Chris McGraw has a post up on autoblog with a review of the 2018 Volkswagen California.
20 minutes. That’s how long it took someone to stop and ask me about the cherry red Volkswagen California I was driving.
“Is this the new Volkswagen van?” a woman in the passenger seat of a Dodge Charger asked while we were both stopped at a stoplight. “That looks nice.”
It was the first of many times that I was going to disappoint onlookers this week. No, the California isn’t the new van from VW. In fact, Volkswagen is simply celebrating the original California camper’s thirtieth anniversary this year, which is why Volkswagen shipped a fleet of them to Los Angeles. The fact that they’re in California has more to do with the name than a particular connection to the U.S. – no Californias have ever been sold here.
It is the thirtieth anniversary of this unique camper van, named after one of my favourite states.
Sadly, you can’t buy one in North America. You can buy it here though.
When we were travelling through Norway, there were RVs everywhere and a number of camper vans like the VW California.
Here is one photo and if you look towards the very back row, you can see a couple of camper vans with their tops up. Norway, despite having a very short summer season, has one of the highest levels of RV ownership in Europe.
A few reasons why VW doesn’t make the California available to North American consumers: safety tests and cost. Spending roughly $100,000 Canadian for a camper van — after exchange rates and taxes — would seem expensive for such a unique vehicle.
Who needs a big RV when you can travel in tried-and-true style? If only they sold it here.
A lot of people (including me) have a dream of hitting the road and seeing the world, or at least the continent. The Volkswagen camper always seemed to me to be the perfect escape vehicle; it is no larger than a car (smaller in footprint than a lot of American SUVs), yet they pack so much into that box that you can almost live in it. They are magical transformers.
Well, for us, we really like the big RV. Especially for being out on the road mostly full-time.
Jason of Jalopnik had this video overview of the VW California. Cool machine.
Moving day is coming up fast.
We move out of our condo into our coach in just a few weeks.
We have been busy getting all of our current stuff either bound for the storage unit or bound for the coach.
With our last big move, we managed to fill this trailer full of stuff and I do mean full:
Oh, and a second one too. Not as big as this one. It was a large cube truck to move all of my recording studio equipment.
We went from one huge house to another. And we filled nearly every nook and cranny with stuff.
As part of our retirement planning, we did a pretty dramatic downsizing. Sold a lot of stuff. Gave away a lot of stuff. Threw out a lot of stuff.
And, even though we are decidedly much more minimalist now, we still have a lot of stuff. Enough to fill two large storage units when we sold our house — although we are now down to one storage unit — and enough to fill a large two-bedroom condo.
We are fortunate to have a Class A motorcoach for our travels however we have to be really careful about how much stuff we carry. It has been interesting going through our condo and doing much of what we did when we first downsized our house a year or so back. What should we sell? What should we give away? What should we throw out?
Travelling light is a joy. We’ve experienced that when we have travelled abroad.
Travelling light in our motor coach is a given. There is limited space for stuff.
Moving day awaits. I’ll show you how much stuff we are taking with us when we get the truck loaded up.
On September 18th, we will be taking the stuff for the coach from our condo in Kingston to our coach at the dealership near Toronto. We will move everything in, get it stored away as quickly as we can, return the truck to Kingston and then head out the following morning back to our coach at the dealership for the start of our travels.
Between now and then, lots to keep us busy!
Chad and Cherie Ball may be looking for a vacation after a summer of matching wannabe campers with RV rentals.
The Okotoks, Alta., couple is into their second season running Wheel Estate, a business that helps owners rent out their towable camping trailers in a style similar to that of Airbnb.
They got the idea for the business 10 years ago when they tried to rent a neighbour’s RV and discovered his insurance would be void once money changed hands.
“We were hit by the recession pretty bad back then and we just wanted an affordable getaway, trying to hit the reset button,” Cherie Ball told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.
It took the couple six years to secure an insurance policy to back their idea and launch the business, which they did last year.
Wheel Estate only offers trailers, not motorhomes. And I’m not sure how well they will be able to compete against these guys.
I had written about Outdoorsy before. When I jumped on their website, they took my location data and presented me with hundreds of options — all of them local to me — and everything from travel trailers to Class A, B and C motorhomes.
With Wheel Estate, I had to start a booking process to see what, if anything, might be available in my area, and, as mentioned, limited to just trailers.
