Heading North

The only thing worse than a strong head wind when towing a trailer is a strong side wind, and we’ve had to endure both on the first two days of our 102-day Trans-Canada Journey.

Of course, we haven’t reached Canada yet.  That won’t happen until Saturday.  It’s going to take us three days just to get to the Great White North, the first two of which took us from our home in Aurora, Colorado, north to Sheridan, Wyoming, and on west to Anaconda, Montana.  The winds have been howling the entire way, causing vegetation to bend over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and flags to stick out like they’ve OD’d on Viagra.  The low-riding trailer has been following faithfully but our tow vehicle, a tall Nissan Xterra, has been rocking like a party van as it gets wind-buffeted down the pavement.

Hopefully, when we emerge from the flats and head into the mountains, things will calm down and I won’t have to keep white-knuckling the steering wheel to keep our progress on the straight and narrow.

Blame Caputo

A few years ago, I was perusing the travel section in a Barns & Noble store when I stumbled upon “The Longest Road,” a book whose cover featured the image of a trailer being pulled down the pavement.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Caputo, the book tells the tale of a trailer-camping trip he took across America.  We had just recently purchased our own camping trailer, so of course, I bought the book and quickly read it from cover to cover.

The account of his trip got me to thinking that maybe Dianne and I should do something similar.  After all, we’re both avid campers and veterans of extended journeys.

Before we met, she and a girlfriend traveled for five months across North America in a Jeep Wagoneer.  About the same time, my step dog, her owner and I spent seven months exploring the western U.S. in a VW camper van.  After we got married, Dianne and I embarked on a three-month trip vagabonding around Europe and over the turn of the last century, I spent four+ months at sea on an around-the-world cruise.

Now, as a retired nurse and a freelance travel journalist, we have the time and temperament to tackle another long trip.  Inspired by Caputo, we quickly hatched our plans.

  • Caputo went from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska.  I decided that a sea-to-sea journey across Canada would be our goal.
  • Caputo pulled a classic Airstream trailer with all the amenities.  We would bunk in a smaller, folding trailer that doesn’t have a bathroom.
  • Caputo, who largely traveled without advance reservations, camped in RV parks.  We loathe RV parks, preferring instead to find nature-engulfed sites in national and provincial parks where advance campsite reservations can be vital.
  • All travel narratives, I was assured by a fellow writer, must involve a pilgrimage.  Caputo’s was a mission to find out how the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remained united.  Our mission will be to discover why residents of the Great White North, peopled by every race on earth, remain so darn friendly and polite.

Airstream trailers such as Caputo’s are crafted from aircraft-style aluminum and made for long hauls.  Ours, on the other hand, was fabricated from plastic and particle board that was glued, screwed and stapled together.  It was designed for weekend camping, not 10,000-mile continent-crossing escapades.

If things go wrong, and I’m sure something will, we’ll have Caputo to blame.

Canada Plan

Beginning June 21st, Dianne and I will begin a three-month camping escapade across Canada in our tiny, a-frame trailer.  We’ll be spending 102 days on the road, bunking in an 84-square-foot trailer and since we don’t have a bathroom onboard, we’ll be using nothing but public restrooms (called washrooms up there).  Should be interesting after all of that good Canadian beer.

Due to a little hand surgery, we’ll be starting our Canadian adventure in Radium Hot Springs instead of Vancouver Island.  After one night there, we drive to Lake Louise and begin our long slog across the largest country on the continent. We hope to learn more about our neighbor to the north and search for an answer to that perplexing question of just why are Canadians so gosh darn friendly and polite.

While we will hit a few cities along the way, most nights will be spent in national and provincial park campgrounds.  We already have prepaid reservations at most for specific nights at specific campsites.  We can only hope no breakdowns interfere with the schedule.

The journey will reach its easternmost point on Newfoundland.  From there it will be back through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Maine followed by a long slog back home.

As Jimmy Buffett once pointed out, the worst experiences make the best stories.  Hopefully we’ll have only dull but happy experiences to report at trip’s conclusion.

Canada camping reservations

Sometimes it pays to not listen to the experts.

I asked members of an A-frame Facebook group how far in advance we should reserve RV park campsites in Canada this summer. One Canadian camper suggested that he never made reservations and was always able to get a site.

Well, that may be true if one doesn’t mind that the only campsite left is immediately downwind of a pit-toilet.  But we have our standards.

I spent hours studying campground maps and photos trying to find perfect sites, which we reserved the instant reservations opened.

Others obviously are doing the same thing. In many cases, I went back online an hour after reservations opened and found those campgrounds had few unreserved sites left.

As for camping between parks, my Canadian expert suggested that if we can’t find space, we should just ask locals if we can camp in their yards.

With that in mind, we’d appreciate it if those of you living in the Great White North would give us your addresses. We’ll need a restroom and showers, and the gray water dumped from our sink should do wonders for your petunias.

Planning ahead

Decades ago, Dianne and I traveled three months through Europe armed with little more than a Eurail pass and knapsack full of clothes. Our itinerary was determined by what felt good and where the next train ran. Serendipity ruled.

That’s changed.

This summer, we will be doing a four-month, trailer camping trip through Canada, motoring from Vancouver Island on the Pacific to Newfoundland on the Atlantic. We plan to camp principally in national and provincial parks along the way, and with Canadian national parks celebrating the country’s 150th anniversary with free admission, campgrounds will be even more crowded than normal.

To get a decent site (or get any site at all) we have to book campsites the minute reservation windows open. That means blindly planning a detailed, 122-day itinerary months in advance.

So much for serendipitous travel.