Classic cars lined the perimeter of the big field at Beaver Creek Campground on Tuesday.   John Boivin photos

Classic cars lined the perimeter of the big field at Beaver Creek Campground on Tuesday. John Boivin photos

Cross-Canada classic car tour stops in Trail

Classic cars bring 150th celebrations to small towns across the country

A leisurely wave of classic cars arrived in Trail Tuesday as part of a cross-Canada tour to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday.

The 100 caravaners with the Canadian Coasters Car Club set up at Beaver Creek Park after a short day’s drive. All day long classic cars, trucks and even a 1960-era tour bus — most with vintage trailers in tow — could be seen pulling through town.

This was the fifth night’s stop of the tour’s 7,000-kilometre trip that will take them from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean — Victoria to St John’s, Newfoundland — ending in early September.

“It’s the spirit of adventure, it’s the Canadian spirit, it’s Canada’s 150th, and it’s a lot of fun,” explains Fraser Field, who’s the wagon-master for the caravan. This is his third time across the country with the tour.

“These are car people, they enjoy the camaraderie, they enjoy the test of the car. They get them in tip-top shape and they can do the distance.”

Planning and logistics for such a large group moving across the country can be a challenge, and luck and circumstance brought the coast-to-coast tour to Trail this time. Past tours (they are held every 10 years, or on big occasions like this year’s 150th) have stopped in Castlegar. This year there was no room at local campsites there, so Trail was made the stop.

Field says the change has been a delight.

“Trail was just spectacular for getting us some spots,” he says. “Beaver Creek Park is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. Nice and quiet, and now other car clubs are coming down to greet us- and that’s what it’s all about.”

Field says the caravaners represent more than 200 car clubs from across the country, so at every pit stop in every province, they have friends and local tour guides to show them the less-known sights.

“It’s a dream for a lot of people,” he says. “Because we don’t use the Trans-Canada very much, it’s all secondary highways, smaller cities. It’s a lot warmer welcome, a lot easier drive. We only drive about three hours a day, so you can keep the pace.”

Needless to say, the people driving these classic cars on a two-month tour have a fair amount of time on their hands. Most are retirees or self-employed, able to take the time to trek across the country.

This is Dianne Townsend’s second time taking part in the tour. She crossed the country with her husband in 2010. He’s since passed away but with her new beau, Bert Meilleur, she’s taking her classic black 1929 Model A — the oldest vehicle on the tour — on the trip again.

“It’s a fantastic way to see our country, and see it with fellow car enthusiasts,” says Townsend. “We get to see all sorts of things you would never know existed if you weren’t in a group like this.

“I have talked [to Bert] about this non-stop since we met three years ago. I think he is really pumped for the trip.”

While many of the caravaners are from B.C., there’s a contingent from most every province — even as far as Newfoundland. Many have done the tour before, and three did the very first trip across in 1967, as children.

The caravan can be a welcome sight for local businesses too. Field says over the course of the three months, they estimate the group will spend about $1.5 million on gas, food and lodging.

“We have a tour book that lists everywhere we stop, all the things to see and do — tourist places, Hell’s Gate, things like that,” he told the Trail Times. “And they stop everywhere. Things that aren’t open to the public are open to us.”

The tour ends in Cupid’s, Newfoundland on September 2.

It’s a great way to spend the summer,” says Field. “We’ll go through some of these small towns on the prairies that people don’t go through. And in some of them, we’re their 150th celebration when we pull into town.”

To learn more about the trip, visit canadiancoasters.ca.