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Old 04-11-2014, 08:43 PM   #1
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Least hilly and hassle free route - moving & towing, Toronto to Vancouver

If all goes well, around the end of April or first part of May I will be heading out west (to live permanently) and towing my Airstream, which I will be living in for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months in the Vancouver BC area (in a campground I have yet to choose) as I look for a condo to buy and move into (and then a place to store my Airstream). There's a slight chance I may go to Kelowna or Vancouver Island instead, but at this point, metro Vancouver/Lower Mainland is the most likely destination. I can always leave the Airstream at a campground for a couple of days and drive solo to either of those places to check them out if need be. I'm just really nervous about driving and towing through the Rocky Mountains. :

First off, I have done quite a bit of looking online via Google regarding the best routes to take when travelling east to west. Most seem to be for the US, which I'm open to considering. Though many of the routes seem to be going to and from southern California, which I'm sure would make a lovely road trip, but a bit out of the way in this case, and hopefully not necessary to avoid snow storms at this time of year. I'm really quite overwhelmed and have information overload right now. I will be moving (with a few meaningful possessions that will fit in my van) and my dog (who has all of his vaccinations up to date) AND towing my 1990 Airstream Excella 25 for the first time. Well, aside from the 3 hour drive home when I bought it from Can Am RV in London, Ontario to my parents' place north of Toronto, it will be my first time towing.

Tow vehicle is a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L minivan, 3.6 V6 Pentastar engine with 6 speed automatic that has a shifter which allows for easy manual upshifting and downshifting. Can Am told me not to use 6th gear or "Economy" mode when towing, so I'll respect that. Apparently my van has a factory towing package with a transmission cooler. I know there may be some naysayers out there who don't think this van can tow my trailer, but let's put that aside. Can Am RV is well known for their special towing set ups and outfitted me with a sway control and weight distribution. They have a few Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country vans in their fleet, one of which they took with 4 adults towing a 25 foot Airstream to Colorado and back. It may not be as torquey or powerful as a 1 ton V8 turbo diesel dually, but from what I've personally experienced so far, and heard, these vans make decent tow vehicles and let you have a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle when not towing. It gets the job done. Anyways...

Here are my priorities:
  1. Easiest driving route for a newbie Airstreamer towing for basically the first time. Looking for the least hilly and twisty roads. I don't care if I miss nice scenery.

  2. Hassle-free border crossing? Do you think I should just stay within Canada to avoid hassles at the border and potentially be turned away (thus wasting a lot of time and gas to back track), or cross into the US for potentially better roads and cheaper fuel? I will have a few boxes of kitchen supplies, possibly canned food (can leave that out if it will help), two suitcases of clothing, a few items of sentimental value, my father's old chair, a 1960s wooden floor lamp and maybe a dresser and night table. Not too much as I don't want to carry too much extra weight. I've sold, given away or thrown out 95% of what I owned. It will just be me and my 5 year old Boston Terrier/Boxer mix dog who is up to date on his vaccinations with proof (vet's bill). I used to live next door to a border patrol agent, and she said the agents are always suspicious of people who don't have any ties to Canada (like a home, job, etc), who don't have a good reason to return to Canada and might be trying to slip into the US to live there permanently. Looking at it from their perspective, I no longer have a house (sold it), no job (quit it, and I will be working freelancing from now once I get to BC) and I'm towing a mobile condo that I could easily live in. And to boot, I'll even be carrying all of my worldly possessions, some small furniture, etc. And of course, no specific destination in mind, other than the general area. I could print out all emails from the real estate agent if that would help, or in light of this, should I just forget about going through the US and stay within Canada?

  3. Given the choice between two routes that are similar in terms of driving conditions (hills, twists, etc), and hopefully we won't be getting any snow storms at this time of year - I would take the quicker route to save time and gas. Although I'm sure it's scenic and fun, if I really don't have to drive as far south as Los Angeles (at least this time), I would skip it and take shorter, faster route.

