LOVE FROM COAST TO COAST
Travelling the nation by RV showcases Canada’s majesty and diversity
Irecall being in high school in the mid-’70s and thinking how cool it would be to drive across Canada by motorcycle after graduation. At the time, my sister and I both had dirt bikes, so we enjoyed the freedom of riding around the countryside where we lived on the Bay of Fundy coastline in New Brunswick. A coast-to-coast trip seemed like a great goal, certain to be filled with adventure.
Fast-forward to midlife, when I realized there were a couple items left on my bucket list—and the Canada coast-to-coast trip was definitely on the top. Around that same time, I also decided it was time to follow my dream of creating a symbol for proud
Canadians, and the “Strong & Free Emblem” was born. My goal was to provide quality, made-in-canada products that make a passionate statement about what it feels like to be Canadian. With the Vancouver Olympics coming in mid-february 2010, I now had two really good reasons to make the crossCanada trip a reality.
In 2009, I purchased a motorhome, removed the manufacturer’s decals and replaced them with a huge Strong & Free Emblem. The Strong & Free RV was born, and it was ready for its epic journey cheering for Canada. On January 22, 2010, my partner and co-pilot Patricia and I left Saint John, N. B., on our coast- to- coast tour. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics were an all-time high for every Canadian. None of us will forget where we were when hockey star Sidney Crosby scored for Canadian gold. In March, we returned home with a newfound appreciation for the diverse beauty and immensity of this amazing country.
We have since taken the Strong & Free RV to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but we have yet to conquer Newfoundland and the Territories.
This past April, the Strong & Free RV made another trip, this time to St. Jacobs, Ont., as guests of Home Hardware. They are using the Strong & Free logo for their 2017 vendor market to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. The trip was perfect timing to launch our Stanfield’s Strong & Free apparel line, and our new bronze plaque by Fusioncast for homes and cottages.
The next trip was to Ottawa for Canada Day on July 1. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Canada and what it means to be a passionate “Strong & Free” Canadian on our 150th birthday. I was in elementary school in 1967; I can vividly recall the energy and Canadian pride we felt that year as we celebrated our centennial and sang along with Bobby Gimby’s “Canada” song. I still know every word and most of the French. The tune still makes me smile to this day.
Patricia and I loaded up the Strong & Free RV and left Saint John on June 28, stopping in Montreal for the night with family. The next day, we headed straight for downtown Ottawa so we could check things out before the crowds arrived and streets were shut down. It was a good strategy, as it was our only opportunity to get up-close photos of the RV in front of the Parliament Buildings.
The energy was palpable as preparations continued for the big day. It had started to rain, and it kept on raining for our entire stay in the capital area—with several downpours, including on July 1. Undaunted, we geared up
with rubber boots and ponchos, ready to weather the soakingwet streets and crowds. Through it all, we could still see many excited faces of all ages, just happy to be part of something that comes around once in a lifetime. In the end, many of us did not make it to the gates and were satisfied to watch the celebration from the large screens posted throughout the city. We were able to park the RV behind the Basilica for two nights, which put us very close to all the action.
A fun part of downtown Ottawa is the Byward Market, with tons of pubs, restaurants and vendors. It played a central role in the whole celebration area, which included some cool container displays painted with each provincial logo in a section called Innovation Park. We ended up spending lots of time there, grabbing a bite and a beer, and watching the screens broadcasting what was happening on the Hill.
We were also fortunate to be close enough to the action to see the royal carriage pass by and we got photos with the guards who would be inspected by the royal couple (Prince Charles and Camilla). We also felt the roar of the fighter jets as they did their fly-by, which made everything vibrate.
The festivities lasted all day and night, ending with a huge fireworks presentation. Everyone filled the streets for the display as the day literally ended with a bang. It was a sea of red and white as far as the eye could see, with spontaneous outbursts of “O Canada” and dancing in the streets. People smiled, offering a high- five or a “Happy Canada Day.” Everyone had a proud look, knowing that together we are part of something wholesome and good. It’s not something we will soon forget.
The following day, we left Ottawa in search of somewhere dry with sunshine. We ended up in eastern Quebec, in Rivière-duLoup. It is a beautiful little town on the St. Lawrence River with amazing views and excellent seafood. We dried out there for a couple of days and then headed to Hartt Island RV Resort in Fredericton for more sunshine along the pristine St. John River. We enjoyed the waterpark and pool, and swimming in the river. We could still hear children singing “O Canada” as they went round and round the merry-go-round! In the evenings, we would sit outside and watch the salmon jump right out of the water and the bald eagles circling overhead.
It was a beautiful end to another epic journey in the most amazing country in the world, one I am so proud and so grateful to call my home. What’s next? Well, we haven’t yet been to the Calgary Stampede! ■
To learn more, head to www. Strongandfreeemblem.com.
Clockwise from top left: The Trans Canada Highway in New Brunswick; Home Hardware product launch trip to St. Jacobs, Ont.; Denise (right) and partner Patricia on Canada Day; Canadian honour guard ready for royal inspection.