Author Archives: GAC

The Alaska Papers – Part 1

North to Alaska

The Alcan Highway

By Rick Cleveringa

An early calling

Once, long ago when I was a young teen in the early 1980’s, I opened a National Geographic magazine. Flipping through I saw photos of a man next to a signpost, arrows pointing in all directions. Written in hand painted letters were the names of cities, miles far from that point, and in the next photo was a dirty beaten vehicle on a lonely gravel mountain road. This man had driven to Alaska from the lower 48; part of his trip was on the Alaskan Highway or ALCAN.

The photos peaked a yearning in me to have such adventures. I sat and read the article in full, how he carried extra fuel, food, water, warm clothes, and a rifle. How the roads were impassable at certain times of the year, how you can be stuck for days without seeing another car or truck. It was like reading fiction only this was anything but. This lay somewhere deep in the back of the mind for years, wondering how could a kid from a small town in Illinois ever make such a journey? I had no car, no money and no license, this was pure fantasy.

Later in the High school I met a guy in my Latin class who would become a life-long friend. Back then, Dr, “K” and I shared a strange sense of humor, we played in a garage band together and often hung out in the woods behind his house. In 1984 his older brother had driven home from Alaska. “Man! how was it?” I remember asking. “Uhg long” he said. He was on leave from the Army and distance was only to be concurred. He said he drove for hours on end, his little white car with Alaska plates covered in mud. For him it was only a way to get back. Then a few days later he would turn around and do it all over. That drive, what was it really like I thought?

A third time, in 1991, there was this girl I knew. Her father had this beat 1968 black Ford bronco parked dead in the front yard. By then it was vintage and I asked about it. He said “Oh yea I bought the Bronco brand new in 1968 to drive the Alaskan highway that same year”. “Really!” I exclaimed. He went on, “It was in the summer. Still I only made it up to the Yukon before the snow was too deep and I had to turn around. The gravel roads ruined that truck. It ate the wheel-wells and floor boards right out it. Had to have all welded back in when I got home to Illinois”.

There it was again the Alcan. It would rear up and call to me every so often and I would ignore or fantasize about it for a time. It had to simmer for 39 long years until it no longer could only be though about, it had to respected and realized.

I quit

When I turned 50 something inside just snapped. My life was only 25 years away from me being a diaper-wearing baby again and what was I doing about it? My personal life, which by all means was safe and well, still had a few wrinkles. Something had to give. I went into work one day and thought I can’t be here anymore, so I went home, took the day off to cool down and settle back in. You put your head down, ass up and keep your mouth shut. It is your duty to be there, its your job, that’s what a reasonable man does. Hell they do it daily; you might be doing right now? For years I just had pushed the artist, the adventurer in me down too far. Always going for security and not to live like a man of letters. Thursday when I showed back up. I put in my two weeks and started making plans.

Work makes you Free

After I lay in my letter of resignation, work took on a lighter theme. I no longer had the tremendous stress of all the R+D projects in my queue; it would all keep running on long after I disappeared in to the wilds. My first thought was not the Alcan, not sure when that longing came back from my heart to my head. I had just bought a new 2015 tank green Jeep Wrangler, the kind of vehicle that can take you anywhere. One day I went to the store, needed to lay in some food stocks, Noodles, trail mix, granola bars. It suddenly hit me, I could this I thought, this could actually happen.

Its just what I needed I told myself. But what was the first step… where was all that camping equipment? Searching the house and garage, I dug through boxes and found tents, tarps, cook pots, Kelly Kettle and sleeping pads. The next step was to buy some static window tint for the Jeep’s back, side windows. The tint was to cut out the midnight sun I was so anxious to see as I planed to sleep in the wrangler.

The third step was to configure space between all the gear and a flat spot long enough for my frame. With the back, bench seat removed and the passenger seat in its far forward position it was possible. It was on an angle, but that made just about 6 foot place where one could lie down for a nights slumber. A double layer of foam padding on the floor along with my Therm-a-rest on top should make a comfy bed. I think this might work.

“The Gerry” Can

Finally I packed some tools, a roll of tape and some bailing wire in an ammo box. You never know what you might break. The only real modification I made was to weld up a Gerry can rack out of 1” metal flat stock. It would bolt over the spare tire lugs, bungee cords, a chain and lock to hold the can in place. A wonderful feeling came over me when I bought the new Gerry can at Harbor Freight. It is the kind of thing every guy wants but never really has a use for. That was about to change. I packed up the Jeep and filled the tank. Come Monday morning instead of going to work. I would go to Alaska.

Odometer reading 26349

Monday May 16 2016 4:17 AM. – The back of the Jeep is packed with the last few items. “It will be all right”, I said this to myself quietly. The engine started and excitement took over. Away I go…and immediately the Low tire light comes on. So I have to make a stop to put in some air before I even leave town.

