Our RV living adventure has hit yet another speed bump. We had to cancel our plans to go to Oregon AGAIN as the dealership worked on replacing the entire floor in our new Denali Fifth Wheel. It is starting to feel as if our RV may never be roadworthy. Perhaps we’ll start a blog called “Average Joe Homeless Living” instead! The video below explains what caused this further delay, and also showcases the beautiful Vancouver Island, where we just stayed for three weeks. As you can see, it would be a beautiful place to RV – if only we actually had an RV!
As mentioned in the video, we had a horrible experience with an Airbnb as we waited for our Fifth Wheel to be repaired. This happened because we were facing another 3 to 4 weeks of being homeless, and we decided that this was far too long to expect our family to accommodate us. We decided to book a stay through Airbnb, which was not easy. For starters, we were restricted by traveling with our two dogs. Although they are small, well behaved, and non-shedders, a lot of hosts simply do not allow pets. We were also trying to work within a budget, so we wanted to keep things as inexpensive as possible.
Off to Youbou, Vancouver Island!
After a few tries we were able to secure a cabin in Youbou, which is a tiny town in the Lake Cowichan area of Vancouver Island. Neither of us had been there before, and it looked like a great location for exploring and hiking. There were no pictures of the cabin, but the price was right, and the reviews were not bad. The host was a “Super Host,” so that gave us a little comfort. We were running out of time to book, so we jumped in and booked for three weeks.
When we arrived, it was very clear why there were no pictures. The place was a DUMP and it was SMELLY. I was under the weather and became quite teary at the thought of three weeks in this place, but there was a strict no-refund policy so we were stuck. (By the way, this is something to check if you are booking Airbnb – different places have different cancellation policies.) Based on his previous experiences in Africa, Joe did not think the cabin was that bad, but even he found it smelly. To me, it looked like it had been furnished with a hodge-podge of whatever mismatched furniture could be found on Craigslist’s “Free” listing! Ditto for the towels, sheets, and dishes.
The Lake Cowichan Area
The cabin did have a beautiful view of Lake Cowichan; it was clean, with no mice or insects; and the smell left the cabin after we left all the doors and windows open for a few hours. A saving grace was that Lake Cowichan is a beautiful area with lots of things to do, especially if you love outdoor activities. There was a really good grocery shop and restaurants in the town of Lake Cowichan, which is 11 km away.
Meanwhile, back at the dump, the internet was lightning fast (which was a good thing, as there was no TV, so we relied on our laptops for entertainment). Youbou is a safe neighborhood with friendly people, and we were able to keep our bikes safely on the side porch of the cabin.
Wildlife, Hiking and Cycling on Vancouver Island
Wildlife! We twice saw a herd of elk beside the road, and once saw a mother black bear and two cubs (down near Bald Mountain, where there is a lovely hike too). We also saw cougars swimming in the lake. We show the elk in our video, but unfortunately were unable to capture the other critters on film.
And of course, there were endless trails to bike, and we did a lot of hiking. We also did a very enjoyable bike ride along the wonderful Trans Canada Trail.
RV Camping Opportunities on Vancouver Island
We also took the opportunity to explore many of the beautiful camp sites in the area, for future reference. They were so impressive that we decided that we will come back with our Fifth Wheel sometime in the future, and spend about two months exploring the island further. Vancouver Island is a beautiful place to camp and RV, but we will need to go over for a substantial chunk of time to justify the enormous cost of taking our rig over on the ferry.
Restaurants on Vancouver Island
We went to two of the best restaurants in the whole of Vancouver Island, which were both in easy driving distance: Vinoteca, at Zanatta Winery where we had a lovely lunch (featured in the video); and Farm Table Inn (rated # 1 on Vancouver Island) where we had a lovely anniversary dinner.
Despite this wonderful location on Vancouver Island this was a fairly disastrous stay, for a number of reasons.
When Airbnb Goes Wrong ….
What we found really odd was that the apparently friendly “Super Host” who met us did not seem organized about the process. She had no idea what the Wifi network was called, or what the password was. You would think that a “Super Host” would have an information sheet, which I know most places provide. Not only that, but she failed to advise in the listing about a tenant in the basement who operates a dog grooming business!
The tenant was a very nice woman, but she had five dogs (four Shi Tzu’s and a large “hound”) – and they were all barkers! It was worse when the woman was out, but even when she was in, we would often get barked at just for dropping a spoon in the kitchen. Often the neighbor’s large dogs would add to the nerve-shattering chorus. You think that this would be mentioned in the Airbnb listing! And just to add to the joy – the aging hippies next door would sometimes counteract the dog noise by playing loud, very bad, heavy metal music! At those times, we usually fled the “peaceful cabin” for the relative peace and quiet of the nearby town of Lake Cowichan.
As a side note, our dogs were wonderfully well-behaved. Ripley, our Shi Tzu/Maltese can be a bit of a barker herself, but she did not succumb to frenetic barking in return; and Billy, our Yorkie-Poo, is always an angel. What impressed me the most was that each time we left the cabin there would be a chorus of barking, with sometimes all of the dogs hurling themselves against the chain link fence. Our dogs did not make a peep or respond in anyway. They seemed to be puzzled by this outrageously bad behavior. Making me proud!
To make matters worse, on a few occasions we were woken early by knocks on the door, only to find it was clients looking for the dog grooming service. There was no signage to show how to access it. So new clients understandably headed for the most visible door, which happened to be our door! Imagine Joe’s surprise on responding to knocking early one morning in our “vacation cabin,” only to find a solemn, retired couple with two fluffy dogs at the door!
Also, we were advised on arrival that the downstairs tenant had no toilet in the suite, so she shared the main floor toilet as necessary. This was not a deal-breaker in itself, but it was kind of odd and awkward, and really should have been clearly mentioned in the listing.
Oh, and there was no glassware at all. We had to go to Walmart and purchase our own wine and drinking glasses. Not a major expense, but a major inconvenience to backtrack to Duncan (a 60 km round trip) just for four glasses. We felt we had no option, as drinking wine and juice out of tea cups for three weeks would have made a depressing situation worse. Again, if we had been alerted in advance, we could easily have bought our own glasses with us.
There had been a roof leak at some point, because the bedroom ceiling was sagging quite ominously over my open suitcase. All my clothes stayed in the suitcase for the entire three weeks, because I would not use any of the closets or dressers in the place – so this really added to my nervousness.
The furnace was not working, but two small space heaters were provided. However, we discovered that if you plugged in two space heaters at the same time, you blew a fuse and the woman downstairs had to reset the electrical panel!
Making Lemonade … Again
Despite all of this, we managed to have a wonderful time on Vancouver Island. We hiked and biked many trails, visited one of the world’s highest wood trestle bridge (the Kinsol Trestle Bridge), and viewed the magnificent murals of Chemainus.
And Joe worked on his fishing skills (he is a bit rusty after a 30 year hiatus!). All showcased in our video!
Back in Vancouver, the good news is that we only had to wait three days before our Fifth Wheel was finally completely repaired (49 days after we dropped it off). We have picked it up, and are gearing up for our next adventure – we are off to Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon next week. This will be our first trip out of Canada in our Denali. It will be the real start of the adventure we have been planning so long. Thanks to all the delays, we joke that there have never been two more prepared RV travelers in history! In any event, we leave on Monday, and we are both excited and nervous. Watch this space for an update on how that goes!
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