tree in florida

Trip Planning

Road Trippin' From Ottawa To Orlando

When I tell people my husband and I often drive our RV from Ottawa to Florida, we get a lot blank stares. We know what they’re thinking.

Editor’s note: Candace Derickx has been RVing now for 11 years with her outdoorsman husband and their three children. Candace’s life now revolves around when and where she can escape to next with her family. 

When I tell people my husband and I often drive our RV from Ottawa to Florida, we get a lot blank stares. We know what they’re thinking.  Yes, we understand that a plane could have us there in three hours but still we choose to take three days to get there. But those who stare and wonder if we’re crazy? They don’t know what they’re missing.

Many Canadians move their RVs south in the winter, and we’re no exception. Snow squalls and sub-zero temperatures aren’t favorable RVing conditions and can take a toll on your RV if you don’t have proper storage facilities. And you’d also miss out on the chance for one last drive south – something not to be missed when the opportunity arises. After eleven years making this journey south we continue to be amazed by the beauty of America and the boundless hospitality its people possess.

Every time we leave the house in our RV we set out with a general idea of where we’d like to end up. From there on, it’s a connect-the-dots adventure to our final destination. We are free to roam for as long as we’d like on the trip to Florida. Adopting this nomadic lifestyle on our journey is easy because we know no matter what route we choose, we’ll feel safe and welcome in America. We are not bound by a schedule, nor are we hostage to hotel reservations. Airline cancellations have no effect on us, and our vacation starts as soon as we leave the house – not after standing in countless boarding lines and custom booths.

We are accountable to no one if we encounter traffic or choose to do some sightseeing. Typically we drive until we feel the need to rest, and then we simply look for highway signs indicating places to pull off. This method of travel would drive perfectionists mad, but RVers will tell you that’s what makes the journey fun; the carefree “who knows where we’ll end up” attitude is quickly adopted and embraced. I’ve never made a reservation for our RV on the trip to Florida and there has never had a problem finding a safe, clean, friendly place to rest. This could also be why there’s never a dull moment on our journey—we rarely end up in the same spot twice and the people we meet there are a pleasure.

My husband takes the driving duties of our 40 Foot Type A Motorhome, which affords me the best seat in the house. You can’t tire of the U.S.A. in panoramic view. Simply put America, you are drop-dead gorgeous. From New York State to Florida, you change your looks as often as we change our travel stops and just like our roaming vacation style, you never get old.

The beginning our of trip takes us through New York and Pennsylvania, and the surprisingly rugged landscape on I-81 through Pennsylvania has me wondering where all the people live. The trees at the highways edge are dense and majestic, and cocoon us from all signs of modernity. When we drive through in the autumn the view is simply spectacular. And because most campgrounds in this area remain open until November, finding a place to pull in for the night is easily accomplished.

The northern forest slowly rolls away behind us in southern Pennsylvania, and leads into sloping hills and the pastoral landscape of Maryland and Virginia. Small, neat homes set back on green lawns line the highway here. The history of this area is a rich tapestry of stories and spending more time in these states should definitely be on an RVer’s bucket list of adventures.

And then, as quickly as we entered Virginia, we leave. As a Canadian who grew up with mainly maple and pine trees outside her window, I can’t help but feel I’m entering “holiday” territory when the first mossy oak or palm tree crosses my vision somewhere in North Carolina. The allure of sunny Florida isn’t the only thing beckoning travelers onward; the varied and beauteous landscape seen through a picture glass window is there for the taking – something you just cannot have at 30,000 feet and cruising altitude. There is an element in RV travel that slows you down, encouraging you to take pleasure in the process of travel, not to seek joy only in the arrival at your holiday destination.

The trip to Florida from Ottawa may take three days, but as travelers well acquainted with I-95 will tell you, when you see the signs for Pedro at South of the Border, while the journey is almost over, your holiday is just beginning.

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Candace Derickx

Candace Derickx