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Monday, July 23, 2012

Road Trips: Ode to the Road in an RV

Nice story about some Canadian friends renting an RV and going on a road trip in Canada. Link to their site follows.
Iris Benaroia  Jul 21, 2012 – 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Jul 20, 2012 1:50 PM ET
After the water from the dogs’ dishes splashes across the floor for the ninth time, we learn the first Newtonian rule of RV travel: An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
In our case, the force is created by a Coachmen Leprechaun Class C motorhome. She’s no lady. On crummier roads, the 30-foot-long apartment on wheels reels and rocks, its contents jangling so intensely it’s like Godzilla is shaking the vehicle.
“Immobilize the apples!” I yell above the clamour, as fruit poltergeists through the cabin.
Two weeks ago, I loaned the RV through Go RVing Canada at a dealership called Motor Home Travel in Bolton, Ont., with a plan to explore Ontario over one week; an idea that emerged, as these shenanigans often do, over several bottles of pinot grigio with my boyfriend, Massimo, and our friends, Alex and Jeff.
“It’ll be like Breaking Bad, minus the meth,” I say. “We’ll get a pimped-out RV.”
Massimo’s 80-pound Thai Ridgeback, Rocky, and Alex and Jeff’s Wheaten Terrier, Mishka, will also come along for the ride, despite their vastly different agendas: Rocky is drawn to air-conditioning and king-size mattresses while Mishka, in her pink Martha Stewart collar, likes parties and the outdoors. They would never hook up in a personals ad.
We map out a counterclockwise circle of Ontario starting in Bolton. Then to Huntsville, with a stay in Algonquin Park and Grundy Lake in French River country, through  Sudbury, Espanola and across Manitoulin Island to South Baymouth, where we (and the RV) hop the ferry Chi-Cheemaun — that’s “big canoe” in Ojibwa — for three nights in Tobermory. The undisputed highlight of the trip. The route back will take us through Wiarton, Sauble Beach and Southampton.
Among many, there’s a notion RV travel is for hard-up hillbillies and gypsies — to the contrary. The Leprechaun’s quarters are kitted out with a kitchen, shower, toilet, table and sleeping accommodations for eight. Jeff and Alex recommend bringing your own padding for the bunk over the driver’s zone: “My back would have been a mess without my memory foam,” Jeff says, after the first night.
As the days pass, we perfect a rapid ritual: unplug RV, throw chairs in back boot, go. The best thing about this style of travel is it allows you to rough it in the bush on your own terms. You can enjoy the woods and the lake, but there’s no waking up in a hot sticky tent or animal-style squat releases on dirt. And in the 30C heat, who isn’t grateful for ice for frosty margaritas and air-conditioned nights on real beds?
But like any “house,” the RV needs regular attention. For juice, it must be plugged in at the camp or operates on a generator. And one (the boys, in our case) must dispose of the human waste through a hose that runs into the ground. Ditto filling the water tank.
“I’ve just discovered the poo stop is the water cooler of the RV universe,” Massimo says, standing next to a sign to mind the baby fox at Rock Lamp camp in Algonquin. “I talked with this couple ahead of us from Hamilton about our rig,” he says. “They like it, but they say many parks can’t accommodate rigs over 27 feet.” (Who knew?)
Liquids flushed and filled, we leave Algonquin’s birches, pines and bedrock and memories of steaks over an open fire, divine cherry danishes we bought in Huntsville at Henrietta’s Pine Bakery, and canoe rides for our next step: Grundy Lake.
On Highway 69, we pass cryptic country graffiti —“the Soo Crew,” “Burt and Sheila 4ever,” “Yevan 2007” and a moose. But the scenery changes at the White Birch campground.
Divided into forest pods, the lots at this national park are more private than at Algonquin, with tall thickets to cradle campsites and the wildlife, bald eagles, bears and chipmunks.
Barefoot children ride bikes and people roam in whispered tones. Some families, such as the Treachers from St. Catharines, spend months in the bush, sequestered in an elaborate set-up with carpets and dining zones.
