Stuck north of a closed border, Canada’s full-time RVers are facing an unfamiliar foe: the Canadian winter.
When Wendy Wood and her family left their comfortable life in Burlington to travel the continent in an RV nearly four years ago, they were hoping to find freedom on the open road. But that road is feeling less free these days, thanks to COVID-19.
Like many other Canadian “full-time RVers” who live in their recreational vehicles year-round, Wood, her husband, and their three kids usually drive south to the U.S. after Thanksgiving when temperatures plunge and campsites in Canada close for the winter. But that’s not possible in 2020 because of the pandemic-enforced closure of the land border with the U.S., and now thousands of RV-dwelling snowbirds are trapped in Canada and struggling to make alternate plans.
The RVers’ annual migration south is about more than sun-seeking — toughing out the Canadian cold in a mobile home or trailer can be unsafe. On-board water and sewage systems are at risk of freezing if they are not winterized, and most recreational vehicles aren’t warm enough to live in during sub-zero temperatures.
The Canada-U.S. land border was closed to non-essential travel in March, and the shutdown has been extended every month since. It’s currently set to expire on Sept. 21, but it’s likely to be extended again as the U.S. struggles to get the pandemic under control. As of this week, more than six million Americans have been infected and 190,000 have died — far more than in Canada, even adjusting for population.
Shane Devenish, executive director of the Canadian Camping and RV Council, said there are at least 50,000 Canadian full-time RVers who usually spend the winter in the U.S. and are now facing winter north of the border, many of them older retirees who could be especially vulnerable.
The number of Canadians that travel south for the winter is significantly higher. Full-time RVers are not the only ones that will be facing a Canadian winter this year.