I could see daylight on the horizon, cresting the big blue globe and I wanted to be long gone by now. I stayed on the interstates to fire me out of the land I knew all to well. Cutting up into Wisconsin I made my first gas stop in Camp Douglas. In part for the namesake of the town, the man who was my boss just a few days ago, his last name being Douglas.

Coffee and Gasoline

Up north you can pump your gas before you pay. Once so common everywhere but now it seems so nice and trusting. I grabbed a paper cup of gas station coffee, and was back to the road. This was to be the way of life now, as I would spend hours behind the wheel, stopping only to gas up and see if I could find the worse cup of coffee in each state. This include 3 states or territories in Canada, and by all means, the Canadians have the market on bad gas station coffee. It was as if they merely took an old used coffee filter, ran some boiling water through it and here you go, a piping hot cup of shit. It was terrible, almost comical. On the up side I had two free cups of coffee along the way. Both were in the Yukon and they were the best cups on the 7500 + miles.

The first was in Fort Nelson. The Gourmet girl coffee shop was so nice on the way I up. I made a second stop on my return. The door was open but the shop was closed but there was a young lady cleaning up. She stopped what she was doing, spoke to me like an old friend, and then made me a Cafe Americana. It was strong, rich and had a nutty flavor that made me want more. That young woman was beyond nice.

The second was in some tiny gas station shaped like a log cabin. A very pretty young girl and mother were running the place. The mother in a friendly tone said I could have “A cup on the house”. “OK thanks!”, I go to the tiny counter with hand pump thermos. On a piece of cardboard is written “Organic Coffee”. My taste buds had been assaulted so often by this point, everything amused me, so why Not? I pushed the plunger and pumped black liquid into a tiny cup. It was the best cup in the wild. I enjoyed the dark roasted beans, the pleasing aroma and the waking benefits of hot black coffee. But most of your life on the road is shitty coffee and filling the tank.

James McMurtry

“Looking out through the bugs on the windshield somebody said to me. No more Buffalo, blue skies or open roads”

By the afternoon of the first day the windshield was so crusted with insects I could barely see. The Jeeps design is wonderfully retro, I love the look and style. But the flat windshield attracts every bug within 100 yards of the highways edge. Being flat none escape, each flying shell gets cracked open and spread on the glass like Jelly on toast. I put these insects into two categories:

  1. June bug – this is any of the large insects that hit the glass like a round fired from a .38 caliber pistol. On impact the shiny black insects crack open like a small birds egg. The exoskeleton and wings fly off leaving behind a mostly clear viscous jam with a light green center. Its opaque but a nuisance.
  2. Black Fly – This was any of the smaller bugs that find their demise in my line of sight. Once they break open on the windshield the thorax burst and small red entrails adheres to the glass. The mid section tries to break free but is held to the glass by a light green cable that tethers the head and wings while the rest is wiping wildly around in the wind. A fast blast of wiper fluid will clean up the mess, but one never gets it all.

This is happening with great frequency. You often need to stop at a station just to use the windshield squeegee. I dubbed these squeegees “The Magic Wand”. The further I got northwest the muddier the windshield fluid in the buckets became. Near home it’s the nice clear blue, like a Jamaican ocean. Further up the road it is a muddy swamp, like a bayou in LA. Such is life behind the wheel.

It’s all highway time and I cross the state line to Minnesota, cut through the twin cities and see none of it. North Dakota ahead and I make the State line exactly 12 hours from leaving my home this morning. This brings the feeling of the first accomplishment; I’ve never seen or breathed the air in this part of the world. ND surprised me, a rolling green place with a lot more water then I expected, ponds and streams in abundance.

The friendly green hillsides were covered with strange signs, made of stones embedded in the gassy hills. It took some time but finally realized they were graduating class years. ND was pretty to drive. In Jamestown I got off the interstate and rolled peacefully on old state road 52, yes this is more like it. The sun was going down and I felt beat. So I drove the smooth Blue highway through to Harvey ND with its quaint Western downtown. I found a new hotel The Cobblestone and thought, “OK I’ll get a room a shower and get out of the Jeep for a few hours”. Thats just what I did, a bed, clean sheets a bath, wow so quiet and comfy.

I email “Dr K” and he says did you see O-G? Roadside America shows a giant purple gorilla that once was in this town. I enquirer at the front desk and looked for O-G in his old spot but he has long since disappeared.

DAY 2

Odometer reading 27227 7:00 AM

Sweet sleep last night in a big bed. A new day in front of the windshield and I feel great. All the burdens of work life are done and forgotten and I’m living a dream from 35 years ago. The two-lane is clear and I make for the line, nearing 11 AM I left Portal ND and America.

The Border

Slowing down I pulled up to the Canadian boarder, the young female boarder guard at the window asks me a few questions. I hear the Canadian accent for the first time. She hands me a yellow ticket and tells me to come in the main building. I walk in and sit down with a few others waiting. There are strange conversations with even stranger fellow travelers, and soon I would come to the harsh realization that I am not going anywhere for a long time. There was one young couple waiting, they were hauled off to separate rooms for integration. There was a gray man, his body leaned heavy against the counter. In his friendly tone he explained the medical reasons why he has all those drugs in his truck. They took him to a private room. Now I just wait, which would be 2 more hours.

