Northern Ontario

The scenery started to change as we approached the eastern border of Manitoba.  The prairie landscape turned into one with tall trees and lush greenery.

I was filled with excitement to be entering Ontario. We hadn’t driven the far before so it was a new milestone for me.

It was early evening when we drove into Kenora, Ontario. Lake of the Woods welcomed us with its sparkling beauty. Other than the water, the first thing I noticed was how rocky the landscape had become. I marvelled at the difference a few kilometres made. Unfortunately my phone was still being charged so I have no pictures.

Darkness approached so we found a place to park for the night.

Leaving Thunder Bay

Our destination the next day was Thunder Bay. We drove through many little towns but since we had a long day of traveling planned we only stopped in a few to stretch our legs. The colourful rock visible in many areas added interest to our drive.

The time changed during our drive and we arrived in Thunder Bay under overcast and darkening skies. We camped in a truck stop, ate in their restaurant and retired early.

Woke up to low fog and cool temperature. Another long day of driving lay ahead, so we didn’t linger.

I joked with my husband about the superior view we had for a good part of the day. Lake Superior is rugged, beautiful and huge!

Lake Superior

Not far outside of Thunder Bay I saw a sign for the Yellow Brick Road. I pointed it out but thought we didn’t have time to follow it and see where it led. My phone was charging so I didn’t even get a picture of the sign and I regret that enough to have written a future blog post on this missed opportunity.

Stopped in Wawa for lunch in the van. Took a picture of the giant goose and the view of Lake Superior from the tourist rest stop. The next stop was Pancake Bay where we explored a set of stores with souvenirs, crafts and intricate wood carvings.


For much of our 500 km journey there were views of the magnificent Lake Superior.  It was definitely a scenic drive.

We reached our destination of Sault Ste Marie and splurged on a campsite. A sauna was an unexpected treat here and the shower was most welcome.

Outside of Sault Ste Marie

In the morning we lingered and enjoyed our surroundings before getting on the road again.

Our first stop was in the  nearby town of Bruce Mines, where we gave into temptation and indulged in fries from one of the many chip trucks we’d seen over the past day or so. While waiting for our order, we visited with a local lady who told us about the trap rock in the area. She also talked about freighters seen in the bay from her home just down the street. We hadn’t realized we were still that close to the water.

Our lunch stop was at Iron Bridge, in the parking lot of a tiny museum and tourist centre. It sure comes in handy to have everything we need with us and not to rely on fixing restaurants.

We saw the huge smoke stacks of Sudbury before we saw the city. It wasn’t the picturesque welcome we’ve received from other destinations.

Sudbury Nickel

There were some noisy vehicles around us in our parking lot campground that night.  In the morning we drove to see the giant nickel and take some photos. The roads we encountered were very rough which made it an easy decision to leave Sudbury behind us.




In our first ten nights away we spent two camped in the driveways of friends, two in campgrounds and the other six boondocking.

For those unfamiliar with the term, boondocking is camping without services.  We had no electrical hookups and the only water was what we had on board. In other words we were self-contained and didn’t require anything extra. On two occasions we plugged in a portable generator for a short time  once was to use the air conditioner to cool the van enough to sleep and the other time was to have light to read by and power to charge our phones

On these nights our campgrounds were parking lots, either at a gas station truck stop or department store. We would check online for free RV parking in our destination city. After parking in an area that wouldn’t impede customer traffic we would go into the business and ask permission to spend the night on their property.

To show appreciation we would purchase any supplies we needed from the business allowing us this privilege. We showed respect for their property by being quiet and unobtrusive as well as ensuring the area was left clean and tidy.

I was actually surprised by the number of RV’s that would be in a parking lot overnight. We were never alone and this is an excellent way of stretching our travel dollars. We always had access to clean washrooms and often could also get free wifi. This is definitely the way to travel

We’ve been told about some other good boondocking areas on our journey and look forward to checking them out.







Prairie Hospitality

We set out on our journey under a grey, smoke-filled sky. The radio informed us the air quality was affected right through to Manitoba. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for those in BC, close to the raging forest fires.
Although still smoky, the severity gradually lessened as we headed east.
Our first night was spent in Caronport, SK. My writer friend Sheila cooked us dinner and allowed us to camp in front of her home. The next morning I gave my ‘Fighting Fears’ talk to a small group of women. Sheila graciously booked a hall, provided refreshments and put up posters advertising this event.

Night two was spent in Regina with our Choices friend Allison, who reserved a spot in her driveway for us to camp. Lively conversation and many laughs followed as we attended a market under the stars with her and her daughter Sara. I purchased a Saskatoon berry drink in a container shaped like a lightbulb. The drink was good but the flashing lightbulb was even better! I guess I’m just a kid at heart!

