Missed Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4? Read “When Can We Go?” and “And So It Begin…”, “There’s More of Canada to See” and “Island Adventures”.
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.
It’s our last morning in Capilano on sunny Day 41. We grab a shower, do a load of laundry, fill the fresh water tank, get rid of our garbage and recycling, use the sani-dump and skedaddle! This was a long driving day; at least 6 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, and this one — the Tree to Me Inn — is nestled in a valley full of orchards and fields of fresh organic produce. 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 — and out came Denise and Gary to greet us. They were on their way to Tofino, so 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, and inside the Tree to Me Inn is the Pippin Bistro where we had probably the best breakfast and coffee of the trip so far. The coffee was so good that 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. Their property stretches over the fertile valley, and she explained their plans to grow certain crops and herbs to make the organic farm self-sufficient. 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 front of Wonderwheels. We were expecting a meetup with Rhea and John (@lifeofleisureadventures), so it was so nice to get together. Too bad Denise and Gary had left before their arrival!
We left Keremeos for Grand Forks, on our way to 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. There 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. We climbed the stairs to the rustic-chalet-looking building that is the tasting room and retail store, where we were presented with samples of their entire lineup of award-winning wines and port. The flavours were unique, using owner Ben’s own winemaking 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, shopped a few stores and gassed 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 it lacked individual site privacy and 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 crystallizes. 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 showered 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 a 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 along this route (herds of deer and bighorn sheep) and parked our Wonder at the springs when we arrived. There were several rigs parked, including a Unity. The tickets were very cheap (a nice change). The water was about 39°C, (102°F). Toasty hot! The air, however, was not (as we found out when heading to the hot showers).
So now, we backtracked for almost a couple of hours until we got back on the Crows Nest highway towards Monarch. Perched on a hill overlooking the Old Man River Valley was our destination, the Hilltop Greenhouses. Robyn’s sister booked a teepee 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.
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. We stopped along the Trans Canada Highway in Wolseley (a small town famous for their swinging bridge) for Chinese food, and decided to Wallydock in Brandon, Manitoba.
We slept in on October 2, our 49th day. With the sun beaming through the windows, it was a perfect day to drive back to Winnipeg and the Stone Angel Brewery, the Harvest Hosts we stayed at some 36 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 were only a few minutes away from one and were also able to refill our fresh water 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 5 km (3 mi) 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 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. 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 that 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 4:00 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.
Another long, long driving day. 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 its 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. Even 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 pictures of their holiday 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. 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. The 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 zoo, finally motoring on to Massey, where we did some groceries before checking in to Chutes. We got the fire bowl out for a 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 6:00 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! Sometimes navigating these old forested one-way park roads is sketchy, but 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, so 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 past 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, arrived at the South Baymouth ferry terminal and waited with the other travellers. After the Chi-Cheemaun ferry docked I stood 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, so 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 into Rural Rootz Nature Reserve (I think this was our nine or tenth visit). 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 fire bowl and shared travel stories while enjoying the camaraderie of laughter and great conversation.
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 Amber and Tony left too. 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 an end. As we cruised along the Bluewater Highway, we were quietly brooding. What a fantastic journey. So much to pack into 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 keeping a daily journal to help me remember what to write.