My Fifth-Wheel RV

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Now that we're back home, the first things I need to do will be to get new tires for the truck and trailer, and a front end alignment for the truck. I also anticipate new brakes for both. I already know that the cables in all slideouts need replacing, and I'm going to try to do it myself. I plan to do a video so I can put it on the How To section of the Your RV menu tab.

You simply cannot go on a trip this long or this involved without bringing back a few lessons learned. You will see from the list below that on this particular trip, a lot of lessons got learned. In the vein of Aesop, for each lesson I also try to indicate the moral of each.

Before we get into the lessons learned, I want to present a few stats about the trip.

Some Statistics

  • We left on 10 June 2018 and returned home on 17 October, for a total of 130 days.

  • We covered a total of around 15,000 miles, or 25,000 km.

  • In all, we went through 10 US states and 4 Canadian provinces [NB, NS, NL, PEI].

  • We stayed in a total of 45 campgrounds, a handful more than once. This doesn't count the nine days we stayed at our friend's place in Nova Scotia. Does boondocking in their yard also count as a campground? Here is a list of all the campgrounds we stayed at.

  • Total campground costs in the States was around 1945 US$ and in Canada around 3050 C$. Applying conversion rates, the total came out to around 4255 US$, or about $35 per night. This doesn't count food, fuel, sightseeing or other costs.

  • We took four ferries during our stay: Hardings Point KOA campground in NB, the big ferry over to Newfoundland, St. Brendan's Island, and Bell's Island, PEI

  • We took the short ferry (6 hours) between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; the cost was around 46 C$ each way; no private room or dog kennels. The long ferry (18 hours) runs at a minimum about 121 C$, not counting dogs or cabins. See here for current ferry rates, schedules and reservations.

  • Sorry, but I didn't keep fuel receipts but it wouldn't matter anyway. Fuel mileage varies dramatically with type of rig and tow vehicle.

Lessons Learned

I accumulated an embarrassingly long list of learned lessons during this trip. Here are just a few.

  • If you have a large fifth-wheel, you probably have a brake control in your truck cab. Mine is a -- unit on which trailer brake pressure can be adjusted. If you have an adjustable brake control, be sure to set your brakes higher before going onto the Cabot Trail in NS or the Gros Morne Park mountains in NL. Both can be rough on brakes and transmissions.

  • In hindsight I should have used support bars to keep slideouts from wiggling around while driving. Such a bar can easily be made by putting the slideout in, measuring the distance between the trailer side and end of the slideout, and sawing a 2x4 to fit. Make sure it's tight enough so the slideout is securely wedged in. Do this on both sides of all slideouts and it will help to avoid unnecessary tension on your cables.

  • I really, really wish I had known to take extra slideout cables and tools with me. Considering all the problems we had, it would have made the trip much less frustrating, not to mention much roomier.

  • As I frequently discuss in my blog, roads in the Canadian Maritimes can be very, very rough on tires. I am proud of how our trailer tires held up because we had no blowouts or any other tire trouble. I use Goodyear Endurance ---. See the discussion here regarding proper trailer tires.

  • Speaking of rough roads; be sure to secure everything inside your rig while you are travelling about in the Maritimes. I can't count the number of times I've opened up the trailer only to find things strewn about. Doors and drawers came open, chairs and tables tipped over, the microwave came out of its opening more than once, and the fridge door came open several times, spilling things out all over the floor. I finally wised up and tied the door knobs together. I screwed in a piece of wood to hold in the microwave. I tried to pack things in as tight as possible. I couldn't do much about the fridge but I'm going to think of something before going out West. And I will use security bars on my slideouts from now on.

  • If you don't already have them, consider putting heavy duty shocks & brakes on your rig. I haven't yet but I'm going to; the peace of mind will be worth the extra cost. I am also going to look into a vibration cushion for my fifth-wheel.

