Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 3: Why British Columbia is Better Than The Yukon

July 29, 2011 - Today we had breakfast at Toad Creek in beautiful British Columbia. While the trip to the lodge was fraught with frustration; the breakfast helped calm me down quite a bit.

During the early morning trip we passed a wide variety of animal life, which true to Bruce's modus operandi he stopped to take pictures. While I am all for wildlife photos I was trying to sleep from a rough night of driving and I swear that every time the brakes were applied I woke up with a start.  However, he managed to get some amazing shots.  Bruce has more images too, but I'll post them later.

There were bison everywhere!

I don't know how Bruce got them to line up.

On top of that, the gas gage was below empty before we arrived at Toad River. I didn't want to get stuck on the skinny, windy road so when Bruce wanted to take a picture of a caribou I kept driving.

The Toad River Lodge, the only place to get gasoline for hundreds of miles.

Frustration ensued, but we got over it easily enough I think. We've been three days together in the truck so it was bound to happen.

Road Quality and Fauna

Even though the roads through the Canadian Rockies were skinny; they were more well kept than those on Yukon. In the Yukon driving the roads was like being in a small boat in rough seas. Frost heave patches were huge and placed everywhere it seemed.  Additionally, the amount of animals that we saw on the trip was minuscule compared to the first hour within British Columbia. It may have been because of the time of day we traveled.

British Columbia, however, had nice even roads. It was like driving on the roads back home. I love these roads, especially after Yukon.
The amount of animals that Bruce and I saw was astonishing! Keep in mind that Bruce saw more than I did, just because I was trying to sleep. Together, we saw two herds of bison, several bears, a moose, a squirrel (no funny comments now), caribou, and a whole slew of mountain goats; the first day!

Welcome to Fort Nelson!

We didn't stay long in the town of Fort Nelson, located in the lee of the Rocky Mountains. We stayed long enough to drive through on our way to Dawson's Creek.  Fort Nelson was originally started as a fur trading community but is now geared to serve truckers and other people traveling the Alaska Highway. Diesel prices are the same in this community, and the main street is lined with long haul truckers.

Dawson's Creek

Almost seven hours from Fort Nelson is the town of Dawson's Creek. Unfortunately for an hour Bruce decided to gloat over the fact that his stretch of the drive was flat, open, and with out a deadly drop to sharp rocks on either side. I just shut my eyes and took a nap.

I look forward to Dawson's Creek, there is a bed waiting for me there.
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Day 2: Oh Canada...

July 28, 2011 - After leaving Tok, we made our way to the Canadian border. Making sure that we had our important documents; we waited to enter Canada.

The Canadian border; from the Alaska side.

They asked us the basics: where are you going? Where are you from? Do you have any weapons? And so on. I felt sorry for the customs agent because she had to ask the same questions over and over again. However, she did have a very chipper bonjour.

Beaver Creek

We quickly passed into a small border village that served food and sundries to those entering Canada from one of the most popular northern points of entry.  Bruce and I ate at a small restaurant called Buckshot Sally's. While the food was a little greasy, the french fries were awesome.

With very little scenery in the local area we had to make do with what we could find. We did find a painted scene behind the restaurant to pose for pictures.

Humberto "Conehead" at Buckshot Sally's.

My Up Close Experience With A Bear

While driving on the bumpy highway to Haines Junction we saw a bear wandering alongside the highway. When say wandering I really mean extremely close to the truck.
I was so excited to see a wild bear so close that the pictures I took didn't all come out that well. Probably because my hands were shaking with excitement.

Really close.

No, I mean really close.

And by the way, no zoom was used on the camera. If I would have leaned out the window to take the picture I could have almost touched him.

Liters and Kilometers

Its hard to get used to the different units of measurements in Canada. We stopped at Destruction Bay for diesel and spent a couple of minuets trying to figure out the price per gallon.  Additionally, keeping an eye on the kilometer scale on the speedometer is entertaining. Thank goodness the truck has Cruise Control. It makes the task a lot easier.

Oh, and you've got to love the currency. It has a beauty to it that American dollars don't have. My favorite so far has been a $2 coin that threw me for a loop the fist time I received them.

Watson Lake

Our final stop for the night was the small town of Watson's Lake, home of the Sign Forest. Of course, we got there around three in the morning, so needless to say it wasn't that busy. In reality, we were the only ones there; which explains the pictures.

