RV Travel: What to Watch for When Travelling the Backroads

Driving a backroad during my RV Travel
Driving the backroad

Feeling the road under your rolling tires is an excitement that is hard to explain. The roads less travelled are my favourite. It is one of the reasons why I picked a Roadtrek to live and travel in. My van size, Class B RV fits down most roads. I have taken her down some pretty rough roads, but in the end, it was worth it. The sights and sounds that backroads provide enrich my RV travel life. Travelling the backroads does have its perils. There are times I have had to back out of those roads. It is amazing what you will find at the end of the road.

Come along as I take you on some Chipmunk Adventures on the roads less travelled and the tips and tricks I learned along the way. 

Queen Elizabeth Wildlands Park

Driving in Queen Elizabeth Wildlands Park

One of my favourite and scary backroad travel trips was to Queen Elizabeth Wildlands Park in central Ontario. It is a non-serviced provincial park that has access roads leading in. Well, it started as an access road, then turned to an ATV trail quickly. It looked as if it had been maintained at some point but had fallen in disrepair over the season.

The road was getting rough, and now it was a single lane with rocks and trees on either side. Maybe this was not a good idea. There was nowhere to turn around. I had to just keep going. That was scary because of the rockiness of it. I also could not back out. I always like to be able to at least back out. I can back her up for miles. Yes, yes, I have done that.

Bouncing not Driving Up the Path

The rockiness of the path made it feel like I was rock climbing not driving. I did bottom out a couple of times, the basement took a couple of good hits, but she took it like a trooper. It was starting to get dark. There was no way I wanted to try to navigate down this rocky road at night. There was nothing I could do but just keep going and keep my eye out for a place to park for the night.

As I drove or rather bounced, I noticed a large flat rock to the left. My van could fit on that rock. Getting on the rock would be the challenge. Let’s just say by the time I got parked, she and I were pretty much done with rock climbing. It was coffee time. The nighttime deep in the forest was an awesome place to be. I was parked in a clearing, and there were a billion stars. As I lay in my van and looked out of my top windows at the stars, I could hear the night critters and the wolves howl. I think that a wolf howl is my favourite sound! I have travelled to many places just to hear that sound!

The Morning Comes

As I was having my morning coffee with my side door open, I hear the sound of ATVs coming up the trail. I lean out the door and wave. The look on their faces as they see this 19′ camper van perched on this rock was priceless!

On the way back down, I met a conservation officer in a 4X4. He wondered how I got up there from this side, as I guess there was an easier route on the other side. Of course, there was! He asked if I had stayed in the parking lot. There is a parking lot? No, I just found a rock. If I had gone 10 min farther I would have come to a waterfall. He suggested I should turn back and go back up. I think I heard Chipmunk groan at that statement. No, I think we had done enough rock climbing for now. 10 min in his 4X4 and 10 min in Chipmunk are not the same things!

It was an awesome adventure and one neither of us will forget!

That Sinking Feeling

Marks left After I was pulled out
Stuck at the campsite

Backroading or going off-road sometimes presents another problem. Even just driving onto a campsite can give you that sinking feeling. There is no pavement in most cases. Dirt or sand roads can be soft, and the reality of getting stuck can be scary. Do not underestimate the weight of the vehicle. When all the tanks are full of water, propane and gas. She is heavy. You add all the house build, piping and wiring, which is a lot of weight.

When I first got my Roadtrek, I was camping with friends on a long weekend in May. I had my 69 Econoline parked there the night before and pulled out with no problem to go switch vans. It had rained during the night, and the ground was soft. Not even considering the weight difference in the vans, I did not walk it and drove right in.

When I parked, it felt like she had sunk a little. When I went to pull out in the morning, she was not going anywhere. The slight incline in the grass and the soft, slippery ground had me stuck. My friend with a pick-up and a camper attached had to pull me out. I was going to hear about that one for a while.

