Cabin fever hit us hard during Ontario’s last lockdown. But what were our options? Buy a cottage? Too expensive. Move to an island and work remotely? Oh, so tempting but not feasible.
“I got it!” I turned to my partner as we were binge-watching Oak Island, an addictive reality show that chronicles a treasure hunt on a Nova Scotian isle. “Let’s get an RV!”
“We could go anywhere,” I continued. “It’ll be our own travelling bubble! Freedom!”
“Let’s think about it,” Grant answered noncommittedly and turned his attention back to the mysteries being unearthed on the east coast.
But my mind, already racing and gripped by stir craziness, clicked into obsession mode as I scoured Kijiji ads and researched types of RVs. It turned out I wasn’t the only one RV dreaming.
According to a CTV news report, RV sales have spiked since the pandemic with a significantly higher mix of first-time buyers. And a CBC newscast warned that problems with the supply chain meant “potentially long waits for new buyers.”
“We have to buy one now!” I told Grant.
But he wasn’t grasping the urgency of the situation and instead told me that they had just found a Spanish coin on Oak Island.
“You know we could visit Oak Island if we had an RV,” I mentioned casually.
With my partner now on board, we started planning and booking appointments for viewings. Brimming with excitement, I told everyone about our RV plans. But some thought we were hasty.
“Shouldn’t you try it out first?” my mom advised.
“Have you seen the movie RV with Robin Williams?” asked a friend. “You really should watch it before you buy one.”
That evening we chuckled, as Robin Williams smashed into mailboxes while reversing his monster RV; we laughed out loud when he was covered in ‘black water’, trying to empty the tank. (BTW: There are three types of water on an RV: drinking water, greywater from sinks and showers and black water from the toilet).
“You know, it might be a good idea to rent an RV before we invest?”
And that’s exactly what we did. Two months later, at the end of June, travel begun to open up, and we hit the road with our Midi Motorhome from CanaDream. This Canadian-based company has a fleet of over 1000 RVs in cities across the country, including Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Whitehouse, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Their vehicles range from Van Campers designed for two to the Maxi Plus Motorhome that fits four adults and three children comfortably. We chose the Midi Motorhome, which was roomy enough to give our teenage daughter some privacy and had all the comforts of home, but on a smaller scale: air conditioner, furnace, shower, toilet, refrigerator, freezer, a queen-sized bed, two twin beds and dining table.
On the Road
For the first hour or so, I thought I might pass out from holding my breath. The strong winds shook the vehicle, and I thought we would be blown into the next lane. Fortunately, as the vehicle stayed its course and as the traffic lessened driving out of Toronto, I began to breathe regularly.
Our first destination was the beautiful 1000 Islands, located three hours east of Toronto. We picked a private campground, the Ivy League KOA, both for its location and amenities, particularly the internet, as my daughter still had three days left of classes. With its outdoor pool, huge bouncy ‘pillow’ trampoline, hiking trails and store, it felt like a family-friendly resort. Highlights included:
Biking the St. Lawrence Recreational Trail. Running along the 1000 Island Parkway, this scenic off-road route stretches from Gananoque to Butternut Bay, near Brockville. It was an absolute pleasure to ride with views of the St. Lawrence, attractions en route and even wildlife sightings. We were thrilled to encounter a fox on one of our rides. The bike path was accessible from the campground, and it was approximately 15 km to the pretty town of Gananoque, where we had lunch at Stonewater Pub.
Hiking at Landon Bay. Only a 20-minute bike ride from our campsite, this 225-acre property is part of the 1000 Island National Park, which consists of 26 islands and parts of the mainland. The trails took us through all the features of the UNESCO-recognized Biosphere Reserve: old-growth forest, ancient granite outcroppings and marshlands. The Lookout Trail led us to a huge granite slab atop a hill looking over Landon Bay, the St. Lawrence River and a few of the region’s 1864 islands. The Avalanche Pass lived up to its name with boulders big and small strewn along it, and a wooden platform provided a view of an osprey nest, a majestic eagle-like bird native to the region. It was everything we could have wished for in a hike, including a wishing tree, circa 1850. My wish came true watching my teenage daughter climb the tree.
On the road again, we headed to Merrickville, an endearing village on the banks of the Rideau Canal about 80 km south of Ottawa. The small town charmed us immediately with its main street lined with boutiques, artist studios and cafés, as well as its locks surrounded by picnic-table-dotted parkland. And our campsite, The Lions Club of Merrickville Campground, was located right on the canal and smack dab in the middle of it all.
Walking on Main Street, ice cream and coffee from local purveyors were first on the agenda. Treats in hand, we wandered over to watch a boat navigate the locks on the canal. We picked up a few provisions, including some freshly baked sourdough bread and scones at Nana Bs, a family-run bakery that came highly recommended. Next, a patio dinner and people watching at Main Street Family Restaurant. An evening stroll watching the sunset from the shores of the river finished off our day.
After a morning paddleboard jaunt, we followed the Rideau Canal, driving up to our nation’s capital. Our home for the next two nights was the Wesley Clover Campground. Though it was just a 20-minute drive from downtown, you’d never know it. Our site was surrounded by forest, and as we breathed the oxygen-rich air, we felt more relaxed than we had for a long time. Highlights included:
Biking the Rideau Canal Promenade. Ottawa has an impressive 980 kilometres of bike trails. We parked our RV at the Canadian Food and Agricultural Museum and cycled along the canal to the city centre to see the parliament buildings. Since every good bike ride deserves a reward, we stopped for succulent desserts and a cappuccino at the Canal Ritz, a patio overlooking the canal.
Exploring the Ottawa River. On yet another stellar bike ride, we could access the trails straight from our campsite and traversed sections of the trans-Canada trail before pedalling along the Ottawa River. We often stopped to enjoy some of the parks along the way. Once again, I was struck by the vastness of Ottawa’s green spaces. We even saw deer on the trail.
There was so much more we wanted to do in Ottawa, but our week was over, and we reluctantly drove back to Toronto and handed over the keys.
We thoroughly enjoyed our first RV adventure with CanaDream. What I appreciated most was having such a high level of comfort so close to nature. If the temperature dipped, we turned on the furnace. Too hot? The air conditioner worked in minutes. When the bugs got bad at dusk, we played cards inside for a bit until it was safe for the campfire and s’mores. Our nights were very comfortable, which meant we had the energy to enjoy our active vacation thoroughly.
Fortunately, there were no Robin-Williams-like moments disposing of the waste, which was a straightforward (but not pleasant) task. And by the end of the trip, driving took less effort. We learned to take the scenic route with slower highways and stop often for breaks or to change drivers.
So, are we buying an RV? Maybe. There are some details to sort out, such as storage.
Would we rent one again? Absolutely! We still have to get to Oak Island, after all.