For Europeans exploring the North American Frontier, heading into the unknown was a very daunting task. The smart ones, (i.e. those that survived), were exceptional planners. Planning is still very important to us modern-day explorers. Recently retired from 30 years in the military, I can confirm the axiom, “no time spent planning is ever wasted”. Oh, and also the second axiom, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”.
Now, before you start donning combat boots and flak jackets, planning an RV trip is a wee bit easier than planning a major battle. Understand that the better prepared you are for your voyage, the better things will go. Dealing with snags is part of RV living, but you can minimize the effects.
After a full season (April to October) as Camp Hosts on Vancouver Island, it was time to take a major break and skip south for the winter. This would be a 5-month trek, covering several thousand kilometres. Our rig has performed exceptionally well as a home, but now it was time to prep for mobility.
How To Start Planning For A Cross-Country RV Trip
The first part of planning our cross-country RV trip was to prepare the RV. When we bought our Outback, Stone’s RV gave us an excellent booklet on the basics and their Facebook Page has many good tips. Prevention is the key when it comes to maintenance. Our rig has been in use all season, of course, but we still need to make sure it’s ready for the road. Here’s the short list of what we need to do:
Self-maintenance. This includes everything we can do ourselves, i.e. lubricating slides, clean and condition the rubber roof, checking lug nut torques, tire pressure, etc. One of the keys to doing your own maintenance is to make it a regular habit. The more regularly you clean/check your rig, the more likely you are to notice issues and look after them early. We assembled a complete, but compact toolkit when we bought the Outback, as well as stocking a good supply of cleaning gear. Among our gear – a torque wrench and appropriate sockets for truck and trailer lug nuts, plus a small compressor capable of topping up to 80 psi required for all tires.
Shop-maintenance. This covers the things above your skill level that should be absolutely required to be done by the pros. We scheduled our RV for that at the local dealership. They fixed some small warranty snags, checked axle alignment, repacked wheel bearings, and checked the brakes. These are critical components that must be in perfect working order before hitting the road on a long journey. They noted that while our trailer was very new, the factory grease in the wheel bearings was minimal and it was a good thing that we scheduled brought the RV in. New, doesn’t necessarily mean your RV is in great road ready conditions.
Paying Attention to Your RV’s Tires
Now, if you’re an avid follower of the many RV Facebook pages, you’ll no doubt have heard the many stories of tire blowouts. We’re certainly not about to risk our home on four round pieces of rubber. Stock RV tires are legally rated for your rig, but they’re not always top of the line. Some new tires may be brand new but have also been sitting in stock for a very long time.
It’s very important to check on the tire for 4 numbers. For example, the new tires we put on, have 26/17. That means they were made the 26th week of 2017. We purchased a full set of heavy-duty E-rated tires that will easily handle the weight of our RV and highway towing speeds. They also have sidewalls stiff enough for any accidental curb abuse. If we can advise on one major thing to check out and possibly upgrade prior to your long voyage it’s your RV’s tires.
Planning An RV Trip Into The U.S.
Touring to the U.S. seems to be a bit of a concern for some Canadian RVers. To date, we haven’t had any issues, but again, part of that is preparation. We arrived at the border prepared. This makes a big difference. Simple things, like rolling down all your windows as you arrive at customs. It indicates you’ve got nothing to hide and understand that they need to take a peek.
We also had an itinerary, the route marked on a map, and a complete inventory on what we were bringing in to the U.S. The inventory isn’t a huge deal for entering the U.S., but it most certainly is when you return to Canada. We’re keeping track of our purchases along the way, so when we get back, we’ll present the list of everything we brought down with us, and another list of everything we bought, complete with totals, and receipts. Every time I’ve done that, it’s been commented on just how prepared we are leaving us to be thanked and waved on without an issue.
Planning Your Route & Places To Stay
Our trip planning is mostly focused on avoiding old man winter. We didn’t want to tie ourselves to a very strict route and schedule, rather we had a rough outline. Our only hard and fast date were getting to Tampa, Florida for December 1st.
There is a risk to not booking well ahead during the winter months, but if you’re avoiding the huge tourist traps & popular snowbird destinations you can always find something. We planned a mix of resorts, Corps of Engineer Parks, and some boondocking, with a plan to keep the monthly budget to around $800 a month.
We have our America the Beautiful pass, which is the equivalent of the Parks Canada pass. We also have Good Sam, and Passport America. Overall, after logging some 20,000 km’s in two trips, the Passport America is definitely the winner for money savings. From end-October to mid-December, it netted us easily $400 plus in saved camping fees, for an $80 annual fee.
Good Sam hasn’t netted us the big savings in sites, 10% sounds good, but a lot of the parks that take Good Sam, offer the same discount to just about anyone. We have saved enough in camping fees and gear purchases at Camping World stores to justify it, but just barely. The other caveat with Good Sam is that you absolutely must ignore the Good Sam Ratings and do your own online research for reviews. We’ve seen RV parks rated 9 or 10 by Good Sam that rate a 1 on Trip Advisor and Google and are full of warnings to stay away. Good Sam really needs to improve their system and give honest reviews and let the cards fall where they may.
Tools & Equipment For The Journey
Along with discount memberships, there are a few other tools we’d recommend.
Road Atlas. Planning a long-distance RV trip via a tablet, GPS, or laptop is a pain. Having a large road atlas to do the basic planning will really simplify the process. We have our tablets, a cell phone, and built-in GPS in our Chevrolet 1-ton Diesel.
OnStar. We also have the truck’s OnStar with hands-free calling and built-in Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi isn’t cheap in Canada but when we renewed our 10GB monthly plan in the U.S. it was almost ¼ the price!
Credit Card. We have a BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard and U.S. dollar savings account. It makes for very easy transactions in the U.S. and building up funds for next season’s trip.
Guides/Apps. We have the Guide to U.S. National Parks and Monuments and Camping with Corps of Engineers, and Apps to locate Good Sam, Passport America, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and COE (Corps of Engineer) parks. If you’re planning budget consciously, you can get your monthly camping fees down to well under $20 a night for full hookups.
Planning For Weather
When you are travelling thousands of kilometres you have to be prepared for just about any kind of weather. Our trip from Vancouver Island along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and northern California included a couple of very cool and rainy days. Good raingear and a fleece will mean the weather won’t stop you from enjoying the outdoors. Even in central Florida though, you will get winter temperatures in the single digits, so plan accordingly.
Travelling long distances in the span of a day can mean that you could see many different types of weather which can lead to uncomfortable driving situations. Whether its rain, snow, or wind, it’s a good idea to know what kind of weather you’ll be coming across during your travels. The website get-there-dry.com is simple to use website that’ll tell you the weather for certain locations between point A & B, helping to allow you to make better travel-related decisions.
As RCAF aircrew for decades, I know the value of a checklist. From inspecting our aircraft to dire emergencies, we had checklists for everything. You don’t need to be quite so detailed but a few checklists are a great help.
These are all the mundane things you need to check through before you head out…
Mail? Do you have a forwarding service or a good friend/relative that can help?
Bills – online bill payment, e-bills, and paperless banking really help keep the money going where it needs to while you’re basking in the sun.
Communications – Unless you’re staying at 5-star resorts with wi-fi, phone, etc, how will you stay in touch? Many options here, our Chev 3500 has built-in wi-fi, and phone, so we’re our own mobile communications grid.
Cell Phone plan – Most providers offer roaming plans for the US. Do some comparison shopping, and check on the possibility of getting a US phone and service as it may be cheaper for long stays.
Home Insurance – If you’re a home-dweller, most home policies won’t cover you for absences longer than 30 days, so be sure to check on that and either get additional insurance or a house-sitter.
Health Care – Know your Provincial Health Care coverage and understand what you’ll need in the way of additional coverage.
Vehicle(s) – Same applies to your truck & RV as many dealerships offer extended coverage, and companies such as Good Sam & CoachNet can offer roadside assistance and even additional medical coverage. The Canadian Snowbird Association is another place to get additional coverage and facts.
Customs/Immigration – This is a biggy. Know what the rules are for extended stays in the US. Many think it’s a blanket 6 months a year when it’s actually a lot more complicated and stays are based on a 3-year rolling period.
Crossing the Border – When we left Nova Scotia for BC, we went on a 3-week trek via the US with essentially everything we owned. Rather than a big hassle, we contacted Canada Customs and asked what was the best way to ensure that when we returned to Canada we could clearly show what we brought into the US and what we bought while travelling. We were told to prepare an inventory of all contents of our truck and travel trailer. Then simply stop at the Canada Customs Office at the border, present the inventory and Customs Officials would inspect and sign/stamp each page. Sure, it’s a bit of work to do but when we arrived back in Canada we breezed through customs and were congratulated by the officers on how prepared we were. Know what you can and can’t bring back and forth across the border, too.
Our Plan in Action
With almost 2 months complete and 3 more to go, I have to say we haven’t faced anything that’s brought our plans into question. Our truck has been flawless only requiring a scheduled oil change and tire rotation.
Our Outback 328RL has had two issues. We had a slide cable start to fray badly and we were very concerned about it snapping. Fortunately, a call to Stone’s netted a part replacement in 48 hours and a recommended dealer to take it to for warranty replacement. We scheduled the truck’s oil/tire work same day so we lost very little vacation time.
If you’ve ever dreamed of taking the plunge and doing a months-long trek with your RV, I can certainly highly recommend it. A bit of pre-planning, a sense of adventure and you’ll bring home lifelong memories and a burning desire to do it all over again.
What tips/tricks do you have when preparing for a long distance RV trip?
My eyes open and suddenly I’m awake – wide awake. I look at the alarm clock. It reads 2.03am. I think, “Ugh, is this going to be one of those nights where I can’t get back to sleep?” I close my eyes, but as soon as I do I hear something odd, especially for the middle of the night. Off in the distance, I hear an alarm of sorts. Being that I was in a tired, groggy state of mind I had to focus to properly make out the strange alarm. Then I heard it clearly. I don’t exactly remember what it was saying, but surrounding the alarm was a statement that basically said, “This is a tsunami warning, please seek high ground.” After that moment, I was REALLY wide awake.
Quickly, I sat up, yelled at a sleeping Kate, “TSUNAMI WARNING!” Then it was go time. Hurriedly, we dressed, grabbed our 72-hour kit, shoved the cat in her carrier, woke the dog who didn’t want to wake up and drove to high ground at our local community centre.
