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The Three-Week Test Drive (Contributed by Malcolm Sandy)



blog-0374596001387290665.jpgAfter several years of nagging, I finally managed to drag my wife, kicking and screaming, into retirement. I don’t know if it was because she’s a workaholic, or if she just didn’t want to be around me 24/7. Probably the latter. Regardless, we quickly bought a used 28-foot travel trailer and spent the next few months fitting it out. Our plan is to spend the winters in Arizona and points similar, spring and fall at home in Delaware, and summer up in Ontario. We discovered the Boondockers Welcome website about a month after we bought the trailer, and joined immediately. We planned a short trip up to Ontario as a ‘shake-down’ cruise.

Unfortunately, health issues intervened, and we both ended up having back surgery, among other things. In spite of this, and after a lot of soul-searching, (and painkillers), we set Aug 16 as the day we were pulling out, come **** or high water. We looked like two cripples shuffling around with our canes, and my wife also had an arm cast due to a broken elbow. No matter; we were not to be deterred! Of course, as is usual with me, enthusiasm trumped common sense, and I over-estimated my rate of recovery, or, more likely, my abilities.

We spent our first night near Allentown, PA. with our first hosts, ‘joeandkathy’. They're only 100 miles from our place in Delaware, but I was completely drained by the time we got there. I’d rather attribute that shameful performance to the surgery than to old age, but we’ll see next year. They have a beautiful place in the hills not far off the Blue Route. It’s like a park - nice, level, grass lawn, back in the woods, quiet. Joe was very friendly and helpful, plus he was really interesting to talk to. Take your GPS! Save your nerves for better things. It was a great introduction to Boondockers Welcome, and set the tone for the entire trip.

From there we headed north towards Niagara Falls, stopping in to see ‘Faz’ near Dansville, NY. These two are a great couple, tons of fun. We sat and drank wine with them watching the sunset across the valley. Really, really nice. The yard and barns are full of equipment, old motorbikes, cars, tractors, steel, old machinery and an old travel trailer he’s restoring. I had a ball just hobbling around. They live in a converted barn which is done up beautifully. They let us stay an extra night so I could rest up a little, which we REALLY appreciated.

We were soon headed across the border at Niagara Falls toward Elora, Ont. to meet Marianne and Randy, the founders of Boondockers Welcome. Their place is right in town within a short walking distance of the Elora Gorge and an old mill. Since we could barely walk, they drove us all around and couldn’t have been nicer. We wanted to spend an extra day there, but we had reserved a site in Killbear Provincial Park for a week and we had to get going. In retrospect, having fixed plans kind of defeats the purpose of the RV lifestyle, especially boondocking, and in future I’ll try and avoid doing that altogether, or at least give myself a few days cushion before and after. Still, we were here to learn.

Speaking of learning, we spent six days in the park with no hookups. Never again! We need our creature comforts. We were constantly bombarded with acorns which ended up ruining our awning. We should have had hard hats. Hauling the sewage is no fun, either. Also too many rules and too many people.

Leaving there, we headed over to stay with ‘Lesara’ near Magnetawan, ON. Les travels around in a Roadtrek and is a real gentleman. He has a beautiful piece of ground on a private lake way down a succession of back roads. It was too tight for us to get in, but he drove us down the trail and showed us the lake. We would have loved to stay there and hear his stories. He showed us a place where we could park that is used as a parking area by the DOT in winter and it worked out fine.

Naturally, of course, health issues intervened once again and we spent the next week visiting various emergency rooms as we made our way south to Toronto. We were incredibly lucky to meet ‘Joseph Bonneville’, (not Joe!) and his partner, Monty, in Mt. Albert, Ont. They let us stay as long as we needed, seven days in all, while we got ourselves straightened out. We would have been in a bit of a pickle if not for their generosity, and we are sincerely grateful.

We finally made it down to my brother’s house in Toronto. He figured that we could park our trailer in his driveway for a couple of days. I had my doubts but he managed to squeeze us in. While we were there I had the truck’s rear springs beefed up and new shocks installed. This made a tremendous difference in handling, but I could still only go 150 miles or so before I was worn out. When we left Toronto, we headed east for Gananoque, Ont. We found a real nice spot to boondock right by Lake Ontario. The next day we headed down I-81 towards Delaware. We had to stop in Syracuse to visit an ER there, so we lost a lot of time and ended up at a truck stop in Scranton for the night, shoe-horned between the big rigs. I can normally do Delaware to Toronto in ten hours flat (no trailer) but this time it took three days. It was humbling, to say the least.

All in all, the whole experience was amazing. Everyone was so helpful and considerate, as well as interesting, and, in truth, we could have kept on going, in spite of our infirmities. We had a great time can’t wait to head south this winter.

A few final thoughts on our experience:

1) If you have to ask yourself if you can live without electricity, then you probably can’t.

2) Taking a trip a month after having back surgery is sheer lunacy, but it was worth it just to be in Ontario in August.

3) If you don’t think you can back your trailer in, don’t try.

4) Don’t pull in to someplace you don’t know how to get out of.

5) Fresh water is liquid gold; cherish it.

6) Join Boondockers Welcome, then come and visit us in Delaware!


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