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Home Base (California)
October 12019

WVO Travel & Awareness is run by Nick Pisca & Glenn Wienke. Based in California & Wisconsin, we use old French Fry oil in our cars to travel across the continent.  Read More…

 

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Home Base (Wisconsin)
September 292019

Home Base Wisconsin

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Sacramento California
August 242019

The sun was setting, not just on this day of roadtripping, but on the trip back to Los Angeles.

We passed through Sacramento around dusk and tried our best to use our Schwarzenegger accents to mispronounce “Sacreementoe” and “Grey Davis” and “the buuurocrats.”

On the route back to L.A.

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Weed California
August 242019

As you all know well, Glenn is a huge Poth Heed.  He constantly rambles on about BC Bud and Humboldt County.  So when we drove through the California town of “Weed,” he went into convulsions.

I’ve never seen him film more B-Roll in my entire life.

There was a section of the prairie where there were no Weed signs.

And then, like the burning bush and Lot’s wife, a Weed sign stood tall and erect before us.

To further express the divine intervention bestowed upon us, God blessed us with the “Glenn” County.

If that ain’t divine intervention, I don’t know what is.

 

 

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Crossing into California again.

Further down the interstate, you can see Mt Shasta in the distance.

 

 

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Filled up the grease here in southern Oregon.  It was getting hot.  It’s practically a desert down here.

Glenn was too scared to fire up the AC because he noticed his harmonic balancer was hanging on by a thread.  He figured the pump would put bust what remained of the v-belt setup off.  So we had to schlub it back to LA.

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Once we get back to Los Angeles, I’m going back to vegetarianism.  Since we are just going to drive through the evening and night to L.A., this afternoon might be the last meal I get that is meat.  And if I’m going to eat meat for the last time, I’m going to eat freaking BBQ.

We popped up the Google Maps and found the nearest BBQ south of Eugene, and some craphole place in Creswell appeared.  We drove there around lunch time, and the bartender said they didn’t have any food ready for a few hours.  She then suggested we wait, and I said, “Fuck that.  I want BBQ now.”

That’s how we found Oregon Snack Shack Food Truck nearby.  Now they know how to serve lunch.  Unlike their competitors.

Honestly, how do people stay in business when they don’t serve lunch.  Oregon is a weird state.    We got a bunch of BBQ stuff and pigged out on ribs, pulled pork and whatnot.

The food truck was parked near an RV lot on the entry of Creswell.

After dinking around long enough and getting some supplies at the convenience store across from the RV park, we got back on the road to find people flipping their cars all fast-and-furious-like.

 

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Normally, we don’t spend a lot of time at junkyards on our roadtrips.  We’ve had bad luck.  Like the time in 2009 when we were ASSURED that the used Passat fender would be ready to hang, but the junkyard in Grand Rapids totally lied.  Also, we tend to not have any time to dink around pulling parts.

But this trip was different.  We smoked a deer in Saskatchewan and it blew up our whole front end.  We repaired it with duct tape and it looks pretty good, but if we could find a replacement bumper cover at a junkyard, that would be amazing.  While at the hotel in Moose Jaw, Glenn found an amazing thing.  He found a 1998 Chrysler T&C that is gold colored and full of usable parts.  AND, it was on our path back to L.A.  What a find!

He reserved not only the bumper cover, but also the broken fog light, inner fender, wiring harness, and other parts as well.  They gave him a decent price, and they parked the junked van right in front for us.  In fact, this van was 1000x better condition than Glenn’s own van.  No rust or nothing.  Too bad the yard already shredded the title, otherwise it would be totally worth towing back to Wisconsin.

We got to the junkyard, and there was a guard dog driving around the yard.  These Oregon dogs are really advanced.

We got all the parts needed, and was able to situate them in the backseat of the van, so we didn’t have to move any grease or cubes.  Since we were planning on driving the rest of the way all the way to Los Angeles that day, we didn’t need the rear bench seat anymore.

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We had to abort the remaining few hundred miles of the 101 Highway because we hit a deer in Saskatchewan.  When we assessed the damage, Glenn found a junkyard in Eugene Oregon that had a gold Chrysler minivan with all our missing or damaged parts.  That means we had to divert from our plan to drive the whole coast down to the point where we left off in 2008.

We took Hwy 26 from the Oregon coast to Portland.

We don’t like coming back to Portlandia.  It’s weird.  And some douche in 2008 stiffed us on some grease, and we now hold it against all Portlanders.

Even worse, we ended up hitting construction.  Typical Oregon.

How big is this town?  We just want to get the heck out of dodge.  ASAP.

Only a few more miles to Eugene.

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Passing through Warrenton…

And Seaside.  That would conclude our drive down Hwy 101.  Due to the deer damage and our junkyard being in Eugene, we decided to forgo the rest of the trip down the coast because we drove most of the 101 down all of California in 2008.

Also, it was getting dark.  Seemed kind of odd to drive the coast when we couldn’t see the coast.

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So you want text on everything?  Well, tough.  This one is just pictures.

 

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Raymond must have some out-of-work welder that has lots of leftover plate steel, cuz he made a gazillion cut outs of various animals and scattered the sculptures across town.

After a few miles, we visited the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

Not much to say.  We were hammering down to get to Eugene Oregon, so that we could get to a junkyard that saved us a gold-colored bumper cover.

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Humptulips
August 232019

Holy crap.  We got to visit Humptulips.  I’m no marketing genius, but I’d seriously consider renaming your city, Humptulips.  Maybe Bangroses, or Slamcarnations, or Poundflowers.

While passing through and giggling the whole time, we saw some super sketch-looking dude hitchhiking.  He wanted a ride.  He seriously looked like he was going to murder us with his gaze, so there was no way we’d entertain picking him up.  Especially in Humptulips.  The last thing we needed was to have our corpses get humptulipped.

This was all occurring in the wake of a massive Canadian manhunt looking for some hitchhiker murderers, so we had to play it safe.

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Forks Washington
August 232019

After blowing most our day at Cape Alava and the preceding and subsequent hikes, we got a late start on the drive back down Highway 101.  We stopped in Forks to get some supplies.

The town is surrounded by forests.

Also, as you progress south on 101, you get glimpses of the coastline.  Hwy 101 is pretty cool.

More sightings of the shore.

On to Eugene.

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Cape Alava
August 232019

On of the major places we needed to visit on the 2019 WVO Roadtrip was Cape Alava.  We are really into driving to geographical oddities and extremum places, and Cape Alava is the westernmost point of the contiguous United States.  We had already visited the northernmost points (accessible by vehicle) in the contiguous and entire U.S., so why not the west as well.

The trail to the cape started at the Ozette Ranger Station in Olympic National Park.

Even though the place seems pretty empty, there were lots of vehicles in the lot.  A whole boy scout troop was packing up for a long hike.  It seemed like everyone had huge backpacks and gear for days.

The trail is only three miles long.  Glenn and I didn’t even pack a spare bottle of water.  Fuck this crap about packing all sorts of hiking gear.  If you can’t hike a mere six mile round trip without packing half your house, then you are totally out of shape.

At the start of the trail, there are placards.  Thank goodness.  Glenn has a diabetic need for placards, otherwise he gets grouchy.

More of the tall vermin on the trail.  They are everywhere.  I hope they smell the blood and guts that is stuck on the inside of the fender and it drives fear into the hearts of all deer.

Heading out on the “Coastal Trails.”

The moisture up here is crazy.  Seems like any wood that isn’t treated instantly turns into mold or fungus.

The trail was pretty outstanding.  We passed several people resting on the side of the trail.  Must have been too tough for them.

I was expecting a sasquatch to rape us.

We brought our jackets just in case it rained.  It was overcast, and probably could’ve rained at any moment.  But thankfully, as we reached further towards the coast, the clouds thinned.

Avery mile or so, a clearing would emerge.  The grasses were almost five feet tall.  Glenn kept a rapid pace so the mountain lions couldn’t attack us.

The hike wasn’t too bad.  The temp was great, but the moisture made it a bit humid.  Overall, three miles only took us about 45 minutes.

At the shore.  This is wild.

There are islands all over the coast.  Turns out, campgrounds pepper the coastline and islands.  That’s why everyone had so much gear.  I suspect they trek out on the receded waterline when the tide is low, and stay there until the high tide disappears.

The shore is covered in alien plant and wildlife.  It’s all red and maroon. Really odd.

We found a dead seal.  The whole time, we heard seals barking in the distance.  They must be nearer to the deeper water.

As with our tradition, we threw rocks out in the ocean.  We made sure to interrupt a romantic couple who was trying to enjoy the scenery.  We even ended up scaring some loon or crane that had majestically stood on the coast.

I threw my back out sleeping on that minivan chair in Port Hardy, so it was hard to throw rocks.  Even after I ventured out into the dangerous rocks to get a 50 yard headstart, Glenn somehow cheated and outthrew my rocks from the beach.

 

Another thing checked off the bucket list.

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Olympic National Park
August 232019

Heading down to Ozette and down the Hwy 101, we visited part of the western end of Olympic National Park.

Almost smoked another deer on this trip.   Such pests.

 

 

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While on the ferry from Victoria to Washington, I got a call from my dad about the trip.  He inquired on where we planned to stay, since we hadn’t slept well since Cache Creek.  I told him I reserved one of the few hotels in the northwest part of Washington state, the Bay Motel.

We arrived around 11pm and it looked pretty closed.  We pounded on the door until a woman emerged from the side room of the lobby.  She said the owner was sleeping, but I suspect he was getting his freak on and didn’t want to put on a pair of pants.  We got a room on the side of the complex.

It wasn’t the best hotel, but not the worst.  It was definitely not a four-star like the reviews claimed.   It was pretty average, and I would give them a better review if it wasn’t for the fact that the room wasn’t clean.  I don’t think it had been vacuumed in a month, and with the ocean moisture constantly bathing the campus with dampness, it had a bit of a moldy odor.  Also, the fridge looked like someone dumped yogurt all over the inside.

I don’t really care if some of the amenities were dated, but the cardinal sin of a motel/hotel is not keeping their rooms clean.  Don’t change your sheets or vacuum the room, and it’s a one- or two-star max.

 

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Port Angeles Washington
August 222019

We were the last off the ferry from Victoria.  We had a big drive to Seiku WA where our motel resided.

 

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The ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles is an international crossing, so there is a bunch of security.  They recommend you show up 90 minutes early to the dock, but I’d recommend getting there even earlier.  There was a large line after us, so we lucked out by getting there early.

We parked our van in the array of lines, and left the waiting lot to wander around the shoreline and parks nearby.  By the time we got back, they had border agents searching all the cars for illegal stuff.

Eventually we parked the van on the ferry and found a seat up on the top deck.

The tall ferry proved to be a great vantage point to view all the oddities of Victoria.  So many marine options.  Even these hilarious water-taxis.

Heading out on the open sea.

See ya next year Canada.

Breakwater Lighthouse.

Sunset over the mountains of southern Vancouver Island.

