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Adventure Canada: How to Go Insane

This is the 3rd post on the Adventure Canada Series. If you haven’t read parts 1-2 of the blog series yet, you can read them here:
Adventure Canada: Failure to Launch
Adventure Canada: The Gravel Strip & Beauty
Adventure Canada: How to Go Insane

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. ” – Charles M. Schulz

As we drove from one beautiful part of Canada to another, I couldn’t help pondering the rugged terrain that was flying past the windows.  Such steep mountains and narrow valleys are perfect for flash floods, ambushes, and avalanches.  It is no wonder that the European explorers had so much trouble crossing the Rocky Mountains.  These vagabonds traveled by boat, horse, mule, and foot for months to accomplish what our family drive at 100 kph while listening to an audio book.  They spend so much energy to make it to our mutual destination.  If only they’d had the source of the most potent energy on the planet.

We found this source of energy in Invermere, BC.  It is concocted by Kicking Horse Coffee Co. and is delicious and can complicate an afternoon.  However, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning.

IMG_9419On our way out of Banff National Park we decided to stop at a few points of interest.  Some were to scope out future campgrounds (so we didn’t have to camp on that gravel strip again -should we return) and a few others were to see some other natural features of the park.  My favorite was a 2.4 km hike up Johnson Canyon to the Johnson Canyon Lower Falls.

For the average person this distance is not a hike.  However, when climbing up a canyon with an extra 22 lbs of one-year-old wiggly person on one’s shoulders, 2.4 km is the perfect distance.  OH, and my 7-month pregnant wife thought the same.  Yep, we’re pretty hardcore.

The best part of this “hike” is that the entire journey up the canyon is beautiful. Parts of the hike are on a catwalk that hangs off of the canyon wall!.  At the end of this little jaunt is a powerful waterfall.  An added bonus is a naturally carved stone tunnel that hikers can pass through to get a closer look & feel of the falls.

As for our little family, it was a great way to get the wiggles out, see some great water features, and help our daughter address the challenges of a hiking trail (she tripped on a root and skinned the inside of her upper lip).

Then it was lunch and more driving.

As we arrived at Radium Hot Springs in Radium, BC there was excitement in our little teardrop towing vehicle.  Not only were we at the end of another leg of our journey but speculation concerning our future camp site was rampant.  After the disappointing gravel patch in Banff National Park, we weren’t sure what to expect in Kootenay National Park.  We visit the Radium, BC area about one time per year for family-get-togethers but we’ve never camped there so the ideas bounced around the vehicle for a time.

IMG_9491As one drives through the little town of Radium, it is easy to miss the enormous hill that rises above the town and glacially carved valley.  Upon that hill is Redstreak Campground.  It is a nice place that is out in nature.  It seems that the campground officials realized our predicament at Banff National Park and made up for it in Redstreak Campground.  We were in one of the most remote border campsites.  It was great.  It was just dirt, deer, bears, trees, a large population of friendly big horned sheep, and us.  Our little girl has no fear of dirt and, as we set up camp, she parked herself in a particularly attractive dirt patch and began playing with the grass and throwing small rocks.

For lunch, we were low on food so we went into town.

Radium is small and doesn’t have too many eatery options compared with a larger city but they do have one of the best places we’ve ever eaten.  Safta’s Kitchen is 100% delightful.  This is Isrealie food at its best.  Try the pickled florescent-pink turnip. It will blow your mind. Seriously!

For the next few days, we went hiking, did some reading, and generally enjoyed a low-key camping experience.  It was during one of those days that we decided a treat was needed.

IMG_9555As I mentioned in the first installment of this series on our Canadian trip, Senior Management and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary during this trip.  Our anniversary gift to each other was to get coffee at our favorite roaster in the world; Kicking Horse Coffee Co. in Invermere, BC.  So we packed up the one-year-old and made the 10 km drive to the coffee house of our dreams.  We didn’t know it, but our dreams were soon to turn into nightmares.

Kicking Horse Coffee Co. roasts their own beans, sells unique blends locally, and general blends around the world.  For years, we have frequented this establishment for their fine coffee.  This, however, was our first trip with a small child.  Every parent knows that a child, no matter how sweet and well-tempered, is quick to observe discrepancies within the family unit.  For instance, said child’s inner monologue may go something like this:

“I have ice-water.  Mommy and Daddy both have a brew of coffee so good they think they hear Bob Marley personally serenading them. That is not fair. I am displeased.”

To avoid the foreseeable cacophony of high pitched comments, escalating into shouts, and eventual crying, we ordered her a small hot chocolate.

After 20 minutes of coffee crowned bliss we, as the parents, noted a change in the behavior of our sweet daughter (buzz buzz buzz).  She ran around more than usual.  She was greeting everyone who entered the coffee shop with a loud “HI”.   She left little visual streaks behind her in her haste (buzz buzz buzz).  It reminded me of the Warner Brother’s Road Runner Cartoons.  She was almost literally bouncing off of the walls.  On a hunch, my wife sampled the hot chocolate (buzz buzz buzz).  It, like the coffee, is delicious.

 

In some circles, it is known as drinking chocolate.  Drinking chocolate is a lot thicker and, therefore, loaded with more sugar than planet earth can supply in a single year (hyperbole but that is the way it tasted).  Our little one was tripping on chocolate!  She was so hyper, she could make a humming bird look dead (buzz buzz buzz).

After wearing out our welcome a bit, we decided to depart for camp.  This buzzing little package was buckled back into her car seat and taken back to camp at full volume (buzz buzz buzz).  A good run in nature is what she needed!  So we trapesed out through the wilderness for a few miles (buzz buzz buzz).  Then we trapesed back (buzz buzz buzz).  Bed time came and we got her all tucked in and sang a few songs together (buzz buzz buzz).  Bed time flew by so fast we didn’t even sense the shock wave.

 

One Hour (“I feel so warm inside!  Look at all the Chocolate Pixies!”)…

Two Hours (“Bet you wish you got me water huh?  This stuff is like jet fuel to my neurons!”)…

Three Hours (“Rational thought is a myth they talk about in college. Pandemonium rules!”)…

Two Frazzled & Exhausted Parents (“It’s your turn…NO…It’s YOUR turn.”)…

One Hyper Child (“There are a thousand bouncy balls in my head!!!”)…

Four Hours (Warning: You are now approaching the threshold of hell.).

At long last, almost seven hours after ingesting what we now know to be the world’s most potent energy source, the one year old collapsed and fell asleep.

I cried (hyperbole?).

It was good to see her asleep.

The next day was the last of our vacation.  As our bleary, blood shot, and battered eyes opened upon another glorious Canadian wilderness morning. I wondered if the early European explorers would have had an easier time crossing the mountains had the Kicking Horse Coffee Co. already existed.  I believe they would have if they’d ordered the hot chocolate.  However, the following day they would have a strong desire to be held by Mommy and they’d have been kind of weepy.

Maybe the weeping was our daughter’s chocolate withdrawals or stark terror as the local big horned sheep slammed their heads together in a thunderclap of skulls, horns, and fur.  I’m pretty sure it was the chocolate though that caused her to cling to her mother.  After the previous day of chocolate induced hallucinations, she was probably comforted by gripping her real mommy.

I believe that REAL adventures start when things go wrong.