Day three we drove an hour to Fort Qu’Appelle to visit our friends Robert and Aileen. They live on a hill overlooking Mission lake and the view was beautiful. Aileen is an artist who works with glass and offered to create a custom piece for me. I am excited to have one of her one-of-a-kind pieces. We left this peaceful setting with the promise to return when we could spend longer.
After a scenic drive, we stopped at Indian Head for a picnic dinner before heading on to a campground in Grenfell,SK for the night.
The next morning we crossed into Manitoba. Lunch was at the restaurant of a Choices friend in Brandon. A drive through Winnipeg was interesting and disconcerting as the carrier on the back of the van scraped on the uneven, bumpy roads. The night was spent in Portage la Prairie in a Walmart parking lot. More about boondocking in another post!
Sunday morning we attended an inspiring church service. While there we met a friendly couple who gave us their name and phone number in case we pass through this way on our return home.
I had my picture taken in front of the world’s largest CocaCola can and then we drove though Island Park, making some stops for pictures. This city was an unexpected treasure and definitely on our return to list.

Pleasure-Way Row

On one of our trial runs we decided to camp in the overflow area at the Canadian Gospel Music Celebration.  There were a few other campervans scattered throughout the area but none like ours.

Imagaine our surprise when we were led to our designated spot and found two other Pleasure-Ways already set up there.

The owners of all three gathered together, had tours of the other vans and told stories about their travels to find and purchase their vehicle.  The interior was slightly different in each one, but one thing was constant. That was the appreciation for their Pleasure-Way and the compact and efficient method of travel it affords.

We were off to a great start!pleasureway-row.jpg

Happy Campers

Kyra and Shantal in VanessaMy husband and I purchased a 20+-year-old camper van with the name Vanessa stencilled on both sides. I had never named a vehicle before but since this one came with a name I thought I should use it. For that reason, I always refer to her as Vanessa.

Our plan is to do some travelling in a compact vehicle with enough creature comforts for us to live in it for weeks at a time. We have a small fridge, a two burner stove, dinette benches that can be used as two single beds or folded together for one large one plus indoor plumbing. Who could ask for more!

Our first trip was to be to a three day Gospel Music Celebration. In preparation, we drove her to a lake an hour from home, where we have a larger RV parked. This way we could make sure everything was in working order and have the larger unit to fall back on if needed.

We arrived in the evening so slept in the 5th wheel. The next morning, our 9-year-old triplet granddaughters came over for a visit. My son and his family have an RV in the same park and we enjoy frequent visits from the girls.

They had seen inside Vanessa once before, but it had been months ago and they wanted another look. Once inside, the girls took their time exploring and were fascinated with everything they saw. One even said she’d be very happy if she could have Vanessa for her house!

They went back to their trailer for lunch and a short while later one returned with her dad. It seems she told grandad she’d like to sleep in Vanessa and he had said maybe she and I could have a girl’s sleepover sometime.  She had taken him at his word and packed a couple of bags to bring back!

My son wanted to check with me to make sure this was OK. Although it was news to me, I agreed and soon she was back with everything she’d need for the night.  I’m thinking she wanted to bring her belongings over before I had a chance to change my mind!

Miss K put her bags in Vanessa and went off to find her sisters. I put a chair in the sunshine and sat down to start reading a new book. Before long there were two girls standing before me. Miss S also wanted to sleep in Vanessa. I thought, “This will work if I convert the twin beds into one big one.”  The first night sleeping in Vanessa was supposed to be with my husband but I couldn’t refuse these two excited girls. Their sister showed no interest in this sleepover so there should be room for all three of us. My husband was fine with having the big trailer all to himself!

The girls each chose the single bed they wanted. This was not how it was supposed to go.  I told them we’d all sleep together on the big bed. They responded by telling me they both kicked and I wouldn’t want to be with them!

To show them how much room we would have, my husband, transformed the beds as they excitedly watched.  The three of us lay down and I thought this was a positive sign. Then one said, “Have you made a decision, because I have?” The other quickly said, “Me, too.” Just like that, I was voted out of my own van!

I texted my daughter-in-law, certain she would say I needed to be with them. They would have to agree if their mom said so. Imagine my surprise when their mom said she didn’t see a problem with it.

We were in a gated, secure family RV park so safety shouldn’t be an issue. Still, shouldn’t they have someone to protect them or comfort them if they became afraid? It was hours before bed time so plenty of time for them to change their minds.

The remaining sister headed off for a sleepover with a cousin and these girls asked me what was for supper. They played in Vanessa and referred to us as their neighbours who had invited them for dinner. After dinner, they invited us to come over for a visit and to play Snakes & Ladders. We were told, “Just knock on the door and we’ll let you in.”  After two games it was time for lights out and the neighbours were sent home.