Heading toward Washington state.  We reserved a motel in the northwest part of the state, since we plan to drive the coast down to Los Angeles.  What I didn’t expect was all the mountains on this side of the state. They are massive!  It’s going to take us ages to drive the 60 miles to our motel.

Getting dark as we approached Port Angeles.  Almost back to the USA.

Hung out on the deck until the end.  It was cold AF.  Good thing I brought my sweatshirt and windbreaker.  Circa 1992.

We were parked on the last possible spot on this darn ferry, so were literally the last to get off again.  Just our luck.  We were hoping to get a head start on the drive through the winding roads along the coast and mountains to Seiku.

 

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We still had an hour to kill prior to our departure for the ferry to the United States, so we went to the Wharf.  Some of the people we met at the Mile 0 Monument recommended this place.

It’s a bunch of floating houses, timeshares, and restaurants on the “harbour.”  And about a gazillion tourists.

Nearby are a bunch of ritzy houseboats and yachts.

I was kind of hoping for some kind of aboriginal fusion or exotic food, but this place kind of caters to the average tourist visiting Canada.  We got some fish and chips at Barb’s, and then some ice cream because we couldn’t find any poutine.  What a gyp!

Now that we stuffed our bellies with mountains of Canadian food and gained over 20 lbs, it was time to head to the ferry back home.

Since this was an international border crossing, we had to get to the dock 90 minutes early for inspection.

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Heading down to Victoria….

Downtown Victoria.

I’m 99% sure this is the capital of British Columbia.  If I’m wrong, the capital must be somewhere else in the province.  Google it.

Totem Pole with Northwestern aboriginal mural.

On to the “Mile 0” Trans-Canadian Highway Monument.

 

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This is it.  This is what it’s all about.  This is the last segment of the THC that we need to drive!  Then it’s all done.  Every mile, from St Johns Newfoundland to Victoria British Columbia.

We passed through Victoria and cruised straight to the end of the THC.  Figured we would get that out of the way first before we found some grub in the wharf.  There were two memorials, one for Terry Fox, who tried to run the THC with one leg in the early ’80’s.

Next to his statue, there is a big sign and placard designating the end of the THC.  Finally.

But here’s the weird thing.  We’ve been to the “Mile 1” landmark in Newfoundland.  But here in Victoria BC, it’s “Mile ‘0’.”  WTF?  Shouldn’t it be something like “Mile 3127” or something?  Or “Last Mile?”

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Nanaimo British Columbia
August 222019

We ended up in Nanaimo twice on this 2019 WVO Roadtrip.

First, we landed here on the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to here.  The captain was a surgeon.  He somehow got this massive ferry in that tiny bay.

We rushed down to the auto bay and hung out near the Frankenvan till it was time to drive out.

Driving out of town on our way to Port Hardy.  No time to dilly dally.

The second time we passed through here, we were on our way south from Campbell River to Victoria.  Traffic was starting to get bad, so it was good that we got an early start.

Heading southbound.

 

The drive from Nanaimo to Victoria is the last tiny bit of the THC that we still hadn’t finished.  In St John’s Newfoundland, we got to visit their “Mile 1” Landmark, marking the first mile of the THC.  Well, now we can drive to the last mile of the THC.  (Spoiler alert:  Turns out the last mile is “Mile Zero.”  WTF?  Is this some kind of metric mileage?)

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We got into Campbell River around lunch time.  I had to piss like a banshee so I started screaming like a racehorse.  We stopped off at the Campbell River Art Gallery Slash Visitors Center to destroy their bathroom and get some souvenirs.

The arachnids around here are cray cray.

Glenn was enamored over the prospect of visiting Plumper Bay.  This is sunglasses weather.

Up here in the northwest, they have stores and shops catered to the marginalized sasquatch community.  I’m so goddamned hirsute, that the clerk thought I was some kind of albino Big Foot.  I yelled, “I’m not a freaking Yeti, you fool!” but after trying on a spiffy bison-leather jacket that fit perfectly, I found the place kind of welcoming.

We wanted to check out the Maritime Heritage Center, but we only had time for the pier and lunch.

The Visitors Center told us to visit the Discover Fishing Pier.  Actually, they told us to visit some other pier, but we got all turned around on their city streets, and stumbled upon this place instead.

A restaurant on the end of the pier.

Thankfully, the place had more…. poutine.  At this point I was getting a little sick of poutine.  We ate it twice a day, every day, for the whole time we spent in Canada.  But since we were heading to Victoria and getting on the ferry back to the U.S., we knew this would be the last time we’d get poutine in Canada for at least a year, when we launch the 2020 WVO Roadtrip.

While I was destroying the pier’s bathroom, some dock fisherman caught a sea creature and tossed it in the dock basin.  It was writhing and slithering about until it succumbed to suffocation.  I caught the end of the show.

Even though we had a few hours, we decided to make our way down to Victoria, just in case we run into excessive traffic.  If we get there early, then we can meander around the town to kill time.  If we get there late, then we miss our ferry.  Can’t let that happen.

Onward.

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I’m straining to figure out why we went to see the World’s Largest Burl.  Maybe someone suggested it or maybe we saw a billboard for it.  IDK.  Regardless, we turned off the main drag to visit the town of Port McNeill.

Off to the left of the main street of town, was a small park and creek, and underneath some crude canopy sat the World’s Largest Burl.

Uh.  OK.  A burl.  Burl?  hmmm.

Well, that was interesting.  Turns out these things are kind of valuable.  The owner of this burl apparently turned down a pretty penny for this thing so that he could showcase it in a canopy in the middle of nowhere.

While we were chilling and pissing behind the burl, a chopper landed right next to us.   A dude hopped off and told us there was an even larger burl down the road.  This is surreal.  I never knew the locals here were such burl aficionados.

I guess if there is an even larger burl, we might as well check it out.  We followed the guys directions and headed west on the back road.  After a few miles, we passed some sort of union strike, because there were men standing around a bonfire and holding signs.   It had this whole end of “The Day After” vibe, like in that scene where the farmer’s family headed back to the farmhouse after the town hall meeting, and the were met by a bunch of cannibals.

I figured seeing the world’s second largest burl was good enough, and we didn’t have to risk our kidneys driving any further.

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After meandering around Point Hardy in the dark, we tried to find a hotel room that wasn’t a bajillion Canadian dollars.  We stopped at the Kwa’lilas Hotel and it was something like $5,670,000 per night.   Hard pass.

The more affordable hotel was the parking lot in front of the Sacred Wolf Friendship Center.  We crashed out there because when we were wandering around Port Hardy the night before, there were a bunch of sketchy people casing out cars parked on the main drag.  One truck sat by our van for a few minutes waiting for us to turn the corner.  Weirdos.  We thought it was better to just find a different spot that was better lit and nearer to people.

The next morning, we found a million blackberries growing just fifteen feet from our van.  We picked a bunch and ate some fruits for the first time this year.

After choking down wild berries, we needed to stuff down some poutine and burgers down our gullets ASAP.  Lucky for us, there was a Dubbies in the same building as that Wolf Breeding Center or whatever.

Even though we had already visited this place the night before, we decided to come back to the Cenotaph and beach in downtown.  Daytime was a bit nicer.

You can see the cruise ships on the horizon.  They apparently dock here on their way to the Alaska Marine Highway.

Hanging out on the beach.

The tide was out so we got to go out into the bay.   It looked cool.  Glenn had this homeless man vibe.

The ground was covered in kelp and weird lichen-like stuff.

Totem Poles, yo.

This was one of the major destinations for the 2019 WVO Roadtrip.

We hung out for a bit, but we had to leave to make the 500-km drive back to Victoria.  We had to make the last ferry ride to the U.S. before the end of the day, otherwise we’d have to find a hotel in that tourist town.

Back on the road again.

 

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It’s over 230 kilometers from CR to Port Hardy on their only road going north.  We are pushing it.  If Glenn doesn’t pull off a miracle, we’ll end up in the hamlet of Port Hardy in the dark like total losers.

The light was waning early, because of the clouds.  Typical Vancouver Northwest weather.

Even though this area is pretty remote, every once in a while you’d see a prairie or farm.

And surprisingly, there were lots of mountains.  I wasn’t expecting that on this island.

As we were going pretty darn fast, some locals passed us at 10-15 miles per hour faster than we were driving.  Sweet!  Now we have some runners and we won’t have to worry about smoking a deer or moose.

Wow.  Just as the light was nearly gone, we pulled into Port Hardy.  God smiled down upon us, and said we are his greatest creation.

 

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We were last to roll off the ferry (typical), and got a late start on our speedy drive up to Port Hardy.  It’s a 5-hour drive to the north point, and we need to get there in less than four hours to be there before dusk.  Glenn elected to drive because I drive for shit, and he can piss like a racehorse.  Before we knew it, we were out of Nanaimo and passing through Nanoose Bay.

Drove through Parksville so fast that we didn’t have time to “live,” “work,” or “play.”

Glenn was drinking up grease fast from all his speeding, so we had to stop at Comox Valley Shake & Shingle and fill up.  If you don’t buy Comox shingles, you are a fart rapist.

The turn off for Campbell River is kind of the last stop for civilization until Port Hardy.  We had to hammer down.  On to Port Hardy bitches!

Vancouver Island is really long.  A lot longer than people expect.  It’s 500 kilometers from tip to tip.

 

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After wolfing down some poutine from downtown Horseshoe Bay, we rushed back to see the line starting to move on the ferry.  Glenn parked the minivan in the cargo bay and we headed upstairs.  We are getting pretty used to ferry rides after all these WVO Roadtrips, so this is getting kind of routine.

Heading out on Howe Sound.  I can’t recall if I’ve ever been on a Sound.

One life preserver for a thousand people.  Ridiculous.

The mountains surrounding Howe Sound is pretty amazing.  Eventually we got out into the Straight of Georgia which is the water body between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

Straight of Georgia.

Seeing Vancouver Island in the distance.

Pulling into the “Departure Bay” near Nanaimo.

We ended up chatting with a local dude about what to see on Vancouver Island, and he kept rambling on about some surfer haven called Tofino.  Glenn and I had originally planned on going to Point Hardy, because it was at the end of the road and the northernmost point of the island, but we listened to this man’s passionate suggestions.  He said since it was late in the afternoon, there would be no way we could make it up to Point Hardy before sunset, and he said Point Hardy was a shithole.

As we disembarked the ferry, we agreed to disregard all his recommendations, because surfers are losers and probably do dumb stuff in Tofino, and we are all about the miles.

On to Point Hardy.

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Through a strange twist of fate, while we were in Cache Creek waiting in line to see if our motel had vacancy, we ran into a guy who was from Vancouver Island.  Since we had zero experience taking the Vancouver ferries, we asked him about how bad it would be to just show up without a reservation.  He said not to worry and it’ll be fine on a weekday.

So thanks Mr Stranger, we’ll just go with his advice.

As we cruised north of Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, the rain started to die off.

Our particular ferry is going to the Nanaimo port on Vancouver Island, and it’s considered “part” of the THC.