  • If you want to visit the Maritimes but don't feel comfortable about lugging your trailer around up to the North Peninsula, there are lots of B & B places to stay. This option may also deserve consideration if you want to minimize wear and tear on your rig.

  • Watch your turns. A long fifth-wheel isn't like a car, truck or bus. The rear wheels don't follow the fronts somewhat closely. The difference is that the hitch provides a pivot point allowing the front wheels to turn a lot more sharply than the rear. This lag results in objects smashing into the middle or rear of the trailer more easily. Every accident I've had with my fifth-wheel has occurred during turns. Once I took out a phone pole, once it was a fence post, and the last time it was a rock wall. So the moral is: pay close attention to sharp turns and don't let your attention wander. Keep an eye on your mirrors and, if you can't see, have someone get out and guide you. Believe me, smashing a trailer can be expensive!

Things We Missed

So now that we're back and have had time to think it over, you might ask "Would you make the trip again?" Damn right! We were on this trip for a total of four months. Discounting about 6 weeks for travel up to Canada and back, that still leaves about 2-1/2 months in the Maritimes. It sounds like a long time but it simply wasn't enough. We really needed at least two months in Newfoundland alone. It was painful to have to pick and choose all the time. Many of the things we were forced to forego involved tours, any of which would eat up the better part of a day. On a typical day we would explore three or four little villages which we wouldn't have missed for the world.

We wouldn't mind spending another month or two just to explore areas that we missed the first time, like northeast New Brunswick, more of the Cabot Trail and the part of Cape Breton south of Sydney. We also wanted to see many other parts of Newfoundland like the Burin Peninsula, the Marystown Peninsula, the Bay Roberts Peninsula, all those little fishing villages and fiddly bits along the northern coast, route 360 down to the southern coast, and much more. But as fetching as that sounds, there is just too much other stuff to do. In 2019 we plan to spend around four months touring as many national parks as possible. We also want to experience central Canada and maybe visit Baanf and Jasper. Alaska also beckons. And this isn't even counting the numerous non-RV trips to other parts of the world that we have on our bucket list.

Here is a partial list of places and things that we missed.

  • Labrador is a huge place that would require a couple months by itself. We were discouraged from going by the horror stories we heard about the roads, which provided the deciding factor in the "against" column. That said, there were a couple places we would like to have visited, such as ---. If they had been closer to Nova Scotia we would probably have gone over, but they weren't.

  • I have never been to Niagara Falls, although Phyllis has. I confess I should have planned better in order to take in the Falls. Oh well. I am going to try to work it in during our trip out West.

  • Because it was late in the season when we got to Newfoundland, we didn't get to see any icebergs or whales. Whale season normally runs from mid-May through mid-Sept. Here is a link to the Captain Zodiac Whale Cruise that operates out of Cheticamp on the Cabot Trail. It costs 59 C$ for a 2.5 - 3 hour tour, with full refund provided. Call 877.232.2522. We've seen whales before in Hawaii, but the icebergs would have been nice. We are looking at taking the ferry from British Columbia up to Alaska in a couple years, when we should be able to see all the whales and icebergs we want.

  • We didn't get to see any moose close up, although we did see one in the distance on the side of a highway. But we did see a small herd of seven caribou at the lighthouse in St. Croix.

  • Lobster was pretty much out of season while we were there. We did try it once in PEI but it didn't hold a candle to how we remembered it when we lived in Massachusetts. Maybe if we had had it right out of the water during the season it would have been different.

  • Cape Spear on Newfoundland is the most easterly point in continental North America, and contains NL's oldest surviving lighthouse. It is also a good place to see things such as icebergs, whales, dolphins and seabirds. It's a shame that we didn't go since we were so close. In a similar vein, we were also close to the literal end of TCH at St. John's but we never thought about going there. We have been to the southern end of US 1 in Key West, so it would have been nice to get another terminus under our belts.

  • There is a boat tour in Terra Nova park that we would have liked to take. Unfortunately we would have had to make reservations for the next day but we were leaving out in the morning.

