The Trip Out West – Update

Many of you read about two months ago when I was frantically searching for a trailer or motorhome in which to head out west to visit my grandfather before he died. Today’s post is an update to that one. Not a lot of allergy info here, just a crazy story.

In the week I had to plan for the trip, we did find a trailer, but only to rent. The trailer rental company was a local, family-owned business, and prices were reasonable. We paid a cash deposit and paid for the remainder on debit, picking the trailer up two days before we intended to leave. The lady said that our car insurance should cover the trailer and that they had their own insurance on the trailer. We were told not to use the water system or tanks until we got to BC because the weather might not be warm enough further east. We brought that trailer home on the worst day of the entire winter. It started with rain and high winds. Then it changed to sleet. By the time we had hitched up the trailer, snow was blowing horizontally across the backdrop of the evergreen windbreaks in the open fields. With difficulty, we got the trailer home.

The next day, my husband entered the trailer, prepared to do battle. In one hand, a bowl of diluted vinegar in water and a cloth. In the other, a carpet cleaner loaded with my own carpet cleaning solution. I could not enter the trailer myself because every time I clean an area in which my allergens have been used I have a reaction, and I needed to be clear for the trip. My husband scrubbed the trailer everywhere. Inside cupboards, on the ceilings…every single hard surface. On surfaces that could not be wiped, he used the carpet cleaner’s upholstery attachment to wash them thoroughly. He gave every soft surface a rinse pass afterward. All curtains were taken down and washed in the washing machine. Several inexplicable dryer sheets that were crammed into various hiding spots (the trailer rental people knew of my allergy) were removed. The trailer was the cleanest it has ever been, since new. There was no noticeable smell of any kind when he was done. We loaded the trailer, and left the next day.

The first two nights, we slept in the van. We were in a hurry to get out west, and had stopped really late. By the end of the second day, I was reacting in the facial area from not being able to wash up. When we hit Winnipeg, my sister called to see where we were. She facilitated a Facetime call with my grandfather, in the hospital, and he wasn’t looking very well, but he saw me and my daughter. We kept up the crazy pace until 5 1/2 days later we arrived at my grandparents’ house. There will be a whole other post about issues around that, next day.

We parked in my grandparents’ expansive driveway and went in to see them (my grandfather had been sent home with a hospital bed and care visits for palliative care). They were excited to see me and we ended up staying up late. Over the next few days, we started into a routine of visiting them in the morning and evening, and going out to explore the rest of the time. The goal was to get quality time with them while not stressing them out by being around too much. We used the house (on well water!) for the bathroom and drinking water. I showed my daughter dozens of things from my childhood, unfortunately leaving out so many other things I wanted to share. We’re a lot alike, and I can often predict the things that will interest her. We revelled in nature. We took a walk up to the top of my grandparents’ property, up the steep hill and through the brush, to a sight I may never see again. My daughter was exhausted by the climb, telling me to leave her behind, but in the end we made it together (and she with her large rocks that she had picked up along the way). Every night we all washed off with a wet washcloth and climbed into bed. The hope was to keep the beds as clean as possible. We were up late woke up early. We stayed for six days, but then we needed to leave so that we could be sure to get back home in time, with stops along the way.

During the visit, we had gone to Salt Spring Island, where I spoke to an organic dairy farmer and got a better understanding about what was allowed to be used in organic milk and cheese production and what wasn’t. I’ll be making another post about that in a little while.

We drove back towards the mountains, stopping in Vancouver area, Salmon Arm, and Calgary. There was snow in Banff and Calgary. When we got to Calgary, we spent a day searching for a small motorhome to buy, so that we could make trips more easily year-round at home. Calgary is a much better place to try to buy a used motorhome than Ontario, due to the prolific used market from rentals. We drove around like mad, and finally put an offer on one, but discussions overnight lead to us deciding that we couldn’t afford to drive two RVs back home and that if we bought it we might not be able to afford to use it. We went to Drumheller the next day, to see the dinosaurs, and then realized that we now had barely enough time to get back home.

