Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Highs and Lows

Well dear readers, since our last missive the NC DMV has moved way up in our ratings and the “awesome Bell Northstar canoe” has moved down quite a bit. The plates showed up earlier than expected and are fabulous “weighted” plates, meaning we have blue letters on a white background with no designs or graphics, like a proper commercial rig. With those in hand, we were able to hit the road and head north.

The first night got us to Syracuse, NY and the rig handled quite well, even in some fairly nasty winds. We called Drew’s uncle Cliff to see about visiting the next day and were surprised to hear he was getting ready to leave for a fishing trip with friends on Grand Lake Stream in northern Maine. We were even more surprised (and thrilled) when he invited us to join them, and didn’t have to think about it too long. The next evening found us in Freeport, ME staying with Cliff’s good friends Deb and Scott, where we had fantastic food, drink, and conversation before heading out the next morning to raid the LL Bean and Patagonia outlets, then head up to the fishing grounds. On the way we took shelter from the driving rain in a little restaurant that served up an amazing lobster roll and a congenial atmosphere.

When we arrived at GLS, we caught up with Cliff and met his fishing buddy Bill Claus, a rabid soft-hackle enthusiast and all-around good guy. It was incredibly rainy so we had a big dinner, hung out and laid plans for the next day.

The first morning was a little drizzly but the day cleared up quickly and the remainder of our days on the river brought lots of sunshine and great weather. We also got into plenty of fish, with a few brook trout, some smallmouth, a couple lake trout (a species we’d never caught before) and lots of landlocked salmon, which were also new to both of us. They were really cool fish – big jumpers that took dries in addition to the streamers and nymphs we had expected to use. We had a great time fishing all day long every day and eating, drinking and BS’ing all night.

On Friday afternoon, we took the canoe out on the river and had a nice paddle until we hit a rock at the end of the float, which cracked the outside of the hull almost gunwale to gunwale. The water wasn’t too rough and we’ve both had a lot of similar experiences in other boats without significant damage, so we were both shocked and really, really disappointed. It was a rough day! When we carried the boat back to the cabin, we met Bob, who was the last addition to the fishing gang. He brought a good dose of humor and some fantastic beer (run, don’t walk to buy yourself some Geary’s Hampshire Ale today!) to the scene and made us feel a lot better or at least number about the boat fiasco. The whole group happily fished, ate, drank and laughed our way through the rest of the weekend before the party broke up Sunday morning and we headed back south (gasp!) to sort out the boat situation.

After a lot of calls and not a lot of help, we decided to move on with the trip and drove to Old Town, ME to buy a canoe at the source. We are now the proud owners of a proper Royalex canoe (Penobscot 16 RX) that shouldn’t fold up like a cheap card table on the first rock we bump. Future photos of the rig will feature an awesome, green canoe alongside a horrid, broken, nasty, inexplicably expensive black one, which we will haul around for the rest of the trip in hopes we can find someone to repair it enough for use in ponds during calm weather at some point. Pretty cool, huh?

Drew also got on the horn and ordered a satellite phone so we’ll have a way to call for help if anything happens while we’re in a particularly remote area. Once we figured out the “Trans Labrador Highway” is in fact a gravel road with absolutely zero cell phone coverage for 98% of it, this began to seem like an important idea. With luck it will stay in its box the whole trip but it feels good to have it. Speaking of the box, we encountered a particularly fun surprise when the overnighted package arrived…empty. On the bright side, they should be able to get us a box with an actual phone in it ASAP and have been so incredibly apologetic and nice about the whole thing that it’s almost better than if they’d gotten it right the first time around. Assuming it arrives as planned, we will cross into Canada 5.26.10 and will finally be on our Adventure Up North!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Prepping For Take-Off

Ahhh, the DMV, the DMV. The Department of Motor, freakin' Vehicles. Apparently, there is less difference between New York and North Carolina than we thought, as no matter where you are, the DMV will find you, get our their duct tape, and make life very, very difficult. Upon arriving down South and moving all of our worldly possessions into a storage unit about ten times the size of our unit in Manhattan but $8 less per month, we thought all our troubles were behind us.

We found an awesome Chevy 2500 pick-up truck that could eat another vehicle alive and had a tow rating that made us blush. We christened it "Inconnu" after the large predatory fish and thought ourselves on our way. As it turns out, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security regulations have created a situation wherein: to buy a car in North Carolina you have to have a North Carolina license, and to get a license in North Carolina you have to surrender your New York State license...and show proof of being on an auto insurance policy...and proof of local address...and bring in your social security card...and pay a fee...and take a written driving test! And after ALL of that? You get a paper temporary license that isn't good for vehicle plates - and for added security they wait 10-20 days to mail your license to your local address and then you take that to the DMV (yes, an exciting 2nd trip), and then get to apply for your permanent plates for the vehicle.

Luckily, we benefitted greatly from 3 things: 1) Drew was able to pass the written driver's test even though it contained random questions about the specific penalties in NC for buying alcohol for minors and the current % of traffic deaths annually related to alcohol, 2) Scott (at the Flow Chevrolet dealership) found a form that would allow him to use a photocopy of the eventual permanent license to apply for and collect the license plates on our behalf and then give them to 3) Judith (Drew's mother), who was willing to receive said license while Chip & Drew visited Chip's mother Libby in Kentucky, take it to Scott at the dealership, receive the plates, and then FedEx everything to them on the road before they crossed the border into Canada. Thank our lucky stars that there are good people like those two in the world!

So, we are on the road with our truck and our Lance 805 slide in camper purchased from the excellent Mike at Xtreme Campers down in High Point. He even fabricated a ladder for us on the back so that we can climb up and down, as well as a rack on top for a canoe. Marcus (Drew's brother) gave us a heads up and we found discounted insurance for camper + truck from Progressive, so we are insured against pretty much everything, and have managed to collect 5 different roadside assistance plans, figuring that between them, wherever we break down in the Northwest Territories, we can piece together some sort of coverage that will get us back to civilization.

Louisville has been an excellent place to fine-tune our adventure - the first step has been to test out our new home. Chrissy (Chip's cousin) has been an awesome host, and is letting us park Inconnu on the grass in back of her house while we visit. We sleep in the truck but are using her kitchen to save our propane and generator fuel, and use her bathroom facilities as it is likely her neighbors wouldn't appreciate the two of us Solar Showering under a mosquito net in the back yard, much less using my portable potty during daylight hours.

The fact that we decided to spend the next 3 months mostly off-road with the truck and camper unit means that things need to be in our cupboards and storage areas in a way that will prevent total chaos every time we turn off a highway. This lead to us ransacking WalMart for organizers, shelving, rubber mats, and tools to help make use of all of our space while also setting things up so that they don't fly off shelves and out of cupboards while we travel. While Drew was putting in shelves and storage bins in the camper, Chip was crawling around on top with a drill rigging the roof rack to provide padding for the gunwales of the awesome Bell Northstar canoe we got from the guys at Quest in Louisville. A few more days, a FedEx package from NC, and we are on our way up North.