Back to Thunder Bay
Our drive distance was purposely short today, allowing us to do some touristy things along the way. We stopped at a Flying J, west of Thunder Bay, parked the motorhome with the trucks and took to our Jeep to see the local attraction.
We visited a couple of Amethyst mines and took a guided tour of one to learn more about my birthstone and its mining process in the heart of amethyst country. The mining process was interesting but the hoards of black flies limited our outdoor time. Back in the Jeep and away from the flies, we also took a drive out to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
The tourist attraction behind us, we reconnected with the motorhome and continued to Thunder Bay’s Trowbridge Falls Campground for the next couple of days. Trowbridge Falls Campground was nice, with lots of room but it was also another example of campgrounds managed by non-RVers. The person checking us in did not know where the services where located at our site and sent us in the wrong direction, forcing us to make an 8-point turn with our 43 ft motorhome in the limited sani-dump area.
Rest Stop boondocking
This was a long drive with little to see other than visitor attraction statues in the towns along the way. They displayed everything from flying saucers to wolves and moose. The road was a good 2-lane highway with minimal grade changes or curves - an easy but long drive.
We had hoped to boondocks between Beadmore and Nipigon but there was little available and some towns, like Orient Bay, which had ample space around the Visitor Information Centre, had no overnight parking signs erected. We ended up finding a roadside rest area south of Orient Bay that we shared with a few trucks.
Visiting the bears
Algonquin Provincial Park Day Trip
We had not included Algonquin Park in our original travel plan but it was recommended by many both from my Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/thervmentor), friends and family. So, we altered our plan and took a circle tour around Algonquin.
North Bay, ON
It was time to leave the overpopulated southern Ontario region and venture north on Hwy-11. There were not many campgrounds to choose from in North Bay so we chose to save a few bucks and stay at the local Walmart. We normally only stay a single night at a Walmart but we again changed our plans and stayed two nights so we could drive through Algonquin Park.
Muskoka Day Trip
We started Leg 2 with a spontaneous change of plan. Instead of heading north on Hwy-11 to North Bay, we stayed an additional night at our site in Hawkstone, ON and used that time to take a drive through the Lake Muskoka area. The scenery was exceptional ranging from lush green forest and numerous blue lakes to buildings that take you back in time.
We stopped to check out some of the old buildings, view cranberry bogs and see sights such as Bracebridge Falls. After a short drive along lake side homes we stopped for lunch before working our way back to the motorhome.
End of Leg 2
Leg 2 of our trip has been mostly about visiting friends and family and as a result, I don't have any new pictures to post. In addition to enjoying time with distant family members, we were able to get our generator repairs completed and where able to begin Leg 3 of our journey with a fully functional RV. Preparations for Leg 2 started back in late March making reservations to ensure we could get locations as close as possible to our local destinations. From here on, through to Alberta, we'll be staying at smaller community campgrounds and boondocking, travelling with only a vague plan and a very loose schedule, and hopefully, we'll be able to stop and take more photos. We are also looking forward to some relief from the very high cost of campgrounds in the southern Ontario region with sites frequently running in the $75/nt range for only moderate quality locations.
Return to Canada
Rather than drive the motorhome through Detroit and through the narrow two-lane construction on Ambassador Bridge, we chose to drive the longer distance to Flint, MI and cross back into Canada over the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia, ON. It was a good choice as the roads and driving were far better.
Our first night back in Canada was at Camper’s Corner Campground near London, ON. It was a campground I won’t be visiting again for multiple reasons and the 1-star review I posted online provides the details.
Timing presented the conundrum of returning to Canada on the first long weekend of the spring and trying to find a campsite or staying in the US for the May 24th weekend. We chose to stay at the county fairground campsite near Ann Arbor, MI and spend a few days touring Detroit and Toledo.
We also used this time to take our motorhome to a Cummins RV Center near Flint, MI to resolve a generator issue. Unfortunately, after spending $300 for labour, all they were able to do was tell us the problem was a sensor which they did not have in stock. We called ahead and hope to have the sensor replaced later in Hamilton, ON.
