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Home Base (California)
December 72018

Home Base California

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Home Base (Wisconsin)
July 172018

Home Base Wisconsin

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If you don’t know who Lawrence Welk is, you are a cottonheaded ninny muggins.

We ended up getting into the Homestead area about 3 in the morning.  Not really the best time to visit the place, but we didn’t have the time to dick around until the sun came up.

So we meandered around the grounds, checking out any placards or information that we could read on our own.  Kind of amazing this dude came from such humble beginnings.

Welk went from barnyard babes to champagne ladies.  Oooh la la.

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Glendive Montana
July 152018

Glendive was the last stop on our 2018 trip during daylight hours.

On one of our previous WVO road trips, we visited this “Dinosaur” Museum. It’s a creationist museum where they try to merge the Jurassic and Bronze Age eras.  The staff was rather rude, and because we didn’t spout off the usual creationist talking points, they proceeded to follow us around as if we were going to steal their Noah’s Ark Diorama.  News flash: we didn’t.

Everything was shutting down, so the only food we could find was at the Gust Hoff bar.  Not a bad place actually.

Off to Wisconsin!

 

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Lindsay Montana
July 152018

Right around here, a bee flew into the driver’s side window and jammed into the crease between my glasses and my cheek.  It stung me right away.  It was a bit of a ‘crisis,’ because when I was a kid, I was allergic.  And I didn’t have any medicine with me.

Thankfully, my good friend Glenn had some Benedril and I survived.

If we would have been on the show “Ice Road Truckers,” this ‘crisis’ would have been a season finale cliff hanger.

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It was getting hotter and hotter, so we stopped at a tiny general store in Montana.  We were hoping to find a ice-chest full of popsicles or ice cream to devour. As we turned off the van, we heard a tire hissing. This isn’t atypical; most of our trips are tens of thousands of miles long, and a popped tires is to be periodically expected.  However, no matter how much we stroked the tire, we couldn’t find the leak.  For an audible leak, we should be able to find it easily.

After a few minutes and several locals inquiring about us crouching near the van, we found the problem: the rear AC line had a hole rubbed in the line.  SHIT!  If it was loud enough to hear, then it’s a TERRIBLE leak.

We figured at this point, it was too much effort to access this metal line on a roadside repair, so we’ll just have to rough it until we get back to Wisconsin.  Then we could take the tire off, front shock and mounting bushings out of the way, so we could access this framerail-mounted AC line better.

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Giltedge Ghost Town
July 152018

Glenn has a thing for Ghost Towns and Petrified Forests. So we drove into the abyss…

We stopped in at a bar and asked the locals for suggestions on things to see.  Some women suggested we get ass-raped in a nearby ghost town, named Giltedge. Jumping to the opportunity, Glenn insisted we investigate this area. I still don’t know if he genuinely wanted to see the old buildings or if he wanted to felch his haunted cum out his butthole.

Anyway, we drove to where the maps suggested this Ghost Town existed, and we found some abandoned buildings.  IDK.  It was interesting, but not really worth the drive.

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Lewistown is a pleasant place along highway 87.

The downtown looks like something out of an old west movie.

We visited the Central Montana Museum to get out of the heat.  Our AC was busted and it was getting annoying driving around in a 100-degree van in July.

I’m 99% sure I had that exact same map on my wall in my room when I was a kid.

Now that we were stateside, we could get some fresh fruit and vegetables without worrying about the border patrol getting their panties in a bunch.  I was long overdue for some fresh fruit.  I was constipated since the massive meat meals we ate in Tuktoyaktuk.

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Judith Basin Country
July 152018

The Judith Basin Country Sign.

“The Judith Basin occupies a central place in Montana’s history. For centuries, the lush grasses of the region attracted large numbers of buffalo, antelope, and deer. The abundant game, in turn, drew Indian hunting parties to this area. By the late 1870’s, the Indians had been confined to reservations outside the basin and most of the buffalo were gone. Montana cattlemen moved into the area in 1880. By 1885 cattle grazed in this valley. Outfits active in the area were the Judith Cattle Company, the renowned Davis – Houser – Stuart (DHS) Ranch, and Conrad Kohrs and Nick Bielenberg. Artist Charlie Russell, who gained much of his early experience as a cowboy here during the 1880’s, later captured the area’s rich and colorful history in some of his most famous paintings. After the cattlemen came the homesteaders, many of them drawn to this agricultural fertile area by the marketing of the Great Northern and Milwaukee Road Railroads.”

To summarize, the native people were displaced, wealthy people moved in, the indigenous wildlife was exterminated, and let’s stop worrying about what happened prior to 1900.

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Heading south back to the States. Haven’t had a rest since our breakdown in Fort Nelson British Columbia.

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On our southbound trip in 2018, we had a transmission problem that forced us to limp the van back to Fort Nelson for repairs.

We got into Fort Nelson in the middle of the night.  Since it’s not very safe to drive at night on the Alaska Hwy, we found a section of road on the south side of town to park and rest until sunrise.  When the sun risen, we fixed the windshield and took some drone shots of the city from the side of the town. Then we filled up the tank and headed south, hoping to make it to southern Alberta by the next day.

However, about 80 miles south of Fort Nelson, we started getting overdrive surging as we slowed the van down.  Eventually, it started surging all the time.  We turned off the GVOD and hoped to find a spot where we could fix it on the side of the road.  Perhaps the fluid was low or a wire is loose.  We didn’t know.

Gearvender overdrives are finicky items. We needed to find a wayside that would allow us to drive up and out without reverse.  If the GVOD binds, it won’d allow reverse, so we had to wait for the perfect turnout.  Eventually, we found a two-exit turnout on the side of the road.  We parked the van and chocked the wheels, just in case the overdrive slips.