That night in a teardrop trailer with a crazed little girl is one of my most treasured adventures.

I can laugh about it now…but just barely.

Adventure Canada: The Gravel Strip & Beauty

This is the 2nd post on the Adventure Canada Series. If you haven’t read the other parts of the blog series yet, you can read them here:
Adventure Canada: Failure to Launch
Adventure Canada: The Gravel Strip & Beauty
Adventure Canada: How to Go Insane

Mother & Daughter Soak in the View

Mother & Daughter Soak in the View

“I grew up on the edge of a national park in Canada – timberwolves, creeks, snow drifts.” – Dan Aykroyd

As we drove off of the plains of Alberta and into the rocky mountains, we joined a caravan of large white RVs.  The odd feature of this unplanned caravan is that most of the RVs appeared to be rentals.  We debated many possibilities for this phenomena.  Eventually, we settled on the obvious answer. At the time we visited Canada, it was innondated with tourists from other continents who had no choice but to rent (this seemed to be the case).

Since my summer was consumed with building teardrop trailers, my wife (Senior Management), planned our camping trip.  She did a great job!  The locations were great and the travel schedule was relaxed.

To our mutual disappointment, our first camp site was one of those pull through places.  You know the ones.  It is a gravel strip with a picnic table.  Just enough room to park your large RV.  Each lot has a token 10 blades of grass and a bark-less immature tree.  The assumption, of course, is that you’ll sit in your large RV and do what you’d do at home (ie watch Television or something…).  However, for the tear droppers like us, it is a bummer because we love to be outside when we camp.  To make it worse, the gravel strip we were assigned was to be shared with another RV.  They parked about 8 feet away on the same pad of rock.

With no privacy & little immediate nature, we were not impressed.  It simply wasn’t a good fit for us.  However, we made the best of it by doing what we normally do; mock our situation.  We never thought that we’d genuinely grow to enjoy our barren site.

Our enjoyment started when the neighbors drove into their side of our gravel strip.  The driver was visibly uncomfortable driving such a large rental RV.  It took them several passes to get it lined up properly.  When they were parked, about 10 people came out for fresh air.  Our daughter (Assistant to the Senior Manager) possesses a personality type that is contrary to that of her parents…she’s outgoing.  She stood up, waved, and yelled “hi” to each member of the neighbor group.  They were kind and responded with waves and soft spoken “Hello”s of their own.  From their dress, accent, and demeanor, it was obvious that they, like us, are not Canadian.  Eventually, the matriarch popped over for a visit.  Upon meeting her, we found that our neighbors were a Dutch family on holiday.

This family had heard of the beauty of Canada’s Rocky Mountain ranges.  They’d even seen photos in guidebooks but that still didn’t prepare them for the raw beauty of the Canandian Rocky Mountains.  They were dumfounded by the size of those blades of stone jutting out of the ground.  The contrasts of color in vegetation, rock, glaciers, water, and wild life stirred up quite a lot of chatter within the family.

Since their English skills were rudementary and our Dutch language skills are non-existant, we did a lot of reinterpretations of what we thought the other party was communicating.  We used bits of 3-4 common languages & gestures for emphasis.  Eventually, the grand daughter in their family came to sit with our little daughter.  They shared some food together.

Call me old fashioned but eating together is a tremendous bonding experience.  There is something about camp food shared by a group of strangers that instantly bonds them as fast friends.  The smell of freshly brewed tea & baked goods traveled on the wind as we crawled into bed that night.  Our girl had made a friend. Her parents were proud of her.

The following morning, we set out to explore Banff National Park.  The first stop simply had to be Lake Louise.  Lake Louise is THE spot that every tourist visits when in Banff.  It is a lot more commercial than when I was a child BUT, thankfully, the Canadians have exercised some restraint concerning the tourist trade.  I don’t think Americans would be able to exercise such control.  We’d probably put in a Starbucks, McDonalds, and a roller coaster with plans for an Apple store to be built in the near future.

Among my earliest memories of Lake Louise are images of an old german woman, with the obligatory old-lady-white-afro-hair, shaking her arthritic finger in my face as she told me to go see Lake Louise for her.  This was my great Grandmother. Incidentally, her name was Louise -but they didn’t name the lake after her.  Since the formation of that memory, I’ve always thought of my great grandmother when visiting Lake Louise.

It is ironic that I would do so since Lake Louise is such a peaceful place with cold glacier water and tremendous hiking.  My great grandmother would be more easily compared with one of those volcanoes that local people would toss virgins into to keep an angry deity from burning their villages to the ground.  Still the memory persists -as does the Lake’s beauty.

We soaked in the beauty for a few hours.  However, because of the number of tourists at Lake Louise, we chose to move on after spending a bit of time there.  Without a structured plan, we simply drove to neighboring lakes, hiked a few trails (my wife is amazing to have done that while 7 months pregnant), sat at lookouts on rocks and just watched the beauty playing out before us.  Honestly, it was the closest think to peace on earth I can imagine -aside from all of the posted signs warning of potential death and dismemberment by grizzly bear.  At least they post signs that warn you that you’re about to die.  Ah…Peace, tranquility, and the sound of hikers running for their lives.  That’s the joy of being outdoors!

Our little girl loves being outside and she was a great sport for all of her parent’s explorations.  The only time she demanded to be held was when she saw a ground squirrel.  Her unrefined instincts told her that the ground squirrel is the most vicious of all the animals in the land.  Maybe the park should invest in posting some more warning signs!

Our few days in Banff were wonderful.  On our last morning at camp in Banff, we greeted our Dutch neighbors for the last time.  It was at that time that the driver of the family managed to corner me and ask for a tour of the teardrop trailer.  This is a common request for teardrop campers and I was happy to oblige.  He had very few English words to share with me but he did say “fantastic” over and over again.  Honestly, I’m just shallow enough that his one word was plenty to make me happy.

After touring the jPod teardrop, some other family ventured over to our side of the gravel lot.  They began asking a ton of questions about the mountains that they found so overwhelming.  If you’ve never been to the Netherlands, it may be helpful to know that the Netherlands is a very flat region.  For someone accustomed to such little elevation variation, mountains on the scale of the Rockies would be mind blowing.  We discussed this and other topics for a while.

Their last question concerned grizzly bears.  The questions of how big they were, when they would attack, why they would attack, what to do when they attack, were all asked.  I could tell they were nervous and tried to reassure them that if they traveled in groups and made lots of noise that the bears would leave them alone.  One man repeatedly asked if grizzly bears would eat people.  I told him that he shouldn’t worry about being eaten but rather worry about being mauled.  Chances are that one would be unconscious or dead by the time the bear began eating (if it were that hungry).

I’m not sure if they believed that the bears are pretty harmless as long as one respects their territory.  They seemed a bit traumatized by the whole situation.  I suppose living in the Rockies imparts a certain indifference to bears with paws as large as a human torso.  Seeing that they are not from the Rockies, I suspect they saw Banff from inside a large rental RV.

As we drove out of camp towards Kootenai National Forest, we waved good bye to each other and exchanged good wishes.  Our little girls waved out the windows.  Friends for life but probably never to see each other again in this life.  I really hope that family got to go hiking and make some tremendous memories.  I also hope they got to see a grizzly bear while respecting its space.

