Our PEI Road Trip Proved That Making Memories is More Important Than Making Plans

Getting there really is half the fun.

The fact that our newly purchased used car had no air-conditioning didn’t deter my then-boyfriend, now husband, Derek, and I from taking a late summer road trip. After all, it was only a 13-hour drive from Montreal to Prince Edward Island. Not wanting to commit to booking accommodations, we decided to camp as we already owned a tent and felt it would provide us with the flexibility we desired.

One trip to a camping outfitters store later, we rolled down the car windows and set off. We drove through Quebec up the Saint Lawrence River, putting about 400 kilometres behind us before reaching Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, and crossing into New Brunswick.

A Foul Start

Our first stop, a provincial park in Edmundston, New Brunswick, was busier than we had expected, but we were able to get a campsite. Standing in the dark as the rain fell, we emptied the trunk of our shiny new camping gear and old tent. In retrospect, examining the tent prior to its first use in years would have been a good idea. It wasn’t until we bedded down for the night that we smelled the mould. As the car was too small to sleep in, and the rain prevented us from sleeping under the stars, we had to stick it out in the tent. Derek, who was extremely allergic to mould, lay there wheezing and I lay beside him wondering if I’d have to take him to the emergency room.

Nail-Biting Drive

Despite our lack of sleep, we arose undeterred and set out the next morning to purchase a new tent. Did I mention this was at a time before the existence of smartphones and Google maps? En route to Moncton, despite our best efforts, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a narrow road with dense forest on either side. The fresh earthy smell, the countless shades of green and the sense of remoteness made the first few kilometres quite idyllic. Then we ran into the first of many logging trucks. I believe I held my breath that entire stretch of road and while the forest is very beautiful, it was with great relief when we made it back to a larger road with more breathing room, literally.

The Last Tent on the Island

On that particular cloudy Sunday, Moncton was devoid of any tents to buy. At that time, not all stores opened on Sundays and those that were open had put away their summer inventory in exchange for fall and winter supplies. No worries, we agreed, surely there will be some in Charlottetown.

And so we continued, ever hopeful and ever optimistic. Two hours later, we arrived in Charlottetown to begin our search once again. There was one open store with camping gear. They had, and I quote the manager, “the last tent on the island.”

Our Luck Turns Around

We took that glorious tent all over P.E.I. As we travelled around the Island, we were struck by the beauty of the landscape and the friendliness of the people. We climbed lighthouses during the day and spent the nights oceanfront in our new tent listening to the waves.

There were a few hiccups, too, of course, but on our way back to Montreal, we discussed just how lucky we’d been and maybe next time a bit more planning would be in order. We laughed about the mouldy tent, the crazy logging road and our discovery that Derek has an intolerance to shellfish. It was then I realized that a road trip is more that just getting from point A to point B and that perhaps the phrase, “half the fun is getting there,” was true. Just be flexible, optimistic, and have a sense of humour about it all—and hopefully a bit of luck.

We’ve recently upgraded from a tent to a trailer, but we still don’t plan a lot when we head out on road trips. Sometimes we get an oceanfront campsite, other times it’s a Walmart parking lot, but one thing we always come home with are memories. And as for the “last tent on the island?” It has gone from the shores of Lake Superior to the redwood forests of California. Recently, we passed it along to our son and we look forward to hearing about his adventures.

Next, check out the best road trips in Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada