TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT,…

Talk about deep freeze! When we left Winnipeg it was too cold to curl up our power cords to store underneath – they wouldn’t bend! Everything that would normally have been stored in our basement had to go into our main living area until we could get to somewhere warm. As an example of how cold it was: the safety cables that attach our Smart car to the motorhome are wrapped in a vinyl covering, but when I stretched them to attach the car, the brittle covers just shattered in a hundred pieces!

Our stops for gas in North Dakota (State #1), South Dakota (State #2), and Iowa (State #3) were brutal. The cold remained and the wind chill was wicked. We picked up hand and foot warmers at the Flying J in Fargo, and bundled ourselves in blankets, hats and gloves as we drove south, each breath visible as we peered through the frosted windshield. In addition to the dash heater, we kept the furnace on for the first 5 states. Our original plan was to take our time on the journey south, but because of the frigid temps, we just pushed on. The snow was mostly gone by State #3, but when would this bitter cold end?

While Betty slept in our cozy bed, which was originally frozen to a rock hard state, but defrosted by her body temperature, I drove through the nights, taking power naps at Flying Js and rest stops – both of us fully clothed. By evening on the 27th we had passed through an edge of Nebraska (State #4), scouted out the BMO Harris Bank in St. Joseph, Missouri (State #5), and parked at Walmart until we could get to the bank in the morning of the 28th.

Despite numerous attempts by phone & on-line to expedite the opening of a U.S. bank account, the whole morning was spent in a modern, attractive, but otherwise deserted bank building  trying to open a simple chequing (checking) account. It took 3 hours to complete the application, and we were surprised to find it was finally set up in our son’s name! The staff member had asked who the beneficiary would be if something happened to us, and we gave his name, which she proceeded to use for the remainder of the process. More time to reverse the error… Our stated goal at the outset was to get debit cards on the account, so we could complete transactions in U.S.D. Now it seems the cards will be mailed to our son, who will need to find us and forward them. Betty had to remind me to be patient. We are no longer in a rush…  (Jan. 29/18 update:  After running very low on U.S. cash, we were finally able to use an ATM with our debit cards today – more than a month after applying. The bank manager had to intervene to get us PIN numbers, as the latest correspondence to our home address hasn’t arrived.)

Anyway, we were able to make our way along some scenic Kansas country roads (State #6) until we reached Oklahoma City (State #7), starting to warm up, but still not warm enough to flush the antifreeze out of our plumbing so that we could use our on-board facilities. After a pleasant sleep at the Texas (State #8) border information centre (center..) we arrived at our first campground destination: Destiny Dallas RV Park, and of course took advantage of the on-site RV wash bay to clean off the road grime before checking into our site.

Rather than driving over New Year’s, we have decided to stay for a week, and put some things away. The local news, and folks we meet are talking about how cold it is here just now. But we can’t help but smile and think – It’s all relative: the coats are off, the fountains and swimming pools are open, and our power cords are flexible!

ONE – North Dakota

For most Americans, North Dakota is way up north – the location for that film named “Fargo”. But for us, it is our first state to the south of Manitoba. Not out of the snow yet!

For us, North Dakota is where we stock our motorhome with groceries, because you never know what fruit, vegetables, or other food the border guards are going to reject. (eg.: Is there lamb in your dog food? If yes, it’s inadmissible to the U.S.). North Dakota is also our first place to top up with cheaper gas, and to catch a power nap, when packing and getting on the road has been a strenuous activity.

We’ll soon be heading south to 47 other states, and I’m not sure yet if blog posts will be numbered accordingly. But stay tuned for state # 2 – logically SOUTH Dakota, – going in the right direction, but still in the deep freeze!

Almost Ready. Did We Leave Anything?

When we break camp, we have a tradition of walking the site to ensure we haven’t left behind any tent pegs, garbage, etc. We always want to leave the campsite as clean, if not cleaner, than when we arrived.

