to-Sky Highway on the way to Whistler from Vancouver) – so call to check. 

Tip # 5  If you see a Visitor Information Centre with the symbol i (usually closed after 5 pm and Sundays), grab a campground catalogue.  Many have toll-free numbers.

Tip # 6  But if it’s late, there is no Wi-Fi, no campground list – ask the locals.  Over at Chase, BC, right before Adams River – a bank teller gave me a good tip on a still open (it was mid-October) campsite – right next to the Fraser River (no train tracks) where I can hear at night, and later see at dawn salmon jumping.

Tip # 7  Some suggested web sites for campgrounds listing:
·       www.bc-camping.com
·       gocampingbc.com  (albeit incomplete)

A good one for families in BC is Sunnyside Campground in Cultus Lake ( avoid the noisier public parks).  Add Vedder River Campground along Vedder River in Yarrow,  Fraser Cove overlooking the mighty Fraser River in Lillooet, and a number along Chilliwack Lake Road on the way to Chilliwack Lake which is lovely.  In Alberta, I like Honeymoon Lake in the Rockies .  I like campgrounds with a water view or next to it with trails.

There are nice ones too in Vancouver Island, especially in Port Hardy, Zeballos, Malcolm Island, and Saturna Island – but in Saturna you need to hike for 40 minutes to get there.  Bring a car then – pricey on the ferry, or hitchhike.  BTW, hitchhiking is acceptable in most of the small islands.   A number of the islands have fun farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings – see my other blog entries.

Discovery and Serendipity are an awesome combo.

Tip # 8  Avoid  setting in near rail tracks especially along the scenic Fraser River on Fraser Canyon (places like Boston Bar, North Bend, Yale, Lytton) – the cargo train passes on both sides of the river so the night will be rumbling every hour.   There are campgrounds on the other side of the highway  - where you can still hear an occasional choo choo but not the chugging of 50 train cars.   I wonder how the residents sleep?

Scope out factories and paper mills (like in Merritt) – Paper mills abound in BC and they operate 24/7 – worse than train tracks because of the mill’s exhaust.  You cannot tell it’s noisy during the day – sounds attenuate at night.

Tip # 9  Check out the washrooms especially if it’s late season (past September) when cleaning is often less frequent or dropped.  The washrooms in the municipal campground in Enderby (between Vernon and Salmon Arm) were crawling with tiny inch-size worms.  I am not kidding!

Tip # 10  Don’t drive to a campground which will be an 8 hour road trip – people will get cranky.  Max 5 hours drive (traffic-free), minimum 1 hour –you don’t want to be too close either otherwise it feels like you are play-camping in your backyard.

Tip # 11  Pick a campsite with shade and soft grassy ground (if it exists) – you will be thankful during the middle of the day

Tip # 12  Always carry water, a cooler for ice (you will be thankful for this one) or you might buy fresh eggs from a local farmer.

Tip # 13   Have a checklist
Tip # 14   Important: Bring First Aid and sanitizers, garbage bags, flashlights, insect repellants, sun block lotion, hats and sunglasses, cameras if you cannot use your cell phones.  BTW often there are no cell phone service.

Hiking boots would be great if you plan to do trails – they will lessen the chances of a sprain.

Tip # 15  I carry pillows and blankets to max comfort.  And I buy awesome desserts at a specialty bakery as a treat later.  I just don’t want to eat hot dogs and burgers.  I want my carrot cake and cinnamon buns.

Tip # 16  Bring a pile of old newspapers – to cover dusty or moist picnic benches and tables; as padding for damp ground to pitch your tent on, and for general clean-up.  Then you can guilt-free throw or even use the dried paper as kindle for a camp fire.

Tip #  17  Chargers, chargers that can be plug on to your car charger.  It is a bummer when you get low bat on any of your mobile devices, if you can use it.

Tip # 18   Cash: many camps are on an honor system – they ask you seal your payment in a provided envelope, then dropped into a safe box.  Also most bathrooms have coin-operated showers.  No looney – no hot water.  Brrrrrrr!

Tip # 19  Slippers or flip flops, no matter how cold.  Those public bathrooms can be dirty since they are only cleaned 2x a day.  You don’t want to live in perpetuity with itchy toe valleys.

Tip # 20  Most provincial campsites have only johns, no showers – so if this is a must ask when checking in or do your research.                                                                                                                
Tip # 21  Other than the sandwich or cereals breakfast, I suggest only one camp meal a day - ideally supper where a smoking grill gives an I-am-really -camping ambience.  If you can eat out for lunch - a worry-free variety and you don’t want to be cooking in heat anyway.   Great way to meet locals if they are friendly. 

