Trav­el­ling the na­tion by RV show­cases Canada’s majesty and di­ver­sity

More of Our Canada - - Vet­eran Pro­file - By Denise Dow, Saint John, N. B.

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. Stron­gand­freeem­

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.

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