We checked the OD.  Bad news.  The tailshaft seal had been compressed (by the driveshaft pounding the anus of the tailshaft) on the 800-mile washboard trip on the Dempster.  That constant tapping wore the seal and it allowed most of the GVOD oil to leak out.

We drained the OD to assess the existing oil.  It was dirty and low.  We collected every ounce we could and tried to crudely filter it.

I always pack extra gear oil and a spare tailshaft seal, but this is a job that will take a lot of finesse.  That means working on it in a place that isn’t gravel and bear country.  We replaced the filtered oil and used the rest of our synthetic Lucas oil just to get it back to Fort Nelson.  We booked a hotel and got all the extra supplies would could get before the night arrived.

The next morning we replaced the tailshaft seal and glow plug fusable links.  Also, we found the grounding out that occurred on the GP wires, and put new insulation on those wires as well.

Since we couldn’t find Lucas oil (Gearvender INSISTS on Lucas oil, even though if you read their instructions from the 80’s, it just calls for non-slip oil), we found some NAPA-brand oil that claimed to be non-slip.  Or maybe it was limited slip… IDK.  I gotta find that documentation.

We bought all the oil we could find, just in case we ended up having another GVOD problem later on the journey.  In hindsight, we were extremely fortunate we broke down where we did.  If we had broke down just 12 hours earlier, we would have been stuck right in that stretch of the Alaska highway where there were three dozen bears in 50 miles.

 

 

 

57.540570, -122.939406

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On our southbound journey from Tuktoyaktuk, we pulled into Dawson right around 7am.  We were sick of eating microwaved food in our van, so we elected to get some grub from Dawson’s Triple J Hotel.  Not bad food.  I could have used some spicier salsa on my breakfast burrito, but it’s Canada. Their specialty is syrup, not salsa.

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We’ve only driven to the NWT twice. There are only a handful of roads that allow this.

Along the Dempster, there is a monument denoting the border.

It’s basically on a pass in the middle of nowhere.  We didn’t see another soul for hours.

On the way back south, this the sign you see.  There as snow on the ground everywhere, and it was raining.  I suspect there are places around here that the snow never fully melts all year.

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The Dempster is so bumpy, that it literally rattled our bumper off our van.  It rattled the Grade-8 mounting hardware off the top bumper mount, and that allowed the bumper to hang forward.  It allowed more pressure to rest on the opposite frame rail, and that created a torque to rip the frame mount apart.  Due to metal fatigue, that ripped completely through, and the bumper hung down just above the gravel roadway.  We caught it before it got even worse, when we stopped for the ferry on the Dempster.  As we waited for the ferry to arrive, we made a temporary fix to ratchet strap the bumper until we could get it more permanently secured.

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This town is not really set up for tourists yet. There are only a few tour guides and places to stay, and there are no restaurants.  However, there is one entrepreneurial family selling muskox burgers, muffins, and granola bars out of a tent.  IIRC, it’s called “Tyson’s Burgers” and he’s grilling up around lunch time.  A woman in the tent sells the best granola and muffins with local berries she’s collected on the landscape.

We ended up buying something like 20 granola bars from her and plenty of burgers and muffins.  She was confounded on someone could request so much food.  I think their culture has a different consumption standard than what we are used to.

Muskox burgers were tasty. They definitely tasted oilier and different, but still good with cheese and toppings.  I put a bunch of veggies on my burger and after visiting the general store, I probably ended up eating $10 worth of lettuce.  Prices for vegetables up there is EXPENSIVE.

We took the rest of the food from Tyson’s Burgers with us for the trip back to Inuvik and Dawson City.  We fought over those granola bars.

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Tuk WVO Repairs
July 102018

After we made it up to Tuk, and completed our touring, we had to fix things for the return trip.

While we were in Inuvik, the glowplug harness shorted out. We didn’t know why (yet), but we tried to fix the fusable links with fuses.  It didn’t work, but we tried anyway. We didn’t have much to lose.

Also, we had to figure out how to get the beast started in such cold temps without GP’s.  We ended up warming it up with a heat gun and also used some starting fluid.  Until we were able to get some fusable links (the closest town to have any in stock was Whitehorse, a thousand miles south), we used this starting fluid to get it going for the duration of our trip in the NWT and Yukon.

Also, we fixed other issues and fueled up the beast with WVO.  Roger and Winnie wanted us to stay for lunch, but we had to hit the road ASAP.  The ferries in Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic close late in the evening, and considering we have a several-hour drive ahead of us, we had to go.

We’d like to thank Roger and Winnie at Arctic Tour Company in Tuktoyaktuk for a great time, good food, wonderful company, and an exciting tour during our stay.  Glenn and I said that if it had not been for their hospitality, we don’t think the rough drive of the Dempster was worth the trip.  They are the main reason why we look back at this journey as a success.

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When to you get the chance to swim in the Arctic Ocean?

They have a neato monument designated at the end of the road.

Unlike our trip to Prudhoe Bay Alaska, we didn’t need an escort to the Arctic Ocean. Here in Tuk, Canada, they let you drive your POS van right up to the shore line.  Kinda cool.

We scoped out a spot to take a dip. Our tour guide, Roger, told us to make sure to swim on the left side of the peninsula.  Other tourists were dipping their toes in the right side, which was the fresh water bay, not the ocean.  We didn’t drive this far just to dip our toes in the wrong water.  We are GOING SWIMMING.

So… it was 29 degree water.  There was ice in the water that day.  And oddly, it wasn’t as cold at I thought it would be.  We got in for a few moments, and then my legs started stiffening up.  I pulled my arms and legs out of the water to see them purply and discolored.  Glenn remarked, “Dude, we are literally freezing.”  We got out after a minute or two, and rushed to the van to change into dry clothes.

Pretty cool.

