A year after getting married, my wife and I embarked on what I consider an epic journey. We packed our new Sunfire up with camping gear and headed East from the sheltered valleys of British Columbia across the prairies. Our goal was Montreal, and from there we would head south to Indiana and then back West through the United States. We planned to camp along the way, in order to save money. Our vacation was an interesting one. I would not term it a disaster, but there were several significant events along the way that led me to realize several key facts about planning and implementing a big trip, which I would like to share in this article.
Our first trials came as we left the mountains of my youth and descended into the treeless prairies. Treeless is significant, as we realized on our first stop that there was no wood available at the campsites for fires, beyond a couple of old fence posts. Saskatchewan, therefore, saw us dining on cold canned food. Lesson number one: Know the foliage of your destination and plan accordingly. The buffalo have vanished and therefore the old pioneer fuel of chips is no longer an option.
The next night, we consulted our travel brochure for sites in Manitoba. Manitoba has trees, so firewood was not an issue. We found a site that advertised plenty of firewood, spacious spots, and working showers. What it did not advertise was the fact that it was located on a recently flooded river, which upon returning to its banks had left a highly fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes. I have never seen so many of these insects in my entire life- you could hear them buzzing outside of the car- I am not joking. Lesson number two: Do not entirely believe what you read in brochures.
The density of the mosquito population was so extreme that even though it was already almost dark, we realized that we could not stay there. Instead, we drove a while longer and finally arrived in Ontario. We ate supper at a restaurant and then realized it was way too late to find and set up camp, so we found a rest stop and decided to sleep in the car. Lesson number three: A six foot two frame does not sleep well in the driver’s seat of a Pontiac Sunfire. I decided to climb in the back, which led to lesson number four: Always check what you are lying on, no matter how late. I discovered in the morning that I had slept on top of the pancake syrup and the dish soap, which had both spilled their entire contents all over the car. An attempt to scrub the syrup out resulted in the formation of lots of bubbles. Our car to this day still smells like syrup and soap.
The remainder of the trip through Canada went well, although I will say that the roads in Ontario are seriously lacking when it comes to planning. The greatest disasters on the trip came on the way back East through the United States, and involved a severe altercation with a border guard, weather the likes of which I had never heard of in Minnesota, a biker rally in South Dakota, and a forest fire in Wyoming. The biggest lesson I learned on the whole trip was that it is absolutely essential to plan ahead when it comes to a vacation.