Why does one feel guilty under the guise of authority? I did nothing wrong and would not likely do anything troublesome to the Canadians or there land? But here I was stationed in a pale blue hard plastic chair from the 70’s, holding a stupid yellow coupon to freedom. A fireplug of a woman in uniform called me to the counter. Through thick specs she reads my yellow ticket and said go wait at the red counter they will processes you there. At the red counter I stand and wait. Behind the counter I count 6 cubicles with computers and no people in them. I count 7 more computers at the red counter and no one is there either, It’s a ghost town. After 20 minutes of standing by myself, a line of one, an official looking a little like Frank Oz came over. He says “Where are you driving?” At least I thought he said that. I say Alaska. He says in a louder more authoritative tone “WHAT are you DRIVING?” Oh green Jeep I say. He looks at the yellow ticket and the keys in my hand. He says “I need your keys” and I drop them and my jaw on the red counter. I ask can I use the restroom? Just WAIT he barked.

The Land of Oz

Now I have to sit in the next area while he ransacked my car. My little home for the next few weeks is being tossed and there was nothing to be done. So I slept in the chair until the little blonde girl called. “Sir, Sir you have to see the officer by your vehicle”. I went out in the sunlight and walk to my car. He was standing there with most of my camping gear on the ground. As I got closer he said, “You have to take the top off”. When I heard this I thought what the FUCK! I m not taking the top off you dick! What the hell do you think you can find? Prick! You fuckers have kept me hostage for 2 hours. Then the little man with mustache said in a friendly Canadian tone “To let the wind through your hair” He is smiling but I am not. Now he is all friendly and wants to talk about the Jeep. He’s making small talk and I just want to get the fuck out of here. I say “Can I use the restroom now?” Right that way he pointed. He told me I could put my gear back in my Jeep and go when I returned, and after I used the can, he was still there, my gear spread on the pavement and he wants to chat me up. As I was tossing my equipment back into the Jeep, he was prattling away. I wonder if he felt better when he finds contraband or when he does not? Soon it would get windy, too windy but you would not want this in your hair

Through the Canadian prairie.

When you think of the word Saskatchewan what comes to mind? From now on I will think of the flat unattractive landscape, filled with pipelines, strip mining, dust, bad winds, terrible roads and a dry colorless backdrop for a long boring movie.

The road ran North-by-North West, the head wind so strong the Jeep struggled against it. I swear I had the peddle on the floor just to make 70 mph. When the semis came in the opposite direction at 100 miles an hour, you could feel the car stop momentary, then the hood would damn near blow off before you resumed driving at top speed. Rocks beat the windshield mercilessly. The stones thrown by trucks hammered the glass so hard I expected it breakout several times. I tallied the major rock hits, 7 in about 2 hours and numerous light strikes. It sucked. One stone drove a conical fracture so deep that a line spread across the windscreen on the first warm day back home. The Jeeps first battle scar.

North Dakota was green and hilly with nice watering holes all about, now just miles north it was one industrial wasteland. Iron pipes and dusty trucking roads with names like Pipeline road, Gas road, they intersected the highway and produced lots of heavy truck traffic. Around any standing water there formed a ring of white alkalized residue, and where the water had evaporated completely, there stood a white crust on the earth. Was this pollution from mining? Is the soil just filled by alkaloids? It was a terrible looking place with only gas stops and muddy magic wands along the way.

Once I headed due north the wind stopped beating the hell out of my driving, now the trucks were to the South. Traffic thinned and the land greened up. This was great relief. Finally it was evening and a stop in Saskatoon for the night in a motel room. That night I went down to the pool and relaxed. The shoulders feel the hours of clenching the wheel in the headwinds all day, and a little time in the pool helped soften the aching muscles. Last sleep in a bed for some time and I rest well. In the Morning I look for the highway North, the road signs are small and faded, hard to read and hard to find. Had to make a U-turn to pick up Kings Highway 16, I will be glad to leave the city of Saskatoon this morning and head to the grand open.

DAY 3

After yesterdays defeat at the border and a lower mile day, I decided to make a run for it, coffee, gasoline and the magic wand the only distractions. Highway 16 took me to Lloydmister and crossing the line into British Columbia then into Edmonton. Beef jerky and trail mix my companions, as I make way further northwest to Crooked Creek, Grande Prairie and Beaver Lodge for bad coffee and gasoline. On to Dawson Creek and the Zero Mile.

On this day three, I was missing my travel companions. There have been the four of us guys, road trip buddies, real friends from long ago. We met under strange circumstances, yet somehow seemed to have a special connection, a bond that was undeniable. When the four of us are together all things seem possible. While we cemented our friendship more than 25 years ago, a road trip south came up and it was a blast. We have traveled 10s of thousands of mile since, yet here I was, on some of the most scenic country, on a road completely empty and they were not there. It was odd.

