You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2007.

I think I’ll miss eggs the most.

Jason

Every camper has a favourite food that they go without on their trips and are slavering for by the time they get back to “civilization”. For many, it’s that big greasy burger and fries, for others it’s a steak and a glass of good wine. Our cousin Geoff had an insatiable craving for Arctic Char and a beer when we got into Dawson City, Yukon a few years back.

I wouldn’t turn up my nose at any of these, but I think I have to give the edge to eggs.  Over easy, boiled, poached, omlette(d?) or even Benny, I think they are the biggest treat you can have when you’re in the bush and therefore one of the things you look forward to most once you get out. While some are shocked, I only nod my head sagely when hearing that at one point during the Yukon gold rush, an egg was worth it’s weight in gold. 

With a good hen, you could have opened your own bank.

Sorry.

Anyhoo, of all the delights of Alberta hospitality, I’ve probably been taking advantage of eggs the most. Three a day, perhaps in a subliminal effort to make myself sick of them.

Today’s our last day with Janine’s folks before we head out on the trip. They’ve been gracious and generous hosts. Janine’s mom has quickly put back on the 5 pounds I lost in the two weeks before I got here (unfortunately, that’s just enough to cover up my six-pack abs, swear to God). But it’s time to go.

Our time here has been relaxing and rejuvenating, perhaps to an extreme. My father-in-law’s 12-14 hour work day is putting me to shame. When he came home for lunch yesterday at 12:30 and I was still in my p.j.’s watching the National Geographic channel,  I knew my sloth had reached it’s nadir and it was time for what one author has called “the alternate morality of the North” – simple living, good hard work and, one assumes, little to no satellite television.

The gear and food are pretty much packed and tomorrow we drive to Edmonton. There, at midnight, we’ll board a Greyhound Bus for the 19 hour drive to Fort Smith, NWT. If you’ve read our posts about the saga of the missing canoe, you’re probably wondering why in God’s name (Gary?) we’re signing up for another potential bus debacle. The simple answer is we’re cheap. It would be literally ten times more expensive to fly and would be completely unreasonable to ask someone to undertake the time and expense of driving us the 1400 km to Fort Smith.

At the very least, this should make for a good story.

See you in the Northwest Territories.

Map

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I’m getting so drunk tonight.

Janine

How does one put into words the achievement of a small, yet intensely frustrating task?

Emailing from the tundra. Sounds simple, but it has been a long winding road of mostly abdicated responsibility on behalf of Iridium, Bell, EudoraMail and Palm.

My last encounter with the Bell lady went something like this: (In my best “you’re iritating the hell out of me but I refuse to lose my cool”

voice.)  “Yes, I understand that you don’t know anything about EudoraMail, but I’m going to ask you these questions anyway and you are going to tell me if you have the answers.”  One miniscule piece of info (try “SMTP1 insted of SMTPHM”) was the key that opened the door.

We’re LIVE, people!!

This is the first blog post that was composed on our Palm and bounced off satellites to reach you.  (Provided this stuff doesn’t konk out on me up there, but we won’t go there just now, if you don’t mind.)

Jason has finally stopped nervously peeking around corners before entering a room where I am surrounded with wires and talking on the phone with my latest help desk victim.  Now I can finally give my full attention to beef jerky debates and fruit bar stare-downs.

Sent from our satellite phone…live from the tundra!

Yes, I do feel we’re over-thinking our cream of wheat situation!

Janine

Janine and I stayed calm during the loss of our canoe, kept it together while putting our house into storage and were supportive of each other when we each left our jobs to travel the world.

But grocery shopping for a six week canoe trip nearly destroyed our marriage.

There was a feisty debate over which granola bars to buy and a small but intense flare-up over the respective merits of 3 different trail mix brands (solution – buy one of each and take an advil). There was the 50 bucks spent on beef jerkey that it turns out you do have to refrigerate, a lively discourse over how much Kraft Dinner is too much Kraft Dinner and for the nightcap a brief tiff over whether a half bag of brown sugar constitutes a staple food or a luxury item.

Finally, the packing. Oh, the packing. How does one get 200 pounds of food into two 60 litre barrels? If you answered “with love” deduct 3 points from your score.

The correct answer is “by making a total disaster area out of your mother-in-law’s living room and kitchen” (5 points). Although, if you answered “by filling each barrel to the brim, jumping up and down on the top layer and repeating this process 8 times” give yourself 3 points just for shits and giggles.

Long story short – we now have enough tuna, pasta, meat, dehydrated vegetables, dried fruit and snacks to last us 50 days alone on the barrenlands.

