My apologies to you the reader for the long winded following blog(s). This is our 2021 series journaling our third year of explorations and experiences in our 2019 Wonder RTB.
As you know, in 2020 many Canadian Provinces were in lockdown as health agencies were grasping at ways to slow down transmission rates. The new normal for us was to continue masking up wherever we go, along with social distancing and multiple use of hand sanitizers, plus, with provincial borders closed for only essential travel we were, again limited to destinations within Ontario. Just the talk of trip planning on social media got a few negative responses and suggestions to stay home. Provincial parks were closed to campers in the latest guideline limitations, and few private campgrounds opened up though some did, with distancing rules and amenity closures.
There was a lot to consider with all these restrictive rules, and before we could consider getting out and about, our Wonder had some technical issues to be looked at. We had to take a trip to our dealer for service assessment for our coach steps, and also to Ford for recall maintenance and annual oil servicing. Ford was easy. Book it and go. Our dealer service was not so simple. It took a few cancellations and a prod from LTV to finally get our RV fixed.
If you recall, last year we took a spectacular trip around the north shore of Lake Superior. Our initial 2020 trip plan was to travel to the Canadian west coast, but with pandemic restrictions and closures our responsibility was to stay home. So we did, and our Wonder took us to places we had never been before. Click here to read about this great adventure to northern Ontario.
Fast forward to 2021!
[BACK STORY] We were living in a converted apartment at the top of a historic building (the old firehall) here in London, Ontario. The century-old building had no elevator and it was time to move on. So we decided to look for a new living space that was better suited to our lifestyle and impending age. Am I really that old? Robyn found the perfect space, and after a viewing we put in an application. It was a long shot to get the right suite, but it was worth the wait. In the meantime, we could start purging and packing our belongings.
As for the RV, it was springtime and Wonderwheels needed to be dewinterized for the upcoming season. Winterizing and dewinterizing were two of the most important maintenance issues needed for the plumbing systems because of where we live and the way the RV is constructed. It’s not a big deal to accomplish.. with the help of the owner manual and a few online tutorials it’s become easy to do. Our only limitation is that we no longer live in a house and so rely on our friends for the use of their driveway and water supply, then we take our RV to our local sani-dump to finish the process. In our case we use the Flying J service station not far from our location.
[SIDE NOTE] if you have a Good Sam membership card you can get discounts at participating Flying J service stations for propane fills and sani-dump usage.
After a month of madly packing our belongings for the home move, we were itching to get away on our travels. We both received our first Covid shots and decided to venture out in our Wonder. I booked a couple of Harvest Hosts locations, Gibson’s Pure Honey farm in Chatsworth and our favourite, Rural Rootz Nature Reserve in Wiarton. Prior to booking, I found that some Harvest Hosts were still closed to the public because of Covid. At this time almost all provinces had travel restrictions. The Atlantic provinces had their own bubble, closed to the rest of Canada. Gibson’s Pure Honey has a well stocked retail store and a walkable animal farm with chickens, turkeys, goats, alpacas and a cow, oh and a few thousand honey bees. If you get a chance to visit them, ask to try some of their honey. My favourites are turmeric honey and ginger honey. As always, we had a great visit with our friends at Rural Rootz. In fact we returned several weeks later for a few days, and also Moore Farms, another Harvest Host who had a great market store. In fact we celebrated our wedding anniversary at the farm.
The next month we booked three days of Harvest Hosts, the Backus Page Museum, Sprucewood Shores Winery and Bad Apple Brewing. The Backus Page Museum facility was closed due to Covid, but they allowed us to park in the adjacent Conservation Area where we enjoyed a hiking trail that took us around a wetland pond and pine forest. We’d visited Sprucewood Shores Winery and Bad Apple Brewing before. Bad Apple several times. By now Provincial parks were allowed to open up for camping so we booked five days at Pinery. We spent time at the beach, did some hiking and kayaking. It was great for the soul to be out camping again. With the province now open (with less restrictions) I decided to go to Toronto and visit relatives who I hadn’t seen in ages, especially my 87 year-old mum. I moochdocked the RV at an aunt and uncles driveway. It sure was good to be with family again. I also booked a camp with an old college friend at Darlington Provincial park. The Wonder got a few verbal “likes” at this campground. Seems to be a common gesture when we camp.
We soon found out that the apartment unit we wanted was going to be available soon! Problem was that we were hoping to be away during the projected move-in time. Darn, talk about timing! Nothing like adding to the stress of a potential lost summer! Fortunately, Robyn was able to negotiate a later move-in date for early fall.
[TIME FLIES] It’s now July! We are fully vaccinated. Besides packing and day tripping, where else can we go? Are we ever going to get out of the province? British Columbia is under a heat dome causing higher temperatures than normal. This affected many people. There was also talk of forest and brush fires being reported in the news. All of this on top of Covid restrictions! Yikes! Regardless, I laid out a trial trip westward using a planning guide which included a mixture of campgrounds and boondocking. Getting out of Ontario was fairly long as we’d travelled that way last year. Making use of Harvest Hosts and retailers was key to keeping costs down. Priorities would have to be put in place to set the tone of the trip and always at the back of my mind was our moving date and the change in weather. We were running out of summer.
And then news broke that BC was finally opening their borders to non-essential travel. Problem was that there were over two hundred forest fires – a large portion of which were out of control and on our route to Vancouver. On top of that the federal government announced that the border between Canada and the U.S. would be opening in a month for fully vaccinated travellers. Drop everything!! We need to get some reservations in place!
Because of our final destination being on Vancouver Island we had to move fast. Provincial and federal borders opening meant that the west coast would be inundated with tourists. We wanted to go to Tofino on the west coast of the Island and so tentatively planned our days working back to London, Ontario. We watched many travel videos to immerse ourselves in the spirit of traveling across the country. We hadn’t done this before by road and there was so much to see and limited time to see everything. This took a while to figure out. All our resources came into play. The two main apps I used were RVParky and Harvest Hosts. I also installed BC Wildfire Services to keep apprised of the forest fire situation as that would navigate which routes to take. As I had started mapping out our route towards Manitoba, I jumped from city to city sporadically to get to Vancouver. This gave us approximate travel times destination to destination based on driving days of three to four hours. Realizing this gave us the date to work for to get on the ferry to Vancouver Island and the return ferry to the mainland which had to be booked in advance. Ferry availability was booking fast leaving us a tight window. Obviously others had the same idea. Timing was of the essence as this also meant that we had to book campgrounds on the island as well, in order to request a return ferry back to Vancouver. Campgrounds were booking fast, especially with BC and Albertan travellers.
So working backwards this was our rough itinerary: Vancouver Island: Nanaimo, Cathedral Grove, Ucluelet, Tofino and Victoria. These were our must see stops on the island. On the mainland, Vancouver and Penticton. Alberta was next: Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Drumheller. Calgary would be for a few days staying with family. Saskatchewan next stopping in Regina and Moosejaw. Then Manitoba. We had to visit Winnipeg. Finally Ontario. This would take some time to plan. There were many stops in between these bucket list destinations and we still had to plan on the return trip!
[RECAP] We have two months to get Wonderwheels across to the Canadian west coast and back to south-western Ontario before we move to our new digs!
All our trip planning was done via RV Parky, Harvest Hosts and Google mapping. The plan was to mix dry camping with campgrounds in order to save money. There are many choices besides Walmart parking lots. Robyn called a few other retailers for permission to park overnight and most were quite receptive to the idea. Continue reading to find out where we stayed.
Our Wonder RTB was pretty much ready, though it needed a propane and diesel fill. We monitor DEF levels regularly and it was okay for now. We have enough in rear garage in case we need to top up, plus rv antifreeze in case we need to do a temporary winterizing. The Wonder garage also contains other items such as a propane fire-bowl, a Blackstone flat-top grill, camp chairs, collapsible side tables, an eleven-pound propane tank, a beach umbrella, tubs full of miscellaneous items such as zip ties, bungee cords, tape, spare fuses, a 30-50 amp dog bone. You know the drill. Stuff you might need, but invariably will never use. Also an air compressor, and a basic tool bag. Packing enough clothing to cover all temperature fluctuations meant that our wardrobe storage would be full. Thankfully the Wonder RTB design has excellent ‘under-the-bed’ capacity for our clothes, extra bedding, linens and more. The shower as usual, also doubled as extra storage especially for dry goods like pastas. It took us a couple of days to get packed and organized. And with the fridge pre-chilled (via propane) we were able to load up with food and bevies.
[THE TRIP STARTS] It’s August 15. Travel day! We had arranged for a friend to take our Fiat for a spin now and then to ‘exercise’ the battery while we were away. So because Wonderwheels is stored offsite I took a taxi to collect it. I love driving the Wonder. It doesn’t react like our car, but sure gives you the feeling of being in a safe place, sitting up high and enjoying the panoramic views through the windshield. Once back at our apartment, our daughter helped lug last-minute items to the RV while I set up the beds and Robyn loaded up the pantry and fridge. After saying our goodbyes, we hit the road.
Our destination for this day would be to camp at Pinery Provincial Park, which is about a hour from home. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a drive in the country. On the way we stopped a few times. First, we picked up some produce at an orchard market not far from London. A bag of apples and a pair of giant zucchinis. Once in Grand Bend, we stopped at the big grocery store to get some last minute fresh items for the day. Then picked up some firewood at a local vendor before heading in to Pinery. Having camped here many times, we found our site easily and set up within minutes. The routine is simple. Drive to the site, park and check that we’re level. We don’t have to be precise as the Wonder chassis is low to the ground and can be visually level because of its design. Next, plug in the 30 amp power cord to the campsite post. Then we get out a couple of chairs, table and the outdoor mats, and finally, wind and weather permitting, open up the awning. Time for a sandwich lunch. Winding its way through Pinery is the Old Ausible River, which has a great trail running alongside the riverbank. The park also boasts many other forest trails and boardwalks, a favourite of which takes you through the old Carolinian forest. As we took in an afternoon walk along the river, we could see youngsters fishing for bass, and kayakers and canoeists paddling up the lily pad lined river. The wind was barely a whisper. Perfect for dipping in a paddle and watching the blue heron stalking its prey below the water. It was also a perfect day for an ice cream. Lucky for me the park has an ice cream counter by the activity rentals building. Nothing like a mint ice cream cone while resting in the summer sun. Tonight would be a campfire night.
Next morning we got up early and had a simple breakfast and coffee before hanging out at one of the nine beautiful beaches on the campground’s property. As this was our second day, I had pre-booked a Harvest Host for the night. But as it was only twenty minutes away from Pinery, we decided to pack up the campsite, dump our waste tanks and spend our time with our feet in the sand enjoying the breeze blowing off Lake Huron. We had a great spot away from the crowds. The water was cool as Robyn found out from wading into the surf. It was almost happy hour and time to leave the warm sands. We packed up our gear and made our way to Bad Apple Brewing. We had dry camped here many times, and it is always pleasant to sit back in the orchard enjoying their latest brews. Some of which we purchased for the road trip. As sometimes happens it started to pour with rain. We had planned to have a shrimp cook out on the grill, but were forced to do it inside. We had jumbo (5-inch) shrimp, rice and mixed veggies. Delicious! It rained through the night!
Day three, still drizzling. We had a hearty breakfast to get us going. A scramble of eggs, onions and turkey sausage. Oh and marmalade on toast with a freshly brewed cuppa joe. There wasn’t much to pack and leaving other than cleaning up the kitchen. We backtracked to the village of Dashwood, home of Hayters Farm, a huge turkey farm. Their products are great and a bonus to their onsite market is they are also liquor store agents. We stocked up the freezer and fridge with assorted turkey products as we weren’t sure about availability on the road, and also some wines and Irish whiskey for, you know, whenever. Off we went to our next destination, our favourite Harvest Hosts, Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. But first, a stop in Goderich. It’s a great Lake Huron town, home to the famous Culbert’s Bakery, know for their cream puffs since 1908. We joined several people in the line up who also wanted a calorie boost. Yes, they are worth it!