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Arctic Ocean
July 102018

We made it!

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Our Arctic Ocean tour culminated with a stop on a distant sandbar.  This would be the furthest north we would be on this journey, and the 2nd furthest north ever on these WVO trips.

Hard to believe, but we arrived on this island about 11pm at night.  Since we are so far north in July, the sun never sets. It felt like it was 4pm on a regular day in Wisconsin.

Roger’s nephew worked on the boat motor while we ventured out on the sandbar.

The ground was littered with smooth rocks, sand, driftwood, and various whale and animal bones.

It was really surreal and special.  And cold.  That day, it was 38 deg F at its hottest point.

At a certain point that day, I pondered why we were wearing the life jackets.  If we went into the drink, we’d die within a few minutes of hypothermia, so we might as well just toss the jackets.  But then Glenn said that they were there so the coast guard could recover our bodies.  LOL.

 

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After visiting the Pingos, we continued our Arctic Tour Company adventure out on the open sea.

Roger’s nephew drove us out along the shoreline of Tuk.  He pointed out a lot of sites along the way.

He spoke about how he goes whale hunting. We were kind of amazed.  Glenn asked him where is he whaling boat.  He said he does all the catching in that 15-foot aluminum boat we were in.  Crazy!  He was really comfortable being that far out to sea.

He took us pretty far out.

Eventually, the town of Tuk disappeared off the horizon.

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Touring Pingos
July 92018

Pingos are rare permafrost land formations that can get over hundreds of feet tall.

The only way to get to the Pingo Canadian Landmark is by boat.  We connected with Roger and Winnie at Arctic Tour Company, and they hooked us up with a tour and place to stay.  We got to stay with him and his wife personally.  It was really nice.

His nephew took us on the tour of the pingos.  Once you dock on the neighboring peninsula, you take some newly constructed walkways to get a great vantage point of the pingos.

Tuk is one of the few places in the world where there are many large scale pingos.  They only grew a few centimeters per year, so these are exceptional.

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Tuktoyaktuk
July 92018

Hooray! We made it up to Tuk!

As we drove in, more buildings appeared.  Nearly all the roads and dwellings are bounded by bogs, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  And ocean.

All the buildings are on stilts.  If they are rested on a foundation in the soil, the heat of the dwelling will melt the permafrost underneath it, and it will sink like quicksand.

The red building (above) is the general store.  It’s filled with some sparse groceries, and some EXPENSIVE fruits and vegetables.  A bunch of grapes was $15 Canadian.

At the end of the peninsula is the access to the Arctic Ocean.

 

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It was getting exciting as we approached the tiny town of Tuk.  There were these bogs all along the path that made for an odd landscape.

Also, as we drove into town, there was a city dump to the left. From what I learned, every tourist to this town used to fly in prior to the completion of the Dempster highway extension.  So now, this is the welcome sign.  Poor city planning I guess.  Something tells me they’ll fix this in the next few years if they are anticipating more driving tourists.

 

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This section of road was finished just six month before, but due to the elements, it has been quite damaged.

It rattled our van to pieces.  At a certain point, the bumper rattled loose and due to metal fatigue, the frame mounts even sheered off.

The tundra is an odd place.  I read that the frozen ground is ice for meters and meters underground. So in the summer, it’s basically a bog with slush on top of icy dirt.

This makes driving very dangerous. For the most part, the ground it flat (thank Zeus) but in some places there is a slope. So in a lot of ways, it’s like driving on thick mud, water, slush, and ice.

On the day we drove in, it was 34 degree F in July. It even snowed and rained.

It was white-knuckle driving the whole way up and whole way back to Inuvik.

Even though it was a gamble to drive up to Tuk, it was worth it.  However, unless the roadway is improved, I probably won’t voluntarily drive this again.

 

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Road Closed to Tuk
July 92018

As we left Inuvik, we were excited to finish the last stretch to the town of Tuktoyaktuk. However, as we drove a few miles up the road, there was a sign claiming the highway was closed. We knew the road was closed for repairs up until a few days ago, so maybe the sign was old.  We didn’t know, so we drove back to Inuvik to ask the authorities on if it was safe.

They called the NWT travel authorities and the RCMP, who both couldn’t confirm if the road was open, but they thought it might be ok. Another person with some knowledge of the area claimed “I think I saw a truck on it the other day.” They were calling the road construction contracting company to see if they approved, and didn’t get a solid answer.

In the end, we elected to give it a shot. We figured we drove over 4000 miles to get here, and it would a shame to give up now. If we brake down, then we’d have to walk back to Inuvik or Tuk (whichever is closer) and hope we don’t get eaten by polar or grizzly bears in the process.

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Inuvik is a fairly large town considering how far north it is. It has a few thousand inhabitants. As you drive into town, there is this interesting domed church on the right, and also, they have a nice visitor center/museum nearby.

When were were preparing for the trip, we learned that the Dempster incurred severe wash-out damage. We were gambling that all the damage would be repaired by the time we got up there in the summer.  Turned out we were cutting it very close.  Here was a crew working south of Inuvik on a section of road that only allowed one-lane of cars to pass.  As you can see, there isn’t a guard rail.

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Just a few dozen miles up the road is the next Dempster Ferry near the town of Tsiigehtchic.

We didn’t get a chance to investigate the town while we waited for the ferry.  There isn’t a road to the town. Instead, the ferry performs a triangular transfer path, stopping the southbound dock, northbound dock, and eventually the city. We didn’t want to drive to town, just to see their 6 buildings and then wait for the 1-hour roundtrip for the ferry to return.

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As we drove further north, the topography starts to level out more, and the trees are more sparse.  In the middle of nowhere, there is a functioning ferry that is open something like 12 hours per day. It’s odd to see fellow humans this far north.

