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Moving….     Moving….    Moving….

Janine, speaking to the Bell Telephone automated attendant

One of the more insidious (and down right uppity) tricks of the robots is that they make us talk like them before they’ll help us. I’m pretty sure it’s part of their plan to take over. Those of us that don’t assimilate will eventually be “processed”, clutching our rotary phones frantically as a big metallic claw drags us back up the hole it punched in our roof when it was dropped from the mother ship.

But submitting to the robots does have advantages. Janine, for example, is the T1000 of trip planning. While I was still making breakfast toast and picking the goo out of my eyes this morning, the gears in her head were already whirring, churning out pre-departure chore lists. Number one: terminate cable, phone and internet.  I couldn’t do this job as well as Janine because it involved communicating with the robots that have now replaced (see “processed”) all the people who used to work for these companies. But Janine glided amongst the android ranks like a pro, getting four cancellations done before I had my tea fixed.

She’s good. But for how long can I trust her? How long before she’s asked by her android overlords to choose between them and me? Sure, I’m a warm body to sleep next to at night. But they control cable. I know which way I’d go if the situation were reversed.

I’m buying a hydraulic press, just in case she turns. I won’t enjoy squishing her, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only way to handle this, barring getting my hands on a vat of liquid nitrogen or luring her to a steel factory. The latter would involve getting her to go to Hamilton. No robot is that stupid.



Thank God for OCD.

Seriously.  I would have given up long long ago without a healthy (?) dose of obsessiveness and determination. 

 After months of research and hunting I am finally satisfied with the technology we have gathered to help us document this great adventure of ours.  It was a long and arduous process and I feel compassion for those out there attempting to solve the same problems.  For all of you wilderness adventurers and world travellers, I hope that this may benefit you.  Check out our new Technology page.

There may be better solutions out there.  Please don’t tell me about them.  Stick a fork in me – I’m done. 

If technology is so great, why won’t it do what we want it to?


Well, our live blog from the Coulonge River won’t exactly be live. We’re having some driver problems that will keep us from sending e-mails direct from the river. BUT, we’ll still have the sat phone and will check in with Suzanne regularly so that she can post on our behalf.

“But wait!” you say, “What’s the Coulonge River? Where is it and why are you going there? And who is Suzanne?”

 “All good questions,” I reply. “Let’s take a step back in time….”

 Actually, we don’t need to take a step back in time. I just like to write sentences that trail off with those little dots…

The Coulonge River is a river in the South West of Quebec. It runs a 200 km or so out of the Verendrye highlands down into the Ottawa River system in a pretty consistent series of fun rapids and pretty falls. Together with its sister rivers, the Noire and the famous Dumoine, the Coulonge is part of what’s known in the area as the “Triple Play”.

Tomorrow, we’ll be flying into Bryson Lake at about km 125 of the Coulonge. For the next 7 days we’ll paddle the river until we reach Fort Coulonge, near the river’s confluence with the Ottawa. In the meantime, we’ll fish, swim, eat, portage, occassionally capsize and generally have a great time.

What makes this trip particularly special, is that we’ll be joined by our nephew (and Janine’s godson) Sean. Sean is 11 years old. Sean is fun and his parents have finally gotten lax enough that we’ve managed to abduct him for his first wilderness canoe trip.

Suzanne is Sean’s mom.

“So the only question left,” I now say to you kindly, “is the ‘why?'”

“Oh yes,” you say, “your explanations of the first questions were so interesting, that I’d nearly forgotten about that one. Please. Proceed.”

Well, as you know, we’re starting a 5-6 week canoe trip down the Elk and Thelon rivers starting on July 1, 2007. This Coulonge trip is, among other things, our warm up for that expedition. We’ll be putting a lot of new gear through its paces including our new portable canoe, video camera, sat phone, solar recharging kit and bug shelter (hey, anyone who’s been up north of 60 will understand that last purchase).

But mainly, it’s about hanging out with Sean. 

And catching monster pickeral.

And taking a week off to go canoeing.

“Now, it’s almost time for us to go to bed,” I say, gently easing you down from my knee and tapping out the remains of my pipe. “We’ve got an early day tomorrow, what with the 2.5 hour drive to our air charter at Rapides des Joachim and all.”

“Must it really be bed time?” you ask sadly, your voice dropping to a whisper.

“Yes,” I chuckle “I’m afraid so.”

All right, that bit’s getting old.

 Stay tuned for updates on our trip, to be posted by Suzanne. If you don’t hear from us for more than 8 days, assume our deaths and seek vengeance on whatever bear eats us or waterfall drowns us.

It’s like a frustration dream.


So we have the sat phone and we have the palm pilot and we have the keyboard and we have the data connector kit. We’re ready to go, right? E-mails from Everest! Messages from Mt. Kilimanjaro! Posts from… Poland!

Nope. It seems that all of data ports for all of this equipment are of the “male” variety. And male ports, it seems, don’t go into other male ports.

Stymied by hardware homophobia.

Janine has been a wizard-saint through all of this; conjuring up connectors and adaptors; patiently sitting through call after call with befuddled help desk people. We thought we (she) had it all down pat when the data connector kit arrived yesterday. But when I got home from a long day of dispensing justice, there she was in the lotus flower position – kit pacakaging and computer in front of her, phone tucked under one ear. Her sigh and an eyeroll told all.

We’ve (she’s) found the latest adaptor we need at a US store. So it’s all a question of whether it’ll get here in time for our Coulogne River trip. If not, our live blog from there will be slightly tape-delayed.  After my post on the Canadian Canoe Routes page of “Coulogne River Live!”, I’m not looking forward to recanting. 