For the next 2.5 hours, we sat in our truck at the community centre watching for updates to see if the 7.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska was going to send a huge tsunami wave our way. Finally, around 4.40am, we learned that the coast was clear and that no tsunami was expected to pound our shores.
Watch as the crowd at the Tofino Community Centre celebrates the news that there would be no tsunami.
Since arriving in Tofino in the fall of 2016, Kate & I have been educated over-and-over again about the dangers of living on the west coast due to the expected “Big One” earthquake & possible tsunamis. We’ve been told about how to prepare for such instances, but no amount of preparedness gets you ready for the real deal. The day after the tsunami warning we debriefed amongst ourselves & friends about whether we were truly prepared in the case of an emergency such as a tsunami. We realized that while we were decently prepared, we weren’t completely prepared. For instance, we packed cat & dog food in our 72-hour kit but no human food and I know Bella doesn’t like sharing her food.
The tsunami warning definitely opened our eyes and since then, we’ve been working towards being fully prepared for future emergencies, whether they’re tsunamis, earthquakes, or any other type of natural disaster. Each year we see a plethora of sad stories on RVing Facebook groups about natural disasters that wreak havoc in various parts of the continent. We’ve learned that we need to be ready for these disasters because you never know when they will strike. Below are some general ways you can prepare yourself & your RV for these unpredictable emergencies.
We’ve also included a downloadable link below to a great guidebook by Janice Wesley.
Know Your Surroundings
When you’re RVing and travelling all over the continent it’s easy to think only about having fun. However, in the back of your head, you always should be aware of your surroundings and what that could mean for the safety of you & your family. Whether it’s tsunamis & earthquakes on the West Coast, hurricanes of the East Coast, tornadoes of the Midwest, or any other natural disaster it’s wise to know your surroundings and how to prepare for them.
For example, here in Tofino, with the threat of earthquakes & tsunamis always in the back of our head, we have to know where high ground is and what the evacuation route is. A quick check on the District of Tofino website gives us the evacuation route for the town and the high ground locations including the community centre which functions as an Emergency Reception Centre. Wherever you’re RVing should have similar resources available to help you plan an evacuation if needed. If you can’t find an evacuation route, have a local map handy and map out your own routes or ask a local for advice.
Being notified of a potential or ongoing natural disaster is something that could mean the difference between life and death as you never know how much time you truly have to evacuate during an emergency.
With our recent tsunami scare, because it happened in the middle of the night, there were many people who slept right through the warning sirens. The sirens, though, were just one way of being notified and there are many ways to prepare yourself for these types of natural disasters.
A lot of communities, provinces, etc… will have specific emergency notification systems in place. For us in Tofino, we used the One Call Now notification system. All you have to do is sign up with your phone number and in the case of an emergency the notification system will call you and let you know about the situation and what to do. It’s important to make sure you get those notifications after you sign up, as well which you can ensure by making sure those notification systems are added to “Emergency Bypass” in your contacts. That will make sure your phone rings even if your phone is in silent or do not disturb. Click here on how to use Emergency Bypass.
In the U.S., these alerts may automatically come to your phone through the cell carrier as was the case in the recent fake Hawaiian ballistic missile alert that went out. This technology will soon be coming to Canada as well.
Aside from alerts from various forms of government, you can get various apps on your phone to alert you of various events. Again, these will depend on where you are travelling but in our case, we’re now using the QuakeFeed app which alerts us to earthquakes within specific settings that we chose. This allows us to know about earthquakes happening on the West Coast and alerts us regarding their severity & possible need to evacuate.
No matter where you are, the combination of local alert systems combined with your own alerts should have you always aware of natural disasters.
It’s been long hammered into our heads that every home, no matter where you live, should have a 72-hour kit. These kits can assist in your survival should the necessary situation arise where you have to depend on the contents of such a kit.
Depending on where you’re travelling it could be wise to have enough contents for a week. If you’re RVing in a remote place or boondocking, you may be on your own for a while. This is one reason why it’s also wise to send your daily travel plans to someone and check-in at the end of the day.
So what do you put in a 72-hour kit? That really is the ultimate question. There are the obvious necessities such as food & water. But you also have to be smart about packing your kit. You may have to be mobile and a heavy kit filled with can foods isn’t the smartest choice. In terms of food, we recommend foods that are light & full of protein and carbs. We’ve recently packed turkey jerky, nuts, oatmeal & energy bars into our kit.
Instead of listing every little thing that you should have in a 72-hour kit, click this link for the list provided by the District of Tofino. A quick glance at the list shows a long list of items. We don’t have everything on that list in our kit and you don’t need to either. Once you go through it, you will realize what items are most important.
When packing your kit, we used vacuum sealed bags to separate the contents. This helps in two ways. First, it helps keep everything dry should we be caught in the water or in rainy conditions. It also helps keep your kit organized. For example, we have one vacuum sealed bag that we can transfer from our 72-hour bag to our camping/hiking bag as all the contents are useful in both situations.
It’s also important to have a kit in your vehicle because you never know when a natural disaster will strike and therefore you have to be prepared for when you’re not in your RV. For us, we bought a large tote and have filled it with the necessities along with extra food, sleeping bags & our tent.
When you’re creating your kit, don’t forget about your pets. Whether you create a separate kit for your pets or stash everything into your own, it’s good to have pet supplies ready. In our kit, we have food, extra leashes/harnesses, a Tupperware container for food, & doggy bags. We also keep the cat carrier right next to our 72-hour kit so we can quickly grab both.
If you don’t want to deal with the fuss of putting together your own 72-hour kit, there are plenty of companies and organizations selling them such as the Red Cross. Whether you build your own or buy one, get your 72-hour kit ready now because natural disaster can happen anytime.
Be sure to remind yourself to check the contents of your kit every 6 months to a year for expired items and restock as necessary.
Natural Disasters & RVing
All the above information is good knowledge to have regardless whether your travelling the country in your RV or you’re stationary. Because a natural disaster can happen while you’re RVing you must be prepared for the nuances that come with that scenario.
Evacuation. The type of RV you have and the type of natural disaster you could be facing cause an interesting scenario. In some situations, you may be able to get into the driver’s seat of your motorhome and take off. If you have a fifth wheel, you probably will be leaving it behind unless you have plenty of time to evacuate. Be mindful of where you might be heading in your RV as well as you may not be able to go far with a large vehicle. For instance, here in Tofino, our small town would be bogged down quickly with RVers and everyone would have to be on foot to reach high ground in the case of a tsunami.
Water. In the case of a prolonged emergency, water is usually the most important thing to have. Thankfully, with an RV you have a built-in freshwater tank. Keeping if full will always ensure you have a supply of water should you be able to be able to safely remain with your RV.
Solar Power. These days more and more RVers are installing their own solar panel system as a way to stay powered when they boondock. This also comes in handy when you’re dealing with an emergency and power isn’t available. Solar systems are getting cheaper these days and are relatively easy to install.
Fuel. It’s always a good idea to make sure your motorhome or tow vehicle has plenty of gas. A good rule of thumb is to fill up when you reach half a tank. This will allow you to travel a good amount of distance should you need to in the case of an emergency.
Propane. Two full tanks of propane can last both keep you warm and allow you to cook food in the case of an emergency. Make sure you always have at least one full tank of propane. A good rule of thumb is to fill one tank soon after it runs out.
Finding Shelter. In the case of hurricanes or tornadoes, it could be important to leave your RV immediately and find shelter. If you’re staying at a campground, this could mean heading to the bathroom, laundry facilities, main office or some other designated building. When checking into a campground, ask them about their emergency shelters.
Check On Your Neighbours. If you’re in an RV park, your neighbours (for whatever reason) may not be aware of the current emergency unfolding. If time permits, check on them to make sure they are OK and are aware of everything that is going on.
While we rather would not have had to deal with a tsunami scare to learn and prepare ourselves for a natural disaster, we now can say that we’re ready or at least as ready as we can be. There are so many variables when it comes to a natural disaster and it’s hard to be prepared for every situation but the best thing you can do is be overprepared. Have a 72-hour kit. Know your evacuation routes. Sign up for alerts.
Dizzy with dreams of exotic travel, my wife Lori and I spent several evenings in our driveway, listening to the chirp of late August crickets as we sat in our new 18-foot travel trailer. Like most newbie RV owners, we fantasized about the future trips we would take, crossing the backroads of North America and pushing stick pins into a map. There was, of course, the small detail that we didn’t have a tow vehicle yet, but not to worry. While we shopped around for one, we’d utilize the rest of summer’s waning days to tackle the growing list of upgrades we wanted to make to the RV.
Deciding To Upgrade The RV Sink
The RV was 7 years old but in remarkably good shape, due to the mortality of the original owners, who waited too long to enter the RV lifestyle. My list of improvement items ranged from the practical to the mundane. Energy saving lights and new propane tanks with fill gauges topped the queue. Lori’s list was more imaginative, with creative things like curtains, a new mattress, and dishes that would transform the trailer into our ‘home away from home.’ But our two lists converged at one critical point of agreement. The horrible factory-installed kitchen sink had to go.
Typical of many RV sinks, ours was shallow and undersized, about 4” deep. Washing anything larger than a small plate was like dabbling in a birdbath with both hands, sending most of the water onto the floor and countertop. Although it was a dual sink with a faux aluminum-colour, it had tiny drains and was made of plastic. Yes, plastic. As many experienced RV’ers already know, every time a hot lid or pan touches such a sink, it will burn a new mark into it, visible forever like a cattle brand. The RV sink had to come out before we hit the open road.
Our shallow plastic RV sink – with tiny drains and burn marks.
Finding The Right RV Sink
After several trips to the big box home improvement stores, it was obvious they didn’t have the RV sink we were looking for. Most were either too big or were small, single sinks suitable for a man-cave wet bar. Many internet searches later, we found what we were looking for on eBay. A dual-stainless steel sink, with a standard 8” depth that would fit into our countertop with a bit of cutting. The list price was $60 from a seller in the USA. The overall cost to us was about $100 CDN, including taxes and the shipping to send it to our Toronto area home.
Installing Our New RV Sink
After the new sink arrived, the first step was disconnecting the existing drains by unscrewing the plumbing underneath. Fortunately, the supply taps were mounted right onto the counter behind the sink, so it was a simple matter of disconnecting the drain plumbing and loosening the clips under the sink that held it down to the counter.
