Friday, August 25, 2006

I think Alcan, I think Alcan...Alcan Alcan Alcan:

....a feat beyond our fondest expectations. When we chitchat with the locals about how gravel spewn by passing cars cracked our windshield in two places, they chuckle. As we explain how our wheel fell off, they yawn. And when we frantically motion with our hands to depict the roadway flight of the caribou, their eyes glaze over and they mumble something about killin a moose and cutting it in four pieces to lift the 500 lb animal into their truck for dinner.

Yes, we've finally arrived in Alaska! We're getting hopped up on free coffee right now in Fairbanks- home of the Aurora Borealis and mosquitos the size of small bats. We've set up camp and breathed a heavy, collective sigh of relief that we reached one of our most remote destinations.

For those who haven't been, Alaska is gigantic. Seriously, everything about it is massive. The horizon stretches for 720 degrees with mountains straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The sun never ceases and the beard to bear ratio is off the charts. Besides marveling at the picturesque drive up, so far we've visited the Museum of the North (a lovely and informative taxidermy graveyard), made the best home cooked fajita burritos in Alaska's history, and watched migrating cranes glide with grace over a sanctuary that permits hunting and trapping.

It's strange, but it's as if the moment we arrived the pressure had been lifted. As much as this trip has involved abandoning our careers and social responsibilities, we still felt pressured to reach Alaska before the end of August. It's the metaphorical stamp to legitimize this grandiose ruote. Well, 2 vans and 3 tires later we can quote Dubya in saying, "Mission Accomplished". On second thought we still have 20,000 miles to go, and Dubya still has a war to win.

Regardless, it feels like we can finally relax. We're going to chase the remaining "summer" weather, down through Denali, to Anchorage, and south to the Kenai peninsula to catch the tail end of the salmon run. BTW if you get a huge cold package from Alaska over-nighted, open it sooner rather than later.

PS. We are finally back on the grid so we uploaded photos from our past posts. Also we are back in cell phone country for those that would like to reach out and touch us.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Snakes on a Barf

Did I mention that I hate Fort St. John?

We've been holed up here for 4 long days, and we're running out of things to do. Today, we went to the "mall" and watched Snakes on a Plane, triumphed with Samuel L., then I proceeded to vomit, twice, in the parking lot. Eggs. Felt sick and man that movie sure shakes alot with all those fricken snakes on the fricken plane.

I can't wait to get out of here and make it to Alaska before it starts snowing. I miss Günther. We pick him up tomorrow, fingers crossed. Meanwhile, we'll be here, living in our tent and reliving the beauty of Snakes. On a Plane.

- Rach

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Anybody have a spare figurine of Christopher the Patron Saint of Travel?

Cause if you have one I'll shoot you. HAHA. Get it. Its like that terrible, and yes terribly overrated film Crash. Or as I like to call it Poor Man's Magnolia. Or as I also like to call it Grand Canyon - Racism Edition.

A lot has happened since I last blogged. We watched Crash (did I mention I'm embarassed to be from the same country as that film), we toured Vancouver Island (radness), we stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot (for all you Walmart haters both Rachel and I relieved ourselves in the lot), and I spent my 27th birthday stranded on the side of the road and in an RV Park.

In fact Rachel and I are still currently residing in that very RV park in Fort St John. For those not familiar, its a small city in Northeast BC that was born to pass through. Its basically all gas stations and auto shops held together by its spine, The Alcan. The Alcan is the final 1,390 mile stretch through BC, the Yukon, and thru to Alaska. In short, there ain't much to do here except fish without a license, and we are here for at least 5 days total. How did this happen you ask?

Well, basically the one thing I didnt want to happen did. I was prepared for a blow out on the Alcan, after all we've already gone through 2 tires, but an entire wheel flying off at 70 MPH caught us a bit by surprise. Basically the tire threw a pin and it sent our right rear tire flying about 25 yards into the forest. In the process of stopping we ground off about 6 inches from the bottom of our right rear axle. So basically we are holed up in a tent waiting for our incredibly foreign VW parts to arrive.

I hope this post doesnt come across totally negative. The main thing is that we are safe. AAA coverted the tow. And we found an amazing mechanic who found all the replacement parts in good shape from a wrecking yard. He saved us about $300. Come Monday night we should be able to reattempt the Alcan.

Thanks everyone for the birthday love.

- JJ

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In the Words of Calvin and Hobbes, Yukon Ho!