I missed TC, his wiry jokes. They are un-insulated and electric, they are shocking, and they send sparks in every direction. I missed his un-diapered mouth. He is the most kindly and saintly little man you could know, yet he is capable of the foulest most horrific statements, diatribes so mortifying, tirades so insensitive that you feel uncomfortable when you hear them, but you laugh till your sides hurt. All because you know he is the sweetest guy alive.

I missed RP, his steady calm; his new Zen like reasoning that he exudes. This man has ice water in his veins. Once I saw him drive 90 MPH barely missing a Mississippi State trouper who, standing in the road by a mudslide, frantically waving for us to slow down. The cops face was red as a monkey’s ass as he was screaming, “Slow the HELL DOWN”. RP never missed a beat nor took his heavy foot from the accelerator. Today I could use a reasonable portion of the steady hand at the wheel for this monster 65 hours one-way drive.

I missed double B, his attention to detail, his planning, the spreadsheets, his nervousness on the edge of adventure. Once the real adventure hits, there is a light in his eye. A real spark that says I am afraid and we are going to die but this is Great! It’s a lux I have not seen in other men’s eyes before. You know he is alive and if you are observant, this light feeds your own life and you know you have shared real adventures with him.

“Damn I wish they could see this road,” I said to a package of beef jerky.

*Continue the journey with Part 2 of “The Alaska Papers”

In The Field

 

In The Field

By Brian K. Brecht

 

A birthday present has brought a new perspective on how we see our 26th president. The book “Theodore Roosevelt In the Field” by Michael R. Canfield, highlights the focus Roosevelt had as an outdoorsman and self made naturalist.

Certainly his education, time as a Rough Rider and political life are part of the narrative, but in this telling, they are not the primary focus of the biography. Happily they are there as the backdrop to how and why Roosevelt spent so much time hiking, hunting, and riding through the various wildernesses of the world.

The image of “The Bull Moose” has been ever present when it comes to describing Theodore Roosevelt, but here we see just why that description was so appropriate. It also shows something of the contradiction that existed, if not just for Roosevelt but also the time of the late 1800 and early 1900’s. Something we see even today, the need for conservation, while allowing the hunter and outdoorsman to exist side by side.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the book highlights the notes and journals Roosevelt had written since his youth. Never realizing the volumes of writing he did not only as a naturalist but also as a professional, writing various articles and books for the likes of Scribbners. The book details his handwritten journals and has inspired us to revisiting our own journals from our various travels.

Whether you enjoy presidential history, science and conservations, or tales of the great outdoors, this book is sure to satisfy.

Polar Additions

Two new additions came this week to the GAC library, specifically for the Polar section.

South with Endurance

We continue to be fascinated but the Antarctic explorations of Sir Ernst Shackleton, specifically the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the Endurance.

SouthWithEndurance

“South with Endurance” – Frank Hurley

This time however, we’ve been focusing on the expedition photographer, Frank Hurley. Hurley’s images have long fascinated us and we finally purchased our copy of Hurley’s “South with Endurance”.

This title brings to life the story of the Endurance and her crew’s struggle for survival, all through Hurley’s dramatic photographs. It’s a must have for any enthusiast of the Shackleton story.

 

 

 

 

 

Alone on the Ice

AloneOntheIce

Next, we recently came across a somewhat unknown Antarctic expedition lead by the Australian, Douglas Mawson. In “Alone on the Ice” by David Roberts, Mawson reveals himself to be every bit a contemporary of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen, as leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Unfortunately that story has received nowhere near the attention as his fellow explorers. Robert’s book illustrates the desperate struggle for life Mawson finds himself in during the 1913 expedition, all while his fellow crew members prepare to depart from the far south.

A fascinating story on it’s own but also helps to fill in portions of the Antarctic history that surrounds the other great explorations. To our surprise, even heroes such as Frank Hurley and Frank Wild are involved here prior to their journey on the Endurance.

It’s definitely a recommended read for those who enjoy the tales of “the ice keeping what the ice gets”.

An Adventurous New year

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15966175_1366530133367066_4537273663744684641_nWishing all our members and followers, an adventurous new year.

2016 was a quiet year from a posting standpoint, but we had plenty of adventures. From the Alcan highway to Alaska, to visiting the Humble Administrator’s Gardens in Suzhou China.

We’re looking forward to sharing these stories and more, with you during all of 2017.

So join us in having an adventurous new year. And don’t forget to share our site and Facebook page with others who enjoy an adventurous lifestyle.

All the best!

The Gentleman Adventurer’s Club

Childhood Adventures

 

ThornappleLake

The First Adventure

By Brian K. Brecht

I don’t think I appreciated the value of this trip when it happened, but now, looking back, I realize this was probably the first example of “an adventure” I ever had.

