“Life is too short to be restricted by the lifestyle of home ownership,” said Jasmine. Jasmine, together with her husband Paul, became full-time RVers in the Fall of 2018. Both in their mid-40’s, with no kids at home, they wanted to see and experience North America while they could.
They sold their Toronto house and bought a truck and a fifth wheel trailer. Their travelling plan, as full-time RVers, was to follow the warmth of the sun as they explored the natural beauty and diverse cultures of the North American continent. Canada during the summer months and the winters in the United States and Mexico.
Then disaster struck. Doctors diagnosed Jasmine’s mom with cancer.
For Paul and Jasmine, they spent their first winter as full-time RVers living in their fifth wheel just east of Toronto. This is their story.
Making the Decision to Change their Lifestyle
Linda and I met Paul and Jasmine Davies with their two dogs on a campsite southwest of Toronto in September, 2019. They were both in their mid-forties. They had given up responsible and stressful jobs for the adventure and freedom of life travelling in an RV.
As we sat around their campfire that September afternoon, they entertained us with tales of their first twelve months of RVing.
“RVing this past year has been fun, and a wonderful experience.” Jasmine told us, “but it all started a few years earlier.”
Both Jasmine and Paul lost their fathers, one with cancer and the other with heart failure. These traumatic experiences lead them to realize that life is unpredictable; material possessions mean little and life is too short.
They started to plan a new life. “Oh, it’s not easy,” Jasmine smiled. “I liked my possessions, my clothes, our furniture, our house. Paul had become a respected manager in the nuclear industry. I was a successful real estate agent.”
Paul turned to me. “You know it’s funny, once you start looking a what income you need to live on, the RV lifestyle becomes more attractive. We pushed ahead, turning the idea into actual plans.”
They talked to people who RVed as Snowbirds, they read about full-timers. They attended many RV shows over a few years as they planned their future. During this time, they increased their knowledge of RVing while the excitement of giving up their present jobs for a life on the open road grew.
At first, they were considering a diesel pusher but after reviewing the many options, they finally chose a fifth wheel and diesel pickup truck. For Jasmine, this was a huge step; she had never been camping. Inside space was the deciding factor. “Price and running costs,” added Paul taking Jas’s hand, “was also a consideration.”
In the summer of 2018, they both resigned from their jobs. Their house in Pickering on the eastern edge of Toronto sold quickly along with most of their possessions. An offer to Layzee Acres, RV Sales, in Orillia, Ontario, for purchase of the RV of their choice was accepted. They became owners in the summer of 2018, of a 40ft Solitude fifth wheel, by Grand Design, and a Ford Diesel Truck.
In the summer of 2018, their plan was to leave Canada in October for seven months in Arizona and Mexico, then back to Canada for the summer. It was then that disaster struck. Jasmine’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, and she had to have the treatment that would take all winter. “I could not leave her,” said Jasmine. “Paul was so understanding.”
“It was only a problem to be solved,” said Paul. “In life, you roll with the punches. We had a home on wheels. We found Milton Heights, RV Park. This park is open all year and is conveniently placed just west of Mississauga, and Jasmin’s mom home.” They had to winterize the unit so that they, with their two dogs, could live in it for the winter.
After a couple of short camping trips to familiarize themselves with the rig, they parked at Milton Heights RV Park for the winter. Then they started the process of preparing their trailer for winter living.
The Process of Preparing for Winter
The campsite was a gravel pad. The steps from the RV lead down onto a grass area. By chance, they parked on high ground, and not in on one of the low-lying campsites. “The low-lying sites looked like ponds on some days during the winter,” added Paul. “We both read social media web sites for tips on winter camping. “YouTube,” they said, is an excellent source of information, but once you are on the campground, the other campers give assistance and advice.” Paul explained it like this. “You only had to walk outside your trailer with a hammer or an electric drill in your hand. Other guys would just appear, offering their assistance.” Jas added, “this was our first real RV camping experience. People just wanted to help each other. Being part of that community was part of the fun. Other RVers just wanted to help us get the most out of our first RV winter experience in Canada.”
Getting the RV Ready for Winter Use.
Their new RV was a Grand Design Solitude RV that is rated as suitable for four seasons living, but Jasmine and Paul wanted to make sure by adding additional precautions:
- Water supply hose – They purchased an electrically heated water supply hose. This hose has an electrical heating element and thermostat built into it. They made sure that no section of the water hose was lying on the cold ground.
