One year ago to this day, we had packed up our little BoHoMoHo and were waving goodbye to the farm as we pulled out of the driveway. We were headed East on our first family roadtrip in the motorhome and would be gone for the next five weeks. As we look back on this trip, our hearts feel so full and we feel so lucky to have had this time as a family and to have experienced the trip of a life time together.
On a sunny Friday morning in June, we packed the last couple of items away into the fridge of our new to us motorhome, purchased earlier in the spring to make the journey East and visit our family we had been restricted from during the Covid pandemic. The fridge was stocked with farm fresh eggs to share along the way with friends and family, the freezer stuffed full of our pasture raised pork and we had boxes of home made wine and beer to share. When does one have the opportunity to take along such items to share when headed across the country?!
The overhead bunk was filled with our suitcases, play pens for Wallace, camping essentials and little gifts going home. Wallace’s car seat had been installed on the bench seat of the RV, directly behind the driver seat and facing the little TV we managed to plug in on top of the fridge. As we buckled up and waved goodbye to the animals on the farm, it was such a bittersweet feeling. We had never been gone so long from the farm and the animals before and it felt a little daunting. Of course, everyone was in good hands in the care of our amazing neighbour during the week and my Aunt Sandy who came and stayed for the weekends while we were gone.
We buckled into our seats, settled in for the ride ahead and anticipated the adventures awaiting us!
If there was one thing we wanted to make a priority on this trip, it was just taking our time and being in the moment, making the little stops, seeing all the tourist traps and watching the country fly by out the window. So our very first stop of the trip was right here in Alberta, in Sylvan Lake to get an iced coffee from my favourite little boutique, Sweet Home on the Lake. Fueled with caffeine and fruit cups, we hit the open road and didn’t look back as we cruised Highway 1, the Trans Canada Highway, and crossed into Saskatchewan.
Through the magic of Instgram and the hospitality of complete strangers, we were welcomed into the little town of Boharm where we parked our motorhome in an empty lot adjoining the property of a new friend we found through social media. Nestled beside the rows of gardens, and welcomed by a beautiful boquet of hand picked flowers, we settled in for the night. If there is one thing I must say, Saskatchewan you have the most beautiful skies! After a morning visit with our hosts and many words of gratitude, it was back on the road for the Burches.
Our goal for day two of driving was to make it across the prairies and into Manitoba, where we would be spending a couple of days with some of Dan’s family in Manitoba. With our sights set on Winnipeg we were back out on the open road. Wallace was a superhero passenger for our entire trip, settling into her carseat in the mornings after breakfast and enjoying a movie or a nap. We made sure to make stops right around lunch time where we could get out, stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh air while we ate. Stopping at little roadside attractions, or the provincial divide signs were the perfect places. By dinner time that day, we had arrived in the driveway of Dan’s Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Wilf’s home in Winnipeg. What a welcome we were given and we had a two night break from the motorhome as we stayed in their spare bedroom. We enjoyed sunshine evenings on their back patio, walks to the park, yellow pancake breakfasts and all the company and love of family.
After a well rested couple of nights it was time to get back on the road. Day four found us leaving Manitoba and entering into Northern Ontario. If you’ve never done this drive before let me tell you, driving through Ontario is the longest part of the entire journey! Our first stop of the day was at Egli’s sheep farm in Minnitaki, where we stretched our legs and visited with all the farm animals. From sheep to donkeys and even an Emu it was a little piece of home stopping at the farm. Lunch time found us in Terrace Bay where we dipped our toes for the first time in the cold waters of Lake Superior. It was a beautiful foggy day over the water and we spent some time on the beach getting sandy toes and beachy curls. From there, it was on to my cousin Kyle’s home in Thunder Bay for the evening.
We took up the better part of their driveway for a night and enjoyed a BBQ dinner and campfire in the backyard of Kyle and Nimarta’s new home. Staying up to the wee hours of the night reminiscing and chatting, it was the perfect way to catch up with family.
Driving in Norther Ontario, while beautiful, can also be a long haul. With many miles between one town and the next and forest and hills as far as the eye can see. We left Thunder Bay and drove for the day headed for Sault Ste Marie for the evening. We arrived in the rain to our campsite a little exhausted and ready for bed. Pizzas in the oven, movies on the TV and off to bed we went. Knowing that the next day was our final leg of the journey made sleeping hard that night!
Our original plan had been to take the ferry across to Tobermory, but our timing didn’t quite pan out in the morning and it was probably for the best with Wallace, so we kept on trucking along. There weren’t many stops made that day as we had Mom and Dad’s house in the homestretch now. Our GPS put us at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for mid afternoon, and we made it right on time. What a joyous arrival it was and how good it felt to be parking the motorhome in the driveway for the time being.
Grandma & Grandpa’s House
We spent nearly three weeks at my parents house visiting family, friends and our favourite local spots. We arrived just in time to enjoy the harvests of Grandma’s vegetable gardens, munching on peas until our fingers were stained green and popping little cherry tomatoes warm from the sun into our mouths. Afternoons spent shaded by maple trees, swinging in the hammock or playing in the little blow up pool in the backyard. There were walks to the park up the road, sleepovers at Uncle Kenzie’s and little day trip adventures. Some of our favourite stops whenever we are visiting back east are to Mapleton’s Organic Dairy for some yummy ice cream and a stop at Goats on 86 to visit and feed the farm animals. A visit to the beaches of Lake Huron was also a must, where we stopped to swim and build sand castles, visit the lighthouse and have a picnic lunch.