After we crossed the river on the ferry, we stopped in at the tiny town of Fort McPherson. The town has a small population of First Nation people, and we saw lots of kids running around.

After a some time in town, we headed further north to Tsiigehtchic.

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Surprisingly, there were a handful of people camped out at the wayside near the Arctic Circle sign. For the majority of the drive, we didn’t see a single automobile, except for a semi or two.

We are getting to the point now where no tree can survive at this latitude. It’s all basically just scrubby brush and grass.  It’s like being on a green moon.

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Eagle Plains
July 92018

Eagle Plains is the closest thing to the “Old West” that I’ve ever seen. There are no services on the Dempster, except here. They have a lodge and some amenities, and for a hefty fee, you can stay here if you were passing through. It is not a town by any stretch of the imagination; only a few buildings atop a hill.

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The Dempster is hardly a highway. It’s basically a 1- or 2-lane gravel road that goes on for hundreds of miles. The roadway is riddled with pits, potholes, and washboard bumps. The first hundred miles is some amazing scenery. Since this is right around the Arctic Circle, the tundra restricts the growth of the trees and it’s really an alien landscape.

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Dawson, Yukon. 2018
July 82018

Dawson is a fun town. They try to keep the style of the place like the ol’ Klondike gold rush days.

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Ain’t nothing like waiting 5 minutes at a stoplight with no opposite traffic for 250 miles to make your day.

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We have some great friends up in the Yukon that are biofuel advocates. They have helped us on all three of our trips through the Yukon Territory, in 2008, 2013, and 2018. We are very appreciative of their generosity.

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While driving up to Whitehorse, we saw these Mastodon sculptures on the hill.

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Watson Lake 2018
July 72018

Watson Lake has this folk art “forest” of signs from all the people who drove the Alaska Highway.

On the way back down to the States, we found our bumper sticker we put there in 2013.  Pretty cool.

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Time to fill up again. One of the problems with these northern Canada trips the rain storm and no place to fill up under a canopy.  So we have to fill up whenever it’s dry.

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We needed to get to Whitehorse before the end of the day, so we elected to do the standard Laird Hot Springs visit on the way back down. Sadly, we ran into problems on the way down, and didn’t have time to visit the springs. Bummer. It’s a great place to relax on the Alaska Hwy.

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Almost exactly 5 years ago to the day, we took this road (the MacKenzie Hwy) to Fort Laird and Yellowknife.  It was pretty sketchy.  Many places were gravel and mud, and if it had rained harder, I’m sure our two-wheel-drive van wouldn’t have made it.  And we didn’t see a car or truck for the duration of our drive.

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While I slept in the back, Glenn put down some major miles in the dark. As we keep getting further and further north this summer, the nights only last for a few hours at best.  By the time I woke up, Glenn drove for hours and we needed another grease fill up.

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For the fifth or sixth time, we’ve passed the infamous “Alaska Highway” roundabout.  Also, in downtown, you can see the original signpost.

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Everyone knows the start of the Alaska Highway is Dawson Creek.  So seeing this on the horizon is a welcome sign.

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Vegreville Egg
July 62018

Just by sheer chance, we pulled into this town Vegreville on some Polish or Ukrainian heritage festival.  There were lots of people celebrating in town and at this park that has a rotating decorated egg.

We got some poutine and ice cream to eat from some of the local stands in the park.  Overall, pretty eventful for such a small town.

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Vegreville Museum
July 62018

Nice little museum in the middle of nowhere. I was kind of surprised how much there was to do in this town of Vegreville.  The day was hot as hell, so we opened the hood to let the engine and coolant cool off a bit while we spent an afternoon in the museum.

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We’ve visited several of these wonderful Western Expansion Museums over the years, but this year, we had an urgent schedule to make.  Until next time…

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We’ve stayed here before. Not this time though… on the way to the Yukon!

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After catching some Z’s, and Glenn finally washing his body, we decided to reenter our fart-riddled van for the next three days.  But since we were still kinda out of it, we forgot to close the back door.  After a mile of driving down Saskatoon’s main drag, some kid hung out the window of a neighboring car and told us our shit was falling out.  Thank god. We had a few tools in the back and thankfully he told us before they all crashed on the pavement.

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We got in really late. I was able to recharge the AC that night. After all those hours on the road, we felt ok with sleeping in a few hours. After all, we knew we’d be on the road basically until we got to the Yukon, so this would be our last chance to get some real sleep and a shower.

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Regina Saskatchewan
July 52018

It was getting dark, so we booked it through Regina to get to our hotel in Saskatoon. After driving for two days straight with some brief van camping in between and lots of days of loading, we were beat.

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We’ve been doing these trips for years and years, and we’ve finally wised up to combat the incessant onslaught of bugs on the windshield.  We got our own heavy duty sprayer and squeegee.

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Still running behind schedule. Thankfully, the border patrol didn’t detain us for too long, and we were able to get a recommendation from the tourism center that George’s Burgers was a good local place to eat.  It was ok.  Not much of a selection.  But it’s a small town, so beggars can’t be choosers.

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We ran short on time, so we skipped our planned trip to the Missile Silos.  Bummer.

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Heading north, trying to make up some ground for sleeping so much.

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Because we are getting old, we decided to catch a few Z’s in northern Minnesota before moving on to the border. What started as a simple hour catnap, ended up being hours long until the sun rose. Like I said, we are getting old.

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Tried running thicker oil this trip, and only a few hours from home, we had to unclog and clean the pre-filter on the veg pump.  Minor delay, and back on the road in an hour.

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After driving throughout the night and staying up loading the van the night before, we needed to get some decent rest.  The next few days of our trip would be heading up to Flin Flon and Fort McMurray, so it would be a while before we got a real bed and shower.  So we stayed at the Super 8 on the west side of Winnipeg, because our plan was to get some sleep and get an early start the next day heading north west.

