I never thought I would become one of those ol’ guys roaming America in a monstrous road liner on wheels sucking gallons of non renewable resource with each passing mile. I’m not sure how the idea was spawned. It just sort-of happened. One day we were anonymous middle class old folk sitting in our comfortable home watching reruns of Judge Judy. The next we were peering under a huge monstrosity, wondering how the hot water heater worked and how much rubber would safely carry us across the continent before 6 new tires….yes, 6 tires…would need to be replaced at, no doubt, some astronomical cost.
We had, more or less, done our due diligence, scanning numerous websites and visiting a number of vehicles just trying to understand what we needed and wanted. It soon became apparent that the big long dinosaurs of about 40 feet were very prevalent and, in fact, it seemed every second driveway had some sort of travel vehicle that appeared to have set up a permanent home.
I had never noticed it before but, it seems Canadians are a camping nation. At least we aspire to be and, consequently, purchase some sort of travel thing that we use two weeks a year and leave to disintegrate somewhere in our yard or pay to have someone else watch it mold. As we searched for our very own potential land liner, a certain affinity to this formerly undesired cultural trait began to overcome us. We suddenly had a great need to be a part of this metaphysical enigma that was mostly likely ingrained in our very ethos by our ancestors if we were to be good Canadians. Perhaps it has something to do with our forefathers who packed their bags, left their homeland, and immigrated to an unknown frontier where self sustainment was primary. Just a thought….!
We looked at numerous vehicles and decided shorter was better than longer. It became apparent, however, that the short motorhomes were in limited supply unless one wished to don a full face mask and rob a local bank. It seems old and long are generally the least desired, most prevalent, and cheapest. Why did they make so many of these things??
The day finally arrived when my similarly inspired partner began to throw prices at some shell-shocked vendor with a land yacht that had been rusting in their driveway for, possibly, decades. After the first couple of attempts at barter I took my partner in crime aside and suggested we should talk about a vehicle and decide on it, before we started throwing out prices. One usually doesn’t deal before one is ready to purchase…at least in my world. She also seems to largely base her choices on the character of the seller or, heaven forbid, if she has some acquaintance with the person, however distant. Somehow this translates into an irresistible impulse of immediate purchase or all will be lost.
Finally, we did find a moderately sized artefact that was well priced, the vendors were very nice people and Caroline had some distant association to the lady. A lethal combination for my wife. We would have purchased a very similar vehicle much closer to our home that was new and had less mileage but the vendor was so obnoxious that we would have pretty well done anything not to buy from him. The eventual vendors were a nice couple who were amenable to a little price reduction and would willingly spend several hours preparing us for any epic adventure we may wish to pursue.
Eventually the deal was struck and much dineros changed hands. For several days thereafter, and before picking up our new acquisition, we both entertained second, and third, and fourth thoughts. Was it too big? Could I actually drive it? How much would it cost to run? Where would we park it…..and on and on? We were essentially embarrassed that we had purchased such a brute and had thoughts of leaving the country before we actually took ownership.
In time we accepted the inevitable and began considering that we should learn something of what we were about to encounter. I downloaded a manual for the 1998 Triple E Embassy/Commander. It was 136 pages long. We both read it cover to cover and were probably more confused upon turning the last page than when we embarked on the first page. We soon learned that the Commander had all the luxuries one would want if the intent was staying at an all-inclusive resort. The Embassy (ours) had little more than a bed, fridge, stove, and six wheels. We were intended to live by Spartan ideals.
The day arrived when we would finally assume possession. We nervously drove to the site. It didn’t seem so big. In fact, it looked quite small in the open field where it had spent the winter. We purchased a licence and insurance on the way and I was moderately surprised at the reasonable cost. So far, so good. Our sellers were there, visibly licking their lips. Was something amiss? Were we victims of some Bernie Madoff scheme.
Our purchase appeared to actually grow in size as we conversed with our new friends. The amiable guy seller began to explain to me the many features I must learn, trying to acclimatize me to a very foreign world. There were little red knobs that did something with the multiple batteries….why were there three batteries? Numerous little locked doors on the outside contained their own particular delights of something or other, such as a hot water heater, a knob for city water, electrical cords, a generator, and an outside shower??? There was a little door that I was strongly advised to use bright orange gloves if I was to open it as it housed two vents for gray and black water. We didn’t have gray and black water at home and certainly didn’t need orange gloves. What was this??
Thankfully the demonstration ended with much of the discussion bypassing me and going directly into the ether. The lady seller sat inside and shed a few tears over having to relinquish her “Granny Mobile” as her grandkids called it. She actually seemed to like the hulk. Maybe there was something to this RVing.
With the deal done the vendors didn’t seem in any rush to leave. They miraculously appeared to seek our friendship. Of course Caroline, feeling their dismay at relinquishing their granny home to others, offered to give it back to them whenever they wanted….at no cost. I cringed while they slyly nodded in agreement. I finally started the engine (Was there more than one of these too??) and drove away amid tears and much waving, leaving my companions by the side of the road with an interestingly blissful expression. I expect they would be soon laughing on their way to the bank with their wad of cash and immediately set off for some exotic holiday even though they suggested that the money was going towards home renovations.
I was on the road in the Granny Mobile. It drove pretty well while I sat up high in a veritable fish bowl of windows. I was essentially looking down at the world. Big four by four trucks that formerly blew past my little SUV in disgust cast a wary eye in my direction as I rumbled threateningly in their direction. They were no longer likely to take me on. I made the first corner without toppling over or taking out a stop sign. Seeking Caroline in my mirrors as we had prearranged, she was nowhere in sight. I later learned that she spent some time counselling and consoling the former owners before she politely bid her adieu.