The ultimate location for a little couple’s therapy.

It’s time to laugh again!

Homer Simpson

Holy shit, the boat showed up.

At around 5:30 this afternoon, I was out playing bottle darts (it’s like lawn darts but with half filled water bottles instead of darts and fewer head injuries. All rights reserved.) with the nieces and nephews when a loud scream erupted from the house. I thought “either someone’s dead or they found Big Red.”

 The latter!

Turns out the bus driver who regularly makes the courier run to Janine’s hometown had heard our sad sack story about the missing canoe and the endangered vacation and went the extra mile for us, personally digging in places where Big Red couldn’t and shouldn’t have been, according to the all-knowing personnel at Greyhound customer service. In a dusty and  forlorn corner of the Edmonton depot, he found our canoe and delivered it to us this evening, just before we placed the order for a replacement boat. 

O’ Lord, if ye be not too busy with the wars and the famines, bless this thine bus driver and make him mighty in thine sight. Smite his enemies (deer?) and unflatten his spare tires. Let his transmission never fail O’ Mighty One and make his beaded seat cushion the beadiest of them all. Amen.

Janine is rightfully ecstatic. All her hours of gluing spray skirt rings to Big Red and her time on the phone to the custom yoke maker have not been in vain. We don’t need to buy a second boat, we don’t need to worry about how it’s going to get here in time and we don’t need to think about how we’ll sell it at the end of our trip if Big Red is found in the meantime. Now (knocking on wood), we just pack the food, do a final check of the gear we’ll be relying on for the next 6 weeks, and head for Fort Smith.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a canoe to kiss.

That which does not kill us, merely scars us for life.

Old saying, perverted by me

Well, it’s official – we’re screwed. But we’re feeling much better.

Greyhound has lost our canoe, Big Red. Oh, they’re trying to avoid saying that. Instead they’re saying that they’re still looking for it, etc. But I’m growing convinced these guys couldn’t find their own ass with a map. They have no tracking system for lost packages to speak of – their idea of a trace seemingly being to call each bus depot along the route your parcel allegedly travelled and say in their best Deliverance accent “hey Floyd, you boys done gone and seen a parcel round there?” I honestly believe, these guys are one step removed from chiseling their waybills on stone tablets and strapping boxes to the back of a pterodactyl.

The moral of this story friends, is never, ever, ever ship anything you care about with Greyhound. Even their own depot personnel (who I’ve called personally, not trusting their “customer service” department to do even that correctly – I’m worried that the telephone may frighten and confuse them) have told me numerous stories of Greyhound losing important packages. Apparently, they have a real nack with the valuable ones.

There’s one more bus coming into town tomorrow night that could have Big Red in it. But we have little hope.

The past few days have not been pleasant, between long bouts on the phone with “Darlene” at Greyhound (who just loves putting me on hold in the middle of me asking her a question – I find her endearing) and worrying about how the loss of the boat will affect the Elk-Thelon Trip. Our options are few and all are expensive.

 Option 1 – buy or rent a hardshell canoe. How to get it up to Fort Smith (suggest Greyhound and I will hurt you)? And even if we get it up there, who will fly us to our destination? Our currently-chartered plane is not large enough to take a hardshell boat and our payload. A larger plane will cost a disgusting amount more, assuming we could even charter one this late in the game. Also, our current charter company doesn’t have a bigger plane, which means we’d have to switch companies and forfeit our deposit on the currently-booked charter. Oh, and then what do we do with the boat when we get to Baker Lake? Selling it at a cut-rate price would be the only real option as flying it back to Fort Smith (in the case of a rental) or back with us to Alberta (if we bought the thing) would be insanely expensive.

Option 2 –  rent a pakboat. Renting seems unlikely as there appear to be no outfitters who rent them in Fort Smith or Edmonton. In any event, for a six week trip, the rental cost would be so high as to make this option unjustifiable, particularly since you’d be left with no boat of your own at the end. 

Option 3 – buy a new pakboat. At first this option created the ugliest sinking sensation in our already-ulcerated stomachs. But on careful reflection, it now appears the most economical and practical solution in the long run, assuming we can get a boat shipped here in time (again, please don’t suggest Greyhound). With a pakboat, we can keep our current charter, economically ship the canoe out of Baker Lake at the end of our journey and end up with an asset at the end of our trip, which, if worse comes to worse, we can re-sell to recoup some of our losses.

Oh, and did I mention that we have to leave for Fort Smith in a couple of days and having a means of floating down the river by then would be a really good idea? Yes, I think I did in the last post. Never mind. You get the point – stressful stuff.

