Top 10 Lessons Learned On The Road (So Far)
We have officially surpassed the one-month mark of living full-time in our RV! In the past month we’ve spent one week totally off-grid, attended 3 festivals, stopped for food or gas in 22 communities, stayed in 5 different campgrounds, camped in 3 different backyards, and driven over 2000 kilometers through two provinces – all in our 25 foot, 1979 Okanagan Camper with our 4 yrd old daughter and our temperamental cat!
Along the way we have been promoting our business, hoopplay.ca, and gearing up for 5 weeks of hula-hoop fitness Instructor Training events across Alberta. There have been some amazing ups and some devastating downs, but all-in-all its not much different from the ups and downs of life before! Here are the Top 10 Lessons we have learned so far:
#1: When You Take a Chance on a New Festival/Event, Remember You Are Taking a Chance!
Ah, the festival that we will not name… .
We found out about 2 days before our arrival that 2/3 of the music was cancelled, but we trucked on hoping we would enjoy what was on stage 3. Not long after we arrived other vendors starting packing up, since about 6 members of the public wandered through (compared to the 500 attendees/day they were promised). The music was over by 930pm every night, but we couldn’t hear it from our vending booth anyway. There were no “happy festival vibes,” considering the volunteers/organizers left our workshop halfway through and wouldn’t even check out our booth.
But the real kicker was on Sunday, when we saw volunteers wondering around carrying Tim Hortons cups from the city – right past the independent food vendors selling fresh brewed coffee. We made a whopping $40, spent it all on food vendors, and promptly left (early). On the bright side: we met some amazing vendors who shared encouraging stories and advice!
#2: Website Descriptions Do Not Always Match Reality
This place we will name: Kenaston, the Bermuda Triangle of Saskatchewan! Online their campground looks amazing – free firewood, a swimming pool and a playground! But in reality we were *right* next to the highway and it was so windy that we could hardly keep a fire going (this is the place you drive through on your way to Saskatoon where its ALWAYS blizzard-ing). We went to bed early, cold, and our earplugs didn’t mask the sound of the heavy trucks zipping by. The swimming pool was closed for the season (wth?!? Its August!) and the “playground” consisted of a very old and sketchy swing set. Reesen referred to it as the “swinground” but we didn’t actually let her play on it.
The (really) good stuff: Kenaston campground had clean bathrooms with hot, free showers and it was only $15 a night. We gave them $20; it was too good to be true anyway!
#3: A Secondary Highway is Not Always Better Than a Gravel Road
On the road from Raymore to Kenaston SK we took the highway that looked to be the “thickest” on the map. About 2km in we saw little orange flags, then little red ones, then nondescript signs such as “loose stones” and “slow down.” We lost one of our car magnets, Cody drove about 30km/hr and Reesen couldn’t nap because it was just too bumpy. The only other vehicles we saw were big trucks and farming equipment.
Somehow, though, this sticky note that Reesen put on the back of the RV, way back at the beginning of August (Connect Festival), has survived it all. 6+ nights of torrential rainfalls that leaked into our camper and 2000+ kms on some pretty rough roads, all the way to Cold Lake Alberta where we are now. I think we should start taking bets: where do you think we will be when this finally falls off?!?
#4: It Seems There Are Subway Restaurants Everywhere Until You’ve Driven 6 hours Through Southern Saskatchewan
When we switched to a plant-based diet earlier this year I thought I could always count on Subway for meat-free fast food. This is not the case when the only communities for several hundred kilometers have a population of less than 200.
We had a really nice sit-down meal in Raymore but the next morning we had to grab A&W for breakfast: one pancake, two slices of toast, 2 hashbrowns and an order of fries. Mmmm, carbs.
#5: When You Have a 4-Year-Old, a Public Shower is No Substitute For a Bathtub
Reesen went over a week without a bath or shower. Maybe that sounds awful, but that is the reality of life on the road. We wash her face, hands and feet regularly but her curly hair can only go so long without conditioner! The only shower she will comfortably use is the solar shower, but it is no longer warm enough outside to use it!
So when we arrived in Oyen AB we decided to take her to the pool – maybe after a swim she’ll be used to the water? No such luck. She cried most of the time, in the pool and the shower (but if you ask her she’ll tell you it was great for some reason).