However, after we unloaded our gear, I noticed the van was sitting odd. The suspension was old, and it appeared our latest drive did take a toll on it.  The coils seemed bottomed out and we needed a solution.

After brainstorming for a bit, Glenn thought of a brilliant solution. Instead of waiting a week for a set of new coil springs, he suggested we install a solid rubber hockey puck between the i-beam and coil. Since the next day was Canada Day, we knew all the stores would be closed. So we rushed off to the nearest general store and found hockey pucks. Good thing we were in Canada; they had a VAST selection of pucks.

Anyway, we burned the middle of Canada Day pulling off the i-beams and coils, and installing hockey puck spacers. But once it was done, it worked beautifully. We used them for the duration of the entire 2017 WVO roadtrip, and they didn’t even show any damage or wear when we replaced the coils back in Wisconsin.

Direct link to more details.

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Dubuque Iowa
July 152017

We drove down to Iowa to pick up the Frankenvan (a Chrysler minivan with a TDI engine in it.)

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Taliesin East
July 152017

The Wisconsin River, north of Taliesin.

Like every good Frank Lloyd Wright fan should always do, they should stop by the FLW Visitors Center to clog their toilet. Usually it takes us tagteaming a bowl to get ‘er done, but this time Glenn went in and singlehandedly destroyed that bathroom.

After that, we proceeded to the Taliesin grounds.  By the time we got to the entrance, the guards wouldn’t let us in. They wanted Glenn to pay for the damage he caused.  I pleaded with the guards that Glenn has no money, but they didn’t care.  The janitor chimed in and said he had never seen such a smelly pile of feces and the toilet was permanently damaged.

We headed back to the van.  I told him I could lend him the money, but once he got behind the wheel of the Passat, he just drove off.  He stuck his head out the window and yelled, “Fuck you Franklyn Wright! See ya later, chumps!”

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Glenn couldn’t resist.

We were driving across Minnesota when we stumbled upon this rootbeer stand.  Glenn nearly creamed his jeans.  He insisted we pull over and get some food.  I skeptically asked, “Seriously, are we doing this,” because we had literally just eaten a huge $5 Chinese buffet (also Glenn’s idea) only an hour before that.

He was giddy.  “Let’s get some food,” he bellowed.

Overall, the food was pretty decent and the root beer was spot on.  However, from then on, I told Glenn that we need to compromise sometimes.  He exclaimed, “FUCK that. I’m eating.”  As we pulled out of the driveway, he squeezed out the van door and ran to order a second hamburger “for the road,” as he called it.  It was sickening, seeing his gelatinous belly and sweaty fingers polish off that burger by the time we hit the St Croix.  For the duration of the drive to central Wisconsin, he begged me to pull over at various A&W’s and other restaurants to satisfy his gluttonous desires.

Glenn, if you are reading this, please visit.

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Check out this historical trading post and First Nation museum.

Decades ago, this building stood to enable trading between the native tribes and others passing through.  It now is part of a bigger complex, including a massive First Nation museum.  Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the interior of the native museum.  Maybe I was sick of taking photos after driving for 18 days straight… But maybe they had a rule about outside photography.  I can’t recall.

However, the museum had some elaborate rooms depicting all the aspects of northern Minnesota native indian lifestyles.  The harvesting of rice was really interesting.  They also had experts come in and explain the details.  Like they would submerge their canoes underwater when they migrated to different parts of the country.

Also, Lac Mills had this spiffy fish statue.  I caught a fish this big once, but I let it go.

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Brainard Minnesota
July 112017

We stopped at the Paul Bunyan “Land” to see what all the fuss was about.  It was kind of like Knotts Berry Farm minus all the fun.  If you have young kids, they’d be pretty excited, but for two 29-ish-year-old guys… it was a hard pass.

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Bemindji Minnesota
July 112017

We drove through the night, only to encounter massive fog all through Minnesota.

This is deer country, so fog + deer usually means terribly slow driving.  The last thing we needed on the last day of our 2017 WVO Road Trip was a deer accident.

We pulled into Bemindji in the morning while it was drizzling out.  Of course we had to visit the infamous Paul Bunyon and Blue Ox statues.

This place had a museum showcasing the local oddities and specialties.  Basically, if you like logjams and axes, this place would totally lumberjack you off.

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Before sunset, we passed through Rugby, North Dakota. This little town holds the title of the literal geographic center of the entire continent.

Sort of weird, but there is only three flags, for Canada, Mexico and the USA.  But I always thought Greenland, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean were technically all nations residing under the aegis of “North America.”  Maybe if they include the geography of those nations, it puts the “center” somewhere in southern Canada, and this little town will lose their title.  LOL.  Something to chew on.

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There is a lot to see in Minot, North Dakota.

We cruised into town right around dinner time.  Things were shutting down (this is North Dakota, so places don’t really stay open passed 6pm), so rushed to downtown and the visitor’s center for suggestions.

Minot has a really expansive Scandinavian museum.  The inside and gift shop were closing, so we got a chance to chat with the staff before they headed home for the night.

Naturally, Glenn never misses an opportunity to have his genitals groped by a trollish looking geriatric.

They shut the place down, so we meandered the Scandinavian Heritage Museum grounds.

They have a legit old wood temple from the old country.  Pretty astonishing.

Before the staff left, we asked them for something to eat that is different than anywhere else in the world.  They said to go to Ebeneezer’s and eat some sort of Frog Burger.  Intrigued, we tracked down the bar and grill, and ordered a few things.  Turns out the frog burger wasn’t made out of actual frogs.  Bummer.

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This National Parks run fort is a great glimpse of the past.