So this morning, two cups of tea and a hand-drawn spreadsheet of pros and cons later, we decided: we’d saved up a cushion for shit-hitting-the-fan moments and this was apparently going to be one of them.

Time to buy a new boat.

We have placed calls to the pakboat distributor (who is fantastic btw) and advised him of our situation. They’ve got one extra boat the size of Big Red on hand – the only question is whether they will get it here on time for us to make our flight out of Fort Smith.

Anyhoo, the decision to buy a new boat, while putting a huge dent in the finances has been a big weight off our shoulders emotionally. Today has been our most relaxed in several. We are back in Janine’s hometown, visiting with yet more cuddly nieces and nephews, prepping our food and going through our gear lists. The whir of the food dehydrator’s motor is almost as soothing as it is deafening (damn that thing is loud!) and the trip is once again a reality.

In 8 days we will be on the river. As for you Greyhound – enjoy my vacation. Suing you is going to be my new favourite hobby when I get back (apologies to darts).

Which number do I press for “your courier service screwed me”? 

Jason, speaking to the automated phone attendant at Greyhound

Our canoe is missing.

Our canoe is a Pakboat-brand portable canoe. It’s great. One of its advantages is that, when deconstructed, all 18 feet of it fits into a duffle bag which can then be easily transported across the country by… oh… let’s say a Greyhound Bus.

On June 5 we shipped the pakboat (whose working name to Janine’s chagrin is “Big Red” – she had something much more romantic in mind) to Janine’s hometown in Alberta via Greyhound. Two other large packages for our trip accompanied it.

They made it, Big Red didn’t.

There are lots of theories about where Big Red may have been waylaid. Some say the small town of Leduc. Some say the big transfer hub Winnipeg. And some say she’s down at the Edmonton baggage depot.

 I say it’s time for me to start ruining someone’s day at Greyhound.

 After all, we need Big Red. Our canoe trip just won’t be the same without her. While we could theoretically tie all of our large canoe bags and barrels together into a rough raft and live on that for six weeks, it just wouldn’t be as much fun.  Nor would it handle as well in whitewater. Finally, as we ate down our food, the raft would get lopsided.

It would be like James and Giant Peach. Except James would be me and he’d meet with a watery grave at the end.

Gotta find Big Red.

Alberta bound!
Alberta Bound!
Something, something, something, something
Alberta Bound!

Mostly Gordon Lightfoot

Personal televisions on aircraft have made travel so much more pleasant. Now flying is a lot like sitting on your duff at home – just with a smaller screen, poorer sound and more expensive snacks.  And so, one episode of Heroes, The Office, the french version of The Office, Arrested Development, Twilight Zone, and half of Charlotte’s Web later, we are in Edmonton.

I knew I should have watched Charlotte’s Web first! Now I’ll never find out how it ends! My guess – spider eats pig.

We’ll be here for the next few days, emptying Wal-Mart and Costco of their granola bars and noodle-based meals for our canoe trip up North and getting in some good family time with Janine’s sisters, parents, cousins and seemingly endless stream of cuddly nieces and nephews.  Then it’s off to Janine’s hometown of Forestburg, AB to pack it all up and finally onwards to Fort Smith, NWT, where we’ll catch our flight to the headwaters of the Elk River.

 

 

 

Man, there’s not even enough room to have sex in there.

Janine, looking at the moving truck

It’s official – we’re homeless.

We had quite the weekend. Thursday night bled into early Friday morning, as a late final night at work for me translated into a long evening of last minute packing. At 3 in the morning, when our heads finally hit the pillow on the hide-a-bed in the front room, it seemed like we barely had time for a cat nap in our sleeping bags before it was time to get up and go again.

5 hours later, we’re picking the sleep out of our eyes in front of the U-Haul rental outlet, trying to decide which decal on which cube van will most dramatically reduce our chance of breaking down on the 401 hwy between Toronto and Ottawa (yes, this is as deep as my knowledge of motor vehicles goes). 

We’ve reserved a 17ft van and there’s an array to choose from. But standing in front of “The Spirit of New Mexico”, I’m suddenly taken with a nagging suspicion that it’s not big enough. When we moved into our apartment three years ago, one of these was plenty. But Pareto’s law is clear – your crap expands to fill the space allotted to it. And we’ve had a lot of space.

Sitting in the corner of the lot, is a Monster. A big, slightly-sad-looking Monster with a decal of a Whooping Crane and Delaware State Park on the side. This is the 30 footer. The King of the Road. The Crusher of Small Honda’s. The nice lady at the front desk says she’s been having a hard time renting it out (this and the 200,000 miles on the odometer should have been a clue of the interesting day’s driving ahead, but we were sleep deprived) and we can have it for the same amount as our 17 footer.

