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.
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.
Click here to read about this great adventure to northern Ontario.
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 de-winterized for the upcoming season. Winterizing and de-winterizing 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. We then 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). 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 3 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 5 days at Pinery. We spent time at the beach, and did some hiking and kayaking. It was great for the soul to be out camping again, and 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, and 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 (this 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! The 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.
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, and 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. The 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, and 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 inform 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.
Working backwards, this was our rough itinerary: 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 and 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, as there were many stops in between these bucket list destinations and we still had to plan on the return trip!
Read what happens next in Part 2: And So It Begins…