Günther, the Mighty, is well on his way to Alaska, via B.C.'s beautiful Caribou Coast. I'm feeling a bit distraught, as our camping gear just gave out with a good five days' drive till we reach the big Gold A. So instead of blogging down with vanagon woes that will undoubtedly increase as the journey continues, I leave you with some delectable tidbits of life on the road.

Mice in the Night.
Need I say more? Camping near Whistler, Joe and I could not determine that oh-so-close crackling sound disturbing our slumber. Was it a badger outside? Bears? A crazy Mountie? A quick flick of the MagLite at 4am, and our trespasser(s) scurried below. Not one, no not even two, but less than seven, little furry beasts scampered about in a carb-induced craze, jubilantly munching our bread and granola. It was a feast! Those dirty little rats, er..., mice. Gross.

Those Spitter-Splatters on the Windshield.
Driving through scenic mountains and valleys in BC, Joe and I were with high spirits and open windows. Suddenly an unusually frequent barrage of splatters plastered the glass. It continued, a freak cloud of bugs bouncing to and fro, then we realized: Bees. Awesome. Referencing Joe's earlier blog on Pork Paw, it was no surprise to turn my head and see him extending 2/3 of his body out the window, trying to flick the death bombs off his crotch and legs. Then I managed to stay on the road while he flicked one off my elbow. No officer, I swear, a cloud of bees.

Tim Horton's.
Okay, I know this may not be funny to anyone, but in Canada they have this chain named Tim Horton's. They serve coffee and donuts. To fit in, Joe and I have adopted Canadian accents and try to ask the locals "Hey, uh, where can I find the nearest Timmy Horton's?" Just try and say it. With a Canadian accent. Timmy Hortons. I swear, it's funny.

To the Yukon and beyond!


Friday, August 11, 2006

Whatever you do, don't go to Vancouver

Ahh, Beautiful British Columbia. Shimmering mountain crests as your glorious backdrop. Fresh clean skies. Elk. Oh, and crackheads who steal your bike in the night.

Yes, you heard correctly. My cherished stallion Schwinny has been taken from me, and I've kissed the best $120 I've ever spent at Target goodbye. I guess that's the price you pay when you park on the street in dirty rotten Vancouver. We stayed one night then got the hell out after a 3am scare that included sleeping in a neighborhood, hearing suspicious noises, and Joe running outside in his underwear to watch some junkie riding away on my bike, cackling like Satan himself.

It's not just the bike. We've had such a string of bad luck lately that running away via ferry, to Vancouver Island, seemed like the best option. It's been rough. Let's just say I've sustained a Girl Injury that occurs when you fall off the curb and onto your bike crossbar, full force. And I dropped Joe's guitar. Dropped it in it's soft case and he loves that thing more than I've ever seen a man love a guitar, and for due cause. It's a beautiful 1973 Martin that belonged to his dad and now I feel absolutely horrible that I hurt it. Then to top it all off we got a parking ticket while shopping for a new bike.

Deep breath. We've had a few setbacks, but nothing that can't be fixed. The guitar is carefully packed, on it's way to get fixed by meticulous gentle hands in LA. I bought a new bike. And a new lock. And we got away from stupid Vancouver with it's smelly bike thieves with souls as black as their rotten crack-coated lungs.

Now we're sitting in Victoria, and it's so nice to relax and hope our luck has changed for the better. We'll hang out here for a few days and ride bikes and lock them with our Kryptonite uber-lock. So Superman doesn't steal them.

Portland to Seattle Pics

Biking with my longtime friend Crystal and her husband Nick in Portland, who just got married. Yay Crystal and Nick!

Nice lil pizza 'n' beer stop in Portland, complete with MJ's Moonwalker.

Mt. Hood, where Joe's friends Randy and Faye were awesome and set us up in their guest house. You guys rule.

We did this vertical hike up to Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the Gorge. Special hiking sticks are a must!


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Things You Will Find On The Oregon Coast

The Oregon coast is windy.

On the Oregon coast, you will find men who feed ducks and know their species, and who reluctantly fish their wive's keys out of the mucky pond.

You will find sea lion caves with elevators built in rock, awesome squatting on cliffsides, cozy lighthouses, sand dunes, and rocks shaped like whales.

You will not find One-Eyed Willie's Treasure.

We're in Portland now, riding bikes, drinking $2 beers and visiting our nice friends, Crystal and Nick. Hood River, OR is next. Sorry for the lazy blog. There are lazy blogs in Portland.


The Claw vs. Paul Bunyan

If a tree falls in the woods, and a young couple is being murdered by mountain folk, does anyone hear it? Well in Leggett, CA the whole town hears you and takes bets on how long youll last.

