Missed Part 1? Read “When Can We Go?”
Editor’s Note: Franklin Beecham is a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.
We have 2 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.
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. 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, and 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, we 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, and then, we get out a couple of chairs, table and the outdoor mats. Finally, wind and weather permitting, we open up the awning.
Winding its way through Pinery is the Old Ausable 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.
The 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. 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 3, 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 other than cleaning up the kitchen, so we backtracked to the village of Dashwood, home of Hayters Farm (a huge turkey farm). Their products are great, and a bonus to their on-site 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, known 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. There is a rentable treehouse making for a wonderful retreat, plus four RV pads each with a 30 amp post. You will leave with amazing memories!
The next morning Robyn made turkey bacon sandwiches for everyone, and Dee let us do some laundry. 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 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, but it was closed due to Covid. We entered the main games room where there was a bar, and fortunately, we could order food. 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 and we weren’t alone. Several rigs were Wallydocking too.
It’s now Day 7, and Walmart’s Saturday shoppers were in full swing. We took our own sweet time to get up and move out; there was about 12 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. Along the way, we stopped at the Agawa Crafts marketplace, a must see stop for travellers on Hwy 17 as 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 out. It has 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, and I felt sorry for the bear.
There was a coolness to the air for Day 8. 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). After 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 10, 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.