Leg 2: Motown, Niagara, friends & family
With our fridge working better than ever, we begin leg 2 of our journey focused on visiting friends and family in southern Ontario. The next couple of weeks won’t involve much travel in our motorhome and with only a little local touring in our tow car.
Note: The posts for the next while were delayed due to a string of campgrounds that did not provide any wi-fi service.
We planned to explore Manitoba and Saskatchewan this summer but had a lingering problem of a nonfunctioning Norcold fridge. This lead to an extension to our range, taking us down to Indiana to have our old style absorption fridge upgraded to one using a compressor. This would dramatically increase the efficiency of our fridge, eliminate the Norcold fire risk and provide an easier installation and more energy efficient solution than a residential fridge.
We chose to go with a 12-volt cooling system, wired directly to our motorhomes house batteries. A standard Norcold absorption fridge requires a 24-hour cool down to reach a food-safe operating temperature. Our Dutch Aire upgrade brings that time down to about 2 hours. It operates solely on 12-volt DC power and can run for a couple of days on stored battery power alone and almost indefinitely when the batteries are recharged by our solar panel.
This unit replaces the cooling unit behind the Norcold fridge so it looks unchanged from the interior. It incorporates two compressors, one for the fridge and another for the freezer. The upgrade, installation and installation of hard-wiring to the batteries cost under $2,000.
It appeared we were the only vehicle heading from Canada to the US as we drove across the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. This was the first time we had taken our motorhome into the US in years due to Linda's brush with cancer in late 2018 followed by the pandemic. We drove south to just north of Grand Rapids, MI, stopping to fill up our diesel tank with 100+ gals at $5.20 (USD), the best price we had seen in awhile.
When you pull up behind an Amish horse and buggy, you know you have reached northern Indiana. Though our days-end destination was Shipshewana, our first stop was at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Our HydroHot heating system frequently failed to start, so we arranged to meet a hydronic heating specialist who serviced it in the parking lot. One of the great things about RVing in this part of the country is that RV service people are plentiful and experienced.
With a working heating and hot water system, we drove the remaining few miles to Shipshewana and parked for the night at JC Refrigeration, the destination for Leg 1 of our 2022 summer journey.
We drove through pea-soup thick fog much of the day driving around the northern shore of Lake Superior. We all discovered that many drivers cannot be bothered to turn on their lights when driving in bad conditions like this. A good example is the black pickup truck that chose to stop in the middle of the highway, waiting to make a left-hand turn. Once the fog cleared and the memory of that truck faded, we had a great drive with spectacular views of the lake.
Our campground for that evening, Wawa RV Resort & Campground, provided a great resting spot with full-service drive-thru sight just a short walk from the river.
In the morning we enjoyed a drive into town to visit The Goose and have breakfast with the locals.
The drive down to Sault Ste. Marie was uneventful and we were looking forward to a 2-night stop to rest up before venturing south into the US. The rest day also allowed us to have a look around Sault Ste. Marie and possibly improve the image left from 2016 when we last came through here and had a terrible campground experience.
We re-visited the canal locks, had a look at the huge Algoma Steel plant and drove through several of the residential areas as well as the small downtown area.
Our two days in Sault Ste. Marie gave us a fresh perspective on the city.
Leaving a sodden Winnipeg, the open prairies changed to woodlands and the first glimpses of the glacial worn Canadian Shield appeared as we entered Ontario.
Fortunately, our prior travels had taught me that a reservation does not assure you of having a campsite. Davy Lake Campground, where we had a reservation, had not yet opened due to lingering snow. A few phone calls, before leaving Winnipeg, found us a new location at Wabigoon Lake RV Park. This turned out great as this small campground had 85 ft pull-thru, full-service sights for only $38 per night.
This change in overnight location altered our daily mileage but this section of the trip was short days so it was easy to adjust.
Our forced change in campsites was not the only indicator that winter was trying to hang on here. Most of the snow was gone but patches remained in the trees and on the shady sides of slopes. Most evident was the snow-melt swollen rivers and streams and the ice breaking up on the many lakes.
We had travelled through this region in 2016 and little had changed but it is still a beautiful area. The roads are mostly two-lane rather than four and the have more curves and certainly more hills than Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A major plus though is the asphalt is also in much better condition, offering a smoother ride that does not threaten to shake your RV apart.