I ran the same scenario across both sites: rent a travel trailer, 1 week in September, Kingston area.
Outdoorsy brought me 61 RV rental options. Wheel Estate only 2.
Whether this type of service really takes hold is anyone’s guess although there does seem to be some momentum behind Outdoorsy.
I do know that we would not ever consider renting out our Class A. Our coach is too complex and ad hoc rentals would simply invite mechanical issues through inexperience and/or neglect. Not to mention the wear and tear on the coach itself.
But, if Lorraine and I were in our thirties and we wanted to go out in a trailer for only a week or so a year, renting a trailer for a few hundred dollars a week would be a lot more affordable than buying one for tens of thousands of dollars along with the additional storage and maintenance costs.
And Millennials are the primary market for these sharing economy services, not an old guy like me. They might be jumping all over Wheel Estate and Outdoorsy.
The result of almost 8 hours of planning. Getting things organized for our travel does take time and effort.
Our travels in our coach will take us south to Florida for three months and then over to California for two months. I’ve received feedback that in retirement, we should slow down and take our time. And that would be fine if we lived in the United States. We don’t and that limits how much time we have and where we choose to spend that time. Canadian snowbirds migrate south pretty quickly to escape the cold northern temperatures that hit in November and to maximize their time in the warmer climate areas.
Two of them are not confirmed yet: Bay Lake and Maverick. Depending on what we hear back from them, we may have to find alternate spots. We had some other choices on our list but they were already sold out for our dates. We are doing most of our planning 6-9 months out.
This will be our longest drive to date in the coach. The drive to Florida, by comparison, is a relatively quick 6-day trip. And we have two layovers where we are staying two nights. Basically, 4 hours of driving a day to get down to Florida.
Going across to California proved challenging in terms of logistics. Admittedly, we were a bit selective in terms of the layover spots. We aren’t planning to use Walmarts.
For ideas, we used a new thread on the IRV2 Newmar forum on Class A parks, Big Rigs Best Bets, and RV Park Reviews.
Booking is quite the process. Some parks have good online booking arrangements but they don’t provide discounts for FMCA or Good Sam unless you call them. Others will only take bookings through the phone. We found that we were often leaving messages for callbacks. Some of the resorts were only interested in longer term stays and not overnight bookings. Some of the resort websites were really well done, others, awful.
All in all, it took way longer than expected to plan out this leg of our trip.
Kingston to Florida. Check.
Florida to California. Check.
California to Kingston. Well, not yet. Another full day to plan that trip.
That is the headline of a recent article in the National Post.
When travelling long distances in a motorhome, some RVers will use Walmart as a layover for one night. They will either call ahead, or talk to a manager, and ask permission to stay the night in a Walmart parking lot. Most have no issue although a number of Walmarts will refuse citing city ordinances or store policy.
Regina seems to be one of the more popular spots but apparently more for cheap storage or longer-term stays.
But the most popular Walmart in Regina might be the east-end location on Victoria Avenue, where more than 20 RVs, campers and motorhomes sit scattered across the pavement. Campers sit in the parking lot of Walmart on east Victoria Avenue. Some are for sale, and many seem to be there semi-permanently. They sit on blocks, with no sign of a truck to tow them.
Kerri Botkin was there on Saturday, unloading her camper after a weekend trip to Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park.
“Honest to God, Walmart is the most ideal place to store your camper during the week, and off you go on the weekends,” she said.
“I live in an apartment, so there is nowhere for me to park.”
And further down in the article:
“I’ve seen it at the north end,” he said. “I’ve seen it year after year: The same motorhomes show up as soon as the snow disappears, and they sit there all summer until the fall.”
He fears those motorhome owners could ruin a good thing for everyone else.
We don’t layover in Walmarts. We find a reputable campground on our way. That is our preference when we travel. We have friends that will layover in Walmarts. They stop for a night, load up on supplies and then head out in the morning.
I cannot see any scenario where municipalities would tolerate people setting up camp for months at a time at store parking lots. Regardless of how much latitude a store manager might allow, municipalities will eventually step in and ban the practice. It is unhealthy and unsafe.
So yes, those motorhome owners will ruin the ability to layover for an evening at a Walmart parking lot.
We were back in Toronto after our Norwegian cruise. Not yet home, but getting pretty close. This will be the last post about our retirement cruise. And, rather than sharing images of Toronto with all of the new, glass-encased office towers, I thought I would share a few of my images from Toronto’s Graffiti Alley.