There was no need to disconnect the water supply lines. Next, I carefully measured the new opening and cut it larger using a reciprocating saw. I found it useful to mark the midpoint on the counter so the new sink would line up straight with the taps.
Picture: Enlarged hole in the countertop to accept the new sink. Note the thin veneer ‘floor shelf’ under the sink that had to be removed to lower the plumbing for the deeper sink. Also, note the vacuum breaker fitting sticking up from the top of the drain pipe. The vacuum breaker is essential to allow the sink to drain into the grey water tank without ‘chugging’.
Once the new sink was test fitted in the enlarged opening, it was time to install the basket strainers/drains into the holes in the sink. I purchased them at a big box store for about $15 each. There are two different ways to mount them. One method uses the traditional plumber’s putty (a substance like children’s plasticine) that solidifies somewhat to become the gasket between the strainer/drain lip and the sink. The other is to use silicone. Generally, silicone is messier and harder to clean up, so I opted for the putty. The putty is also applied all around the sink, under the edge where it meets the counter, to prevent water from getting underneath. It’s the same procedure as installing a regular kitchen sink, and there are many tutorials on the internet that go into detail if you have never done it before.
Picture: Basket strainer and plumber’s putty.
The internet also has many diagrams on how to plumb the drains for a dual sink. It’s the same idea as in a house, except there will be the vacuum breaker vent as part of the plumbing. I found it useful to go to the hardware store and ‘test-assemble’ all the PVC pipe parts right there in the store before buying them.
Example of a simplified kitchen sink drain plumbing diagram.
Area under the sink with the thin veneer ‘shelf floor’ removed, the old drain plumbing cut off, and the water lines wrapped in foam pipe wrap.
The thin veneer ‘floor shelf’ under the sink area had to be removed because the new sink was deeper and required the new drain plumbing to be lower. After removing the veneer shelf, I wrapped all the supply water lines with foam pipe wrap and zip ties, to clean things up and help minimize vibration noise in the water lines. (Pictured Right)
New framing for a sliding shelf and recycle bin. 1×2 poplar pieces held in place with wood screws.
While I had the sink out and the area exposed, I decided to convert some of the wasted space underneath the sink into a practical storage area. As in most RVs, the existing wood framing consisted of either particle board or flimsy strips of wood stapled together. I wanted to build a small shelf structure to hold a sliding drawer and a recycling bin. I found that 1×2 inch poplar was the best solution, being very lightweight and easy to cut/drill. (Pictured Left)
Once the framing and pipe wrapping was all done, I dry-fitted the new drain plumbing together, using the old drain plumbing as a model. It’s an old plumber’s trick to use a white or silver sharpie marker to mark all the test-fitted PVC plumbing pieces before you glue them. That way you can confidently re-assemble everything by gluing one piece at a time according to the marks. After test fitting and marking the drain plumbing, I re-installed the thin veneer ‘shelf’, about 4 inches lower than before.
Next, I cemented all the drain plumbing together and attached it to the bottom of the sink. I then eased the sink/drain assembly into the counter, pressing down on the plumber’s putty bead all around the edge of the sink. Finally, I cemented the drain assembly into the trailer PVC drain that goes down into the grey water tank. The last step was to install the under-sink tension clips that came with the new sink and wipe off the excess putty that oozed out between the sink and the countertop. That part of the install was exactly like a regular kitchen sink in a house.
Picture: New sink mounted and new PVC drain plumbing cemented to the drain. Sliding bins installed.
Once the sink was installed, I did the usual testing for leaks. Everything was perfect! The new RV sink has made a big difference in our ability to function in such a small space. Since the kitchen is such a hub of activity, it helps a lot to be able to cook and clean up with no limitations due to the sink size or the material it’s made of. Now we can transfer pans right from the flame of the propane stove to the sink, without any fear of damage.
The shiny new sink, all ready for those hot pots and pans!
Have a story to tell about your own RV sink replacement? Please share your comments below.
When Kate & I first considered purchasing an RV we did a tonne of research. It seemed like we spent days reading while trying to educate ourselves about RVs and everything about them. Some of the research we did was not just about RVs, but what were the MUST have accessories that every RVer should have.
Repeatedly, on various RVing forums and Facebook groups, we read about the one piece of equipment most RVers would recommend – a surge protector.
What is a Surge Protector?
A surge protector is either a hardwired or portable piece of equipment which has the main purpose of protecting your RVs electrical system and electrical appliances. Think of it as your RVs first line of defence when it comes to protecting your electrical system & appliances. If a surge protector detects a situation that it deems harmful to your RV, more than likely it will cut power to your RV. Depending on the model of surge protector you have, it may tell you why the power was cut allowing you to properly figure out how to deal with the situation.
Some of the most common ways a surge protector will protect your RV include:
–Poor Wiring. While most RV parks are great, older parks will have older electrical systems – some which may have been wired poorly. The wiring could also have been damaged over the years or even eaten through by rats or mice. While you can check a parks power with a voltage meter, a surge protector will guard you against any of the above or should anything suddenly change regarding an RV parks electrical system.
–High Voltage/Low Voltage. One of the main features of a surge protector is to provide a barrier between the parks electrical system and your RV regarding high & low voltage. Power boosts can happen quickly and occur out of nowhere. Often these are caused by lightning strikes. While some RVers will protect themselves from this by unplugging during storms, it’s more convenient just to protect yourself with a surge protector.
It will also protect your RV in low voltage situations. While this is less common, it can still cause serious harm to your electrical system or appliances. Low voltage situations can occur more often in the summer when a park full of RVs are all using their AC units which demand a lot of power.
There are other ways a surge protector can protect your RV, but these are the main ones. We’ll tell you about another way our surge protector guarded our RV later.
Types of Surge Protectors
Depending on the model of your surge protector you will be protected from various issues. The cheaper the model, the less overall protection you will have.
The basic surge protectors on the market can be had for around $100. For the most part, they will only protect you from big surges. That’s a good thing but that’s usually where the features of these types of surge protectors ends. They’re not a bad idea if you only occasionally RV but if you RV more often you’ll need something with a bit more bells and whistles.
The basic + level up of surge protectors can range from $100-$200+ and like the basic models they will offer general surge protection. They will also typically offer protection from high/low voltage and faulty wiring.
A complete surge protector with all the bells & whistles which will give you the best overall protection will be costly at around $300-$400. It may sound like a lot of money but when you consider that it can save you thousands of dollars from replacing your electrical system or appliances it’s a pretty good deal.
Portable or Hardwired?
Surge protectors are currently available in two ways – portable and hardwired.
A portable surge protector is one that you connect your RVs power cable to and then connect the surge protector to the power pedestal at the RV park. These are the most common types of surge protectors that you will see other RVers use. While they can be a bit bulky in size, they are easy to hookup every time you move to a new RV site.
The one potential drawback to having a portable surge protector is they can easily get stolen. Because of how expensive some models are, thieves can simply approach your site and unplug your surge protector saving themselves hundreds of dollars while costing you the same. This issue can be solved in various ways. Some surge protector models have lockable casings available for them or security locks. Some RVers simply design their own theft protection usually in the form of a chain & lock or something similar.
A hardwired surge protector is just like a portable surge protector, however, rather than having to hook them up every time you move you have it hardwired internally into your electrical system. While it’s nice having a hardwired unit that you can set up and for the most part forget about there are some drawbacks.
Because these types of surge protectors are hardwired, it means you must connect them to your RVs electrical system. For some, this may be straightforward. For others, it could be a daunting and potentially scary situation having to deal with your electrical system. Also, if your surge protector ever becomes fried from protecting your RV, you will have to uninstall it and re-install a new one.
How A Surge Protector Saved Our RV
One morning, Kate & I went to the gym for just over an hour. Upon our return, we discovered that we had no power. Because it was daylight, I couldn’t easily see around us to see if any other RVs or park lights were working so I went and checked the surge protector knowing it would tell me the story. If there was no display on the surge protector that would mean that power was out across the park. Or it could be out for another reason and the surge protector display screen would tell me why.
The plug of our surge protector; melted from overheating.
As soon as I checked, I had to do a double take. The display had indicated that the plug was too hot and as a result, it shut the power off to our RV. After gathering Kate, we pulled the surge protector plug from the power pedestal. As soon as we looked at the plug we realized how lucky we were.
Both the surge protector plug & the pedestal outlet had begun to melt. If we didn’t have a surge protector, electricity could have continued to flow causing a fire at the pedestal. Our RV could have also easily burned to the ground if a fire had not been extinguished quickly. Not only could we have lost our house, but we could have also lost both our dog & cat which would have been beyond heartbreaking.
Needless to say, we’re very happy and relieved that we had our surge protector. While it cost us $400, we’re much happier with that cost rather than the possibility of having lost our RV, belongings and most importantly our pets.
Whether they save you thousands by protecting your RVs electrical system & appliances or they save your RV from burning to the ground, a surge protector should be one of the first pieces of equipment you purchase along with your RV.
Do you have a surge protector? Has it ever saved you from disaster?
Midway through October, Kate and I officially had been living in Tofino for over a year. When we first moved here the plan was to stay throughout the winter months and then carry on with our journey of full-time RVing somewhere else in Canada. Needless to say, we fell in love with Tofino and believe it will be our home for many years to come. Saying that, just like any home, it’s great to get away for a bit.
After a busy summer where Kate and I both worked jobs while also running our business – Tofino Food Tours – we were ready for a departure from Tofino. Since we moved to Tofino, we’ve only take a couple trips around Vancouver Island. We’ve seen nearby Port Alberni & Nanaimo and travelled a bit to Victoria as well. Other than that we knew we wanted to explore this rugged & wild island that we now call home.
Seeing as Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America there were no shortages of places to go. Still, we only had two weeks and we wanted to see most of Vancouver Island in that time. Our main stops were to visit the areas around Mount Washington, Gold River, Port MacNeill, and Port Renfrew. We figured that itinerary would give us the opportunity to do some hiking in some beautiful areas while also relaxing in some quiet and peaceful surroundings. Happily, we can say that’s exactly what we got.
Mount Washington|Courtenay|Comox|Campbell River
For our first week away from Tofino we ventured up to one of the more popular winter destinations on Vancouver Island – Mount Washington. This beautiful area is home to a very impressive alpine centre, but Kate & I were more interested because of its proximity to Strathcona Provincial Park.
