Of Pontiac wagons and tent trailers

One Sunday a month as I was growing up in Victoria, my parents would get my brother and I into our 1974 Pontiac Astre Wagon. Our destination was Crofton, a pulp mill town just east of Duncan, where my grandparents lived. The process for my parents of getting my brother and I into the Pontiac was different for each child. He fought tooth and nail, thinking the hour and change sitting in that back seat to be a fate worse than death. Oh, if only the wagon’s wood grain paneling could talk. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait, not only to see my grandparents, but for the journey to get underway. I didn’t even need a colouring book.

Goldstream Provincial Park went by. We ascended Malahat Drive to the view over Mill Bay. We passed the colourful shop facades of Whippletree Junction. We descended toward the billowing stacks of Crofton’s mill. I couldn’t wait to see them, and imagine their stories. Why was there a road there? Why was that mill there?

Similarly, when the family later acquired a Coleman tent trailer we cheekily named Herb after the bespectacled character in Burger King commericals (don’t ask, it was the 1980s), I couldn’t wait to hit the road in my parents’ 1985 Ford LTD as we towed Herb behind us. My parents took us all over British Columbia on camping trips. We’d travel up and down Vancouver Island, park lakeside in the Okanagan and explore the Kootenays. I loved it.

I would watch the world go by from the back seat, wondering about the story behind that farmhouse gradually collapsing as it was being reclaimed by nature, or why there was a gravel road there (where did it lead to?) or why there was a collection of eclectic shops away from any town whatsoever. It fascinated me.

When I started giving my “Riding Across Historic British Columbia” presentation last year at Horizons Unlimited CanWest in Nakusp, I tried to remember what had started my interest in B.C.’s history. The above is what I came up with.

I’ve discovered I’m not alone. At my presentation at Vancouver BMW Ducati in November 2016, Dave told me about how he too had travelled with his parents in a tent trailer, developing an appreciation for the South Chilcotin, where his family had roots, and many other places in the B.C. interior. To hear this was fulfilling; I wasn’t the only one who had developed a love of travel and appreciation of exploring the province’s history via camping tent trailer style.

I still see tent trailers at campgrounds when I’m camping solo or with my family, some of the same vintage of our family’s old Coleman. I hope that, in those tent trailers, are a new generation of adventuresome kids that are developing an interest in their home province…its places, people and history.

My question is: What would wood paneling say if it could talk?

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Author: Trevor Marc Hughes

Trevor Marc Hughes is an author and travel writer. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and two sons. He rides a Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle. If he can help it, he doesn't ride his motorcycle in Vancouver; he takes it out of town, where he enjoys exploring the province of B.C. and beyond, and writing about his adventures. He has written for magazines such as Canadian Biker, Rider, Motorcycle Mojo, Inside Motorcycles, and RidersWest. His two books are "Nearly 40 on the 37: Triumph and Trepidation on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway" and "Zero Avenue to Peace Park: Confidence and Collapse on the 49th Parallel".