After all, as everybody knows, those canoeists can be mean bastards.

I’ve got the world on a string,
Sittin’ on a rainbow,
Got that string around my finger;
What a world! What a life! I’m in love!

Harold Arlen

Sooo. How do we feel about gifts this year?


Today’s our 8th wedding anniversary. Yes indeed. No work (except going into the office and working) and no chores (besides a few things to do around the house) and no trip prep (besides the preparation of a few things)!  Today we celebrate our divine love and coupletude! Today, we kiss on the subway with impunity! Today, we eat steak!

That last one’s not code for anything – we’re just going out for a steak dinner later.

Last year, we didn’t spend our anniversary together because I was on an ultimately-aborted trial and Janine was in Vancouver visiting her Grandma. This may have been a good thing as it apparently allowed us to skip the 7 year itch phenomenon, which has been documented by science and mothers-in-law for many years now.

Once upon a time, we swore that we would never work on our anniversary. But that was  a long time ago and today is not a day to dwell on past oaths.  Besides, with 18 work days left till our “Tudra to Steppe” adventure begins, we figure we’ll soon have plenty of days together to make up for this one apart.

Well, I’m off to purchase something thoughtful under pressure.  “Hello, Amazon? How fast can you deliver that new Norah Jones CD? What!?”


We probably have a thousand dust-mites on our faces right now.


Moving is a special blend of unpleasant manual labour, nostalgia and, when you’re cleaning out your basement, ickyness.  The tedium of disassembling furniture is lightened by the joy of finding an old photo album, which in turn is ruined by the finding of a pissed-off spider living under the old photo album.

Our basement exemplifies Pareto’s law of crap expanding to fill the space allotted to it (yes, that’s exactly how Pareto put it).  Clothes that haven’t been worn for 5 years, dishes that haven’t been eaten off of in 10 years, gaudy table runners whose brightest moment was when they were opened at the bridal shower before being consigned to the back of the linen closet forever. We filled four giant rubbermaid bins with things to be moved and at least that many more with things to be taken to the goodwill. 

After a few hours, we felt we’d made some serious progress. Things had been moved! Other things had been moved into the places where those things used to live! And I had taken apart an Ikea desk (p.s. why don’t multi-headed screwdrivers come with an allen wrench head?)! The basement is now slightly less live-inable than before but it is musky with the scent of progress.

And dust.  Did you know that an unfinished basement is a good home for dust? It is. This morning, we woke up feeling like we’d slept in a highway construction zone and went through half a box of kleenex before our noses stopped running. I didn’t want to think about the micro-organisms living in my nostrils, until Janine gave a red-eyed mutter about the damn dust-mites.  Achoo.

Well, let’s take a look at the soup.


In one month and one day, we’ll be moving. So, in addition to researching visas, buying satellite phones, dehydrating food and stuffing compression-bags, its time to start packing up our house.  Today we start hauling out the boxes with which we moved in here (oh, how we fear to explore that dank corner of the basement!) and maybe even throwing in a few peripheral items like books and photos. The longest journey, in this case, begins with a single roll of packing tape.We are now getting a steady stream of apartment viewers, as Janine’s photos of the place work their magic on  But swinging in the hammock this morning beneath the perfumed lilac tree, now approaching full bloom, we couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the people who will  soon be taking over our little home. 

Oh well, screw those guys. We’re going to Nepal.

I’m also having the distinct culinary pleasure of sampling a steady stream of Janine’s latest explorations into the art of dehydrated meals. The fare has ranged from sweet and sour rice with vegetables, to salty and salty rice with vegetables, to salty and salty soup with vegetables. When sampling this cuisine you have to do so with your “woods gut”. This is the stomach that you know will be a lot less picky after a full day of paddling or hiking, after which eating, as Grey Owl said, “is not the ceremonial affair of politely restrained appetite and dainty selection seen in the best hotels and restaurants, but an honest-to-God shovelling in of fuel at a stopping-place, to enable the machinery to complete its journey, or its task.”

So bring on the packing; bring on the soup.

How many pairs of underwear do I need to travel the world?


I think this question summarizes the process that Janine and I went through this weekend in trying to pack our backpacks as if we were starting the world trip – practical and ludicrous at the same time. How can you predict these kinds of things (the answer is three by the way)?

Right now our packs are hovering around the 30 pound mark with clothes, gear, tents and personal kit. That’s pretty good but we’ll be looking for any way possible to shave off the weight. The difficulty is walking the line between having enough to do the remote treks and having too much stuff to be comfortable lugging the bags the rest of the time. 

In other news, the Sat Phone arrived in the mail yesterday. Very exciting! We are only short a few components necessary to transmit e-mail through it. This should allow us to blog anywhere from Tundra to Everest. Very cool.  I’ve veered between a desire to go minimal on this trip (the romance of the wandering adventurer is appealing) and a desire to get any gear necessary to capture all of the experiences we’re going to have. We’ve probably ended up going the latter route but we’re okay with that – at least for now.  At present the tech gear includes a digital camera, video camera, ipod (mainly for storing photos), sat phone, old palm pilot and a mini keyboard (for emergencies and e-mailing from remote locations).  For the Tundra trip at least, we’ll also have a solar panel and a multi-purpose recharging battery, both of which are pretty darn cool.

The unofficial name for my pack is RadioShack.

Where are we now?

Home, Sweet Home