Horseshoe Bay is situated on the base of the mountains north of town.

Glenn and I had taken this road in 2008 on the WVO Roadtrip with the Jetta, but we came down from the north from Whistler.  I kind of remember this stretch of road, because it follows the Howe Sound along Hwy 99.

Well, sheeeet.  There were a lot of people heading to the island.

They directed us to Lane #5.  All of the other lanes were for different ferries along the coast of BC and up to the Alaska Marine Highway.

After about an hour, we finally got our ticket.  Ready to get on board!

Crap.  Another line.  Apparently, we missed the 1pm ferry, and there were so many in front of us, we’ll be in line when the 2pm ferry takes off.

Knowing that we had an hour to kill, we decided to walk the strenuous 5-minute distance from the ferry dock to the town of Horseshoe Bay.  I know we are fat as hell, but apparently everyone else is even lazier than us, cuz we were the only dudes to take a shot at getting more poutine.

We found a place called “Olive and Anchor” that served poutine and fish & chips from a window.  We ordered up a couple boxes and waited for them to cook them up.  While we hung out, some woman on a bike ordered some food and flipped her shit over not getting a bag.  I guess Vancouver has some plastic bag ordinance prohibiting disposable bags, so the server didn’t abide.  She let’s out a “I’m on a bike for FUCKS SAKE.”

I personally thought it was a bit harsh language for the lack of a plastic bag, but I guess this is how the Vancouverites do.  Maybe they like the extreme vulgarity over banal things.  So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Glenn walked up to the server and said, “Give me those fucking poutines or I’ll fuck you up, for fucks sake.”

The server looked at us and just left the window.  After a long time, he emerged with poutine covered in saliva and semen.  It was enough evidence to make a compelling Law And Order SVU episode.

We walked back through town and took our protein poutine back to the minivan.  We ate up the delicious poutine on the hood of the van while the line started to move toward the ferry.

Heading out on the open sea!

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Surrey British Columbia
August 212019

Pretty much a typical day in Vancouver.  Rain.

Rain.

Rain on the bridge.

Water above us, water below us.

Rain.

Rain and traffic.

Time to get on a ferry to avoid the rain.

 

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Zipping through Abbotsford.  We have to get to the ferry in Horseshoe Bay before the end of the day otherwise we’ll be staying a night in north Vancouver.  And that ain’t cheap.

Hammer down Nick!  I was driving up until we got into a bunch of traffic near Burnaby.  I pulled off because the way this transmission works, it makes it really hard to drive in stop-and-go traffic.  Glenn had more experience than I, so I let him handle the rest of the drive to the ferry dock.

Passing by Fort Langley

Well it finally rained.  At least now all the grime will be washed off from that mud road in the Northern Angle.

Ha, jokes on us.  It just made the van muddier.

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Hope British Columbia
August 212019

Now that we arrived in Hope, then that concluded the second-to-last portion of the THC that we hadn’t driven yet.  The last segment is on Vancouver Island, which we’ll hit up later on this WVO Roadtrip.

Totem Pole in Hope BC:

Back on the main drag to Vancouver…

Mountains on the way to Vancouver.

 

 

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As we get closer to Vancouver, we approach the coast.  That means the mountains get bigger and better.  That means the road starts to wind around a lot, and that inevitably means tunnels.

Glenn was thrilled cuz he thought the boy from Twilight lived around here.

 

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Once again, this segment of the TCH really shines.  There was nearly no one on the road and it was really picturesque.

Around every corner is a Bob Ross painting.

The Thompson River runs parallel to the roadway and cascades throughout the mountains.

It would be a really nice trip if both of us didn’t smell like homeless cadaver.

 

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So we stayed at the Riverside Motel because we got in really late and vacancy across the town was drying up.  There were only a moderate amount of cockroaches at this hotel, so we felt kind ok about it.

After catching some z’s, we shook off all the cockroaches and spiders and bedbugs, and headed to the nearest convenience store for supplies.

Canada has the weirdest potato chips.  Gravy flavored, ketchup flavored, even some kind of pizza flavoring.  Not sure what chemical tastes like pizza, but they nailed it.  Yay, flavor engineers!

 

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The segment of the THC that is west of Kamloops is AMAZING.  I suspect that 99% of people traveling to Vancouver on their “only road” tend to skip this longer scenic route for Hwy 5 going southbound.  Well, they are missing out.  There are some desert mountains up here that are astonishing.

Kamloops Lake sprawls out north of the highway for miles and miles.  It’s rather lengthy and gorgeous.

It’s an odd microclimate.  It’s almost like a desert, like in California or Nevada, but there are lot of trees and evergreens everywhere like in the arctic.  It’s similar to high elevation New Mexico, but this area of BC is not much of a high altitude.

Keep on to Cache Creek.  We got into Cache Creek around 10 pm and tried to get a room at the Sunset Motel which had good reviews, but the place only had single-bed rooms.  As much as I like Glenn, I’m never sharing a bed with him.  He likes to spoon and he sweats like a warthog.

So we ended up at the Riverside Motel, which only had a moderate amount of cockroaches.

 

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Stopped off at a random abandoned building and lot to fill up on grease.  They boarded up all the windows, and it probably was an old gas station or convenience store.

Even though we were at some kind of dumpy building, there was a nice creek flowing at the base of the valley.  This is pretty typical of British Columbia; almost every nook and cranny looks like a Bob Ross painting.

Glenn checked over the engine to make sure his exhaust fix was still holding.

We were hoping to hit some rain on the middle of this trip to wash off all that mud from our drive on the dirt road near the Northern Angle.  This was the first roadtrip in Canada where it wasn’t constantly raining all the time.

Sun setting on the mountains near Savona BC.

Trying to get to Cache Creek before dark.  We didn’t have a hotel reservation, but I looked up their amenities prior to losing cell reception this remote part of the THC.  They have a bunch of old motels in that area, and being a weekday, we figured there would be some vacancy.

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Time was slipping away from us.  We left Lethbridge at sunrise to put on some major miles today (because we lost a day from hitting that deer near Moose Jaw) and it was taking a lot longer than expected to get to our hotel in Cache Creek.  We could have saved ourselves some hours by taking the THC all the way through Calgary, but we wanted to take a different route across the Rockies than the previous years.  That’s why we were on the Crowsnest Hwy for so long.  But now that we approach Kamloops, we are returning to the THC.

We’ve been to Kamloops twice before, but don’t have any photos of this place.  I’m not sure why.  It must be somewhat unmemorable.

On all of our previous trips across the THC or Yellowhead, we somehow missed this stretch of the THC between Kamloops and Cache Creek and Hope.  Part of the point of the 2019 WVO Roadtrip is to make up for this missed segment.

Off to Cache Creek.

We’ve taken the bigger highway to Vancouver in the past and never really realized that the TCH is actually the smaller highway on the right.  Kind of odd.  Why don’t they just make Hwy 5 the TCH?

Kamloops Lake at sunset!

Kind of surreal.  The lakes up here are amazing, yet there are no lake houses or cabins up here.  Canada is weird.  If this was America, there would be 1000 starbucks and mcdonalds up here ruining the splendid view.

We are running out of grease and need to fill up before it gets dark.  You don’t want to be stuck in the dark in deer country or bear country.

 

 

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Continuing north on Hwy 33, we came up on the town of Kelowna and the area surrounding Okanagan Lake.

There weren’t many cars and trucks on this road, so it was an easy ride.  We were kind of hoping for some rain to wash off all the caked on dirt from the mud road near the Northern Angle, but so far, no dice.

We get into town and start feeling something wrong from the engine bay.  A shuddering of some kind.  I immediately thought Glenn left his vibrator on in the back of the van, but then I realize he forgot all his batteries in Wisconsin.

We pulled off at a closed school parking lot and inspected the vehicle.  Well, by “inspect,” I basically watched as Glenn slid under the van and reached his arms into a hot running engine bay.

Glenn found the problem.  Turns out a exhaust hanger started wiggling as loose as Glenn’s bowels.  He tightened her up harder than a hetero sphinter around Prince.   Back on the road again.  Gotta get to Kamloops.

Cruising through Lake Country.  Ritzy

Woods Lake and …

Kalamalka Lake.

You can tell this has some glacially-fed water, because the water color is turquoise.

Continued….

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Rock Creek resides on the Kettle River right next to the U.S. Canadian Border.

Normally I wouldn’t say much about this town because we mainly just drove passed, but it should be noted that we turned off  of the Hwy 3 here to head north.  This is Hwy 33, aka the Kelowna-Rock Creek Hwy.

We decided to diverge from the Crowsnest Hwy because if we continued to Osoyoos and Penticton, we’d be duplicating a path that we took in 2010 or 2012.  Also, there is a stretch of the THC that we still haven’t driven yet, which spans from Kamloops to Cache Creek to Hope.

Highway 33 is pretty interesting.  They must have had a massive fire because many of the forests were destroyed.

Kind of has this Fort McMurray vibe.  Not many people were driving on this road, so the fires might not have threatened a lot of people like the FM fire did.

On to Kelowna.

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We really didn’t hang around Christina Lake much.

We needed to get some supplies, but we thought Grand Forks would be a better spot.

On the way, we passed several bicyclists riding through the mountains.

Closer to Grand Forks.  The terrain changed to more of a desert landscape, with pines.

Grand Forks has this Portlandia vibe.

Need to get some supplies.

Stopped off at the local grocery store.

Downtown.

The saloon.

The ranch.

Nothing special to report.  Pretty much a couple southern BC towns.

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Passing through Castlegar.  We didn’t have much time to hang around, because of all the road construction delaying our arrival in western BC.

 

 

 

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Salmo British Columbia
August 202019

Passing over the Kootenay River again.  It’s like a broken record.

Mountains near Salmo

While we were crossing the pass near Salmo, we saw a chopper airlift people out of the area.  I know we smelled bad, but flying people out in front of us was insulting.

All we saw was logging trucks and RV’s.  Usually side-by-side.  Slow going.

 

 

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After bypassing the Cranbrook museum, we headed down the highway to the neighboring town to see their museum instead.

This is the tiny mountain town of Creston BC.

They have their own little museum where they collected all the scattered junk and artifacts from this town’s 70-year history and called the heap a “museum.”

I’m not denigrating this.  We live for these museums and practically been to all the museums in all of Canada.  I’m just pissed cuz the staff wouldn’t respect the fact that we wanted to identify as one person, and therefore pay for just one ticket.

Old timey stuff.  I guess back in the old days, dogs were really addicted to their electronics.

Lots of meds.  Back in the day, Dodd’s Kidney Pills were the bees knees.  Which was the style at the time.

A “Wisconsin” mini tractor.

After dinking around for a few hours, we destroyed their bathroom and headed back into the mountains.  If we rush, we could possibly make it to the far end of British Columbia before dark.

Well, crud.  More construction.  This is getting ridiculous.

 

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Hummer Gas and Diesel
August 202019

It took a lot of convincing by the staff at this gas station to persuade Glenn that no one was going to fellate him.

He was furious for days.