We made it to the town of Wiarton where we could fill our water tank (for free) at the Hope Bay Campground, we continued on a mile or so to Rural Rootz greeted by our friends Tom and Dee. It’s always heart warming to visit these amazing people and the property they nurture unselfishly for everyone’s enjoyment. This is a hundred acres of forested land with multiple trails that lead you to the magical world of mother nature. Complete with beautiful gardens and spirit walks, labyrinths and self explorations via the sound garden and dragon path. You will leave with amazing memories. There is a rentable treehouse making for a wonderful retreat, plus four RV pads each with a 30 amp post. We shared dinner with Tom and Dee. Turkey kebabs and grilled veggies cooked on the Blackstone with seasoned rice. Capping the evening off with drams of Irish whiskey. Well why not?
The next morning Robyn made turkey bacon sandwiches for everyone. Dee let us do some laundry. It was a very relaxing day. In the early afternoon I was sitting under the awning when to my surprise, another LTV van pulled up. It was a Serenity, the first I’d seen in the wild. Out came Sharon and Phil who, after introductions and settling in, joined us for a drinks and conversation. We found out that they were also heading westward to explore and see family, and we vowed to wave if our paths crossed again. We had dinner al fresco on the back deck along with friends of Tom and Dee’s who spent the night in the treehouse property. Robyn made two beautiful salads and our hosts prepared stuffed whitefish and their friends brought freshly picked Ontario corn on the cob. Copious amounts of wine generated lots of laughter. It’s always a fun time at Rural Rootz. However, we were on a quest, and this camaraderie had to last us.
The next morning, Day five if you’re following, continued with bright sunny weather. Around noon we said our goodbyes and drove into Wiarton where we used the sani-dump facilities at the campground. A couple who were staying there stopped by for a chat. Seems they knew everything about the LTV floor plans, especially ours. It sounded like they were close to a buying decision. Off we went. Our next destination is the town of Parry Sound, and another Harvest Host. This time we stayed at the Trestle Brewery. There were two other RVs already parked. Lucky for us there was an open spot to park in. It was late afternoon and perfect weather for a beer on the patio which was bustling. After a bite we bought some brews for the road and took in a walk across the river. It was now dark and the lights played on the water as we called it a night. Tomorrow would be a long drive.
After breakfast we left Parry Sound for Sault Ste. Marie (or the Soo). We had planned to Wallydock here as we had the year before, but decided on finding something else. The Tourism office gave us suggestions for eateries along the waterfront, but because of the one way streets we had difficulty in finding our way and eventually got lost. We headed for a nearby landmark, the casino. Robyn went inside and got permission for us to park overnight. We had heard that casino parking lots were safe places. When she returned we decided to check out the casino restaurant. It was closed due to Covid. We entered the main games room where there was a bar, and fortunately, we could order food. It was quite surreal being surrounded by gamblers tossing coin upon coin into the depths of the slot machines hoping to fill their buckets with winnings. No thanks. I have better things to waste my money on. We reminisced about the last time we were in a casino aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean some twenty years ago. We bought a bucket full of tokens to play the slots. Seemed like in mere minutes the bucket was empty! When we got to the RV, I re-positioned it at the far end of the parking lot. I’d seen a police cruiser waiting in a spot near ours, so decided to get his opinion of the parking security. He was admiring the Wonder and told me that due to undesirables that cross the lot, if it was his RV, he would park at Walmart. Well that made up our minds in a flash. We weren’t alone. Several rigs were Wallydocking too.
It’s now Day seven and Walmart’s Saturday shoppers were in full swing, but we took our own sweet time to get up and move out. There was about twelve rigs parked with the same idea it seems. Our next night would be in the Wawa RV Resort which was only a couple of hours away, hence the lolly gagging. It took a lot longer to get there though. We stopped at the Agawa Crafts marketplace, a must see stop for travellers on Hwy.17. There’s plenty to see and buy. We obliged with purchasing indigenous souvenirs for our new apartment. Plus we filled up the RV with diesel. The Wawa RV Resort is a small rustic park tucked away outside the town of Wawa on the highway and the entrance is easy to miss, as we found. It was a pool, laundry facilities and a small walk to clean showers. We had a perfect two level back in site with water and electricity. We ate curry and rice for dinner and had an early night. It was fairly quiet until about 2:30 am when we were startled by a loud sound. It was a bear banger, used to scare the bears. Sure worked on me. Unfortunately we found out that on the previous day one bear met their demise after raiding the seasonal campsite area. Seems that someone didn’t clean up their site. Felt sorry for the bear.
There was a coolness to the air for Day eight. We packed up camp, filled the water tank and used the sani-dump, then drove in to Wawa for breakfast. We took a walk around the local beach first, then on to the main drag. Note to self: it’s busy on Sunday mornings! Only one restaurant was open and service was extremely slow. After Wawa we had a brief stop in White River, original home of Winnie the Pooh. Yes, that Winnie the Pooh. Two hours driving along the north shore of Lake Superior we arrived at Neys Provincial Park near Terrace Bay. It’s a beautiful park with a long stretch of beach and forested trails. It was also busy. I got one of the last available sites using the online booking system. It wasn’t powered, but that didn’t matter for us, it was treed and private, and the beach was close enough for us to go and explore the driftwood art left by previous beachcombers.
After packing up we left Neys. It would be a driving day, taking in the beautiful northern Ontario vistas. Lush forests and Lake Superior. We stopped briefly in Nipigon before our Wallydocking destination for the night in Thunder Bay. Walmarts are great for clean washrooms and last minute grocery shopping. Plus free overnight staying. After a pasta meal in Wonderwheels we had an early night. Tomorrow would be a long day!
For Day ten, the original plan was to Wallydock in Dryden, but the reviews were too uncertain on the RV Parky app. So we pulled in to the Husky service station, gassed up and got permission to stay overnight. There was a few trucks idling so we parked close to the next door hotel. We figured the hotel would be a good spot for lunch, but found the restaurant was closed. The concierge suggested the Patricia Inn. It has a small ‘local’ restaurant. After a short stroll, we decided this wasn’t a practical spot to spend the rest of the day. We had already driven four hours in the morning, yet despite that, opted to continue driving another couple to Kenora, which we’d planned on doing the next day anyway. Once there we found a small lake and trails and planned the next day’s activities. We had permission to stay the night in the Husky service station parking lot. Not my favourite place to stay due to constant activity all night with the 24-hour Husky customers and the sounds of nearby overnighters.
It’s hump day in Kenora. We left the Husky station and set off to see ‘Huskie the Muskie’, an oversized statue of the famous fish of angler’s dreams. It was set up on the water’s edge. Across the way was the bustling harbour farmer’s market, where we bought some fresh veggies. We took a walk to the adjoining downtown area, ending up at the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company. The lunch food wasn’t so good, but we bought some more brews for our trip collection. Once we returned to Wonderwheels we left Kenora and back tracked a few miles to the Rushing River Provincial Park that I was able to book the night before.
The next day we slept in after a much needed rest. Before checking out we showered, did some laundry and hiked the Rushing River Trail. It was great listening to the rapids bouncing off the rocks. Hardly anyone was around. In fact the campground had many empty spots. I suppose the weather being cooler and coming to the end of summer had something to do with it. We packed up the RV, used the sani-dump and said our goodbyes to Ontario.
It’s Day twelve of our epic Western Canada trek in Wonderwheels. We just left Rushing River Provincial Park and are leaving Ontario, and the scenery is going to rapidly change. We were prepared for any roadblocks at the border. There were none. Highway 17 changed into Manitoba Highway 1 and east and west lanes were separated.
[ANECDOTE] We were driving along the highway. The speed limit in Ontario was 90 km/h, but I didn’t see any signage posted in Manitoba. Robyn informed me that she saw a signpost that said 60 km/h. Thinking that was odd, I slowed down, and as this stretch of the road was down to two lanes due to road pylons, there was a trail of vehicles behind me. After several miles, I decided to speed up a bit not wanting to annoy the other drivers. Then I saw some signs. Speed limit was 100 km/h. But you must slow down to 60 km/h when construction workers are in the vicinity. Ha ha!
Our destination this afternoon was a Harvest Host on the edge of Winnipeg city called Stone Angel Brewery. Located at the end of a small restaurant-lined plaza is the brewery. We parked behind, as per instructions, and entered the pub. We were greeted by Paul, who spoke with a soft Irish accent. Manitoba has the indoor mask mandate that we were used to back home. Paul took our contact tracing info and checked our vaccine certificates. He poured us some beers and was very friendly and helpful with information of getting downtown to the Forks of Winnipeg. Noting that the city isn’t RV friendly, he advised us to take public transit. After a drink or two it was time for a nap. Robyn prepared a delicious salmon and corn meal for dinner, before we went back to the pub. For Dr. Who fans, you’ll recognize the stone angel theme. There’s even a life-sized version of a stone angel eerily staring at patrons though humorously draped with a Liverpool FC scarf. Seems that the pub are Liverpool fans. The beers produced here are British and European-styled and extremely well made. Yes, we bought some for the RV.
Today is August 27: Day 13 and warm sunny weather. Paul told us to take the rapid transit bus to downtown, and luckily the bus stop was 5-minute walk from the Stone Angel Brewery parking lot. The Forks is an art friendly area with many types of outdoor art installations surrounded by restaurants and shops, including an indoor market. We ate an exceptional Thali lunch at the Clay Oven, an Indian restaurant. After all the walking and the big lunch, we decided to go back to Stone Angel. We had leftovers for dinner and visited the pub for drinks before calling it a day. We confirmed Paul we could come back on our return trip.
Day 14 was sunny and warm. Wow, two weeks on the road and barely into our trip! We had our coffee and breakfast before driving to Brandon. Our destination, was yet another Harvest Host: Green Spot Home and Garden. Owner Bernie was about to leave the country on a trip, but gave us the time to tell us where to park, and about the nearby trail and ice cream shop. We checked out the lifestyle store. Bernie told us we weren’t obligated to buy anything. After dinner we walked the trail behind the property and saw a small herd of about seven deer crossing the road. It was a beautiful sight. I almost felt we were intruding on their evening stroll. On returning to the RV we stopped by Crow’s General Store. From the moment you walk through the gate you are time warped to another place. Mementos from another era were strewn about in an non-random fashion. An old car skeleton stood under rusted gas pumps. We were in awe. The owner, Don, greeted us and invited us in to his spacious ice cream parlour outfitted with every paraphernalia possibly. It was like being in a set from the fifties. Don had us wear paper soda jerk hats and posed us behind the counter before taking our photos. I told him about Harvest Hosts as his place would be perfect. We enjoyed a complimentary ice cream cone.
The next morning after a quick breakfast, we parked Wonderwheels at the Crow’s General Store. Don led us on an exterior tour of his property. A retired landscaper, Don’s dream is to build a mini putt course through the back field. Some of the area had already taken shape. I hope his dream of a family getaway will be fulfilled. Definitely a must see stop!
We left Don’s amazing place with a long drive to the city of Regina. We stopped for gas and a coffee in Indian Head. We were also at another Province, Saskatchewan. We found a rest area and stopped for a grilled cheese lunch. Once we reached Regina, we headed for Cabela’s, an outdoor activity store. We asked for permission to stay overnight, which was granted. We were the only rig. We checked out the store which had a sale running. Robyn scored a nice polar fleeced sweater. Later, it was sushi for dinner.
[SIDEBAR] On this part of our trip, we were keeping our driving times down, aiming for two to three hours. As it happens this usually stretches with stops, traffic and construction and because we are on unfamiliar roads, we usually gas up at the half tank or three quarter empty tank mark.
It was a great day to set off for our 16th stop which would be in Swift Current. There’s not much to see in Saskatchewan except miles and miles of prairies lined with thousands of telegraph poles, hay bales and railway lines. So a surefire way to end the monotony is to stop in places you’ve heard of but never dreamed of visiting. This one in particular is home of ‘Mac the Moose’, allegedly the largest moose statue in Canada. We stopped at the Moosejaw tourism office to see this almost cartoonish giant moose statue. Then we drove into town. The main street was oddly quite wide, lined with various businesses that seemed closed. It turns out that Mondays are retail holidays here. We decided to have a walk around anyway, when a fellow got out his camera and took our photo. He informed us that we’d be famous. Very strange, but in hindsight, we realized that we were the only people wearing face masks. We continued on our way to Swift Current, and stopped at a Home Hardware. Robyn had read online that they were RV friendly. They certainly had a big enough parking lot. So we went inside to ask for permission to stay overnight, which we were given. Though the service representative told us that because we were in a downtown area it would be quite noisy, and instead, suggested we go and stay at the Walmart. And so, we Wallydocked.