As the largest provincial park on Vancouver Island & BC’s oldest (opened in 1911), Strathcona had a lot of natural appeal to Kate & I. Filled with networks of hiking trails we figured we’d have lots to do while spending time at Mount Washington. But were in for a bit of surprise.
We began our vacation at the beginning of November and while the weather typically cools off, we weren’t entirely prepared for what would greet us when we arrived at Mount Washington. The night before we left Tofino, a cold snap made its way over Vancouver Island bringing with it the rare sight of snow in Tofino. While we got a small dusting in Tofino, Mount Washington being at a much higher elevation got hit with a substantial amount of snow.
While we weren’t necessarily expecting to be surrounded by snow at the beginning of November, we must say it was quite beautiful to look around us and see nothing but alpine forest covered with a thick blanket of snow.
Because of the snow, we weren’t able to hike the number of trails we were expecting to hike in Strathcona. While there was a fair amount of snow on the ground we weren’t going to be stopped from hiking some trails of the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona. So there we were – Kate, Bella, & I, happily hiking through the ankle-deep snow along the trails of the Forbidden Plateau.
Because of the parks popularity and proximity to Mount Washington, the snow on the trails was already mostly packed down by other hikers which was nice. Surrounding us as we hiked was a complete sheet of whiteness. It was quite stunning to see. Plus, it was so peaceful. While we couldn’t hike many trails, this hike gave us a good taste of what beauty lies within the park having us wishing to return again in the future to explore further.
While the snow may have stopped us from hiking further into the Forbidden Plateau, it opened up the opportunity to find some gems around Courtenay, Comox, & Campbell River.
Family photo in the Forbidden Plateau of Strathcona Provincial Park.
Bella enjoying the snow.
The snow alpine of Mount Washington
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Near Campbell River, we discovered a gorgeous park – Elk Falls Provincial Park. We spent a good chunk of a day at this park, wandering the many trails that wind through it. Along the way, we were able to find a couple bald eagles perched high up in the trees watching the river for food. We also had the opportunity to cross the relatively new (opened in 2015) suspension bridge which crosses the canyon giving some great views of Elk Falls.
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Nymph Falls Nature Park
Within the Comox Valley, we also found what we assume to be a popular summer destination for locals – Nymph Falls Nature Park. Along the Puntledge River, there are trails that give you some beautiful views of the river and falls. We were hoping we might be able to see salmon jumping up the river to their spawning grounds. It appeared that we were a couple of weeks late as we didn’t see any jumping, however, we saw some decomposing along the river banks. While we were walking along the rocks of the river it became obvious that with its shallow natural pools that the river would be a hot spot for swimmers during the summer.
Nymph Falls Nature Park
Courtenay River Estuary
Driving around Courtenay, mostly to find somewhere to eat, we discovered one of the highlights of our trip – the Courtenay River Estuary. Comox Bay divides Courtenay and Comox and that’s where you will find the Courtenay River Estuary. From either side, however, we were amazed at the amount of wildlife. Up close we witnessed many different birds, many of which we had never seen before. Seals would happily pop up and check us out near the water’s edge. The highlight, though, was the bald eagles. At one point, we counted probably at least 50 bald eagles including a mixture of juvenile & fully matured eagles. It was incredible to see so many in one place. I also managed to get incredibly close to a great blue heron which allowed me to snap one of my favourite series of photos I’ve ever take. Throughout the week we spent at Mount Washington, we travelled down to the Courtenay River Estuary to walk the trails or just sit in the car and watch the show.
Great Blue Heron at Courtenay River Estuary
Pair of bald eagles at the Courtenay River Estuary
Soaring bald eagle at the Courtenay River Estuary
Located almost right in the middle of Vancouver Island is the logging town of Gold River. What we discovered when in Gold River is that it’s the hub for a lot of different activities. Many use Gold River as a way to hike the Nootka Trail. Others enjoy cruising aboard the MV Uchuck III. For us, however, we used Gold River as our gateway to the other main corridor of Strathcona Provincial Park – the Buttle Lake area.
Once arriving, we were happy to see that unlike Mount Washington, there was no snow and the temperatures were much milder. For a couple of days, we explored much of the shorter trails that wind through the Buttle Lake area. There we saw some beautiful waterfalls tucked amongst the untouched ancient old-growth forest.
One rainy day we even took a drive down a 70km logging road to reach the village of Tahsis. Once a booming logging town with over 2500 residents, the town now has only 370ish year-round residents after the mill closed in 2001. What we found there wasn’t much aside from a beautiful and protected body of water known as the Tahsis Inlet.
Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park
Bella hanging out at Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park
Port McNeill/Port Hardy/Telegraph Cove
One of the ideas behind this trip was to check out most of Vancouver Island from top to bottom. Getting to the top meant heading towards Port McNeill & Port Hardy. Before we made our way to the Port villages, we made a quick stop in Telegraph Cove.
All summer, while working at Jamie’s Whaling Station in Tofino, I heard tourists mention Telegraph Cove. Naturally, my interest was heightened about this place. What we found were postcard-like surroundings where an old fishing village has been turned into a resort. At this time of year, the resort was closed down so it felt very much like a ghost town almost making it more beautiful. During the summer, Telegraph Cove is a busy spot for wildlife tours as you can take whale watching trips that frequently see killer whales.
During our two days in Port McNeill, we did some hiking but also drove down some long and winding roads to find small communities like Coal Harbour and Port Alice. While there wasn’t much happening in either destination it was still nice to travel to these beautiful tiny communities which helped give us an idea of what life is like in some of the more remote areas of Vancouver Island.
The picturesque resort of Telegraph Cove
Having seen the northern part of Vancouver Island, it was time to check out the other end. To do so, we stayed for a few days down on the southwestern part of Vancouver Island in Port Renfrew. Like many of the other spots we visited on our vacation, Port Renfrew is a tiny village that thrived on logging for many years. Nowadays, while there is still logging in the area, it’s the trees that haven’t been chopped down that are attracting visitors to Port Renfrew.
A short drive from Port Renfrew, there are a couple of popular destinations with travellers who are searching for massive old-growth trees – Avatar Grove & Big Lonely Doug.
Avatar Grove is home to “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” as designated by the Ancient Forest Alliance. A short uphill hike through majestic ancient old-growth forest put us in front of the gnarly tree with its massive burl a short distance up its thick trunk.
A few kilometres from Avatar Grove is Big Lonely Doug. After a drive up some old logging roads and a short trip over a somewhat frightening logging bridge, we discovered Big Lonely Doug. Unlike Avatar Grove which is flush with untouched trees, Big Lonely Doug is famous because he is the lone Douglas fir that was spared during a 2012 clear cut of the ancient old-growth forest. So there Doug stands amongst the small trees that have begun to sprout in the last 5 years. The story of Big Lonely Doug is an incredible one and we highly recommend you read this article by the Walrus that wonderfully details the history behind Doug.
Big Lonely Doug near Port Renfrew
Canada's "Gnarliest" Tree at Avatar Grove
Bella wandering through Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew
While we were staying in Port Renfrew, we decided to take the short trip to Sooke. I’ve heard many people mention how much they love Sooke and that next Tofino, it’s their favourite spot on Vancouver Island.
Even though we only had one day to explore, we got a pretty good glimpse of what Sooke offers. We did a couple of short hikes including the Sooke Potholes and a short hike on the Galloping Goose Trail to the Charters Creek Trestle.
It was on the trestle where we had a fun little encounter with wildlife. As we were walking back along the trestle towards our vehicle I noticed a couple hundred of meters ahead of us two big black blobs on the trail. Sure enough, there was a mama and cub black bear. Kate and Bella had failed to see them and they were walking ahead of me so naturally, I stopped, and whisper-yelled, “Kate! Bear!” Quickly, her and Bella stopped in their tracks and we stopped to watch the bears. The bears took a quick look at us but didn’t really seem to care about us which was a relief. Seeing as there was only one way to our vehicle we had to wait about ten minutes until the bears carried on into the forest before retreating to our truck.
Charters Creek Trestle near Sooke
While Vancouver Island is one large island, we were fortunate enough over our two-week vacation to cover a good chunk of it. One thing that we both learned from the trip is how lucky we are to be able to call Tofino our home. All the stops we made on our journey were fabulous but it became obvious to us both that there really is no place on Vancouver Island – possibly Canada – like Tofino. With pretty much all of the daily amenities that you need, combined with being in a beautiful remote area full of outdoor adventure around every corner it truly is hard to beat Tofino. That being said, it’s hard to beat Vancouver Island as a whole. The enormous trees and rugged coastline make for a tremendous landscape to traverse and we highly recommend you come explore someday.
Even though there is still a bit of summer officially left, summer unofficially ended for most of us after last Monday – Labour Day. Tuesday, kids were back to school and no longer are you allowed to wear white. So that must mean summer is over, right?
Like every summer, I’m sure you said to yourself, “I can’t believe how quickly it went by.” That statement definitely rang true for Kate and I this summer as well. Honestly, we could say that the last year has just flown by. Specifically, though, the summer just whizzed by for us this year. It seems like it was just yesterday that it was the May 24 weekend and here we are now with fall just around the corner.
The summer for us was probably the busiest we’ve ever had. You’ve probably noticed as we’ve been a bit tardy with the number of blogs we’ve put out this summer. We’ve both been working a few different fun jobs that have taken up a lot of our summer. But we also had some time to have some fun here in Tofino and other parts of Vancouver Island this summer.
So, what exactly have we been up to all summer? Let’s dive in and we’ll tell you some of the highlights…
Whales & Bears, Oh my!
Back in March, Kate’s sister and niece visited Tofino and while they visited we had the opportunity to go whale watching with Jamie’s Whaling Station. While on the boat that morning I made a mental note of how fun it would be to work for one of the many whaling stations in town that specialize in whale & bear tours.
By June, I was indeed working for Jamie’s Whaling Station. While I’ve mostly been working the front desk, taking reservations & checking people in, I also occasionally do get out on the boats as a deckhand. This has been an awesome and rewarding experience.
For the most part, while on the boats we get to see grey whales, seals, sea otters, sea lions, eagles and more. Here’s a fun video of a juvenile grey whaled named Snowflake that got close to our boat during our one trip.
While I had seen grey whales regularly while on the boats, I still had never seen Orcas in the wild. In Tofino & Clayoquot Sound, we only have the Transient Orcas which feed primarily on sea mammals. These orcas travel up to 100 miles a day and only pop up in our area every couple of weeks on average.