Along our path, we noticed a fort on the horizon.  We pulled off and it was a great place to stretch our legs and fill up the tank.  Little did we know, it was much more expansive and comprehensive than expected.

The staff was really friendly.  They had some people in character, so we got to ask a lot of questions and see them working on their stuff.  They let you walk along the perimeter canopy to oversee the landscape.  On the horizon, there was a train passing through.

The fort was situated on the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.  So I assume Louis and Clark passed through this area before the inception of the fort.  A lot of history at these two rivers.

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Sleeping Buffalo Rock
July 102017

“Montana’s native people revere this boulder that once perched high atop a wind-swept ridge overlooking the Cree Crossing on the Milk River. The ancient, weather-worn effigy resembled the leader of a herd of reclining buffalo in an outcrop of gray granite. Ancient markings define its horn, eyes, backbone and ribs. Since late prehistoric times, native peoples of the Northern Plains have honored the Sleeping Buffalo’s spiritual power.  Oral traditions passed down among the Cree, Chippewa, Sioux, Assiniboine and Gros Ventre as well as the more distant Blackfeet, Crow and Norther Cheyenne tell how the ‘herd’ fooled buffalo-hunting parties.  While each tribe has its own culture and beliefs, all Montana tribes share worldviews.  A Chippewa-Cree elder explained, ‘These rocks are sacred, just like our old people.’ Locals claim the Sleeping Buffalo, relocated to Malta’s City Park in 1932, was restless, changing positions and bellowing in the night.  The Sleeping Buffalo found this final resting place in 1967 where the smaller ‘Medicine Rock,’ also collected near Cree Crossing, rejoined it in 1987.  These timeless objects continue to figure prominently in traditional ceremonies, linking the present with the past when the power of the prairie was the buffalo.”

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Malta Montana Repairs
July 102017

We finally made it back to the States!

Thankfully, the border agent didn’t make us endure a long investigation on when we crossed the border.  He recognized we were having trouble (blown tires, vac pump issues, weak brakes, oil pressure) and gave us some advice.  He suggested we go to Malta Montana and get some spare tires there.

This shop was able to get us a spare used tire same day. That was crucial because we weren’t about to hang out in remote Montana waiting for a low-quality spare tire.

Also, another shop was able to charge our AC after we found that the low-side nozzle was leaking.  Glenn and I replaced the valve, and then went to the shop.  The guy was really friendly and helped us out right away, since we were traveling through.

At the end of the day, we stopped at the nearby Great Plains Dinosaur Museum which was small, but good.

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Just our luck, we got a second flat tire.

Driving south, we were hoping to make the border in the U.S. middle of the night. Everything was going according to plan.

On a completely standard road, the spare tire exploded.  It even damaged my rear fender, bending the metal up into the wheel well.  Great.  Just my luck.

We put the two shredded tires on the top of the van and hoped we don’t have another flat.  We don’t have any more spares, and we have over 1500 miles to go.

As the sun set on the Saskatchewan horizon, we approached the international border crossing.  The people at the North Battleford Western Expansion Museum assured us that our rural crossing would be open after 8pm.  As we drove up, we could tell that was totally wrong.  Since we had no where else to go, we parked the van at the empty station and slept in the vehicle until the agent arrived.

At 8am, the American crossing opened, and the guy was thankfully really decent about things.  We’ve crossed back into the U.S. in the passed and gotten hassled by pissy agents.  But the guy kind of took pity on us, noticing our shredded tires on the top of the van, listening to our stories about the oil pressure failing and the vacuum pump going to hell, and having gotten shitty advice on when the border was open, forcing us to sleep on the side of the road.  He told us to head to Malta for some decent American Ford service.

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Swift Current
July 92017

We had a swift visit to Swift Current Saskatchewan.

After we drove around the city (it was too late in the day to find a museum or site to see), we stopped off at the Boston Pizza to get some grub.  The veg pump was running a bit light, so we elected to change out the veg filter while waiting for our food to be prepared.

Overall, the new filter didn’t really help much.  The veg pump was weakening.  It wasn’t the worst, it just proved to not supply enough grease to the IP on steep inclines or heavy loads.  We had to slow down if we wanted to get over the passes, so it wasn’t until I got to Los Angeles before I could install a good 11.5psi Duralift E-pump to replace the 4-7psi one.

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Hotel prices in Canada have dramatically increased over the last decade. Now you can’t find a decent hotel under a hundred bucks. Usually they exceed $150.  Our hotel in North Battleford was really …. special.  They had some interesting amenities, like hot soup for dinner and a burned out double-decker bus on the grounds.  Spiffy.

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What a terrible time to get a flat.

Heading back to North Battleford after visiting the Crooked Bush, we were enjoying the sunset when the rear driver’s side tire blew.

The funny thing was, this trip was by far our least dangerous journey. On all of our other WVO road trips, we ended up driving on crazy remote gravel and slate roadways into the bush, and the authorities always recommend bringing two extra full-size spares.  To play it safe, we usually bring three spares.  But since we knew this trip to Fort McMurray would result in some of the safest and paved roads in the history of our WVO trips, I thought two spares would be enough.

Well, not that this tire blew up, we only had one spare left on the upcoming 2000 miles of driving.  We thought that should be good, for now…

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Crooked Bush
July 82017

A mutant grove of trees makes for a unique WVO roadtrip site.

A few dozen miles east of North Battleford in the heart of the Saskatchewan farmlands, there is a small local treasure.  It’s called the Crooked Bush and we learned about it from an online conversation with a random person on the internet.

In my conversation, I was hoping the “Crooked Bush” was some sort of euphemism for something overtly sexual.  Or maybe the long-lost mutant relative of George W Bush.  But the more I researched it, the more I learned that it would be a good diversion on the trek.

It truly is an odd place.  Since it’s such a remote place, I suspect not a lot of people make it up here.  If you do happen to be in the area, can’t hurt to stop in.

