A day in the life – Canadian style!

Hello from New Brunswick!

It is a rainy morning here in New Brunswick, on my first day in Canada on this trip -which will include Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I thought it would be a great opportunity to write a post about a typical day in the life of a full-time RV-er, albeit a shoestring budgeted solo van camper and not a fancy-pants RV! LOL, all you motor home and fifth wheel friends!

Last night I arrived at the coast of Maine after spending a few hours chilling out in my favorite place in the world – York Beach, Maine, before driving about two hundred miles further north. Or as my Maine relatives say “a little bit fatha up noth”. (Who needs those pesky “r”s?) I didn’t want to cross into Canada that late in the day so I pulled into a Circle K/Irving Gas business with a small parking lot for overnighters just 15 miles from the border crossing. There was only one other car there, so I took the end parking slot away from the lights with a view down into a shopping center below and a pretty valley beyond.

Placing my reflectix “curtains” in the windows only takes a few seconds, and then I have a cozy little cabin. My full-size bed is already made up with a summer quilt so I opened the roof vent to let the cool breezes in.  I crawled into bed and read a while by the little LED lamp while my I-phone charged on the portable generator.  Not too long afterward, the phone was charged and I was ready to fall asleep.  No noise keeps me awake when I am ready to sleep!

Ready to sleep in my cozy van!
Looking over Baxter State Park, Maine, and Mt. Katahdin, almost to the Canadian border.

This morning I awoke early as I had fallen asleep before 10 pm and had a full 8 hours of good sleep. (I sleep SO WELL in this van!) After my morning ablutions and use of my porta-potty, I cleaned up and was ready to drive. I don’t do breakfast early, but merely munched on some peanut butter crackers and my bottled water as I drove.

Crossing the border was pretty easy. Although it is Canada’s birthday today and lots of people will be visiting, no one else was up at 6 a.m. so I was the only car at the crossing. The usual “just camping for two weeks, no alcohol or firearms or tobacco” and showing my passport routine took 5 minutes. As I sped up to highway speed, it was amazing to me that the countryside actually looked different from Maine! I was not too surprised to see a moose in a wet area off to the side of the highway before I was very far down the road. My first hundred miles or so was sparsely populated, with lots of undulating rivers deep in the valleys as I crossed over them. Truly beautiful! Part of my fun while driving, besides looking at gorgeous scenery, is listening to books on Audible.  I have about ten books in my “library” that I can listen to as I drive.  I am currently working my way through the Harry Potter series (for about the 15th time).  On book four today, The Goblet of Fire.  The miles speed by as I watch for moose and eagles, enjoy the landscape, and listen to the wonderful British narrator Jim Dale read to me!

The clouds started gathering ahead, and pretty soon it was getting foggy. I decided I would pull over and fix some hot lunch.  First I mixed a can of creamed corn with a box of cornbread mix and baked that in my portable stove as I drove further east across New Brunswick. When the bread was baked (about 40 minutes), I pulled over and swapped out that bread pan for another disposable aluminum pan filled with a box of Spanish rice and can of black beans to cook. I drove a bit more until I saw an exit with another Circle K/Irving Gas with a large parking lot.

Black beans and Spanish rice for lunch, with some hot cornbread

Pulling in, I unplugged the portable stove before shutting off the engine. (Only use when engine is running — otherwise it could drain the car battery!) Making use of the facility bathroom, and throwing away my morning trash, I returned to my van for my hot meal.  Spanish rice with black beans cooked perfectly, and some tasty cornbread, all hot and ready to eat!  Total cost of meal – $3.25, and it will last two meals!

My little power generator will recharge my cell phone about 100 times before it even loses one bar! Best $150 ever spent!

Now I am sitting in my cozy van, listening to rain drops on the roof, as I wait for the fog and rain to dissipate.  I’m in no hurry, and will take a nap after finishing this post.  I am on my way across New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island and the whole “Anne of Green Gables” experience.  This is a long-awaited visit that has been on my bucket list for a very long time as I have loved those books since I was a little girl and have re-read them many, many times. But for now, the rain and fog have me holed up in my van for a few hours.

It is so refreshing to travel this way.  A couple of hours here and there of driving, and then a stop to enjoy a beach or a nap or a rainy hour of reading in my cozy van with the raindrops hitting the roof.  I am warm and dry, with my comfy bed, books, my laptop and cell phone, good food and drinks…this is the life!

 I will complete this post later today as it is only noon now, and so much more is to come…!