Friends pulling out my Roadtrek
Getting unstuck

Will She Fit

Walking the path is sometimes the best thing you can do when exploring the roads less travelled. Making sure the ground is hard enough to hold and making sure she will fit through the trees. My Class B is 19 feet long and 9.5 feet high. A low-hanging branch could be an issue. The turning radius on my Roadtrek is not like a car and she also does not squeeze between trees well.

Back road in Elliot Lake
The path to the picnic tables

While up north in Elliot Lake, I found this picnic table sign off the highway and followed. I am a sign follower, I will admit. You could not see the picnic area from the road, but it came out to a large parking lot and boat launch area beside a beautiful lake. No picnic tables though. Then I noticed this small outlet road on the other side of the parking lot. As I pulled up to it and stopped to look, I could see through the trees there were picnic tables.

There looked to be a place you could park a vehicle beside the picnic table. The road to it was narrow and in a few spots, had water on both sides. It also went out into the water, and you could not see what kind of curve was up ahead but looked like it had to be a 90-degree turn at the very least. As I got out of the van to walk it, a man walked up to me and said, “You are never going to get it down there.” I looked at him and smiled, “We will see.”

She Fits

There are not many I can’t, but many more I won’t, my Daddy used to say. So I took a walk. The ground was more rocky than sandy, and it looked like the tree branches were high enough that I could get under. What about that turn?? It was a little less than 90 degrees, but with a little back and forth, I should be able to maneuver around it. So I got back into my van, and with the guy standing there watching me shaking his head, I headed down the road. I was pretty sure I was going to make it. That corner was a bit tricky, but the spot was worth it. I looked back through the trees at the gentleman watching, smiled and waved.

Picnic parking spot in Elliot Lake
Beautiful lakeside spot

Backing Out

Curve of the backroad as I backed out
Backing down a curvy back road

When travelling the backroads, you always need an exit plan. If I came that way, I should be able to get back out that way. Not always in the direction I came in though. Coming to a place on the road you cannot get through is one thing. Not being able to turn around is another.

Travelling a backroad in Northern Ontario in search of a picnic area by a set of small rapids turned out to be a skill test of how far I can back up. Directed by a conservation officer, I took a backroad to find a serene little area to have a great afternoon surrounded by nature. Following the road, I came to a fork in the road that led down two different paths. I took the left path. I have been told that when I am lost, I turn left. Lol. I am not sure if that is true, but in this instance it was.

A fork in the road
A fork in the road

While the main road was gravel, the path was a single lane with long grass on both sides. You could tell vehicles regularly went down this path, so this must be the way. As I travelled down the path, it was not too bad. The ground was hard and smooth. I just hoped I did not meet anyone coming out.

Then came the puddle, better described as the small pond across the path. Although the ground I was currently on was hard, I had no idea what was under that water or how deep it was. There was no turning around, so my only choice was to back out. Twisting and turning along the path backwards this time. I am glad that I have practiced the skill of backing up. It came in handy that day.

Things to Remember when Backroading

Backroading can be an exciting way to RV Travel, but like anything else a little risky, it can be dangerous. Many times there is no cell service, so calling for help may not be an option. I love being as far out in nature as I can, bringing my home with me. I always want to make sure I make it back out to carry on to my next Chipmunk Adventure.

Here are a few of the things I have learned to make my backroad travels a little more safe

  • Walk the road if you even think there might be a problem. Make sure the ground will take the weight of your vehicle.
  • Watch for obstacles such as low hanging branches or sharp turns around trees.
  • Always have an escape plan in mind. Make sure there is a way out if an obstacle to big comes across your path.
  • If you are going into an no cell area make sure someone knows where you are and your expected return to cell zone. That way if something does happen, people will have an idea of location and someone will come looking.
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience of going backroading. You will see things that you cannot encounter along the highways.

Thanks for coming on my Chipmunk adventures. I hope some of my lessons I have learned helps you feel a little more comfortable when you roll down the roads less travelled.

What tips and tricks do you have to travel the backroads safely? Let me know in the comments below.

See you next week


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