In retrospect, I’m glad we camped on that nature deprived strip of land.

Read the next blog in this series here: Adventure Canada: How to Go Insane

Adventure Canada: Failure to Launch

This is the 1st post on the Adventure Canada Series. If you haven’t read the other parts of the blog series yet, you can read them here:
Adventure Canada: Failure to Launch
Adventure Canada: The Gravel Strip & Beauty
Adventure Canada: How to Go Insane

Camping with Family is the best

Camping with Family is the best

“You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.”  -Author Unknown

Imagine you’re headed out for a week long adventure in the wilds of Canada.  It is over 100 degrees (f) at home and you’re sweating while dreaming of the clear cool air of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  You’ve loaded your teardrop trailer and vehicle, you’ve got the audio books lined up, and all you have to do is get on the highway and make tracks.

The light changes from red to green.  You ease in to the gas and propel your vehicle left onto the highway. Suddenly, your vehicle lurches as if tugged from behind by one of those dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.  Then it lurches again.  You check your mirror…no dinosaurs…no flat tires.  The vehicle loses power on the on-ramp.  You are forced to coast to the shoulder and park.  The next action is obvious: vent.  When you’ve expelled all of the negative thoughts, it is time to vent the vehicle.

You smile like a loony, because you’re just so happy, and step out into 100 degree weather. As you open the hood, a wave of heat sears your corneas.  You pay it no mind because you’re happy, nay, overjoyed to be marooned on the side of the road in the middle of the hottest day the devil can dream up from the depths of hell.  You do a little happy dance after you touch a particularly hot hose because you choose to think of the sensation as a tickle on your fingers rather than a nasty burn.  Sweat drips from your face onto the engine’s manifold where it is instantly vaporized and sizzles back into your face with a strange metallic scent.  You decide to let the engine cool as much as it can while parked on the side of what feels like a gaping volcano.

Drip…Drip…Drip.

What is that?

You ask yourself.

You look down to the liquid collecting on the pavement.  Assuming it is coming from under the vehicle, you gently kneel down on the hottest pavement you’ve seen that wasn’t still a liquid hot tar.  Nothing.  Upon standing up again, you realize that the liquid is sweat dripping from your elbows and knees.  You begin to bloat and blister like sausage in a pan.

A thought materializes and drifts through your mind.

Man, I’ve got to smell amazing!  

Then your mind moves on.

THIS is the long hoped for vacation.  THIS is what the weeks of planning has produced.  You begin saying “really nice things” to each system of the vehicle as you run through the likely culprits. As the engine simmers away, you sense something boiling in the background:  RAGE.  OH, and this is on your 10th wedding anniversary!  Enjoy 😉

**************

This describes the first 30 seconds of our trip to Canada this summer.  The trip was inspired family wedding to attend in Edmonton, Alberta.  Since both Senior Management and I have family in Canada, we spent chunks of our formative years in the nation to the north.  We’ve both done a lot of camping in Canada but not since we’ve been married.  We decided to capitalize on the wedding attendance by extending the vacation to enjoy some of the innumerable beautiful spots in western Canada.  Plus, it was our 10 year wedding anniversary and we couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to camp and read together as a family.

Explorer David Thompson

As a social studies teacher, I am constantly reading “nerdy” material that I can use to enhance my classes and expand my knowledge.  One of my heroes in history is David Thompson. He was the first European to map most of what is now Canada and the Pacific Northwest.  As we drove through the rocky mountains and out onto the Alberta plains, I couldn’t help but think of all of David Thompson‘s adventures with his cedar bark canoe, compass, and sextant.  It almost seemed a inappropriate to be driving 90 km/h over land that holds so many sacred stories.  However, by the time we were in Alberta, I felt lucky to have simply made it a mere mile from our house.

We started our journey about 1/2 mile from home.  It was about 100 degrees (F) out when I left the house to pick up my wife and daughter.  Moments later, I was sitting on the side of the highway in the Jeep with the jPod teardrop trailer loaded and ready for a week’s trip. One would think that someone who has built their own teardrop trailer and who is an owner in a company that builds trailers would enjoy working on a vehicle.  You are right, of course, but only in certain conditions.

After a night of trouble shooting and some engine work, it seemed that the engine was fine.  In fact, it was fine.  There never was anything wrong with the engine. The culprit?  A small donut-sized piece of plastic with a sensor in it named the “camshaft sensor”. Its job is to shut the engine down if something goes wrong with the engine.  However, if the sensor goes bad, it thinks something in the engine is wrong and shuts it down anyhow!  What a brilliant design!  I love my Jeep but I want to slap the group that thought that sensor would be a good idea.

The evil sensorThanks to my business partner Nathan, his helpful hands, an engine code scanner, a new little piece of expensive plastic -which held a cooperative sensor-, and a screwdriver, we were able to leave the next day.  The cost?  A pretty inexpensive auto part, 20 hours of travel time, no sleep for over 30 hours, and 20 gallons of sweat.  All I can say is that I’m glad I was home.  What a great place to break down.  Whew.

As we left home, our time table forced us to make the 13 hour drive directly to Edmonton in time for the wedding preparations and ceremony.  With a one year old in the back seat, we took to this idea with some trepidation.  To our pleasure, she did just fine.  Oh, sure, she wanted to walk, we all did, but she was a real trooper.

Upon arriving in Edmonton, we did the logical thing when towing a teardrop trailer 13 hours after working through the night before on the tow vehicle.  We checked into our hotel room and went to bed.  The weekend went smoothly.  It was a great wedding and we’ve added a wonderful member to the family. Congrats Ryan & Trina!

After the weekend, it was time to check out of the hotel and the urban scene. It was time to check-in with Nature.

Read the next blog in this series here: Adventure Canada: The Gravel Strip & Beauty

Adventure Film 08: “Vintage Mood”

This is the eighth post on the Adventure Film project. If you haven’t read parts 1-7 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:

“I believe the true function of age is memory. I’m recording as fast as I can.” – Rita Mae Brown

Days 12-13

The state sprint went almost as planned.  Fatigue took over between Wisconsin and Missoula, Montana.  We actually drove for about 21 hours and finally slept on the side of the road in Billings, Montana.  I once drove from Dallas, TX to Spokane, WA without stopping (36 hours).  I’m too old for that anymore I guess.  On day 13, we drive from Billings, MT to Spokane, WA.  That night, we sorted & unloaded some gear at the house & I got to see Senior Management for a few hours.  The next day’s plan was to shoot up to Hope, ID to see Debra Kellerman and then make it down to Walla Walla, WA in time to meet a pilot we had contacted on the trip.

Day 14

Early on day 14, Landon and I loaded up the Jeep without the jPod (since we’d drive right back through Spokane on our way to Walla Walla) to visit with Debra Kellerman.

Debra contacted me through this website a few months after I announced the commencement of the Adventure Film.  She claimed to have be restoring a vintage teardrop.  Emails flew back and fourth and it soon became obvious that her project was perfect for the film.  During the spring of 2010 she continued to restore a 1956 Benroy teardrop trailer (read more about Benroy Trailers here).  There were fewer than 500 Benroys ever manufactured which made this trailer an obvious feature for the film.

The timing of our arrival was perfect since Debra had just camped in the Benroy for the first time a week or two earlier.  The camping & rebuilding memories were fresh and fun listening.