Batman poses at The Sign Forest in Watson Lake.

Humberto wasn't about to be one-upped by Batman.

The Sign Forest in Watson the dark.

If you want to see the attractions without the crowd; just show up early in the morning.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 1: Tok, Alaska

July 27, 2011 - We have left the Valley. Traveling through the mountains was...interesting to say the least. The weight of the trailer slowed us down quite a bit, and I am glad we decided not to take the kitchen sink!

Figuring out a solid driving plan is next on our list. Bruce and I need to make sure that we both don't get burned out. Give us a little bit of time and we will have it all worked out.

The mountains were beautiful on the drive past Palmer. The slowly sinking sun made brilliant shadows on them while I quickly took pictures.

However, the Matanuska River always impresses me. It is gorgeous! It's hard to imagine that much water flowing freely out to the sea.

Wildlife Count

The moose were out and about today, and Bruce should be given credit for spotting five of the critters. Many of them were young, and interestingly enough, they were all on the right side of the highway

Humberto and Batman

This picture is of Humberto, commonly referred to as "Conehead"by Bruce.  The background is a dinner that can be found in Tok, Alaska and is often seen in The Milepost publication.  Very famous, but we didn't have an opportunity to eat there, just enough time to use the restroom.

The two are getting along famously, and more pictures of both Batman  and Humberto will be forthcoming.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 000: Tetris Revisited

July 26, 2011 - So, some followers may have caught on that I've been posting from Day Zero for a couple of days now. Well, it looks like tomorrow I can start writing about a trip because we will be leaving in the morning.

This morning we worked on finalizing the trailer, a relatively simple task involving driving by at twenty-five miles per hour and switching on the trailer brakes. It took a couple of passes to get the trailer set up properly and everything working safely.

After that, it was time to load the trailer. Let me first start off by saying that I will NEVER play a game of Tetris again for as long as I live. Additionally, I have had the theme song from the game playing in my head the whole entire day. We spent hours packing the trailer; trying to get as much things in while keeping some semblance of order. I have to admit that towards the end, I was putting stuff in with little or no semblance of order except for what was going on in my head.

Sadly, I don't know how I ended up packing the majority of the items. Bruce probably used some Jedi Mind Trick or something. All I know is that I know where everything is...he doesn't. Hmmm, maybe I can use that to my advantage.

All joking aside, tomorrow we leave; and while I look forward to the trip with my buddy; I know that it means that at the end of the trip I come back alone, leaving my one of my best friends and my battle buddy in the Lower 48 for a year or so.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 00: Patience and the Nature of Plans

July 25, 2011 - Still haven't left yet; but I really have no worries. We leave when we leave; this is Bruce's trip and I'm tagging along to make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble without me. Besides, it is far better to make sure that everything is working or packed properly instead of breaking down in Canada or realizing you forgot important things in the rush.

I myself am completely packed and ready to go. This is both a blessing and a curse for me. As of now, I am living out of my luggage while I stay at Bruce's house in preparation for the trip. Not too bad; I've had it worse during my time in the military.

The one thing with a flexible schedule in this trip is the things that are not flexible. There's always something that has to be done in route to any vacation, no matter how flexible it is meant to be. As it is now, we are considering cutting time in some areas to spend more time in others. Not really a problem honestly.

One of Bruce's favorite sayings goes similar to this "the best laid plans..." He doesn't really finish the statement because it's one of the givens in life: No matter how well planed something can be, something small can ruin it completely. In order to combat this, Bruce and I use the term "Rigid Flexibility" to describe our way of thinking (perhaps more precise is his way of thinking which he is patiently teaching me).

In a nutshell; plan your events, but know that something is going to change them. Learn to adapt quickly and have the tools to make a new plan on the go. Nothing is written in stone and should be able to be changed if needed.

Our plan is to head out tomorrow. I'll keep an open mind and continue working hard to make sure Bruce is ready to go...what are friends for?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 0: Z Day...

July 24, 2011 - Not really. Our departure date has changed to sometime in the near future. Through no fault of either Bruce or myself, we have decided to bump back the date to the very near future, like, within a day or two. I don't know when it will be, but I know it is imminent. When I find out, you will find out.

