Day 152 of a 365-Day Portrait of Canada: A Little About Us

To get a better idea of our life in the van, picture this: an 84 square foot space occupied by two adults and two dogs (one Black Lab and one Flat Coat Retriever). When we are travelling the dogs sit in the back on the couch / bed, and when we are sleeping the dogs are on the front seats. As much as we can we park near an area where the dogs can run around a bit. It is crowded but we get by. It helps that we usually spend a good number of hours outside of the van shooting everyday.

Tim getting gas in Red Deer on our departure day. It was a lot more expensive for gas at the beginning of our trip. That being said, gas is still probably our biggest expense. This is one huge country, and you really realize it once you start driving around for days.


A room with a view! We’ve been very fortunate on this trip with finding some great places to spend the night. With not one single campground open in all of Canada right now, we stay were we can. We take into consideration intruding on people’s space and often park in an unpopulated area which is refreshing after spending the day surrounded by people. Occasionally we’ll get a visit from an RCMP officer, but there’s never any problem; they just ask what we’re up to, check out our paperwork and they’re off. One night in Ottawa we parked just behind the RCMP detachment, knowing full well we’d be getting a visit and we did. According to the officer it was RCMP property, but they let us stay anyways. Too funny. We spent alot of time designing the exterior of the van to look as professional as possible. This has helped with folks understanding what we are up to and all too often we’ll get people stopping by to ask us why the heck we’d be doing this trip in the winter!


Maya loves to see where we are headed!


Tim completely rebuilt the inside of the van, and it is now a camperized adventure vehicle. We have a kitchen complete with a two burner propane stove, a sink, a water tank and a cooler to keep the food cool. In the winter, the doorwell acts as a freezer, which is great for some things, but not so great for the milk that you would like to put in your morning coffee.

Heide getting supper ready on her birthday (parked on 36 inches of ice at St. Fulgace, Quebec).


We made couches in the back that convert into a bed, and we put up curtains to make it a bit more private. I am getting used to people driving by the van and ogling us while we are parked. One man even parked near us in Ontario and drank his coffee and looked at the pictures on the van as a way to pass the time. To keep out the cold, we  put up even more curtains and silver bubble insulation on the windows.

Since we decided to make this a 365-day journey, we have a responsibility to shoot everyday. We shoot about 3-5 hours a day, which will increase when the weather warms up. There are days that we walk for at least 2 hours, and we come back to the van with very sore feet.  In addition to this, we need to blog everyday, which can take hours, especially depending on the signal that we find. We use an aircard to upload our pictures which works with the cellphone towers, and when the signal is good, the pictures don’t take too long to upload. All we really do in the day is go out and shoot and come back to the van and blog. There isn’t a lot of extra time for socializing or galavanting around.

Tim Getting a Good Angle on Top of the Van in Ontario


People ask us if we eat out a lot, and the answer is no, we rarely eat out. We treated ourselves to a dinner at a pub in Ottawa, and after receiving the $60 bill, we decided that we’d better keep cooking for ourselves. That one dinner with a couple of drinks could pay for days worth of meals and groceries. We make great meals though…well, Tim makes most of the meals, and he is a good cook. Some of the things we might eat are salmon with brown rice, swiss chard and other veggies, or steak with potatoes, onions, roasted peppers, and tomatoes as we had tonight. We have been invited to dinner at people’s places a few times, and this always makes for a welcome change of pace.

Tim Roasting Peppers


Here’s a common question: “Do you sleep in Wal Mart parking lots”? We have never parked in a Wal Mart parking lot, but we did park in an IGA parking lot the other day behind the store in La Baie. Unfortunately we were woken early in the morning to the sounds of big trucks unloading their groceries and trying to get by us. Needless to say, we moved and then promptly headed out. For the most part we park down by the river (yes, in a van, down by the river) if there is one, or down near some water. Yesterday we parked on a dock right beside the St. Lawrence Seaway in Saint Simeon, and the view was outstanding.

Tim works on the blog while overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway.


Heide relaxes after a long day of shooting and meeting folks.


Many are shocked to discover that we are sleeping in our van during the winter. How do we survive at minus 30 degrees? (and there has been plenty of those, too) We have a 25 000 btu furnace that keeps us nice and cozy, as long as we keep the propane tanks filled. Tim has had to go outside many nights in the freezing cold to change the tank over to a new one, and I of course thank him profusely for doing so. We are definitely warm enough, but it does cost a fair amount to fill the tanks, and it is sometimes a real pain to find a place that sells propane. These days we run about 4 days in the cold weather with a 20 lb barbeque tank of propane.

Tim getting the furnace going for the first time.


In the five months that we have been on the road, we have taken about 55 000 pictures and we have logged around 10 000 kilometers.

Eyes Closed – Oh Yes, He’s That Good


Tim shooting at the fire hall in Picton. People that we meet are very cooperative with us when they find out about our project.


Heide takes advanage of the perspective from up top of the van while shooting an abandoned farm yard.


Kensington Market Through Tim’s Lens


Heide mixes and mingles with the war veterans at the National War Monument in Ottawa on Remembrance Day 2008.


Tim Up Close and Personal – This dad was clearing his outdoor rink for his kids to play hockey.


During winter Tim becomes the shooting superhero…”Puff Coat Man”


Heide hitches a ride in a John Deere combine during Alberta’s 08 harvest.


Staying connected to the world using using a wireless aircard. Space is tight in the kitchen, and I accidentally used the steak as the mouse this day!


Heide catches a ride to the colony with the Hutterite girls.


Heide gives Bo some lovin’.


We meet all sorts! Even the scary-looking ones are usually friendly.


Bo is a real sweetheart, and he can be a bit of a lush when it comes to getting attention. A social creature, he makes friends with everyone. He tends to get into trouble sometimes, and so far he has fallen off a roof, almost stumbled down a cliff and just about landed in the water at the docks in Toronto.  He makes us laugh everyday and we love him like crazy.


Maya is a gentle dog, and she can be a bit shy sometimes. She has really come out of her shell on this trip, and she will venture forth into unknown territories with less caution now. This is how she looks when she gazes at Tim…she is definitely a loyal dog and a daddy’s girl. We just love our sweet little brown baby!


Playtime is anytime the van door is open.


Bo and Maya make it to Parliament Hill twice in two years, lucky dogs!



3 Responses to “Day 152 of a 365-Day Portrait of Canada: A Little About Us”

  1. March 5, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Looks cramped and chilly, but so much fun and a truly unique experience. Thank you for sharing it with us. =)

  2. March 5, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Hello again from David working at the military surplus in quebec city! Everytime i’m looking at your website it’s making me dream about traveling around canada or USA. By the way, you have 2 wonderful dogs and nice work with your Van!

  3. 3 3limes
    March 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    This is so fuuny because Heide I was just about to write to you on facebook to send me pictures of the inside of that van! You are truly an amazing couple…if this is how you are spending the first year of marriage you are going to go all the way! Well done, love the dogs!

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