Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Summer RV trip, 2010

My last family RV trip happened about 40 years ago (a wee tyke, I was) when my parents, sister and I spent the better part of a year knocking around England and Europe in a Bedford Dormobile – a diminutive British conversion van with four cylinders, four berths and a four-speed on the tree which my Dad dutifully wrestled with through the Alps and Scottish Highlands.

A far cry from Old Gill, a name my own kids bestowed upon our 2010 Gulfstream Conquest motor home that we called, well, home – for several days of touring through Quebec and Ontario. Weighing in at around 5,000 kilograms (think two Cadillac Escalades), stretching almost 10 metres, able to sleep eight and possessing two “sliders” that dramatically increased interior room when parked, Old Gill could probably have fit the Dormobile in the rear bedroom alone.

Bedford Dormobile
Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Top: Bedford Dormobile; bottom: Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home. Click image to enlarge

I will admit to a degree of trepidation prior to this journey. Who hasn’t seen Robin Williams crash and burn in RV, or watched Homer Simpson’s motor home-obsession wreck his marriage? And would I find myself hanging out with the Trailer Park Boys every night? (That would be a hoot, actually.)

Our RV experience was arranged through Go RVing Canada (a coalition of RV dealers, manufacturers and campsites) and we picked up the Conquest from the friendly and knowledgeable folks at Motor Home Travel Canada Inc. in Bolton, Ontario, who have been in this business for thirty years.

The amount of information thrown at you during the initial walk-around is a tad overwhelming, but after a couple of days on the road you get the hang of all the systems and the routine of plugging in, hooking up the water and dumping the waste (a task my kids weren’t too keen on).

For two parents, two teenagers and one large dog, this Class C motor home proved a pretty cushy way to dive into the peripatetic lifestyle. Hardly roughing it, we were, with air conditioning, hot and cold running water, bathroom with shower, full kitchen and a TV (that we never used).

However, driving this rig is no picnic: crosswinds, tight turns, hills and reversing fall into the “no fun” category. The back-up camera helped a lot with the latter.

Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home. Click image to enlarge

Reluctantly, I soon became resigned to being “that guy” in the massive motor home, holding up traffic on the winding byways. And we found some beauties.

After spending a day in Quebec City, we headed southwest to the Eastern Townships. The 172-km Route des Vins (Wine Route) courses through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Here you’ll find rolling green vistas, pristine glacier-formed lakes, quaint villages and seventeen wineries.

The best part of being on the road is coming across the unexpected. We pulled into Domain des Cotes d’Ardoise winery and found, along with some fine wines, a surreal installation of 110 large sculptures from 60 Quebec artists that ringed the vineyard and followed a woodland path like white ghosts: a rare and beautiful sight.

It was handy having a couple of kids in French immersion on this trip. Most of my French I learned from a Quebecois rock ‘n’ roll lighting crew – none of which I could use without losing a couple of teeth.

Our evening ritual consisted of whipping up some grub on the gas stove, roasting marshmallows over the fire pit, adult beverages for the adults and Scrabble, to which my kids became addicted.

If you’re at all environmentally sensitive, the RV life, with its sasquatch-sized carbon footprint, will have you twitching like a polar bear on an ice flow in August.

The Ford 6.8-litre Triton V10 (305 hp, 420 lb.-ft. of torque) is sentenced to a life of hard labour here. Acceleration is glacial, and once up to speed, you feel every grade in the road no matter how slight. Fuel usage is nothing short of shocking for the uninitiated – we averaged about 26 L/100 km (11 mpg).

Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home
Sandbanks Provincial Park, Prince Edward County
Top: Gulfstream Conquest Class C motor home; bottom: Sandbanks Provincial Park, Prince Edward County. Click image to enlarge

Despite campsites running between forty and fifty dollars, the rest of the RV experience, at least at this level, is hardly inexpensive. Motor Home Travel Canada has about 75 privately owned RVs in their rental fleet (owners get a chunk of the fee) and this 32-foot Class C is mid-level, with a weekly peak-season rental charge of $1,911 (it drops to half that in off-season) plus 29 cents per kilometre. Various upgrade packages provide bedding, kitchen supplies, etc. Our 11-day rental (including taxes) was $2,875.85 (this cost was covered by Go RVing Canada).

Add in gas, food, beer, wine, single malt scotch, fire wood, marshmallows and… whoa, we’re talkin’ some serious coin here.

Of course there are many ways to scratch the RV itch. At these campgrounds we saw everything from a $700,000 Prevost H2 conversion to a family of five crammed in a Toyota Matrix towing a 25 year-old tent trailer held together with duct tape: something for every budget.

Canada Day found us at the spectacular Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County, where we climbed the dunes and dipped into Lake Ontario. Our trip concluded at the aptly named Trail’s End Campground at the Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Our week on the road in Old Gill proved to be quite an enlightening experience. I learned a few good new Scrabble words. I discovered that gas pumps only dispense up to $100 of fuel at a time. I learned the wine region in southern Quebec is producing some fine Beaujolais style vintages. I learned Muskol works better than Off.

Most of all, I learned that spending time with my family in the slow lane can be pretty sweet.

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