The next day, rapid ritual complete, we go north in Bruce County. Just when I think I’ve become an expert camper, who has seen my share of nature, our vacation veers into foreign territory. How is it I knew nothing of Toberymory’s breathtaking Flowerpot Island with its towering shale formations and sea caves? Or the postcard-perfect marina, Little Tub harbour, dotted with local whitefish-and-chip stands, colourful clapboard cottages and boats named Mamie? The former’s turquoise waters look like Aruba’s. The latter feels like Maine.
After pulling into camp, a privately owned affair called the Village of Tobermory where the firewood is delivered by golf carts to your RV by a family member, and a petting zoo and pool is ideal for those with children, we drop off the rig.
On the first day, we take the Bruce Anchor boat to Flowerpot Island. It’s glass so you can see the sunken shipwrecks beneath the sparkling water. There are more than 22 and several historic lighthouses, our guide Mark, a friendly sailor dude with a sunburned nose, tells us. Also the 490-acre island, part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, has the largest concentration of orchids in North America, and a springy bright green moss terrain so perfect, it looks like a film set.
Out of the forest, Massimo and I unpack sandwiches and pour wine into cups on a rock. Our spread is next to one of the flowerpots (there are two) — those would be the shale formations on its eastern shores. “How does a kid from Toronto not have these amazing structures seared into his brain so that they appear every time somebody mentions the word Tobermory?” Massimo asks.
It’s true, and I wonder why images of this bit of the Bruce Peninsula aren’t as iconic as, say, shots of Niagara Falls.
Nevertheless, tourists know of it. The next day, we go on a 20-minute forest hike in Cyprus Lake Provincial Park hearing German, Spanish and Japanese. There’s a clearing, then paradise. The view is straight out of the Caribbean: turquoise water and cliffs. (The grotto itself is a magical cave with pristine water.)
I park myself on the limestone rock, with the rest of the people in bathing suits on this 35C day. “Can you believe this? Get in here!” Alex yells, dripping wet in a bikini by the shore.
Uncharacteristically, the dogs have finally sobered. Rocky is as still as a concrete lion, staring at the scuba divers jumping off a boat into the water. Even he seems to understand, it is a strange sight to behold in Ontario.
RV rentals
Rates vary by season — a July week in the Leprechaun costs $2,300 at Motor Home Travel, which offers a variety of vehicles with slide-outs for extra space and handy back-up cameras. On pick-up day, they give you a half-hour tutorial and a detailed binder with phone numbers, photos and troubleshooting tips. We were quickly helped on the road after our A/C wouldn’t turn on following a tripped breaker. Visitmotorhometravel.comor call 416-743-4155 for more information.
Where to stay
There are 450 independently owned and operated campgrounds and RV parks in Ontario. Most offer laundry facilities. We were amazed by how clean the showers were and that they were private. It’s important to reserve a spot early to snag a prime location by the waterfront. For sites, see Go RVing Canada.Campsites cost $25 to $55 per night and are a nature-lover’s dream, where you can rent an hourly canoe, kayak or paddleboat and see loads of wildlife. We stayed at these two public parks: Algonquin Provincial Park, Rock Lake campground (visit for more information) and Grundy Lake (visit and follow the links or call 705-383-2286 for more information).
We also spent three nights at Tobermory Village Campground, a quaint, family-owned affair with a splashpad, pool and petting zoo. Taxi service to town costs $10. or call 519-596-2689.
Where to eat
Lucky you, an RV is equipped with a fridge. We stocked up at Costco, barbecuing most of the time, except for these stops:
• Spencer’s Tall Trees in Huntsville has an old-world feel, with simple classics such as terrific pan-seared pickerel with a yummy maple butter sauce. Grandview, a 40-year-old family resto in Tobermory, has upmarket fare (our favourite was the calamari puttanesca), a great wine list and a killer view of the water from their flower-filled patio.
• On our way back, we stopped at the Elk & Finch in Southampton, sampling pastry chef Marjorie Sawyer’s incredible desserts. Best: ooey-gooey caramel tart.
Go RVing Canada
Need a rig? This friendly association whose cute tagline is “the best things in life RV” offers advice for RVers, new or seasoned. Visit or call 1-866-470-3828 for more information.
Travel support provided by Go RVing Canada
Posted in: Life, Travel  Tags: Road Trips


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