Upon arrival, we found three vintage trailers in the driveway and an amazing view of Lake Pend Oreille.  I must say, at this point, that Debra is an amazing hostess.  She had made pastry & coffee for us.  We spent quite a bit of time chatting together before we went to see the trailers.  Debra is a down to earth, fun loving, meticulous, pave-the-way sort of person.  She has an obvious knack for overhauling vintage trailers.  I know that the Benroy has never been as nice as it is now.  She took a piece of history, restored it, and improved it.  I think old Bennet and old Roy would be proud and perhaps embarrassed!

After seeing her quality craftsmanship, I started asking questions.  Debra began the search to restore a vintage trailer after camping in a modern large RV.  To her, the big rigs seemed too much like home to be actual camping and she didn’t like the size.  Something caused her to start looking at vintage RVs.  As she puts it, “I was in a vintage mood.”  It was in this search that she discovered the teardrop trailer.  It struck a chord with her and the passion grew.  She thinks that the vintage teardrops are “cute”, “minimalist”, camping but with comfort, and she likes that it can be towed with her Subaru instead of a huge truck.  This is the part of the story where Craigslist.com comes to the rescue.

She placed a wanted ad on craigslist for a vintage teardrop trailer.  A few weeks later, she had purchased the 1956 Benroy with the hope that restoring it meant only minor repairs and paint.  As she dug into the trailer she realized that it needed to be completely overhauled.

I asked her what her favorite part of the project was and she said it was the learning.  “I didn’t know what a screwdriver was”, she said several times.  Debra came from a career in which tools were largely irrelevant.  Tools weren’t part of life for her until the Benroy rolled up the driveway.

“I had no idea what tools could do and how they could be used.  And I realized that really it’s not a mystery.  You can learn how to do these things.”

The amount of learning & research on this project really shows.  Her goal was to keep the trailer period accurate by restoring all of it as much as possible.  The result is her knowledge of RV technologies long in the history books plus some of the tricks of restoration (including a new but vintage looking decal on the outside).

Before the Benroy was even finished, Debra began collecting more vintage trailers.  As she put it, “If you’re really into them, you have to have one of each.”.  She now has three vintage trailers.

There is the 1956 Benroy, a classic 1952 Kit, and a very rare 1936 Kaycraft Kampster.  Kit trailers was the first of the teardrop manufacturers to begin production after WWII.  Their trailers are well known and any good tear-dropper will recognize the shape and style of their little RV.  Little is known about the Kaycraft Kampster teardrop.  From inspection, it appears to have been covered with a green canvas, it had an icebox, and clever shelving.  It is in pretty bad shape and will require a lot of Debra’s meticulous time to bring back its glory.

Time flew by while we were visiting, inspecting, and talking about trailers.  From our few hours together I gathered Debra’s basic message.  I think it is best said in her own words.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it.  Now I have power-tools that connect to this compressor and I’m all over it.  It is really fun.”

Our time with Debra was too short and I am thankful that she is not too far away from my home-base. I might have a chance at seeing her works of art being pulled by a Subaru down the road.

The afternoon of day 14 was the last day of shooting.  The raw footage isn’t all done but it was the last that he and I would travel together for this project.  Instead of reminiscing about our trip, we spent the 3 hours to Walla Walla discussing Debra’s vintage rigs and her ambition.  14 days earlier, Landon had a vague notion of what teardrop trailers were.  He knew he was making a film and since that is his specialty that was the initial focus.  By the end of our two week film marathon, I was starting to observe signs of the teardrop sickness in him.  He discussed design ideas, shapes, history, weights, and speculated about how teardrop trailers are licensed in Canada (his home).

In Walla Walla, we met our pilot and planned our short trip for aerial footage.  Since I was driving the jPod, and I was the second cameraman on our trip, we employed the help of a friend for a second camera.  At that point, the last thing I wanted to do was to drive for another hour but the results have made it worth it.  The pilot flew slow and low and we got some great footage.

Leaving Landon in Walla Walla, I headed for home.  Sometime in the middle of the night, I pulled over at a wide spot in the road and slept in the jPod until morning.  As I awoke and made coffee with an Italian peculator out of the galley of the jPod, I again marveled at these little trailers.  They’re just so convenient.

Later that morning, I marveled at what we had accomplished in two weeks:

  • Travel 4,567 miles
  • Interview over 30 individuals
  • Fill up over 120GB of Hard drive space with RAW footage.
  • Gave over 60 tours of the trailer (mostly at gas stations)
  • Ate a lot of sandwiches
  • Listened to several audio-books
  • and much more.

This project is not yet finished.  There is more filming to be done.  I can’t wait to get it in the “can”.  For now, it is time to fund raise and be thankful I don’t have to sit in the Jeep.  Only $1,000 left to raise and I’ll have the footage and purchased all of the copyrights necessary to make the Adventure film a reality.  Until that time, Landon and I will be editing until our eyes are bloodshot.  And I will be working with my students to develop teaching materials to bundle with this film.

There are rumblings among the people I’ve talked with about supporting a submission to the discovery channel, travel channel, or National Geographic.  The film would have to be edited slightly to fit those needs but the idea is intriguing.  I’m going to explore those venues through a couple of new contacts I made on this journey.

My many thanks must go to those who have supported this project so far.  I could not do this without your time, resources, knowledge, and financing.  We’re almost there.  Just a bit more time, effort, and money and it will be done.

Adventure Film 07: The Family Tree

This is the seventh post on the Adventure Film project. If you haven’t read parts 1-6 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:

She wouldn't put that cigar down for anything

I suppose it takes a pretty hardcore RV geek to get excited about an entire museum dedicated to the family tree of RVs. I suppose that’s why I enjoyed it so much…I’m a geek.

Day 11

A trip to the National RV Museum & Hall of Fame was 2 years in the making.  Nearly three years ago when the idea of making a documentary film about teardrop trailers for high school use occurred to me, I called the Smithsonian to ask what resources they may have available.  They referred me to the National RV Museum & Hall of Fame because they said that they weren’t experts on the topic.  They suggested I talk with a man named Allen R. Hesselbart, who is the RV adviser to the Smithsonian, a writer, and librarian.  I called the museum and Al was excited about the idea of making a film on the topic of teardrops.  From that point in 2008, I would occasionally think of visiting the museum.  Not until January of 2010 did I think visiting was possible.

The National RV Museum and Hall of Fame is relatively new. Yet it houses the oldest and rarest RVs in the world.  Within its walls are the ancestors of modern RVs.  In conversation, I’ve told people about visiting a museum on the topic of RVs.  I often get incredulous looks as if they don’t understand why anyone would want to see a bunch of old RVs.  It is ironic that RV shows across the US net more sales than any other event for the industry.  People flock to see hundreds of modern RVs which are posh, clever, and basically the same.  Yet the idea of visiting a RV museum is crazy to them.  Think of the museum this way, it is a giant RV show through time.  Now that you think of it that way, you must go for a visit.  It is a kick!

Al is a gracious host and gave Landon and I permission to tour all of the RVs (as long as we were careful).  The general public can tour through many of the vehicles on site but there are a few that are “look but don’t touch”.  These are the rarest, most valuable, the less durable, or the hardest to physically tour.  As a result of our special permission, I was able to sit in the world’s oldest known RV.