I’m not exactly sure how it all came about, but likely began as conversation between my best friend’s father (Paul Sr.) and mine, culminated in the idea of a weeklong canoe trip down the Thornapple River. How or why I really don’t know, it wasn’t as though I was kicking and screaming to go canoeing. In fact I think at the time I was somewhat reluctant to the entire idea.

But as the weeks went on, my best friend Paul (Jr) and I, secured the required permission from school to be gone for the better part of a week. The most frustrating moment was asking “Yoda”, our Algebra teacher, who did indeed look just like the diminutive Star Wars character, if I could go. He grilled me on “why he should let me go”, likely due to my failing algebra grade. But somehow, perhaps because I was going with Paul, he seemed to let my academic excellence slide. Perhaps feeling if I spent time with my best friend, he might instill in me the require algebraic knowledge he possessed and I did not.

This was in many ways the first of those experiences to push myself, and do something I wasn’t completely comfortable with. Hearing someone talk about a weeklong canoe trip sounds great! But going out and doing it yourself, becomes an exercise in “I just don’t have time, I really can’t afford it”, or “why should I bother”. In this case, it wasn’t up to me, but up to the two fathers who crafted the idea of some father and son bonding.

For Paul and his father, this was nothing out of the ordinary. Both had been long time hunters, campers, and general outdoorsmen. For my dad and I, this was unusual. My Dad loved the outdoors, to be sure. He got his hunting licenses every year, he worked outside whether freezing cold or blistering heat. He taught me how to shoot and explore the forests around our house as best as he himself understood. But my Father fell into the same category (guess where I got it from), of there’s always a reason why we couldn’t go “do that thing”. So I think part of my resistance to this endeavor, was a lack of belief it would actually happen to begin with. But here I was, asking “Yoda” to sign my permission slip, in the middle of the fall semester, and wondering what the hell I do now, that he actually signed it?

Paul and I had become the best of friends in a very short time. We’d only known each other since the start of freshman year, but to this day he remains one of only a few men I call brother. So to head out on this adventure with him seemed only right.

We set out on a bright but chilly morning, putting in on the southwestern shores of Thornapple Lake. I can’t remember a boat launch specifically, or if we just put in where we could find access to the water. I do remember, it being a rather cool October morning, the wind cresting over the water as I looked out over our piled supplies.

I remember being awestruck and confused by the amount of packing Paul Sr. put into the FullSizeRendercanoes. We had two canoes, conveniently one for each “family”. Dad and I in one, Paul and his father in the other, both fathers, taking the steerage position at the back of the canoe. Paul Sr. clearly had done this before. In a time before carbon fiber, or plastic camping gear, Paul Sr had fashioned two, white, (heavy) wooden camp boxes that, by design, fit perfectly between the gunwales of the canoes midsection. In one, all our food and cooking supplies. In the other, tools and camp needs, most of which I didn’t understand why we would need.

Along side this, packed the rifles, the tents, the packs, and all the things I was completely unprepared for, but somehow managed to bring along. I’m sure, all thanks to my dad.

We kicked off, the canoes now sitting much lower in the water than when we first dropped them in, and soon we were paddling across the Lake to the river mouth on its western side. I remember feeling irritated right away, as we paddled straight into a headwind and wondered what in the hell had our fathers gotten ourselves into. I mean come on! Wasn’t this a vacation? Why was it so much work? How was this supposed to be fun? We leaned hard into our paddles and after about 30 minutes of fighting, we pushed ourselves out of the face of struggle, and into the waiting mouth of the Thornapple River.

The goal wasn’t distance or some dramatic feat, it was merely to head west and put out, by the end of the week, just prior to the east side of the town of Hastings. It was enough to get a sense of remoteness I think our fathers were looking for, all the while, close enough that we were within range of civilization should we need it. So to my surprise, the time along the Thornapple felt much more remote than we probably were.

Once we breached the mouth of the river, the winds calmed and we moved easily with the current. There are moments when you see your father in a different light, a new light that burns away the cover of the every day, and reveals the man you had always admired below. This was one of those. My father guided the canoe easily through the currents, coaching me through when to change sides, when to paddle harder, when to keep us from tipping with the current. It was those moments, when you get the chance to see your father for what he always wanted to be, and not the man he has to be day to day. You can appreciate everything he wanted to be but perhaps has put on hold for his family and responsibilities. Its only in hindsight that I’ve realized this.

At one point we wound up speeding through some small rapids, and Dad kept his cool the entire time. As the river sped faster and faster, it began curving to the right. It became clear, the river waited for no one. It was a classic scenario where, if entering the rapids at the wrong angle, regardless of their diminished strength, it would easily spin the canoe around and possibly overturn her. Dad slowly pulled the nose of the canoe into the arch of the bend, and gently slid the canoe sideways into the rapids. The canoe, never even rocking, blended together with the rapids, and gently drifted on, all in one with the churning water.