One foggy morning, as we were making our way back home after watching some grey whales, I was scanning an area known as the Glory Hole where we commonly see Stellar Sea Lions. This morning, through the fog, I couldn’t see any sea lions, but all of a sudden a massive black dorsal fin appeared near the rocks. My initial thought was, “That is NOT a porpoise.” I followed that thought by running through the cabin of the boat to tell our captain that I spotted the orca. We turned the boat around and proceeded to watch 3 orcas. Here’s the video. It’s not great but nonetheless, it was amazing to see these beautiful whales for the first time.
While I have seen my fair share of whales this summer, Kate and I also went out with Jamie’s on their bear watching tour. The black bears in Clayoquot Sound mainly feed during the summer months at low tide on shellfish like crab. To feed they have to toss rocks to discover their food. It’s quite impressive to watch the bears effortlessly toss the rocks. Have a look for yourself…
As I turned 31, Kate took me away to the other side of Vancouver Island for a couple of trips that featured some outdoor fun.
Little Qualicum Falls was our first stop on the journey. The beautiful provincial park is host to camping and beautiful trails. It’s a great stop to see a mixture of ancient growth forest combined with some beautiful waterfalls.
Later that same day we tried something relatively new to both of us – caving. We’ve both been in caves before but the Horne Lake Caves we visited were quite different. While there are quite a few caves in the area we chose to take a guided tour through one of the smaller cave systems. And when I say small, I mean small in more way than one, specifically how tight the caves were. There were points throughout the experience where anyone bigger than Kate or I would have had a hard time navigating the caves. Even though the caves remain a cool 8 degrees Celsius year-round, Kate did feel a tad claustrophobic at times and even came out of the caves sweating from a small panic attack. It was quite a fun and different adventure for us. We’d like to go back sometime and check out some of the other caves.
The final stop on my birthday tour was to the North Vancouver Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. The centre is home to many animals who have been injured in the wild. Some of these animals are permanently at the centre as their injuries would mean they would likely not survive in the wild if released. There are, however, quite a few animals that are brought into the centre that are rehabilitated and then released again into the wild. We had the opportunity of seeing a lot of beautiful animals, specifically birds up close that we otherwise would likely never have a chance to see that closely.
Viva Las Vegas
For the first time in my life, I recently made my way to Las Vegas to celebrate my father’s 60th birthday. In Vegas, I met up with my family including my aunt and grandfather. This was my grandfather’s first time flying anywhere so it was quite an experience just watching him throughout the three days we were together. Watching him casually have conversations with escorts that would approach him was a highlight.
Our arrival in Vegas also coincided with the “Big Fight” between Floyd Mayweather and Conor MacGregor. You’d think that Las Vegas would be the best place to watch the fight – not so much. The cost of tickets to the actual fight was a minimum $2700. Tickets to closed circuit viewing parties were $150+. Other than those two options, nowhere else in Vegas could you watch the fight. Rather, by chance, I ended up watching most of the fight with a small crowd gathered around some guys laptop at the hotel bar.
Throughout the trip, I was blown away by how bloody expensive Vegas truly is. A couple of examples. I lost my lens cap for my camera. To replace it I went into the only camera store on the Strip and was offered a replacement cap for $75!!! Insanity. I also unknowingly paid $6 for a small cup of pop at the Bellagio. I’m still a tad bitter about that.
The best Vegas experience we had was on Fremont Street which is essentially old Vegas. It’s a pretty happening spot with live music, zip lining over the street, street performers and more. It’s also the cheaper side of town. We had a steak and lobster dinner for $12.99. Hard to beat that deal.
How We’re Paying the Bills
While I predominately am working at Jamie’s Whaling Station, Kate is working as a guest representative where we live at Crystal Cove Beach Resort. She is learning how the resort operates and is enjoying it immensely. On top of that, we’re getting close to wrapping up our first season running our own business – Tofino Food Tours.
It’s been a fun summer touring guests from all over the world around Tofino. We feed our guests with plenty of food and knowledge about Tofino & Clayoquot Sound and everyone seems to have had an amazing time which is really rewarding.
We’ve also both been using our 30 years of combined radio experience at our local radio station – Tuff City Radio. Since April, we’ve been doing the morning show from 8-10 each morning. It has been fun to get back into radio again, especially since we’re there to simply have fun which is something we weren’t really having anymore when we were let go (thankfully) from our radio positions in 2015.
Bella & Paris Update
While I’m sure you don’t mind reading about what we’ve been up to this summer, I’m sure you’ve really been wondering what’s been going on with Bella & Paris Frances. Both are still loving life here in Tofino. Bella spends some nights at work with Kate. So if you stay at Crystal Cove Beach Resort you could meet our beloved little chocolate lab. When she isn’t at work, Bella loves wandering our world class beaches where she plays happily in tide pools and sniffs the bums of many other dogs that greet her. Here’s Bella playing this summer…
Meanwhile, Paris has become quite a deviant. More so than before believe it or not. She’s again become obsessed with drinking water from the bathroom sink. This sink is directly beside our bed so in the middle of the night she started clawing the bed or even us. This is her way of requesting that we turn the tap on. She would do this routine many times throughout the night. Twice within a week, she jumped on my face in the middle of the night. Once she drew blood from my nose. We’ve since locked her out of our room at night allowing for Kate, Bella and I to have a much more peaceful sleep. Every morning when we open the bedroom door, the little devil is waiting for us. Here she is happily enjoying her running tap…
Seeing as we’ve now set up Tofino Food Tours, we’ve essentially committed to staying in Tofino for a little while. How long? We’re not sure yet. Knowing that, however, we’ve decided that we will slow down and travel a bit in the fall, winter, and early spring months before another busy summer season hits us next year.
When this tourism season wraps up for Tofino, in mid to late October, we’re going to hit the road. We haven’t got an official plan, but we’re planning a 4 to 6 week long road trip that will see us travel to Washington and from there travel the US 101. The route will have us specifically travelling down the Pacific coastline of the US which looks spectacular in every picture we see. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to go to Astoria, Oregon to see some of the filming locations used in one of my favourite films – The Goonies. Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is a must and is the only planned part of our itinerary at this point.
Haystack Rock, Oregon (Photo by: Tiger635 via Wikimedia Commons)
This will be one trip where we don’t book things ahead of time and rather go with the flow. We’ve never done this before as I’m a nutcase planner but I’m freeing myself of that for this trip. We’re just going to hit the road and see what happens.
How was your summer? What fun & exciting things did you do? What lays ahead for you in the fall & winter?
It’s now been a year and a half since Kate and I moved into our fifth wheel and made it our permanent home. Over that time, we’ve learned a lot about fifth wheels and their little nuances that differ from a traditional home. We’ve learned that we need to pretty much run a dehumidifier 24/7. We’ve learned that fifth wheels – even though they can be pricey – are most often cheaply made. And we had also learned that almost no matter what you do, it’s almost impossible to stop the fifth wheel from shaking.
Whether it’s simple movements, the dog jumping off the couch, or even just entering/exiting the fifth wheel shakes. At first, it was a massive annoyance. After a few weeks, however, we must have become used to the constant shaking as we didn’t notice it as much.
Although we became used to the constant shake of the fifth wheel, we were always looking for ways to reduce it. We tried some common things and various products, but nothing really eliminated most of the shake until we tried out the STEADYfast Stabilizing System.
What We Tried Before Installing the STEADYfast Stabilizing System
Anytime you stroll through an RV park, you will see that most RVs have wheel chocks in between their tires. These chocks are great for stopping your RV from rolling away from its position after you unhook from your tow vehicle. The chocks, however, are mostly useless in terms of stabilizing your RV. It’s possible that these chocks will reduce some back-to-front movement but nothing tangible.
Most RVers use wheel chocks with their trailer or fifth wheel.
Most trailers and fifth wheels come installed with scissor jacks that are extended once the trailer is parked. These jacks aim to reduce some of the shaking a trailer experiences. While the jacks do help, again, it’s a minor reduction of overall shaking.
Scissor jacks are commonly used on most RVs to reduce some movement.
When we first purchased our fifth wheel, we immediately bought a tripod stand in hopes that it would eliminate all shake from our fifth wheel. Well, we can safely say that did not happen. While it may have reduced a small amount of shaking the difference was barely noticeable. We even stopped setting up the tripod as we travelled across Canada because it wasn’t worth setting up and tearing down, even though it takes probably two minutes to set up.
A tripod similar to the one we used with our fifth wheel
Discovering the STEADYfast Stabilizing System
After trying the various methods above and getting frustrated at the fact our fifth wheel was still shaking, we were still on the lookout for something that could help solve our problem. Surely, with so many RV’s out there, there had to be a way to reduce the shake of our fifth wheel.
Probably the best thing to come from Facebook other than adorable cat and dog videos are the incredibly helpful various RVing Facebook groups on the social network. When Kate and I first moved into our fifth wheel, we were so overwhelmed with questions. Thankfully, the RVing groups on Facebook allowed us to find most of the answers we were looking for. The groups also came through when we were looking at how to solve our shaking problem.
One day as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed that someone in one of the RVing groups had asked the simple question, “How do I get my RV to stop shaking?” There were plenty of responses but the answers that seemed to be most positive were people talking about the STEADYfast Stabilizing System.
I was intrigued and wondered how I hadn’t yet heard of the STEADYfast Stabilizing System. Immediately, I looked up their website and started to learn all about this supposed magical product that would reduce the shake of our fifth wheel.
What is the STEADYfast Stabilizing System?
The STEADYfast Stabilizing System is a permanently installed brace system that effectively anchors the frame of your fifth wheel or trailer to the ground. This is how it’s described on their website:
“The STEADYfast system anchors the trailer frame to the ground using 3 rigid braces or bars that are attached to high performance self leveling foot plates. The foot plates attach to existing jacks. Conveniently located locking clamps and the rigid design allow your 5th wheel or travel trailer to be stabilized with ease.”
Once the system is installed, STEADYfast claims that customers will see a 90-95% reductions in movement. That’s a pretty substantial percentage. After seeing that impressive figure combined with the amazing reviews that I had read on the various RVing groups, it was a must that we try out the STEADYfast Stabilizing System.
Receiving & Installing the STEADYfast Stabilizing System
A couple weeks after reaching out to STEADYfast our stabilizing system was available for pick up at our local post office here in Tofino. When I went to pick it up, the poor mail person was struggling with handing it over to me. It came in a large box and indeed was very heavy.