Likewise, when we leave a home we’re visiting, we make the rounds to ensure we’re not leaving personal items behind. During this holiday season, we’ve been visiting each of our kids before heading out on the road. Did we leave anything behind? Well yes, as I visit almost every room I see items that were most recently in our home. Do they stay or do they go? It’s taking much more mental gymnastics to remember the answer!

Ultimately, the “to go” list must reduce:
Wife – check, dog – check, passports & credit cards – check, Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip flops – check.

OK, we’re good to go!

Can’t Wait To Cue Willie!

Betty & I have a tradition. Whenever we head out on a road trip, through the motorhome’s speakers we blast Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again – like a band of gypsies we go down the highway…” He-haw!!!

Of course this year, that tradition will be preceded by another – the celebration of Christmas!
We have already attended our grandkids’ school and church Christmas
concerts, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s beautiful rendering of Handel’s Messiah, with the audience’s tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. Andrew’s home is filled with the scent of pine from the tree that has been decorated with many years of children’s Christmas projects: A sight to behold! Keeping watch beside the tree is the same Santa that has dutifully stood next to a Reddoch Christmas tree since 1956. He still looks pretty jolly for his age! LOL. Thankfully, we no longer use the real candles that used to clip onto the branches. Who ever thought that wasn’t a fire waiting to happen? LOL.

Some other traditions are still to come. Our reservation is confirmed at the same Chinese restaurant our family has visited a day or two before Christmas for the past 30 years. I will (usually unsuccessfully) invite our family to stand at attention for the singing of “God Save The Queen”, and the always encouraging Queen’s Christmas Message which is broadcast on the 25th, another tradition started when our family immigrated to Canada, as we thought about our extended family in Britain doing the same.

The turkey is on hand, along with the Christmas crackers that will adorn each place setting on the 25th. The day will start with the reading of the account of Jesus’ birth, from our family Bible that has been passed down from the early 1800s. And of course we smile at the grandchildren’s eager anticipation of what will be found in their stockings, which are now hung around the fireplace.

But as we consider the kids’ excitement about the Christmas festivities, we can’t help but think about what is to come next, and our similar child-like enthusiasm for the journey ahead…

Cue Willie!

What Will It Cost On The Road?

Yesterday Betty & I visited our financial advisor to consider investments and cash flow requirements for our outlandish odyssey (or should that be overlandish odyssey — LOL).  In our bricks & sticks home, we had a more stable cash flow, with more or less fixed amounts for mortgage, insurance, utilities, property taxes, etc.  However, as we venture into the great unknown, there is a lot more uncertainty. What will it cost on the road?

As former U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, famously noted: “There are known unknowns, and then there are unknown unknowns”.  While the Internet has been a great help in eliminating, or at least reducing, some of those unknowns, it has not yet removed all uncertainty.

We have established a U.S. funds account, ordered U.S. funds credit cards at our local bank, and have the required information to set up an account at a partnered U.S. bank, once we cross the border. While we can now somewhat control the exchange of U.S. and Canadian currency at more favourable rates, we don’t yet have control over whether the Canadian dollar will rise or fall in relation to the U.S. greenback. If only we were the Governor of the Bank of Canada! LOL

Our motorhome is currently in for upgrades and servicing prior to our departure. But we don’t know if the old (Georgie) Boy will last without major repairs down the road.  Of course we know that new coaches are not necessarily trouble-free either, so we’re OK sticking with the old Cruise Master for now.

We now have Canada-U.S. cell phone plans in place, so we know what it  will cost to keep in touch with friends and relatives.  But we do not know how much cellular data we are likely to use when free wifi isn’t available for searching future points of interest.

We have calculated basic distances for each of our trips, estimating fuel costs based on gas price trends. But we do not know whether gas prices will spike or drop during our journeys. We also do not know how many side trips or spontaneous adventures we will take along the way that will add to our fuel costs.