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We cruised through this area during August, so there wasn’t a snowflake in sight.  But the signs displaying the local ski areas are everywhere.

Also, we saw a bunch of billboards talking about the “largest truck of all time.”  C’mon.  We saw bigger trucks up by Fort McMurray at the tar sands a while back.

The mountains get bigger and bigger the further we drive.   BC is amazing.

Lots of campers and hippies around here.

Can’t tell if this a real or fake derrick.

Ooh fun.  Tunnels.

Passing over the Kootenay River (this will happen a lot)

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After passing by Mt Tecumseh, we headed toward the BC border.  Glenn was thrilled to get some BC BUD!

Once we hit the border sign, we knew we were only 2 miles away from a random pothead hitchhiker.

Once you hit the Crowsnest Pass, it’s all downhill from here.

On to Vancouver…

 

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Heading up the Crowsnest Highway…

Saw Mt Tecumseh on the right of the road.

 

 

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After a long morning drive, I was getting hungry and we needed to add some grease to the tank.  We pulled off at the Blairmore Tim Hortons for some grub.

Glenn reluctantly woke up.  I don’t think he slept very well either.  We went into the Tim Hortons to find something to eat.  I had been all across Canada this year (in Toronto twice, Winnipeg, and all across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) and wanted to eat this infamous Belgian Waffle sandwich that everyone was raving about.  However, every time I went to the Tim Hortons, they were “out” of waffles.  To paraphrase Glenn Wienke, “GAWD DAMNIT!”

But like the time he pushed a small fawn in front of our minivan for our benefit, God wielded his divine hand and decided to bestow us the honor of indulging in the consumption of a Waffle sandwich.

It was actually pretty good.  Many Americans don’t know what a real Belgian Waffle tastes like.  You think you do, but until you go to Brussels and eat some of their amazing authentic waffles, you probably think they taste like those tall, dry, bland, brown waffles they serve up to drunk people at Denny’s.

Thankfully, Tim Hortons tried their best to make them taste like real Belgian Waffles, and the sandwich wasn’t too bad.  It wasn’t awesome either, but beggars can’t be choosers.  If you have to drive 2500 miles for a waffle, you have to take what you can get.

I cleaned up the windshield while doing my best rendition of Bub Bubs Bounce.

One the road, we saw a buttload of more deer in town.  The little bastards probably destroy everyone’s home gardens.

They are looking at us like that van smells like splattered fawn guts.

 

 

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People don’t realize how expansive the plains provinces of Canada are.  It seems like ages to drive across them.  Americans think driving across Texas or Nebraska is a PITA, but until you drive from eastern Manitoba to western Alberta, you don’t know farmland.

The reward for the long drive is getting to see the Rockies on the horizon after Pincher Creek.  It’s really cool.

We’ve driven into the Canadian Rockies through the THC, Yellowhead Hwy, and Alcan Hwy, and it’s always a treat.  This time we’re driving Hwy 3, which is called the Crowsnest Hwy.

I couldn’t sleep much in Lethbridge, so I woke up at sunrise and got on the road.  I let Glenn sleep in the back because he tends to do the toughest drives at night and in the city.  I just wanted to put on some major miles before he gets up and yells at me for being too awesome.

 

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Lethbridge Alberta
August 192019

We’ve been to Lethbridge a bunch of times.  We passed through in 2013 on the way up to Prudhoe Bay and in 2018 on the way back from Tuktoyaktuk.

In 2019, we were heading west for Vancouver Island and it was getting late in the evening.  Since we are a few hours early of sunrise, we decided to eat and find a place to park until sunrise, then attempt to cross the mountains.

It was a long day, after repairing the van and making a lot of ground on the road, so we needed a restaurant that was open late.  Boston Pizza to the rescue.

Boston Pizza is kind of like BJ’s Restaurant in the U.S.  It’s not that awful, but not that great either.  Every Boston Pizza tastes exactly the same, and ever Boston Pizza has the same atmosphere.  At least you know what you are getting into.

After wolfing down some pizza, we found a quiet spot of the College Centre Mall parking lot, and tried to rest for a few hours before driving into the Rockies.

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Medicine Hat Alberta
August 192019

The sun was setting on the THC, and thankfully we didn’t hit another deer.

We approached Medicine Hat looking for some food.

They have the world’s largest teepee here.

Didn’t find anything we liked at the moment, so we hammered down to Lethbridge.

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We’ve driven passed this wayside on previous trips.  IIRC, I think we hit this in 2012 but didn’t stop.  I wanted to get out and defecate, but the bathroom was in such shabby condition, I figured it would be safer to risk peritonitis than sit on that bowl.

While I was contemplating the “ifs,” Glenn filled up the tank.

He decided to risk his health and safety by using the can.  Now he has some kind of rash that doesn’t wash off.

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Maple Creek SK
August 192019

Was kind of hoping to stop off and get some grub, but we didn’t want to drive across Alberta in the dark and smoke another deer.  There were some restaurants in Maple Creek.

Couldn’t eat at Caroline’s because Glenn was sleeping.

Maple Creek is kind of nice.  I drove through town and zigzagged passed downtown.

Glenn begged me to get some burgers cuz he was starving.  I said no way.  Gotta hammer down to Ass Hat and then Lethbridge to crash out in the van.

We made it up to the THC and kept on kepting on.

 

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Left the T-Rex Discovery Center just as the shadows started getting long.  We could have taken a gravel shortcut up to Maple Creek, but we calculated it wouldn’t be much of a shortcut.  Instead, we stayed on Hwy 13 and turned north after Robsart on Hwy 21.

Along the way, we kept seeing billboards for the Cyprus Hill concert.

We must have arrived early cuz no one was here yet.

But it certainly smelled like dank though.

 

 

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The road to the TRex Center is gravel and rough, but short.

The museum pops up in the middle of the plains.  Kind of hard to believe a classy museum is just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere.

Lots of fossils and whatnot.  We didn’t have a lot of time to peruse the artifacts.  We got there 20 minutes before they closed.

Herbivores, not just the T-rex.

To lengthen our visit and anger the staff, Glenn started a 2-hour lecture on the new method of excavation that he pioneered from the years 1992 to 2001.  Never forget.

The T-rex was such a formidable predator, that he was commemorated with a stamp in the Canada Post.  Never has an animal killed so efficiently until the election of Rob Ford.

The staff grew tired of our loitering, so they kicked us out.  There was a 3-K hiking trail around the grounds.  And they have placards.  Glenn can’t resist placards, and we had been driving all day, so walking around and burning off the fat we ate at Dubbies seemed prudent.

That concluded our sites for the day.  Since we smoked a deer and lost a lot of time, we needed to get to Lethbridge and the foothills of the Rockies before sunrise if we wanted to get back on schedule.

 

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Eastend SK
August 192019

Cruising through the tiny town of Eastend on Hwy 13.

Nice town, but we didn’t have much time to dilly dally.

Nor could we stop off at the Eastend Historical Museum.  I bet they have some sweet old artifacts of toasters or ledgers.

Hammer down to the Dino museum!  They close in 20 minutes!

 

 

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Assiniboia SK
August 192019

The town of Assiniboia (pronounced Ass-in-a-boy) is a special place.  Most of central Canada has rivers, regions, counties, and other parts named Ass-in-a-boy.  Glenn loves it.  So when I told him we were going to the actual town of Ass-in-a-boy, he was elated.  I told him there was a Dubbies on our trip, and he insisted we get some food.

I wanted to find Ass-in-a-boy on the GPS, but it turns out our GPS is a huge loser.  Can’t even find ASS.

Heading southbound on the highway.  At least this road was paved.

Finally here.

Downtown.

We stopped off at the Dubbies to get some burgers.  And since there is poutine on every A&W menu, we had to get two boxes STAT.  And while we were getting fat, might as well swill down a rootbeer float, but the dude didn’t even put it in a mug!  Rip off.

No time to waste.  Gotta head out if we want to see dinosaur boners before they close.  On to Hwy 13.

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When we first planned the 2019 WVO Roadtrip, the plan was to take Old Hwy 13 all the way across Canada, from the Peg to the west side of the Rockies.  However, due to our need to get to the Moose Jaw Expansion Museum, we skipped the roads in Manitoba.  Also, we were willing to forgo Hwy 13 the night prior to crank out some miles to get to the foothills of the Rockies.

But through a weird cruel twist of fate, we smoked a deer just a few miles from Moose Jaw, forcing us to repair the Frankenvan in town and get back on track.  Since it took us a few hours to fix things, it made no sense to try and cruise to the Rockies.  We’d end up getting there around sunset and I’m not too keen on driving up and down crazy Canadian mountain passes in the dark.

So, we decided to head south and get back on the Hwy 13 Plan.  We took Hwy 2 south towards Glenn’s favorite town, Ass-in-a-boy and hammered down.

Then, like God was smiling down upon us, he guided us with a divine hand to the coolest museum in all of Saskatchewan.  It was divine intervention.  Don’t fucking blow this shit off.  This shit doesn’t just happen.  What happened here was a miracle and I want you to fucking acknowledge it.

We whip a U-ey and head over.  Turns out this was the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum and it has everything.  Forget the Western Development Museum.  This place is amazing.  6 stars and 7 nipples up.

They basically have all the old buildings from the area.  Old pharmacies, barber shops, grain elevators, etc.

Here’s a showcase of small motors.  Why not.

If you haven’t entered a restored grain elevator, you haven’t lived.

Unlike all the other museums, this place lets you up into the top of the caboose.

Old cars and wrecks.

Old cars and beauts.

Some crazy tiny car.

This place was wild. They had a bunch of retired Canadian men just restoring everything.  They were building a replica International Harvester Parts Store, which is really crazy cuz they actually had real NOS I.H. boxes on the shelves.   I was even looking for my VRV part that I make from my shop, but the man said they didn’t have parts “that new.”   LOL.

They had a blacksmith and belt-driven shop.

Damn I look good.

I took 7 years of German, but don’t recognize this dialect.

Thousands and thousands of ancient kitchenware.

Old timey gas pump and various local churches moved to the site.

Buildings full of old camera and video gear.

The place was massive and expansive.  And it was cheaper than the Western Development Museum.  And the dudes running the place were more knowledgeable and more deaf.  Very authentic.

Sadly, we had to leave after only a few hours of roaming around.  We still needed to get to the Dinosaur Center in Eastend and get some food in Ass-in-a-boy.  Time was slipping away.

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As we limped the van back to Moose Jaw, we lost more electrical systems on the way.  The dash and instrument lights died and so did the gauges.  Also, we didn’t have blinkers or fog lights.  We stayed at the Super 8 which was next door to a parts store that opened at 8am.

Glenn spent the evening researching junkyards and parts store across down looking for a new bumper cover and fog lights.  I spent my evening dumping files to the hard drives.  He found a junkyard in Oregon (on our path) that had a gold T&C with all our parts.  Woo hoo.  In the morning, he called to secure the parts and put them on hold for a week.

We got carbs-breaky at the hotel.  Not their best breakfast.

After a short walk to the auto parts store, we got some gorilla tape, light bulbs, and other supplies.

Since we had a tub, Glenn used the shower to wash off all the brains, guts, blood, and hair slathered all over the bits of bumper cover.  I advised him, “What I need you to do…is to take those cleaning products and clean the broken bumper of the car. I’m talking fast, fast, fast. You need to go in and scoop up all those little pieces of brain and skull–get it out of there…wipe down the bumper cover. Now, when it comes to the inner fender…it don’t need to be spic-and-span. You don’t need to eat off it. Just give it a good once-over. What you need to take care of… are the really messy parts. The pools of blood that have collected, you gotta soak that shit up.  We’re going to line the inner fender and the bumper cover with duct tape or gorilla tape, so if a cop stops us, and starts sticking his big snout around the car, the subterfuge won’t last, but at a glance the car will appear to be normal. Glenny, lead the way. Boys, get to work.

Glenn had the audacity to ask me for a “please.

After the requisite “pretty please with sugar on top, clean the fucking car,” we took all the cleaned busted parts of the bumper cover and inner fender, and started taping.  I worked on the exterior parts because I have an eye for detail and aesthetics, and Glenn worked on the inner fender pieces because he can make sure it won’t fall apart and rub on the tire.

With the parts reassembled, we reinstalled them back on the minivan.

We had a fun idea.  Since our blink light was F’ed, we just rigged up the broken fog light hole with an orange light bulb, and wired it up to the old blinker wiring.

Sweet.  Now we are street legal and ready to hit the road.

On the way to the Rockies.

 

 

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After eating and checking out those Tunnels of Moose Jaw, we headed west down the THC.  We have to drive through the night to get to the Rockies before sunrise.  Canada is so full of bugs.

The sun was setting directly on the roadway horizon.  It was like staring directly into a solar flare.

Then all of a sudden, a deer jumped out of the long grass in the median.  We had no time to react.  This is me yelling “Shit!” just as it sprung out in front of us.

This is Glenn trying to avoid the deer, but it took a weird bounce and crouched down at the passenger side lights.  It was struck instantaneously and basically exploded.  Parts of deer and parts of the front of the van flew everywhere.

You can see the carcass sliding down the gravel shoulder on the image below.

Well crap.  The sun was setting, and most of our light system looked destroyed.  We tested the vehicle and thankfully our headlights still worked.

It didn’t suffer.   The deer died before it even stopped flying.

We gathered up all the pieces of the van as best as we could and put them in a bag.

I immediately got on the phone to see if we could book a hotel room near an auto parts store.  We had to abruptly change our plans, in the hopes of finding a way to get this van back to street legal while finding a place to rest.  Even though it would mean backtracking on our WVO roadtrip, going back to Moose Jaw to stay at their Super 8 was the safest course of action.

As we walked in to the lobby, there was a woman chatting with the staff.  When they found out we hit a deer, the woman asked, “Was it near Caronport?”  Apparently they have a deer problem nearby.

 

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Tunnels of Moose Jaw
August 182019

After getting a bite to eat at Rosie’s, we strolled around the downtown area.  Moose Jaw is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so the bypass didn’t kill off the city.

Holy cow!  An actual pay phone.  And it worked!  And it wasn’t cover in graffiti or urine!  Woo hoo.

Just south of our restaurant was this place claiming to be the tunnels Al Capone used while he was in Moose Jaw.

We went in and asked if they were open.  They said they were closing in a few minutes.  We asked about their “tours.”  They said there was one tour left for the day.  At closing time….  Weird.  Well, whatever.  We’ll take their tour that is one hour long but starts when their place closes…

While we waited the last ten minutes before they closed, we walked around to check out their artifacts and evidence of Al Capone’s stay here.  Not that believable.

We got to meet our tour guide who walked us down the street to an neighboring building.  As we chatted with this kid, I detailed how the mere suggestion of Al Capone hanging out here was preposterous.

Glenn and I are from Wisconsin.  We have actual ties to the history of Al Capone, who regularly visited northern Wisconsin to get away from Chicago.  We was one of the Original FIB’s.

Also, Al was notoriously paranoid about everything.  When we were at the Expansion Museum, we learned that there wasn’t a road to Moose Jaw until like the 1940’s because some dude bought a car in Minneapolis and had to drive it back to Moose Jaw himself.  And there wasn’t enough roads so he had to drive across several prairies.

So, back to Al Capone, that means he had to take the train to Moose Jaw from Chicago.  And there is no way Al Capone, Mr. Millionaire, is riding a slow ass train to central Canada.  The moment someone recognizes him, they’ll just call the next stop’s police, and they’ll arrest or shoot him.  No way out on a train.

And I’m not digging on Moose Jaw, but it’s kind of tiny and in the middle of nowhere.  I find it hard for someone of Capone’s lifestyle finding his way up to this one-horse town.

As we explain our case, the tour guide directs us to the start of the tunnels.

Turns out this is some kind of reenactment tour, where they have actors put us in the times of Al Capone.  It was pretty entertaining.  If I had known it was all theatrical, I would have played along more.

At the end of the tour, they killed some woman.  We were guided back to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw storefront and out the door.

 

 

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After visiting the Western Development Museum, we got some recommendations to get food in town.  We ended at Rosie’s, which has typical American Canadian food.  I was hoping to get a bison burger or some kind of exotic First Nation thing, but instead, we settled for normal food.

The inside was full of hipsters that smelled like B.O. and urinal cakes, so we went outside.  It was pleasant out.  Maybe we should be doing more trips in August, because in July, we usually have a lot of heat and humidity.

I got the fish and chips and it was pretty decent.  I can’t remember what Glenn got.  Probably something huge.  He can really put down a huge dark sausage.

We had a few minutes to walk around town before it got dark and we drive to the Rockies through the night.

 

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So we’ve been to the Western Expansion Museums in North Battleford, Yorkton, and Saskatoon, but not the one in Moose Jaw.  This is the last of the infamous Western Museums in Saskatchewan, and the most overlooked.  We’ve been looking forward to this museum for over ten years and we would spend hours each day studying up on the best way to see all the artifacts in the most efficient way possible.

On the way into town, there is a huge moose statue.

THE MUSEUM!

So if you have never been to any of these Western Development Museums in Saskatchewan, basically, all the people put all their stuff from the last 100 years in a building or yard.  Anything goes.

Old trucks, cars, trolleys, trains, cabooses, anything.

They even went far enough back to find a few horse carriages.  That’s a real treat, because most of these Canadian towns didn’t go back even for a 100 or even 50 years.  I remember at the Saskatoon museum, they showed the first television station was made in the 1970’s.

Old combustion engines.

Also, they have oddball stuff as well.  This is some mechanical horse that a local dude made from scrap metal and he would actually ride it in parades and such.

We found this thing (not sure what it was) in a transported train depot building.  (we later found out from one of the older staff that it was a cream separator.  My guess was right)

They shipped in all sorts of buildings from the history of the town into this warehouse.

What a find!  We even found a placard in front of a huge snow plow.  Turns out there was a Wausau-based plow manufacturer.  I tried to look them up, but they must have gone out of business a half century ago.

Aircraft as well.

After meandering around until they closed, we filled up the tank for the big drive across the province.  If we can put on some major miles, then we could be by the Rockies by sunrise.

Time to get some food in town.  The museum staff recommended some diners and bars on the south end.  We wanted some crazy food, but unfortunately, they just have normal stuff in this neck of the woods.

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Whitewood SK
August 182019

Cruising passed Whitewood.

Running out of time.  If we don’t hammer down, we’ll miss the Expansion Museum in Moose Jaw.

 

 

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While Glenn filled up the veg tank, I sauntered into the local McDonald’s for some fries.

I took a leak and some random dude took a crap.  Then as I washed up, he finished up and left the bathroom without washing.  Ish.  Then the dumbdumb went to the touchscreen kiosk to swipe his shitty hand on public order screen.

I went to the other screen and started ordering something fatty.  We have a rule that if poutine is on the menu, Glenn and I MUST order it.  What to our surprise, but Canadian McD’s have poutine now.  So I ordered two boxes.

It was hard for Glenn to eat poutine with while driving, but he made due.  If he can’t eat poutine while driving a dangerous vehicle, then why even bother living at all.

Onward.

 

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I drove most of the way from Braintree to the Peg.  I couldn’t figure out how to put the van in reverse, so I had to make sure I didn’t end up stuck down some cul de sac.

So we’ve stayed at this Super 8 twice now.  It’s perfectly situated on the west side of town (which is good because 99% of the time we are leaving the next morning in that direction) and they have the best service.  They even had a slushie machine.  Woot woot.  Time to get fat.

We rest up after a long drive.  We had been on the road for a long time and didn’t get much rest the night before either.  I was still jetlagged from a trip to Italy only 2 days prior.

The next morning we got on the THC and put on some miles.  Nearby was an overpass that had completely collapsed.  Typical socialists.

Gotta make it to Moose Jaw before the Western Expansion Museum closes at 5pm.  Not a lot of time.

 

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Hwy 308 is basically a mud road with occasional gravel roads scattered by a blind man.  The last thing you want to encounter is mud, especially in a low-riding 2wd minivan.  But with Glenn along, we always get the worst luck.

Eventually we made it to East Braintree, a tiny town near the THC.

Time to head west!  ON to the PEG!

 

 

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The Northwest Angle has a really odd way of border protection.  Basically, anyone can just drive in and out of the Angle without stopping.  They just rely on the honor system for people to report when they arrive by car or boat.

At the corner of Hwy 330 and Hwy 331, there is a bunch of signs telling you how to get to the Angle Inlet or Youngs Bay areas.  But also, they have the Canadian Border Station.

On the northeastern corner, there is the Canadian phone station.

They have a bulletin board with all sorts of fun stuff that we didn’t see.  They even have a birdhouse for anyone wanting some complementary salmonella.

This is how it works.  When you get ready to leave the Inlet, you just go to this kiosk and call the border station.  They ask for your passport number and some standard questions.  Then if you get the approval, you get a receipt number and they let you reenter into the Canada.

If you don’t get the approval, you have to stay here forever.

 

 

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So while we were waiting for our burgers to cook at Jerry’s, we walked over to the big marker designating the furthest point north on the continental United States.

The waitress later told us that technically this ain’t the northernmost point.  It’s further up the river near Harrison Creek.  She said we could charter a boat to see the dilapidated post marking the actual spot, but so few people wanted to undertake that trip that the state decided to move the marker down here by the rest of society.

So actually, this is more the “Northernmost Point of the Contiguous United States Accessible By Road.”

There is a small marina for all the fishermen.   Pretty neato.  We ate our burgers and got the heck out of dodge.  We hadn’t slept in 24 hours and we still had several hours of driving on gravel to make it to the THC and then more driving to the Peg.

 

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So we headed back on the road, drove passed the border station (again), and got to the Youngs Bay area.

Jerry’s Bar is the only restaurant around here.

There were probably a few hundred trucks and boat trailers here.

Jerry’s place.