Once home, I opened the box to inspect its contents. It’s no wonder the package is so heavy. Inside I saw the various braces which would be mounted to our fifth wheel. I picked one up and immediately remarked to Kate about how solid these were. You could see and feel the quality of the product right away. This was a great first impression.
Next came the installation of the system. This is the part that I was worried about. I’m the furthest thing from a “handyman” and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to install the system. However, the STEADYfast website claims that installation is rather easy and should take no longer than 2-3 hours. I imagined that for myself that it would take much longer than that. It once took me 4 days to put a small BBQ together.
In order to prepare myself for the installation, I watched various Youtube videos from STEADYfast as well as customers who had installed the system. This gave me a better idea of what I was going to be doing during the installation rather than reading the instruction manual that came with the package. I’ve never been good with written instructions but combining them with Youtube videos provided the perfect amount of knowledge I needed to successfully install the system.
Over the course of a couple of days, I spent probably 8-10 hours installing the system. Like I said, I’m not handy and a lot of that time was taken to double check and make sure that I was installing everything properly. If I were to install the system again, it would probably only take 2-3 hours.
Looking back now, most of the installation was pretty straightforward and easy. That being said, there was one challenging/frustrating part for me. There are brackets that have to be installed onto the frame of your trailer. To do so, you have to drill some holes followed by installing the bracket onto the frame with self-threading bolts.
The self-threading bolts are a bit of a challenge. Even in some of the videos I’ve watched, this part of the installation is the most challenging for others. I knew I wasn’t alone but I still had to get the job done. The challenge was actually getting the bolts to thread and push through the drilled hole to successfully mount the brackets. At one point, Kate had to take over because I was getting frustrated with this part of the install. She managed to successfully get one of the bolts into the frame. While she was doing that I found an impact drill in our workshop here at Crystal Cove Beach Resort. This made the job MUCH easier and I highly recommend using one to make your life easier.
Does the STEADYfast Stabilizing System Actually Work?
The simple answer is a resounding YES! I first installed the rear brace and Kate and I immediately noticed how much more stable the fifth wheel was particularly in the rear of the fifth wheel. The next day after installing the front and side braces the shaking movement within the RV reduced even further.
A week after installing the STEADYfast Stabilizing System we had to move to another site. This gave us a good idea of how quick and easy it is to set up each time you move your fifth wheel or trailer. There are locking brackets that quickly turn up and down to engage/disengage the system and allow for the rear and front jacks to extend/retract. That’s basically all you have to do when moving sites.
The one interesting thing we noticed after moving to our next site was that the system didn’t work as well. The site we were at was very unlevel from back to front and meant that we had to extend our front jacks quite a bit. I figured this was the reason for the system not working as well, so I emailed STEADYfast.
Anytime you email STEADYfast you’re going to get a rather quick response from Owner/Inventor Paul Hanscom. I had asked Paul about whether or not being on an unlevel site would affect the performance of the system. He quickly responded to say…
“Typically concrete, asphalt and hard ground are relatively easy to get the movement reduction, especially when they are level. Gravel, sand, and grass it are very difficult to set up and get the same movement reduction, but there are things you can do to get the best possible. Sites that aren’t level are more difficult to set up on, but you should be able to get similar performance.”
The site we were on was very soft gravel and incredibly unlevel, so based on Paul’s response it made sense that we weren’t seeing the optimal performance from the system. Nonetheless, it still reduced the shaking of our fifth wheel a considerable amount. Some of the things that can be done when using the STEADYfast stabilizing system on soft ground include using various blocking techniques that are described in the instruction manual.
Overall, we’ve been very happy with the STEADYfast stabilizing system. Not only has the system helped to reduce the movement of our fifth wheel, but the customer service we experienced when we had questions was top notch.
It’s now been almost a year and a half since Adam and I switched our lifestyles and started full-time RVing. Although we would hardly consider ourselves experts in the world of full-time RVing, through our website and Facebook, we receive plenty of messages from people who are looking to make the switch, too.
Those messages we read are filled with optimism and excitement. At the same time, you can also feel the nervousness about making the switch from a traditional type of lifestyle to one where your primary residence is 300 square feet or less.
The questions also remind us of ourselves before we started full-time RVing. We were full of questions, nerves, and really didn’t have a clue of where to or how to start planning.
It’s more than just downsizing and picking out an RV. You must consider full-time RV insurance, provincial medical insurance, having a permanent address, budgets and income, and a good warranty.
If you have children, that opens another spectrum of issues you would have to address. In this blog, I will share with you the answers to the most frequent questions we get asked about those who are dreaming of full-time RVing.
What works for us may not work for you, but it may give you some ideas. I have also included ways that our friends who full-time RV make it work for them.
What Do You Do For A Permanent Address?
To full-time RV in Canada, you will need a permanent address. Apparently, the government doesn’t like the idea of you roaming around without a “permanent” home. You need a permanent address for your license, passport, health care, insurance & taxes.
Because of our style of full-time RVing where we stay longer in certain locations rather than constant travel, we set up our permanent residence at our current location in Tofino, British Columbia.
Our permanent residence is the campground that we stay at where we’ve built a strong relationship with the manager who happily let us do it. We also plan on keeping Tofino our home base for a little while so it made sense to have this as our permanent residence.
If you move around more frequently than we do, you likely will need to figure out another solution for your permanent residence. The first step in doing so is to decide what your home province is going to be. Your home province is the province where you will live for at least 6 months of the year for the purpose of maintaining your healthcare and license.
Once you have your province of choice picked there are a few different options available to you. The simplest solution is to use the address of a close friend of a family members residence. Other solutions could include finding an RV park where you can buy a lot which would serve as your primary residence.
Our home at Crystal Cove Beach Resort in Tofino.
How Do You Get Your Mail?
The natural follow up question we get once we answer questions about permanent residency is usually about mail. In a time where mail is less prevalent, the solution is usually pretty easy.
To eliminate mail as much as possible, we have all our bills sent via email, and we also have a Canada Post “EPOST” account where mail can be sent safely that may contain private information such as tax information. We have paperless banking, and we try and make sure everything goes through email.
Even with all the measures we take, we still get mail. But how do we get it?
Because our permanent residence is our campground we just use their address. Most campgrounds are happy to do this for guests that are staying long periods of time. We had the same arrangement with our campground in Prince Edward Island.
You can also set up a P.O. Box and then have your mail forwarded as you move. This can get costly, however, especially considering the limited amount of mail you’re likely receiving.
Using a friend or family members house as your primary residence would be a great solution as all your mail would go to them and you could easily trust it with them as well.
What Do You Do For Insurance?
Whether it’s vehicle, RV or health insurance, they’re all important to have when full-time RVing.
Our 2008 Heartland Sundance is covered by Aviva Elite Insurance. This is the same company we used in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Call an insurance broker and ask about Aviva Elite.
What we like is that for a full-time RV, they include coverage for accommodation if something bad happens to the RV. That is important if you need repairs or are waiting for a replacement RV which can leave you stranded without your home for days/weeks.
Also, have a talk with your agent about replacement value. For the first 6 months of full-time RVing, we actually did NOT have enough insurance for the replacement value of our RV.
The value was based on what we paid for the RV. If you think about that for a second, you could be putting yourself into a pickle if your RV burns down and you have to find a replacement for what you paid for the RV. In our case, our replacement value was around 25 thousand dollars. After talking to our new agent in BC, I upped that value to almost 60 thousand. It costs more, but it will be worth it if something happens. We will be able to go and get a newer RV and have a much bigger selection of RV’s to choose from simply because of the price point.
If you live anywhere outside of British Columbia you have a choice for insurance companies. In BC, we were kind of surprised to learn the government has a monopoly on the insurance industry. It’s called the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Surprisingly, it isn’t outlandishly priced and we have not had any issues. It certainly cuts down on the time spent calling and asking for quotes.
Canadian health coverage varies from province to province. You will need to pick your home base province and then read everything you can about the rules regarding that insurance.
If you plan to spend time south of the border or a lot of time in other Canadian provinces, you need to find out how much time you are allowed to stay outside of your home base province. For example, if you are covered by the province of New Brunswick, you need to tell them anytime you are going outside of the province. That includes a month-long visit to a campground in Quebec. They want to know where you are.
In British Columbia, we actually have to pay the province for our health coverage which is called Medical Services Plan (MSP). MSP is based on your income. If you make over $42,000 you pay $75 a month for a single person. If you make $24,000 or less, you pay nothing. Married couples pay more, and again it is based on income. You can apply for assistance to pay for it, and the provincial government is in the process of lowering the prices. Children do not have to pay for MSP.
We were shocked to learn that we had to pay for health care in British Columbia because you don’t in other provinces. In my opinion, it stinks because you must pay for it, but at the same time while living in Tofino I have truly had the best medical experiences. I wait no more than a day or two for an appointment. The hospital, while small, has just about everything you need including doctors who vacation and work in this town. Specialists come into town to surf and work. It’s really kind of a sweet deal for the doctors and the patients.
Should I Get Extended Warranty Coverage for My RV?
When you’re buying your RV, you’ll come to the part of negotiations where your RV salesman will ask you about whether or not you want the extended warranty. In our opinion, the answer should always be yes. It can be a bit expensive at nearly $1000 or more a year but it’s more than worth it.
While RV’s are pretty fancy these days, they’re still made pretty cheap and have some questionable craftsmanship. This is for a couple of reasons. Because RV’s need to be light for transportation, a lot of the parts are very light and less durable as a result. RV’s are also mostly made on assembly lines and it’s easy to have things that are overlooked during the assembly process.
Having an RV warranty is also great should you want to sell your RV as warranties are usually transferable and come with tremendous value to the new owner.
When we purchased our RV, we went for the maximum warranty available at 4 years. A lot of newer RV’s have extended warranties that extend past 10 years.
In the year and a half that we’ve had our RV, we’ve used our warranty coverage multiple times and it’s saved us A LOT of money. We’ve replaced our trailer-to-truck electrical cord, air conditioner, and the converter. Total that all up and it would have cost us almost $3000. As you can see, the warranty pays for itself.
Should I Get Roadside Assistance?
A roadside assistance plan is one of those things you hate to spend money on, because you may not need it. That said, we use Coach-Net and also have a backup with Aviva Elite Insurance. Our thought is it’s better to be safe than sorry. Having roadside assistance for your home is a must for peace of mind and to save you money.