The oldest R.V. in the museum — and it is believed to be the oldest survivor anywhere — is a 1913 Earl travel trailer that was built for a California college professor. It is displayed behind a Blue Ford Model T (Historic also because it was before Henry Ford started painting them all only black).  It is a hand built trailer that mimics the designs of WWI aircraft with wooden slats covered by canvas.  This is an RV which was created before there was an “industry”.  In fact, most of the RVs before the 1940s were home built.

Another notable RV is the Bowlus Road Chief.  This trailer looks like an Airstream but it isn’t.  It is actually the trailer which inspired the Airstream.  It is a massive trailer for its time and weighs about 1100lbs.  The engineer who designed and built them, William Hawley Bowlus, was a well accomplished aircraft engineer.  He was the foreman engineer on the Spirit of St. Louis project.  Bowlus thought his design for an RV was marketable.  He was right.  Although he was a genius engineer, he was a lousy businessman and eventually his trailer company went bank-rupt.  Airstream essentially stole his ideas and started making trailers based on his designs.

The only teardrop in the group is a 1954 Scotty Sportsman teardrop.  The manufacturer of this teardrop wanted a small RV for hunters and fishermen that could easily fit into a garage.  It is a cozy little number and features a frontward facing window.

Other notable RVs are a tent trailer with wagon wheels from the 1916,  a 1931 Chevrolet Housecar used by movie star Mae West, a 1915 Model-T with a slide-out camper & chuck-wagon-style galley, and a few covered wagon tent trailers.

One of my favorite parts of the experience was seeing the creative solutions to toilet and bathroom facilities.  There were jars that pull out from under dinner tables, small wooden boxes with holes in the top stowed in closets, what looked like a wooden kitchen chair with a crudely cut hole in the middle, and a bathtub made of plywood -painted to seal it.

Among all of these great pieces of history is a strange statue of a man-ish looking woman.  Poker Alice Tubbs was a famous South Dakotan gambler.  She outlived three husbands, ran a brothel, and shot a few people.  Her “house” for a while was a long trailer.  To me this trailer looks like an ancestor to the mobile home -except not as classy.  The museum doesn’t actually have her home but they felt compelled to feature it because of its story.  The house was moved, added on to, and refurbished in Sturgis, South Dakota.  It now functions as a bed and breakfast (see here for bookings).

The people of her time said that she was attractive until the day she died in Sturgis, South Dakota -always nicely dressed . I suspect that if her picture were on the hot or not contest now days, she wouldn’t win.  But her story is a definite win (read more about her here).

Her motto when sitting down to the poker table?: “Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets.”

At the end of our time in the Museum, Al Hesselbart, was gracious enough to set aside some time for an on camera interview.  His knowledge on the topic of RVs and teardrop trailers is vast.  In fact, his knowledge is so large that it intimidates the word “vast”.  Al provided facts and trends in the teardrop trailer world before, during, and after WWII that were new and intriguing to me.  His interview actually changed the focus of the adventure film.

Following the interview, he took us into the library.  The National RV Hall of Fame and museum has the world’s largest library on the topic of RVs.  Being a teacher, I am a library geek and the time we spent there really wasn’t enough.  Al recommended a few books which I plan to purchase.

As the museum closed, we were able to get some final shots inside the various RVs without the nuisance of sight seers.  Then we packed up our gear and headed out for Chicago.

We approached Chicago, Illinois on the coat-tails of rush hour.  This was good because it gave us time to work the maps and GPS to find the beginning of the mother of all roads – Route 66.  The Adventure film isn’t focused on the route because its focused time period is before, during, and after WWII in the 1940s.  Route 66 didn’t come into its own until the 1950s.  However, it seems ridiculous to make a film about travel across the US without mentioning the road that started it all.  Once visiting the route, we headed out.

Landon and I agreed that we so hated driving across the upper mid-west that we were going to drive straight from Illinois to Missoula, Montana.  We suddenly felt a sense of urgency to return home.  As the sun slowly sank, we entered Wisconsin and decided that it would be a good state to use as our start line for the multi-state sprint.  We pulled over and slept until morning.  Then it was off to the races.

Our goal?:  Wisconsin to Missoula, Montana in a single shot.

The distance? 1,555 miles

Estimated Trip Time?  26 hours (without stops)

Driver? Mostly me (because Landon is too tall to drive the Jeep comfortably)

Why? Because we felt stupid and acted on it.

Adventure Film 06: Lakes & Origins

This is the sixth post on the Adventure Film project. If you haven’t read parts 1-5 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:

Leaving Wisconsin

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”
– Thomas Carlyle

Day 9

After eight days of straight travel & filming, Landon and I were whipped.  We had come to a crossroads of sorts.  We assessed the dwindling budget and determined that we could afford to replace some bread and cheese that was spoiled in the cooler.  It is only because of generous readers of this blog that we were able to get as far as we did (My many thanks for your support).  At this point in the journey we were debating the merits of more travel because of the expense (basically fuel).  In mid morning of day nine we had determined that we should press on in spite of tough financing.  Somewhat encouraged, we moved out for Michigan & the promise of a day off.

There are two primary routes to travel from Wisconsin to central Michigan.   One can take the indirect route and drive down around the horn of Lake Michigan through Chicago.  Option two is more fun & more direct.  A ride on the SS Badger ferry from Manitowoc, Wisconsin across lake Michigan to Ludington, Michigan.  We opted for the ferry.  It was recommended by friends and we didn’t have to sit in the Jeep to get to Michigan!  So on to the SS Badger we went.

It was a nice day with a gentle wind blowing across the ship as we crossed the great lake.  Birds flew around us and children roamed the decks.  It was the kind of therapy the soul needs after staring out of an insect sprayed windshield for eight days.  Landon even managed a short nap.

Ships are made similar to RVs and aircraft in that everything is small and light.  The bathrooms are small, hallways are small, and walls are thin.  The 6’8″ Landon couldn’t stretch to his full height in the halls of the ship.  As he was walking down a hallway with his head bent over while slouching, a 10 year old boy in front of him suddenly turned around when he realized someone was walking behind him.  His eyes grew to the size of saucers as he saw the “giant”.  With all the subtly of a 10 year old boy, he ran over to a friend in a dining area and grabbed his arm.  Then he pointed at Landon as he slouch-walked past them.  The friend loudly said “WHOOOAA”.  I love the innocence of children.  This still makes me laugh.

As we arrived at port in Ludincton, Michigan, Landon and I were beginning to feel the need for food.  Once offloaded, we stopped for fuel and I parked the jPod at a gas station across from a pizza place.  Landon got his pizza.  While the pizza was baking, I made popcorn in the parking lot of the gas station.  I know it is unusual to see a man making popcorn out the back of his teardrop trailer at a gas station.  I discovered this when no fewer than 15 cars came by with their owners gawking out the windows and wanting to chat, giggle, and otherwise socialize.  It was really good popcorn.