A Juicy Lucy burger.  Not bad, but they cooked it too long and all the cheese dripped out.

Probably not the best thing to eat after driving all through the night and still several hundred miles to the Peg.  Kind of tired.

On to the Northernmost U.S. Point Marker…

 

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As we drove into the Northwest Angle, there were lots of signs telling us to sign in.  We didn’t give a crap because there were hundreds of signs, so we never really paid attention.  But as we approached the resort, we figured it would be prudent to check in with US border patrol before we get arrested and our 6-day trip to Canada isn’t going to be a 70-day confinement by the NSA.

We pulled into Jake’s Resort, which coincidentally was one of the places where we could “sign in.”

They had a kiosk for punching in our passport information.  Since Glenn can’t read, I had to recite the instructions to him.

There was some maps and old pictures.  The woman behind the desk arrived and told us that the only place to eat around here was on the other side of the Angle.

Great.  Our plan to wrap up this trip to the Angle quickly and get back on the road to Winnipeg is busted.

There were lots of campers and trailers and cabins all around Angle Inlet.  No one was around, so they must’ve been fishing.

Back on the road again, to get to the Youngs Bay area.

 

 

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Passing through the Northwest Angle State Forest on to the hamlet of Angle Inlet.

We made it!  To the Post Office.

It was basically a PO Box with a desk, but it wasn’t open.  I think their hours were something like 3-3:15pm every blue moon and 1pm-1:10pm on fifth Wednesday of the month.

Next door was a spiffy golf course.   No one was on it.   I guess they were fishing.

On to the “city.”

 

 

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There were signs for local events everywhere.  We were running out of time, so we didn’t have a chance to hang out for any of this stuff.

Getting closer.

We didn’t film the border.  After the infamous border incident of 2012, we never film the border.  We didn’t want to get droned by some menopausal ornery middle manager who wanted to flaunt her minuscule power.

So we shut down all the equipment and made the crossing.

Onward.

Red Lake Nation!

The Northwest Angle has two “settlements” if you can call them that.  The Angle Inlet is on the west side of the county, and Youngs Bay is on the east end.  We decided to head over to the west end, because we were lazy and just wanted to get to the closest place asap.

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The drive from the border to the Inlet isn’t short.  You have to drive several miles in the woods northeast on Hwy 308.

After a while, it changes to gravel.  Kind of funny because we took the minivan on this trip because we knew we wouldn’t need to drive on miles and miles of gravel, like on all our previous WVO roadtrips to the arctic.

Lots of wildlife up here.  We almost smoked a deer on the gravel road.

There is only one gravel road to the Angle and it’s slow going.  Kind of amazing that the high school students get up early every day to take a bus from the angle to a high school in the continental US.

 

 

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Sprague Manitoba
August 172019

Our border crossing went nice and quick.  Finally.  The last few years have been a bear trying to cross, because we would get stopped and searched a lot.  Maybe after 13 straight years of crossing into Canada without any drugs, guns, or other stuff, they finally gave us the benefit of the doubt.

Passing through the tiny town of Sprague on the way to the Northwest Angle.

Lots of Canadian flags.  We usually see these when it’s closer to Canada Day, but this trip was atypical: this was our first WVO roadtrip in August instead of June or July.

Also this trip had some odd border crossings.  Even though we are in Canada, we are trying to get to the Northwest Angle, which is the northernmost part of the continental U.S. and also only accessible from Canada or boat.

 

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Warroad Minnesota
August 172019

We gobbled down our food as we approached Warroad and the border crossing.

After a quick right turn through this small town, we were on the way to Canada, and ultimately the “Northwest Angle.”

 

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We pulled into Baudette Minnesota before lunch and needed to get some supplies.  Both of us took turns driving all the way from central Wisconsin up to this border town, and we both needed things that we forgot on the way.  I wanted to by a door stop to help keep my foot at a better angle on the accelerator.  The custom pedal in this minivan is very touchy, and you can’t put a lot of force on the pedal.  Maybe a wedge would make things easier.

We stopped off at the ol’ Hardware Hank for jerky, chips, and parts.

What a coincidence.  They had a farmer’s market in the parking lot.  Just in time for some lunch snacks.  We wanted to buy some fruit, but we knew the border agents would flip their shit if we showed up with an apple.  So instead we got some homemade c’min’nins.

Back on the road.  Even though we got an early start, we had to get a move on.  Heading west of Baudette to Warroad, I called ahead to The Peg to get a reservation at our favorite hotel.  In a few miles, we’d be out of cell range, and after over 24 hours on the road, I wanted to make sure we had a hotel before they all booked up on that Saturday night.

On to Warroad Border Checkpoint.

 

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We left around midnight on August 16th to kick off the 2019 WVO Roadtrip.  This was the first roadtrip where we used the infamous “Frankenvan” minivan, one of the very few Chrysler Town & Country vans to have a TDI engine in it.  As far as we know, it’s the only biofuel powered T&C on the planet.

We drove through the night to get to northern Minnesota by the morning.  As we cruised through Superior, Duluth, and the typical Minnesota northern towns on the way to Canada, instead of taking our favorite path up through Thunder Bay to get some Hoito pancakes, we decided to take a new way.  This trip, we crossed at Warroad, on the way to the Northern Inlet.

We had never been through this part of Minnesota before, and we ended up passing through a town called Kelliher, which had this place called Big Dick.  Nice.  We didn’t have time to stop at this gay bar, but maybe next time.  Ciao!

 

 

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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 do you get the chance of a lifetime 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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2013:

 

2018:

Now that I compare the photos, you can really tell 2013 was a hot year with lots of forest fires.  There were some major fires in Alaska and the Yukon that year that made the air all smokey.  Sunsets were remarkably red that trip.

 

 

 

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Watson Lake
July 72018

We’ve been to Watson Lake a half dozen times now.  The first time was in 2008 when we cruised through with the Jetta after a hail storm.

The next time was in 2013 with the Veggie Van.  Here’s a pic from the good ol’ days:

I miss that shirt.  Back on that day in 2013, we put a Greaser Nuts bumper sticker on one of the signs.  Anyway, back on topic.

The latest time we visited this town was the 2018 trip up to Tuktoyaktuk.  We snapped even more photos because this place is growing exponentially.

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 in 2018, 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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We’ve seen a lot of wildlife on our adventures up to the Yukon.  Everything usually works out if you drive slowly and carefully, and also, try not to smell too much like veggie oil.

Some animals from the 2008 WVO Roadtrip:

One the way up, we saw a good deal of wild-life on the side of the road. Several bison, many moose, possibly some caribou, a wolf, some sheep and three different instances of black bears. Also we saw what appeared to be a wild horse. Unlike other drivers we witnessed on the Alaskan Highway, we refused to feed the animals.

Our fourth bear sighting…
Some mountains and clouds outside Watson Lake…

Since it rained all day, when the sun set the deer came out in full force. It was a slow drive.

Some more horses in the middle of no-where…

And bison.  Lots of Bison:

We even saw a moose swimming!!!

From the 2018 WVO Roadtrip:

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Since we’ve taken the Alcan Highway something like five times now, we have lots of pictures of this bridge and river.

2013:

2018

2018

 

 

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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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We’ve been to Fort Nelson several times on our WVO roadtrips: 2008, 2013, and 2018.  It’s on the Alcan Highway in a place where there are no alternatives, so you are kind of stuck visiting this town on the way up to Alaska.  It’s a nice place, and they have the basics to keep the vehicle running on the way up north.

In 2008:  This was our first trip through Fort Nelson.

Fort Nelson, British Columbia. 6pm-3:45am Wednesday and Thursday.
We decided to crash out in Fort Nelson even though we could have probably made it to Watson Lake that night. However, just shy of Fort Nelson we ran into a HAIL storm (what next?  ). The storm was looming in the distance and we had to burn some cubie boxes to protect the windshields. Here is a pic of the hail in the ditch as we tried to get out of the storm.
We left Fort Nelson at 4:00 am and was surprised to see how bright it was at 3:30 am. I don’t think it got dark at all that night.

On the way back down to the US in 2008:

100km from Fort Nelson. 183230. 11pm Sunday.
Added 1.25 cubes. We encountered rain the whole day and it slowed our progress dramatically. When we pulled into Fort Nelson, we decided to crash for the night. The only restaurant open was Boston Pizza, and this is typical for the whole route—no late-night food. The great thing about Alaska and Canadian hotels is that they always have a refrigerator and microwave, so pack a few microwavable Campbell’s soup containers in the trunk.

Fort Nelson, British Columbia. 11pm Sunday – 11am Monday.
It appears that the only auto parts store is here, because I couldn’t find an oil filter anywhere between Whitehorse and Fort St. John. A change of oil cost us our morning, so we got off to another late start.

In 2013, we took the MacKenzie Highway from Yellowknife on the way up to Prudhoe Bay, and we could have avoided Fort Nelson if we really wanted to.  But since it had been 2 full days without a hot meal, we elected to drive the few miles south of the Laird Highway cutoff to reenter Fort Nelson to eat at their only restaurant.

In 2018:   We buzzed through Fort Nelson rather quickly on the way up to Tuktoyaktuk.  We didn’t really need to stop for anything at the moment.  However, on the way back down south, we had an overdrive issue, so we stayed in town to fix the tailshaft seal, refill the gear oil, and limp the van back to the U.S. at normal 55mph driving speeds.  Man, when you lose the overdrive, you realize just how nice you had it before.

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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.

We cruised through Dawson Creek in 2008 during the day:

And in 2018, we hit it at night:

Also, in downtown, you can see the original old-style signpost.

We’ve been there other times, but it’s getting so routine, that we rarely photograph it all anymore.  Just another day in the life of the most prolific WVO roadtrippers on the planet.

 

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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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On the 2018 WVO Roadtrip, after catching some Z’s at the Saskatoon Ramada, 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.

On the 2013 WVO Roadtrip, we once again reentered Saskatoon.  We were driving through the night to make up time from the drive from Prince Rupert to Wisconsin.

Saskatoon is an interesting town.  We cruised the strip just to change up the monotony of driving the plains of the Yellowhead Highway.

 

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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

We’ve been to Regina several times, notably in 2012 and 2018.

In 2012, we cruised through the downtown and visited their Tourism Center.  Since it was getting late, we didn’t have time to see any sites, but we did find a hotel in the area thanks to the help of the Visitor’s Center agents.

In 2018, 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.

We pulled into Morris Manitoba around lunchtime.

George’s Burgers 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 only thing open at this time of the day was Tara’s Pizza, and it wasn’t anything special.  But since we didn’t have any restaurants for the next 300 miles, we figured beggars can’t be choosers.

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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.

And there are lots of farms, silos, and agricultural infrastructure scattered on the horizon.

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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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On the trip back from Churchill, we stopped in Winnipeg for a day.  We got a hotel on the west side of town and crashed out.  This was the first shower we had since before we got on the train up to Churchill.