What Can I Do For Internet?
“How do you have a reliable internet source while full-time RVing?” This is something you will see on every full-time RV Facebook page. The internet is something almost all of us need now for work or even just to play Candy Crush or to stream live bear cams in Alaska.
If you’re staying at a park a little longer term as we do, you may have some good options available to you. In PEI, the park manager ran a few hundred feet of cable directly to our RV so we would have a direct, high-speed connection. That was pretty sweet.
As we made our journey from PEI to Tofino, though, we discovered RV park WiFi is pretty weak and inconsistent. Most parks haven’t yet invested the money into having a quality system installed. Some, even with great systems installed still run slow based on high occupancy levels of the park.
To try and overcome poor WiFi we installed a WiFiRanger unit. WiFiRanger is a WiFi booster that will help to amplify nearby WiFi signals so that you can still connect and do whatever work may need to get done.
The WiFiRanger EliteAC Pack FM roof mounted unit & GoAC router.
Thankfully, the park we’re now at just finished installing a high-quality system with many access points throughout the park. This has allowed us to have the best WiFi experience that we’ve experienced at any park throughout Canada.
Others have installed some pretty high-tech, pricey systems to allow them to have high-speed connections wherever they travel. This is something we’ll be looking more into in the future.
Can You Full-Time RV in the Winter?
There are full-time RVers in almost every province of Canada. This includes brave souls that spend freezing cold winters with insulated basements, skirting, and thick wool blankets. There are plenty of Canadians that have many tips for full-time RVing in the cold Canadian winters. We have even heard of people who have wood stoves in their RV. I’m not sure how you would get insurance for that, but hey, whatever works for you.
But yes, you can full-time RV in the winter. It just means a lot of modifications to your RV. Some of which can be costly.
We despise the snow and cold. We love snow in the mountain tops, or a freshly fallen snow in the woods, but only for one day.
We chose to stay in Tofino, British Columbia during the winter for a mostly snow free winter. We put up with a lot of rain, but at least you don’t have to shovel it. Plus, we get to live in a temperate rainforest. Life is good.
Here’s an example of why we chose to stay away from snow…
Can You Full-Time RV with Kids?
A lot of people who are looking to make the lifestyle change have children. This is definitely a whole different challenge that we don’t have to worry about. That being said, we’ve seen and read about a lot of families who full-time RV.
What this mainly means is that one or both of the parents will home school the children. We think it’s great when families choose this lifestyle. It’s a fantastic way for kids to travel and learn more about their country. The road is an incredible classroom.
The most difficult aspect for children is the lack of a consistent social circle as it’s hard to develop long lasting friendships when you’re constantly moving around.
How Do You Do Your Banking?
We all need some place to keep our money. Thankfully, these days stepping foot into an actual bank is mostly unnecessary. You can literally have a bank account in any province in Canada and do your banking online.
Most banks now allowing cheques to be deposited via photo/email which also saves you from having to go to an actual bank.
If you need a void cheque or direct deposit forms for a job, you can also download them directly from your online account.
The switch to full-time RVing can be a difficult one. The unknowns can play havoc on your mind at times. Hopefully answering some of these common questions will give you a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into before starting this amazing lifestyle. If you still have any questions or concerns about full-time RVing, drop us a comment below or send us an email.
Also, make sure to join full-time RVing Facebook groups as they are an incredible source of information from people who live this lifestyle.
Are you full-time RVing in Canada? How have you overcome some of these issues?
While the town of Tofino may be relatively small in size, the area surrounding it – Clayoquot Sound is quite large. With that size comes the ability to get out on many different adventures. From kayaking to wildlife watching to hiking, there’s a never ending list of things you can do when you visit Tofino.
Since arriving in Tofino in October, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was to get out on the water and explore the various islands of Clayoquot Sound.
One afternoon, a friend tagged me in a Facebook post from Hello Nature Adventure Tours in nearby Ucluelet. The company was going to be doing a couple of hiking trips to Flores and Vargas Island and as a new business, they were inviting bloggers to join them.
When Kate’s sister and niece visited Tofino in March, they went on a hiking tour with Hello Nature and raved about their experience. Knowing this combined with my desire to explore more of Clayoquot Sound, I speedily fired off a message to Kevin at Hello Nature asking if I could join. Shortly after, he informed me that I could indeed join them on both trips that week.
Elated with the news, I immediately started packing my backpack for the upcoming adventures.
Trip 1: Wild Side Trail, Flores Island
With my backpack and hiking boots ready to go, I was excited to hike the Wild Side Trail on Flores Island. The trail is an 11-km traditional trading footpath of the Ahousaht First Nations. A trail that they had used for thousands of years to trade with nearby First Nation communities.
Meeting the Guides
I met Kevin along with the other Hello Nature guides and some guests down on the First Street Dock where we were to hop in a water taxi to make our way to Flores Island. After brief introductions and signing a waiver, we hopped into our water taxi, guided by Mike, a member of the Ahousaht First Nations. Because the Wild Side Trail is on First Nations territory, Hello Nature insists on using First Nations whenever possible to taxi guests out to Flores or Vargas Island. It’s great that they do this as it helps support the Ahousaht First Nations economy.
30 minutes after we first jumped into the boat with Mike, we had passed the various mountains and islands of Clayoquot Sound to arrive at the Ahousaht dock. We happily unloaded, ready for adventure.
Mike, our water taxi guide who took us to Ahousaht.
Picking Up Some Trail Companions
To warm up our legs for the hike, Kevin informed us that we would have to walk through both the old and new villages of Ahousaht before reaching the entry point for the Wild Side Trail.
Along the way, we picked up some more guests that would join us throughout our remaining time on Flores Island – three beautiful wolf dogs. Throughout our hike, the dogs would follow or lead us along the trail while periodically disappearing. When the dogs would reappear we would hear crashing through the thick rainforest shrubs. Had they not joined us at the beginning of the hike, we would have likely been convinced we were being tracked down by a small pack of wolves. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
One of the wolf dogs that joined us throughout our hike on the Wild Side Trail
The Fascinating Banana Slug
Just before we hit the trailhead, we came across one of the more unique specimens of Clayoquot Sound – the banana slug. At first, the large slugs are impressive to the eye, simply based on their size alone. Previous to living in Tofino, I’d never seen slugs this size. Beyond their large dimensions, Kevin provided some further interesting details about the banana slug. The slime that the slugs excrete is so sticky that 3M is trying to figure out how to recreate it for practical use with their adhesive products. He demonstrated the sticky strength of the slug by placing it on his hand then turning his hand upside down, displaying the slugs strength as it remained in place.
There are other fascinating facts about banana slugs but you’ll have to join Kevin on a hike and hear the facts straight from him. You’ll be amazed at what these slugs do.
Start of the Wild Side
After about 2km of hiking through the old and new villages of Ahousaht, we had reached the trailhead for the Wild Side Trail.
Originally, when the trail was used by First Nations as a trading route, this trail would have been a lot more rugged than its current conditions. Today, the trail is well maintained and features a quality boardwalk which will eventually cover most of the trail.
The trailhead of the Wild Side Trail
Learning About The Ecosystem
While we were hiking through the thick temperate rainforest, Kevin would occasionally stop us to tell us about some of the unique features of the rich ecosystem that surrounded us. From the giant ancient red cedars, Sitka spruce & hemlock to the various berry bushes and shrubs, Kevin displayed an immense amount of knowledge of everything that surrounded us making the hike rewarding both physically and mentally. As someone who is naturally curious, I fired a plethora of questions towards Kevin throughout the day, all of which he easily answered.
One of the more interesting things that we spotted in the rainforest was a collection of culturally modified trees. These are ancient red cedars that have had pieces of bark stripped from them by First Nations. The strips will then be used in a variety of ways such as to make clothing, thread, crafts, etc… By only taking a small strip from the tree it allows the tree to continue growing as well.
A culturally modified red cedar.
Lunch & Whales
As the sun beat down us we continued to alternate between winding through the rainforest and walking along stretches of beach which cooled us down with the cool breeze of the Pacific.
A couple hours after first hitting the trailhead, we arrived at the end of a long beach near a creek where we stopped for lunch. Kevin informed us that we were about 7km into the trail at this point and that we wouldn’t be going any further today. During a booked tour, guests would continue another 4-km to arrive at Cow Bay before getting picked up by a water taxi and heading back to Tofino.
While this would be as far as we were going, our small group was content to stop for lunch and explore a bit. I quickly found a dried up sea star near our lunch spot. While it was quite dry, based on the stench it was emitting it was clear that it was still decomposing.
A dried up sea star laying on the beach near where we had lunch.
Soon after, our group enjoyed a wonderful lunch that Hello Nature provides for its guests on these hikes. They had wonderful bread and meats and cheese to make sandwiches along with some fruit and veggies and my favourite – white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. It took everything within me not to grab the box of cookies and sneak off and keep them to myself. White chocolate macadamia nut cookies are an addiction for me.
As we sat in the sun and enjoyed our lunch, in the distance we could see some of the local whale watching boats from Tofino in the area. Soon after seeing them we started to see spouts of whales blow up from the water. So, as we continued eating lunch we had the pleasure of watching grey whales also feed and sporadically appear. Peering through some binoculars, a German guest, Katie, was smiling ear-to-ear as this was her first chance to see whales in person.
While we had come for a fun and adventurous hike, spotting wildlife wasn’t a guarantee. However, Clayoquot Sound is a wild area and stumbling on wildlife anywhere you go isn’t uncommon. Not only did we see whales that day, we spotted a seal at one point, too. We also saw probably 15-20 bald eagles throughout the hike, which always puts a smile on my face.
Once we had finished lunch, we packed up our gear and over the next couple of hours made our way back to the dock in Ahousaht while occasionally stopping to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
More photos of the Wild Side Trail (Click to enlarge)…
If you want to enjoy a relatively easy hike, but also enjoy a more remote hike with little to no other human contact, you should join Hello Nature to hike the Wild Side Trail. However, if you’re looking for a more rugged and wild hike, you may enjoy…
Trip 2: Vargas Island
Unlike the Wild Side Trail on Flores Island, hiking Vargas Island would prove to be a tad more adventurous than I had expected. A couple of days after hiking the Wild Side Trail, I met up with Kevin and a couple other guides from Hello Nature at Jamie’s Whaling Station. It was here that we would grab a boat out to Vargas Island. As previously mentioned, Hello Nature will employ the Ahousaht First Nations to transport groups to the various islands, however, when they’re unavailable, Hello Nature will use Jamie’s.