Mom, I apologize for the dramatic intro but I was told by my 6th grade English teacher to always start an essay with a hook. Now that I have your attention I can tell you the real story, its only about half that bad.

After working our way up the CA-1 we ended up low on fuel and stuck in Humbolt country at 11pm at night. While Humbolt is best known for beautiful Redwoods and giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues, no one really tells you that all the gas stations there close at 8pm. For a Vanagon traveler with a max 200 miles per tank, this basically means that come darkness you better be safely tucked away in a campground and not roaming the mountains searching for an automated gas pump.

Well to make a long story short (too late) Rachel and I got to spend the night in the parking lot of the only semi-public establishment in Leggett in hopes that the flood lights would keep "The Claw" away (for more info one "The Claw" see "campfire stories"). There is no better feeling than waking up at 6am clutching the cold steel of your trusty hatchet "Molly", realizing that Günther kept out all nefarious bearded intruders.

With a new lease on life we quickly headed over to the drive thru tree to make sure we left Leggett with only fond memories. Although should we really think fondly of a city famous for carving a huge hole in a tree older than Jesus? Hmmm, and it makes me wonder.

- JJ

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

JJ's Road Remedies for the Common Traveler: Chapter 1- Pork Paw & the Hairy Vents

Due to countless requests from our loyal readers, we have decided to start an advice column addressing everyday problems that are bound to arise while travelling down the road of life. After all, homespun wisdom is priceless and should be shared with all. Enjoy, and please feel free to offer up some of your own quandries and remedies.

Problem One: While cruising along the CA-1 a bee flies into your window at 70 mph and plants its stinger deep into your hand. A strange allegic reaction occurs, swelling your hand to almost the exact same size as the paw of common swine. You have a pork paw. The very sight of it makes your girlfriend want to slap your hand on the griddle and fry it up for breakfast.

The Remedy: While traveling thru Santa Cruz, locals informed us of a very enjoyable remedy for PPS (pork paw syndrome). Simply order a large pitcher of Sierra Nevada Summerfest and drink the whole thing. While this "Beer Bath" won't reduce swelling or itching, it will turn the Pork Paw into a humorous source of endless entertainment. On top of playing pin the paw to the dart board, great fun can be had by making swine squeals and rubbing the paw on strangers. Roo paw you may have met your match.

Problem Two: Theres nothing like enjoying the ocean air west of San Mateo: the salt, the mountain, the harbor seals freshly clubbed. Everything is picturesque, when suddenly some curly silver hair floats out of the AC vent. Now, this is troubling because Gunther is merely 19 years old and should not have gone grey. Also, the massive amounts of hair would suggest that somebody stuffed a curly poodle down the AC duct. Basically, the whole think makes you want to torch the van and take a shower for a week.

The Remedy: Carefully remove the buckets of hair from the vents with your girlfriend's best tweezing utensil. Sure she may have bushier eyebrows the rest of the trip but you are one step closer to savoring the sweet summer air without choking on unidentified hair.

This concludes the inagaural edition of Road Remedies from JJ. Stay tuned for more advice for the road weary.


Yosemite is so amazing!!! I can't believe I've never been before... if you haven't been, GO!!! I was just absolutely blown away by how beautiful it was.

We felt instantly immersed into the outdoorsy vibe of our trip, with Günther's camping gear in full effect. Günth plopped down right next to some sequoias and bluejays and felt right at home. It's such an awesome ride, the pop-top bed is quite cozy, and once you get the stove, sink, and fridge working, it's like our own lil' home in a box.

We spent our days in Yosemite kicking our own asses back into shape. We figured a nice 5 mile bike ride up a potholed road was a great way to start. My legs were really, really mad at me. From there we hiked to this GORGEOUS lake, absolutely empty except for us, and ate sandwiches and swam and watched blue dragonflies hump eachother. Then came the fun part: riding down those 5 miles of potholed road, full speed, trying not to die. Soooo fun.

We spent the next day bike riding through the valley, taking in the impossibly massive slabs of granite and waterfalls and meadows. Along the way we saw naughty squirrels stealing people's trail mix, deers cruising close by, even a baby bear wandering through the forrest. From there we hiked up Vernal Falls. Talk about a stairmaster x 1000! Huge rock steps leading upward forever, cooled by the rainbowy mists of a giant waterfall. A hard hike, but such a payoff at the top.

From here we're headed toward the coast, and upward.