Schultz’s Cross Canada: B.C., Alberta and getting Van-nessa ready

It was the 90’s. Two awkward teens travelling east with their families. One named Kirk, in a Chevy van with a bed in the back, on a mission to get to Prince Edward Island to see family in 1995. One named Janelle, in a navy-blue Chevy Celebrity with camping gear jammed in every corner, on a mission to find the Atlantic in 1994.

Ok, so you probably really don’t care about our worn-out childhood stories of family vacations, but I share that tidbit to say that both Kirk and I really wanted to take our kids on a similar adventure now that they were at the perfect age for travelling. I remember that trip as one of the last big adventures we went on all together. After that summer, my travels were mostly with friends, or backpacking trips with my dad and brother that my mom opted out of. By 16 I was in Ecuador, then working summer camps, and by 18, I was off travelling Europe which is where I met Kirk. Summer of ’94/’95 Cross Canada was a defining trip for both Kirk and I so it felt symbolic to re-create that with our own family.

This trip was planned for 2020, then 2021, and although we made the most of those summers with local trips and lots of mountain time, we were sickened to watch our window of opportunity quickly narrowing thanks to a pandemic far outside our control. Our babies are growing up too fast. Katie is 15, which means that her subsequent summers will be filled with her own friends, jobs, and travel stories that won’t involve her parents as much. Already she is balking at many of the things we do together. So, with restrictions completely gone and our collective return to happier days, we jumped at the chance to make the Schultz Family Cross Canada Road Trip become a reality.

Our trip sort of started this April when we put our feet in the Pacific Ocean on Kitscoty beach while on a trip to Vancouver for Diez Vista 50k. We drove there in our truck with the bikes on the back and stayed in an Air Bnb.

We knew that hotel stays are outside our budget for the eastern part of our journey, and our preferred option to camp felt like a logistical nightmare, (not to mention the agony of a month of crappy tent sleeping). With a goal departure date of July 1st, that left us with 3 months to come up with a plan for how we were going to get to the Atlantic. We looked into truck rooftop tents, Thule for our Jeep, pulling a trailer, but nothing felt right.  After a few days going down the Kijiji rabbit hole, we found Harry from Vegreville and his 1981 Chevy Class ‘C’ van. For a steal of a price and a lot of vision for her potential, we named our new RV ‘Classy Van-nessa’ and set about making her our new home.

It was a team effort, but who are we kidding it was mostly Kirk. Finding time in our already busy June proved to be difficult but by some miracle we managed to turn her into a stunningly gorgeous home on wheels with fresh paint, new flooring, new hardware, re-upholstered cushions (thanks to my mom), some seat covers and the finishing decorative touches by Katie and Tegan. I really don’t know how we did it, but after a frantic day of packing, we were on the road by about 8pm on July 1st with no plan other then to head east.

We were definitely wondering if we were doing the right thing. Gas prices are astronomical, and Van-Nessa is a thirsty girl, and we don’t even know how reliable she is. Kirk didn’t feel he had enough time to do as much of the maintenance work he would have liked to do to ensure she was running at her potential. And of course the usual anxieties about all the ‘what if’s’ that could go wrong, my biggest concern being that we may never see my sweet puppy Bruno again. He’s getting pretty old and his stress tolerance is low. Although he thought he should come with us, there is no way it would work to take him along. It kills me to know his time with us is limited, but we knew that he would be well cared for by Kirk’s mom. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that there will never be a perfect time. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities and do it. Do it now, do it now, do it now. We won’t get these days back.

As we drove away that first night, hungry, a little disorganized but so happy to finally be on the road, I settled in to enjoy that sense of wonder to embrace the unknown. We only went as far as Wainwright, AB where we parked in front of Kirk’s sister’s house to surprise her. After finishing up a few of the reno projects like hanging miniblinds at 11 pm so we didn’t put on a show for her neighbours, we grabbed snacks from our well stocked cupboards and went out onto the street in the cool summer night to watch the Canada Day fireworks set off from the base. I knew the kids were tired, God knows I was too, yet there they were, dancing in the street, laughing and antagonizing each other as siblings do. Time to let go of the busy-ness and the demands. Time to dance and laugh.

Ah. Yes. This. This is why. This is worth it. We won’t get this back, but we sure hope for a lot more to come.  

The next morning, I snuck out for a run around the army base, had a quick coffee with Sarena, and then we were on the road again, Saskatchewan in our sights. Stay tuned…

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