By the way, I am aware that there is no such thing as a "day zero", but keeping in theme with this blog it was the best option. I could have changed the dates of the past blogs to show different days in the title, but that would be cheating, wouldn't it?

Today was Bruce's day. He completed a series of major events in order to get ready to go. I, on the otherhand, completed my list of last minute things; printing the maps, finalized my packing, and got a "haircut" (comment on this post and I'll tell you about my haircut experience, definately worth telling for a chuckle).

Tommorow will be spent finishing and detailing the truck, finalization of the packing process, and finishing up any unfinished business. It will be an early start, but thats the only way to finish it all.

Meet Our Traveling Companion

Please welcome the newest addition to our trip. His name is Humberto.

For the record, we did not steal him from somebody's garden, and no, we are not card carrying members of the Gnome Liberation Front (Stop Oppressive Gardening! and Every Gnome Needs A Home! sound like awesome bumper stickers, however).

Humberto will be travelling with Arthur, Bruce and myself to see the United States.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day -1: Packing and the Final Things; Part Two

July 23, 2011 - With all of my packing completed; it's now time to focus on getting the trailer ready. This involves less time than it sounds like. The trick is to get it done quickly and efficiently, otherwise it will need to be done again.

I still have some basic things to complete tomorrow. Haircut is definately on the top of my list. My hair has grown out and started to become uncomfortable. Anytime that I have to brush my hair after a shower means my hair is way too long.

I also need to pickup the printed maps from the printer tomorrow as well. While we have a TomTom, those cool talking maps that tell you to "turn right, 500 yards. Turn right now!" we figured it would be a good idea to have a backup. The only problem is that after a week into the trip, we don't have any time frames. In essence, this means that the maps may become obsolete rather quickly.

Bruce told me today that we may not leave until Tuesday, in which case, my numbered post system doesn't work very well. I'll figure something out, I always do. In that case, I have more time to ensure we are completely packed and ready to go while Bruce finishes up his things.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day -2: Packing and the Final Things, Part One

July 22, 2011 - Everything I need for the trip is packed up; clothes, gadgets, and armor. What a good feeling it is to get my stuff taken care of so I don't have to worry. Now I can focus on the final projects that Bruce and I have to complete and finish up his packing.

I didn't pack a lot of clothes; some pants, shirts, and shorts. I know that I will buy things down there on the trip, its inevitable. The plan is to ship excess clothing back home so I don't have to worry about putting it into a limited number of suitcases when I fly back.

The gadgets are bagged and labled...perhaps it's overkill, but its nice to know what power cord goes with what device quickly. All batteries have been charged, images transfered, and the correct programs loaded onto the computer.

Tomorrow I will head over and help with the packing. I think we will be working into the night and spending the next morning checking our lists before heading out on the road.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Day -3: Quality Time

July 21, 2011 - Today starts the weekend; the days that Bruce and I decided to spend some time with our families. While we still have plenty to do; we both understand that family is more important than anything else to us. We can put off packing up the trailer, but we can't put off quality time.

Taking the weekend to work on our own personal projects is just the start that I needed to get my packing in order. Don't get me wrong; I love helping Bruce in geting ready for the trip. The only problem is that we weren't able to tackle our own packing because we were working on serious projects like the truck and the trailer.

This weekend I will finish all of my packing, a couple of personal projects, and anything else that needs to be done prior to departure. I'm looking forward to being complete and getting on the road. I'm a little anxious.
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Day -4: The Truck

July 20 2011 - I am pleased to report that the major work on the truck is completed. Sure, there are some more things to do with it, but all of them I consider quite minor compared to the grand task that Bruce and I recently completed. Needless to say, Bruce was really happy to complete this major task as well; considering that the majority of his week was spent working on it.

What does that leave on my list of things to do? The simple answer is everything else. The trailer still needs to be packed up, alongside getting the gear ready for Pennsic War, not to mention my own packing. Good thing I am a light packer!

I am looking forward to this trip. Seeing new places, meeting interesting people, and enjoying an experience I have never had before. As "Z-day" gets closer and closer, I find myself getting really excited; much like a kid on Christmas morning.

We still continue to work many hours a day to make sure that when we head out on the highway, we are ready to look for adventure.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day -5: My Technical Side

July 19, 2011 - Today I indulged my technical smirking, please. This morning was spent feverishly updating websites, checking my e-mail, and updating the various devices that will be used for the trip; the MiFi and the TomTom.

