Getting ready to hit the road
Wondering why you haven’t heard from me for a while? This is a travel blog, that’s why! And, unfortunately, we’ve not done much traveling lately. At least not the type of trips you come here expecting to read about: extended travel on a limited budget. Personal commitments (mostly to my aging mom) have kept us close to home for nearly two years (gasp) but we’re about to escape on a new adventure. Hope you’ll follow along.
With mom’s blessing, we’re setting off to explore Newfoundland. A first for us; we plan to be away for just over 2 months. The timing of the trip is so that we can avoid the busiest summer tourist traffic, still have decent weather (we hope) and catch the Celtic Colors Festival on Cape Breton Island on the return leg of the trip.
Planning the trip
Randy and I both enjoy the planning of a trip. We mostly agree on what we want to see and do and the general route we’ll follow. But creating a plan that will ensure we don’t miss and drive by those stops usually falls on me. I use “My Maps” in Google Maps to create our personal route map with various markers to remind us what’s there.
Here’s a glimpse of what my map for this trip looks like. A sidebar lets us view the purpose of each marker. We won’t necessarily stop at all of the things I’ve marked but, as you can see, if we try to hit even half of them, we’ll be quite busy!
We can edit the map, as we learn of other must-see stops or get tips from locals. That will require data but we can use the MapsMe app on our phone or laptop to access it when we don’t have data. The app is free and there’s a bit of a trick to getting your custom map to display but, since we know we won’t have consistent cell coverage, it’s worth this minimal effort.
We have not booked any campgrounds. Not that we won’t stay at any, but for most of the trip, it will be September so we’re counting on them having openings. We’re also presuming we’ll find boondocking
We have lined up a few Boondockers Welcome hosts on the trip east – one in particular because their profile states Newfoundland is their favorite Boondocking destination. Other than that, we plan to travel “our style” – without a schedule.
We’ve heard nothing but positive reviews about RVing in Newfoundland. The scenery is to die for. The friendliest people in all of Canada. And lots of scenic free places where an RV can pull off for a night or two without being hassled about it. Sounds perfect!
Wondering what it takes to leave home for several months? Even though we’ve done this countless times over the last 20 years, for us, the key is following a checklist. I wrote this one years ago. Some of it still holds true but many aspects have changed as our at-home lives have evolved.
We’re almost ready to leave, confident we’re ready because, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve crossed all these items off the list:
- Extended health insurance. Even though we’re traveling in Canada, our provincial health plan will only match the costs of the same procedure in our home province. Normally we might consider skipping added insurance (although it’s not recommended so don’t say you heard it from me). But, as of Oct 1, 2019 (partway through our trip), austerity measures in Ontario will eliminate that provincial contribution, so, without extended health insurance, we’d have to carry the full weight of an out-of-province expense. We were pleased to find out that insurance isn’t as expensive as it is for out-of-country travel. ($285 will cover both of us with no deductible for the entire 2 months). We may be adventurers but not gamblers – rather safe than sorry.
- Banking. We’re not leaving Canada so no need to transfer funds to our US bank account. I’ve checked the expiry date on the one credit card we’ll dedicate to all trip expenses. It’s set up for automatic payment (we never pay interest) and simplifies the task and accuracy of tracking our trip expenses. Even with free camping most of the time, it won’t be cheap. The ferry ride from and to Nova Scotia is costly and, as a result, so are most provisions on the island.
- Cell phone and data plan. We have a Koodo Mobile prepaid basic plan (unlimited text and only $15 per month) with added boosters for talk and data. It’s the cheapest way to have a cell phone if you don’t use it a lot. Those boosters don’t expire and, when not on the road, $60 worth of boosters can last us a whole year. We use them up much more quickly when traveling, so we’ve topped up on boosters and can always purchase more if we need them. Koodo operates on Bell towers, which happen to be one of the best choices for Newfoundland.
Randy has been gradually getting the RV in order by:
- topping up or replacing fluids
- changing the oil
- checking battery levels
- checking tires and tire pressure
- checking lights and electrical system
- checking wiring, hoses, spark plugs
On the RV living side of things he has checked:
- battery, furnace, fridge
- plumbing, holding tanks, water pump, electrical, and inverter
- he sorted his toolbox and checked other maintenance supplies
- He also installed a new feature: a roof-top solar panel! We’ve never needed one really for the way we travel (constantly on the move) but we’re slowing down (as we age) and may want to relax a few days longer than usual in those remote, scenic boondocking areas we’re hoping to find.
My job is always to clean, organize, and pack the RV so it’s comfortable and livable and to be sure we have everything we need for life on the road. Except for our clothes, personal hygiene items, electronic devices, and food, most items are in the RV year-round. So, part of the job is going over them and deciding if it makes sense to keep them there. I can always eliminate a few items that we haven’t used on any recent trips.
With a small camper like ours, it’s imperative to pare everything down to the essentials. To maximize food storage space, one of my tasks is to re-package dry foods in zip-lock baggies with just enough of each of the staples we need to get us through the trip.
I do the same with liquids and perishables, transferring them to smaller bottles (preferably plastic so they won’t rattle as loudly). It lets us take advantage of Costco pricing at home – yet only bring what we need. We’ll purchase smaller sizes if we have to replace anything but we also repackage most of the food we purchase during the trip before we put it away.
Not much has changed with leaving the house behind over the years.
- We arrange for someone to do a regular house check (required for insurance), pick up mail, and mow the lawn.
- I go through the kitchen cupboards, not leaving anything to attract insects or mice.
- For a 2-month trip, we won’t completely empty the fridge and freezer as we do on longer trips, but we still plan meals before the trip to “eat our way” through our fresh food so that we’re only left with what we’re able to take with us.
- Leave a key with the kids and a neighbor in case of emergency.
This part has become more difficult over time. At almost 98 years old, my mom can promise to keep well for the duration of our trip, but I’m always afraid that this may be the trip that she forgets or breaks her promise. We also have four beautiful grandchildren and will miss two of their birthdays on this trip. Knowing we can Skype with them, makes departure a little easier.
The morning of departure: Aug 17, 2019
- Enjoy a last long shower with ample hot water at home before Randy shuts off the water.
- As a precaution, Randy will shut off the gas at the main valve. There’s no need for the furnace or central air to run at this time of year.
- Unplug unnecessary appliances
- Lock windows and draw curtains and blinds
- Empty the garbage (and take it with us), remembering to empty the coffee filter after the last morning’s coffee. (We forgot that once; coming home to a basket of mold ensured once was enough.)
- A final walkthrough
- Lock the door
- Set the alarm
- Drive off