It’s now August 31, Day 17 and the weather has holding. We left Swift Current in the morning for Alberta. Again, the scenery was flat prairie land. A strange (to us) sighting were watering holes that were so dry, it looked like the only thing left was salt, ringed by what looked like a red mossy plant. We’d see a few black cattle and wonder where they get their water from. Part way on the road we stopped in Medicine Hat and spent some time at the Saamis Tepee, an enormous tepee statue dedicated to the indigenous people of the area. Definitely a must see of the Trans Canada Highway next to the tourism office.
Tonight we would stay at a Harvest Host, Piston Broke Brewing in the town called Brooks. The pub was in a nicely renovated garage with a huge piston and other vehicle parts for decor. The original owners were beer-making mechanics who kept overspending on their hobby. Their beer became so famous with friends and locals that they decided on getting into the craft brewing business. Lucky for us that they are Harvest Hosts too, providing us with more tasty treats for the road. By now we had quite an eclectic collection of beer, which much to Robyn’s dismay were always in her way! We had a fairly quiet night. Another RV pulled in the early evening. Our server, Emily was very friendly and a fellow Ontarian. She was helpful with her knowledge of the area and suggested a cowboy restaurant at a nearby ranch town called Patricia.
[SIDEBAR] We joke around on these type of trips, making each other laugh singing silly tunes or tunes we thought we knew the words to, like American Pie or Bohemian Rhapsody. Even though we both love music, we rarely play any whilst driving. What do you do for self entertainment on long drives?
The weather was turning cloudy and cool on our 18th Day. It’s the first of September after all. Today we would be going to Drumheller, a bucket list return visit. We were deep in ‘badland’ country where the lowland prairies opened up into deep valleys and high hills. But first, we ‘had’ to stop in the hamlet called Wayne, population: 25, and home of the Last Chance Saloon. As it happened, it wasn’t open, plus the hamlet was getting ready for its upcoming rodeo. Now the rains came and we headed to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This was a return visit to see the famous dinosaur exhibits without our kids! What an amazing place. So glad we went. After seeing these awesome sights we drove to our campsite for the night. We booked two nights at the Dinosaur RV Park on the edge of Drumheller. Luckily we were close to the showers and laundry. We decided we didn’t need to stay another night and asked the camp host to cancel our second night.
The next morning we did a load of laundry and asked the camp host to pay forward our booking as they couldn’t refund us. A much needed stop at the sani-dump on our way out was a priority as we had been dry camping for five days. Yikes! During the previous evening I booked a night at Dinosaur Provincial Park where we should have been all along. So Day 19, we back tracked to the correct park. As we were coming up to the town of Patricia we decided to stop for lunch at the aptly named, Patricia Hotel, where you can cook your own steaks on their indoor grill. We didn’t. It’s a rustic furnished establishment with humourous cowboy ornaments and posters adorning the walls. You might even be visited by one of the restaurant’s cats. We gassed up in Brooks before checking into Dinosaur Provincial Park. Our campsite was nestled amongst the hoodoos and the badland’s valleys. Apparently many of the famous dinosaurs were discovered in this park. It looked like a popular campground with sites slowly filling up all afternoon.
Day 20. We decided to take in a hike. The scenery is stunning. Learning about the hoodoo erosions over the millennia from the Park’s excellent information panels dotted around the trail, gave us a sense of awe knowing that at one time long ago, the area was lush and dinosaurs of all types roamed where we stood. We returned to Wonderwheels for a snack and relax before heading out on a more difficult trail. Getting to the top of some badlands ridges was easy. Getting down wasn’t. Luckily we brought hiking poles which helped traverse the crumbling surfaces. It was hot and it was time to pack up and continue on our way to Calgary. We were visiting Robyn’s sister, Sherry and her family.
It’s always a fun time when family gets together. Lots of conversations catching up on each other’s lives. Lots of libations, including that Irish whiskey. And enjoying great food together plus showing off our Wonderwheels and the gadgets we brought with us. We even got in a visit with old friends from our days living in Unionville. We presented gifts to our family, including a selection of craft beers from our trip for our brother-in-law, Peter. What? You didn’t think I was going to drink all of it, did you?
Then on September 6th, Day 23 of our adventure westward, we said our fond farewells and left Calgary. It wouldn’t last long though as Robyn had left her mobile phone charging there. Luckily we were only twenty minutes away, and Peter graciously drove it to us on a sideroad. We had an amazing drive as the Rocky Mountains drew closer and closer. We pulled in to the RV parking lot in the city of Banff. It’s placed perfectly and within walking distance of the main tourist area. It had changed quite a bit since we were there last. We had an obligatory lunch at the Grizzly House. It was Robyn’s third visit! We took a walk to the nearby Banff Springs Hotel. Pretty fancy place! On the way back we saw a young male elk foraging an deer on people’s lawns. Unfortunately at the time of booking, we could only get the one night to camp at the Banff National Park. Our site overlooked Mount Rundle in the background, surrounded by peaks and forests. A different kind of site than we are used to. Basically a road with the post and picnic table to the side. There was bear warning on entering the park, plus we were warned not to get close to elk due to it being rutting season.
The next morning, Day 24, we set off on the spectacular Icefields Parkway. We are heading to Jasper National Park. I thought I saw a moose. Perhaps wishful thinking or an apparition, who knows. The emerald lakes, sky high waterfalls and glacial mountain peaks are a wonder to witness. Whoever created and engineered this stretch of highway had the tourist in mind. Get out your camera, there’s plenty to see! Even the animals had their own highway with bridge crossings every so often for the creatures to get across the busy road. We stopped several times including by the Columbia Icefield and it’s famous receding glacier, a testament to the effects of climate change.
We registered two separate campsites at Jasper National Park because of availability. You know how it is. Luckily we have an easily maneuverable vehicle. We had a private site but noticed the lack of trees in the main parts of the campground. Unfortunately they were infested by mountain pine beetles and had to be destroyed. Really sad to see as we are in a huge forested area!
The next day, our 25th of the trip, the weather was drizzly. We decided to take a drive to see Maligne Lake, known for its emerald blue waters. As the clouds rolled in the camera couldn’t quite capture its beauty, reliant on sunlight. The nearby, Medicine Lake was able to show off its blue colour, perhaps because the road was high up, giving us a better view. However it was the first time we could see up close the recent damage caused by forest fires. Very sad to see as we drove by thousands of burnt trees barely standing on the scorched forest floor.
We parked in the town of Jasper and walked up and down the streets getting familiar with the neighbourhood. The rain was still a drizzle so we went for a quick lunch. When we returned to the campground our spirits were uplifted by the sight of a large male elk crossing the road. We pulled over to watch as he tilted his head and bugled his location to other elk in the area. It was quite thrilling to see. The rained had stopped and turned into a light mist for the afternoon. For dinner we had a light pasta in our rig and sat outside by the fire bowl. With fire bans at the campgrounds we were staying at, the fire bowl came in handy.
Day 26, overcast. Perfect day to do laundry! We had a light breakfast of peanut butter on toasted English muffins and coffee. Downtown Jasper is very RV friendly and there’s an abundance of street parking and lots available. There are two public laundromats for travellers to use. We chose the largest and got our clothes cleaned in an hour. The main street has many accessible amenities close by including grocery stores and a drugstore. We stashed our clean laundry in Wonderwheels, parked nearby and took a stroll around the very walkable town, looking for a place to grab lunch. Being a tourist town, prices are much higher than at home, but we found Earl’s Kitchen and Bar had a rooftop patio overlooking the street with an amazing view of the Rockies’ skyline. We shared some delicious fusion Japanese-style food and enjoyed the scenery.
As the clouds rolled in, we returned to the campground and our second site which was none electric. We only saw one other campsite in our loop being used. These were normally tent sites. Very private and the Wonder was tucked in very well. It rained quite a bit so we stayed in and relaxed, dining on tuna salad wraps for supper before calling it a night.
The rain stopped in the early hours. The random drips on the roof of Wonderwheels seemed like it wasn’t quite over. We woke up to a cloudy Day 27. A quick walk to the showers, with an eye open for bear who were in the vicinity. Then coffee and cereal for breakfast. We drove out towards the park exit, first stopping in line for the sani-dump. I was filling up the freshwater tank when I noticed a LTV pull up. Of all the places, it was Sharon and Phil whom we met twenty-five days ago in Wiarton. We had a chat and took each other’s photo. It was so great to see them again. They had already been to BC and were on their return trip. They’d seen lots of wildlife and wildfires! Hopefully our paths will meet again.
After farewells we finished up and got back on the Icefield Parkway towards Mount Robson. We stopped at the visitor centre at the foot of the mountain. Being the highest peak in the Rockies it was certainly humbling to see. Unfortunately the visitor centre was closed for the season, but we stayed a while and enjoyed a nice picnic savouring the view of the snowy peak in front of us.
We continued on our way and passed many mountains and valleys switching to Highway 5 which would take us to the town of Clearwater. We were now in British Columbia! Once there, the signs for our next destination indicated another 20 km. The road was up and most of it compacted dirt! The drive, not for the feint of heart was full of dogleg twists and turns all the while with a steep incline, and no guardrails! We reached the gates of the campground, the Alpine Meadows Resort. Wiping my sweaty brow, I prayed it wouldn’t rain.
The camp host had informed us via email that there was no one on duty, but they’d leave key cards under the office front door mat. We drove down the only road which led us to the RV sites. The place was immaculate! Flat, paved pads with utility posts all lined up perfectly, each pad with an adjoining rustic timber picnic table. Not many trees separating sites save but a few maple saplings. A fellow mowing the grass told us to pick any site. We were the only guests. He also mentioned morning bear sightings on the property. We both felt edgy thinking about being in total seclusion. Time to test the bear spray canister! Oh yeah, it rained through the night!
After breakfast and showers, we returned the key cards to the front stoop of the office and began our trek back down the mountain. Would we see the end of this, our 28th day? Thank you Ford and Leisure Travel Vans for making us a safe and true vehicle. My knuckles were definitely white. Cliche? Not at all! The road was slick by the evening rainfall and the switchbacks seemed more enhanced. We hugged the mountain the whole way, down-shifting, all the while my right foot wanting to hit the brake pedal. Wonderwheels got us down to paved roads without a scratch and a sigh of relief. We are headed for the town of Merritt where we’ll be Wallydocking. When we got there we shopped for a bit then rested for the remainder of the day. I really needed that.
Day 29 was another long day of driving on the Coquihalla Highway. We stopped at a rest area near the town of Hope and had lunch in the RV. We dove through the burbs of Vancouver: Abbotsford, Surrey, Burnaby ending up at our destination, Horseshoe Bay. We planned to Wallydock in North Vancouver but found out it wasn’t allowed. I tried putting out an ask for help on social media, but we decided to wing it. We parked the Wonder on a sideroad and went exploring the town. Then we saw the ferry terminal had a large parking lot. We talked to the security guard who let us stay the night in an oversized parking space. Yay! First, lunch then an apres lunch coma nap. Followed by an evening stroll and an early night. We had an morning ferry booked heading to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
As dawn came around on September 13, Day 30, we set off to the terminal and then parked along with the other vehicles and waited to board. After three hours, two of them sailing, we arrived in Nanaimo. It looked much different than it was twenty years ago on our last visit. We wandered around a bit, and even voted as the federal elections were underway, then we drove to the Living Forest Campground.
We would be staying here for three nights. After checking in we followed the map to our campsite. What a beautiful location. Tall trees everywhere and private serviced sites. Absolutely gorgeous. As with all camps we have our routine. I parked the RV in a level position and set about hooking us up. I hook up the freshwater hose to the spigot and start loading the plumbing system. The I got out the 30 amp cable, hooked it up to the RV then attached it to the receptacle on the post. I flicked of the fuse switch and a god awful shrieking scream shot at me. I quickly unplugged and raced to the entrance of the RV thinking I just electrocuted my wife. With my heart in my stomach I got there as the screen door flung open with Robyn thrusting the blue bin at me screaming, “there’s a (expletive) mouse in the RV!” Apparently, we picked up a passenger who jumped out of a drawer as Robyn was opening it landed in our just emptied recycling bin. It was still dazed, probably from the prior blood curdling scream, but quickly ran away as I upsided the bin in the forest, surely wondering where the heck he is.