Nathan & Erin's Jeep House

By evening, we had arrived at Nathan’s parent’s house.  Nathan and his wife Erin live in the Northwest and were in Michigan to visit family.  It was a good opportunity to visit the family and relax with friends.  Nathan and his parents have done more than their share of work in helping with the jPod Overland trailer.  Nathan is pictured all over this blog doing various tasks on the jPod.  We also go camping with Nathan and Erin.  His parents own a hardware store which ended up being the supplier for most of the jPod hardware.  Besides their hard work ethic and generosity to friends, they are genuine people and great company.  At the end of day nine, I fell asleep in the basement of the house on an actual bed.  The bed in the jPod is very comfortable (memory foam) but the air in Wisconsin was a sticky hot hell to try to sleep through.  In the basement of the already cooler state of Michigan, the temperature was perfect and I slept the sleep of the dead.

Day 10

We vowed to do no driving on day 10.  In fact, we decided to spend a day with Nathan’s family.  It was great.  In the morning, I went for a three mile walk/run.  After nine days of sitting, I felt that my body was wasting away.  It was a hot & humid run but a great start to the day.  After eating breakfast (Nathan’s mother is a great cook by the way!), we went on a tour of the town & surrounding areas of Cedar Lake.  We visited family down the road, drove through the town, and heard the stories.  At one point, we toured a forklift company owned by Nathan’s family.  It was territory which pleases any builder’s soul.  Massive metal working machines, engines, and uniquely designed fork lifts for lifting bee hives.

Poorman's Bargain Barn

Poorman's Bargain Barn

Across the street from the forklift facility is the “Poorman’s Bargain Barn”.  The Poorman’s Bargain Barn is Nathan’s Parent’s hardware store.  It is not a traditional hardware store.  There are many of the typical hardware items but numerous hardware items which are difficult to find.  It is an eclectic mix of general consumer hardware and truly awesome tools.  Even though I have purchased a number of items from this store (read Toys Have Arrived), I had never visited it before.  It was fun to see one of the birthplaces of the jPod project.  It was also good to see the business that I helped to support -a little.  I’d rather support a local guy than the big box stores any day.

By late afternoon a plan had formed.  We were going kayaking.  Neither Landon nor I had ever been in a proper kayak and it sounded like a great adventure.  The six of us loaded up the family kayak and struck out for a local river.  Since our hour long trip down the river, I have thought about buying kayaks for Senior Management and I to use.  I’ve even mentally planned a rack for the jPod to hold kayaks.  It is so peaceful and easy rowing.  This is relaxation at its best.   After we finished the kayak trip we stopped for ice-cream.  Yep I know… this is a perfect day.

As evening approached, I was back to planning our route south to Elkhart, Indiana and the National RV Hall of Fame.  The next day, we would see one of a kind RVs, the world’s oldest known RV, and interview a historian who advises the Smithsonian Museum on the Topic of RVs.  The brief break was over and it was time to get back to making a film.

It is truly exhausting but also exciting.  I am thankful for friends who share this experience.

Read Part 07

Adventure Film 05: To Camp-Inn Teardrops

This is the fifth post on the Adventure Film project. If you haven’t read parts 1-4 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:

Camp-Inn Teardrop Trailers - Wisconsin

Days 6-7

On the morning of day 6, Landon and I did some sightseeing in the park for a while.  Since our film permit was good for only a day, we could just kick back and enjoy the place for it’s great beauty.  Unfortunately, the clock was starting to press us and it was time we burned up some asphalt if we were to make it to our next appointment in Wisconsin 2 days away.

As one drives east out of Glacier National Park, it is hard to miss noticing the collision of geographic features.  In the rear-view mirror I could see the rocky mountains of Glacier National Park jutting out of the ground like shark’s teeth into its prey.  Out the windshield, gently rolling prairie grass lands.  It really is quite spectacular.  It is as if someone drew a line and decided to start something completely different.  In my experience, this first feeling of elation at the change of scenery quickly gives way to despair because the prairie lands are beautiful but they seem to never end.  It unnerves me to look at the horizon and see nothing but the curvature of the earth.

Before we knew it, we were in Wyoming and decided to sleep for the night finally at 1am.  Since we didn’t need to charge any batteries we were seeking some boon-docking locations.  In a spirit of adventure and an exercise in the All-American experience, we camped at a Walmart that night.  I’ve never wanted to do that because I’ve seen those people camped outside Walmarts have always pitied them.  Now, I was one.  However, at the time, it was our only option.  I guess it is something everyone should experience.  I awoke a few hours later and it was back to the road and the great state of South Dakota.

The state of South Dakota is not the flattest state in the Union but it is flat enough that one could stand upon an overpass, look at the horizon, and see the back of his/her own head.
For Landon, who grew up on a ranch in Alberta, this was a small taste of home.  For me, it was a bit terrifying.  I like knowing what is ahead of me.  I like feeling like the earth has me somewhat cupped in her dirty hand.  Without anything on the horizon, it seemed possible to me that I could just fly off the surface of the earth.  After all, the earth rotates on its axis at just above 1,000 mph while screaming through empty space in its obit of the sun at about 67,000 mph.  For some reason, my mind decided to bring these random statistics to my consciousness at just the right moment.  I tightened my seat-belt for safety.

Landon and I spent some time making observations and expressing opinions about South Dakota.  Eventually our debate over the strengths and weaknesses of state drew to a close.  Landon’s view was that it was somewhat like home but not enough to satisfy.  Mine? – well you already know mine.  In fact, my fondest memory of South Dakota comes from an episode of the Three Stooges.  The setting was apparently in the Bad Lands, South Dakota (more likely someplace in California which is now a sub-development).  Since Landon is a bit too tall to drive the Jeep (6’9″) I had the honor of driving across the barren state.  We made it about 3/4 of the way before I began getting tired.  Finally, at around 10pm and after 13 hours of driving in hot weather, we called it a night & found a local campground where we could charge camera batteries.

We never expected to need to charge camera batteries that night because there was no scheduled filming for that part of the nation. A basic principal of manhood had taken over:  Two bored men in a Jeep full of camera equipment can usually think of something to film.  Landon decided to capture me pontificating about the differences, similarities, and my speculations concerning Native Americans and Teardrop campers.  He plans to use this footage for a short film.  I had never thought of comparing the two so it was a nice mental exercise for an otherwise unoccupied mind.  This footage will likely not make the final cut of the Adventure Film because I loathe seeing and hearing myself talk.

For my part, I dreamed up a short cooking show which was inspired by the interview.  We made chopped steamed veggies using only our creativity and a lot of time.  Those scenes will likely make the cut into the film because they are insane ideas that will keep the teenage viewer’s attention.

So it was that we arrived with dead batteries at a KOA (ugh).  They had nice showers and lots of bugs.  As I lay down in the jPod for another night on the road, I counted my blessings:

  1. Window screen to keep the bugs out
  2. Good food that was creatively made
  3. We would leave South Dakota in the morning!

Day 8

In the morning, we packed up our things and struck out to leave South Dakota behind us.  Landon, who as I mentioned is from Canada, thought that Minnesota was between Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.  Thus, as we crossed the border into Minnesota there was a cheer or joy from the driver’s seat (me) and a gasp from the passenger’s seat (Landon).  We had exactly 8 hours to arrive for our interview & tour at Camp-Inn Trailers.  We were determined not to miss it.

