Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Introducing Sparky & Eva

Back in November, we traded in our beloved Subaru for a little red Prius. We named her Sparky, and she gets 50 miles to the gallon. Here she is in her native habitat:

Not content with our low-CO2 lifestyle, we decided to go on this crazy Canadian road trip, and began looking for a temporary vehicle that could provide us not only with transportation, but with lodging as well. Many of you know the saga that ensued, which involved renting a huge RV, contemplating the purchase of a small, 20-year-old Winnebago, realizing that I have an alarmingly stunted sense of spacial awareness and no business driving anything as large as an RV - and then buying a used Volkswagen Eurovan.

Now that we own a VW van, it feels like we've been admitted to a cult-like secret society. Because man, people love their VWs. We would have loved to buy one of the pop-top camper versions, but people hold onto them forever. For 30 grand, you can get one with 150,000 miles.

So instead, we found the simpler version, with a fold-out bed, a fold-up table, and curtains. It has surprisingly low mileage (65,000) and a clean bill of health from the preferred mechanic of the local VW Secret Society, who seems suspiciously chill if you know what I mean, but dude, the man knows his VWs.

Her name is Eva, and here she is on our recent test run to Oregon. Please excuse my finger in this otherwise lovely shot of Mt. Hood:

The trip to Bend was about seven hours each way, ample time to let the dogs check out their new ride:

Yes, we really plan to live in that thing with two 60-pound dogs, for a month. Believe it or not, that's a queen-sized bed in there.

Most supplies will be stored underneath. We've spent the past few weeks pimping our ride, and we're almost good to go. We've got a cooler that runs on the 12-volt (aka cigarette lighter) plug, a spiffy new 2-burner Coleman stove, and an adapter for charging the laptop. This weekend we hope to get one of those iPod adapter thingies for the car stereo. We'll bathe the dogs, pack the passports, and then head off into the sunset with 45 quarts of dog food in tow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Starting at the beginning

Two weeks from today, our entire pack - two humans and two canines - will head north for a month-long Canadian adventure in a 2001 Volkswagen van. Our northernmost destination is Yellowknife: capital of the Northwest Territories, 350 miles north of Juneau, and 300 miles shy of the Arctic Circle. Total expected mileage: just over 4,000.

(You can click on the map to make it bigger)

En route, we will spend time in Banff National Park in the magnificent Canadian Rockies, camping along the banks of famous Lake Louise. Then we'll head to Edmonton for a couple days' visit with my aunt.

We plan to spend ten days in the Northwest Territories, where we can dip our toes in North America's deepest lake (the Great Slave Lake) and Canada's longest river (the mighty Mackenzie). It's big, big country up there.

We'll visit the world's second-largest national park (Wood Buffalo National Park), home to one of the largest buffalo herds in the world and the only remaining nesting area for the endangered whooping crane. We'll also see Fort Simpson, my great-grandmother's childhood home, and the Camsell mountain range named for her family.

On the way back, our plans are flexible, but we're hoping to take the less-beaten path (!) down the Alaska-Yukon Highway, possibly cutting back for a shot at Jasper National Park and the chance to meander along the spine of the Rockies on the Icefields Parkway.

That's the plan, anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Not dead!

I know, last you heard from me, there was still a possibility that John McCain would be President of the United States. It's been a while. I haven't been terribly inspired.

Plus, I took a partial break from consulting work to put some concerted effort into my book-writing project, The Canadian Saga, based on my family history. I read dozens of books related to the history of Canada, the native peoples of western Canada, and the Hudson's Bay Company. I made mid-winter journeys to the frozen homelands of my people, where I visited archives and saw really enormous snow sculptures. I diagrammed elaborate timelines of events on my white board. I discovered that sitting down and writing fiction is fracking hard. So for a while, all my writing energy was absorbed elsewhere.

I also became an aunt! Which is also way cool, and some of my time has been absorbed visiting my adorable new niece and, of course, her parents. Since it's not my place to blog about her, or her family's joys and travails in the throes of new parenthood, or to post pictures of her - that takes another big part of my life off the table.

BUT - Enrico and I (and our two geriatric dogs) are soon to embark on a month-long road trip to the far north, land of my family tale. And travel, my friends, has always generated ample fodder for us here at Miscellaneous Shellfish. We've bought a used VW van, and it should be a hoot. So I figure I'll re-activate the old blog as a way of keeping up with family while we're on the road. Stay tuned, if you care to.