On Day 31, we explored the campground and also drove to a nearby grocery store to stock up on necessaries.
Day 32 was laundry day. I took our laundry sack to the main entrance where the facilities were and did a few loads. We get a lot of people admiring our rig when we’re out and about, and one such couple camping in a Navion struck up a friendly conversation with us, inviting us over for a happy hour drink. After the laundry was done we went on the cliffside hike. It was pretty good and gave us some great views of the harbour. We saw another LTV parked nearby. We also talked to some young guys from Oregon that were camping whilst renovating a school bus. They even gave us a tour. After our happy hour get together we returned to Wonderwheels and enjoyed an amazing stew that Robyn prepared earlier. After dinner we sat in bed watching ‘the Office’ reruns on Netflix. We watch streaming shows on the iPad hooked up to the TV via a HDMI adapter.
September 16, Day 33 and Robyn’s birthday. We left Nanaimo and headed toward Port Alberni. We gassed up there and gathered info from the tourist centre. We drove through Coombs and wanted to stop, opting to do so on our return trip. We stopped at Cathedral Grove to see the old growth forest. A boardwalk has been built since our last visit two decades prior, probably to protect the trees from huggers. Like us! There was an opening where we could get up close and hug one. It’s a magical place and a definite must see. Some trees have been dated over 800 years.
Our destination was Ucluelet on the coast. There is only one road to get there and due to its reconstruction, is closed from 11 am to 3 pm. Luckily we heard about this from other travellers and so only waited over an hour in the long lineup. We stayed at the Wild Pacific Campground. I think there are only six sites. Pretty small campground attached to the Pacific Rim Trail. We ventured into town stopping at the local brewery, then it started to rain.
In fact it rained hard all night. Day 34 would be a wet one! It poured like a monsoon until after noon then slowed down so we decided to make a dash to Tofino. The rains certainly put a damper (sorry) on our visit. Kind of took away the vibe of the town that we had expected. Nonetheless we were glad to be there finally! Driving back, we stopped at the Zed Hotel, a retro chic designed hotel with a nice little restobar. We had a great seafood appetizer at the bar whilst conversing with the husband and wife bartenders. Nearing our campground we saw a soaking wet black bear loping alongside the roadway. It was quite big and our only bear sighting of the trip. To top it off, the campground lay hidden in a mist. Robyn got out to help me back in. Standing in our site nonchalantly grazing was a young deer. So cool!
Leaving the area we drove towards Tofino. The goal was to watch some surfing. We stopped at Wickaninnish Beach, parked the RV and walked along the wet sands admiring the kelp and sea shells washed up by the tides and the driftwood structures left behind by previous visitors. As for surfers, the waves weren’t cooperating. We saw a few students trying their best and also an adept surfer who told us the current was moving in the wrong directions. Perhaps the wind and rain contributed to that. The Pacific waves certainly created a lot of mist along the beach as we walked back to the parking lot. We left only to be halted by the highway construction again. It didn’t seem as long this time and after a few days, I noticed quite an improvement in the reconstructed road.
With all that rain happening we decided to book a night at the Coombs Country Campground. When we reached Coombs, we parked near the Coombs Old Country Market famous for their grass roof and the goats that graze there. Definitely set up for tourists. You must check out the eclectic market selling everything from salmon jerky to bird houses, pastas to Indian saris. There’s something for everyone. There’s also a one of a kind donut shop next door, that has a never ending lineup to get in. The Campground was nice, quiet and established with fenced in private sites and helpful hosts. We stayed indoors for the night due to a light rain.
At around 10 am on Day 36, we packed up and left Coombs and drove to Victoria. It was cloudy and drizzly after we checked in to the Salish Seaside RV Haven. Tucked away between marinas and floating houses, Salish is the tidiest campground yet. Perfectly flat concrete pads. Even the picnic tables are concrete and the landscaping is properly manicured. We were happy we reserved ages ago as they were fully booked. When were arrived we saw a Unity parked on the other side of the campground. By the time we left, another would arrive, plus another Wonder. With a break in the weather we chose to walk the West Bay Trail, a mixture of paths and boardwalk that takes you all the way downtown. We stopped to take a water taxi to Fisherman’s Wharf, a touristy floating plaza of fast food eateries and houses. Barb’s Fish and Chips was supposedly famous for their food. I’m from the UK, you can’t kid a kidder! After scoping out the entire wharf we walked to the Empress Hotel, and into the lap of luxury. We got to the lounge and ordered a glass of something cold. Lets just say that for the price of Robyn’s glass of wine, we could have bought a whole bottle at the liquor store! But hey, we don’t come here everyday! We returned to Salish via a water taxi the took us right to the campground. How convenient! The sun was going down as we sat outside. A hummingbird flitted above us as the sounds of a guitar and singing wafted across the campsite. Seems we have a talented camper nearby.
September 20 was cloudy with the sun peeking out. Don’t need our raincoats. For our 37th Day we will walk to Chinatown. We had been looking forward the whole trip for a dim sum meal at Don Mee’s Restaurant. It was a longer walk than anticipated. The iPhone app said we walked 13 km today! Once in Chinatown to went to Fan Tan Alley famous for its converted opium dens into retail shops as the narrowest street in Canada. We did a lot of exploring here. The neighbourhood has many interesting alleys and shopping courtyards like Market Square that surrounds the Whistling Buoy Brewing Company.
We walked around the opulent Parliament buildings where the steps were decorated with reminders of the past residential school system. Very sad and sobering, but we were soon cheered up by a garden of totem poles. An awesome sight! Our walk had a purpose: to see the ocean. Well not quite the ocean, but the Salish Sea with Washington State peering beyond the haze. We made it to the Dallas Rd Waterfront Trail where the Steve Fonyo Mile Zero Monument sits along with a statue of Terry Fox. We were tuckered out, and after a few minutes to catch our breath and watch the cargo ships anchored offshore, we started the long walk along the trail that took us to Fisherman’s Wharf where we deserved a nice cool drink and a water taxi ride back to camp.
Day 38 after breakfast and our teardown drill, we left Salish to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, and wait for the ferry off the island. As we know we are on a small world, it was a surprising moment to see one of our friends from London walking toward us. After a flurry of waves, we got their attention and had a chat. Too funny. Our campground reservation was at the Capilano RV Resort in north Vancouver. Thank god for gps because that was a frustrating drive from the ferry terminal. The campground looked old. Our site barely fit our rig and the sani drain was too far for our macerator hose to reach. Luckily there’s a sani-dump by the park entrance. Sitting right next to us was a Unity, it looked like they were about to leave so we didn’t disturb them. The camp staff told us where to catch a bus that would take us downtown. Just a short walk and we were on our was. We got off the bus and noted where we should pick up the return bus later on. Our goal today was to see the ivy-covered Sylvia Hotel where we stayed 18 years ago right along English Bay. It hadn’t changed one bit, though the other buildings along the seawall certainly had. We walked some more around the Bay then went inland looking for somewhere to eat and ended up at an Indonesian/Malayan restaurant. The food was good! By the time we got back to the RV we had walked 7 kms and were beat.
Day 39 started out gloomy and drizzly, though by the time we left mid morning it stopped. Today we legged it to Granville Island. Definitely a must stop destination for any traveller to Vancouver. We loved coming here 18 years ago and it was still great! The Market still sold giant berries like we remembered before. The food and shops were great! Even the buskers were pretty amazing! We capped the visit with a pint at the Granville Island Brewery, then made our way home, stopping for groceries before we could relax at the RV.
September 23, Day 40 of our adventure. We took the bus after breakfast to Stanley Park, which had been in the news lately due to coyote attacks. We walked the Seawall Trail which was stunning. The glistening tide pools shone in the morning sun as the cargo ships rocked in place. Lots of people bike riding or rollerblading on the path beside us. Even though it was a fun hike, the warm sunny day made us stop more often. No coyotes around fortunately! It was a long walk, at least 8 or 9 kms, and we did it, the wrong way. We wondered why passers by would go by with a smirk. All the walking created a major appetite so we veered off to the Stanley Park Bistro. Overpriced, naturally. It’s the only place open for miles!
We figured that while we were downtown, we should check out Chinatown. After taking the bus there we were disappointed to see how run down it was. It was sad to see the many vagrants and shuttered establishments. We turned around and after a long wait caught a bus back. It was a 12.9 km day. We were sore and exhausted. Luckily we had leftovers for dinner and crashed into a long early slumber.
Our last morning at Capilano on sunny Day 41. Grab a shower, do a load of laundry, fill the freshwater tank, get rid of our garbage and recycling, use the sani-dump and skedaddle! This was a long driving day, at least six hours with a mix of rest stops, gassing up, accidents and several pipeline construction slowdowns. The scenery was pretty, though there were more signs of forest fires. We are officially on our way home to Ontario but returning on a different route. Today we are staying in Keremeos at a Harvest Host. The country here is known for its vineyards and fruit farms. By now you will have figured out we use Harvest Hosts a lot. This one nestled in a valley full of orchards and and fields of fresh organic produce is the Tree to Me Inn. We got there at closing time but were told where to park in their ample lot. We were sitting under the roofed patio enjoying a drink when a vehicle drove up and parked behind us. A Serenity. Out come Denise and Gary to greet us. They were on their way to Tofino. We sat there talking together about our travels and comparing our LTVs. It was nice to chat with other people besides ourselves.
It’s the morning of Day 42. Inside the Tree to Me Inn is the Pippin Bistro where we had probably the best breakfast and coffee of the whole trip so far. The coffee so good we bought some for the road, freshly ground. Thank you John. Leanne, John’s partner invited us for a tour of the property and what better way to see it all than from the roof. She explained their plans to grow certain crops and herbs to make the organic farm self sufficient. Their property stretches over the fertile valley. Down on ground level we walked amongst the yellow raspberries and strawberries nurtured by the migrant worker team. We were just finishing up when another Serenity pulled up in from of Wonderwheels. We were expecting a meetup with Rhea and John (@lifeofleisureadventures). We follow each other on Instagram and as they were visiting family in Keremeos, Rhea reached out to us. It was so nice to get together. Too bad Denise and Gary had left before your arrival!
We left Keremeos for Grand Forks. We are staying at the Alpine Taxidermy Wildlife Museum, a Harvest Host. Surprisingly, we had a relaxing visit. We were the only rig and our host, Marlene kept to herself. The property was nicely landscaped and signposts instructed us where to park. There were hints that her family were hunters as many animal antlers and horns were artistically placed throughout the garden. The was a museum of stuffed animals and a treed maze, but we declined.
The next morning after tempeh and tomato sandwiches, we continued east along the Crows nest Highway for the Kootenay community of Trail where we had booked another Harvest Host for the night at Columbia Gardens Vineyard and Winery. This is a quaint winery surrounding the parking area with outer buildings and multiple rows of vines sporting all kinds of grapes and fruit trees. For Day 43 we climbed the stairs to the rustic chalet looking building that is the tasting room and retail store. We were presented with samples of their entire lineup of award-winning wines and port. The flavours were unique using owner, Ben’s, own wine making processes. We bought a few bottles to join our beer collection!
It was a wet Monday morning on September 27, Day 44 and our return leg of our epic trip to the west coast. We left the winery and its rain soaked grapevines for Cranbrook, our last stop in BC where we had pre-booked a campsite at the KOA. We stopped in town and shopped a few stores and gassing up. We bought some salmon for dinner and DEF for Wonderwheels. I check the DEF levels at every gas station and surprisingly it always indicated that we were ok, until we reached Cranbrook. This was our first ever visit to a KOA. It’s a very efficient and clean campground though lacked individual site privacy and trees. Where were the trees? Once we were fully hooked up we also filled the DEF tank. I wish they made a better funnel system to load the tank as it always gets messy, and ends up with me rinsing everything the liquid touches before it crystalizes. The rains continued as we watched several rigs depart. To be honest, it was not our favourite campground.