There's a fair bit on routes in the US, and I even bought a book that shows the % grade of inclines on many mountainous routes in the US, I'm really quite overwhelmed and confused. INFORMATION OVERLOAD! I'm thinking that if I stayed on the Interstate freeways, if I go through the US, they will be the best as they're engineered for all types of truck traffic, etc. Maybe not the most scenic, but possibly the safest. In the US, the furthest I've driven out west was Denver, CO and I don't remember it being that bad, but then again, that was 10 years ago and I was driving a car, with decent power and not towing. From what I've read, heard from others and my own research, I-90 through Montana and Washington looks to be not that bad, and I wouldn't have to spend more time and gas to drive as far south as I thought. Here's how the route would look: https://www.google.ca/maps/dir/Barri...68!2d49.261226

If I drive through Canada, I have a bit of experience driving through the Rocky Mountains. As I recall, driving through most of BC is quite hilly, and I remember my 4 cylinder car (the car I had at that time) struggling up some hills and the lovely smell of burning brakes going down some of those hills. And of course seeing truck run away ramps in case a trucker loses braking power or control... (I guess I could use one of those run away ramps if I get into trouble and need it). I know better now to accelerate ahead of a steep hill and to downshift (in an automatic or manual) going down a hill. But it still freaks me out. The Coquihalla seemed to have some steep parts, but I hear Highway 3 isn't as steep, though just a two lane secondary highway. I drove it years ago but really don't remember if it was more hilly and twisty or less than the Coq. I found this article, and though it describes different routes nicely, I'm still not sure which is the best in my case: Canadian Rockies: Driving in the Mountains - TripAdvisor

There are so many threads in this part of the forum, but I didn't see anything specifically on what I'm looking for. Then again, with so many threads, it was quite overwhelming to go through all of them. So if you have bookmarked or subscribed to a good thread that might help me, I'd be most grateful if you could share it with me. Or, if you know a good website or forum elsewhere that addresses my issues, namely as a Canadian, travelling east to west, towing a trailer, moving, with a dog and looking for the easiest driving route with the least amount of hills and twisty roads. Thank you in advance!

PS: below are pics of my van and Airstream as well as my dog. None of me. I'm camera shy.

PPS: Sorry for such a long post. I didn't have time to write a shorter one, lol. Just wanted to make sure I included all of the details to avoid assumptions or people asking me to clarify something.
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:46 PM   #2
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Hmmm... the pic of my tow vehicle and Airstream did not seem to get attached. Here it is:
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Old 04-11-2014, 08:55 PM   #3
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We have two members in the Ontario WBCCI who have towed their Airstreams across the Rockies with Toyota Siennas. Not the same car, but comparable. They both had the same story, it's slow at times but perfectly doable.

I would not worry too much. A good resource for this kind of thing is, strangely enough, a really old one - the CAA route planning service. It's a member service they offer. I would have thought this to be obsolete in the times of near universal GPS availability, but apparently it's still popular and the people doing the job are very knowledgeable.

Given the real estate prices in Vancouver, I'd just carry on fulltiming. If you're freelancing anyway, you could just live out of the trailer.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andreasduess View Post
We have two members in the Ontario WBCCI who have towed their Airstreams across the Rockies with Toyota Siennas. Not the same car, but comparable. They both had the same story, it's slow at times but perfectly doable.

I would not worry too much. A good resource for this kind of thing is, strangely enough, a really old one - the CAA route planning service. It's a member service they offer. I would have thought this to be obsolete in the times of near universal GPS availability, but apparently it's still popular and the people doing the job are very knowledgeable.

Given the real estate prices in Vancouver, I'd just carry on fulltiming. If you're freelancing anyway, you could just live out of the trailer.
Great info, thanks Andy! Good to hear the Siennas made it through OK, and Can Am RV assures me they've been fine with their Grand Caravans and Town and Country, though they only went as far as Colorado. I'd be interesting in knowing which routes the members with Siennas took.

I have a premium RV membership with the CAA, so I will definitely use their good old fashioned Trip Tik service! I would have never thought of that, thanks for tip! I wonder if certain offices are better, meaning they have planned out more trips out west than other branches may have, and thus know the routes better? I could always start with the local CAA office in Barrie and see what they come up with, and how knowledgeable they seem with trailer towing needs. I want to be sure they know it's not just a road trip in a regular car, but that I'll be towing.

I'm hoping someone will chime in on opinions about attempting a border crossing considering I'm moving, with some household possessions and no really good ties to Canada to ensure I'll come back. I will, but I know it's their job to scrutinize everyone attempting to enter the US.

As for the prices of Vancouver real estate, yeah I know it's expensive. THE most expensive in Canada. What can I say, I have expensive tastes. I hate winter, cold weather and snow, and haven't yet figured out how to get US citizenship, or anywhere else with warm, year round weather, so since I have to have a home base in Canada, it's temperate BC! I've lived in Vancouver and Kelowna before, and liked it. I've got just enough money to buy an entry level condo in the suburbs of Vancouver (or Kelowna), or a bigger one for the same price in Nanaimo. I'd love to full time in my Airstream, and have looked into this a lot for the last year. For a Canadian, you really need a home base in Canada, a real home that you "have ties to" so the border agents are reassured you have a good reason to return to Canada. And to legitimately keep up medical coverage, vehicle registration, etc.

