In the last instalment I had promised you to do a post on the joys of campervanning. Perhaps that should read threatened rather than promised! Whatever way you came here, either by accident or design, welcome to this third instalment in my series concerning my 2014 trip to the Canadian Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
If you are interested, please read on.
This rather lengthy piece was originally written for the old Virtual Tourist website and I have deliberately left Lynne’s original VT username in here, just for old time’s sake. I have also added a few hopefully relevant images just to give your eyes a break!
Spolier alert. I do mention something that happened right at the end of the trip! Also remember that all prices are 2014 so look up the current rates if you are interested.
Canada is a country I had often thought of visiting but only really in abstract terms. My problem is that it is so vast that public transport is not really an option and I do not drive a car so transportation was always going to be an issue.
Certainly there are organised tours utilising buses and / or trains but that type of trip would be total travelling Hell for me and so I had put the whole idea on the back burner whilst I travelled elsewhere, mostly in Asia where public transport is the way to go.
It was something of a windfall opportunity therefore when VT member Ravenswing aka Lynne offered me the chance of a road trip in a campervan (or RV as they are called in North America) in the summer of 2014 and one which I naturally jumped at. I am so glad I did as it turned out to be one of the best trips in a life that has been fortunate enough to have made a few.
A campervan (or RV in Canada) is an ideal way to see this beautiful country although again with the caveat that I only saw a small proportion of it namely Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with an all too brief couple of days in New Brunswick.
I am publishing this post primarily to suggest some resources for anyone who may wish to “hit the road” in this way.
Firstly, there are two main ways you can do this. You can either buy, beg, borrow or steal (only joking) an RV or else hire one. We were lucky enough to have our own, a venerable 33 year old Glendale body on a Chevyvan chassis.
Sadly Glendale are no more having filed for bankruptcy in 2010 by which time they had been building RV’s for 60 years but Chevrolet seem to be going strong. It is a shame about Glendale as they built some lovely rigs and we certainly saw plenty of them on our travels.
Ours was a 23 feet C class which was more than adequate for our needs and could theoretically sleep six, two in a bunk above the cab, two on a pullout settee in the rear and another two in a bunk which was made by folding down the dining table although that wasn’t too long and would only have been good for kids. I think six would have been pretty cramped.
I should explain that a Class C is the type of RV based on a truck chassis with a “cabover” profile although I didn’t know any of this until I started the trip.
If you cannot get your own RV then the other option is renting and there are plenty of companies offering the service although from my experience the largest by far seems to be Canadream but this is certainly not cheap. An RV similar to ours although slightly longer (they start at 24 feet) would cost an eye-watering $8330 to recreate our journey in 2015 although admittedly they are very well appointed. Our old beauty was bought for a fraction of that and even though it blew up and died on the last day we saved ourselves a fortune.
Once you have secured your vehicle you then have two options as to where to spend the night. The first and most obvious option is to go to one of the many RV / Campgrounds available and which I found to be of a uniformly good standard with varying levels of facilities like swimming pools, kids playgrounds, shuffleboard, volleyball courts, the list is endless.
In a Class C of our length you can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per night although obviously the longer your vehicle the more you pay.
A quick primer here for the uninitiated (as I was) about some of the jargon associated with campgrounds.
As the name suggests a pull-through is a pitch where you drive in and drive out forwards again without the need to reverse and I have to say I would not like trying to reverse some of the monster rigs we saw.
An unserviced site is merely a piece of ground where you park up for the night and you have the opportunity to use the onsite facilities but you need to be self-sufficient for water and electric.
A two way site provides both of these and a three way site provides both and also a sewage pipe to empty your sewage tank.
Electric generally comes in either 30amp or 50 amp supply. With 30 amp you can only run a limited number of appliances in your rig but a 50 amp will allow you to run anything you want although obviously it is more expensive.
A very limited number of sites are now even offering an additional service of a cable TV hook up on your pitch (obviously this will have changed by 2021).
The second option and one which amazed me when I first saw it is that of parking in the carpark (parking lot) of a shopping centre or supermarket and Walmart seems favourite for this.
Obviously you need to be self-sufficient to do this so it was not an option for us as we had no leisure batteries and only had running water when hooked up but plenty of people seem to do it. Indeed in one Walmart carpark we saw about half a dozen rigs all pulled up together in what was obviously “RV Corner”.