  • The ferry to St. Pierre and Miquelon island seems like an interesting trip. It is about a 1-1/2 hour ride over. The destination island is officially part of France.

  • We had limited time to do the Irish Loop south of St. John's. While we poked our noses down a few places on the eastern side, we had to blow past most of the western portion. This was another case where we probably should have taken the dogs with us so we could spend more time there.

  • I wanted to go to the town of Dildo, just to say I've been there.

  • Fogo Island and the Burin Peninsula are a couple other areas of St. John's we would have liked to visit.

  • George Street in St. John's was a disappointment, especially considering we've been to the likes of Key West, Provincetown on Cape Cod, San Francisco, and Bourbon Street during Marti Gras. Maybe our standards are a bit unreasonable, and maybe things would have been different if we had visited it at night time.

  • We would have liked to take the ferry from St. Barbe over to Quebec and spend a couple days, but again time constraints did not permit.

  • We had heard about Magnetic Hill in Mocton NB and wanted to check it out. But we had our minds on the return trip so we passed it by. Google it if you think it may be something you want to see.

  • Phyllis is a big fan of Anne of Green Gables so naturally we wanted to check it out while on PEI. But we were told by folks who have been there that it was basically a tourist trap so we decided to forego it. In retrospect, we probably should have given it a chance anyway.

  • We have been to Bangor and the Acadia National Park before, but we really would have loved to see them again. We fondly recall how good the lobster was, not to mention the magnificent scenery. I fear that we won't be able to see it again since we have too many other fetching places to go.

  • Although we did get to spend a little time on the Newfoundland peninsula where Bonavista sits out on the tip, we didn't go to the peninsula just south of that. That's the one with Red Head Cove out at the northern end. It look like there are tons of little towns and villages that just beg to be visited.

  • The southernmost part of Newfoundland seems like it would be difficult to go to. Route 360 does go from the TCH at Windsor all the way down to Seal Cove on the coast, but we decided not to spend the time. This may have been a mistake. I don't know if there are any RV camps in the area. If you wind up going there, please let us know what you found.

These are just a few of the things we would have liked to add to the agenda. Now you see why I say that you need at least two months in Newfoundland alone!

Some Regrets

As with any trip this long, there is always a list of things you wish you had done differently. Here is my (partial) list.

  • If I had it to do over again we would have gone to Prince Edward Island first, immediately after we got past New Brunswick. Then we could do the lower part of Nova Scotia, then the Cabot Trail, and finally Newfoundland. Why? As nice as PEI is, it turned out to be something of a disappointment after seeing the Cabot Trail and Newfoundland.
As the song says:
  • If we didn't have the dogs with us, we could have taken the long ferry up to Newfoundland. As it was, we had to take the short ferry to Port aux Basques and then transect the northern part of the island twice. Of course we didn't want to put our dogs through an 18-hour trip on the ferry to Argentia, so our choice was pretty much made for us. Another reason for going up to St. John's first is that we found it to be rather anticlimactic after seeing other places such as Gros Morne, the Cabot Trail and the Northern Peninsula. I think folks would find it more interesting if St. John's is the first part of their Newfoundland experience.

  • I wish I had looked into renting a Bell satellite rooftop dish while in Newfoundland. Our DirecTV couldn't get a signal up there so we missed a lot of our favorite shows. But maybe not keeping up with the political landscape back in the US was a good thing.

  • I regret not anticipating how bad cell phone reception would be in Newfoundland. Moreover, I wish I had upgraded my Sprint phone plan to high speed, unlimited voice, text and data. Since internet service was almost impossible to get, we had to rely on our phone's hotspot to interface with my computer. Because our phone plan was sub-par, internet speed was very slow and frustrating. I have since upgraded the plan to Unlimited Premium, so on our next trip to the national parks. I will let you know how the new plan works out.