This way, I can have a basic 1 bedroom condo in a city I like, stay there for 6 months of the year, doing my freelance work from my laptop, maybe even take some mini vacations with the Airstream within Canada. And then for up to 6 months out of the year (the winter months) I can be a snowbird and go to the southern US and full time for those 6 months of the year. At least, I think I've got it all worked out... Hope it works out as well in real life as it does in my head!

PS, I'm a member of the Ontario WBCCI now, recently joined, member number is 1505 I believe. Not sure if that will help any, but I'd love to email or phone either of those two members with Siennas who drove out west towing an Airstream. I'm guessing one of them might be MrUKToad.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:40 PM   #5
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For easiest driving and fewest hills, I 90 across the top of the western US is a good route. The only long up and down grades are those in Montana, and a couple here in Idaho. At most they are 6% grades.

The trans Canada through BC is a lot of up and down and up and down. Not the greatest if you are scared of grades.

No opinion on the border crossing, but I don't think the US is that much of an anti Canadian country, even with no job, no specific place to go. They know that it is easier to go to Vancouver through the US due to our interstates. I think it is a non issue.

I hope you have a great trip.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by idroba View Post
For easiest driving and fewest hills, I 90 across the top of the western US is a good route. The only long up and down grades are those in Montana, and a couple here in Idaho. At most they are 6% grades.

The trans Canada through BC is a lot of up and down and up and down. Not the greatest if you are scared of grades.

No opinion on the border crossing, but I don't think the US is that much of an anti Canadian country, even with no job, no specific place to go. They know that it is easier to go to Vancouver through the US due to our interstates. I think it is a non issue.

I hope you have a great trip.
Great to hear, thanks! I-90 seemed good to me too, glad to hear another vote for that one. It won't require me to go too far south, or out of the way. And I can benefit from lower gas prices in the US. Plus I really like the idea of a less hilly or challenging route.

I've never had trouble getting entry to the US before, but it's always been very routine. This time I'm towing a travel trailer, moving with some of my household items and my dog. And no longer with a job or home address in Canada. Knowing what my CBSA border agent neighbor told me, and after watching shows like "Border Patrol" (I think that's what it's called), I know they scrutinize more that most people would think. If I drive to the Sarnia/Port Huron or Windsor/Detroit border crossing and they deny me entry, I will have to back track, so that's 6 hours driving time (3 hours each way), an expensive toll highway to avoid Toronto traffic (twice, once each way) and a tank of gas. But, hopefully I will get a reasonable border agent who realizes that many Canadians go through the US for an easier route to Western Canada. I hope.
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Old 04-11-2014, 11:06 PM   #7
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If I were you I might want to do this.

Stay away from the border and save yourself half a day of aggravation. You have all the credentials to set off red flags.

You are in Barrie now, head north thru Sudbury, and stick to the TCH to Winnipeg and beyond to Portage La Prairie and a bit. You can swing up the Yellowhead #16 there and that will take you thru Edmonton and on to the Red Pass to TETE JAUNE CACHE ( this is the lowest pass in the Rockies) where you swing south on #5 to Kamloops. Take your side trip to Kelowna, and then continue down to Vancouver via the Fraser Canyon #1. It is up and down, but not all down hill like the Coquhalla which is a long hard run on brakes if you have a load behind you.

The mileage is actually 4 miles shorter than I90 thru the USA route, and you will enjoy the warm hospitality of every stop in the Canadian West.

If you get some brands of credit cards, you get a good discount on gas. Cantire has the most locations, Superstore not as many but a bigger discount with locations in the cities. There are others like Husky, which is good once you hit Sudbury and on west.

Do some research and let us know what route you have chosen and then we can give you some more POI for your chosen route.

Dave
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:06 AM   #8
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We're in Vancouver, and have regularly driven to Edmonton, Calgary, and the Kootenays (Hwy 3). We've towed over Rogers Pass in the snow. Maybe I'm hardened to it, but I like the drive as long as weather conditions aren't extreme. And if they are, stop and wait for a few days.


Sure, there are grades. By the time you get there you will be more comfortable with the vehicle, and just remember to take it easy. Cars, trucks, and trailers go over the multiple passes between BC and Alberta every day.