And the rain has stopped! I quickly crossed New Brunswick and drove across the Confederation Bridge (8 miles!) to Prince Edward Island. There was no charge on the bridge crossing in this direction – the toll will be charged when I return.  Canadian $46 is about $38 American. I just use my debit/credit cards and let my bank take care of the conversions.  I don’t even bother to get Canadian money as I just use the card instead of cash everywhere.  Since this (2017) is the 150th birthday of Canada, I obtained a free Canada Pass for the year which will get me into all National Pass places – including some of the Anne of Green Gables sites! Gotta love the FREE price!  But even those places that are not on the National Pass list, the cost for each was less than $5.00!

I arrived on Prince Edward Island around suppertime, and headed up the coast to the village of Summerside.  You can imagine my delight in finding that a harbor celebration was taking place that day to commemorate the birthday of Canada! There were vendors, live music, and fireworks – what a great welcome I had to the island! (and yes, of course, it was just for me – haha!)

I found a public parking lot right across from the harbor, and felt very safe leaving my van there while I enjoyed the festival.  The live band was playing a lot of American songs that I knew, but also some Acadian and Canadian music, which I really enjoyed.  I walked around and met some very friendly people.  Families were all over and having fun. It was great to see the Canadian flag everywhere, and people dressed up to celebrate.  We must have sung “Happy Birthday to Canada” about every hour or so!

The coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada
Purple, pink and white lupines grow along the sides of the roads – beautiful!

This is the fun part of traveling with a flexible schedule – coming across a festival, finding a place to park, and enjoying time with the locals.  I knew our Fourth of July was coming and I would be in Canada, so this celebration on July 1st was a good substitute for me, and I still got to watch fireworks! Yay!

When the fireworks ended, everyone else drove away.  The parking lot was NOT posted against overnight use, so I just put up my Reflectix curtains and slept.  No one disturbed me, and the sea air and sound of the tides was perfect sleeping condition!

Total cost for the day – $55 gas, $15 food, $2 postcards.

NOTE:  I did not post this for several weeks, and I again happened upon another festival when traveling the coast of Maine after I returned to the States – a clam festival in Yarmouth, Maine – two weeks later.  I do google search sometimes for what is free in an area, but both times I just drove into a festival and said, “Yay! A festival!” This is so much fun!

I have to say, Prince Edward Island is a most spectacularly beautiful place to visit! I highly recommend you make the time to travel there. The scenery is lovely, and the people are wonderful. As I was hiking a trail there, I followed a Canadian family and overheard the following between a mom and her tween daughter:

Daughter in a complaining voice: “Mom, why are you aaaaallllwwwaaayyysss talking to people and giving them directions?”

Mom in a patient kind voice: “Honey, we are Islanders! It is our job, every one of us, to be friendly and make sure our visitors have a great time here. That is our responsibility!”

I felt like applauding the parent for being so patient with her daughter but also taking the opportunity to teach her a good lesson. Lots of great people in Canada – glad they are our neighbors!

I hope you are having a wonderful summer and that you find joy in simple pleasures!

—Scout, out!

From my bookshelf…

“Islam was no more responsible for Josh’s death than it was for Lee’s. Josh was killed by Islamic extremism – Islamic fundamentalism. Lee was killed by Christian fundamentalism.  Those bigoted Christian fundamentalists that expend all their energies sifting through the Bible so they can find ways to condemn people who are different, like gays, and totally ignore the spirit of the great commandment to love others as self.  That’s been my one great lesson from this whole miserable ordeal. Fundamentalism kills.  Fundamentalism of any kind. Narrow-minded, simplistic thinking that allows no room for honoring and respecting the life experiences of others.”

Children of Covenant by Fred Howard, 2017

Safety First!!!

The most frequently asked question of solo women RV-ers:

“But what about your SAFETY ?!?!?”

Personal safety is, of course, a very important issue.  However, conversations with RV-ers both on social media and in person all come to the same conclusion:

Our best defense is common sense/intuition

always being aware of your surroundings…

choosing wisely where to stop…

moving on if you feel “ummmm, doesn’t feel safe”…

keeping someone informed of where you are.

So what else can a gal do to stay safe?  Personally, I carry on my key ring a small device that emits a 120 decibel alarm if I pull the pin, and a very bright LED flashlight with strobe. This is with me at all times.

High decibel personal alarm on key ring - just pull the pin
High decibel personal alarm on key ring – just pull the pin

 I also have a Louisville Slugger (baseball bat) in my van.

Louisville Slugger - made famous by Carrie Underwood
Louisville Slugger – made famous by Carrie Underwood

Additionally, when any door is opened on the van, four LED strips light up the world inside my van — powerfully bright.