A Zodiac Adventure
For this adventure, rather than take your typical boat, we were going to be flying through the water in a Zodiac. This meant that we had to get suited up in survival suits that would provide both warmth during the trip out as well as our floatation devices.
All suited up and ready to take the Zodiac to Vargas Island
Down at the dock, we met up with Sarah who would be taking us out to Vargas Island. Like the trip to Flores Island, the trip to Vargas Island was about 25-30 minutes. However, when we approached the island it quickly became apparent that our landing wasn’t going to be like one we had in Ahousaht a couple of days before.
As the Zodiac closed in on the island my eyes searched for a dock. I remarked to Kevin, “there’s no dock is there?” He confirmed my suspicion as we closed in on the island towards a group of black rock where we would indeed be landing the Zodiac.
As we got closer, in my head I was constantly thinking about disembarking the Zodiac onto the wet & slippery rocks. I was hoping I wouldn’t make a scene of any kind. My long, unathletic body leads me to be rather clumsy at times and all I could constantly picture was myself tripping as I made my way off the boat stumbling onto the rocks or into the freezing water. Thankfully, I remained composed and landed on the island without any sort of embarrassing incident.
Offloading from the Zodiac onto the black rock of Vargas Island
Time to Hike
Once on the island, it was time to start hiking. After a quick walk on a stony beach, we reached the trailhead of the unnamed trail. It quickly became clear that this hike was going to be a bit more rugged than the Wild Side Trail.
Unlike the Wild Side Trail, this trail on Vargas Island had no boardwalks. Nor was it wide open in most sections. Rather, the trail was a mix of muddy, closed in trails with some sections requiring me to do a walking squat to prevent my head from getting scratched by the low hanging trees and shrubs.
The tall trees of Vargas Island
While it sounds a little more daunting, the ruggedness of this trail was incredible to me. I loved the fact how untouched the trail mostly was. Aside from the three resident wolves on Vargas Island, not many use the path we hiked that day. Throughout the entirety of our time on the island we didn’t spot another soul.
During the busier summer months, it’s possible you might stumble on some surfers who reach the island to surf a small beach called Little Baja. Dotted throughout some of the beaches were surfer shacks made from driftwood alongside the remnants of previous campfires.
A surfer shack made from driftwood on Vargas Island
After hiking for a few hours, we sat on a beach in a small cove, where like our previous hike, we spotted grey whales spout in the distance. It was in this cove that we would soon be picked up in the Zodiac by Sarah. Again, there was no dock to easily hop into the boat. This meant going from the slippery rocks into the Zodiac. This sparked up my thoughts of embarrassingly falling or slipping but I remained steady and boarded the Zodiac without issue.
As Sarah backed the Zodiac off the rocks, we decided that we were going to see if we could spot the whales we were seeing from the cove. For 15-20 minutes, we quietly sat on the water watching for grey whales. Much to our delight, we consistently saw 2-3 grey whales. More amazingly was the fact we got to see one of the grey whales breach its tail which is more uncommon compared to other whales in the area like the humpback whales.
A grey whale breaching its tail for us
With some unexpected whale watching under our belt, we made our way to the open ocean where the Zodiac was hitting big swells causing a bucking bronco feeling as we made our way back to town. I got to say, riding in Zodiacs are so much more fun than normal boats. No doubt I had a childish grin on my face as we hit big waves throughout the ride home.
It’s now been roughly 8-months since we first arrived in Tofino, which is hard to believe. The time has flown by since we arrived here. We believe that it’s simply because there’s so much to do and we can spend a great amount of time outdoors. Throughout the winter and spring months we enjoyed a lot of hiking but most recently, we decided to celebrate the warmer weather by going sea kayaking with Tofino Sea Kayaking.
Tofino Sea Kayaking
The Tofino Sea Kayaking building at 320 Main Street has a triple purpose. They have guided kayaking expeditions, there is the Tofino Paddlers Inn, and Main Street Espresso. In the 1920’s, the building originally served as one of the first hotels in Tofino.
They have a large deck that overlooks Clayoquot Sound where you can enjoy an espresso from the Main Street Espresso while soaking in the breathtaking view. When we take guests out for Tofino Food Tours they enjoy a meat and cheese board from Picnic Charcuterie while enjoying the beautiful view. We also explain to our guests some of the kayaking tours Tofino Sea Kayaking offer and what better way to explain a kayaking adventure than to experience one ourselves.
Going Solo or Doubling Up?
If you have ever been kayaking before and kayaked solo, you know how this can be a bit more enjoyable. You do your own thing and don’t have to work in synchronicity with another person. Because the tide was dropping dramatically and then rising dramatically due to the moon, our guide Candice recommended we go in double seater kayaks.
Adam and I knew this would be a challenge for us. While we communicate well, for some reason when we are kayaking or canoeing, we have issues. Adam says, “left,” I paddle right. I say, “right” he paddles left. Despite our knowing this, we decided to give it a go.
Our group consisted of myself and Adam, Candice – our guide, Jessica (guide in training), and a family of 3 visiting from Houston, Texas.
While we were itching to get out on the water after our introductions, we still had to gear up and go through some safety checks with Candice. The most interesting part of gearing up was the decision between wearing Crocs or rubber boots. Because we would be hopping out of our kayaks into the water, we needed to ditch our hiking boots and make the difficult choice. Adam despises Crocs so it was an easy decision for him, however, I happily took a miscoloured pair.
Hitting the Water
With our gear all set up and safety lessons complete, we were ready to head out. We made the decision that Adam would paddle from the rear seat and I would take the front. As we started to paddle through the Tofino harbour, we noticed right away that our kayak kept going right. No matter what we did we kept going right. As we were paddling Adam figured that he didn’t set his pedals properly and it was causing issues when controlling the rudder. Whoops. It was too late now, so we figured we would adjust them on the way back.
Weaving Through The Islands
As we continued to paddle we first came upon Deadman’s Islet. We found out from Candice the tiny islet was once used as a burial spot for the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations. Then we went by Lemmens Inlet which splits the two main areas of Meares Island.
Around this area, there were several other little islands. Some of them even have houses on them that are completely off the grid. I imagined what it would be like to live like that with the beauty and isolation. As Adam and I discussed living off the grid I told him my fear of what would happen not having a place nearby to buy chocolate. He indicated that we would have a stockpile of chocolate and that we had to stop worrying about chocolate shortages and start paddling faster. A quick look ahead and we discovered that we were falling behind from the rest of the group. We were definitely paddling at a very leisurely place.
A view of Clayoquot Sound from our kayak.
As we continued along, the three major mountains of Clayoquot Sound – Lone Cone, Catface and Mount Colnett – seemed massive from our perspective on the water. At one point a bald eagle flew over us – one of several we would see on this trip. Jessica, our guide in training, kept telling Adam and I (in a very nice way) to hurry up. We apparently were a little slow because we kept looking at the islands and the mountains. The little islands were beautiful, covered in western red cedars and various other trees like hemlocks and the Sitka spruce.
Big Tree Trail
Almost an hour after we begun paddling, we were set to arrive at our destination on Meares Island – the Big Tree Trail.
As we approached the island, Candice guided us up onto the small gravel beach where we landed the kayak. Adam sure was glad to get out of the kayak. Because he didn’t have the pedals properly aligned both of his legs had fallen asleep. Once out of the kayak we both happily stretched our legs before going on our hike of the Big Tree Trail.
All tied up and ready to hit the Big Tree Trail
Exploring The Old Growth Forest
As soon as you get on the Big Tree Trail, you notice three things. First, your nose is almost immediately filled with the wonderful scent of western red cedar. Second, the boards on the trail are made of fallen red cedars and are uneven so you are constantly stopping and staring up at the trees for fear of tripping. Third, it’s called Big Tree Trail for a reason. These trees are old with some of the giants being in the one-thousand-year-old range.
The trees in this stunning forest are all unique. Candice explained to us because this is a natural forest, the trees are all different shapes and sizes and have grown how they want. In many second and third cut forests, you will notice the trees are planted to only grow to a certain height and width apart. The old-growth forest also allows more light to the forest floor below which allows other shrubs and plants to grow, creating a unique ecosystem.
Walking the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island
I’ve been in many forests and I will never forget this old-growth forest. What’s crazy is that this forest was almost completely destroyed by the logging companies in the 1980’s. This left me with a sickened and disheartened feeling about mankind and how we so easily destroy our beautiful planet.
When the logging company was set to log Meares Island, First Nations along with locals teamed up to prevent what would have been nothing short of tragic. This happened throughout a series of events. First, when the logging company first approached the area with their logging equipment, they were told by First Nations that they were allowed to come upon the land but they were not allowed to destroy it. Later, the logging company was told by the BC Supreme Court that they would be allowed to log Meares Island. This was then thankfully overturned by the BC Appeals Court which officially stopped most logging activity on Meares Island.
Candice explained to us how First Nations would use the western red cedar, the tree they call “The Tree of Life”. First Nations would often spend time with the tree beforehand, relaying to it that it would be used to help their people travel by canoe, make their homes, baskets, tools and more.
One of the monster western red cedars on Meares Island.
As we walked along the trail Adam was taking pictures but often when you’re taking pictures in nature the end result never really shows a true representation of what we see with our own eyes. That was no different with the Big Tree Trail. You have to see this in person.
After we finished our walk on the trail we made our way back to the kayaks. The time spent in nature made us all happier and thankful to the First Nations for protecting this beautiful, unique piece of Clayoquot Sound.
Paddling Back to Tofino
Before paddling back to Tofino Adam got his pedals fixed on the kayak. Not only were his legs not falling asleep we were now paddling faster and with more ease than the trip out. Another bald eagle flew over us as the wind was whipping against us. With the sun beating down on us and with big smiles on our faces we arrived back at Tofino Sea Kayaking.
If you visit Tofino, Tofino Sea Kayaking should be on your travel itinerary. They offer a wide variety of kayaking trips for you to enjoy. They have a handful of day trips that range in the 2.5-7 hours that will make for a great way to introduce yourself to the beauty of Clayoquot Sound. If you want to immerse yourself a little more, they have multi-day tours that range from 2 to 6 days that will have you kayaking by day and camping by night.