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In the middle of Saskatchewan, which is landlocked by the way, there is a lighthouse.  Don’t even ask my why.

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We visited a museum and ice cream stand while passing through.

We drove through the night from Fort McMurray and needed a place to stretch our legs.  Glaslyn’s museum was open early and we got a chance to roam their grounds.

They have an old-timey water tower that you can enter on a tour.

Also, like most towns across Canada, they have a clusterfuck of stuff from the last hundred years of the town.

We met some old guys that were back in town for their 50th high school reunion.  They remarked on a lot of the ancient equipment and helped us figure out what a lot of the stuff was designed to do.

 

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The “Giants of Mining” is a park with the biggest mining shit I’ve every seen.

At the end of the road north of Fort McMurray, there is a turn-around loop.  Only people working for the mining operations can go further.  The rest of us have to head back to town.

Inside that massive loop, they have a special lot reserved for these massive mining machines.  It’s extremely impressive.

On the northern horizon, you can see the mining and refining operations.  The stacks were quite tall.

On one of the Oil Sands Discovery Center tours, we learned that most of the oil sands mining operations have discontinued the use of these huge diggers in favor of a more agile and mobile dump-truck method.  I guess it takes too much money and time to set up these massive diggers.

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Fort McMurray was the northernmost city of the 2017 WVO Road Trip

We had been driving for days, and we needed to find a hotel asap. We cruised the town for a bit to find a good hotel and get some more road trip supplies.

About half the town burned down in last year’s fires. So the GPS was hit or miss.  Regardless, we found a place to stay, and the place was suffuse with contractors and laborers.  Most were fascinated with the Veggie Van.  Since a lot of them had been cooped up in Fort McMurray for too long, they were really chatty.

The next day, we visited the Oil Sands Discovery Center Museum.  Pretty cool stuff.

It had an interior museum and also a huge lot with all sorts of mining machines scattered all over the place.

Overall, the Discovery Center was worth the visit.

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In 2016, Fort McMurray was the setting of massive wild fires.

As we got closer and closer to the town, we saw acres and acres of burn areas.  It was really disconcerting. Originally, we had planned on going to Fort McMurray in 2016, but due to the cracked block issue on the IDI engine, we had to cut the WVO trip short at Churchill Manitoba.

 

After seeing the aftermath of the devastation, we were really lucky things turned out the way they did.

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Four Wing Gateway Park.

 

 

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Cold Lake Museum
July 62017

We got into Cold Lake Alberta really late and parked at the Walmart to catch some Z’s.

The next morning, we checked out the Cold Lake Museum(s).

That place was expansive. It was an endless labyrinth.

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Meadow Lake
July 52017

The bugs up here are horrendous. We cleaned that windshield every 100 miles.

We passed through Meadow Lake Saskatchewan. Nice little town.

As we kept going northwest, we could see the northern lights on the horizon. Pretty cool.  I’ve been living in Los Angeles too long… Never get to see that anymore.

We pushed on to Cold Lake.  We wanted to get there to crash out for a few hours before the next big drive.

 

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The NCMF is a hippy folk music festival in northern Saskatchewan.

We found a flyer for the festival in Big River. In order to get to Ness Creek, we had to drive more mud and gravel roads in the middle of nowhere.

The area was really pretty. Lots of trees and fresh air.

Eventually, we arrived.  I expected the “festival” to be flooded with people. Instead, it had maybe about a hundred or so in the main music hall, while all their kids had to fend for themselves against the Canadian monster mosquitoes.

Overall, the music truly was good.  And driving a veggie van to the hippy festival gave us instant street cred, however, I didn’t really feel like a part of the vibe.

We hung out for an hour or so, and then meandered the grounds.

There were several stands throughout the campus, and they had a lot of art stuff going on.  It was getting dark, so we decided to keep on moving toward Cold Lake.

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The day was slipping away from us, so we pulled into the tiny town of Big River.

Our GPS suggested we check out the “Big River Memorial Museum,” but it was clearly abandoned.

Near the “downtown,” there is a nice boat landing and beach to hang out.  Since it’s now a few days from the Canada Day holiday, most people have left town to go back to work.

While we were here shitting, we saw a sign talking about a folk music festival in the restroom.  That particular festival was literally starting in an hour.  We talked to one of the locals about the festival and asked for directions.  They said the “Ness Creek Music Festival” is pretty good, and if we had nothing to do, we should check it out.

Since it’s extremely rare to find things to do on these trips after 5pm, we jumped at the opportunity.  Well, I jumped.  Glenn sounded skeptical that it would be some hippy or hipster bullshit.  Once we got there, he was proven right.  Regardless, the music was really good.

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After enduring some mechanical issues, we limped the van to Prince Albert.

We got into town really late, but just in time to get a bite to eat at Boston Pizza.

We ate our food and got back in the van to go our hotel room.  Glenn drove from La Ronge to Prince Albert, and this was the first time I drove the van since the arduous trek across Highway 165. I immediately noticed the brakes were really soggy. I asked Glenn if he knew the brakes were busted.  He said they started going limp a few hundred kilometers ago.  WOW!  We limped it to the hotel and knew right away the problem: Vacuum pump.

The next day, we had many fixes necessary.  We added a mechanical oil pressure gauge, we replaced the IDI vacuum pump, and we checked everything over.

We had to spend an extra day in Prince Albert because our Vacuum Pump needed to be ordered from Edmonton.  While we were there, we strolled around town and visited the local museum.

It doesn’t take long to walk around this town.  Everything is relatively close together.

Once we finished all the repairs, we took off westward to make up some time.  We heard some rattling on the roof rack, where we keep our spare scooters in case we break down too far from civilization to walk.

