Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great White North.

The Roadtrek factory is located in the town of Kitchener right outside of Toronto and was our final destination.  We had sent the kids off to school for a half of a day while we packed and discussed exactly what were hoping to get out of this trip.  Kitchener is about 7 hours from where we live so activities for Marnie and Ethan were a definite must.  Charging all of our electronics took a few hours and gave us some time dream.  We knew that we wanted to tour the Roadtrek factory and see how our future home was constructed.  Our family has a huge passion for the little guy when it comes to business.  We shop local as much as we possibly can and always try to support family run businesses vs. large corporations.  Roadtrek advertises themselves as such a company.  Less than 200 employees and an 8 acre building that was first owned by father and now son. It sounds great on paper.  We also were curious why not more people are traveling around in these bad boys.  We have been very discouraged from our choice in vehicles by RV dealers - even the dealers who sell Roadtreks.  This strikes us as odd since Roadtreks would provide them with a larger profit. Everyone has tried to steer us in the direction of a larger RV.  As soon as we mention what type of trip we are taking, the dealer immediately tells us that in no way do we want a Roadtrek.  Why?  It’s size I suppose.  It is so common that the idea that bigger is always better is the one conveyed.  I do not want bigger.  I want ease.  I want quality.  I want a small footprint.  When you are considering what a long road we have to haul - our impact matters. We do not want to spend endless hours hanging out in the RV watching tv.  We could stay right where we are for that.  We want a comfortable ride and a place to sleep at night.  We want to be able to gain entrance at any National Park with no regard to the size of our transportation.  Period. I do not need a castle on wheels.  We just had to go see for ourselves.  Going to Kitchener had an added bonus of being located only about an hour and a half from Niagara Falls.  
Apparently I forgot to call the school and let them in on our plans.  Any other school would probably be bothered by parents showing up in the middle of the day and taking off with their kids for half a week.  Mill Creek is a different kind of school however.  The support we have received since announcing our plans for next school year has been overwhelmingly positive.  The principal (who has the amazing ability of remembering every child’s name as well as their parent’s) came to shake our hands an congratulate us on seizing the day and spending the next year educating the children ourselves.  They are so excited about education at that school - regardless of where one gets it. Everyone had already heard that we were off to Canada as well.  Our kids have big mouths and were more than a little excited.  It was like a preview of what is to come.  They bounced from their classrooms, gathered their belongings and we were off.
All was pretty uneventful until we were about an hour from the boarder.  Troy looks at me and asks ‘You think we need anything in order to get Rocco across the boarder?’  Um.  The thought never crossed my mind that we could not just take our dog with us into Canada.  I haven’t been to Canada since I was something like 8 and we didn't have a pup with us.  I usually think of Canada as just a greater UP.  I did think to bring the passports but records for the dog?  Nope.  Didn’t think of that one.  It was 5:05 and despite calling our vet 7 times, I never got a pick up.  Our minds reeled.  Troy suggested that perhaps we could have someone head to the house, find the records and email them to us.  Only problem was that we had both keys and it was locked up tight.  The stars were aligned my friend.  Canada would not deny this family.  We were on a mission and they were going to let us in.  We quickly called our realtor and were able to find out the code to get into the lock box that is attached to the door.  I then placed a semi-frantic call to my sister-in-law Bree who must have ran from her house and speedily drove to mine.  As luck had it, we had just taken Rocco to the vet the day before and his records were right beside Troy’s bed.  Any other day and they would have been locked away in a filing cabinet in the basement.  She was able to find them, take them home, scan and email them to me just as we reached the town of Port Huron.  There was no office supply store to be found but I had the idea that perhaps we could convince a librarian to let us print a page.  One temporary library card later  -  the papers were in hand.  We crossed the boarder with ease.
The hotel was not one of luxury.  Smoking is still a fancy in the land of Canada and thanks to some giant home show that was being held in town, we were stuck with a smoke filled room.  I am not sure how it is in the majority of our country, but smoking is not popular in Traverse City.  Every summer I find myself surprised by my shock (I am a successful quitter) when I see a tourist smoking.  It is just not the norm.  This cannot be said for Canada.  We had no choice but to sleep and try not to inhale.  
The next day proved to be pretty big.  It started with Troy doing a great radio interview on 106 KHQ - a local station in Traverse City.  If you are interested in a listen, you can do so here:

After a bit of breakfast we were off to tour the Roadtrek factory.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  We were met by the nicest guide, an elder gentleman named Tupper.  I do not think I have ever met anyone who was so passionate about the company they worked for.  He went over all the details of the different models that are offered as well as information as to how the factory is run.  The kids were stoked because we all were required to wear safety glasses.  Danger must be in store, no?  Not so much.  The factory floor was extremely quite.  All of the employees wear earphones filled with music.  If in need of help, all they must do is turn up the volume of their music and a supervisor will be on the way.  The entire factory is managed in this way.  Each vehicle that we saw on the floor was in varying degrees of assembly and are already owned by an individual.  They only make to order.  It was extremely interesting to see the process.  Roadtrek purchases vans from either Chevy or Mercedes and then pulls them apart.  They completely cut them into pieces.  They then add all of the cool features that the brand is known for and put it all back together.  It takes all 200 people (40 % women!) to make one van into a camper.  The finished product is perfect looking and you would have no idea what disarray it was previously in.  Somehow they manage to complete the process without destroying the factory warranty that comes when you purchase a new Chevy.  Crazy.  Tupper answered all of my questions and made a whole lot of corny jokes that were probably funnier if you were Canadian.  Maybe not.  I wanted to take photos for this blog but they made me put my camera in the car before allowing us in.  I will however include a picture of my shoes.

These were a huge hit in Canada.  Apparently Vibrams have not yet made there way to the great white north.  It was as if we were aliens who just landed our craft in the middle of their country.  Everywhere we went we got crazy stares.  All four of us wear VFFs 99% of the time and honestly I forget that they are weird.  They have gained some popularity in the States and especially in Traverse City.  I rarely get a comment on my choice of footwear unless it is someone asking where I purchased them.  I think we may have converted good ole’ Tupper though.  By the end of the tour he was joking of adding the toe shoes to his games & comic store.  The servers at the sushi place we dined at for dinner that night were a completely different story.  I think it is safe to say they were disgusted.  The shoes were like a car wreck - horrified by the monstrosity but they couldn’t look away.

We drove an hour and a half to Niagara Falls after the conclusion of our tour.  It was really freaking cold.  The sleet kept us from doing much walking but made me feel quite justified in my decision to bring my ski jacket.  The falls were amazing of course.  The kids were like ‘Eh.  Where is the gift shop?‘  Postcards were really all they cared about.  We might have spent twenty minutes in total at Niagara before heading back.  That is the great thing about having a completely open future - you can always revisit.  We capped the night off by enjoying a delicious sushi dinner.  All you can eat sushi joints are everywhere in Canada.  This makes me want to move to Canada.  Seriously.  I would eat sushi every single day until the end of my existence.  This is how much I love sushi.  No joke.  Okay, moving on.

This morning we made one last stop at a local RV dealer.  The one thing we were unable to do at the factory that we wanted to was to actually get into a Roadtrek.  Even the Canadian dealer tried to talk us out of buying a Roadtrek.  Seriously?  I just don’t get it.  I love them.  I love them enough that I am excited to spend more than a year in one.
And now we are on our way home.  A few hours to go.  I will include one more picture for good measure - obviously taken by and altered from the backseat by the girl. Oh!  And I just got a call from the realtor who informed me that the deal on the house may be falling through...  But I think that will have to wait for later.


  1. Erin and Troy, I saw a RoadTrek190 for sale on M22 less than a 1/2 mile N of the Cherry Bend light. Not sure if this is what you are looking for or not. I started following your blog when my cousin Niki mentioned it on fb. This is very exciting for your family. Glad your house sold so fast. oops hoping the deal doesn't fall thru! Sorry I don't know of any rentals for the summer.

  2. Thanks Lisa! We'll have to check it out :)