I had the whole house to myself with the three cats that wanted more attention than I could possibly give them. The quiet was nice for a little while, but it got weird after a couple of hours. No matter how much I say I love peace and quiet, I can't stand long periods of it for some reason.

In the evening I helped work on the truck. If you read my post from yesterday you would know that I was feeling out of place by only working on small projects. Today, I'm happy to say that I actually felt like part of the group instead of doing my own thing.

The truck required new shocks and needed airbags (not the one that goes "poof", but rather the ones that help relieve the stress on the back suspension). Not a stranger to grime and muck, I dove in to help out. A scraped knuckle and and greasy warpaint on my face was my ultimate reward; and I was glad.
A short nap and back to work again. We have so much to do and obviously so little time.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day -6: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

July 18, 2011 - A good friend of mine once told me: "don't sweat the small stuff, it will get done in time." I found out today that this is true but only because I took the time to complete the "small stuff" myself. That is what I spend most of my time today on...small projects.

Don't get me wrong, the small things are important too. However, sometimes I feel like they don't compare to some of the other projects that Bruce is working on. For example, while he was working on the shocks and sway bars on the truck; I spent time bleaching coolers. The project was on the list and needed to be done, but I felt as though my contribution for the day was very small.

The good news is that starting tomorrow my project list becomes more intense, and dare I say, actual projects of size and magnitude. While Bruce continues working on the truck, I start working on travel plans and finishing up personal projects that need to be done before I leave.

As "Z-day" approaches quickly, I find myself wondering if we will be able to get all of the projects done by our deadline. I think we can do it; it's just a matter of keeping our wits about us and continue to move forward. If I keep on working on the projects in front of me while being flexible with new projects as they pop up, we should make our deadline easily.

As a side note, I have fallen in love with a new app. Awesome Note helps keep track of due dates, project lists, shopping lists, and helps in keeping a journal. If I didn't have this app on my iPod I would be stuck writing lists on small pieces of paper and loosing them in my car. This app has been extremely useful in my daily chores.

Does anybody have any app recommendations for traveling? I would love to hear about them. As always, please comment!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Day -7: Tetris Unleashed

Today started very early. After a long day yesterday the morning came too quickly in my opinion. However, pushed my hair into some semblance of order and grabbed a cup of coffee before making the trek over.

The morning was very productive. Items were checked off my list in rapid succession; and I found much joy in checking off those little boxes in my to-do list. A couple of phone calls later found me with the majority of the list completed.

Afterwards, Bruce and I ran into town to work on other errands. Unfortunately, these tasks too what seemed eternity to complete. While it wasn't an afternoon wasted in retrospect; I was disheartened to see how late it was when we got back to the house.

Afterwards, I attacked the garage. This turned into a giant game of Tetris. Between moving the stage and different boxes back and forth; the entire garage was moved, removed, and moved again. Towards the end of the night, I didn't want to play that game anymore. Luckily, the garage was cleaned enough to create a space for Bruce's truck to be moved in to start the real work tomorrow.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day -8: The Day Before the Big Push

Well, this week is just about over, and that only means one thing; it's time to push to get everything ready for this trip. While it would be a good idea to work tonight on smaller projects, this weekend was quite intense and the many Monster Energy drinks consumed seem to have no real effect.

The list of projects to complete before our travel date is enormous. The list has items that range from making sure our cellphone plans work properly in Canada to installing items on the truck we are taking down with us. Working together we can accomplish the main goal, if we stay on track that is.

While this week will involve a large amount of hours devoted to getting ready; many long days and short nights isn't really on the forefront of my mind. I can't help myself in being very excited. A trip across the country with one of my best friends! How exciting!

I've been messing around with my digital camera to make sure I have an idea of how it works so that I can take a lot of photos of my travels. Additionally, I am making sure that I have everything that I may need for this trip. The master list of personal items expands on a daily basis, but it's better than having to buy something from the store when I know that I have it at home.

Keep reading daily as I count down the days until the big trip and please comment below!
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Hello all! I am a guest blogger named Bruce, a nickname referencing Bruce Wayne. I happen to be traveling with Thomas on this trip and may offer some insights and info from time to time.

Bruce -- Defend and Discover Blog

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