Hands down, one of our favorite aspects of RV’ing is the flexibility and freedom it affords families as they travel!! You can change plans on a dime, you can arrive sooner or later and you can stay longer or shorter. You can detour off your route; when you travel in an RV, it’s all about the journey … not simply the destination. The journey becomes part of the memory!
Such is always the case when we are on the move. In fact, we arrived in Toronto, ON much later than anticipated because we enjoy the slow life, we love the freedom and the flexibility RV’ing affords us. As we travel we typically, though not always, have an idea of where we hope to end up, though rarely do we have anything mapped out. On our trek across the continent, from Idaho to Toronto, we had nary a plan, just a broad idea of what we may find by way of adventure! And so we were surprised by every stop and every detour, the kids are involved in choosing places to stop and always study maps and utilize technology to decide where they want to go. Trip Planners, like the one on the GoRV’ing.ca website, are priceless. You simply plug in your destination and you can find RV dealers, Interesting Stops and Campgrounds along the way.
In fact, I’ll have you know, we had “planned” to hit up the Pacific Northwest from Idaho, but Canada was calling and so in a matter of minutes we turned our RV around and drove across the continent. Who does that? 🙂 We do! Then we stopped in Glenwood Springs, of course, to hug and kiss Kerry, and began our long long trek through Nebraska towards IA. In IA we took a two hour detour to visit Elkader’s brand new whitewater park!! It was fun, the water was too long to throw big tricks, but it was just right for a great respite from the heat! From here we had zero plans but we ended up in Lake Michigan, visiting family in central OH and at Home Depot in Buffalo, NY!! From there it was a toss up … Niagara or Lake Eerie. If you’ve seen our facebook, you know the Falls won out.
We are typically not tourists, we don’t have a definitive time to travel and so we don’t feel rushed to see as much of the “sights” as your typical vacationer and as such, it was the first time we’d seen Niagara Falls. We were taken by their beauty, discussed the stories & videos we’d seen of people who had run them in barrels and survived, of an unsuccessful suicide attempt and scoped out the lines. Unsurprisingly, if you know him as the beat down kid, Dally plans to run Niagara one day!! LOL! We discussed what made Niagara Falls, how electricity is generated, how two countries can share electricity, etc … education is everywhere, people … EVERYWHERE!!
When traveling it is easy to feel pressure to see everything, to do everything…we felt this when we first started this journey. We were just coming from over-scheduled, OCD life and we fell right back into it in the RV. Until we all rebelled once again. So today, in all our wisdom, we simply try to align our expectations with what we hope to gleen from wherever it is we are. We are adventurers, in the true sense of the word and we are not tourists. We don’t normally flock to the Must See spots on a vacationers list. Eventually we may arrive, as we did Niagara, but as a traveling family we are able to take our time and “get around” to seeing what’s in our back yard!! You see, for the vacationer, time is of the essence, they must pack as much as humanly possible into a day, whereas we can sleep in (as if!!!), we can hang a little longer than anticipated with family, we can see what we see leisurely … it’s just another day. But in another amazing place.
It’s exactly what keeps us so excited for a new day. We still do what everyone else has to do: Work (yes, a lot of people think we are either REALLY REALLY rich or REALLY REALLY poor … someone actually thought we got on the Obama RV program!), laundry, cook, clean, school, grocery shop, etc. But we get a change of scenery to break up the mundane. Right now the radio is on and it’s a French Channel. That’s just so so cool!
And the kids … you tell me once when a vacationer, a tourist made a friend in another state, let alone another country? Grady, Brody & Kady kayaked the Ottawa River today with their friend, Sydney … from Canada! Our kids have friends in every locale we’ve ever been, they Skype, they Facebook, they text, they Instagram with them all and keep in touch. They are the most social kids I’ve ever met. Today we were standing on the rocks next to Push Button (a popular wave on the Ottawa) and Maddy heard Monsieur Villecourt speaking French. She walked over and said, “Bonjour, monsieur.” He in turn smiled and said, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle.” She was giddy!
Anyway we left Niagara and literally beelined to Glen Rouge Campground in Toronto because we had to be there by closing time at 9 pm. We arrived after the sun set and the lights of the city of over 2.8 million people beckoned us seductively. We don’t visit many large cities, we typically find ourselves driving through the big metropolitan areas to find our away. But, as you may recall, this year is all about shedding our comfort zone and really embracing new people, new places and growing ourselves and that’s how we come to find ourselves in Toronto — Canada’s largest city and the 4th largest city in North America!! Yeah, when we go, we go big! 🙂
So we arrived Tues night, stayed at the beautiful Glen Rouge Campground on the Rouge River. For all you locals, it’s a really green campground — like grass and trees and such! A great spot for a getaway from the city life. Our kids went fishing in the morning and evening!! On Wed morning we did an interview with CBC Toronto and The Toronto Sun and then we booked it to the Toronto Zoo.
