We left Lake Champlain on the early side because it turned out the Safari Condo private factory tour we’d signed up for was scheduled at 2pm on that day. Somehow, we missed that. We really weren’t holding out much hope we’d make it because it would be very tight and we had no idea what to expect at the border.
We knew the limits of what was and was not allowed in terms of what you can bring in. Our plan was full disclosure and to be prepared to part with bear spray, fruit, or a couple bottles of wine if need be. The crossing turned out to be a non-issue, aside from getting through the road construction. We were asked about why we had bear spray, but as soon as we said “Glacier,” that seemed sufficient explanation.
Once past that hurdle, we saw that we could technically make it in time according to Google Maps. Acura navigation disagreed, so we had to choose whom to listen to. We about lost hope when we got stuck in a major backup due to an overturned trailer (it looked fully destroyed and had to be lifted off the highway by a crane). That set us back at least a half an hour.
From there, Google took us off the main roads and into some more direct, but very bumpy, country roads. Here, we were able to make up a lot of time, but that was only because I was holding on for dear life as we careened over the hills and bumps, Dory bouncing behind us like a water skier on a choppy lake. But we just kept driving, hoping we’d arrive at the factory in enough large pieces that they’d be able to put her back together.
At 2:10 we arrived at the Safari Condo factory, Dory’s birthplace, just a little frazzled, but excited to be there. We greeted Dominique Nadeau, the CEO of Safari Condo and daughter of Daniel Nadeau, inventor of our beloved Alto. It was wonderful to see my fellow Altoiste admin, Leslie, as well as our California buddy Linda, who was picking up her new larger Alto the next day.
Dominique took us to factories “Alto 1” and “Alto 2,” the latter having been recently built to accommodate production of their new model 2114 trailer. She is an excellent tour guide and walked us through every step of the manufacturing process in both factories. You know how they say you should never watch how sausage is made? The opposite it true here. Seeing how much care and attention goes into every single Alto only made us more confident in the company. Daniel Nadeau is some kind of crazy genius who has been able to anticipate and design around potential problems before they occur. His design of the Alto is like a work of art and watching the employees install each piece by hand gives you this sense of pride that I can’t match with any other experience.
When I get back into the land of fast and unlimited wifi, I’ll upload all of the pictures and caption some of the more interesting bits. For now, I will just say we love this company a lot and would buy another Alto to have as a backup if we had a place to store it.
After the tour, we both realized we were starving so we grabbed a quick lunch inside Dory before heading to our campground. Camping La Jolie Rochelle, was discovered by Routealto80 blogger, Jim Gauvreau, as an ideal location for a sort of “pre-rally rally.” Many Altoistes who were coming for the big 20th anniversary event arranged to meet up ahead of time for a couple of days.
This place would be an “11” if only it had better service or campground wifi. Richard still needs to work while we’re here and he’s finding connectivity to be something of a challenge. This slight drawback is well offset by the company and views. Holy moly, this place is perfection. Somehow we were all able to snag riverfront sites together. It makes for a spectacular photo and is a ton of fun. My favorite people are here and we get to do the touristy thing and hang out together before the big event. We’re pretty blissed up.
On the list of awesomeness was a trip into Old Quebec City with three gorgeous women. Richard sadly had to work, but he did get in a bike ride at the end of the day. We took the ferry into town and spent the day wandering the streets and eating poutine, like ya do.
As is typical with great altogathers, we got to enjoy a pot luck together next to Linda’s brand new 2114. Altoistes get very excited by new models, but also by yellow Altos because they are from the early early days and are rare to spot in the field. We had both at the pre rally rally.
Our final day at La Jolie Rochelle was spent river watching, chatting, and doing laundry. In addition to our impressive crowd, I counted three other Altos in the park. I chatted in my terrible French with one couple who just happened to be there at the same time. They backfilled in much better English. After a while, they asked, “Oh, are you Alissa from Facebook?” Boom. 15 minutes of fame achieved. Who knew? If you had asked me as a child how I envisioned making my mark on the world, I’m pretty sure I would not have answered, “Well, I’d like it to involve trailers if possible.”
That night, we ventured back into Quebec City to have dinner with one of the celebrity sales people from Safari Condo. He brought us to his friend’s restaurant, Restaurant La Gueule de Bois. The food was absolutely outstanding, with some exquisite French cuisine dishes, as well as some very unusual creations. That was a lovely evening. Past my bedtime because I’m a late night wimp now, but well worth it.
Now, we head off in unison to the Big Event. I sure do love Altoistes. It is well worth the several thousand miles traveled to spend time in their company.
Total miles (after going to the factory first): 260.3, 17.7 mpg, 6 hours 16 min. The river side sites are simply spectacular. There are electric and water hookups and a dump on site. Roaming cell service was not so great. We bought campground wifi for $6 that covered 2 devices and that worked sporadically. The bathrooms are communal, like men and women. There’s a pool too, but we did not venture in.