Camp-Inn trailers is basically right in the center of Wisconsin and in the middle of some of the more rural areas of Wisconsin.  When we arrived, we pulled up the drive to find some of the guys playing with a new business that Camp-Inn is working on.  It is a motorcycle engine that can be attached to the chassis of any conventional wheelchair.  It looks like a scream and would make life much easier for a paraplegic person at an air-show, car-show, or any other event which covers great distances.  See more about this at www.motivechair.com & see a view of it in action here.

Craig & Cary are the co-founders of Camp-Inn Teardrop Trailers.  They were more than willing to give us a tour of their facility and to sit down with us for an interview for the Adventure Film.  Their customers are very committed to the company and often send pictures of their trips.  Craig & Cary have lots of great stories about the people who camp in their teardrop trailers and how their business began.  In the general teardrop RV community the Camp-Inn is often compared to the luxury cars of the world (Corvette, Rolls Royce, Ferarri,  you pick the metaphor).  Camp-Inn does live up to the hype with its uni-body construction, master craftsmanship, and brilliant use of space.  These little trailers have nearly everything that the big diesel haulers have but in a much smaller package.

The company was inspired when Craig wanted to take his family camping at the Grand Canyon.  While pouring through camping options, Craig came upon the teardrop design.  He shared the idea with Cary (at the time a fellow engineer at the same company) and the first Camp-Inn was born.  Craig and his family had a great vacation in the first little Camp-Inn and returned to Wisconsin with plans to build more.  Cary was willing to help and a collector’s trailer was born.  Seriously,  people keep track of production numbers on these trailers and are putting them in their wills and such.  This is not only a fun way to camp but it is a life-long commitment for some families.  As Cary & Craig told us, there have even been a few custody battles over the Camp-Inn trailer in divorces -This trailer is that good.  Camp-Inn was a blast to visit & I could write for pages about our time there but I must save some things for the film right??

After leaving Camp-Inn, Landon and I decided to seek out some friends.  On our way through Minnesota that morning, I had told him that I thought I had a few former students working at a summer camp in Wisconsin.  The idea to pop in on them and surprise them was born.  As it turned out, both Landon and I knew them and didn’t know it.  So the plan started to visit Camp Wakonda, Wisconsin -this is the camp they were rumored to be at.  I called the camp and spoke with the camp secretary.  She confirmed that they both were working at Camp Wakonda.  We swore her to secrecy and made our way to the camp for our surprise visit.  We surprised them at the dinner line in the cafeteria that night.  Both were completely floored to see us in Wisconsin.  It was a lot of fun to tour the camp, see where their summer memories are made, and talk about camera gear.  Camp Wakonda is a spectacular summer camp.  It is vast with a highly committed & creative staff.  It has two lakes, log cabins, hundreds of cabins, and a great main lodge.

That evening, I parked the jPod in a parking lot of the camp that night.  There was a spectacular thunderstorm that night & the humidity was almost as high as a full fish tank.  In short, a sticky & moist and very hot night.  This is the first time the jPod has been in such a moist environment (The eastern Northwest is pretty dry) and I was a bit concerned that something would go wrong.  My fears were realized in the morning when I found a small crack in the skin on the outside of the trailer.  My theory is that the inside wood got too moist and expanded.  I’m not sure how since I sealed it but something obviously was different and the only difference I can think of is the moisture.  Since I didn’t have hours to spend repairing the problem, I sealed it up with caulking and made plans for repair when I got back home.  Upon arriving at home, I fixed the crack with a reinforcing strap.  Easy fix and no problems since.

The next day we planned to go to Michigan to visit friends and finally take a day off from the crazy pace of our travels.

Click Here to Read Part 6

Adventure Film 04: Glacier National Park

The goal of the Adventure Film Project is to create an educational film about teardrops & tiny trailers which connects standard high-school US History topics (ie National Road system, Effects of Labor Unions, Model T & mass produced automobiles, national parks, and world war II).  Read more about the film here.

For part 1-3 of the filming for this project, we visited a teardrop trailer gathering in Ocean Shores, WA.  The goal being to have fun at our first teardrop gathering and to get a taste of the teardrop culture on film.  Both were easy to accomplish.  If you haven’t read parts 1-3 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:

Not a bad view

Days 4-5

One of the greatest treasures & forward thinking policies in United States history is the establishment of National Parks.  Conservationists, presidents, local people, and visitors to the nation’s most beautiful & unique land features have all helped to protect some of the nation’s greatest natural wonders.  Glacier National Park is one of these national gems.

Growing up in the great Northwest of the United States, my family would occasionally travel to Glacier for holiday.  I have memories of hiking on the transcontinental divide, making noises to ward off grizzly bears, stepping off of a trail so a great horned sheep & her offspring could walk by within arms reach, flowers, snow, waterfalls, altitude, cold, wanting a warmer sleeping bag, and so much more.  Glacier is my favorite national park for mostly wild nature reasons but there is some nostalgia mixed in to cement its importance in my soul.

It seemed fitting, then, that the film should feature a place which is so near to many people’s hearts (including my own).  Following the weekend at Ocean Shores, Landon (my Cameraman & video expert) and I spent a few hours repacking the jPod with camera gear, audio gear, and our personal belongings.  Then we struck out for Glacier National Park (about 5 hours from home).  Along the way, we made stops for groceries, fuel, the ID badges which were required for film crews in Glacier, and to give various tours of the jPod trailer.  That evening we camped just outside of Glacier National Park at a campground which is creatively named “GLACIER CAMPGROUND“.  Ya, we thought it was a bit anti-climatic as well (but only in name).

To film this adventure, we had to adopt a style of camping which I do not enjoy.  This style?  Camping in campgrounds with other people.  To me, camping should be out in nature and I should find peace & silence (serenity now!! – Read my thoughts on real camping here).  Campground camping is fraught with all the things I don’t like when I’m seeking a peaceful sanctuary in nature: generators humming, toilets flushing, and 18″ of bushes between me & the next guy.  It is unfortunate that camera gear needs electricity to charge batteries or we would have sought other areas to camp.

Overall, the Glacier Campground is one of the best campgrounds I’ve ever visited.  It is affordable, with warm clean showers, and free WiFi.  It doesn’t fit my definition of true camping but it is a pretty nice place to stay and more rural than my house.  We made quite a few friends there too.  As the only teardrop trailer in a large campground, we were subject to quite a bit of attention & gawking.  I gave multiple tours of the jPod and shared about the film & teardrops in general.

On the first full day in Glacier, we arranged our film permits at the park’s headquarters, got park passes, and made for the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR).  The GTTSR is probably the most traveled single road in any national park.  It is a cleverly camouflaged road that crosses the Continental Divide and draws tens of thousands of auto travelers each year.  It is somewhat ironic that Glacier has the GTTSR slicing through its middle since Glacier is primarily a hiker’s park.  Yet the road enables its adventurers to have a taste of the hiker’s experience from their vehicle.  Beautiful mountain lakes, dry flat lands, wildlife and scenery are at every turn.   Our arrival at the park was 3 days before the pass at the top of the GTTSR opened for through traffic.  The park had just endured numerous rainstorms for several weeks and the air was thick with the smell of freshly fallen water.  Fog rolled up the valleys and waterfalls fell with swelled enthusiasm.  It cheapens the experience to put it this way but…it was beautiful.  Landon and I filled memory card after memory card with awe inspiring footage and we couldn’t stop talking about our next film project together -which we decided would focus exclusively on Glacier National Park (I’m not sure how serious we actually are about that but the place is just that inspiring).