Day 45 and it would be an exciting one. We left the KOA after breakfast and showers heading towards the Albertan badlands. Robyn’s sister had booked a two day getaway at an Airbnb in Monarch, about 15 minutes from Lethbridge. Easily a four hour drive. We were barely out of Cranbrook when we saw billboard advertising hot springs. It was one of those experiences we talked about but never did, until today. Robyn convinced me to turn around and head north on the Kootenay Highway. We were going to Radium Hot Springs! We saw some wildlife on this route, herds of deer and bighorn sheep. We parked our Wonder at the springs. There were several rigs parked, including a Unity. Tickets were very cheap (a nice change from the usual touristy gouging), they even had bathing suit and towel rentals, which we thankfully didn’t need! The water is about 39 celsius, (or 102 Fahrenheit). Toasty hot! The air however was not, as we found out when heading to the hot showers. You’re encouraged to shower before and after because of the minute amounts of radon in the water.
So now, we backtracked for almost a couple of hours until we got back on the Crowsnest highway towards Monarch. Perched on a hill overlooking the Old Man River valley was our destination, the Hilltop Greenhouses. Robyn’s sister booked a tepee and tiny house combo, with room enough for Wonderwheels. Sherry brought Indian food for supper and we enjoyed the big sky country colours of the sunset as we sat around the campfire.
On the third day, the 47th of our trip, we said our goodbyes and continued travelling homeward. It was a long day of driving broken up by a rest area lunch, on our return to Swift Current, Saskatchewan and the Walmart parking lot.
Day 48 was also a long day. We drove past acres and acres of grassland every now and then dotted with grain elevators and freight trains a mile long. The front end of Wonderwheels is peppered with suicidal grasshopper carcasses. We stopped along the Trans Canada Highway in Wolseley for Chinese food. A small town famous for their swinging bridge. We’ll be Wallydocking in Brandon, Manitoba.
We slept in on October 2, our 49th day. The sun beaming through the windows. A perfect day to drive back to Winnipeg and the Stone Angel Brewery, the Harvest Hosts we stayed at some thirty-six days ago on our westbound trek. The red light was on by the macerator switch in the washroom. So we needed to dump our tanks. I logged on to rvdumpsites.net which accurately shows where the nearest dump facilities are. Luckily we we only a few minutes away from one, and were also able to refill our freshwater tank. Upon arriving at Stone Angel Brewery, it was great to see Paul’s familiar face, and also try and buy some newly brewed beers. After a 5k walk in the hot sun, we had a light meal of Robyn’s deluxe grilled cheese sandwiches and our last beers at the pub before calling it a night. Robyn also made sandwiches for Paul, the owner and his wife, who was helping serve behind the bar.
After cleaning up on the morning of Day 50, we embarked on the long drive in to Ontario. About halfway before we crossed the border we played tourists at the Centre of Canada Park and took the opportunity to take photos. There was no one else around! The park is placed at the geographical centre of Canada where east meets west, so we had to stop. Well why not? When we finally reached Dryden, we drove to the Walmart location. The customer service rep was adamant that we couldn’t stay there because of a local bylaw. So after a late bite at Pizza Hut, we gassed up and parked with the transport trucks at the Esso service station. Yes it was noisy, but after that long drive the sound of eighteen wheelers coming and going was soon tuned out. We fell asleep knowing the we made it back to Ontario.
Day 51 was a brutally long driving day. We left Dryden around 9:30 am and arrived at our destination close to 4 pm. The plan was to Wallydock in Thunder Bay, but at one of our rest stops I found a Harvest Host for the night. About an hour east of Thunder Bay we came to the small town of Dorion, where we stayed at the Canyon Country Co-operative. This family run country market, selling everything from fresh produce to dry goods has ample parking and an adjoining kiosk selling fast food. The fries are amazing! We were sitting out enjoying the sunny weather when another motorhome pulled up. The solo driver got out to take her cat for a walk. The cat was a Savannah breed and had beautiful markings, though the cat wasn’t too friendly when we invited them to join us.
Another long, long driving day. It’s Tuesday October 5, Day 52 in Wonderwheels. The solo traveller left hours before us heading westward. I managed to book a site at Wawa RV Resort and Campground where we stayed before. We were on the north shore of Lake Superior enjoying the changing colours. The fog was low when we drove out of Dorion, but the morning sun soon took care of it. We revisited a few previous stops including the Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. The water falling seemed much more powerful than our last visit. Perhaps because of the rains we had endured. We also stopped in Marathon, known for their pebble beach.
[SIDEBAR] Over the years we have collected stones and pebbles on our many travels. We saved unusual rocks for their shapes and colours and displayed them at our home or used some to adorn our plantings. We are now in an apartment, about to move to another and it was time to return these stones back to nature. Marathon was the perfect place!
We arrived at the Wawa campground to a near empty park. Most seasonals had left leaving only a handful of us transients. The bears had moved on. We were allocated a site close to the laundry room. Perfect. We definitely needed to do a few loads. We also had a decision to make: take the ferry to Tobermory or continue driving around Georgian Bay. One of my cousins was on Instagram showing picture of their holidaying in Tobermory. Maybe we could meet up! Our mind was set. That evening I booked the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Manitoulin Island to Tobermory. I also had to book a camp for the night, close enough to the ferry. The air seemed thick and overcast.
The next morning, the fog eerily enveloped the campground as we showered, ate breakfast and de-camped. Oh yeah, we also got rid of our trash and used the sani-dump, emptying our tanks. It’s Day 53. I was able to book a campsite at Chutes Provincial Park for the night. It would be another long day, but we broke it up with some good rest stops. First stop was Old Woman Bay at the top end of Lake Superior Provincial Park, then a return to Agawa Crafts to pick up some souvenirs for our family. We had a picnic in a local park near the Soo, finally motoring on to Massey, where we did some groceries before checking in to Chutes. We got the firebowl out for happy hour before dinner and had a conversation with a couple from a neighbouring campsite. Then an early night. The alarm was set for an early 6 am!
Two things I don’t like to do in the RV: drive in a dark unlit forest combined with a fog so thick you can’t see in front of you! We got up early on Day 54. Sometimes navigating these old forested one-way park roads is sketchy, when it’s pitch black, that’s another thing altogether. Once we got out of the park, we drove through the dark streets of Massey onto highway 17, shroud in thick soupy fog. Fortunately at this time of day, traffic is scarce, except for the old transport truck barreling behind us. I couldn’t see five feet in front of me. I put the hazard lights on and took it slow. When the highway wound its way up to higher elevations the fog would peter out, but then as you decline those slopes the ghostly lights of oncoming traffic would peer behind the thick air. We got to the cut off at highway 6 and drove passed Espinola onto the land bridge. By now the fog was burning off by the morning sun and turned into light mists across the waters and bogland.
The drive took longer than we had expected, but we finally crossed Manitoulin Island and arrived at the South Baymouth ferry terminal and waited with the other travellers. After the Chi-Cheemaun ferry docked I stood up on the Wonder’s running board, eyes focussed on the vehicles disembarking. Nearing the end I saw a silver suv with arms waving out the window. It was cousin Adrienne and Amir. They were stopping on the island for the night. We made arrangements for them to meet us at our next destination, Wiarton. We explored the Tobermory harbour and caught a meal on a rooftop patio. We pulled in to Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. I think this was our nine or tenth visit. There was truck camper parked on one of the pads at this Harvest Host. We were met by Amber and Tony who were travelling back to the US. Our friends and gracious host, Dee and Tom greeted us with warm smiles and hugs. It’s always the moment you feel at home. In the evening we all sat around the firebowl and shared travel stories and enjoyed the camaraderie of laughter and great conversation.
Day 55, Friday October 8th was a lazy, sunny morning to wake up to. Later on, after a scramble to make Wonderwheels presentable, Adrienne and Amir arrived for our reunion, one we hadn’t had in eons. It was fantastic to see them, and Wonderwheels seemed to make quite an impression. They also enjoyed the Rural Rootz property and showed interest in a return visit. After a while they left, and later on Amber and Tony left. Robyn had prepared a Singapore rice noodle dish with shrimp and veggies that we shared with Dee and Tom on their patio. Along with deep and emotional conversation, the exhaustion of the trip settled in.
October 9, Day 56 of our epic Canadian Pacific to in Wonderwheels comes to and end. As we cruised along the Bluewater Highway, we were quietly brooding. What a fantastic journey. So much to pack in to the time we had. We moved to our new apartment on October 14.
Thank you for making it this far and sharing our journey, as we look forward to our next adventure. Until then, Wonderwheels is winterized and stored. Special thanks to Robyn for taking away the monotony of driving, with laughter and patience and who kept a daily journal to help me remember what to write.
In 1973, my father was a Royal Air Force serviceman stationed in Hong Kong. I was placed in the British forces dependent’s high school on the mainland with part of my curriculum studying geography and ironically the main subject we were to take on was the country of Canada and specifically the Great Lakes region. The irony was that after retiring from the R.A.F., my parents decided we emigrate to Canada and we relocated to Toronto off the shore of Lake Ontario.
Studying the Great Lakes in geography class allowed me drift off to the days of the voyageurs and the hardships of life as a nomad in a harsh environment. Canoeing and portaging across inhospitable lands and waters must have been an eye opening experience. I know that now because I’ve endured long paddles in various small lakes, camping in the bush with nothing but what I could fit in my backpack, with a heavy canoe atop my shoulders hiking through black fly and mosquito infested forest trails to get from one lake to another. Why the heck would anyone do that you ask? Well, I was in my early twenties and had the energy and wits to at least try to get the feeling of adventure like those before me, plus I love camping. The Great Lakes have always projected a sense of frontierism to me, and in my forty years of living in Canada, I had been to all but one of them. Lake Superior.
Fast forward to the present.
As we all know, the year 2020 will be one to remember for everyone living on this earth. Though I’m sure most would like it forgotten! We have all been affected by the global pandemic of Covid-19. One of the major drawbacks (despite it being a health hazard) is the limitations that we all have with travelling. Not just city to city, but province to province. The Maritime provinces had their own travel bubble, and travel through western provinces was almost impossible. Our big trip plans for the 2020 season was to head to the west coast, which included a stop with the LTV Rally. Everything was canceled due to Provincial closures. It wasn’t until May that we were actually “allowed” to venture out in our motor home. In our Wonder, we felt safe and managed small trips to visit friends, even taking in a few Harvest Hosts overnighters at breweries, wineries and an awesome alpaca farm, the thought being that we were aptly isolated in our Leisure Travel Van brought back our adventurous feelings. We also managed a few days at Emily Provincial Park and I had a ‘guys’ weekend at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Just to reiterate, we were adamant to continue personal hygiene restrictions such as mask wearing in public spaces, hand sanitization and small group gatherings. We still abide by that to this day, and we only travelled when our government said it was safe to do so. All these small trips were great and helped to pass the summer days by, but my heart wanted to get out of Dodge and explore.
My hope as our Province was continuing to do well, would be to drive our LTV Wonder to Lake Superior, but when, was the question. We were dragging our heels trying to decide, then one day our friends messaged us with an invitation to caravan and camp with them at MacGregor Point Provincial Park on September 7. They’d already reserved a campsite with other friends for a weeklong trip, but when I tried the Ontario Parks online reservation system I was only able to book two nights. Still, this was my opening to begin with plans for our trip around Lake Superior. Luckily, our friends booked a Harvest Host for the night before camping at MacGregor Point so that we could have extra time together. As it turned out the Harvest Host was closed, so I re-booked another, Bad Apple Brewing, which we had previously visited.
For the next week or so I got right in to research and planning. First thing to do was logging in to my RVParky app and begin loosely planning a route around the north shore of Lake Superior. Next was to check out some YouTube videos of other RVers’ experiences on the north shore. What I saw was some beautiful scenery. Not just the majestic Lake, but the forests, the waterfalls and rapids and the stunning views. Some of the drone footage was spectacular! Based on this research and talking to friends who had taken similar travels, I decided that we should make our way to Thunder Bay, stopping at Provincial Parks along the Group of Seven trail. We were to travel along Trans Canada Highway 17 which wrapped around the north shore. Then for a change of scenery, take Highway 11 back. I pre-booked several campsites based on the availability indicated on the Provincial Park online reservation system. In hindsight this wasn’t really necessary due to the time of year and the Covid situation and in the end limited our stays. As it happened the booking system wasn’t accurate because we saw a lot of empty sites. According to a park ranger at MacGregor Point, there were empty sites because of Covid. I thought this was odd because some campsites had adjacent sites that were occupied yet their reason was to alternate campsites. It wasn’t making any sense. We were outdoors, and the campsites were separated by at least 10 feet or more of dense bushes and trees. For our second night we asked to be moved closer to our friends. Still, we were at least four sites apart with no one in between. I really didn’t like that reasoning. At all future campgrounds on our trip we were placed in adjacent sites as usual.