We will be purchasing travel insurance for each portion of our adventure, and have roadside assistance plans in place. But we don’t know if, when, and where our bodies or motorhome will break down, and whether it will be in proximity to a hospital – or tow truck – as the case may be.

We have an idea of campground costs on our route, and are excited to find that there are many cost-saving accommodation options. We now have an Escapees RVClub membership for campground discounts, a BoondockersWelcome.com membership for free overnight stays at private residences across North America, and an app showing all U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property – similar to crown land in Canada – where dry camping is permitted. We will be taking out a Passport America membership as we begin our trip (our 6 month free discount coupon can only be redeemed in person), giving us further campground discounts.  And maybe best of all is our Harvest Host membership, that allows us to stay for free at farms and wineries across the continent!  Of course, we also have noted Walmart, Lowes, Cracker Barrel, Flying J, rest stop and casino locations that allow free overnight rv parking.  But because this is a new endeavour, we don’t yet know how often we will need to plug in, fill up, and dump our tanks.  While we will have some control over accommodation costs, there is still a significant “unknown”.

If we boondock more, we don’t know at what point we should be investing in solar panels, inverters, and lithium-ion batteries to keep the juice flowing.  Betty reminds me that when we camped in a tent, we didn’t ever use electricity. The morning coffee and bacon & eggs were prepared over the campfire. Washing up – ourselves and the dishes -was also accomplished with water heated on the fire.  Baked beans, tastey toast sandwiches and evening smores  around the fire finished off the day. My only problem is, I can’t remember where in that fire pit my iPhone was plugged in! LOL.

As we venture into the great beyond, these are some of our knowns and unknowns regarding the cost of our folly.  I guess we will just have to remember that life is a priceless gift, and we may never be able to fully count the cost of our decisions – just do the best we can with the resources that have been entrusted to us for the road ahead.

As Roy Rogers used to sing: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again!”

On The Road To Memory Lane

Betty & I have already visited many of the campgrounds and scenic spots we hope to travel to again in the next 5 years, building wonderful memories along the way.  She has been gracious enough to indulge me in exploring remembrances from my family life, before we met, including stops at the 3 spots I am about to highlight.  We have often chuckled at the fact that those places, on return, are not as grand and fantastic as in my childhood memories. But they hold special spots just the same.

From 1957 to 1967 my family (dad, mom, brother and I) spent a month (usually July) in a tent as we camped up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. Everything a family of 4 needed was either in the trunk of a Buick Special, or Pontiac Parisienne, or on the roof! At first the tent, poles, and suitcases were strapped to the roof, and then my dad arranged for a custom carrier to be built with a place for the poles and supplies under a canvas top that snapped down along the edges.

My mom was a big believer in  “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. I remember a customs agent once asking to see the contents of our trunk, with mom giving a dire warning: “If you take anything out, you’d better put it back in the same place!”  Needless to say, the border guard didn’t touch a thing. LOL

As we prepare to pack our Class A motorhome for a trip involving the two of us and our dog, Charlie, without the need to add a Coleman stove and tent, I can’t believe we are still running out of room! But that’s another story.  On to the 3 campgrounds:

Camden Hills State Park is situated on the rugged Maine coast, not that far from our New Brunswick home in the late 1950’s. I learned to swim in Lake Megunticook, driving my mother crazy with “Watch me. Watch me now!”  We would hike up the adjacent Mount Megunticook for a scenic lookout over Maiden’s Leap, and fish for flounder in the Atlantic ocean in the picturesque Camden harbour. It was the only time in my life I could catch a fish! Without a rod, just a string around a stick and a bucket of clams to bait the hook, we caught a boatload of flounder in no time at all. I guess it spoiled me for life — never had the patience to wait for fish to bite after that!