We left Vanessa’s outside light on as well as the one for the big trailer. The girls knew they could come and get us any time during the night. They were very brave and didn’t think this would be necessary. To them, this was an exciting adventure and there was nothing to fear.

After a long night for my husband and me, we heard the happy chatter of the girls as they approached our door just after 7 am. They told us they’d had the best sleep ever. I wish we could have said the same.

What we did have was the knowledge we’d created some very special memories for our granddaughters. They had tried something new and loved every minute of it. Instead of letting our fears squash their experience we trusted (and prayed a lot) and ended up with very happy campers.


Vanessa’s Trial Run

day 1Last week I introduced you to Vanessa, our twenty plus-year-old camper van and told you of the joy our granddaughters had in making this their home for a night.

My husband and I got our turn in the van almost a week after the girls did. We were invited to an eighty-fifth birthday celebration for an aunt who lives six-hundred and fifty kilometres away. Our initial thought was to drive our fuel-efficient car, spend one night in a hotel and drive back home.

After talking about it, we came to the conclusion that it would be just as cost efficient to drive the van. That way we could take an extra day and have our food and sleeping accommodation right with us. What we saved on these expenses would easily offset the extra fuel cost. Not only that, it would be good preparation for our proposed longer trip later this summer.

A friend loaned us a generator and our son-in-law dropped off a hitch carrier so we could keep the generator, gas can and our portable barbeque outside the van.  We found appropriate bins to place these in and strapped them onto the carrier. Hours were spent loading Vanessa with everything we needed and might possibly need along the way. Items inside were rearranged to make the most efficient use of our limited space.

After adding a few last minute things on the Friday morning, I took a picture of Vanessa and we set off on our adventure. Brian and I were both excited and nervous about how our long weekend would unfold. This would be the first time not only driving the van this far – but sleeping in it.

Two hours into our trip we stopped at a rest area for a quick break and to stretch our legs. The line-up at the washrooms was very long and neither of us wanted to wait, so we headed back to the van and used the one there.  Score one for Vanessa! This form of travel definitely had its advantages.

A little later we stopped for lunch. Brian and I are no strangers to picnicking in our vehicle. Normally I rummage through the cooler in the backseat for the food, bring out the plastic plates and cutlery and we balance our meals on our laps.  Not this time!

We opened our little fridge, chose what we wanted, added accompaniments from our pantry before sitting comfortably at our dinette table to enjoy our meal.  I was even able to wash the dishes before we resumed our travel.

A decision had been made to stop for the night about one hundred kilometres from our final destination.  Brian searched online to find free overnight RV parking and two options were found. The first had signs on the property saying no overnight parking, so we crossed that one off of our list.

The second was in a mall parking lot. There were signs near the stores to let us know overnight parking was not allowed, but not near the perimeter of the lot. Before settling for a rest area another five minutes down the road, we decided to go into one of the larger stores in the mall and ask permission to stay in the parking lot.

We were told long-term parking was not acceptable but a night or two would be fine. In fact, they encouraged it as a means of deterring mischief or vandalism when the stores were closed.

We found an area and set up camp. A light drizzle had started so we decided to make dinner using our propane stove rather than set up a table with the barbeque. Afterwards, we wandered through the mall before settling down with a cup of tea and something to read.

We had chosen not to use the generator for electricity so as the natural light faded, so did we. The dinette was converted into a bed, the curtains were pulled and we settled in for the night. This was our first night boondocking.

Boondocking, isn’t that a funny word? It means ‘camping without services’. I’ve also heard it called dry camping, but that isn’t nearly as interesting as saying, boondocking! Just using the word makes me feel like an adventurer! Who knew I’d be so happy to spend the night sleeping in a parking lot!

The next day we drove to our destination city and parked overlooking a river for lunch. Kamloops viewpointIt was peaceful and Brian and I each stretched out on one of the dinette benches. He had a nap while I spent some time reading. We changed in the van for the birthday barbeque before joining the party.  I was appreciating this lifestyle more and more.

After the party, we set up camp in the host’s driveway, where we plugged in and had the convenience of lights to read by.

Our trip home was leisurely as we stopped at fruit stands and anywhere else that captured our interest. To maximize fuel economy we drove slower than we would have in our car. This turned out to be a benefit rather than a deterrent as we arrived home more relaxed than normal.

There are still some adjustments to be made before we will be ready for a longer trip.

I appreciate having a bathroom, but have to learn how to manoeuvre in one so tiny, the only way to lean over the little sink is to sit on the toilet! I also need to announce when I am opening the door to avoid hitting my husband with it. The compact space requires consideration for the other at all times. This is a skill I can always use more practice in.

All in all, I’d say that Vanessa’s trial run was a success.  So much so that I think we’ll do it again. We are heading to a Gospel Music Celebration next weekend and plan on taking Vanessa with us.