The next morning, we checked out the Winnipeg Grist Mill.  Pretty cool place, but it’s basically a replica. The waterwheel doesn’t really work, and it is powered by an electric motor now.  They can grind grain, but don’t sell it.  Glenn thought it was a missed marketing opportunity to sell hipster flour.

Then we scooted over to the Royal Canadian Air Museum.  This has been a place that we’ve been trying to go to for years, but things never really worked out in our favor.  Since we had a whole day to kill, we could take our time and check out some great Canadian aircrafts and tours.  The highlight of the tour was seeing a real life AvroCar, which if you don’t know, it’s a flying saucer shaped aircraft.  It actually flew too, but not much.

Lastly, we toured the Reil House in Winnipeg.  Canada is kind of funny.  Basically anything older than 75 years is considered “historical,” and the Reil family had a lot to do with the settling of Winnipeg in the early 1900’s.  We toured their house, and they had a bunch of college students dressed up in character.  We love jibber jabbering with these people, cuz it’s just fun.  Once on a tour of Lower Fort Gary in the late 2000’s, we basically get asked to tagteam some “wench.”  Glenn politely declined.

The Reil House was good.  The college student who was our guide probably knew more about Canadian history than the average American college professor.  The Canadians are really educated about their history and academics.  Once on a trip across the Trans Canadian Highway, we listened to a CBC interview (the Canadian equivalent of NPR in the U.S.) with some educated guy.  After about 30 minutes of enlightened conversation, the host of the show ended the topic by thanking the man for calling in.  It turned out, that guy wasn’t being interviewed, he was just a dude who called in and sounded really educated.  Pretty crazy.

The tour guide at the Reil House asked us about out politics, since the 2016 race between Trump, Hillary, and Bernie was heating up.  Right around this time, the DNC was screwing Bernie Sanders, but we were on the road so much, it was hard to keep track of American topics.  I told the tour guide, “Look at that van, and the Bernie Sanders sticker on the bumper.  That should tell you about my politics.”

 

 

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The drive down from Thompson was pretty uneventful. We took the drone out to shoot some footage of the forests, but there aren’t many mountains up here so it’s kind of all the same.  Once you get down to Lundar and Ashern, it’s mostly farmland up here.  There was a restaurant in Ashern that we stopped at for ice cream to cool off.  It was a welcome treat to have some warmer temps after the frigid climate of Churchill and Thompson.

We pushed on to Winnipeg.

 

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The train returned us to Thompson in the morning and our van was unmolested.  We wanted to put some miles on before it gets too late, so we headed south.  Several miles south of Thompson is a Thai Restaurant.  It’s literally in the middle of nowhere.  I saw it on the way up to Thompson, and unfortunately it was closed at that time. But now we were driving in the day, so I had to check this place out.  Most of northern Canada doesn’t have any restaurants, let alone any good or exotic restaurants.  So the prospect of thai food above the 55th parallel is really cool.

The food was pretty good.  The ingredients weren’t that fresh, and there wasn’t much protein for vegetarians, but overall, it was better than most restaurants up there.

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Our guide from Lazy Bear Lodge took us on a boat ride into the Hudson Bay.  We got to follow a group of beluga whales and see some icebergs floating around.  But the highlight of the trip was a tour of the Prince of Wales Fort National Historical Site.

Visiting the site is very dangerous.  There is always a threat of polar bears, so our guide and the National Park ranger had high powered rifles to protect the group.  Created in the 1710’s, this site is really really old.  This is so far back into the past, that it was constructed around the same time that Peter the Great moved the capital of Russia!

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Churchill Manitoba
July 52016

Churchill was the main destination for the 2016 WVO Roadrip.  It was truly an exotic and special place.

As we approached the town, the train started to bustle with conversation and activity.  Several of the occupants had been on the train for over three days, travelling the entire distance from Winnipeg.  Everyone was pretty excited to get off this train.  Even Glenn and I (who cheated by getting on in Thompson) who had a measly 18-hour journey was ready to depart.

Glenn and I attempted a rather risky gamble on this trip.  You see, the trains from Winnipeg to Churchill travels every 3 days.  One is going northbound while the other is going southbound.  That means you have to stay in Churchill for a minimum of 3 days to proceed back south.  There is one workaround: take the same train back south that you took north.  The train rests in Churchill for several hours before heading back south.  This is a huge gamble because if the train had arrived late into Churchill, the southbound departure time DOES NOT change.  So, if it was 8 hours late (not unlikely in the summer after a rain), that means the train will basically depart right after it arrived.  We had already purchased our return tickets, so we were really wishing for an early or on-time arrival in Churchill.  Thankfully, our arrival was nearly on time, maybe an hour late at most.

Since we didn’t know when we would have arrived in Churchill, we literally didn’t plan anything.  We knew what was available to see in Churchill (Polar bear tours, beluga whale tours, Hudson Bay boating, Prince of Wales Fort Historical Site, etc) but we never booked anything because we worried that we would miss our reservation with a delayed train or mechanical failure on the van.

So we plopped off the train and asked the train station clerk for suggestions on rapid service for tours.  She introduced us to the good people at Lazy Bear Lodge who got us hooked up right away.

I think time is handled a little more relaxed in this town.  Since the train dictates the schedule of the town, no one is really hampered with strict reservations and whatnot.  It’s pretty easy going.

So the man from Lazy Bear Lodge took us over to his place to set up our site-seeing.  He was very accommodating.  He literally took us from the station to his lodge without us having any reservation or anything.  On the drive, he asked us where we are staying, and we just said we are leaving on the train that evening.  He was surprised, and encouraged us to stay for several days, because it’s hard to see everything in Churchill in such a short time.  But he didn’t argue much (Canadian niceness) and got us on the next tour in the Hudson asap.

He told us the boat ride will be frigid so we needed to get our winter gear on fast.  The boat left in less than hour.  He also sold us some nice breakfast buffet from their lodge, so we could get some breaky before the day.  If we did need a place to stay, we would have definitely stayed there.  It was a nice place.

Out on the boat, he drove us passed icebergs and beluga whales.  It was wild!

The boat ride took us out to the neighboring peninsula where the Prince of Wales Fort Historical Site resided.  This was a blast from the past.  This fort dated back to the 1710’s!  Amazing this little frozen area had such old artifacts.

Our guide and the National Park ranger had high powered rifles with them.  They constantly talked about the danger of polar bears.  They said that if a polar bear came on the horizon, they would have to kill it for the safety of the tourists.  It was serious.

After the boat ride, our guide let us venture out into the town, with the understanding that if a bear sees you, you MUST find a nearby car or house to escape into.  By Churchill law, no cars or houses can be locked, so humans can find refuge.  I was starting to think they residents here are overly protective or playing me.  Then something proved me how serious this place is.

We of course wanted to visit the Hudson Bay and possibly go swimming.  It was way too cold, probably in the 30’s that day and the water still had ice in it.  As we walked along the shore, we saw a monument.  I thought it was some kind of thing talking about the Hudson Bay.  Nope.  It was a literal monument to all the people who died in that bay, from boating accidents, polar bear attacks, and other things.  I guess the locals were right about the risks in this area.  We tossed some rocks in the water and decided to stay indoors for the remainder of the stay.  No sense in risking our lives if a polar bear spotted us from the horizon.

Churchill has a nice community center, as most of these northern towns have.  There isn’t much to do in these places for the 22-hour darkness of the winter months, so interiority is important.  Also, they have a great Eskimo / Itsanitaq Museum with dozens of artifacts and mounted animals from the north.

After all of that, we needed to get on the train back to the south.  Even though they said we wouldn’t be able to do everything in Churchill in 8 hours, we did do a lot.  We didn’t do one of the famed Polar Bear Tours, but I think we risked our lives enough for one day.

It was another 18-hour ride back to Thompson, so we elected to sleep the remainder of the train ride.  It was a good day.

 

(Update 2017:  While we were in Flin Flon on the 2017 WVO roadtrip to Fort McMurray AB, we learned from some of the locals that the train to Churchill was shut down due to railway damage.  The government and corporation that handles the railway are fighting to see who will fix it.  I hope they fix it soon, but if not, things will look bleak for the tourist industry in Churchill as well as for the farmers that rely on the grain transports up to the Hudson Bay for shipping across Canada and worldwide.  )

 

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The further north the train took us, the more foreign this place got.  Most of this area was completely uninhabited.  Miles and miles of swamps and bogs.  Very few bushes and trees survived at this latitude.

Sometimes you’d see a cropping of trees and some wildlife, but I doubt it is a pleasant place to survive.  The ground is so waterlogged and spongy, it must be really hard to merely walk from place to place.

At one point, the train stopped for a minor stop.  I looked around.  No buildings, no station, just a sign saying the name of this stop.  I didn’t see anything for miles.  If anyone was getting off here, I’d seriously worry for their safety.

It was getting really cold as we got closer and closer to Hudson Bay.  I suspect that if it wasn’t for the bitter July cold, there would be trillions of mosquitoes chasing this slow train as it plodded its way northward.

 

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Gillam Manitoba
July 42016

Gillam is a tiny town in Northern Manitoba. It is the furthest north one can drive in this province. All further transport must be conducted via train or plane.

We took the train from Thompson to Churchill, which involve many minor stops in tiny First Nation towns across the north.  A minor stop means the train halts for a moment, and you have to be ready to depart or board immediately.  They won’t linger.  Gillam is the exception.  This time, the train stopped for several minutes, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs outside in the Canadian North near-darkness.

The station was bustling even though it was passed midnight.  There are a lot of mining, forestry, and waterway projects up here, so there was a mix of workers, indigenous, tourists, hunters, and other peoples.

Then the conductor hollered to board and we were on the 10-hour remainder of the journey.

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As we watched the Veggie Van disappear on the horizon from the comfort of our train seats, we began to realize this wasn’t just any plain old ride on the light rail in a major city.  This was more like what it was like in the old days of the Trans-Continental Railroad in the 1800’s.

We were tired, and we figured the 18-hour drive would be boring.  Little did we know it would be very exotic and different.

For the first part of the ride, it looked a lot like the typical forests of Canada and northern U.S.

But it completely transformed into vast swathes of tundra.  The trees have a hard life here.  Since there is very little growing season and little-to-no nutrients in the soil, they grow at an astonishingly slow rate.  It looks like something out of a Star Trek movie.

Also, since the train is the only means for First Nations people to travel back and forth to the grid, there are a batch of First Nation hamlets scattered along the path.  When you pull up to their respective stations, local people file off and on the train like it’s a subway car.  It really does feel like we have warped back to 1875 and we are travelling from St Louis to San Francisco.  That’s not an insult; it’s actually a really rewarding experience. It must be very special to live in this type of environment.  (It’s a shame that in 2017, the train tracks had a catastrophic failure, and the corporate entity that controls the train system and the Canadian government cannot find an agreement to fix and reinstate this valuable transportation service.)

 

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Thompson Manitoba
July 32016

As mentioned in the previous article, the train to Churchill goes from Winnipeg to the Hudson Bay. The only workaround to the 3-day train ride is to drive up to Thompson or Gillam and hop on the train there. Since we were having both van engine and Canadian weather problems, we elected to buy some tickets in Thompson instead of Gillam and get on the train there.