Deal.

By mid-afternoon, we’re loving the Monster. Turn’s out Pareto’s law was bang on and we (meaning the two poor buggers we hired to fill the van) have filled the monster to the brim. I’m talking to the brim.  I’ve got to put my back into pushing in skis, plant stands and our Star Wars Monopoly game box to jam the door down. Back in our more youthful, wilder days (i.e. any day past yesterday), we might have celebrated this achievement with a moment of passion inside the van. Now, two double jointed nats couldn’t copulate in there. 

7 hours, $300 in gas and one near-breakdown in Ganonoque later, we putter into Ottawa, tired, smelly and tired.

We’re nearly done. On Saturday, we repeat the process in reverse, placing all we have loved and accumulated in the past 10 years besides each other into a 10×17 storage locker . I’ll spare you the details and simply say in my most sarcastic tone (which I hope comes across in this medium) that it was fun.

We now live off what we can carry. Two day’s R&R here at Suzanne’s and then we fly to Edmonton. A week there to get ready for the canoe trip and then it’s off to Fort Smith for a flight to the Tundra; where our biggest moving-related problem will be the 7km portage around the Thelon Canyon.

That also sounds fun.

You can always live on rice and potatoes.

Old Man Luedecke 

 I had my last day at work today.  I have officially quit my job.  Utterly unemployed.  Incomeless bum.  No meetings, no conference calls, no deadlines, no emails.  Lucky me, right?  Well, yeah, it is pretty damn cool. 

But it still sucks. 

I think it would suck less if I worked with a bunch of jerks, but I don’t. I work worked with ridiculously nice people.  They are smart, helpful, patient (thank God), and just plain sweet.  I had to say goodbye to them today, and that’s the part that sucks. 

We have been saying goodbye to all of our friends bit by bit over the past few weeks.  It is a very depressing thing to do, except that it makes you realize how many people you have in your life that you really love. 

But this is just “goodbye for now,” and the reunions, either back in the big TO or in some other corner of the globe, will be wonderful indeed. 

Well, I’ll meet you half way and call it an “adult video collection”

Jason

This is more of an addendum to the previous post than anything else.  Therein, I originally used the word “porno” where the words “adult video” now reside. This lead to a discussion with my beautiful wife about censorship – namely her asking me to not use the word “porno” in the blog that we’ve told all our friends, relations, co-workers and oddments about.  We compromised because that’s fair and “adult video” is just as funny (in fact, I think I come off classier in the censored version). But it might bear saying to you co-worker and parent types that sometimes we’ll (meaning I’ll) use words on this blog that may shock, horrify, titillate, scandalize and even amuse you. Don’t take them seriously – they’re just words. For example: Poop. Or fornicate. Or Fornipoop. That’s a good one.

I think I just made a new word!

I took out Barry Manilow

Janine

We are down to the short strokes (and apparently, that’s not a dirty reference, because I heard a judge use it).  A lot of the main packing is done – kitchen (we are now down to eating with a spatula and some BBQ tongs), wardrobes (no, I will not tell you how many pairs of underwear I have left out to get me through the week – Janine, by the way, has 2) and basement (many a good spider has lost a home tonight). As the great Gladys Knight said, we have gotten right down to the real nitty gritty.

The nitty gritty is the small stuff – the paring down of the Ipod music collection to make more room for picture storage (bye bye Mr. Manilow), getting rid of those last few grudgingly-admitted fashion errors (bye bye three-button-cuff dress shirt), taking my adult video collection off the computer before it’s shipped to Mom for her use while we’re gone (bye bye Amber, Tiana and Tiffany).  Unfortunately, it’s work, but it doesn’t look as glamorous as getting an entire room into a box. You don’t call your spouse down to see how you just finished compressing the hard drive.  Still, we’re getting there.

Among the more interesting challenges is eating down your food. The menu gets downright fascinating. By the way, does anyone have a good recipe involving beans and a turkey carcass?

Are you sure we don’t need more bubble wrap?

Jason, surrounded by rolls of bubble wrap 

Ten is the number of sleeps until we depart Toronto.  Today we ship our beloved folding canoe “big red” to Alberta, where will will join her in a couple of weeks. 

Here is a map of our Northern “Expotition” (as Pooh would say- Jason has been reading the Tao of Pooh) .  For those of you who have no clue where we’re headed this summer, look north….waaaaaay north! 

Map of the Elk and Thelon Rivers

Where are we now?

Home, Sweet Home

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