Almost all campgrounds in North America do not have shared kitchens unlike in New Zealand or Australia where campers can cook on real stoves and ovens, store their name-labeled goodies in refrigerators,  Cooking utensils, plates, cutleries, even dishwashing soap are provided.

Tip # 22   Always drive with a full or at least half-full tank.  Gas stations are far and in-between on many roads.  Gas prices go down in Abbotsford and Hope.  Generally the farther you are from Vancouver – the cheaper the gas.  Last week it was a $1.27 per liter in Vancouver.  It was a $1.16 per liter in Lytton and a $1.19 per liter in Yale $1.20 in Hope.

Tip #  23   Safety and security – when your kids are swimming or playing – somebody Must Always be watching!  Do not rely on lifeguards.  BTW this is BC so even during summers the water can be freezing.

Tip # 24  Always leave your campsites clean – do a thorough inspection (ask the kids to help you) so as not to miss tent pins, or other stuff.

Tip # 25   Try to be back home early enough so you can “decamp”, decompress and be rested, put everything in place, and be refreshed for the following work or school day.

Tip # 26 should really be earlier in this list.   Before leaving home Unplug everything and make sure the kitchen sink is clean and the garbage is out.  You will be very sorry upon return if you don’t do this.

But you know what,  when all is said and done, all you really need is your sleeping bag or a blanket, and cash/credit or debit card.  Just snooze in your car, buy ready-to-eat in the supermarket or have it to go and you’ll survive.

May 17, 2015

Dealing with Breast Cancer

As mentioned on RED FM93.1 The Filipino Edition

If you have sources to recommend, drop a comment to share with others

Very lucid breast cancer brochure

Read more: Breast Cancer: Understanding Your Diagnosis

Great Resource re Cancer Research

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center located in Seattle, Washington is one of the world’s leading cancer research institutes. 
Center researchers pioneered bone-marrow transplantation for leukemia and other blood diseases which has boosted survival rates for certain forms of leukemia from zero to as high as 85 percent.

Great Online Source that talks about Breast Cancer in a personal caring way

In 1980, Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became the Susan G. Komen® organization and the beginning of a global movement. What was started with $200 and a shoebox full of potential donor names has now grown into the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer. To date, Komen has invested more than $2.5 billion in groundbreaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 30 countries.
Susan G. Komen organization claims they are the only organization that addresses breast cancer on multiple fronts such as research, community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives in order to make the biggest impact against this disease.

See http://ww5.komen.org/

Video on 5 women’s story with breast cancer

I Don't Have Time For This: Diagnosed With Breast Cancer When You Least Expect It

2010 Big Coat Productions

Finding out the risk of developing invasive breast cancer
The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool is an interactive tool designed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) to estimate a woman's risk of developing invasive breast cancer

Click on http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

May 16, 2015

Trying Out the Full Canadian Army Gear

At the Cloverdale(BC Canada)  Rodeo and Fair 2015, the friendly soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces were kind enough for me to try on their combat gear.

First a Flak Jacket

As Wikipedia explains "A flak jacket or a flak vest is a form of body armor designed to provide protection from case fragments ("frag") from high explosive weaponry, such as anti-aircraft artillery, grenades, some round shot used in shotguns and land mines and other lower-velocity projectiles. It is not designed to protect against bullets fired from small-arms such as rifles or handguns. However, certain flak jackets are able to sustain certain gunshots, dependent on the armor, the gun, and the distance that the bullet has travelled.

The first usage of the term “flak jacket” refers to the armor originally developed by the Wilkinson Sword company during World War II to help protect British Royal Air Force aircrew from the flying debris and shrapnel thrown by German anti-aircraft guns' high-explosive shells (flak itself is an abbreviation for the German word Fliegerabwehrkanone  meaning anti-aircraft gun)).  The idea for the flak jacket came from Col. Malcolm C. Grow, Surgeon of the US Eighth Air Force in Britain. He thought that many wounds he was treating could have been prevented by some kind of light armor.  In 1943 he was awarded the Legion of Merit for developing the flak vest."

Then a Tac Vest

Short for Tactical Vest.  Over the Flak Jackedt, the Tac Vest  is a one-size fits all with highly adjustable straps , plenty of many pockets with secure closures to hold an incredible amount of ammunition and gear with secure closures.

Then your Helmet

Netted or not - The net is for you to trap leaves and heighten your camouflage.  Actually you can put on your helmet any time.

Then a Rucksack

One word, and more commonly known as a backpack.  I  was carrying 50 lbs heavy, but according to the  Army Rucksack can carry up to a max of 120 lbs ( 30 lbs less my bodyweight) of food, clothes, etc.

The word rucksack is a German loanword mainly used in the UK and in western military forces: in German 'der Rücken' means 'the back' (the part of the body), and Sack for bag

Last, a Rifle

A plastic toy.