On May 29 we backed the rig out of our Barrie driveway, and in the uncharacteristically blazing heat of late May, we packed up everything that was left to pack – which was all the stuff you tend to use every day – and headed on down the road to Milton Heights campground, northwest of Toronto. It was a trip of just 71 miles, and we picked this campsite intentionally close, firstly because of some work commitments in June, but also because we wanted a place to stay for a month to get used to things.
So what have I learned so far?
1. It’s beautiful. Driving into the RV campground is like stepping away from the world. It’s an oasis of trees, wide spaces, birds, big trailers, even bigger buses, and above all, quiet. People are very friendly. They nod and wave when we pass by, the same way boaters do on the water and bikers do on the road. We share a common bond – a love for discovery, travel and disconnecting from the sticks and bricks life for a while.
2. Backing in is crazy. We were successful after about six tries. Backing a 5th wheel is an exercise in physical and mental gymnastics, since there are three points of movement: the steering wheel, the 5th wheel hitch and the trailer’s wheels. Calculating how to introduce a ninety-degree turn through these three axes is something I think only Yoda could do. But come to think of it, he would probably take a short cut and just lift everything.
3. Backing in needs double-planning. My first rookie mistake was finally backing in with the trailer’s rear nice and close to both the electric service pole and the septic thingy. I put the landing legs down, unhooked, pulled away, and started to set everything up according to my meticulously-prepared checklist, only to find that in parking alongside the electric pole, I was blocking my slider from extending itself. So I hooked up again, and pulled sheepishly forwards a foot or so.
4. RV life means spending some of the time as a roadie. When we shopped around for a trailer back in the showrooming days, we looked at all the nice cosmetics. The color scheme, the lines, the furnishings and those crazy swirly stripes that they all seem to have on the outside. But now that we’re living in one, I find myself crawling on the ground a lot. I’m looking up at pipes, axles, cables and bolts. This is our home and we are responsible for how it all runs. It is, by comparison, much simpler than a house, but the fact remains an RVer must understand how it all functions. Which brings me to the next point:
5. A lot of the fixtures are pretty flimsy. I mean they have to be, I guess. Everything has to be lightweight. But in the space of a week, I have broken a curtain rod and have almost snapped a window latch. The walls and fittings are thin, tender replicas of those found in a house, but I am still a thick and clumsy human, unused to working with a light touch.
6. There is always something more to buy. Again, just like a sticks and bricks home, the package you find yourself with on day 1 is just the beginning. There are always items to get, like water filters, tire pressure monitors, floor mats and tiki lights. As we walk Henry around the park in the evening, we discreetly scope out other peoples’ rigs, learning as we go. Hmmm. A set of centipede legs to give the sewer hose more slope. A satellite dish. A gazebo?
7. There is a marvelous sense of flow. Every day a new trailer or bus appears in a space nearby, while another has pulled out and vanished. With this quiet exchange of one set of travelers for another there is a wonderfully comforting atmosphere of wanderlust – people on the move, making plans, mapping out routes, heading out, never resting. That perhaps is the greatest feeling that the park has given me so far.
The weather has been great this week. We have made friends with Peter the Englishman with the whippet (a full-timer), Dave the Formula 1 enthusiast, a family that we have named “la famille Moustache” in honor of the father’s prominent “Mark Twain” style moustache.
Now, all we need is a decent Internet and TV connection…