- External sewerage hoses – This hose is used to connect the RV to the campsite sewer during flushing. Any water buildup in low points would freeze and potentially cause a blockage or rupture. 1. They ensured that the sewer hose ran from the connection under the trailer to the campsite drain in a continuous downhill slope. This would prevent water from collecting and freezing. 2. Then they employed electrical tie wraps to secure the electrically heated water supply hose to the lower side of the sewer hose. 3. Paul added an aluminum air conditioning (AC) duct over the whole water assembly. This not only provided protection from the cooling effect of wind, but it also acted as an enclosure for the heat being given off by the electrically heated water supply hose. Paul used aluminum air conditioning tape to close the end nearest the trailer, having first used wire wool just inside the opening. This blocked the assembly from becoming a warm path for mice trying to reach the trailer’s underbelly.
- Propane tank – On the advice of fellow campers, Jas rented a 200 lb propane tank with a contract for a three-weekly delivery of propane. This ensured that they did not run out of gas during the coldest days.
- Skirt – minimizing the effect of cold wind reaching the underbelly of the trailer. With the help of fellow campers, Paul built a frame between the underside of the trailer and the ground. Onto this frame, they added composite wood. “A significant expense for one season but with hindsight a cost that was well worth it,” commented Paul.
Jasmine added. “The advice from other campers was to keep the skirt piled with snow to add to the trailer insulation. This kept us busy all winter.”
- Deck in front of the entrance door. “Paul built a deck out of a couple of wooden pallets.” Jasmine explained.” It was big enough to stand on while scraping the mud off our boots and for cleaning off the dogs before going inside.
- Air conditioner units on the roof. – You should keep the snow out of the AC unit. Paul used manufactured RV covers.
The Mouse Attack
The only rodent problem Paul and Jasmine experienced was in mid-February. Paul was draining the black tank. He realized the contents were running out of the end of the hose duct that he had built, enclosing all the outside water hoses. “From the time you close the black tank valve to when the content stops flowing puts enough black tank contents on the floor to make a big Mess,” Paul told us, as he remembered the incident. The problem’s investigation revealed a mouse nest inside the ducting around the warm, electrically heated water supply hose. The mouse had then eaten into the ordinarily empty black sewer hose. Lessons learned. Seal the outside and the inside ends of the fabricated duct with wire wool and aluminum tape. Paul did this, and they had no more problems.
We Had Fun Too, It Was Not All About Survival
Jasmine added, “It was not all about survival; it was fun being involved. Experiencing the Canadian winter as part of the RV community. The people we met came from a variety of backgrounds and with many different skills. One couple, who were cooks in a previous life, demonstrated their talents with meals. Paul played his guitar around campfires, we all sang. We went as a small group to winter carnivals and local events.”
They started running the dogs off-leash on the open fields. Then once a week, they took the dogs to a local self-wash dog-wash. This was needed to get the mud out of their fur. It rapidly became a regular fun trip for all of them. “Getting involved with local business groups was a great introduction to the area,” Jasmine told us. “We started to attend winter lunch meetings.”
In February, they took a short vacation and went to a hotel in Quebec City for a much needed break.
Surviving October to March
Experience of other people on your campground
Problems that other campers had and to which Paul and Jasmine heard about or assisted with the solutions.
- Running out of Propane, Help provided – the loan of a full propane tank and electrical heaters.
- Mice inside the unit. Help provided – Mousetraps, sealant, wire wool, and a cat.
- Freeze up of gray tank due to the belief that is should be left open. Help provided – Insulation, hot air blowers, advice. (don’t leave any valves dripping. Tanks are designed to be flushed when full, and then the valves should be closed after flushing.) Insulate valves if they are outside the trailer heated enclosure.
- A water hose got frozen outside of the skirt. Help provided – Temporary loan of trace heated water hose.
- Sewer hose frozen. Help provided – loan of replacement hose. Advice and assistance in building a sloping platform for the hose. Insulation and heating assistance.
The RV Community
The smile on Jasmine’s face as she recounted these stories told of the enjoyment that they had experienced in their first year of RVing. A year that included living in their RV for the six months of a Canadian winter.
Together they summarized their experience with these words: “We had fun together as a community. There was always some activity to get involved with. Or time to sit back on your own. When you spend a cold Canadian winter in an RV community, you see the best of people. When anything went wrong, there was always somebody there who wanted to help. For us as “Townies,” it was the best introduction to RVing that we could get.”