We rounded the bend around midday and decided to stop for lunch. This was fascinating to me as, again all this was new. Stopping for lunch? How? Where? Was there a McDonalds along the shore? We drifted into the bank; I remember it was somewhat steep, which was fine, as we weren’t really looking to pull out of the water. We found a small manageable spit and slid the canoes up along the bank. From the larder nested between the side rails of the “Paul(s)” canoe, we pulled bread, turkey, ham, mustard and ketchup, all which seemed a grand feast in this remote environment. It was here I started to realize the benefit of these excursions. We take for granted the availability of such staples in our every day. But when presented in a manner, that by all accounts should seem a struggle, they somehow seem manna from heaven. We weren’t starving, or under any hardship, we had just started, but I had forgotten how something so simple as a turkey sandwich, can be so rewarding after fighting the wind and weather for even a few short hours.

This was the first stop of many, but the first in my realization of what I should expect along the way. The second came quickly at its heels when I complained to my father of a slight stomachache. Nothing serious but clearly nerves, anxiety, and being in unfamiliar territory were working against me. My father’s solution… beer. One of our essential stores was a case of BuckhornBuckhorn beer my father had in our canoe. Perhaps there was some method to his madness; perhaps it was simply a rite of passage, but his cure for a stomachache? A slug of beer, and by god, I was going to drink it. It was enough that I had a couple sips, and then we were repacked and on our way again. All the while, I was thinking to myself… my dad just gave me beer!?!?

The continued ride with the current was wonderful as I slowly settled into the experience ahead of me. Looking back I realize that has always been one of my problems, that of just leaning back and embracing the experience. I remember at one point just watching the scenery go by and enjoying the calm that the river brought. Dad and I hung back in the second position and let “the Paul’s take the lead. At one point I remember some kind of bird coming up in front of us, and Paul Sr, saying to Paul Jr, “get you’re gun out!” Paul reached back and pulled out the shotgun neatly planted along his right side. As the flock took off (I think they were ducks), Paul took his shot as they pass in front, unfortunately still at a distance too far out from our canoes. In the end, he missed his target(s), but I remember being a bit awe struck at how easily it came to my best friend to grab, load, aim and shoot at what could have been our dinner that night. I had a lot to learn it would seem.

Thornapple River

We continued on, the river cold and black, the sky, overcast, gray and cool. There were jokes, discussions, various points of nature, which for some reason every little change in landscape seemed interesting. But there were also moment of quiet. Time to just watch, to listen, and envelope yourself in the surroundings.

As dark approached on the horizon, it was time to find the first campsite of the week. We found an easy sloping bank which would give us plenty of cover under the trees and a high enough shore to get the canoes out of the water and us on dry land. We landed the boats, climbed out and gave ourselves a good stretch. We noticed two things right away, first was an old abandoned foundation that sat down the bank and under the trees. It was difficult to discern what it used to be, but the foundation would make a great fire pit and provide some break from the increasing wind.

The next thing, we were not alone. As the night darkened, and the campsite became bathed in firelight, we heard rustling in the nearby trees. Slowly what emerged was a heard of cows who were moving from their pasture, back toward the home barn. Reminding us we were still close to civilization, there came a pickup from wherever the farm was, and they came by to check on who was hanging out on their river’s edge. After a nice enough exchange, they left, the cows followed, and eventually we moved to our tents and settled down for a crisp night sleep.

The next few days provided more Midwestern fall beauty and new challenges along the river. One I will never forget was the logjam. At the beginning, when commenting about the wooden food crates and all the “extra” equipment, the one that went into the Paul’s canoe which I just couldn’t’ understand was a chainsaw. A chainsaw? We were on a river? What on earth was that for? I learned by midweek exactly what for.

We rounded a bend again and the river began to narrow, at a few points becoming no more than 20-30 feet wide. Our pace slowed to navigate the slower current and shallow depths, and eventually found ourselves at a total roadblock. Clearly in years past the river, the weather, Mother Nature at her best, proved to a handful of tress, it was time for them to come down. And down they were, directly across the river, completely blocking our forward progress.

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Right away my young mind goes to “GREAT! Now we have to take everything OUT of the canoes, then carry it down river then…” I can honestly say, teenagers don’t appreciate the experience at hand. Regardless, thanks to Paul Sr’s forethought, the portage around the fallen tress wasn’t necessary. As though some superhero pulling his sword from a hidden sheath, Paul senior reach into the canoe, and pulling it above his head almost in a defiant stance, removed his chainsaw and gave the pullcord a hefty yank! The saw fired right up and soon he was climbing the morass of logs, sawing through them with ease, clearing our path to freedom.

There was a level of elation at the experience, watching the two dads, beat back nature with a defiant “stick”. Thinking us now superior, we reloaded the tools, and began to paddle under the remaining logs to the other side. But no, Mother Nature wasn’t done with me yet. The clearing we had made was just enough to slide the canoe and all the gear and passengers underneath. However in my exuberance, I failed to realize, that the wooden supply box was right behind me, so when the time came to lean back and glide under the logs, my head locked back against the supply crate, and my forehead smacking directly into the logs I so arrogantly attempted to avoid. I remember having a small goose egg on my forehead for the remainder of the trip, just to remind myself that we (or I) was in no way king of this river.

