This past January Mike and I decided to take an impromptu road trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls from Florida over my 3 day weekend. And we decided to take along our still new-to-the-family pup Finn (we adopted him from a local animal shelter in October, 2015). We do love a good long car ride and thought this would be an excellent one to take him with us. We had worked on his car-sickness and he was doing great.
At about this time Mike and I were considering settling down and buying a house. We were close to both of our families, I had a full-time job, Mike was working on his dissertation and it seemed like an alright time to take the next step. We decided that we wanted a fixer-upper. Not just minor fixes like painting, we wanted a house that needed a lot of work but that we could really make our own over the next 5 years or so (essentially a very cheap house). Buuut, as it turns out, we couldn’t get a mortgage for a house that wasn’t move-in ready by the bank’s standards. This threw a HUGE kink in our plans. All of the sudden we were having to look at houses that were way outside of the very modest budget we had set and/or that were located a town or two over from where my job was. Not cool.
Road trips are one of the great ways that Mike and I talk about the big things in our lives. We embarked on a drive halfway across the country a month after we started dating when I decided that I’d move from Florida to Texas to be with him. We’re stuck together for hours and hours on end, we can’t get too upset since we’re driving and safety is key, and it lends itself to these long meandering conversations. On our drive to Niagara Falls we talked about the house situation. Neither of were totally thrilled with the budget increase, we didn’t want to get stuck in a position where we were “house poor” (getting into a house that takes all of the available finances). Prior to this, we had seriously considered buying a boat and living on the water. We went to boat shows, haunted forums, and constantly checked the major websites for used boats. In the end, we decided that we were a little too landlocked to make it work at that point in our lives and put it in the “someday” file.
During the trip Finn’s extreme love/hate relationship with the car blossomed. He did great while we were driving.
However, when we stopped for a nap that was a totally different story. I think he really felt like we were vulnerable and needed to protect us. We were in the Honda Fit. We’re low to the ground, the windows aren’t tinted, and his humans were sleeping. He went nuts. Barking and growling at everything. We eventually had to cover the windows with jackets and turn the radio on to drown out the outside noise just to calm him down. This continued to escalate every time we stopped. Man, would’t it be great if home had come with us and he felt safe and wasn’t constantly freaking out?
We got to the Canadian border at about 1am. The Canadian Border Services folks started to ask the usual questions-where are we coming from? Florida. How long are we staying? Less than a day, we’ll drive out in the afternoon. Seriously? Seriously. Where are you staying? No idea, haven’t made reservations, but we’re sure we’ll find something. Canadian border control is not pleased with these answers. Doesn’t it seem weird that a couple from Florida would drive allllll this way to stay 6 hours and then turn around and go home?? I guess but I didn’t have any vacation time yet, I only got every other weekend off (Friday-Sunday), we needed to get away just the two of us, it’s the journey not the destination, etc., etc. We had considered eloping on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (we ended up getting married in NYC right before Christmas-it was fabulous), I had never seen the Falls, and it was winter and I wanted to see snow (I still haven’t…) so to us it made sense.
NOPE. They pulled us over, searched the car, and grilled us for a solid 15-20 minutes. In the end, they decided that we were crazy but harmless. I think having Finn with us helped a little bit. He was so friendly and what sort of nonsense could a children’s librarian, a doctoral student, and their dog really get up to?
We drive on to Niagara Falls. It was not at all what we were expecting. Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly we were expecting but whatever it was is not at all what we experienced. It was SO touristy. And I say this as a native Floridan…from the Disney area…the pinnacle of touristy-ness. So happy we got married in NYC. We had looked up dog-friendly hotels before leaving to make sure that we’d be able to find some place to stay (it was winter in Canada, car sleeping was not a stellar option) with Finn. Ha! Everyplace we went to used to accept dogs but no longer did. Ok. It’s like 2:30am now and I’m really starting to regret this trip.
Finally we see this little hotel, it looks fancy and slightly out of our price range, but we are getting desperate. We stop in at The Old Stone Inn and they do accept dogs! Not only do they accept dogs, they love dogs! And they even have little care packets for them with a few treats, a cool collapsible bowl, and some other stuff. They were so friendly. It ended up being a lovely little place. The front desk attendant called about 15 minutes after we got settled to make sure the heater was working and that we had everything we needed. Just really nice.
Until the other hotel goers started waking up and moving around. It was not very soundproof and Finn freaked out. Barking and whining and generally not having a good time. Wow, wouldn’t it be so nice for us and Finn if home had just come with us? See where this is going?
We looked around, saw the Falls, got Tim Horton’s (I liked it, I got a really big kick out of being able to get a coffee and a donut as a combo with a sandwich), went to a drugstore so that I could check out some Canadian beauty brands, and headed out for home. As Finn’s car guarding got worse we really started kicking around the idea of going mobile again. But not a boat this time, a RV. Now that would be great. We could drive all over the place, we would always be home. Finn would always be home.
When we got home to Florida we started researching, we found people on YouTube that had done what we were thinking about doing, we went to a RV show, and then Mike learned about skoolies and fell in love with the idea.
And that began his campaign to get me on board with converting an old school bus.