Years later, when Betty & I were married and living in Toronto, I convinced her and our good friends, Ken & Wendy, to go back to Camden with me. I built it up to be a spectacular spot, and of course it was rainy and miserable the whole time we were there. They never let me live down the over-hyped location.  Oh well, there it is…

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is the second stop on memory lane. With miles and miles of fine grain sand dunes, it is the site (Kitty Hawk) of the Wright brothers first flight, and of an iconic spiral painted light house and many shipwrecks.  I have always been a sound sleeper, and one night in 1960 I tried to sleep through a hurricane, as our tent filled up with water and came down on top of us. Eventually my parents got me out, and we spent our first and only night in a motel, until we could get to Sears the next day to buy a replacement tent. BTW, that replacement canvas shelter — that always had the smell of camping for me — lasted for many years, including camping trips with Betty & our young family. Our son took it tree planting in northern Ontario, and we pitched it on a cottage lot we purchased on the shore of a lake in southwestern Manitoba.  It was always a sturdy structure. Maybe it’s still there…

The third and final stop on today’s memory lane is Cove Lake State Park in Tennessee. Prior to being developed into a park (in the early 1960’s?) I believe it was a private golf course, and the beauty of the land with mountain backdrops was maintained.  We made friends with a family on a neighbouring acreage, and they took us horseback riding around their property  — a real treat for young kids.  We would also swim in the campground’s large pool, with Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire blasting from the juke box.  Oh the memories!

Again, I convinced Betty & our 4 kids to stop there one year on a Class C motorhome trip from Winnipeg to Disney World, but think I overhyped it again. It was winter and while there was no snow on the ground, the air was chilly and there were no leaves on the trees, or any other lush vegetation from my childhood memories. But the on-site restaurant was still there, and we went in for a hearty meal before hitting the road.

As we left, the waitress called out to us “Y’all come back now. Ya hear!” And God willing and the creek don’t rise, I hope we will!

A Hankering For Hankies?

Before modern environmentalists and recyclers, there was my dad.

Yesterday I wrote about the decluttering process that is necessary to move from a house to a motorhome. Somehow saved until last month was a neatly ironed and folded stack of my dad’s 38 year old hankerchiefs — I say 38 because that’s how long it’s been since he passed, but in reality they are likely closer to 50 year old cotton!

Eschewing the modern throw-away kleenex (or should that be achewing (LOL), my dad always carried a supply of hankies in his pockets. Not sure how he kept track, but I assume those in his pants pocket were for a runny nose, while those in his breast pocket were for drying the tears of those who mourned.  As a church minister, he officiated at funerals for over 40 years, and was familiar with those in sorrow and grief.  The extended hankerchief was a comfort to many.

Anyway, among the many other treasures, those hankies are now gone.  Somehow I can’t imagine anyone now taking the time to wash, fold, and iron little pieces of snotty cloth, but maybe I should have kept one as a reminder of my dad’s compassion.  No? Ok, on the road I can read this digital memory instead. LOL

Decluttering Before We Hit The Road

What do we still need to get rid of before we leave on our adventure?

It seems like we’ve been preparing for months, if not years. As Betty has posted, we have sold our home, and have started the process of decluttering our lives.  Who knew it would be such a monumental task!

While not quite in the category of “hoarder”, I have accumulated a lot of stuff that simply won’t fit in the motorhome.  From the dinner menus from the maiden voyage of the Corinthia, marking our families’ immigration to Canada in 1956, to university papers and early job pay stubs and concert tickets. All those keepsakes have meaning and memories for me, but not so much for everyone else…

I understand that this is (hopefully) not the final chapter of our lives, but it is another chapter.  When my parents died, our eldest son, Andrew, and I rented a U-Haul truck to load up the contents of their home in Ontario & drive it back to Winnipeg. It has taken many years to sort through their meagre  prized possessions and agonizingly dispose of many of them.  Our 4 grown offspring have been generous in receiving many of the items that we can’t take with us, but I struggle with not wanting to burden them with “stuff” that has limited meaning or use for them.

Like Betty’s mom who encouraged her kids to put their names on desired inheritance items before she passed, we created a colour-coded dot system for our kids:  If you want a piece of furniture or china before we sell the house and move into the motor home, put your coloured dot on it now. Otherwise, almost everything else makes its way to the local Salvation Army or other charitable outlet.