The Manitoba “highway” #6 is all paved, thank Zeus, but it’s still a long and remote journey.  We ended up passing through the Pisew Falls area and pushed on to Thompson right before midnight.

We got a hotel (we needed a nice place because we were smelly, beat up, and thrashed from the long drive and roadside mechanical repairs), and got some much needed rest.  The next morning, we ventured off to the train station right when they opened to buy some train tickets.  The clerk was exceptionally helpful, and he explained all the nuances about traveling by train in the tundra.

Some things we learned:

First, the train is exceptionally reliable in the winter, but not so reliable in the summer.  The frost keeps the tracks parallel and straight in the cold months, but once the soil thaws, it heaves the soil around messing up the tracks.  It’s not uncommon for the train to have to say under 20 mph for the 1063-mile trek, which makes it a lot longer than the projected three days on the ticket.

Second, even with the advance of being in Thompson, it is still an 18-hour ride up to Churchill.  This part of the train is especially susceptible to frost heaves, so the journey is very slow.  Also, once we boarded the train, I was surprised how many railway “turn-arounds” there are by Thompson, Gillam, and Churchill.  You think you are close to the destination, but there are several tertiary tracks that force the conductor to meander around to get the overall train into the right directionality and location for the station.  It’s not just a hop on the train and straight shot to the destination.

Third, it’s not uncommon for the train to derail, leaving the occupants stranded for days, both on the tracks and in Churchill.  There is only one track up to Churchill, so the “rescue” and repair train utilities have to trudge up to the location of the derailment, and meticulously realign and reinstall the train on the tracks.  For those stranded in Churchill, there are flights back to civilization, but they are costly.

Fourth, the passenger train is only one small component to the transport system up there. Most of the train activity on the tracks is related to grain and agricultural transport, because the Hudson and James Bays are the main waterway for all Saskatchewan and Manitoba international shipping.  Any of these heavily-loaded commercial trains could also derail, further postponing any public transport train activity for days.

The train station clerk took our money for the tickets and told us that the train is expected later that day.  So we ventured off to the “metropolis” of Thompson.  It’s a rather large town for the area, but relative to the rest of North America, it’s quaint and tiny.

South of town, there is a great museum called the “Heritage North,” which showcases a lot of local artifacts.  We spent several hours there in their building and on the grounds.

After we ate a quick meal there on their picnic tables, we headed over to the train station.  When we were at the station in the morning, it was pretty dead.  But now that the train was on the horizon, the place was bustling with travelers and all sorts of commotion.  It was pretty cool.

We parked the van next to the other vehicles in long-term parking, and boarded the train.  We watched the veggie van disappear in the distance as we ventured off into the great northern wild tundra.

While Glenn and I have never had issues with any First Nation people ever (except one drunk dude that was perturbed about his picture being taken in Lac La Biche), we were constantly inundated with southern white Canadians that were quite critical of their fellow northern neighbors.  They would say things like “Thompson is a shithole,” or “I wouldn’t leave your van parked in Thompson,” or “They [the Indians] will steal all your shit.”  It was a constant refrain.  So we didn’t know what to think.  As far as we could tell, the place looked like a nice town with nice people.  So when we left the van at the station, we didn’t know if it would still be there when we returned.  (Spoiler alert: not only was the van still there unmolested, no “Indians” stole our scooters or supplies on top.  Take that, racists.) 

 

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As you drive further north, the wilderness transforms into tundra. Gradually, what starts are pockets of swampy bog turn into wide swaths of treeless permafrost. Here was a section of that south of Ponton.

Also, as we got further north, the sky never really got too dark.  It was getting quite late in the evening, and this was the view north from our van.

At the junction of “Highways” 6 and 39, there is a general store and gas station called the Ponton Service Station.  We stopped in to check it out, but didn’t really need anything.  From what I hear in 2019, they have permanently closed now.  Bummer.  That area really needed some kind of business substructure.

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When we did this WVO roadtrip in 2016, there are two ways to Churchill MB: Plane or Train.  Now, since the train tracks got washed out in 2017, the train is no longer an option.  Even back in 2016, the tracks looked in rather shabby shape, as you can see in the photo above and below.  This was located near Warren MB, which is a small town on the trip up to the Churchill.

You might be wondering, why the hell are we driving up to Churchill if there are only two (now one) ways to get to the town, located on the Hudson Bay? Well, we are extraordinarily cheap with money and time. The train travels from Winnipeg to Churchill every three days.  It’s a 6 day roundtrip, because it takes 1.5-2 days to travel there and back.  Also, it costs something like $500 per person to travel from the Peg to Churchill, so with that kind of impact on our schedule and pocketbook, we elected to do the next best thing: Drive up to Thompson or Gillam in the north of Manitoba and hop on the northbound train.

While this is moderately cheaper (I think it was $300 or so to take the train, crazy expensive), this presented some serious considerations.  First off, if we missed our train, we were SOL. If we drove all the way up to Gillam and Thompson, and the train had already stopped on through, we would be left behind.  Since the train is notoriously late in the summer (no fault of their own, because the frost heaves contort the tracks, forcing the engineer to slow to a crawl), we figured missing the train wouldn’t be a problem.  Second, the stops in Gillam and Thompson are VERY remote, and the station is not always open. While it’s easy to buy tickets online and in Winnipeg, it’s hard to make sure we arrive in Thompson and Gillam at a time where we can buy tickets when the ticket office is open.  Thirdly, there is always the risk that the train will be booked up, leaving us high and dry in Gillam and Thompson.  The train is the main transportation service for all the First Nation hamlets scattered in the Manitoban tundra, so it is frequented by many northern indigenous people.  Also, this is the heart of the Canadian summer, so there are several tourists chomping at the bit to go up to Churchill for a Beluga Whale tour or Polar Bear siteseeing adventure.  So things were tight.

Lucky for us, we did manage to get up to Thompson.  Unlucky for us, our van had that pesky oil-in-coolant problem, forcing us to cut our drive up to Gillam short.  Thompson was our second choice, but after reviewing the road conditions up to Gillam, it was probably a wise choice even with a tip-top van.  The roads are mostly mud and gravel, and this particular week had been especially rainy.

Anyway, I took this picture of the railroad, because it just struck my interest. I couldn’t believe that people were taking this rickety old track up to Churchill.  Soon, we would be on those rickety tracks ourselves.

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As we trekked northward, we encountered the small First Nation town of Grand Rapids. Nice little place, and it’s cool how different the culture it gets as you drive further and further north.

It was getting increasingly rainy as we progressed on this trip. For a July, it was rather cold and wet.  I bet it was probably in the 50’s maximum in the day, and close to freezing at night.

After driving for hours without seeing much, suddenly signs started appearing on the horizon.

Eventually, we crossed the Saskatchewan River which connects the huge lakes Winnipeg and Cedar. That puts us into the heart of Grand Rapids.

We’ve been all over northern Canada, and one thing I’ve noticed in the northern First Nation culture is their love of free range kids. Kids are always roaming around, playing, investigating, and so on. It’s really cool.  I kind of wish more southern towns allowed kids to be kids like this.

Interestingly though, as we drove through Grand Rapids, we found a cadre of kiddos literally climbing the top of their amphitheater!  Talk about a wild time!

 

 

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Kenora Ontario
July 32016

We’ve visited Kenora several times, in 2016, 2015, 2010 and so on.

So, in 2015, we drove to Newfoundland and had a debilitating oil-in-coolant issue unrelated to our veggie oil system.  I thought I had fixed the problem in the off-season, by installing new heads and head gaskets, but by the time we reached Kenora, it was apparent we still had the leak.

So we pulled over at an A&W and investigated the issue.  Sure enough, the problem was still there, and it only arose once we put down some major miles.

In order to better assess the issue, without opening the radiator when it’s hot, we decided to use some of our wire to make a temporary dipstick, which would reside in the coolant reservoir.  Since we were already this far, we figured, we should keep driving the 2016 roadtrip and see if the problem gets worse.

Here’s me building the dipstick:

Also, we stopped through Kenora in 2010:

Lots of oddities on the way from the Ontario border to the Peg. The top hat really completes this piece.

 

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Kokoms restaurant makes some delicious food with a native delicacy called Bannock.

Back in 2010 or 2012 (I can’t remember, getting old), we ate our first bite of Bannock.  We were driving through Smithers British Columbia, and there was a food stand on the side of the THC.  Never missing an opportunity to eat food, we pulled over.  It’s basically a sweet bread, and you pour on honey or corn syrup to give it a little oomph.  The closest analog in the American southwest would be sopapillas or in the midwest would be a light and airy biscuit.

When we entered Dryden Ontario, we stopped at their delightful Tourism Center.  We always ask, what’s something we can eat here, that is like no where else in the world.  They immediately said we should eat a Kokom’s Bannock Shack, where they make burgers and fries with Bannock buns.  What a delightful fusion: greasy delicious hamburger smooshed between a couple sweetened bread buns.

Overall, the place was pretty damn good.  They even had a vegetarian menu (you have to ask for it), and their veggie-bannock-burger was even better than their actual bannock meat hamburger.

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After driving cross country with three kids, we needed a break.  The Antique Car Museum of Iowa, in Iowa City, is a great place to stretch the legs.  The kids liked all the oddball cars and vehicles.  They also had this crazy organ and jukebox from the olden days.

 

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Cool dinosaur museum with animatronic monsters!

The kids loved it, but one of the little ones skirted the walls avoiding the t-rex.

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Cleveland Ohio
July 202015

Honestly, I don’t know why Cleveland gets a bad wrap.  It’s a delight!

First we asked some locals for a good place to eat, so they suggested the infamous Melt Bar and Grill.  They had something like 12 types of grilled cheese.

Then we drove to the university area to visit the History Museum.  Glenn saw that dinosaur suppository and got a little excited for insertion.

Then we circumambulated the Frank Gehry building on the campus.

And checked out the famous Ronald McDonald House.

And cruised through downtown.

Cleveland was actually an amazing town.

 

 

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Avon New York
July 202015

After visiting PEI, we elected to drive through the night to get to Avon, NY.  A man named James had contacted us and wanted to meet up.  He is a fellow greaser and offered to help us get back to Wisconsin.

So off to Avon it is.  On the way there, we saw a bunch of ancient Painted Lady houses.

Next we got a burger at Tom Wahl’s.  This is a local institution.

Then we met up with James.  He was a great guy.  Thanks for giving us a tour of your grease vehicles and topping us off with a full tank of VO.  🙂

It was getting late so we decided to stay at the historical Avon Inn.  It is totally haunted.

It had this cool 19th century interior with all sorts of creaking and other spooky sounds.  Glenn totally got scared throughout the night, and said some ghost raped him.

 

 

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Driving around PEI
July 192015

Cruising around Crapaud.

Some huge inukshuk in the heart of PEI.

A bunch of churches near Carleton.

Shingled siding near Sackville Nova Scotia

 

 

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