The river eased us on for the remainder of the week. Our last night was spent on a small peninsula of land that jutted into the right side of the river. A comforting dinner, and an evening helping Paul Jr clean the dishes. That meant heating the solidified grease in the cast-iron frying pan, and pouring it over the fire to get rid of it. As boys will be boys, it clearly was a reason to let two young boys play with fire.

The fathers just sat back and watched and let Paul and I enjoy our selves. We spent our evening huddled next to the fire, discussing our most recent D&D adventure, while the men drank beer and talked about the things Fathers talk about.

As I prepare for my next adventure, heading to the UK in the fall, I want to remember that time on the river and what it gave me. And to not take for granted the experience at hand.

Of the Southern Continent

The facade of the Scott Polar Research Institute – *photo from the official website

Preparing for our Grand Tour of the UK, beginning in September, we found a likely destination from a great website called “Atlas Obcura”.

Always enthusiasts of polar exploration, Atlas Obscura highlights the Scott Polar Research Institute, and organization dedicated to the history and exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic poles.

Definitely check out the article.

GAC

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/scott-polar-research-institute-museum-library

 

 

 

Latest and Greatest

Hello fellow adventurers! Here’s hoping you’re making the most out of your 2016.

We have a few posts dropping soon, some from over the winter, others, some more recent fun.

As we look to some planned trips this year, pirate hunting, trips to the Yukon, finding some long admired treasures in the UK, and a Wing Hunt in October, we wanted to ask two questions.

1st what are the most recent adventures you’ve been having? We’d love to add some of your adventures to our roles.

And 2nd, what are the adventures you’d like to see from us going forward? We have lots of thoughts in mind, but want to hear from you.

Shoot us a message or reply to this thread. We want to hear and plan some adventures that you’d like to see the most.

Finally we’re exploring some ideas for our next site design, continuing our Expeditions and Club Chair sections, but also looking at some Gentlemanly Lifestyle and Leisure ideas. Again, if there are topics you’d like us to cover going forward, just let us know.

As always, keep searching for those every day adventures.

The Gentleman Adventurer’s Club

Adventure Defined

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What is Adventure?

We spent this year making unexpected changes; career, location and focus found new twists and turns as the year drew on. As we shifted our plans to accommodate, I found myself questioning what kind of adventure I was looking for.

I’ll expand on this as we move into 2016, but in my searching, I remembered an article from one of our favorites sites “The Art of Manliness” called “The Churchill School of Adulthood — Lesson #5: Don’t Give Up Your Sense of Adventure”.

We’ve mentioned being fans of the AoM for some time, and they have an entire series called the “Winston Churchill School of Adulthood” I would recommend reading. Lesson #5 in particular, is enjoyable when looking to define what your personal sense of adventure might be. They start with some basic tenants such as;

  • A chance for failure/harm.
  • The inability to completely plan out what will happen and how things will go.
  • Challenge and the calling forth of one’s abilities.

But then expand on those given modern variables and environments. I’m using the article as something of a template as I define both my own personal approach, but also the GAC’s to our adventures in 2016.

I hope you’ll enjoy the Art of Manliness as much as we do, and their articles from “The Winston Churchill School of Adulthood”.

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/01/14/the-churchill-school-of-adulthood-lesson-5-dont-give-up-your-sense-of-adventure/

Far East Adventures

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Whisky Samurai

By T. Dietz

We’re at the tail-end of a five week trip to South East Asia spending a few transition days in Tokyo when I’m ready for a night with no kids, alone time with my wife, and a great whisky. A fitting end to a great summer holiday adventure that covered so much-from an elephant safari to diving with sharks and giant moray eels in Thailand. As we at the GAC have pointed out on more than one occasion, we like to finish our adventures (of all and any kind) with a whisky (see our previous whisky tasting article).

I’ve been to Japan, and Tokyo in particular, several times and know first hand of the Japanese’s passion for cocktails and whisky. So instead of heading down to the Shangri-La Hotel bar or the Park Hyatt Hotel’s New York bar, where too many people need to have a drink because of the bar scene in the film Lost In Translation, I turn to the interwebs for the “best whisky bar in Tokyo”.

Up came a number of great bars highlighting chemistry major-be-proud alcohol concoctions, FullSizeRender 8 copyhand shaved ice, dinner-jacketed bartenders, and rarified whiskies from around the world. Many, like the Society at the Park Hotel or the Bar High Five, would easily of met my need for the evening. But, I was intrigued by several articles that highlighted the oldest master barman in Tokyo, Mitsui Yoshida. He is known for having trained many of Tokyo’s great mixologists, his perfect ice and Yoshida Martini, and one of his specialty cocktails called the Kaikan Fizz. Turns out he is bar tending at a bar called Y&M Kisling and one on the “best of” list. Unfortunately, he only tends bar a couple of nights a week and it was not a night that my wife and I had free. BTW, yes, GAC adventures can include your beautiful blonde wife.