  • I was somewhat misinformed about what to expect in Newfoundland, in several ways. One was in thinking that the island was mostly desolate, and hence it might be a long distance between fuel stations. So I took several gas cans in case we had to fuel up for a long drive. That turned out to be merely unfounded paranoia, and we lugged those darned cans around with us for 15,000 miles, for nothing.

  • I wish I had paid more attention to our slideout cables before the trip. It is likely I would have seen some fraying on the cable ends and would have had time to have them addressed. As you can imagine, having three slideouts that don't work puts a cramp in your trip, but we managed to press on in spite of that. Now I have learned my lesson well and will not make that mistake again. I am going to fix the broken slideout cables myself so I will know what to do if it ever happens again. See here for my writeup on repairing slideout cables.

  • Rather than taking the Confederation Bridge over to PEI, we regret not taking the ferry at Pictou. For one thing, it would have cut off some time. For another, we would have gotten to see some more of PEI that we otherwise missed. Finally, it would have been a chance to ride yet another ferry. Note that both the ferry and bridge to PEI are free going over; you pay on the way back either way.

  • Perhaps our biggest regret was not having a few weeks longer for the trip so we could have crossed off some of the items on the above Missed list.


One of the things I want to mention is the almost total lack of litter or graffiti while in the Maritimes. Maybe it's the pristine nature of the area that makes folks think twice about tossing litter or defacing with graffiti, but we were constantly surprised by the contrast between the area and, well, most places in the States. I doubt if the locals would even think about doing either, but the fact that tourists don't either is a pure source of amazement to me.

We always felt safe while in the Maritimes. Folks there say they don't bother to lock their cars or houses. Nobody steals from the piles of firewood laying along the roadside. If there is any crime to be found there, I'd be willing to bet it is from non-residents. I haven't bothered to research any crime statistics, but I believe U.S. residents would be impressed - Canadian residents, maybe not so much.

If you plan to come to Nova Scotia and/or Newfoundland during the busy season, make sure to do your reservations well in advance if you can. This is especially true if you have a big rig. When I was planning out our trip I got reservations all the way from Florida to Port au Choix NL. And I'm glad I did, since a lot of the RV parks were full to capacity. Later on in the season, say early August, you can probably pull into almost any campground and get a spot.

A word about dogs. Doing extended travelling with three dogs can range anywhere from enjoyable to chaotic. Our three dogs turned out to be no problem at all. Our little poodle Snow White was a sweetheart. The black lab / Shar Pei mix wasn't any trouble except for the couple times she got off her leash to chase squirrels, and I had to chase her through campgrounds. Our feral dog Bat Girl actually improved somewhat on the trip. Being born in the wild, she has always been shy of people. But after four years she had come to tolerate me somewhat; not trust, just tolerate. Anyway, she got to where she would come from her hiding place in the trailer when I called her to go for walkies. Sure, it sounds like a small improvement, but we'll take anything. Factoid: do you know what the expression "three dog night" means? I'm told it is a way Eskimos describe how cold it is, that is, how many dogs they have in bed with them to keep warm.

I am sad to report that in December our little poodle Snow White succumbed to a severe seizure, the last of a series that started while we were in NL. She is resting comfortable in Phyllis' orchid area where we can talk with her from time to time. We will definitely miss her - RIP, Snowie.

We had the privilege to befriend a couple that had made the same trip up to the Maritimes a year before we did. Over several pizzas, we were able to coax out lots of notes about things we wanted to see and things we didn't. They had lots of good tips and suggestions regarding campgrounds and places to go. Should you too have an interest in visiting the Maritimes, I sincerely hope that my blog will help you in the same way.

We would like to end on the following note. We're really, really glad we went. Although we were gone for over four months, we were never bored a single day. Despite the roads, we would definitely do it again if there weren't so many other places we want to go, such as the national parks out West and a trip to Alaska, among other things. So if you've ever thought about heading up to Canada, do it! Let us know about your trip.

Finally, as they say in Cajun country, "We'll see 'ya 'while ago."

Happy Trails!

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