Because we would be at the north end of Lake Huron when at MacGregor Point, it made sense to cut down on an unnecessary drive around Georgian Bay by taking the Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Manitoulin Island and taking the land bridge towards Highway 17. Social media posts recommended booking the ferry tickets early because of Covid limitations. I did this right away and took the first ferry of the day 8:30 am. We had to be in the ferry parking lot one hour prior to boarding. This meant we had to find a spot to camp for the night. The ferry terminal is located in Tobermory a small town on the Bruce Peninsula.
Before heading up the Bruce Peninsula we stopped in Wiarton to say hi to our friends at Rural Rootz Nature Reserve, then we continued to Tobermory.
There are several private campgrounds near Tobermory and all state how close they are to town on their websites. I ended up choosing Lands End Campground because of it’s great reviews and that it was the closest to Tobermory. This park has amazingly well groomed private sites with full hookups. Our Wonder fit perfectly. Turns out it was too far to walk to town, but the Wonder didn’t pose a problem when we drove in and parked for dinner by the harbour. We saw a LTV Unity and talked to the owners who were camping nearby. We had visited Tobermory, a small harbour town, with the kids some twenty years ago, taking a glass-bottomed boat to the nearby Flowerpot Island. There are many sunken shipwrecks outside the harbour, great for tourists and diving enthusiasts. We’ll have to plan a return trip some other time. Another reason for going to Manitoulin Island was that we had never been there before. I heard that there was a good brewpub on the island that used to be a Harvest Host. This is Split Rail Brewing. Great beer, though to get food we had to order from a nearby pizzeria. Whilst sitting on the patio with our lunch and drinks another Wonder drove up. Same colour as ours. We exchanged greetings and they continued on their way. Apparently there are several private campgrounds on the island, some were closed during the pandemic.
From the video research Chutes Provincial Park was a must see, especially for it’s hiking trails and the river rapids. I booked two nights there seeing that we’d be driving around Manitoulin. One aspect of the online reservation system for Ontario Provincial Parks that I really like is that they post a lot of information about the prospective site you are thinking about. Like the size of the site, where the fire pit is located, and also how far away the electricity post is, including photos. They indicate if there’s a gradient, what the ground surface consists of and how private the site is. Chutes, I found out is typically a one-night transient campground, but we were glad we chose two. It had rained for a few days and the campsites took a soaking, but maintenance staff gravelled each site’s entrance. Our site was huge! The main river trail was easy to do and led us along a variety of rapids. The water flow was so powerful it was hard to imagine loggers boarding up the river banks to make chutes for the felled trees to travel down stream.
On this trip we wanted to keep the driving time down to two hours or so in order to stay longer and avoid being road weary as I am the sole driver. By choosing Provincial Parks, we know that check in time is after 2 pm and check out is before 2 pm. This helps with planning the day at the campsite and on the road. As our next campground to book would be at Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Agawa Bay, I knew how far it was from Chutes. It was doable but after being on the road for six days I figured we would need to get supplies. The simple solution was to Wallydock. So one night was to be spent in Sault Ste. Marie’s Walmart parking lot. We had Wallydocked last year on our east coast trip and found it safe and useful. We would stock up on food and drinks, water and even clothing, or whatever else we needed. The washrooms were always spotlessly clean and there was usually a few more RVers staying as well. Not to mention that because of the chilly mornings we could both use some warmer outerwear which was readily available in the store. As always, we asked Customer Service for permission to stay overnight.
After Sault Ste. Marie I wanted to stay at Agawa Bay. Unfortunately we were only able to book one night as the reservation system showed the park as being almost full. Agawa Bay has many hiking trails, one of which leads to ancient petroglyphs which I really wanted to see. We had a great site about three rows in from the beach, which was just as well because it was very windy and wet while we were there. Some of the trails were closed due to the coronavirus, and the trail to the petroglyphs too wet to hike to. A month later it was closed due to high water and winds.
Following Agawa we gassed up in Wawa, home of the giant goose statue (we saw three) and boasts the smallest Canadian Tire store. The whole town is small and some of the buildings look like they had been standing a long, long time. We ate lunch in a quaint little diner run by a fun French Canadian lady. Their poutine is fantastic!
I put a question up about boondocking possibilities along the north shore of Lake Superior. One fellow LTV owner suggested Batchawana Bay. I didn’t want to commit to a stay, but made a point to check it out. The beach was beautiful, and if we were caravaning l would have considered it.
The next park on our route was Neys Provincial Park and I was able to score two nights at a beachfront campsite. This was another gem of a campground that I’d seen on YouTube with a long beach, incredible rock formations and you get the best view of the sunset and sunrise. This place was also part of the Lake Superior night sky preserve. Being secluded, away from any communities like towns, cities or villages, there is no light pollution at night time. This was a feature we had longed for. In 2008 we visited Peru and a segment of the trip consisted of the most strenuous activity we had ever endured. We hiked the Inca Trail, a gruelling but rewarding 4-day hike and camp to the ruins of Machu Picchu, at an average altitude of 4000 metres above sea level, the night sky in the Andes mountains afforded the most spectacular view of the stars. We had never seen so many stars in our lives. It was absolutely magical. Of course, Neys and Lake Superior are in the northern hemisphere so we’d be looking at different star systems than the Incan people, but it would be a greater opportunity to see the Milky Way than at our city home in southwest Ontario. Highly recommend this place.
Following Neys was another Provincial Park that had an intriguing name, Rainbow Falls. Again the reservation system allowed us only one night, and as it happened we were directed to the Rossport Campground part of the Park. This was another park I’d seen on YouTube that offered great views and trails, however it didn’t show a beach. Fortunately Rossport is located on the Lake Superior shore. The beach was great and the sunset spectacular! The site was small but fit our rig. Unfortunately we were located close to the gatehouse which is by the park entrance. And wouldn’t you know it, there was highway widening construction right outside the gate. Ugh! However we celebrated Robyn’s birthday with a vegan curry dinner, a bottle of wine I’d been saving from Burning Kiln Winery. We didn’t have candles so I used a flashlight. Hey, we’re on the road!
There are several great stop off lookout points that offer stunning views of the Lake and the surrounding forests and escarpments. One such place I highly recommend is the Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. It’s between the Neys and Rossport parks. If you travel on this route take advantage of the lookout points but be aware that some are for cars only because of limited space. They are well signposted.
The next campground I booked was two nights at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, one of my bucket list destinations. I’d heard of this campground many many years ago in my tent camping days, but never had the chance to visit. This campground is located on a peninsula not too far from the U.S. side of Lake Superior. There’s a Flying J gas station at the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 587 (the cut off to Sleeping Giant). Apparently the reviews on staying at the Flying J weren’t very positive, not that we were planning to. We saw a LTV Serenity in the parking lot and I spoke to the driver who told us she and her husband were on their way to Winkler, Manitoba for some warranty work on their rig. The campsites at Sleeping Giant are a decent size but the electrical posts are positioned too far. We actually witnessed a camper van being damaged as the driver skimmed a tree while trying to reach the post. Thankfully for us, I have an extension having camped at Provincial parks before. This park came with a few firsts. We saw a bear box for food safety. In all my camping years I had never seen one in Canada. Robyn was visited by a female duck looking for handouts. We’ve been used to chipmunks and squirrels, but not a duck. Funny thing is that the next morning, it came by again only this time it brought two more ducks with it. Another first was seeing an amethyst rock outside the visitor centre. This is a large campground and very well kept.
Before our next destination we stopped in Nipigon. Not quite the town I thought it would be. It was one of those names mentioned on the news channels and printed on maps in large letters, though unassuming in actual stature.
Our next stop and final pre-booked campground would be two nights at Kakabeka Falls, outside Thunder Bay. This was as previously mentioned, on recommendations by friends, and online videos showcase the waterfalls as the highest falls in Lake Superior watershed. Definitely worth the trip, even just to visit the falls which by all means are spectacular. Flowing water through the river above with a multitude of cascades making their way through the gorge to a hydro power station. There are trails that take you around the river and falls with breathtaking views at all lookout points. We had a great campsite, again having to extend our electric cable.
We could have ventured further west to Quetico Provincial Park, but decided to finish our north shore of Lake Superior trip at Kakabeka. Now the choice to return east would be to take Highway 17 back the way we came or Highway 11 which is further north and wing it. I say wing it because there are no parks on that route, only boondocking possibilities, which could be sketchy at best and only one gas station for a long while.
We decided to return on the familiar route. The weather was changing. We had a few frost warnings for the mornings and opted to stay south instead of travelling north. While on the highway outside Thunder Bay another stopping point I recommend is the Terry Fox Memorial. The grounds are beautiful kept and the statue of Terry Fox though very somber offers an amazing view of the Sleeping Giant in Lake Superior.
While at Kakabeka Falls, I logged on to the reservation system and was able to book a one night stay at Rainbow Falls Rossport campground again where we met fellow LTVers, Leah and Terence Gunnell, who were parked behind us. Terence is an electrical engineer who created an amazing gizmo that makes the water pump in most RVs more efficient and silent. I hope Leisure Travel Van’s designers take note as other LTV owners have. Contact Terence via the Leisure Travel Van Enthusiasts Facebook group for more information.
One of our local acquaintances was in touch with Robyn and recommended Pukaskwa National Park. Unfortunately the park doesn’t offer an online reservation system, but simple verbal cues from the park office to drive through the park, pick a site that doesn’t have a reservation tag, and return to the park office notifying them of your choice. Other than that the park had great reviews. I booked two nights. There’s a boardwalk trail that leads to a beautiful beach. Robyn decided to go for a dip in the frigid Lake Superior waters (it was 4 degrees Celsius). Not me! We camped in a very private site and were visited by an assortment of creatures including, chipmunks, red squirrels, a grey jay, a forest hare and about six squawking ravens. Our very own camping menagerie. One of the the best features of our site was a rotating fire pit. Amazingly it pivoted allowing it to be turned into the wind. I have never seen one before. Definitely would like to return after the Covid passes to canoe it’s still waters.
Another Provincial Park on our route is Pancake Bay. It has wide open beaches, and pull through sites. The campground is very narrow in shape and runs parallel to the Trans Canada Highway. I booked two nights, but after one we decided to move on. Unfortunately this campground has very loud traffic noise from the highway. There was also a local fishing derby running and we were definitely the smallest rig in the park. We gave greetings to another LTV couple at the registration office and saw their Unity at the dump station the following day.
This was an appropriate time to stop once again for supplies and return to Sault Ste. Marie’s Walmart and take a break. There’s a good brewpub in the Soo called Outspoken Brewing. We also needed to figure out where to go next. I didn’t want to end our trip by taking the ferry back to Tobermory and head home. So we decided to go to Sudbury. Here we could run some errands like refilling our propane tank and visiting a laundromat. Yay clean clothes! Robyn had always wanted to see the Big Nickel. The Science North exhibit was closed for the season, but the Big Nickel made for great photo ops. Not able to find any camping, we stayed at the Walmart parking lot. Definitely get permission because no overnight parking signs are everywhere, however a review on RVParky suggested otherwise, which was true. By the morning we were surrounded by at least ten rigs.
While at the Sudbury Walmart I was able to book two nights at another bucket list campground, Killbear Provincial Park. The campsites are huge drive-throughs and the beach and trails within walking distance. I wish we could have stayed longer, but as with the previous bookings we were limited based on the information on the reservation system. This was by far the best campground. Just for the natural beauty and the quintessential wind swept trees reminiscent of Group of Seven paintings. We met some nice people who annually group camped at Killbear for years. We could see why. I can’t believe it took us so long to get there. Definitely worth a return trip in the future.