The next day we bought her a really big Rubbermaid container. Since then we’ve had access to clean bathtubs in the homes of trusted friends and family, but I’ll let you know how it goes when we try her first bath in the RV!
#6: Pack at Least One Nice Outfit, Because You Never Know When You Will Need to Attend a Funeral (or maybe a wedding or job interview?)
I wore a bright green summer dress to my Nonna’s funeral (in the Catholic Church). I felt a little out of place, but I think my Nonna would have told me I looked nice.
She was 90 years old so her death was not entirely unexpected, but attending a funeral was not something I considered when I packed up for this trip. It was upsetting that I couldn’t dig out my photo albums to gather pictures of her. But instead, I went right to her old house, walked the path by the river that I walked with her, and collected some river water to remember her. I wouldn’t want to get rid of the photos, gifts and memorabilia from my Nonna, but I am OK without it right now.
#7: Camping is Not Always Cheap
We camped in Drumheller for my Nonna’s funeral; a beautiful spot, but because of the tourist attractions, in-town camping is more like visiting a high-end resort. Our site was over $40 a night, wood was $10 a bundle, and the showers (and laundromat) were all coin operated.
We have also learned, however, to exhaust all possible options when looking for campsites. It takes some digging, but there’s always something cheaper than an “RV park” and always something better than the Walmart parking lot. I like to check FreeCampsites.net, but its no surprise that there’s not much along the stretch between Edmonton and Calgary.
#8: If Your GPS Tells You It Will Take 26 minutes to Drive 19km, Stop and Think Before Proceeding
This brings me back to Lesson #3 and makes me wonder what the hell we were thinking going down that road!
We took another chance and decided to attend a festival we had never heard of before (clearly we didn’t learn after Lesson #1 either), because we had been referred by friends and the organizers were SO nice to us! We followed the directions they gave us, and when we reached the end of the highway (literally a giant stop sign and barricade) the GPS said to keep going. So we drove into the forest, past some “camping nodes” for people that like to rough it and then further still up a logging road. We drove over TWO bridges that were barely wide enough for our camper and said “Private Bridge, Use at Your Own Risk” and still didn’t turn around. Seriously, what the hell were we thinking?!?
Oh, and did I mention it was pouring rain? Sorry Mom and Dad. I promise we won’t do that again.
#9: “Children Are Allowed” is Not The Same as “Family-Friendly”
Then we arrived at the festival in the forest.
Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone there was very kind to us and our daughter, but this was not a “family-friendly” event. Things weren’t yet set-up when we got there, but when we woke up the next morning and found there was no drinking water, only 2 porta-potties (for apparently 3-500 people) and no medics on site we got pretty worried. Not to mention,it poured rain all night until our motor-home started leaking and we could see that the roads were starting to flood out.
If it had been just Cody and I *maybe* we would have stayed (and never ever told our parents what went on there) but I couldn’t stand the thought of something happening to Reesen and knowing there was no safe way out or fast way for help to get in. So we packed up while it was still pouring rain and made our way back down to civilization.
#10: If We Go $50 Over On Our Data Plan, Virgin Mobile Will Block It “For Our Own Protection”
And there’s my excuse for taking over a month to publish this blog and let all of you know what we’ve been up to!
We are learning that when a campground says they have WiFi, they don’t really mean it. No, we will be running on data (or WiFi borrowed from friends and family when we are visiting them) for the majority of this adventure. We have since upped our plan - but it doesn’t make much difference if we’re in a location with no cell reception - so we will also make an effort to take lunch and coffee breaks in restaurants with internet. Hopefully next month we’ll do a better job of staying connected with our online community. Our sincere apologies to those of you who have called us, emailed and sent us facebook messages with a very late response – we are truly grateful for your support and we promise we’ll try harder!
Up next, we’re heading to Edmonton Alberta for Level 1 & 2 Instructor Training on September 23rd & 24th, then Red Deer October 1st & 2nd, Calgary October 8th & 9th, Lethbridge October 15th & 16th, Medicine Hat October 22nd & 23rd, and finally Saskatoon SK for the SaskFit Fitness Conference November 5th and Instructor Certification November 12th and 13th!
What are we going to do in our camper over the winter months? (No seriously, what are we going to do?!?) Follow our adventures in our Facebook Group: The Rolling Hoop, learn more about us or sign up for training @ hoopplay.ca