Island Bound Traveller         Writer, Storyteller
Gary Grieco is a freelance writer, avid reader, sailor, and motorcycle enthusiast based on Texada Island, British Columbia, Canada.

         Clearwater, Florida's

          Jolly Trolley
B.C to Florida - the extra long way
by Gary Grieco -
Published Vancouver Province February 2004

Many Canadian winter refugees have made Florida their long-stay destination of choice, but not many choose to take our indirect snowbound route.

As expatriates from Winnipeg, and wanting to be with family during the winter holiday season before heading south to Florida, we first drove an indirect and exciting 2,400 kilometre route from B.C. to Manitoba.

Cross-country driving in winter conditions can be an exhilarating challenge when driving a small motorhome from one of Canada’s remote West Coast islands. Pick your weather and be prepared to lay over, especially if a storm lies in your path. But, you also enjoy the benefits of less traffic and your own winter wonderland in the mountains of B.C. and Alberta.

Travel is through snow-covered mountain routes such as the Coquihalla highway and Rogers Pass, before descending to the flatlander stretch across the icy prairie highways of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Hotel and motel winter rates in Canada are usually in effect from October to April, with plenty of welcome signs. Rates ranged from $46 for the spotlessly clean Alpine Inn in Revelstoke, B.C., to $49 for the Sun-Dek Motel in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

A winter escape strategy from Manitoba to Florida requires a border crossing and currency exchange. A Canadian passport at the U.S. Pembina border crossing remains the best internationally accepted evidence of Canadian citizenship. Border officials appear to be trained not to smile and are curt and business-like, though not impolite.

Snowdrifts and bitter cold awaits to the south via the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Winnipeg to Clearwater, Fla., is 3,344 km on excellent four-lane highways. If the weather is good, driving time is approximately three-and-a-half days, with the snowbelt disappearing in southern Illinois.

Accommodations are numerous, with easy access, located just off the major Interstates. Super 8 motels provide consistent cleanliness and affordability. On average, the cost is $43 US for double occupancy.

You know it’s the Sunshine State when you step out of the vehicle at that first rest stop in northern Florida, feeling the tropical warmth seep into your bones. The sun seems to get a little brighter, the blooms a little bigger, and the roads more inviting.

There are a whopping 850,000 mobile homes in Florida; home to some 400,000 snowbirds from the U.S. and Canada.  Of the thousands of trailer/RV parks, we visited only one, to stay with my sister at the Yankee Traveler park in Largo.

Florida boasts 1,066 km of beaches such as the one at Sand Key Park in Clearwater, next to Largo. Young and old mingle on the warm, soft sand of this natural public park.

You can travel the Gulf Boulevard on the Jolly Trolley from Clearwater, to St. Petersburg at the southern tip of Florida, through beach resort communities such as Bellair and Indian Shores; names that evoke sun-drenched days and warm sultry nights.

There are hundreds of accommodation options in the central Florida-Orlando area alone. The Central Reservation Service (800) 548-3311 works with the visitor’s bureau to assist in making hotel reservations. This service is free.

Camp Florida is the official 2004 Florida camping directory and is a free listing of the members of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

You can receive your copy by calling (850) 562-7151 or email:

Is the trip worth it? You bet! So pack your sunscreen and grab your golf clubs.
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