Only a few weeks to go now before we leave, and the process still isn’t over. Maybe it’s my Boy Scout experience that taught me to “be prepared”, not wanting to dispose of something in case I might need it in future.  The day after I send something to recycling is the day I need it:  That is my fear.

But like many fears, I just have to get over it.  Because as Bet says: “You can’t take it with you!”    And I hope she’s talking about our motorhome trip…

10 Provinces, 48 States + DC, 4 years + return to favourites in 5th year

So here’s the plan:  Starting Dec. 27/17 we hope to leave snow-covered Manitoba for the trip of a lifetime.  Over a 4 year period we want to visit all 10 Canadian provinces and 48 contiguous States + the District of Columbia.  We have already visited Alaska and Yukon twice, so they are off our list, and we can’t find big enough pontoons to get our motorhome to Hawaii, so we’ll have to leave that for another adventure!

Our guidelines are fairly simple: If we find ourselves somewhere where we can’t wear flip-flops, we’ll go somewhere we can: That’s our Rule of

Thumb… or foot… or thong between the toes… or whatever!  Generally, we are moving up and down, and back and forth across the continent, aiming for temperatures no colder than 10 celsius, and no hotter than 35 celsius, with 21 celsius as our daily target.  Changes in direction will be based on weather and whim.

On most travel days, we hope to break camp by 11:00 am, stop for lunch from noon to 1:30 pm, and arrive at that day’s destination by 3:30 – 4:00 pm, in order to put down our levellers, extend our slide outs, and explore our new location.  We know, it’s a gruelling schedule, but some of us have to do it!

We will follow the rules to maintain Manitoba Health status; avoid the IRS by not overstaying our welcome in the U.S.; and we’ll plan to be home with our kids and grandkids for Christmas and special events.  But other than that, you’ll have to find us On The Road through this blog.

PROVINCES & STATES IN ORDER OF VISIT

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Iowa
  4. Nebraska
  5. Kansas
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Texas
  8. New Mexico
  9. Arizona
  10. Maine
  11. New Hampshire
  12. Vermont
  13. Massachusetts
  14. Rhode Island
  15. Connecticut
  16. New York
  17. Pennsylvania
  18. New Jersey
  19. Maryland
  20. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
  21. Delaware
  22. Virginia
  23. North Carolina
  24. Tennessee
  25. Alabama
  26. Arkansas
  27. Missouri
  28. Louisiana
  29. Mississippi
  30. Florida
  31. Georgia
  32. South Carolina
  33. West Virginia
  34. Kentucky
  35. Ohio
  36. Indiana
  37. Michigan
  38. Illinois
  39. Wisconsin
  40. Minnesota
  41. Washington
  42. Oregon
  43. California
  44. Nevada
  45. Utah
  46. Wyoming
  47. Colorado
  48. Idaho
  49. Montana – District of Columbia = 48 (+ Alaska & Hawaii not included)

PROVINCES

  1. Manitoba
  2. Ontario
  3. Quebec
  4. New Brunswick
  5. Prince Edward Island
  6. Nova Scotia
  7. Newfoundland
  8. Saskatchewan
  9. Alberta
  10. British Columbia

The itinerary on the map is colour coded:

Red is our trip to South Padre Island, Texas & Phoenix, Arizona, returning home via the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe & Roswell, New Mexico, and Oklahoma City, among other ports of call.

Green is to the east coast of Canada, visiting friends & relatives in Ontario before heading to Ottawa, Montreal & Quebec City, up the Gaspe Peninsula and down to Graham’s old home of Douglastown (Mirimichi) New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland. Then we cross to the U.S. New England States in time for the fall colours, down to North Carolina, returning home via Muscle Shoals, Nashville, Memphis & Branson, Missouri, in order to get our music fix.

