In the previous episode, we spent a great deal of time arguing about which vehicle should be our appropriate choice of steed for a mission to the North Pole. We accomplished a great deal of arguing and managed to keep the liquor production industry of Canada in business for another day. We did not accomplish much else. As such, it was time to make preparations to go!
Part II: The Preparation
The next afternoon, when we all woke up, we realized two things: one, TechieInHell is frightening when he has a hangover, and two, we were going to need to do some preparations before we headed out. So, nursing coffee to chase away the timpanis playing within our foreheads, we watched the Polar Special yet again.
One of the main things we realized that we had overlooked in our enthusiasm the night before was the fact that the Top Gear crew underwent some rigorous training. A few Tylenol later, we headed out to create a similar training regimen for ourselves.
Our first step was to examine some of the cold-weather training they had undergone. Simply put, much of it was irrelevant to us. The temperatures they were warning of in the Top Gear episode were quite frankly amusing. I had been through -50C temperatures many times before. Sure, it’s cold, but it’s not something to panic about. Where we were concerned, however, was with the prospect of crossing frozen bodies of water. Should the vast weight of the Lacetti prove too much for the meters-thick ice to handle, there was a very real – albeit highly unlikely – possibility that we could find ourselves swimming in frigid sub-zero waters. We would need to learn quickly how to survive.
Being that we were starting out within spitting distance of Washington State, finding frozen-over lakes would not be easy. Worse, in our immediate vicinity we had only the huge Columbia River to experiment with. While this might seem an ideal option, its size, depth, temperature, and strong currents meant that it could be far more dangerous than the actual arctic waters we were training for. That, combined with the fact that our access to the river would consist of jumping off of a 10-metre-high wall, and the fact that there was no visible way of getting back out once we were in, meant that the prospect of cold-water training didn’t seem too appealing to us.
So we went for coffee instead.
While there, we realized there was another obstacle standing before us that we hadn’t considered. We were going to be relying on our GPS systems to get us where we needed to go. Unfortunately, I was the only person who actually owned a GPS system, and I had purchased the cheapest one I could find. It gets horribly lost in a parking garage or when parked near a large tree. As such, the prospect of relying on it for a trip through the frozen wastelands of the arctic did not inspire a great deal of confidence.
Similarly, we each had an iPhone (on each of the major Canadian cellular networks) which has a fairly good GPS system on it – and Waze as well, which still largely sees Canada in the same manner as old explorers saw regions of the South Pacific: as a large blank area with no definition at all, aside from a label reading “Here There Be Dragons”. Added to that dilemma was the fact that in Canada, cellular reception is largely defined on the two ends of the spectrum. There is either a fantastic, high-powered, high-strength full-speed signal… or no signal at all. Usually it’s the latter. Since our phones’ GPS use the data connection to download its maps, we were also concerned that we’d end up driving aimlessly. Certainly the British had shown many times, with Hudson and especially Franklin demonstrating what could happen if you weren’t properly prepared.
To that end, TechieInHell came up with a novel suggestion; rather than following the Top Gear lead, we would not seek out the magnetic north pole; we would, instead, seek out the geographic north pole. The reason for this, as Techie assured us with great confidence, was that there would be an actual physical pole for us to use as a landmark to head towards. We wouldn’t have to simply drive around until we found particular GPS coordinates, we could just drive to the giant pole marker.
This, naturally, led to an argument.
And just as naturally, once again, the argument never actually got solved, however we were able to agree that we would seek out the geographic north pole instead. We were also able to agree to switch from scotch to whiskey.
The next step we had to sort out was whether we were going to continue in the same vein as Top Gear. We contemplated the prospect of having a competition between the Lacetti and a dog sled team. While it would have certainly made the whole mission significantly more exciting, we had two major dilemmas: one, we had no dogs; and two, we were fairly certain the Lacetti would lose. Horribly.
We thought that perhaps we could solve both of these difficulties by using cats instead of sled-dogs. In retrospect, it was a terrible idea; but as they say, hindsight is always 20/20, particularly when there’s alcohol involved. We really only had two cats to use anyhow. When we broke out the harnesses, one cat wanted nothing to do with it, and went and hid in the highest location he could find, and wouldn’t come out until we put the harnesses away. The other cat seemed to love the idea… provided he was the passenger, and we were the ones carrying him.
At this point, we began to realize that we had spent two days planning our mission, and all we had managed to do was convert many litres of alcohol into arguments. We decided there was a simple solution: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” We would simply load all our required provisions into the car – specifically, all our remaining alcohol and a few bags of snacks – and head north. As we said before, “How hard can it be?”
Stay tuned for Part III; we’ll find out.