We stopped at Happy Land RV Park in Kakabeka Falls, just west of Thunder Bay. Half of their campsites were open with the remainder still awaiting snow removal.
Pulling out of Wetaskiwin, AB, we began our trek across the prairies and I was reminded as to why I never enjoyed this portion of the journey east. Eastern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have some great sights such as farm fields as far as you can see plus weathered old homes and churches. Unfortunately, these sights are few in comparison to the endless boring miles of driving.
The roads through Alberta were a mixture of good and okay, the quality diminished in Saskatchewan and then generally improved in Manitoba. One of my memories of this prairie drive will be the constant side wind. Even though our motor coach handles cross-wind well, my arms could feel the strain at the end of each day.
As we neared the junction of Hwy-16 and the Trans-Canada west of Portage la Prairie, MB we found flooded fields and overflowing streams everywhere. At times, the highway was a single strip of dry land surrounded by water.
We stayed at Town and Country Campground on the east side of Winnipeg. Our plan was to stay here two nights, giving us a chance to recharge and get RV chores and laundry done. Unfortunately, upon arrival at the campground we were informed that their water lines were still frozen so we had to fill at the office and use on-board water. Then, getting into an RV site proved challenging with narrow roadways, a lack of adequate turn-in space for big rigs and waterlogged sites.
Our stabilizing-jacks sank in the first site, even with wooden blocks under the pads. We found another site that worked better, leaving tire ruts at its entrance. Another big rig faired worse and had to be pulled out with a tractor. Leaving was a challenge also as I could see soft ground on the corner we had to negotiate when leaving. I gunned it through and left a set of foot deep dually ruts on the driver side as a warning to the next rig.
Two days of driving and then some family visit time.
Our drive from Valemount to Wetaskiwin was uneventful but the scenery through to Jasper was as great as ever, including stopping for sheep on the road. We stayed at a new RV park outside Edmonton (Camp'N Class in Stony Plain, AB) that was nice and a new location in Wetaskiwin (Westview RV Park). In previous years we stayed at the Lion's Campground in Wetaskiwin but their rates keep climbing and the staff get worse each year. This new location costs a little more but they are easy entry/exit, 50-amp full service sites.click to view Image Gallery
Today's drive was almost twice that of our average travel day but good roads and weather made it easy. We went in and out of construction zones the entire day with the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion following our route most of the way.
Our campsite in Valemount (iRVin's RV Park & Campground) is new for us. Though rather plain in appearance, it has 50-amp full-service pull-thru campsites that are easy to get in and out of.
Valemount is a small community of 1,200, nestled in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks.click to view Image Gallery
Day 1 - Departure
Having pre-loaded all but our electronics and fridge items, today started by simply starting up the motorhome and driving out of the storage yard.
Departure day is accompanied by angst; did we forget anything, what still has to be done, battling traffic getting out of town, etc. To help make a trip enjoyable, we start with a short day, stopping at a full-service campsite to de-winterize and complete our road readiness tasks. The next morning we are already out of the urban bustle, our rig is sorted and we're ready to begin the journey.click to view Image Gallery
Last Minute Hustle
Our departure date is only three days away and we're scrambling. A good deal of our "stuff' is loaded and ready to go with only clothing, refrigerated food and a few odd and ends left.
Adding to the last minute hustle is a desire to release the new Boondocking Campsites system in The RV mentor websites. Our first two weeks on the road will be daily driving to reach Indiana so little time will be available for website and FB group tasks.
I am a technology geek. I spent 30-years immersed in technology development and now I use technology to improve my RV experience. One of my goals in this blog is to share how I use tech tools and resources as we explore our RV world.
Some of this may be included in tech topic posts and sometimes it will be in "Mentor Tips" listed below a blog post, suggesting how you might include these resources and information to enhance your RV journey.
Preparing to "Chill Out"
"Chill Out" is our summer of 2022 RV adventure — a short 7,300-mile road trip from southwestern British Columbia and back along a somewhat convoluted path.
Fuel costs will be high but we'll get to revisit friends and family along the way and see some places we've not previously had the opportunity to enjoy.
Why the name "Chill Out"? You'll find out after we get to Indiana.