The 2011 Trip
Part 190 Summary of our 2011 trip

Back in 1990 we bought one of the first Dodge trucks fitted with the Cummins diesel engine. We figured Corn Flakes and everything else gets where it is going via a diesel truck, and that should keep the price of diesel down. It did not work out that way but we fell in love with the diesel engine. It starts and runs so much better than the gasoline engine.

Once we had the truck we went for a trailer. We bought a new 29 foot Cavalier by Cobra. It was small and easy to get around but it was not meant for that truck. We are not sure what truck it was meant for. Anything that it fit would not be powerful enough to make driving a pleasure.

We blew ten tires on the trailer before we managed to get smart. It often takes me awhile to act smart. I took one of those tires into Canadian Tire and the girl looked at it and said “How will I adjust that?”. All that was left was a half inch ring of rubber around each side of the wheel. I simply said “I do not care. I need a tire before I go any farther”.

We took the trailer into a shop and had the springs placed on top of the axles. That solved our tire problem. There was too much weight on the two back tires and the two front tires were simply more weight. We did two trips across North America with that trailer. We had it downtown Seattle, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Dawson City and so on. We limped back to Nova Scotia that last trip with the axles completely worn out and the trailer falling apart. We managed to sell the trailer.

We have been a life member of National Geographic since the early 1960's. We wanted to take the Dodge and Cavalier down across the Panama Canal and back. I had been down there several times and wanted Joan to see it.

We planned to go with an American Caravan. This company was out of California and consisted of an experienced Wagon Master in the lead followed by a repairman at the rear. They would take up to 15 units in between the two. We had to take a couple of extra tires and a few other spare parts in case of breakdown. We had to be CB radio equipped but had to hide them in Guatemala. There was a war on there and they were using CB's for military purposes.

We chose an American organization. Had we gone with a Canadian group and something went wrong we would be hard pressed to contact a Canadian official. If we had, we would have been given hell for being there and completely forgotten. Whereas with an American group, help would soon arrive. This is simply from experience and for no other reason.

I had gone through the National Geographic magazines, ordered extra maps and so on. I had quite an itinerary made up. When you reach this point look left, the mountain is such and such, so on and so forth.

When I retired in 1995 I was more than ready to roll. Joan is a big animal lover, especially dogs. She has taught me a lot about dogs to the point I rather like them as well. Just before we were to leave someone told her there were a lot of dead dogs on Mexican roads. That did it, there was no way to get her to go. Trip cancelled.

So, we just simply wandered around Canada and the Northern United States with the trailer. We crossed North America twice as stated. We sold the Dodge and went back to Chevrolet. The old blue Chevrolet truck is the one that dragged the Cavalier across those two trips.

I had read an article in Trailer Life by a girl from Arizona, when we arrived back in Nova Scotia from the last trip across with the Cavalier. This girl said that when she bought a new trailer she did not get it air conditioned. She simply had four fans mounted in the roof of the trailer. That way she could make two draw the air out, two to blow air in, vice versa, and so on. She said she was always in and out of the trailer and air conditioning was no good to her. She gets some warm weather in Arizona but it made a lot of sense to me.

It dawned on me that we had used the air conditioner one hour out of the 14 years we had owned the Cavalier at that point. The Cavalier's 12-volt fans were very noisy so I had a chat with my old friend Winston. He said come here I want to show you something. He took me in his trailer and turned on a fan. It was a 12-volt Polar Aire and one could not hear it run. Needless to say when Winston and I parted he had the air conditioner and I had a Polar Aire.

But Winston's trailer was something else. It was an Equest he had John build. He said they are expensive but contact John. Contact John I did, and we built our Equest using the old Cavalier, that we liked so well, as the basic design. Our Equest is 33 feet and that makes it 4 feet longer than the Cavalier. It is one beautiful trailer. Winston's is a couple of years older than ours. It is laid out completely different than this one with at least one slide out. He stated recently that the only way he would part with it is if he were paid what it cost him new.

We built our Equest around the old blue Chev truck. We put a couple of air bags in her rear suspension to help with the extra weight. We had a wind deflector mounted on the roof. We headed west with it with the idea of going up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, the reason for all the mud flaps. We felt the old blue truck was not strong enough. We felt we would wreck the old blue truck dragging the Equest over Steamboat Mountain on the Alaska Highway, so we simply toured Alberta and Northern Saskatchewan.

