By Fiona Anderson and Paul Bucci
Triumph Social Media Travel Writers
There’s a certain allure about the call of the wild, and we’d both been at its beck and call for many, many years.
During the height of the COVID crisis, we decided we could be housebound no longer, and researched the heck out of buying a small travel trailer to get on the road and self-isolate at the same time.
We had bought a Nissan Frontier a year or so earlier — well truth be told, Paul bought the truck and Fiona went along with it thinking it could support a truck camper, one of her travel dreams. But the truck, because of its size, wasn’t good for a camper and limited what kind of trailer we could tow.
We settled on a Rockwood Geo Pro, a 19.5-foot four-season trailer with a roof-top solar panel and boosted wifi, which, to us, meant we could go off grid all year round. There was also an external propane grill, a fridge, stove, microwave, TV and a few other bells and whistles that we keep discovering.
We envisaged using the trailer winter and summer throughout British Columbia, across Canada and to the United States when allowed. We bought the trailer in October 2021 and our inaugural shakeout trip was December that year. We’d planned to go south to the U.S. but given the weather – extreme cold and lots of snow – we thought we might as well stay in B.C. which was equally cold and probably a bit snowier. But it didn’t require PVR tests and foreign travel.
We hauled the trailer in a blizzard from Nanaimo to an RV site just south of Campbell River where we stayed for a very stoic four days. Temperatures were as low as -23C. Given the size of the trailer, we’d anticipated spending most of our time outdoors, only being inside to sleep, but that was not an option. So when we weren’t skiing at Mount Washington during the day, we were inside cooking, cleaning and sleeping (including Christmas dinner, despite not being able to figure out how to start the oven).
But the Geo Pro was great. Its heaters kept us warm (although propane heaters create condensation, something that we later learned can be counteracted by minimizing use and relying on a small portable heater to complement the heat.)
We had the RV dealer winterize the trailer before our trip and as the weather was so cold we didn’t reverse the process which meant we didn’t have running water. Instead we relied on bottled water and the washroom of the RV park. But the RV park’s sewer drainage was frozen so we weren’t able to drain our black tank while there. Once back and parked, we found the tank had frozen and it was a less-than-pleasurable experience thawing it out and draining it (which we did by applying hot water and hot air (Fiona’s hairdryer).
And then it was back to storage for the Geo Pro before what became our real shakedown cruise six months later as we travelled from Nanaimo to Northern Ontario for a family gathering.
WHAT WE LEARNED
• Get a back-up camera. The Furrion back-up camera we bought is not just for backing up (there’s a reason RV parks have drive-through sites – backing up is hard to do). It’s also a very important safety feature that lets you see traffic behind you, very much like a rear-view mirror. And when you’ve passed a slower vehicle, you know when it’s safe to go back into the right lane because if you behaved like you’d normally behave, you probably would forget you’re twice as long as you used to be and change lanes too soon. You can also see cars that are approaching you from behind, ready to pass you, or just piled up behind you waiting for you to pull off or for a passing lane. A small truck pulling even a small trailer can be pretty slow going up hills.
• Videotape the dealer demonstration. We recorded our entire orientation session at the dealership when we bought the trailer. We should have watched it before heading out on our trip. On day four or five, we finally watched it to try to figure out why our outlets weren’t working (it turned out they only work when the Geo Pro is plugged into power, and the truck’s power is not enough). We also learned how to light the stove (a challenge on our first shakeout cruise), and how to set up the outside griddle.
• Schedule in exercise (maybe should be in next instalment). It’s really tough sitting in a truck all day hauling a trailer, then sitting in the trailer all evening when you’re as active as we are. Our most recent trip before heading to Northern Ontario was cycling across the United States, a trip that took us from St. Augustine, Florida to San Diego, California in just over two months. So in our Christmas shakedown, we cross-country skied at Mount Washington, a great mountain ski area on Vancouver Island (Fiona’s favourite ski hill as it’s not as busy as the more well-known resorts but has great cross-country and downhill skiing, especially for intermediates). On our trip to Northern Ontario we brought our bikes, a canoe and Paul’s carbon-fibre outrigger racing canoe as well as weights, including wrist weights for Paul to wear when he is driving. We had tried to carry Fiona’s kayak but three boats on top of the truck turned out to be too much.
• Organize, organize, organize. Our Geo Pro has two bunks in its left rear, which are designed in theory for sleeping, with handy lights and recharging stations. We use it for storage. The bottom bunk lifts up, leaving room for our two bikes, and bike accessories like shoes, helmets, and mo re. On the top bunk we have three big see-through tubs organized by importance. In the one closest to the main living area we keep towels. In the second is camera equipment, including our drone, and warm clothes. Further down the bunk is a container of things we don’t need until we reach our destination. Our kitchen and bathroom cupboards are also loaded with small, see-through plastic bins to hold spices and teas and soaps and toothpaste. That way things won’t shift while being transported but they are easy to see when you want them.
• The trip starts before Departure Day. We live on an island off Vancouver Island, and the Geo Pro is stored in Nanaimo. So we didn’t visit the Geo Pro until we were ready to take it away. That’s when we learned the battery was dead after six months of sitting (despite the solar panel on the roof). But we also learned we should have turned the refrigerator on a day or two before the trip to get it cold enough. Unfortunately we had to throw away some personally caught, and then personally smoked, salmon as it went bad waiting for the fridge to catch up.
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Fiona Anderson and Paul Bucci, from Triumph Social, are travelling across North America this year, first by bicycle from Florida to California and then by truck and travel trailer from B.C. to Northern Ontario and back. Both are veteran writers, editors and social media marketers.
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