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Exploring the Beauty of Western Canada in an RV

Carolyn Meldrum and her husband Dave used to talk about the idea of visiting western Canada. They finally found the time and hit the road with their RV, Roberto.

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A brief stop along the Icefields ParkwayPhoto: Carolyn Meldrum

Dreaming of western Canada

Someday. To me, that word has always ushered in a duality of feelings—it conjures up the excitement of my biggest dreams, but it also makes me feel a bit anxious, thinking about the oh-too-quick passing of time. When my husband, Dave, and I used to talk about the idea of visiting western Canada, I wasn’t sure when or if we would be able to make it happen. When would we find the time? Could we afford it? How could we see enough of this vast part of the Great White North?

Well, someday actually came. With my husband having retired from teaching, and me being in between leaving teaching and going back to school, we realized we had the time. We found an affordable RV online that we were able to rent for 32 days. His name was Roberto. The three of us hit it off, and then we hit the road!

We are so thrilled—and thankful—that we were able to experience Canada’s west. We explored the tiniest of towns and some of the biggest cities.

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A suspension bridge near Thunder BayPhoto: Carolyn Meldrum

Picture perfect views

In Ontario, we walked over suspension bridges, mined for amethyst gemstones and visited the Terry Fox Memorial. In Manitoba, we ate like kings at The Forks and checked out the Assiniboine Park Zoo, with its wonderful polar bear exhibit. In Saskatchewan, we saw a freight train in its entirety, paralleling us as we drove along, with iconic grain elevators on the horizon. We also enjoyed two theatrical productions that highlight—and take place in—Moose Jaw’s legendary tunnels.

Our time in Alberta included hiking the lovely Lethbridge coulees, taking in beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park, as well as seeing the site of the jaw-dropping Frank Slide. We revelled in our time in picture-perfect Banff, where we took a chairlift up to explore the most glorious view from Mount Norquay and we pinched ourselves at stunning Lake Louise. As we headed to Jasper and its famous hot springs, we saw a black bear on the side of the road, who cared much less about seeing us than we did seeing him. The heat of the springs was a marked tactile contrast to our experience on the Jasper Skytram—where we wore our parkas and winter boots—and felt like we were on top of the world.

Check out what late fall looks like in western Canada.

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Sunset in NanaimoPhoto: Carolyn Meldrum

Family and friends reunion

British Columbia welcomed us with gastronomical delights at stops such as a brewery in Revelstoke, as well as fruit stands and a winery tour in the Okanagan. A couple of days in Vancouver led to us enjoying a CFL game and a relaxing tour of Stanley Park and Granville Island. Leaving Roberto behind, we rented a car and took a ferry to Vancouver Island, where we experienced a glorious sunrise in Nanaimo and a golden sunset on the beaches of Tofino. We fell in love with the colour of Butchart Gardens and the delight of high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria.

What made our trip across Canada even more special is that we were able to visit family and friends who we had promised to stop in and see, someday. In total, there were seven different sets of loved ones—in Kenora, Lethbridge, Banff, Sylvan Lake, Edmonton and Vancouver—whom we got to spend precious time with, often enjoying a meal together and, on a few occasions, visiting until the wee hours of the morning, only to get back on the road with Roberto the next day.

Don’t drive pass these 20 quirky roadside attractions across Canada!

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View from Mount NorquayPhoto: Carolyn Meldrum

An unexpected detour

There was, however, a subplot to our trip’s storyline. In my old classroom, I had a much-loved personalized poster that I desperately wanted to give to another Mrs. Meldrum who was a teacher, but trying to find such a person turned out to be a challenge. I then realized that I had an opportunity to hand deliver the poster to a Mrs. Meldrum, if I could find one, anywhere along our route, all the way to British Columbia—and that is indeed where I found Amy Meldrum, a Grade 4 teacher in North Vancouver. It was a pretty neat moment to hand over my beloved poster to another Mrs. Meldrum!

Everywhere we went, we met kind people who were so excited to welcome us into their corner of Canada. They were interested in knowing where we were from, where we were going and how our trip had been thus far. Some shared with us off-the-beaten-path places to explore, while others were so inviting that they offered us a place to park on their property for the night.

While it was sad when our RV adventure came to an end, Dave and I were both reminded of the beauty of our home in Eastern Ontario. Driving east along the 401, we were welcomed home with the most vibrant of colours in the trees that we passed. It was Thanksgiving weekend and soon we would be reunited for the long weekend with our immediate family, full of new stories to share of the wonders of this amazing country.

Next, read about what a road trip to the East Coast taught this couple.

Originally Published in Our Canada