I had conquered a quiet country road but was now to drive through busy Kelowna at rush hour. Managing to make Harvey Avenue, I drove in the HOV lane even though there was only one of me. I figured I was safer there and, since I was as big as a bus, I would surely be allowed. Other cars took a wide berth as I managed to keep between the lines. On one corner I left a little late and received an annoying beep from some young woman, apparently protesting my very existance. The beast didn’t seem to have the pickup of my SUV but chugged along very well once up to speed.
Finally reaching home, I blocked traffic for a few hesitant moments before venturing into my three car driveway. I had, earlier that morning, undertaken a slaughtering of one of my driveway trees in anticipation of this vehicle but soon discovered the branches were still too low to allow my entry. I managed to push my way through the leaves, ripping off a limb before, finally coming to rumbling stop in front of my garage doors. The beast pretty well filled my whole driveway. It was huge. It looked much smaller in an open field. How would we get our other vehicles in an out? Where would my tenant park? What had we done?
The monolith was now in our driveway. What do we do with it now? My smiling vendor had mentioned something about making sure the beast was level or a great calamity would occur to something or other. For the first time I learned that my driveway was far from level. The beast looked like it was on the edge of a hill. The 136-page manual talked about hydraulic jacks and a levelling system but we soon learned that the Embassy had no such conveniences. Why didn’t I get the Commander??
I also soon learned why one of the little outside doors contained a whole wheelbarrow load of short planks. They were to be used for levelling the monster. My neighbours were soon watching me roar back and forth in my driveway with a new 5000-pound fibreglass colossus placing an ever increasing array of boards under my six tires. Exhaust fumes were spewing into the stratosphere in my attempt to climb the little mounds of wood I was inventing and reinventing. Eventually, more or less level, I shut it down, went in the house and left it there for a week….dreading my next encounter with the behemoth.Even though we were in early spring, the weather became balmy and, feeling our intrinsic Canadian-ness, the highways began to summon us hither. I begrudgingly set out to understand what I needed for our first trip while Caroline blissfully set up her little doll house….as if we were the dolls. She even laid out miniature doggy dishes because, it seems, the poodles were joining us. I briefly wondered if the chickens were good to travel as well.
Our first trip would be a short one as we just wanted to acclimatize ourselves to this new world. The first challenge, however, would be to back the beast out of the driveway onto busy Boucherie Road. Caroline, recently immobile, was not able to stand in the middle of the road and stop traffic so she sat at the very back of the bus and shouted commands while I revved the countless horses gurgling under my blue shag carpeted console. Eventually there was a break in the traffic and I recklessly careened onto Boucherie, slammed it into drive and surged up the hill away from our, formerly, comfortable lives. We were RVing nomads, off to experience the world on ribbons of asphalt.
The second challenge was filling up with air, propane and gasoline. I had already filled the water tank and flushed the winter antifreeze from the lines. They said RV antifreeze was edible but I had my doubts. Anything that is pink and has antifreeze in it can’t be good. About 1 kilometer from our home we stopped at a gas station, our first of many I am sure. I had previously cased the place and determined they truly do sell gasoline, propane and air, all at one location. I pulled up, wondering if we would fit under the bay roof. It seemed we would be admitted. The big propane tank was off to the side and since the gas bays were full I decided to get propane first. Enquiring of a friendly attendant I asked if he would fill my propane tank. He asked if all the pilot lights were off. Not knowing, I took a wild guess and declared that they were. He pointed to a propane dispenser at one of the bays and away from the big propane tank. I began to wonder if he knew what he was doing. I interjected, “no I want propane for cooking, not driving.” He said, “Show me your tank.” Not sure which door held propane, I opened the wrong door while he went directly to the right door. “Yep” he said, “You fill at the gas bay.” So fill he did, while I remained about 10 paces away, recalling his pilot light question. We were soon full for $42.00 that, he said should last all season. The gas dispenser was right beside the propane dispenser. I still had about a half tank of gas but quietly watched as the numbers streamed past $80 then $100, and finally stopping at $130.00….and this was with half full tanks. ‘The gas better last me all summer as well,’ I thought doubtfully. As we lumbered away, the nice attendant mumbled something about getting one of those machines when he was old and travelling around with his wife. I guess he was referring to us.
We were full of gas, water, air, propane, food, beer, poodles, maybe chickens and, I couldn’t think of anything else so down the highway we descended. The weather was great, the roads clear, and we were off to discover America. After about two hours we saw a nice little campsite by Tuk El Nuit Lake in Oliver and thought we had had enough adventure for one day. The owner was surprised to see us so early in the season but gladly took our money. We were set up directly beside the lake that was completely calm and vacant of other travellers. The owner and a couple friends were the only other residents and they spent the evening under a huge willow tree by the lake sipping wine while we struggled to set up our mobile home for the first time. It seemed everything was in working order but needed tweaking. Many things had been shut off for winter storage and the 136-page manual spent most of its time talking about the Commander. Our poor cousin, the Embassy, was usually only mentioned in passing. Everything on the Commander was standard while the Embassy appeared to be completely optional, of which we had none.
By dinner, the stove was working, we had hot water, Wifi connected us to the world, and the dogs had been tied to separate posts for fear of becoming so entangled they would strangle themselves. The hot water tank caused a bit of a turmoil as it had been shut off for the winter and a secret knob in the back of some drawer needed to be switched on for ignition. There was no reference to such a knob in the 136-page manual. After a few tears and much cursing, we were one with the world again. We had reached RV land and were enjoying our plunder. The first 60 kilometers cost us about $20,000 but I am sure this will significantly diminish as we motor on, at least, per kilometer.