I kept looking around for a better truck and found the one ton dually in Aberdeen, Maryland. This is a much better truck and handles the trailer with ease.

I wanted a 4100 series International and found a beauty in Florida. I had this Chev as back up. When I told Joan I wanted to buy the International she said there was no way she would go for a bag of groceries in that. But when I showed her the Chev she agreed with that. I am glad it worked out that way because I like the Chev much better than I would have liked the International I am sure.

Joan's ex sister-in-law spent the winter of 2009-2010 in Arizona and she contacted Joan and told her how lovely it was. Joan agreed to go and that was what it took.

A Canadian is allowed in the United States 182 days. Therefore we were ready and left in November, 2010. We paid this campground site here in Nova Scotia until October 1st, 2011, because this is a family affair. We paid for the one in Arizona from January 1st, 2011 until April 30th, 2011. This would give us the month of May to leave the United States. This would be plenty of time to drive out of the United States. We moved everything into storage and out of our apartment. It was rather crazy to keep the apartment when the money for it could be used for diesel fuel if nothing else.

Joan wanted to go straight to Arizona but that would have been so cold we would have to winterize the trailer and stay in motels. Then we would have to adjust for snow storms and so on. I wanted to go down the East Coast and show Joan some of the sights I had seen from sailing in and out of the East Coast ports, Gulf of Mexico and so on. I did not take any winter clothing thinking we would soon be in warm weather. That was a big mistake.

It was cold. I could not believe those places managed to get that cold. Apparently it was record cold. We did not start to warm up until we reached Texas. Even Louisiana was unreasonably cold.

We simply cancelled everything we planned to visit that we came to in order to keep driving and keep warm in the truck with its heater.

Campgrounds. One could write a book on them alone. Not only those we encountered this trip but those we encountered over the years. We should have been paid to stay in quite a few of them. They have organizations like KOA (Kampers Of America) and the Good Sam Club that claim those places have met with their approval, when the campgrounds advertise they are a member. Yeah, right! I would like to know who within those organizations approved some we have been in.

Actually a Wal-Mart store parking lot is one of the better campgrounds one can find. They are usually easy to find, easy to get in and out and most are quite level. One usually has lots of company. Quite a few campers use them from time to time. They are expensive. Joan can make several trips to the Wal-Mart store buying things we do not need. That of course is the reason Wal-Mart encourages one to camp there. The occasional sign one finds discouraging this practice is put up by a campground owner and ignored.

Actually a number of stores will let one camp in their parking lot and some will even supply one with electricity if they so desire. The reason for this is that a number of campers have discouraged criminal activity. A couple of flashes of ones head lights, when a couple of characters are attempting to break into a store will put the run to them. I found the flash on my camera perfect. The first flash causes them to freeze, wondering what the heck was that. The second flash starts them running and on the third flash they are going so fast they do not appear to touch the ground. Phoning the police would be a waste of time.

Some camper owners go to an automobile junk yard and purchase an old car horn. They wire this into the trailers 12-volt electrical system with a toggle switch. Switching that on and leaving it on should not only chase the unwanted characters off, it should bring the police as well. It may bring a ticket for disturbing the peace. The way things are one never knows. I prefer the flash on my camera.

I have described in detail the campgrounds we spent time in with each daily report on this trip. We have fond memories of many of them. The ones we liked would not necessarily be the one you would like. The Lake Harmony in Townsend, Georgia and the one in Wills, Texas would be at the top of my list. That is a bit ridiculous to name those two because so many others were just as good and we enjoyed them just as much.

We have tried to come up with three things we would change if we were doing it over. We cannot find three, two only. The first would be that we would not spend so much time in the one campground. We would move around about every two weeks. Joan has stated that many times. The second is we would avoid Quebec. The roads in Quebec are just too rough and not that well marked. Quebec was the most unpleasant part of the whole trip.

This just about sums it all up. We have moved back into our old apartment building we have been living in since 1996. We will not likely get the opportunity to make another trip with the trailer. We are glad we had this trip, a once in a lifetime experience.

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