On the road to Canada and the United States with an Oldtimer
Laura and Julian have turned their whole lives upside down. The plan: To travel across Canada and the United States in their carefully restored old Bully.
We accompanied them on the initial stages of their adventure. Discover their first experiences and preparations here.
Now, after a year and a half of restoration, we are ready to send our van, named Rainette, to Canada. Finally ready... uh... Our old van from 1983 will have caused us problems until the morning of departure.
Our departure was rock'n'roll! We made the windshield waterproof again in the evening before bringing the van to port and discovered the same morning that a bulb from the headlights had broken. Already one thing to do once on the other side. It was not the only one of our work already planned. After going through the ACL Diagnostic Center, we also knew we would have to redo the geometry. Rainette had passed the technical control without a hole but during the geometry, the mechanic did not tighten the steering enough, a wheel was crooked. Another surprise and teaching, just because it's new doesn't mean it works! Stop lights that no longer work and the bulb of full headlights died in not even two weeks. But, well, it's like everything else, you can run into the wrong part. Isn't that also part of the adventure?
In a hurry to leave, and this may be a mistake, we didn't have time to really test the car. We only had 500 km on the counter but maybe that's part of the adventure too. A little advice anyway: take the time to test the car and have a diagnosis made! Technical control is not really enough.
Anyway, how do you send a van abroad (to Canada for us)? You need to contact a freight forwarder. We never communicate directly with the carrier. Of the companies we contacted, only one responded. Then, well, it's the one we took and we're very happy with it.
They recommend booking the crossing 2 to 3 months in advance. However, we booked 1 month before and there was still room. Once the reservation has been made and the documents requested (copy of passport, driving licence and registration certificate), the company sends all the important information: the state in which the van must travel (clean, give the impression that it is empty, Cabinets can be filled, fuel level, no gas,...), documents to be provided and procedures at the port of Antwerp, procedures at the pick-up in Halifax,... They also prevent possible theft in vans that are not covered by marine insurance. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case for us! Delivery to the port of Antwerp is not well organised but thanks to the information given by the forwarder, we can find our way there. The crossing takes about 2 weeks. This gives us time to prepare for departure 10 days later. Meanwhile we receive the news that the van is well on the boat and the invoice.
Going abroad for a year, especially on a roadtrip, is not always easy, surely after having spent all our time restoring and preparing the car for departure. We say goodbye, it always tightens the heart. Although we are leaving to live an exceptional experience, we know that we will miss birthdays, weddings, Christmas with the family, all the important stages of our loved ones' lives but also the simple moments together (summer barbecues, discussions over a drink,...). Then we have to select our clothes. We really don't have much space in our van. We decide to take clothes for a week with a little for the warm weather and a little for the cold weather. At the same time, it is also necessary to think of all the administration: to stop your mobile phone subscription, the rental of the apartment and the various contracts which relate to it,... It seems a lot for some but it is done very easily.
Then we take the plane to Montreal. We stay there for a few days to get used to the jet lag, see friends again, enjoy the city and what it has to offer. Julian's even been able to do graffiti. We start to prepare the arrival of the car and the departure of the Roadtrip. We make purchases for us (bedding,...) and for the van (toolbox,...). Then take the road to Halifax, 1200 km away. We talk about our desires to travel and discover. We wonder what our lives will be like in the coming months, we ask ourselves questions (where will we sleep on the road?). Besides, we have fears too (will we like it?). These are thoughts that we have had for months but that are becoming more and more real.
The pick-up at Halifax Harbour is really simple. We're going to the freight forwarder to pick up some documents. This one gives us the information for customs which is our next step. After a few questions, he gives us permission to get the van back. There we are at the port! There, we check the chassis number and the condition of the van after the crossing. Everything went well, and here we are, ready to hit the road! This will have lasted, in all, one hour. Then we really realize how easy it is to send a vehicle across the Atlantic.
At the administrative level, the vehicle insurance must not be forgotten. What can be quite simple in South American countries, for example, can quickly become a battle course with an Oldtimer in Canada and the United States. Indeed, insuring a vehicle over 30 years old and registered abroad will quickly become complicated. The freight forwarder offers insurance for cars under 30 years old that is quite expensive but with less administrative hassle. He makes exceptions from time to time for older cars. That was our case. Once we've done that, we can go.
And then we hit the road. All this work and here we are. Our restored van, our Rainette, in Canada.
Little by little, things are coming to fruition. We have our gas bottle, our water tank is well filled and the geometry is made. We spent our first night in a parking lot at the tourist information point in Peggy's Cove. It is a beautiful fishing village and the perfect place to spend our first night on the road. We get our hands dirty in our limited space, where to store our things, manage space problems and cumbersome things, how to cook, what to cook then wake up without shower, without toilets. System D time has begun. We also meet our first neighbours, Spaniards travelling to South America with their van, too. Our 2nd and 3rd nights, we find places to sleep along the beach.
We've been on the road three nights. We plan to sleep once a week in a camping and another time in a hotel or motel.
One thing that amazes us enormously but delights us is the welcome we get from Canadians in Nova Scotia. Is it the fact that we have an Oldtimer, the paint / colour or the Luxembourg license plate or maybe all at once? But in any case, people smile at us, greet us, compliment us, ask us questions or even follow us in the car to take our van in photo. We are happy with these exchanges and can't wait to see what it has in store for us!