At about noon, we drove back to the park headquarters where we were met by Glacier’s Communications & Outreach Manager, Amy Vanderbilt.  Amy has 30+ years of experience at the park & should write a series of books with her vast expertise on the park.  She is also a very gracious host, really fun to be around, and does a killer interview.  Our arrival was well timed since the park turns 100 years old this year.  Amy said that the year is more of a somber commemoration rather than a typical ridiculous American celebration.  The reason for a more restrained milestone is because of the park’s history.

Long before the US government had an interest in what is now Glacier National Park, the Native groups lived in the area and considered the park to be sacred (in fact, they still do consider it sacred).  Turning the territory into a United States’ national park has had a strange effect on the way of life for the Native groups.  On one hand, the territory is now owned by a foreign government which can do with it as it pleases.  Yet, on the other hand, without protection of that territory there would likely be a Starbucks on every mountain peak now.  Ok, maybe not a Starbucks but you get the idea (probably a Super Walmart parking lots the size of Europe).

Amy only shared a small sliver of her wealth of knowledge in the interview and I find myself dreading the editing process.  I know we will have to cut some material down to the bare bones to make it fit the requirements of this film project  (perhaps I’ll make a director’s cut for the intellectually curious).

Following our time with Amy, we traveled on dirt roads north towards the Canadian border to visit some old historic towns & a mountain lake.  These roads made the Jeep demand that it be used for its natural purpose (to get muddy).  Mud puddles the size of small ponds where on every road we traveled.  Some spanned wider than the road and were over a foot deep.  In short, it was a lot of fun getting to that mountain lake & the jeep came out a nice light tan color (which lasted for 5 more days of travel until we were in Wisconsin).

Finally, exhausted from the travel, time changes, and with a sense of impending editor’s doom, Landon and I crept back to our campsite, and the jPod.  Once there, I backed up all of our data (3 hours on 3 hard drives) and charged batteries for the next day’s journey.  We ate tomato, cheese, onion, and lettuce sandwiches and went to bed early.  The next day we had a 14 hour drive planned.  One which would test our patience and redefine the words: HOT, FLAT, and BORING.  Yet, for the time, we happily chose to ignore the obvious fact.  What fact did we determine to drive from our consciousness?  The fact that the next day we planned to start driving through the state of South Dakota.

If you haven’t been there, the State of South Dakota is the natural beauty and geographical arch nemesis of Glacier National Park.

Click Here to Read Part 5

Adventure Film 03: Ocean Tears

This is part 3 of the Adventure Film reports.  If you haven’t read parts 1 or 2, you can read them here:

      Glamour Shot

      Day 3

      We awoke early on day 3 to pack up and go home.  Day 3 was Father’s Day and since we’re going to have our first little baby soon, Senior Management (and the little Assistant to the Senior Manager) gave me my first father’s day gift (read about it here).

      On our way out of Ocean Shores, we made a stop on the beach to film a few more segments to the film.  It was actually pretty nice out & I enjoyed the relaxed feel & smells of the beach.  I was a bit disappointed that the weather was not better all weekend.  We had brought some stunt kites and were looking forward to using them.  As is with such things, it rained the whole weekend except when we were leaving and had no time left to fly kites.  Oh well…

      Along our way through the Mt. Rainer National Forest, Landon (film student) and I shot some stock footage for the film and talked about the sound track.  On our way, we stopped at Miner’s burgers in Yakima, Washington.  Landon got a salad as big as his face (no exaggeration),  Senior Management got a sandwich, and I only ordered fries (wheat allergy and all). I find it ironic that Washington is called the Evergreen State.  It was obviously the voters on the west side of the Cascade Mountains who passed that one.  The vast bulk of Washington is a high desert plateau.  Yakima was hot & blessedly dry.  We managed to drive our way back home to Spokane from Ocean Shores in 10 hrs.  We all enjoyed the dryer environment and Senior Management and I looked forward to being at home for one night.

      Senior Management had to return to work the next day.  Landon and I were headed to Glacier National Park the next morning (assuming we could finish arranging the necessary permits to film there).  I have visited Glacier National park several times and every time I’ve been struck by the beauty of the park.  Of all the places that we planned to visit, on this quick trip through the US, Glacier National Park holds the most beauty.  It also held the most paperwork to shoot pictures of that beauty.  There was a lot to do.

      After drying everything out, charging batteries for cameras, making phone calls, doing laundry, and making food arrangements, we went to bed.  Day 4 would be another busy day of travel and we wanted to be ready.

      We unpacked & packed everything again, while trying to slim down on the items we were taking.  Some of the camera gear is quite heavy 80 lbs + per box so we needed to be as light as we could on everything else.

      When packed, we slept and prepared for the next day’s journey.  It is a beautiful 5 hour drive through north Idaho and into Montana.  Quite a nice change from the previous day’s journey.

      Read Part 4

      Adventure Film 02: Ocean Tears


      This is part 2 of the adventure film adventures at Ocean Shores, WA.  If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can read it here.

      Day 2

      We awoke at about 9 am but didn’t want to get out of bed.  The rain landed on the roof of the trailer and the Assistant to the Senior Manager was very active & kicking in her mommy’s tummy.  I was happy to stay in bed, feel the baby’s little foot against my hand, and just enjoy the morning.  At some point in every camping adventure, Mother Nature make’s her call and eventually, all campers must answer. It was under these circumstances that I was finally inspired to get up and start setting up camp.

      Senior Management and I made the very wise purchase of a Coleman Screen tent 2 days earlier. After getting up, we proceeded to set it up in a downpour.  After an amazing breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and fruit made by Senior Management, we started to explore & meet the other tear droppers. One or two campers had already left because of the heavy rain.  Slowly, we met & greeted each of the parties & shared stories.  Kevin, the gathering organizer, made t-shirts for the weekend and we each donned them with pride.

      I have often said that I have an obsession with teardrop trailers (Senior Management heartily agrees).  Attending a gathering only pours gasoline on this flame.  It was great fun.

      In the afternoon, arrangements were made for a potluck at 6 pm.  The campers were willing to show us their trailers & do interviews for the film.  Landon slipped into pro-camera-man mode & we heard the stories of building and adventures.  The experiences, world views, and philosophies of camping in this little group are a great example of the depth of the subculture of tear-droppers.

      In the afternoon, we all went to the beach for a group photo and to hang out.  The weather had cleared out some by that point & it was a good time to visit the beach, see the kites, and explore a little.

      The beach trip was cut a little short because we had to get some food ready for the evening’s potluck.  That evening, we ate more food than I thought was possible to eat. Each group made more than enough food.  Much of it was made in cast iron camp cookware.  We stuffed ourselves & hung out for some time.

      I made camp spaghetti in the 10” Dutch Oven.  It was the first time I’d made it the way I had and it was really good.  I modified my recipe (see regular recipe here) to fit the ingredients which we had on hand.

      The potluck was kind of broken up by some bad weather & so we retreated to our camp to clean up after the meal.  Landon and I did two more interviews with teardrop families & called it a night.

      As the sun set, many in our group came to tour the jPod and to hang out.  It was a great end to a great day.

      Read Part 3

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