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February 16, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 07
 
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Preparing for a Journey of 8,500 miles
Preparing for a Journey of 8,500 miles
by Rev. Barbara Allen, CMP - SGN Contributing Writer

Voluntary journeys are thought followed by action. There are many varieties of journeys: intellectual, scientific, sensual, spiritual, personal, developmental; traversing distances through time and/or space, mentally, spiritually and/or physically.

My journey from Washington State to a point past the Arctic Circle and home again was a combination of all of the above, and more.

Prudent travelers prepare wisely for journeys.

In my case, a Class A Motorhome, known to GMC aficionados as: "Antique hot rods with plumbing", had to be given full pro-active mechanical maintenance, and then outfitted for the trip.

If an unescorted journey to the vast empty northlands and Arctic is not properly mounted and outfitted, it could prove tragic. Here, as at sea, people, amenities, help, food, and gas are few and far between.

Part of the wisdom of Alaska, from earliest times is that: Those who don't think ahead and prepare for possible contingencies may not survive. Of course, it was unlikely to come to that on a journey that began in mid June and ended in late September&but it almost did.

As mechanics, electricians and others prepared the coach, I focused on provisions needed, including proper linens, bedding, First Aid materials, beverages, medications, food, clothing and motor supplies, flashlights, and batteries.

Regardless of the type of RV, or for that matter, watercraft built for cruising, the list is much the same: oil for the engine, transmission and brake fluids, spare belts, and fuses, etc.

An expanded First Aid kit was assembled to meet most needs, including insect bites. Varieties of insect repellent were put on board, along with insect repellent clothing. While I was not headed for the jungle, it's well known that the state bird of Florida and Alaska is the mosquito, followed by the biting black fly, gnats, no-see-ums, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. There are bugs on the Tundra and beyond the Arctic Circle -- at least -- in warmer weather!!

I researched, trying to make sure that if the need arose, hundreds of miles from any known resource, or people, I'd be prepared.

Fluids in the form of canned pop, bottled water, and canned broth were loaded in. The fresh water holding tank was emptied, flushed, filled and treated with chlorine.

Food was going to be a problem in far northern expanses. Fresh proteins, fruit and vegetables would likely be unavailable, or of poor quality, but high price.

The RV refrigerator is limited, only a few cubic feet at best. Some varieties of fruit and veggies cannot legally be transported from one country to another, international borders would be crossed. Canned or tinned, and other shelf stable foods are usually alright.

The dining preferences or dietary needs of those aboard (2 of us) were taken into consideration.

With refrigerator space limited, I shopped Costco and put a sealed package of low fat pre-cooked Tyson's sausage patties and a package of frozen Kirkland Signature Sirloin patties into the freezer, along with one pound chubs of ground beef, until there was no more space. Cheese, a five pound loaf of Kirkland Sharp Cheddar cheese, feta cheese, parmesan, and other cheeses; Egg substitute; Silverhills flax bread; and vegetables: cabbage celery, carrots, lemons, limes, green onions, organic salad mix, tomatoes, whole fresh garlic cloves in a jar with olive oil was added to the fridge, which was now more than filled. Pantry cabinets held sugar free syrup; five varieties each of vinegar and hot sauce; soy sauce, sea salt, Heinz ketchup; jars or cans of sauerkraut; a small quantity of potatoes, diced tomatoes; tomato sauce; spaghetti sauce; chili; beef stew; dried shiitake mushrooms, onions; canned bacon, ham and chopped ham; tuna fish; organic chicken broth; unsalted peanuts, peanut butter; pork and beans; artificial sweetener; corn starch; vanilla extract; my home made orchard chutney; and fruit leather and apple chips. I also brought along a huge bag of Godiva dark chocolate coated espresso beans, to enjoy and share. As chef, I wanted healthy and nutritious foods that could combine in different ways and feel new again, instead of the same-old boring... I also didn't wish to gain weight, so starchy foods were left behind. I also looked forward to learning about the local cuisine, if there was an opportunity.

The sausage was fine with eggs and toast or potatoes with French toast. I also created the BBB (Barbara's Bodacious Breakfast, which consisted of one or more slices of sharp cheddar, eggbeater omelet, sausage patty(s), mayo, on Silverhills whole grain bread. All of the above assembled, and then grilled on both sides until the cheese melted. Canned Beef Stew, dull by itself, could be enhanced at meal time with added lean beef, a can of diced tomatoes, and chunks of re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. We could season our individual portions as we wished; mine got hot sauce and Worcestershire. There were also various herbs and spices.

Hash could be eaten plain, or, skillet browned and served with egg substitute, maybe with sharp cheddar cheese melted onto it, then flipped and crisped.

I knew that as long as I could find a level space, the gas or propane cooled frig would work. That was a big advantage over back packing or not having any refrigeration available. I can travel both ways, but, why, when there were modern options?

What many folks don't realize is that from ancient times cheese can be kept at ambient temperatures. To prevent mold, lightly wipe the surface of the solid piece of cheese with a cloth dampened in plain vinegar. This works at home, too. Note: it was a brick of cheese, not slices.

Never got tired of these dishes, and sometimes make them when at home.

Clothing consisted of rain jackets, polar fleece tops and pants, light weight multiple pocket fishing shirts with long tails, shorts, polo and T-shirts, insulated underwear, socks, shoes, sandals, underwear, hats.

Over-packing, bringing along things that are unlikely to be used but which take up precious space and add weight to both vehicles, making the RV difficult to live in or maneuver was a major problem. I objected, but was ignored and over ruled against my better sense of safety, prudence and reason. I lived to regret that failure to be more assertive.

Both of us were photographers, I was on newspaper assignment, and so cameras were necessary. I brought 2 different compact Kodak digitals and one Sony Camcorder (which was never used), some adapters and filters, a tripod, extra memory cards and battery. She did the same (and insisted further upon a virtual darkroom including her substantial Epson printer, paper, inks, toners, which took up space but were never used). We each had our own lap top computers, software, cables, etc.

Spare tires were carried along outside, with two light aluminum arm chairs. Cramming the towed compact car were two tackle boxes, which accompanied fly rods, spinning reels with their rods, nets, neoprene waders, personal flotation devices (and sit-in floats for fishing, which also were never used, but took up enormous space, and quantities of my companions clothing in addition to what was already on board that had been agreed upon as an absolute limit, previously.)

Cunningham's fly fishing bible, soft cover, was gifted to me as required reading and reference. I read it, then learned that much of it would not be relevant to this northern safari. On board was also an extensive survival manual, and two ecology decks identifying wild edibles, which did come in handy in the Yukon and in BC.

We got under way with difficulty on June 14th, much later in the day than I'd hoped for&and finally into Canada the next day to Hope, which was pretty, but in some ways hope-less, a place to drive through, but not linger. The drive from Hope to Williams Lake the next day was hazardous, hot, harrowing, and -- in some ways -- a bit horrifying&.but, as Kipling said: That is another story.

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