Note to Gordon Lightfoot: “Carefree Highway” is not so care-free in a 33 foot Motor Home

Our decision to rent an rv for this trip was not made a long time ago. Eager Europeans (for the most part) long ago reserved their “normal” sized motor homes for their rocky mountain Canadiana.

When we started looking, the only one my husband could find was a 17 year old, 33 foot, “land barge” with separate queen sized bedroom, living room and bathtub. It’s not that I disparage folks who regularly “rv” around North America…it’s just that I am laughing at myself for doing this. It’s fairly out of character. This motor home is the size of a bus. It costs $400 to fill up the gas tank. It just seems so “indulgent”… so “much” …such a giant monument to consumerism and excessiveness.

The Land Barge
The Land Barge

But here we are…

I like to camp. While I’m not what anyone would call “hard core”, I do believe in camping in a tent, in staying in provincial or national parks and being outside and in nature. I do believe in being comfortable in my tent… but the core purpose is to be somewhat removed from all the suburban comforts of electricity, running water on demand and certainly air conditioning!

Our neighbor’s “living room”

As I was planning this trip, I was dismayed to find out that our rv is too big for most provincial parks. So I had to adjust my expectations and look for “RV resorts”. Essentially these are gravel and/or grass parking lots for rv’s and 5th wheels that park side by side and hook up to electricity, sewage and water services. So far, they also feature a swimming pool, communal laundry facilities and tonight’s version also has mini golf. And people who clearly “live” here for the season.

So that’s the general scene. We drove to Kelowna to collect our rv. The “briefing” for how to operate and drive this thing was a good hour and a half. I wasn’t freaked out about us driving this until now that it’s real and I see it. I can feel my anxiety like a low grade humming in my brain…which I’m trying to hide.

We hop in, me riding shotgun, to go to a grocery store before we leave Kelowna. I quickly realize I’d rather be one of my suitcases packed away in a cupboard and NOT seeing anything that’s going on. Every muscle in my body is tensed…we take up the entire lane and it feels like my husband is going to shear off every street sign, pedestrian, or –gasp-cyclist that goes by on my side of the vehicle.

It feels like we are riding a box rail car balanced on an ice skate. The old shocks are rocking the RV back and forth with creaks and groans that make me feel like we’re going to roll over every time we turn a corner. I lean into the middle of the vehicle…my husband just confided he is doing the same…like THAT’s going to do anything to rebalance us in the free roll around each corner that my overactive imagination is generating. But I can’t help it. I am trying not to jump and suck in my breath every time we come close to another large vehicle coming the other way or second guess how far my husband is swinging out around each corner so our back end doesn’t bounce over the curb.

Co-pilot in position?
Co-pilot in position?

Our mission is to get to Oliver before dinner. We do. But I slither to the ground once we pull in and I am so grateful …even if it turns out we did take out a post in the campground by taking a corner too tight. A kind neighbour guided our first backing up experience, like an experienced ground crew, nestling a jet up to the terminal gate.

The next day is winery tour day. Our first stop is “Road 13” Vineyard which is up a windy narrow hill road and into a dead end parking lot that is too small for a 33 foot motor home to do a three point turn in. On two sides of it are cement walls and on the third is the winery building. Omgomgomg…both of us are freaking out. The only option seems to be to back down the windy road and that’s not much of an option. The reality of driving this excessively-large vehicle is sinking in. I go into the winery building to ask if he can turn around in part of the vineyard. Meanwhile, my husband has parked beside the cement wall and figures a solution will present itself after we taste wine.

Smart man. It does! A small tour bus has shown up while we’re sampling, and the driver kindly directs Gervase in how to back into the vineyard without taking out the vines. We are so grateful for the kindness of strangers and are realizing that this is going to be our theme while moving in this monstrosity…it’s not just driving, it’s anticipating how to get it out of whatever you’re planning.

“Can we buy groceries?” becomes “Can we find a grocery store with a very large parking lot and at least four empty car spots that we can fill?” Listening to GPS lady turn us around after making a wrong turn is a less trusting experience because she takes you down roads for cars, not roads for Kleenex-box shaped camping monoliths. One “U turn” route took us down a one lane back road that had the driver and co-pilot both praying for no oncoming traffic.

While my husband now considers himself Bernie the bus driver, riding in the RV is not a relaxing experience by any stretch of the imagination and I am absolutely dreading being asked to help with the driving! Leaving Osoyoos today for Christina Lake along highway 3A had us climbing a series of switchbacks.

Bernie the Bus Driver
Bernie the Bus Driver

Again, I am leaning into the middle of the vehicle because I’m on the “downhill” side and it feels like there’s no ground beneath us (and my leaning into the rv will help us not roll down the mountain as the tires leave the highway…NOT). Normally I knit during car trips. Gervase noticed a lack of knitting today. “Oh,” he said to my reply, “you’re still driving with your eyes.”

Yah, actually I’m still driving with my eyes…and every muscle in my body.


2 responses to “Note to Gordon Lightfoot: “Carefree Highway” is not so care-free in a 33 foot Motor Home”

  1. Omg , drive slowly and come home soon!! I can totally imagine breaking with every muscle in your body!!

  2. Omgomgomg!!! (That’s my favourite part).
    Holy Cow you guys… stay safe in the rolling monolith!

    Keep on truckin’
    Bobbie 🙂

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