IMG_1659 copyThe Y&M Kisling sounded intriguing in and of itself. A small venue that was named for the French painter Moise Kisling and highlighting his painting Jeune fille en rouge, 1925. Although M Yoshida would not be there we figured his protégés would be. Off we went to the Ginza district of Tokyo.

 

 

We were let off at a plain looking office building that, without the sign, would provide no insight IMG_1658 copyas to what was up on the 7th floor. We jumped on a tiny elevator that made us intimately acquainted with one other vertical traveler and up we went. We weren’t off the elevator five seconds when a door swung open and a gentleman in a crème-colored dinner jacket and dark pants invited us into what felt initially like someone’s apartment. A few feet of richly stained wood paneling opened up into an intimate narrow, low lighted old world bar right out of the early part of the 1900’s. Ambience perfection. Just four very nicely dressed patrons were huddled at either end of the long bar- barely looking up from their IMG_1660 copyconversation, drinks and smokes- and we were escorted to the middle section. The bar was pristine with a variety of chilled glasses on display and a deep selection of distillates and spirits. And at its center, the Kisling artwork stood out in riveting contrast to the subdued surroundings.

My wife and I both smiled at what was likely going to be a great evening despite the Master barman’s absence when he just appeared and bee-lined straight to us. With a dignified bow and two other bar tenders standing in military attention at his sides he asked what we’d like to drink. I couldn’t help myself and despite the apparent obviousness of his presence I turned to my wife and said meet M Yosihida, legendary barman.

Without hesitation, my wife ordered up the Yoshida Martini. In an instant, hands were flying around as a perfectly frosted Martini glass was placed in front of M Yoshida and the mesmerizing art of cocktail alchemy played out, perfectly orchestrated. M Yoshida pulled out his pristine ice and chilled everything he used in the process-constantly replacing the ice fresh. Never once did he use a jigger but rather his years of honed skill to pour the exact amount of ingredients into the shaker – a dash of orange bitter, Gordon’s gin, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth and lemons. His concentration was absolute and his “assistants” never took their eyes off of his efforts nor were a step behind in having what came next at his fingertips. His stirring of the mix, which you can see in the lead-in picture, was performed with the utmost concentration. He finished the cocktail with an absolutely perfect pour and squeezed a lemon a few inches over the glass from left to right. He then presented the drink to my wife with a hand gesture but never looking up and bowed. Over the course of the evening we watched this choreographed mastery many times.

M Yoshida didn’t move until after my wife took her fist sip and smiled. Another bow followed. He then turned his attention to me and what would I like. I said that my experience with whisky FullSizeRender 9 copywas good but extremely limited when it came to Japanese malts with only a 12 year Suntory Hakushu (tasted at our GAC whisky event) under my belt. He quickly brought out a number of Japanese whiskies – a 17 year Nikka, a 12 year Taketsuru, and a 12 year Hibiki.   I tasted each one and favored the Nikka. He nodded in approval and moved away to other patrons while I enjoyed smooth brown liquid. Over the next bit my wife and I relived some of the adventurous trip we were just finishing up and decided it was time for another round.

Having enjoyed the Yoshida Martini so much she elected for it a second time and M Yoshida again enthralled us with his time-honed skills. In broken English he asked us where we were from. We said the San Francisco area and he was excited to tell us he’d been there for a visit years before. I told him again how much I liked the Nikka and he then just stared at me – kind of like when you’re deciding on whether you should do something or not. He turned to one of his assistant bar tenders and after a brief and hushed conversation the IMG_1669 - Version 2 copyassistant bar tender left the bar and went to the wall seating behind us. He lifted one of the seats and reached in. He quickly took the bottle to M Yoshida and then returned to the wall seating to put it back in place.

The bottle was in Japanese with beautiful artwork on it. M Yoshida opened the bottle, took a glass and poured ever so small a portion. He breathed in the aroma and then slid the glass in front of me. I honestly can’t remember the smell. I felt I was drinking something that doesn’t often come out for his patrons. He waited for me to taste it and when I did I just thought it held up to the best whiskies I have ever had. He smiled for the first time and the bottle was taken back to its hiding spot. After some searching I figured out I had tasted from an older stock bottle of Karuizawa whisky, a rare and expensive malt. Nope, I didn’t even think at that point to pull my phone camera back out being completely in the moment.

But two more treats came when first I noticed that the bill did not include my special tasting and then M Yoshida came around from the bar with his assistant and asked for my camera which he gave to another assistant to memorialize our evening adventure in Tokyo.

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Iceland

Iceland

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We love highlighting other writers and like minded adventurers, friends who try to step out of the norm and explore the world around us.
 
We’ve highlighted our friend Matt Brisbin before and his blog :The Mountains are calling and I must Go!”. This year, as careers changed for both Matt and I, Matt took the time to explore distant Iceland.
 
It looks to have been an amazing trip and something we wanted to share with our audience as well.