After Killbear we had another choice, go east across to Algonquin Provincial Park and on towards the Ottawa region, or wend our way home. My concern was the weather. We needed to keep going south to avoid having to winterize our motor home. We headed to the town of Parry Sound and had lunch at the Trestle Brewing Company. Great beer and the food was good too. They are also a Harvest Host location, though we didn’t stay this time as we were en route. Perhaps on a future trek.
While at Parry Sound I booked us one night at Arrowhead Provincial Park. This was a familiar park to us as we had tent camped there several times. There are many great trails in this campground. We had a large site, easy for our Wonder to get in and out, not so easy for some larger rigs. I watched as a fifth wheel rig took at least half an hour trying to manoeuvre into the site across from us.
Our next destination was at our favourite Harvest Hosts friends in Wiarton, the highly photogenic Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. Here we stayed for several nights decompressing from our long drive. We hiked a trail or two and helped in the garden property. One of the owners, Tom, fixed our sliding pantry which had completely derailed and even mouse-proofed it. He tried to fix our steps which stopped working near Thunder Bay, but was unable to. We were joined by a shiny Airstream whose owners live but a block away from us in London. It’s such a small world.
After Wiarton, we still weren’t done yet with our travelling, and so headed south along the shore of Lake Huron to Grand Bend where I had booked us for two nights at Pinery Provincial Park. This has been one of our favourite destinations, camping here many times before. There are great trails and one of our favourite beaches where we parked ourselves and savoured the lake air, and the lack of crowds. It was too bad that the canoe rentals were closed due to Covid as the Ausable River looked peaceful and inviting.
Robyn had read a review of a restaurant she thought I might enjoy, being an ex-Brit. Leaving Grand Bend we continued south towards Sarnia, where we stopped for a fish and chips lunch at Purdy’s Fish Market in Point Edward by the blue waters of the St. Clair River, then we made our way to the Bluewater Bridge to find memorial bricks embedded in the riverside pathway. It was interesting to see how few vehicles were crossing to and from the U.S. I could only see transport trucks coming over the border into Canada.
This was the final stage of our epic trip around the north shore of Lake Superior which included other bodies of water including Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. We drove back home to London. A week or two later we winterized and stored our Wonderwheels until our next trip.
One experience we took home with us was seeing the awesome beauty of the fall leaves turning their colours throughout our journey. We realized the changes on our return eastbound with the foliage stretching across the north shore of Superior. It was absolutely spectacular!
Another was the camaraderie we felt with each LTV owner we met in person or passed by with a wave. As was the rubbernecking and positive greetings we received by other campers and drivers. There was many a thumbs up! We have a special vehicle that protected us and handled correctly for us on our travels and we belong to a group of fellow RVers who chose a Leisure Travel Van to call home. It’s an amazing feeling.
And finally, we respect the actions of the people of Ontario who persisted with mask wearing and sanitizing along our travels this year. We are fortunate to have the ability to travel in isolation to places we have not been before, and we hope that someday soon this pandemic will end.
Stay safe on the road wherever you are going. If you cross paths or drive by, give us a smile or a wave.
One great element of our marriage is our love for food. We’ve introduced ourselves to an assortment of tastes from all over the world, from Chinese to Indian, Peruvian to Mediterranean, we’ve had it all.
When on the road, eating habits need adjustments. We’ve upgraded from campfire food to motor home gadgets and it’s much better. I can remember back in the day slinging a t-bone on a red hot campfire grill in the dark and chewing on it like a charred piece of leather with blackened baked potato right out of the coals. Don’t miss those times.
Our 2019 Wonder RTB comes with it’s own amenities including a two burner propane cooktop, a 3-way fridge and freezer combo, a convection microwave oven and a pullout pantry. Accessories we added besides the essential pots, pans, crockery and utensils include: small toaster, small blender, Instant Pot, Blackstone grill.
Not having every kitchen appliance or gizmo makes for creative food preparation. Just looking at the basics, being used to daily espressos meant alternative coffee choices. We have to balance the 1000 watt inverter as our home espresso machine just wouldn’t work in our Wonder. So checking the LTV Enthusiasts Facebook page, we decided to switch from espresso to French pressed coffee. French presses are easy enough to use, but are very messy to clean. Not wanting to flush the grounds into the grey water tank, we needed a better solution. The Facebook group provided the answer. Disposable coffee grounds bags made especially for French presses. Easy peasy and no messes.
Another appliance we found is a simple two slice toaster which uses only 700 watts. Breakfasts are usually very typical: toast and peanut butter with fruits, or muesli cereal and rice milk. At one of the Harvest Hosts locations in New Brunswick we bought Beyond Meat sausages, which was a nice change for breakfast. And now and then for a treat we fry up turkey bacon and tomato on a bagel. While we do enjoy our veggies, we also savour assorted seafoods too, as you’ll soon see.
Our usual home lunches are simple smoothies, made from fruit like blueberries, dates, fresh ginger, turmeric, and the main ingredient a plant based protein powder. Add water and blend. At home we use a Vitamix blender. Too powerful for the inverter, so for the RV we use a smaller B&D blender. Takes a bit longer to blend, but still produces a delicious smoothie that is fulfilling enough for lunch. Sometimes we supplement smoothies with salads, soups and simple sandwiches.
Dinners can consist of pretty much anything made at home, from stir-fries to curry, chili and stews. These can be made on the stovetop or the Instant Pot. I especially like cooking a hearty Beyond Meat burger with all the veggie fixings on the Blackstone. Simple, quick and tasty!
All of the above and most meals normally made in our home kitchen are possible in the RV, however, when travelling it’s great to sample the local cuisine. For people who eat a lot of plant based food, preparing such is easy at home and in the RV, but choices are limited when eating out. So we usually check posted restaurant menus first, and make allowances.
Travelling from southwest Ontario to Prince Edward Island, we certainly tasted some interesting and delicious fares.
When in Quebec City, a favourite stop was the D’Orsay Restaurant and Pub. Go for a pan full of mussels cooked in a wine sauce with assorted breads to dip and accompanied by a Blanche de Chambly beer. A perfect repast on a hot summer’s day touring the city.
A quaint place to visit is the pioneer village of King’s Landing in New Brunswick. Take a walk through this authentic settlement, or ride the wagon through the village, and grab some lunch at the King’s Head. They have a tasty salad with rhubarb dressing topped with poached salmon and homemade brown bread, accompanied by a refreshing iced tea. Robyn ordered a delicious chicken pot pie.
A trip along the Fundy strait must include a visit to St. Andrews by-the-Sea. Low tide exposes magnificent rock formations and tide pools. Take a stroll along the main drag and be sure to have a cocktail on the front porch of the Algonquin Hotel, and chillax with the rich tourists. Our quest for the east coast lobster rolls began at the Gables restaurant on the Main Street. Eat alfresco on the patio with their tasty rolls full of succulent morsels of lobster, accompanied by a garden salad.
A must stay campground is the Fundy National Park. Spacious clean sites with hookups, the campground served as a great base for exploring local tourist venues, not the least were the spectacular Hopewell Rocks at the Bay of Fundy. Tide times are posted, but get there early to avoid the tourist buses. Outside Fundy National Park is the town of Alma. Most of the eateries vie for your dollars by offering fresh lobster and clams. We stopped at the Alma Lobster Shop, who had a small cafe and patio. Their mussels and scallops were delicious. For our campsite dinner we bought a freshly cooked lobster and some smoked salmon, and served it up with melon slices and a salad topped with parmigiana. The next day we picked up a pound of freshly baked clams and lobster rolls accompanied by a Chevalier d’Or beer. A great lunch at our campsite after a hike through the Hopewell Rocks.
Leaving New Brunswick and crossing the bridge to PEI, we stopped at Borden-Carlton for a quick lunch and pit stop. Of course, I had to have another lobster roll to continue my quest. It wasn’t that good unfortunately.
We drove across the island to Bay Fortune, our destination for the next six days camping in our friends’ driveway. Louise and Gordon greeted us with a potent gin and tonic with fresh strawberries, lime and mint, the warmth of the maritime began. Nothing like homemade food to fill you up. Fresh sautéed haddock and hodgepodge (new potatoes, yellow beans, carrots, beet greens and coleslaw). Yum! Our hosts even took us out clamming which was a real treat.
During our stay in PEI, we also camped near Cavendish. A must visit is to the Handpie Company. They make a huge assortment of mini pies, perfect for dinner in the RV accompanied by a. Dunham’s Run cider. For lunch we stopped at Victoria by the sea. The Lobster Barn on the pier has bar none the best lobster rolls in the Province! Another good lobster roll was at the Peake’s Quay on the waterfront of Charlottetown. Speaking of lobster, a typical tourist stop is at the New Glasgow Lobster Supper. There were quite a few RVs in the parking lot and you are led into a huge hall, and served with a the popular mussels, lobster, salad and dessert combo. It’s the thing to do.
Back in New Brunswick and still on the lobster theme, you just have to stop in Shediac, home to the giant lobster statue. It’s pretty good too. Lots of RV parks and crowds! Downtown we stopped at the Lobster Deck and ate, yes, another lobster roll. Well why not? Check out Parlee Beach while you’re there. There’s a good propane fill station near the beach.
By now we are on the Acadian Trail and on the lookout for traditional food. Stopping in Miscou, we lunched at La Terrasse à Steve, a crab shack on the waterfront. Crab season opened, so I imbibed. It was good but our other dishes didn’t pass. Oh well. While on the Acadian coast there are many fromageries, one we tried was in Caraquet, Les Blanca d’Acadie. You can watch the crew making curds for poutine. Their cheeses and jams were delicious! We had to bring some back with us.
One of our favourite places to shop especially on the road are at farmer’s markets, and though small, we stopped at one in New Carlisle. Fresh burgundy beans, kale, onion beer compote (great with cheese), local honey, baguette and fresh cinnamon buns.
On the Gaspé road is Carleton-sur-mer. A great little family restaurant for a late lunch is the Restaurant du Cap a la Mer. The grilled halibut, with mash, veggies and salad was perfectly priced and satisfying.
We camped outside Percé at Camping de la Cote Surprise. It seemed like everyone was there to see the Percé Rock. There are many eateries along the boardwalk. We stopped in at the Restaurant la Madison du Pecheur. Lobster poutine and the local Chambly beer. That was so filling, I think I skipped dinner.
The next day we drove to Gaspé. The campground, Camping Gaspé was five minutes out of town where met a friendly couple from New Brunswick who invited us for mojitos at happy hour. The next day we all planned to have a lobster dinner together at their campsite. Jacques and I handpicked our lobsters in a poissonnerie in Gaspé. Jacques’ wife Sharon made a tasty shrimp salad. Wow! Jacques expertly cooked the lobster on his camp stove. One of our favourite meals!
Heading along the Gaspe peninsula we stopped in Sainte-Madeleine at La Captainiere, a small restaurant in the harbour. Their house dish was fish and chips, accompanied by a Blonde de l’Anse golden ale.
Back in Ontario we camped at Happy Green Acres near Drummondville. Leftovers of Robyn’s veggie curry, lobster pate and assorted cheeses made for good campsite fare.
We stopped in at Coburg following some time in Prince Edward County at a Harvest Host and at a provincial park. Highly recommend the Craft Food House for vegan food.
Homeward bound, our last stop to see family in Toronto’s north end and a sumptuous Chinese feast at the Congee Queen Restaurant, was enough to put us in a food coma. Ha ha. We still had a two hour drive to get home.
Of course we didn’t eat out all the time and certainly visited many other establishments along the way during this six-week adventure. Camping food is great especially in our Wonder, but traveller food is amazing and these stops mentioned were memorable.
On the 2020 season, we were particular about eating out. When our Province opened we chose to visit several Harvest Hosts destinations. Wineries, breweries and even an alpaca farm. Not all locations offered food, but those that did we paired well with the beverages they sold. When camping at campgrounds was allowed, we made use of the Blackstone grill, whether grilling trout fillets or assorted vegetables, even turkey thighs and veggie burgers. We had curry and naan bread for a birthday dinner and on a lighter note, Kraft dinner Mac and cheese.
At a brewpub on Manitoulin island we ate pizza with beer. At a diner in Wawa, I had one of the best poutines. Food on the road doesn’t have to be gourmet. Camping food is all over the board. Be creative, have fun and enjoy your food.