We headed up to Edmonton to visit my sister, seeing her only briefly in one evening, and then over to Saskatoon. This is where disaster first struck. The prairies are much harder on gas mileage than the mountains, which was a huge surprise to us. It’s all about the wind. Whereas we could get 350 to 400 km on a tank of gas in BC, the prairies saw us getting only 200 to 250 km on a tank of gas (we get 600 to 700 when the van isn’t pulling a trailer). Under the stress of almost running out of gas, my husband rushed to get to a gas pump, striking the awning of the gas station with the awning of the trailer. The awning on the gas station had minor damage; the awning on the trailer was destroyed. I waited impatiently for the owner of the gas station to show up. He arrived, looked at the trailer, looked at his awning, and I was relieved that he told us it was okay and that we could go. I bought a roll of duct tape from him to tape the awning to the side of the trailer. We contacted the trailer rental company, who informed us that we were on the hook out of pocket for covering all damage, but that we would only have to pay for parts, not labour. It was then that I wished I’d paid with a credit card (for the collision damage waiver coverage) or rented from a company that had actual CDW insurance. We contacted our insurance, and were dismayed to learn that although they might cover the damage to the gas station awning, which was luckily not applicable, they likely would not cover the trailer. We could enter a claim to find out for sure, but then our rates would go up. We decided not to submit a claim at this time. I took over the wheel, and we continued on our way.

Not ten minutes later, I was sitting at a stoplight and about to turn left when two cars collided right in front of me, one from the opposite turning lane and one from beside me. The truck that had been going straight spun off towards us, and I was so thankful that I had put on the brakes the moment I saw anything happen. The car that had been turning was totalled and the truck was better off but probably also a writeoff. We got out to help, and stayed until the police came. After that, the awning damage didn’t seem so terrible. We continued to Saskatoon, and although we could only stay the one night, my aunt made sure I was able to see every one of my local cousins. I was so much more thankful than she realizes.

From there, we were fine until northern Ontario. There was snow there now, even though the roads were dry. Just outside Thunder Bay, another incident. This time someone had stopped very suddenly on the road to make a left turn. The people behind them pulled to the right, towards the shoulder, to gain more space to stop in time. We had no such recourse. It was either proceed into oncoming traffic, run into the back of the cars ahead of us, or run further onto the snow-covered shoulder. My husband chose option #3, and we went into the ditch. Luckily, the trailer stayed out of the ditch, so we didn’t roll. It took three tow trucks and several hours to get us out, as well as temporary closure of the highway. We spoke to the police, learned that the front driver had been charged for actions causing an accident, and paid the towing bill and freaked out some more. We talked to insurance AGAIN, but they said that no matter what the police had said about the situation we would most likely be considered at fault if we submitted a claim. Options number one, two, and three (oncoming traffic, rear-ending, and ditch) would have had exactly that same outcome. At this point we were a mess. We stopped for a while, had the van and trailer checked out (luckily everything checked out fine), and then continued a little further before stopping for the night.

The next day, I discovered to my dismay that the trailer rental lady had written a return date one day earlier than what we had discussed on our rental agreement. Damn. The goal had been to get home on the Sunday and then have a day to get our things out before returning the trailer on Monday. We decided to get the trailer back that night, just wanting to be done with the thing. We rushed home, got our stuff out, and drove to the rental place. The rental people seemed very relieved that it was just the awning that we had damaged and nothing else, and we paid for the awning and left. We were so relieved to be rid of the thing.

We had slept overnight in the van on a couple of nights on the way home and my face and arms were again reacting because of it, but luckily a shower, some medication, and a few days’ rest fixed that. I hope we can work out a better solution for more long-term travel. We will never pull another travel trailer with that van, and will never rent a trailer without CDW insurance again. Slower travel would also have been much cheaper than what we did. We washed everything and are getting back to a more normal life now. I’ve had a few reactions to some things I picked up at a couple of health food stores, but I’m quickly learning what’s safe and what isn’t.

It wasn’t all bad. I picked up a new appliance to try out some new things. I picked up a new cook book. I got some new ideas for providing safer foods to myself and my family. (Future posts! No spoilers.) I am happy to be home, but wish we could spend more time travelling.

Have you taken a trip anything like this? How did it go for you? Comment below.

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