They had the awnings out, chairs and tables and even barbecues going and I could not believe my eyes as in the UK you would be moved on in no time flat. Lynne explained to me that the supermarkets don’t mind as you are not costing them anything and on the very reasonable assumption that you may well stock up on whatever you need from their premises and / or use their catering faclilities if you don’t feel like cooking yourself.
I suppose there is the added benefit that the very visible presence of people may deter crime at night so everyone’s a winner. Lynne and I are currently looking for another RV for summer 2015 and beyond and have decided that it needs to be “Walmart compliant” as I have dubbed it. (We did and it is a brilliant way to operate, you save a fortune!).
I suppose carpark RV’ing all depends on what you want to do. We basically travelled all day and only wanted somewhere to stop at night, use the washrooms and perhaps the laundrette and that was it. If you want to stop for a day or two in pleasant surroundings, fish, go for a swim or avail yourself of the other leisure facilities then RV parks are the way to go.
When you are on the road never, ever use change to buy anything, break up notes and save the coins as you will need them for the washing machines, driers and showers in some places although they are free in others. Believe me, you’ll be glad I told you this as there is nothing worse than having no change for a shower when the campground office is shut!
I should mention that just parking up in the countryside somewhere is not permitted in Nova Scotia. I cannot speak definitively for PEI or New Brunswick but I would be surprised if it was any different. You are OK in the supermarket carparks as it is private property.
If you have decided to use an RV site, how do you know which one to use? Actually, there is a wealth of information available and we almost exclusively used two particular guides. The first was one that Lynne had picked up from free the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) as she is a member and the other was Woodalls.
Woodalls are an American company but do very comprehensive guides to Canada as well as operating the Good Sam scheme which attracts discounts at participating sites and Lynne’s CAA (a motoring organisation) membership also scored us a few discounts. I believe the KOA sites you can see in the main image above are connected with Good Sam / Woodalls.
Another good source of information are the various Provincial tourist boards which I found to be extremely helpful and with a good range of literature including their own RV site guides. You can check here for Nova Scotia and the website is excellent although I am a bit low-tech and was quite happy just to use to good old-fashioned brochures. The image is of an excellent facility on PEI.
So that is the technical side of the matter but why do say RV’ing is my favourite thing about Canada? Well, it is frankly. I had always fancied the idea of an RV trip and this certainly did not disappoint.
In the same way as I love canal narrowboats in the UK it is the idea of complete independence and the ability to go or stay at will. I mentioned at the top of this piece that an organised tour would be my idea of Hell so I suppose that with RV’ing being the complete antithesis of that then this must be my idea of Heaven.
When we were discussing this trip Lynne asked me what out our plans were and I told her there weren’t any. In fact, it became something of a standing joke between us, “No Planning”! I realise that she was not entirely happy with this arrangement but very gamely allowed herself to go along with it and I think she is much more comfortable with it now. It is how I always travel and I would not have it any other way.
I have mentioned above about the fairly basic facilities in our RV and to me this only added to the appeal of the whole trip as it took on the feel of an adventure rather than a holiday. Obviously some of the rigs nowadays, especially the rental wagons are completely luxurious with every conceivable comfort like microwaves, plasma TVs and Heaven knows what else but why bother?
Basic or not, I found our van really comfortable and I even had the joy of cooking on a gas cooker which is a pleasure denied to me at home where I have to use electric due to building regulations.
To explain this a bit further Lynne did all the driving and mechanical stuff (there was a bit of that to be done!) and I did the navigating and cooking in what may seem like something of a traditional gender role-reversal. I don’t drive and know less than nothing about vehicle maintenance and Lynne detests cooking while I love it so it worked perfectly although it did cause the odd raised eyebrow when we spoke to people about it.
I think I have waxed lyrical about this subject quite long enough and so I shall end this post here. I fully appreciate that this style of travelling is not for everybody and far be it from to to tell anyone how they should travel but I hope that if you have not considered RV’ing as an option that you may do so and if you have considered it that the information in this piece may be of some assistance to you.
I apologise for my ugly feet in this image but to me that it encapsulates entirely what I have been writing about. Bare feet up on the dash in an RV on an open, empty road with nowhere specific to go and complete independence. That is my idea of travelling.
I do not wish to sound overblown about this but my fondest memory of Nova Scotia is every single day I spent in that wonderful old van with a dear friend travelling round one of the most beautiful places I have ever been”.
Whew, told you it was a bit of a saga, didn’t I? Absolute cure for insomnia. In the next post I promise you we do get on the road in our newly refurbished van so if you want to know how we get on then stay tuned and spread the word.