The Toronto Zoo was also like no other zoo I’d ever been too. It was, in a word, amazing. You really felt as though you were on a nature walk and happened upon a Rhinoceros or a Hyena behind some glass. There are over 10 km (6 miles) of hiking trails, that are surrounded by trees and real in the wild, wildlife. From Peacocks that free roam to chipmunks and even a wild fox … yes, a wild fox in the zoo. That should help you understand how truly secluded and out in nature you feel while at the zoo … even wild animals are roaming about!! It was really amazing!
The Toronto Zoo is divided into six geographic regions (soon to be 7 with Eurasia Wilds coming soon): Australasia Pavilion, Tundra Trek, the Americas, Canadian Domain, African Savanna, & Indo-Malaya. There are over 5,000 animals representing 500 species! We loved the fact that there was a Meet the Keeper schedule that offered an educational talk and/or a feeding at a specific time ranging from 11:30 – 2:30. This is a great example of how easy it is to incorporate education into our daily lives … a fun trip to the zoo, becomes an educational extravaganza!!
Along the nature walk were informational signs and even interactive displays, such as the fox den that the kids could crawl through that demonstrated how big their dens could really be. Coby really enjoyed this and spent about 20 minutes crawling in and around it before I finally crawled in and snagged the little fox wannabe!!
One of the most fascinating exhibits was the Giant Panda Experience!! From what I read, as part of a long-term conservation partnership agreement between China and Canada, China loaned two giant pandas to 2 Canadian Zoos for 10 years, 5 years in Toronto and 5 years in Calgary.
We learned the Giant Panda eats approximately 141 lbs of Bamboo per DAY!! In the wild 99% of their diet is bamboo. However, their digestive system is more comparable to that of a carnivore, hence most of the bamboo goes undigested. This blows my mind. Simply can’t be, can it?? Maddy found it hysterical that the Panda has to go to the bathroom over 12 times per day!! LOL. But that is why they consume so much, the majority of it is indigestible food. We also learned, and I quote, that they eat until they are tired and sleep until they are hungry! Boring!!
The lemurs were also a huge hit as they were extremely playful and fun to watch. Grady and Brody commented they were exceptional Parkour athletes!! They jumped from branch tree to rope swing to ground while wrestling and playing king of the tree!
But the best, our hands-down favorite exhibit were the Gorillas! There was an itty bitty baby that momma gorilla was having a really hard time containing…he wanted to climb and climb and climb. Momma wanted him to just SIT! Then daddy gorilla was just sitting by the window, staring out into space. However, he had plans. There were about 9 children, 3 of them ours, huddled by this window watching the biggest gorilla when without any warning, he jumped at the window and sent all of these kids backwards screaming! If they all hadn’t been terrified, it would have been funny. If Coby hadn’t been knocked over by the mob of kids trying to flee, it would have been funny. How much you want to bet, that guy plots and plans and waits for the perfect moment to strike? That knowledge alone just makes me laugh.
So I now am writing from the Ottawa River, the Beachburg Whitewater Region to be exact. I just finished watching the sun go down over the river with 4 exhausted little kids snuggled in my arms. Brody, Kenny, Dally, Cardy & Rowdy are fishing for catfish, Kady and Grady are watching a movie, Dan is working and Maddy is reading Farmer Boy. To say we are blessed is an understatement. To say that our kids are living the best life that will give them the best platform for spreading their wings is dead on!
I look at the kids … Kerry has grown so much this past summer to become one of her company’s top female guides! Grady and Brody just published their first Android App, Flappy World, yesterday and are today working on the foundation of a social app that very well could change the world! Kady has such an amazing eye for photography and already, at 15 has such a passion for life, it’s so refreshing! Kenny & Dally have a real penchant for inventing, in fact, today, they found styrofoam on the river and have been planning away to make the ultimate boogie board! Cardy, Rowdy, Maddy, Emmy, Elly & Coby have perpetual smiles, they look forward to every day, they have the benefit of being surrounded by the people who love them more than anything in the world AND they are blessed to have siblings who actually enjoy their company!! You do know that that’s what we hear the most … “you know those teens don’t want to hang out with their family”. That is the saddest, THE SADDEST commentary on society today. Real quick, that should be embarrasing to you, so don’t say that, don’t say that out loud … EVER! 🙂
I can’t tell you what this means to us…raising children who we KNOW will have the strength, the confidence, the ability and the fearlessness to follow their faith and their dreams! Faith and Family, it’s all that matters. It’s all that matters when you get down to the core of life. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living or how much money you make. It matters who you affect and how you affect them. Life is about relationships and people. It’s about spreading peace and love and hope and faith!
It’s overwhelming when I think about it because, I’m just like everyone else, I have moments of doubt, moments where I question everything we’ve done. But I only need to look as far as our kids to know that we are doing something right and for as long as we are all happy and thriving we will continue with this adventure!!