Turns out on one of the nights we stayed in Prince Albert, some dumbshit cut all our ratchet straps in order to try and steal our scoots.  But the numbskull didn’t realize we had a thick bicycle lock on the scooters, so cutting our straps is just a waste of time.  Wherever you are dumb-dumb, I hope you are not doing well.

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We got to La Ronge hoping to find an autoparts store, however, none were open for business.  That left us with a hard decision. We were planning on driving further north to see some of the various mining and First Nation towns, but with the rain and our oil pressure issues, we decided to hang out for a while and head south to Prince Albert.  Prince Albert is a major town, and would have a lot more opportunities for us to repair the van.

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In order to go from Flin Flon to La Ronge in a reasonable amount of time, we decided to gamble and take SK Highway 165. What we didn’t know, was this road was mostly mud, not gravel. Also, it had just rained. So, we spent the majority of our drive hoping we don’t get stuck or slide into the ditch.  There was only one other truck on the road coming from the other direction when we drove it.

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We were driving up to La Ronge, when our oil pressure gauge started acting funny.

We pulled over to check the fluid.  There was some oil in the beast, so we figured it was the gauge.  However, we never really could tell, so we limped it up to La Ronge in the hopes to make it to the NAPA before they closed.

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The town of Creighton and the Saskatchewan border is just a mile west of Flin Flon.

Having been enamored with the splendor of Flin Flon, we pulled over to gyrate in Creighton.

Back to a more serious note, we continued on the highway, to find some more very interesting landscapes on the central Canadian tundra.

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Flin Flon Manitoba
July 32017

Flin Flon is one of the northernmost towns in Manitoba.

As you drive in, there is a museum about the history of Flin Flon.

Overall, it was a nice place to stretch our legs. All these Canadian towns have museums where they collect all the stuff from their 54-year history and call it historical.

Apparently Flin Flon’s biggest tourist attraction is a staircase. It’s called the “Hundred Stairs” or something. When you get there, you are completely underwhelmed, and you give it the ol’ “Hundred Yard Stare,” hence the name “Hundred Stairs.”

We spent the rest of the day getting lunch at some underwhelming sandwich restaurant and looking for a pair of pants.  Everything was expensive.

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As we drove further north, the trees started getting small, and the rock outcroppings became more prevalent.

It was a pristine wilderness, but lots of douchebags took the liberty to spray paint their lame names and graduation years on the rocks. If people want to leave their presence on the landscape, they should make an inukshuk.

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The Pas, Manitoba
July 32017

After driving through the night, we found a park in The Pas for some gravel camping.

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Clear Lake Manitoba
July 22017

Wasagaming (in the Riding Mountain National Park) is a resort town on Clear Lake in central Manitoba.

As we pulled in, we found hundreds of Manitoba residents enjoying their Canada Day holiday.

But the main reason why we are here, is because Tubby Charles Manson wanted to have his BeaverTails.

Some backstory: During our suspension fixes in Winnipeg the day before, we took a few breaks and watched all the national news coverage for Canada Day. Apparently out east, there is this franchise that sells flatbread with sugary crap on it. The news was obsessed with BeaverTails, so of course Glenn had to beg for one. I googled the locations and the closest one to Winnipeg was at Clear Lake, which coincidentally was directly on our path.

So, we pulled over here to see what all the fuss was about. Overall, it wasn’t bad, if you don’t need any protein in your diet.

We took our BeaverTails to the marina and watched all the Canadians have summer fun.

Apparently “summer fun” also included “Swimmer’s Itch.” Where I come from, that’s called Chlamydia.

One other thing, this town has the largest log cabin theater in 17,000 miles or something. They let us in for a moment to see the inside.  Pretty neato. Probably is much more interesting in the winter, but still, kinda interesting.

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Neepawa Racist Sign
July 22017

We were heading west on the THC, and much to our surprise, someone had vandalized the “Welcome to Neepawa” sign. They apparently are not a fan of Asians or something. Also, they had a hard time spelling the word “of” which we all know is a tough word to handle.

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We have a tendency to plan our WVO road trips to coincide with Canada Day.

Canadians go all out for Canada Day. Which usually means lots of drinking. And this year (2017) was special because it was the 150th anniversary of their confederation. Coincidentally, we learned from our visit to Charlottetown that basically the confederation was a drunken party where the western province representatives crashed.  They all got drunk and made a country. So it’s only apt that the contemporary Canadians follow their founding fathers.

There was a mediocre fireworks show, considering this was supposed to be a major metropolis.  There was a big free concert, which for us Americans is pretty unique.

We took the bus to downtown, but they stopped running (stupidly) for the trip back after the fireworks and concert. So we walked about five miles back to our hotel.  On the way, we saw some of the sites of Winnipeg.  As long as you avoid the meth- and crackheads, it’s a pretty nice walk.

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Canada has the best tourism centers in the world.

Every town has a tourist center, and every provincial and international boundary has a center.  And, all these centers have free maps, advice, and booklets on what to do in the area.  Once we were crossing into the Northwest Territories on the way to Yellowknife in 2013, and the border is literally as far from anything as you can imagine. But every border crossing has a center, and this remote location even had a center.

Back to this WVO road trip… We crossed the border, and got some advice on some good hotels and restaurants for our trip up to Winnipeg.  And this is the farmland between the border and the Peg.

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The KVLY-TV mast is the fourth tallest structure in the world, and the former world record holder.

It’s pretty impressive. The beast is so tall, it disappears into the clouds. On the day we visited it, we honestly couldn’t tell where it ended.

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Thanks to Renee for letting us stay.

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One of the most unique museums in the Midwest is the PWG.

This artist makes sculptures and landscapes completely out of flakes of petrified wood.

They also have polished cuts of wood and other historical items of significance.

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NYC – Battery Park

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