Blue is to the Florida Keys, and up the coast to Cape Hatteras, across to the Great Smoky Mountains, and up the Blue Ridge Parkway, before heading home.

Orange is to the west coast of Canada, visiting our old friends in Calgary and British Columbia along the way (well some of us are old…) & down the Pacific coast to San Diego, returning via Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Mt. Rushmore.

Black is to the mid-west, following Route 66 to eastern California, up through eastern Oregon & Washington, then across to Yellowstone, & home.

Year 5 is our wildcard, subject to weather, whim, and continued good health. Without accounting for side trips, this itinerary only covers 36,485 miles: Hope the old Boy holds up!

Some favourite camp sites

As we prepare to hit the road later this month, we remember some of the spots that have inspired us to make this journey.  Listed in no particular order, they reflect the opportunities to camp in and otherwise experience some marvellously diverse geography across our continent.

 

Clearwater Lake Provincial Park Manitoba, as seen through the back window of our motorhome: an idyllic landscape painting, right in our own campsite! Situated between the unique towns of The Pas and Flin Flon in northwestern Manitoba, this pristine lakeside campground is worth the visit.

Destiny Dallas RV Park, Texas is an early destination on winter trips south, as it includes an RV wash — right in the park. All that mucky residue from melted snow on the winter roads must come off!  (Along with sweaters, shoes, socks, etc., etc., etc.: Time to meet the sun.)

Winnipeg Beach Provincial Park, Manitoba could be considered one of the best campgrounds in North America. The large, architecturally designed sites are separated by rose and raspberry bushes, with the scent of lilacs buffering the sewer connections on each site in “New Dipps”. The dog beach, the boardwalk along the main beach, and the town of Winnipeg Beach are all adjacent to the campground.

South Padre Island, Texas is a favourite winter destination, with the ability to drive for miles and miles up and down the fabulous sandy beach on the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico: A most relaxing spot to sit back & listen to the waves roll in and the gulls overhead.

Grand Beach Provincial Park, Manitoba is just an hour’s drive north of the city of Winnipeg, with large secluded sites and a fine grain sand beach, just beyond the sand dunes. Surprisingly, there are no hotels, motels, or restaurant chains in the area, so go prepared to relax in your RV, away from the normal commercialization.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan is set among the tall pines. The park is situated in the rolling hills near the U.S. border, with Alberta’s Cypress Hills Provincial Park immediately to the west: a picturesque prairie oasis.

 

Pacific Beach State Park, Washington State is a small park on the west coast. If you’re lucky, as we were, you can pull your motorhome right up to the dunes, set up your table & chairs on top, and enjoy a fine glass of wine as the sun sets over the Pacific.

Boya Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia also rates in our top 5 North American parks. On the isolated Stewart-Cassier Highway, just south of the Yukon border, this pristine park was meticulously manicured by park staff who obviously loved their jobs!

Straits State Park, Michigan was a surprise addition for us, as we took a “wrong” turn on entering the park. It lead us to an unserviced site right on the edge of Lake Michigan, with a marvellous view of the Mackinac Bridge.  All we could do was set out our chairs, open a good bottle of wine, and enjoy our surroundings. The large fire pit on our site accommodated a roaring bonfire later in the evening.

Tunnel Mountain Campground, looking toward Mt. Rundle, Banff National Park, Alberta. This campground is a favourite for many reasons, including the spectacular scenery, access to the historic town of Banff, and proximity to our old friends from Calgary, which is a short drive to the east.

 

Cannon Beach, Oregon, with its famous Haystack Rock, is one of many must-see spots along the scenic Oregon coast. Don’t forget to stop for Tillamook cheese along the way!

Walmart Anywhere North America always reminds us that we are on vacation when we are in a Walmart parking lot. With anticipation of many Walmarts to come over the next 5 years!

 

South Padre Island, Texas has all the ingredients for rejuvenation:  sea, sun, sand, great seafood, and of course the best possible sensational company!