We have come to the end of our strange wanderings with trailers and motor homes, but I have been persuaded to add some retrospectives, so the blog becomes part of the “family folklore” and might entertain the odd other person.
While I did not start this blog until several years after we entered the RV world, I did write about some of our early days “on the road” in a series of Christmas letters to family and friends. These were intended as an antidote to those letters that documented perfect lives, well-behaved children, and wonderful vacations. So I documented some of the “bad things” that happened, knowing that most people revel in the misfortunes of others. Not tragic events of course, and as I had to point out later, we actually had some great times, among the minor disasters. These are some extracts about those early days on the road, with some pictures that were originally on real film (remember those days?). However that first year there were few pictures, so there are just a few general shots to illustrate this entry. More later when we went further afield.
1998 — The Year Of The Trailer
Our first experience of a house trailer (or caravan as the English and Gypsies call it) started in January in Orangeville, as far from orange trees as could be imagined. The tops of a hundred or so trailers and motor-homes, generally known as RVs, peeked out of the snowdrifts and the wind roared in from the Arctic with a vengeance. A group of salesmen gathered round our old van, hardly daring to believe that there might be a “prospect”. The largest salesmen elbowed the others aside, and with a smile as wide as the gap in his fleece-lined hood, said: “Hi, I’m Dave. Come inside and have a coffee while we discuss your needs.
To digress, Moscow gets all the publicity, but in winter, Canada is actually much colder, most of the time. We suited up and waded through half-ploughed paths to a lost and lonely corner of the field. It took five minutes to chip the ice off the door, but eventually we entered a dark cave that resembled a butcher’s freezer. When we returned to the sales shed and brushed the ice off our eyebrows, we felt so sorry for Dave that we bought the thing. Deposit down, balance in April when it could be dug out.
Although this was only a 22 foot “tag-along” trailer, we needed a bigger and stronger van. You think haggling for a trailer is lengthy? Try a new van –also in January when sales people have nothing else to do but sell you ‘options’ and negotiate. Since we knew we would be pulling a trailer, we agreed on the heavy duty alternator, and the ‘weight distributing tow package’. Back to the trailer supplier to talk with their ‘technical type’. “Hmmm, Hummmm,” he hummed, like Winnie-the-Pooh round a beehive. “You’ve only got a receiver; the hitch is extra –shouldn’t be more than three hundred. Oh-oh –you’ll need a brake controller for those electric brakes. Best you get that from the van supplier.” The van people mumbled about umbilicals and such, eventually talked to the trailer guy, and told me how much more it would all cost.
April finally came, and we waded through the mud to pick up our new pride and joy. After a compressed course on compressed gas dangers, hitch hazards, electrical exotics and a plethora of plumbing, we cautiously drove it home. Lest you think that there really was zero good news in 1998, we got our first break. Jim, the guy opposite, drove tractor-trailers –the enormous ones. He directed me (between chuckles) as I reversed the trailer on to our front lawn, which was the only place to put the beast. Most of the other neighbours turned out to watch (covering their ears of course), and in fact did not tire of this activity until mid-summer, when I achieved a modest measure of competence. I did suggest that they all pay a dollar ‘amusement tax’. They pointed out that it was ‘marginal’ from a zoning viewpoint to park a 22-foot trailer on a front lawn, and I should count myself dam’ lucky that they didn’t file an objection with the Village. I invited them all into the trailer for a beer, and said there should be no more talk of such matters!
We trailed around various antique shows, lost the dog a couple of times, and survived bugs, heat, hail and gales and just missed a tornado. August came and we went on our first holiday with the trailer. A week near Parry Sound on Georgian Bay (Lake Huron), with the grandchildren who were then around 10 years old. Louise joined us in her tent.
Idyllic spot on a lake, and this time we had a ‘plug-in’ so we could use the air conditioner against the heat. Awning out, barbecue steaks and a bottle of good California Cabernet Sauvignon. Happy family! This is the life … until about 7 a.m. Sunday morning … the traditional time for hell to break loose. Wind, rain, lightning and continuous thunder. Elaine and I grabbed the minimum of decent clothing and shot out of the trailer. Louise came out of her tent in some sort of night attire, and we all wrestled with the awning, which was threatening to turn the whole works into a hang glider. Elaine got the wrong end of the awning as it tipped … 20 gallons of water over her. When we could draw a breath we found the whole site in a foot of water, and realized we had just missed our second tornado of the year. The grandsons watched through the window and were agog … and nearly died laughing.
I won’t bore you with the ‘day the fridge broke’ or the ‘day the gas leaked’. These are just routine incidents in the “Year Of The Trailer”. We’ve never had so much fun! Then came winter, and we bravely decided to hitch up the trailer and head for Arizona … land of deserts, cacti, rattlesnakes, black widow spiders and bark scorpions.
Enough for one posting –the first long trip had its own tribulations. Stay tuned.
John (and Elaine – the long-suffering traveling wife).