Can’t wait to get back on the road again and savour the food of explorers!
It was 2019. We had enjoyed a fantastic trip from Ontario to Prince Edward Island, stopping along the way in eastern Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. On our return home, we managed a few smaller local trips. At the end of the season, our Leisure Travel Van Wonder RTB needed a safe place to wait out the winter. As we had sold our house and now live in an apartment, there was nowhere to store our van. Local storage facilities were full and had long waiting lists. Luckily for us, close friends graciously offered their driveway and a 15 amp service (to keep the batteries charged). Our Wonder was safely stored until the spring.
The big plan for 2020 was to travel from Ontario to the west coast, visiting family and friends along the way with stops in places like Calgary, Penticton, and Vancouver Island. We had always wanted to travel around Lake Superior rather than cut through the States (which we would possibly do on the return trip), and using the RV Parky app for planning made the tentative route a simple matter. A few details that we were waiting on would play a part in the plans; we had warranty work scheduled at our LTV dealer in April and possible rallies to attend, one of which was the annual fall LTV owners’ rally in Manitoba. We had wanted to go to this rally ever since we bought our van, but spaces are limited, so a lottery draw is set up to give everyone an equal chance of attending. We were hoping to hit Winkler, Manitoba, on the way back to Ontario. In March, the LTV rally lottery results were announced and yes, we were awarded a spot! I was a happy camper – here was a chance to meet fellow LTVers, learn some tips and tricks, and visit the birthplace of our van. What could go wrong?
In January, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Canada. By March, the situation had worsened and the government mandated a state of emergency as the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Wow! This was getting scary. The world would shut down. International borders would be closed. Globally, life as we know it would change. Our LTV dealer shut down their day-to-day business, with appointments postponed indefinitely. Questions on social media were mounting; people were asking about the rally. Eventually in May, LTV announced the cancellation of the fall rally. It was a big blow to all us newbies who hoped for better news. A spring rally was also cancelled by the Ontario Sun Risers, our local LTV owners’ club, and we’re still not certain if a fall rally will happen. With some provincial travel restrictions and the Canada/US border closed, all we could do was regroup and mull over a potentially wasted year. The RV was safe. We were safe and our families and friends were safe. It was time to stock up on supplies: masks, hand sanitizers, soaps, toilet paper, and non-perishable foods. We were glued to news channels for any and all updates. This pandemic was serious!
As snowbirds were told to return home, some chose to wait it out in the States, which allowed for more RV storage to become available. Being optimistic, I decided to de-winterized our Wonderwheels and left our friend’s driveway for a local outdoor storage facility. Even though there is 24-hour video surveillance and optimal security, I checked in on Wonderwheels every week. Batteries were charged, tanks were clean. All we had to do was wait. And wait. South of the border was looking bad and provincial borders were still restricted to essential travel only. Even some municipalities didn’t want travelers.
However, we’ve been sheltered at home, isolated from everyone except for necessary grocery shopping. We wear masks and squirt sanitizer on our hands, and walk or stand the prescribed 2 meters from anyone. People avoid coming close as others pass by, like we all have the plague. It’s all a strange new reality. Our local neighborhood was beginning to look like a ghost town. No cars. No people. Everything was closed. Even local friends were leery about getting together. I’m sure this was happening everywhere!
By late May, Canada was doing okay and our province was easing up on restrictions, so we decided to take a short trip to test the van and our own social distance safety. With four solar panels on the roof, an onboard generator, our own fresh water, and kitchen and bathroom facilities, our well-designed home-on-wheels would keep us safe, mobile, and isolated.
We arranged to drive to Keswick, Ontario, about 2 ½ hours away, where we mooch-docked in our friends’ driveway. It was great to be on the road again and to see familiar faces, even if we had to keep our distance.
The next day, after breakfast, we drove 4 hours west to Wiarton, Ontario, visiting our favourite Harvest Host friends whose rural property was closed due to the mandatory business shutdowns. Being immersed in nature is good for the soul, especially after being cooped up in our apartment, and after a couple of days of relaxing in the forested reserve we headed back home. The highways were oddly quiet, with not another RV in sight and only a few trucks passing by. All the parks and campgrounds were still closed. Luckily, the Flying J near us was open so we could dump our tanks and gas up before putting the van back into storage.
As local areas were reaching Stage Two in terms of opening up, we had a conversation with fellow RVers and neighbours to do a mini caravan road trip in southwest Ontario, staying at Harvest Hosts. It was planned for the end of June. I booked three different Harvest Hosts as our friends were new members. First was our favourite Rural Rootz Nature Reserve in Wiarton. As always, we had a great time being in nature away from the city and the traffic. We all pitched in to help with some chores on the premises while they were closed to the public, like helping Tom with his bunky construction, and spent a relaxing couple of days there. Dee even conducted a tea leaf reading session. I love to walk through the colorful gardens taking photos on my phone. I also got to try out our new Blackstone grill in the wild. It worked great! We had a peaceful hike to a serene beaver pond on one of the many trails.
Next on the agenda was a stop at Bad Apple Brewing as we made our way south along the shores of Lake Huron. Bad Apple had space for two rigs. Their grounds feature apple orchards, grapevines, cornfields, and even a fire pit, and their beers were excellent plus the location was very quiet. We had taster flights and bought some beers for the RV. The setting sun was a stunning sight. After breakfast the next morning, we said goodbye to our traveling friends, as they had to cut short their trip due to work obligations.
Robyn and I continued south to Lake Erie, where we stayed at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. Being in a hotspot area, everyone was required to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer. Ours was the only rig, which made for a super quiet evening. We purchased some wine and a vegetarian charcuterie picnic lunch that we enjoyed at one of the secluded picnic tables on the private beach. It felt weird being the only people on the beach. Afterward, we took a stroll around the property. Amongst the rows of grapevines is a tall pole with a raptor nest at the top. Maybe a hawk protecting the grapes? After the last guests and staff left, we definitely felt alone in the empty parking lot. It was quite peaceful.
Still itching for travel, a week later I booked two more Harvest Hosts. This time we headed south to tobacco country, only an hour from home. Our first night was at Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm. They have some excellent beers! I had a taster flight and stocked up our RV fridge. They also have an excellent kitchen with tasty food. We had a great parking spot next to the hop vines. After breakfast, we headed to the beach at Turkey Point Provincial Park for some sun and sand. We scored a shaded spot a few yards from our parked RV. At first the sun worshipers were practicing social distancing –some were even masked – but by noontime it started to get busier and more crowded. Time to head back to the RV for a nap, then drive to our next Harvest Hosts destination.
Burning Kiln Winery didn’t disappoint us. This winery takes the coronavirus seriously. All staff are masked, even the groundskeepers tending to the vineyards. Their wines are excellent; we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and purchased a few bottles for the RV. The property also has a restaurant and food truck. Behind the tasting tent is a short, wooded hiking trail. We did part of it but the mosquitoes were too much for us. There’s a pond on the grounds where several Muskoka chairs are situated, a perfect place for our coffee and breakfast, watching the bullfrogs and birds and listening to nature’s voices. Again, we were the only rig, though a shiny Airstream was parked during our wine tasting. The groundskeepers do an amazing job of tidying up the property, making it the classic photogenic vineyard destination you see in tourism literature.
A few days later we prepped for our first campground trip of the season. Now that provincial park camping was open again, I found that the pickings for available campsites in Ontario’s provincial parks were slim indeed. Seemed like everyone was camping! After seeing some fellow LTVers’ Instagram posts, I decided to try booking a spot at our favourite campgrounds. No such luck, but one park had an opening for us. Emily Provincial Park, which is located in the Kawartha Lakes region, is about 3 ½ hours east of our home. Once we reached the Emily Park campground, we found out that there was a fire ban and the beaches were closed – what a drag. As it turned out, a lot of campsites were empty, probably due to pre-booking before the coronavirus hit. I was impressed with the size of the site we had and the electricity post was well within reach, 15 and 30 amp. On the way in, we went to the water fill station to load up our freshwater tank.
We spent four days at the Park, which was pretty quiet except for the times when huge trailers were trying to manoeuvre the old campground road into their campsites. Lots of frustrating yelling of words like, STOP! LEFT! RIGHT! I am so glad our van is less than 25 feet. Evenings were very quiet, possibly due to the fire ban. Upon leaving the campground, we used the complimentary dump station, then headed west. Good timing, as the recent heatwave peaked and it rained all the way home.
Soon it was the end of July. COVID-19 was still here and now there were a few signs that parts of Ontario opened up too early. South of the border was seeing major upsurges! Not to let it bother us, we decided to forge on and continue exploring and enjoying our Wonder. Checking the local weather is another tip for travelers – it’s hurricane season down south and we tend to get remnants of those storms up here in Canada. With the persistent heatwave that is affecting North America, we knew there had to be rain in the forecast, but I found a sunny and dry gap that we could take advantage of, if only for a day or two. Checking the Harvest Hosts app, I found two openings. The first, near Hamilton, Ontario, was a sweet alpaca farm. Bred solely for their wool, we had fun with these gentle creatures. The owners of Alpacas from Eighth and Mud, Sharon and John, were very friendly, fun, and passionate about their business. We had a great parking space next to the male alpaca enclosure which offered us an amazing sunrise.
The next morning, after meeting and feeding the female alpacas, we took a side trip to the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a waterfall feature carved out of the Niagara escarpment showcasing beautiful rock strata. A tip that John gave us was that there was a great bakery close to the site. We weren’t disappointed!
We then keyed in the GPS for Niagara-on-the-Lake. We hadn’t been to the village or the surrounding wine country region in a very long time. Considering we were in a pandemic, it was quite busy with tourists, though many were masked. Our next Harvest Hosts destination was one of their latest additions, Palatine Hills Estate Winery, located outside the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake. After checking in, we were shown to our parking spot. Nestled between fields of vines was a small copse of trees, large enough to shade and shelter our LTV. Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable about the available wine selections, of which we enjoyed a good tasting. Spending the rest of the afternoon sipping our new wine purchases, we lazed in the peacefulness of the vineyard, reading. With the awning out and the camp furniture in place, we enjoyed a savory pasta meal for dinner, forgetting the rest of the world and its dilemmas. After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we headed towards home, stopping for a hike around Albion Falls. Putting the Wonder back in storage and switching our gear into the Fiat, we made it home just as it began to rain. Now that’s timing!
So you see, when the world shuts down due to a pandemic, it needn’t put a damper on getting out and being adventurous. We adhere to the health expert’s recommendations of good hygiene, sanitizing our hands, keeping a safe distance from others, and wearing face masks at all times in public places to protect others if not ourselves. Most of all, our Leisure Travel Van is the perfect isolation vehicle. Our travels are in no way over yet! While we can safely do so, there’s lots more to see in Ontario. See you on the road.
We wanted to getaway from our home and be on the road again, but had limited time because of prior commitments. We decided on using the Harvest Hosts app to plan our itinerary. This particular Host was on my radar since we first joined Harvest Hosts. Our phone call to book our night there confirmed my feelings that this would be a great destination for us.
There’s no bear with a honey pot on this hundred acre woods…
We weren’t disappointed! On the edge of the town of Wharton is the Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. The quirky signs that lead you through the property’s driveway illustrate that this is a place to relax your mind and body.
There are buildings and structures throughout the initial property that all seem to invite you in. We are greeted by the owners, creators and custodians of the site, Tom and Dee. Heart to heart hugs are the methods of greeting and right away you know you are in a safe place.
After the intros, we settled in and planned to go on an exploratory hike through the property led by the very knowledgeable and patient Tom.
We parked on an existing concrete pad complete with a 30 amp hookup. Bonus! The property includes a rental ‘treehouse’ with guests, Ginny and Daryl staying there. Later on we were joined by Kelly and Scott in their shiny Airstream trailer. We couldn’t ask for more grounded and genuinely nice and accepting people.
Whether you are a Harvest Host member or not, for an adventure in your own mind’s exploration to one of the best nature experiences, we highly recommend this location and the life teachers, Tom and Dee.
Walking around the Rural Rootz property you can hear the crows and blue jays calling, and the rustling leaves blown by the wind, or the sound of a distant car passing by. When you look closely at the flora there is a quiet, peaceful activity that says, you are not alone here.