The alley is located near Spadina Avenue and sits in between Queen Street West and Richmond Street West. A bit of a walk from the main Toronto downtown office and condo towers.
It is an alley and you will find a fair amount of garbage. Toronto is generally a safe city to visit although I’m not sure I would go to this alley at night. Best to view the graffiti during the day.
There are some parking areas along the alley and the back of these buildings are also covered in graffiti. Except for the “Authorized Parking Only” signs.
Graffiti alley spans three city blocks. It is much longer than you might expect. The artwork is continuously refreshed and, in some cases, as in the picture above, dated. I’m not sure who decides when it is okay to paint over someone’s graffiti.
This was a tourist visiting Toronto from New York City. He wanted his photo taken for his Instagram and he asked us to use his smartphone. Lorraine took that shot for him. I took this shot using my own camera.
A bit of a different view of Toronto than what most tourists see.
And so, after an amazing two weeks travelling Europe, we finally boarded the train from Toronto to head home to Kingston.
New adventures will be starting soon as we begin a longer-term journey south in our coach.
We returned to Hamburg after we finished our Norwegian cruise. No video to share today. Just a few pictures.
Our hotel was in an area of Hamburg called HafenCity, one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in Europe. The architecture is modern and the buildings impressive.
The city is served well by transit systems and bike paths. Many of the light rail train routes are suspended, like the one pictured below.
There are generous public spaces to be found across Hamburg. Some of them pay homage to historical figures with swords.
I did not get close to the statue to determine the source for the statue. But you could see him from quite the distance.
I love the design of European buses particularly the front mirrors. It just seems like a great way to place them on a coach. Generally do not see this design in North America and I’m not sure why.
Many of the roads in Hamburg use pavers. It creates a unique feel to the city.
Most of the historic buildings have been converted to apartments or, like this one, office space.
Closer to city centre and the office buildings are contemporary and yet draw from the past.
We loved all of the open air cafes and the number of streets that had been converted to pedestrian use only.
Water levels in Hamburg were extremely low. It may be related to an unprecedented heat wave that hit much of Europe. It was hot and humid when we arrived in Hamburg. It was hot and humid when we left Hamburg.
An example of the new architecture in HafenCity.
The Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall in HafenCity, one of the largest concert halls in the world. and it can seat over 2,000 people. You can enter the building and take escalators up to the viewing deck which is located just where the brick meets the glass.
This photo is from the viewing deck although I shot the window which offered a reflection of the city, so it really is just a picture of part of a window on the viewing deck, depending on your perspective of course. The building used some very high quality glass!
Another perspective of the docks in HafenCity.
Walking through Hamburg you will find an extensive network of pedestrian footbridges and wide walkways. This part of the city was certainly designed with people in mind.
As evening descended in Hamburg, I took a few final golden hour shots and we made our way back to the hotel.
Waking up, we had only a couple of hours to take in the city before making the long trip back home.
Generally, I reverse the order, that is if I were a coffee drinker.
Flam was our final port of call on our Norwegian cruise.
I have to admit that I was feeling a bit sad that our time in Norway was quickly coming to an end. An amazing country with dramatic landscapes.
Here is a video with an overview of our day in Flam.
Flam is a small village with a population of roughly 350 people. It is located at the inner end of Aurlandsfjorden. Flam receives about half a million tourists a year and the local community has a decidedly mixed reaction to all of the cruise ships that call into Flam.
The main tourist attraction in Flam is the train. It runs 20-kilometres between Flam and Myrdal. It is one of the steepest railways in the world. There are some stunning views from the train.
As part of the train ride, we made a 5-minute station stop to take in the Kjosfossen waterfall.
A quiet and peaceful moment in Norway? Well, it was me and several hundred other tourists all jammed in shoulder to shoulder trying to get a shot. Looks like smartphones were the weapon of choice.
When we reached our station stop for a 1-hour layover before the return trip, clouds, rain and mist descended on us.
Although we walked around the area, there really wasn’t much to see except the train tracks.
We passed the time at the layover and then made our way back to Flam. The rain had stopped and the clouds and mist created a very unique scene.
We explored the village of Flam by foot and came across this farm not far from the port.
A couple of trees hanging out in Flam.
The view of our ship from one of the docks.
This would be the dock from which I shot the ship above.
And a parting view of our last day in Norway.