Small LED lightstrip
Small LED lightstrip
4 of these LED lightstrips really illuminate the entire van

From extensive readings and interviews, I see that a few women carry a gun of some kind.  If someone is licensed and trained, a firearm could be of benefit, but I know I personally do not want to drive around “armed and dangerous”! I also do not have a dog with me, or pet of any kind, although I know many women travel with canine protection.  I have taken a defensive strategy class, and recommend that as well. Growing up with six brothers had taught me most of this already, but a good refresher class was part of my start-up strategy!

Vehicular safety is also an important facet of all RV-ers.  Preventive maintenance is key, and saves an abundance of breakdowns and problems on the road, which can be particularly unsafe.  Besides a full tool kit, fire extinguisher, a good spare tire, jack and flares, etc., I also have an emergency kit with water, protein, safety blanket, surgical and CPR masks, etc.

Jumper cables, Flat fire foam, flares, etc.
Jumper cables, Flat fire foam, flares, etc.
Home emergency backpack with water, protein, weather radio, space blanket, first aid supplies
Home emergency backpack with water, protein, weather radio, space blanket, first aid supplies
Auto fire extinguisher on passenger door panel next to other emergency supplies
Auto fire extinguisher on passenger door panel next to other emergency supplies

When parked at a rest stop or campsite, I lock my van doors from the inside and add a locking steel-corded bungee cord (actually bike lock cord) so the doors will not open if the lock is busted. Only the driver door can be entered with just the key.

Bungie cords are locked inside the doors to prevent opening during travel stops

Very few RV-ers have a story of when they were in an unsafe situation, and few have encountered violence of any kind.  Media tends to portray our American world as full of violent crazies and while we recognize there are some out there, they are not usually encountered by RV-ers.  Most solo female RV-ers have just used common sense, and never remained in a place where they felt unsafe, so the fear is reduced significantly with experience.

An excellent book recently recommended is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  The emphasis on learning survival signals and trusting your instinct is fantastic!  Passing on the recommendation to everyone!

A great protocol in traveling which I discovered in a Facebook group post, and now follow, is the 9-2-4 rule:

9) Leave your overnight location around 9 am (avoid those hurrying off to work in the morning and school buses);

2) drive in 2-hour increments with a break in-between so one doesn’t get over-tired;

4) arrive at your next destination by 4 pm — and if you feel unsafe, you have another hour or more of daylight to find another (safe) overnight place.

This usually has the RV-er traveling about 250-350 miles a day at an unhurried pace, with time to explore and relax.

Smartphone apps are abundant and provide great assistance on the road, especially with boondocking and destinations.  Most travelers use a GPS, and apps like RV Parky, AllStays, RVovernight and Gas Buddy are terrific resources that are free to upload and use. There are many more apps that help a traveler plan and execute a safe trip.

How many travel apps do you have?

While many folks like to plan ahead, there are a significant number of us who may have a general idea of where we want to go but we don’t plan much beyond today and perhaps tomorrow.  By the time I pull onto the road in the morning, I usually have several options in mind for my next overnight destination.  But since I am always ready to turn left instead of right, or detour to something I want to see along the way, those plans may change throughout the day.  When I have parked for the night (by 4 p.m.) I send a text message of my location to my home base, my son and daughter-in-law in New York.

If stopping to hike (alone as that is how I travel), I will let my home base know the logistics of where I am, how long I expect to be hiking, etc.  If I am hiking from a campground, I will let my campground neighbor know the same.  NOTE: It is always a good idea to befriend a couple or several couples in your chosen campground, and also to let them know you’ll be gone from the campground for a while.  Good neighbors will keep an eye on each other’s RVs and equipment.

There are also some “tricks of the trade” which I have seen:

some solo female RV-ers will place a pair of men’s workboots and an extra camp chair outside their RV;

A heavy-duty dog chain/collar hung up by the RV may offer a measure of security, especially combined with an audible “bark”;

Sitting a teddy bear with men’s cap or a cardboard cutout of a male (I have Sheldon Cooper from the TV show The Big Bang Theory) in the driver’s seat works for some. I don’t think this Sheldon could protect me, or the real Sheldon character either! LOL, sorry Jim Parsons!

Car alarms, emergency road assistance, HAMM and CB radios, On-Star or HUM diagnostics and service, AAA, etc. are all good options.

Safety is very important, but the fear is usually unwarranted or greatly exaggerated.  Above all, step outside of your comfort zone in a wise manner that keeps you safe but allows you to adventure beyond what most people live.  I find that many people who are negative about a solo female RV-er are speaking from a place of good intentions, even love, but misplaced…and sometimes even jealous or envious of your adventure while they feel stuck in their own lives.

 If you dream of traveling, or any other dream, use your resources to learn and plan well, but then step out and find your adventure!


What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf…

“Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between two points, life has a way of confounding geometry.  Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us.  There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition, and a willingness to be surprised.”

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart   by Gordon Livingston, M.D., 2004


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