We made a special visit to see my Grandma Neabel, Wallace’s Great Grandma, and it was a moment we will cherish forever. As my Grandma struggles more and more with the effects of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, getting to have these moments caught in photographs are memories we will look back on always as Wallace grows.
We celebrated a very special day as my brother Kenzie married his beautiful wife Alexis in an intimate ceremony held at a local events barn. The stunning wooden rafters and floors, the picturesque waterfalls cascading over rock walls and the family only ceremony made for such a beautiful setting for their special day. Wallace made for a beautiful little flower girl and I stood up as the Maid of Honour. We were all so happy and excited to be welcoming Alexis into the family….and the news of a new little Neabel on the way!
A few days were spent with all of us at our late Uncle David’s home in Niagara on the Lake. We toured around lavender fields and wineries, walked the historic downtown and shopped the boutiques, and wandered in the evenings in the stunning gardens that David planted in the backyard of his home. We bought fresh local produce, and came home with enough peaches to can and bring with us back to our own pantry.
Another visit that is always a must when home, is stopping out to see our beekeeping friend Fred and his hives. We love getting to talk with seasoned beekeepers, and are always learning from the stories and information they so readily share with us. We spent several hours that morning walking through Fred’s apiaries, talking about treatment methods, visiting his woodshed and as always, learning so much about the bees to bring home to our own apiary practices.
Wallace met family, most of which was for the first time since being born during lockdown, and we made so many memories. Capturing these moments so that we could look back on them with her as she gets older.
And as always, time went by way too fast. Before we knew it, our three weeks had passed and we found ourselves packing the motorhome back up and preparing for the trip home. This time, the packing was a little more strategic as we had acquired more boxes of wine and a few flea market treasures to fit in. Just like that, we found ourselves waving goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, through many tears and boxes of Kleenex, and hitting the road homebound.
We pulled out of my parents driveway in Listowel first thing in the morning and hit the open road North. Our first little stop of the day was in Sudbury to stretch our legs at the bottom of the Big Nickel. It was back on the road with the KOA camp in Sault Ste Marie as our destination once again. This time the weather was a little more cooperative so we got to explore the site a little more and spend the evening sitting around the campfire listening to our neighbours sing the Beatles while strumming on a ukulele.
With tummies full of breakfast, it was time to hit the road and make some miles. That drive through northern Ontario could really get to a person if you let it, but we already had some stops planned for this day. First up, the giant goose in Wawa, hometown of Wallace’s Grandpa Mike. We stopped for pictures with the iconic goose, but also parked along the main street and made our way down to the lake side. We dipped our toes in the chilly morning water and walked the docks taking in the serene beauty of the lake. By lunch time, we had made it to the next pit stop, and that was White River to see the statue of Winnie the Pooh. We took some time to play at the park there, fuel up and grab some snacks before hitting the road for our final destination, Marathon. Before pulling into our campsite for the night we stopped at another local hot spot, Pebble Beach, where we walked the beautfiul shores of Lake Superior and collected a couple of pretty rocks to take home with us. Our campsite that evening was on the shores of a small lake which offered a couple of hours of fishing for Dan. It was quiet and nearly empty and perfect for a quiet evening fire.
One of the places that had been on Dan’s wish list for stopping was Kenora. Having camped here as a child it was a place he was wanting to get back to and share with Wallace. We most certainly will be back to Lake of the Woods and all the amazing views, islands and waterfront it has to offer. We spent an afteroon on the beach, swimming and building sandcastles while Dan threw a line in the water off the dock. Dan barbequed us a lovely steak dinner, the fires in Northern Ontario were catching up with us at this point and there were fire bans in many areas. As the night moved in so did the smoke and ash.
Day four found us with some change in plans as Manitoba went back into a provincial lockdown with Covid. We had originally booked a campsite near the town of Gimli where my husband grew up and had planned to spend a couple of days there. After having our site cancelled, we decided it best to just get on through Manitoba and find a place to stay for the night into Saskatchewan. As I made phone call after phone for the afternoon, Dan steered us through the prairies once again. We were able to find a camping spot in a over flow lot in the little town of Regina Beach, Saskatchewan that night. It was literally a hookup in the middle of a field just outside the actual campground, but it did the trick. We never saw a soul, we left our money tucked under the electrical outlet the next morning as we pulled out.
Day Five – The Final Stretch
If I’m being honest, the last day of driving home was a blur and I hardly remember any of it. We made some little pit stops I’m sure, but the goal was to get home! Pulling into our driveway that afternoon was a welcome sight. Walking in the side door after being gone so long feel a little strange, but it felt like home. All of the animals were happy to see us, especially the three bear dogs, and we walked around to greet and check in on everyone. My gardens had been weeded by my Auntie, the animals had been tended to by the kindest souls and we arrived home to full out summertime.
This trip was truly the family vacation of a lifetime for us. Still to this day we talk about it, about certain stops, about driving the motorhome, about how amazing Wallace did through all of the travelling. As we plot and plan for our next big adventure, we can’t help but think back on this summer trip home to family and all the amazing memories we made along the way!