By M.B. Wilson – the Wagonmaster, and Karen “The Cookie Lady” Wilson.
We all make one big mistake when we first start RVing. We look forward so much to getting to our destination that we forget to look at any of the places along the route. For years, we went to Florida for a winter vacation and we just couldn’t wait to get there. We never thought about stopping and seeing the other attractions we were bypassing.
It was like a marathon race – on to the highway or interstate and then 10 to 12 hours of driving, a stopover at a campground for the night, and another long day of driving – and we were there.
After a few years of doing this, we decided to try something new. We changed our driving habits to allow time to get off the major highways and Interstates – we began to appreciate the change of pace that comes when you travel the older routes – two lane highways that wind their way through some scenic and interesting small towns and villages.
We learned that there really is not that much difference between people who live in the prairies of Canada and the heartland of America. This is where you find the real American and Canadian family lifestyles, or should we say, the North American lifestyle. What you find in these small towns and villages is a love of family and friends, something you rarely find in the big city.
Travelling through Canada by RV, you can see and learn so much about this great country. From Newfoundland in the east to the Yukon in the north, to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia – there is so much to see and do that it would take years to write about all of it. Here is just a little taste.
Nova Scotia Adventures
On a trip to Nova Scotia, we decided to take the back roads to see what we could find. Arriving at the causeway to Cape Breton Island, we decided to take Highway 4 (today it is Highway 104) for a short side-trip. Most people take Highway 105, the Trans Canada Highway, follow it to Sydney and then cross to Newfoundland. Highway 4 was a rough road in those days, and we had to travel at a slower speed, which was fine with us, because we saw so much more of the countryside. We travelled along the east shore of Bras d’ Or Lake, and we stayed overnight at a campground on the shoreline. The next day we came to a highway sign that said Louisbourg and we decided to take this road to see what Louisbourg had to offer.
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia is a great little town with friendly people and the historical restoration of Fortress Louisbourg. We spent a few days there on that first trip, and it was so fascinating that we have returned several times over the years.
Treasures of Saskatchewan
Travelling west on Trans Canada Highway 1 through Saskatchewan, we decided to visit a small town called Herbert, located about half-way between Regina, Saskatchewan and Medicine Hat, Alberta. It was an enjoyable stop with shops, restaurant and parking alongside the railroad tracks. Just north of here, we discovered a town called Alsask on the border of Alaska and Saskatchewan. Alsask is an old military base and we decided to camp there for the night – as darkness fell we experienced a sight to remember – our very first view of the Northern Lights!
Travelling north in the Yukon, we could have travelled Highway 1 right up to Alaska, but instead we took Highway 2 and went to Dawson City. On our way along Highway 2, we passed through Stewart Crossing and just north of town we camped alongside the Stewart River. It was dry camping with no hookups. The view was spectacular and even though we had been warned to keep an eye out for bears, we did not see any on that trip.
It is well worth the effort to travel north to Dawson City –on our first visit we spent several days but we could have stayed much longer. Dawson City looks like a town out of the 1800s and whoever came up with the idea to keep it this way was a very smart person. Wooden sidewalks, old style banks and saloons, you can just imagine seeing the gold miners coming through the swinging doors.
Heading north to Alaska, you just have to take the time to go to Dawson City. On the route, keep in mind that when the locals tell you that you will be crossing the “Top of the World Highway” they literally mean the “Top of the World” (Highway 9 on the Canadian side and Highway 5 on the American side). This highway is not for the faint of heart. Constructed on top of the mountains, it has some very sharp turns and some very steep drop offs. Be careful – they say not to travel this road in a thunderstorm. Of course, they told us that after we had made the 185-mile trip You might say that the trek to Tok took time… 16 hours of touring tension!
Travelling through the United States, there are so many places to visit and so many roads to travel that it would take a lifetime to try to do it all.
The major scenic attractions along the east coast include Washington, DC; New York City; Boston; and Miami. The popular west coast destinations include Newport; Crescent City; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and San Diego, All of these destinations great places to visit, but there is so much more in between that can take your breath away!
The first time we went to Texas, we were shocked to find the Alamo in downtown San Antonio. Don’t ask us why, but we always assumed that it would be on the outskirts of the city. Walking through the doors of the Alamo, you can feel the presence of great American heroes. The Alamo is not just a building – it is a shrine. If these walls could talk, imagine what they could tell you!
Another wonderful place to visit is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Did you know that Gettysburg is only 350 miles south of the Canadian border? That is how close to Canada the Civil War came. To walk the battlefields, to know that brother fought brother, and that thousands died on these farmers’ fields is just amazing. If you walk the streets of Gettysburg you can still find canon balls embedded in the walls of many homes.
Sometimes, it can be fun to take an exit off the main highway and explore the routes less travelled. When we were out west in 2007, we travelled Route 66 in Arizona – it was a great adventure to travel this two-lane blacktop. We could have stayed on Interstate 40 and made much better time, but we would have missed so much!
We have travelled along roads and have come to ferry ports and had to cross over on the ferry to continue our journey. We have also come to bridges on some of our adventures along the back roads and we have had to turn around as our motor home was too tall to go through the bridge. This is all part of the adventure. On one trip to Prince Edward Island we followed a two lane highway which became a dirt road, but our map showed it came to another road at the end. The only problem was that the map did not show the large ditch that ran across the road, blocking our way. We had to backup for about four miles. Just another adventure we have to laugh about today.
RVing the back roads can be quite an adventure!
Take care and happy RVing
M.B. & Karen Wilson