I would stay in Canada, myself. I wouldn't introduce another variable with border crossings. The easiest thing to do is just to stay on the Trans Canada to Kamloops, then come over the Coquihalla. Yes, there are long hills, but there aren't sharp hairpins as some of the other routes have (especially Hwy 3). There are many more opportunities for passing (just let them go by you) and there are more services. Those points can reduce the stress as much as a smaller grade may.


The idea to take the Yellowhead (Hwy 16) through Edmonton is good. Fewer hills. But there are more long stretches without services coming that way. If you do take 16 to Kamloops, I would then take the Coquihalla; I am not a fan of the Fraser Canyon. If you decide to go to Kelowna, it is a long pull up over the connector (97C), or a twisty route through the Hope Princeton, on to Vancouver.


Let us know what you decide.


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Old 04-12-2014, 06:05 AM   #9
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Agree. Avoid the potential border hassle. No need to add stress to what could be a terrific voyage. Jump on the Trans Canada, 4 or 5 days and you are there. Same difference if you take the Yellowhead west of Winnipeg. Soak up the trip. Keep a log and take lots of photos. Teach your pouch how to use the camera or get real good at selfies. You will be looking at them when you are 96. I bet that hydrant is a great place for you and the dog to meet friends. Safe trip. Jim
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Old 04-12-2014, 08:46 AM   #10
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Thanks for the tips everyone! You've confirmed what I suspected about choosing between a border crossing or staying in Canada. I think this time I will be better off to stay on the Canadian side. But I look forward to some nice trips in the US with my Airstream in the future, under different circumstances.

Always good to hear about people's personal driving experiences driving and towing through the areas I have to go. You understand what's involved. It's not absolutely essential to go through Kelowna, but it would be handy so I don't have to make a special trip later. I like the idea of the lower mountain passes through Tęte Jaune Cache, I've never been that way before, or Edmonton, so I'll see some new scenery. I've been through Rogers Pass before, back in 2007 and 2008. I remember it was hilly, but I don't think as hilly as the Coquihalla. Although, as mentioned, many cars, trucks, trailers, etc use these highways every day. They're designed to carry this kind of traffic. Maybe I'm worrying about it too much.

In the next couple of weeks, I will decide which route to take. In light of the potential hassles crossing the border (unless I find out otherwise that it's not going to be a hassle, maybe by calling a few of the border crossings and speaking to agents there), I will stick to the Canadian side. It sounds like each route has its positives and negatives. Going through Edmonton looks like it's a much longer route, but according to Google maps, it's only 163 km or 2 hours longer. Not bad if it means an easier drive. Looks like about equal amounts of mountain driving either way to get to the interior. But I think the next, and last part of the journey from the interior to the lower mainland will be the hillier part, no matter which way I go.

Whichever route I take, it's going to be a bit of a challenge and new experience for me. But as mentioned, by the time I get there, I should be more comfortable with the van and towing. Going through northern Ontario is less hilly and mountainous, but for a lot longer of a stretch. So that should help get me used to it.

As for the dog, he'll be my moral support, lol! He actually broke my last camera, so he's not using my new one! I love taking vacation pics of the scenery. So I'll be sure to take plenty of pics of the van and Airstream with prominent landmarks, signs, etc, in the background and share them on Airforums!

PS: Any chance of snow or icy roads in the first week of May? Sometimes there's crazy winter weather late in the season in northern Ontario but I think by early May it should hopefully be snow and ice free. And in the higher elevations in the Rockies... hopefully not too much of a chance of snow or icy roads.
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:10 AM   #11
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Sounds like you are on track. IMO, a NW wind is your enemy and you are more likely to see less of it on the Yellowhead route due to the rolling terrane and preponderance of trees compared to the TCHyw across Saskatchewan, although the first 100 k west of Winnipeg is table top flat, but not 1000 miles of unbroken, near flat, like Winnipeg to Calgary. Jim
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:11 AM   #12
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Yes to the chance of snow. Jim
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Old 04-12-2014, 09:40 AM   #14
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Hi Peter,

I must admit that I am confused as to your plan of how you will snowbird.

If you plan to spend summers in Canada, why is it necessary to do it in BC? Summer anywhere in Canada is nice, and the real estate costs elsewhere than Calgary and Vancouver would allow you to have a nicer place for the same money.

And the southeast US has generally less costly real estate than the southwest, I thought? Let's say that Florida is cheaper to live in than California, as far as what I have seen.

Or did I misunderstand your plan? You aren't bothered by going through the mountains out west?
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