After a comfortable night in a Walmart parking lot in west Regina Zucca and I fired up the Vanagon Westfalia and hit the road aiming for Calgary (well almost Calgary). Connie and Archer were flying into Calgary the next day and the plan was to pick them up and head to Banff.
After a warm and sunny drive across the remainder of the prairies and into Alberta I decided to stop early and check into Kinbrook Island Provincial Park about 2 hours south of Calgary. This park offers a great public beach area and more importantly a separate dog friendly area off the campsite where Zucca could go for a well deserved swim.
I got a chance to use the new Fiamma Awning on a sunny day, it works great and the set-up time is ridiculously quick. I will review it later after a few more uses.
Got up early at Kakabeka Falls PP and hit the road at 7:30 am, deciding to get a few miles out of the way before stopping for breakfast. After a while on the road west of Thunder Bay I pulled into Ullom’s English Shores Outfitters and Resort for a bite to eat. It was a Ma and Pa resort that was obviously geared to hunters and anglers, right down to the camo upholstered seats. Breakfast was quite tasty and served up quickly with the entertainment of listening to some locals banter back and forth about “the city”. Worth a stop if you’re looking for meal with a view for a reasonable price.
Given my obvious 401 centric knowledge of Ontario I learned 2 things on this drive that I never realized before. Thunder Bay is not close to the Ontario/Manitoba Boarder and Ontario actually has 2 time zones, learning is fun in a Westfalia!
After about 4 hours of driving I finally hit the Manitoba boarder and things get prairie like very quickly with the endless hills of Northern Ontario in my rear view and flat land ahead of me the pace picked up a bit and the kilometers started adding up a little faster.
After a third day of a well running Vanagon I decided to call it a day on the west side of Regina with another first for me, Walmart camping. Many Walmarts across North America have a policy that allows RV’s to overnight park in their lots for no charge, I assume they make money off the majority who shop in the morning and it’s also a form of free security. Proving this theory right I bought a couple of small things in the morning and it’s a pretty rare day when I shop at Walmart.
We decided to spend a little bit extra on a quality camp store since it would be the primary piece of our kitchen for our 5 week Westfalia road trip. Based on reviews and a solid reputation we chose the Primus Fire Hole 200 camp stove.
First impressions weren’t great since we had to return the first one due to a QC defect with welding of the grill. More to come as we use this along the way.
With my first night of Boondocking behind me Zucca the 3 year old Portuguese Water Dog and I headed north towards Thunder Bay of course with a quick stop in Wawa for a picture with the goose.
This day was a straight through day with no stops along the way for food until we arrived at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park just past Thunder Bay. It was about 6pm and I was beyond hungry so I made spaghetti on our new Primus Fire Hole 200 camp stove (Review here) as fast as possible with no fancy what so ever.
This was the first night I had a chance to camp with our Vw Vanagon Westfalia with a complete setup. It was exciting to get to test out all the items we’d put together for this trip.
Kakabeka Falls Provincial park was a welcome place to camp and rest after a long day of driving. Zucca and I had dinner and then went for a fairly short walk to the Waterfall, its pretty impressive in the middle of the woods.
After a full day of work it was finally time to start our 6 week family adventure. Since we had loaded the Vanagon a few days earlier it was just a case of a some last minute items and hit the road, sort of.
Just as I was about to pull out Connie announced she had lost her cell phone. After a 20 minute search and rescue Zucca and I were on the road…in traffic!
After a crappy bout of bumper to bumper, things finally cleared up past Barrie and I had clear sailing all the way to Parry Sound where I ran out of gas literally pulling into a gas station. Lesson 1 – a 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia that shows a half tank of gas might not really have that much. New rule, fill the Vanagon up once it shows half a tank.
I found a tip on an RV forum that the information centre in Blind River was lenient towards over nighting in the parking lot. As I learned this is called boondocking in the RV world. Being my first boondocking experience it helped me feel safe since there was a police station next door. Up at 6am and on the road!
So my wife and I made the decision to both take off time towards the end of her maternity leave to spend some bonding time with our 10 month old boy Archer and our furry child Zucca.
What did we decide was the best way to spend this time you ask? Well driving around North America in a VW Vanagon Westfalia of course. 3 months before the set trip date we started an exhaustive search that quickly expanded out from Ontario to cover North America. After a few missed opportunities we located one in Victoria BC that fit the bill and had it shipped to its new home by train.
Our new Westfalia arrived in Toronto 2 weeks before I was scheduled to leave. Not much time to get it safetied, emission tested and have the accessories we felt would be necessary for the trip. More about them later.
Trying to get things sorted with work proved to be a little more time consuming than anticipated but with some late nights the van was ready for its maiden voyage with 0 days to spare.
Jason and Zucca the 3 year old Portuguese Water Dog would drive from Toronto to Calgary over 4 days and pick up Connie and Archer at the Calgary Airport. From there there is a loose plan that involves Banff AB, Salmon Arm BC, Hope BC, Naniamo BC, Seattle WA, Portland OR, then over to the Oregon Coast and head south to Cali then a left up Route 66 towards home. Simple plan with a 23 year old Van, an 11 month old and a dog right? Well day one proved that this plan was meant to be broken.