Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wolf Quest: Part VI

I left something out of the explanation for my time traveler-themed wolf quest. Because the future is so apocalyptic and immersed in chaos (although they are paradoxically still able to build a time machine) that all the research that this future janitor did on the year 2011, the year he was being sent back to, was so mixed up with the truth...this janitor thought that fashions of 2011 were identical to fashion of this would explain why Oggy is wearing plaid bell bottom pants and a peasant shirt and a paisley cravat.

Paisley Cravat and pinstripe pants, your average fashion for 2011 Ellesmere Island
But, I just want to mention that now in case I forget later on...the entire time I was on this quest my plan was to stay in 1970s costume and if anyone asked me why I'm wearing plaid bell bottom pants I would say that I'd been sent back in time to search for the wolf, and I thought this is what people were wearing because research material in the future is totally garbled due to the climate apocalypse. That's also why I'm driving a 1969 van, because I was trying to fit in.

There's a fine line between insanity and pretending to be from the future...and here's a video of me repairing the external keyboard on my computer because I had already spilled soda on the laptop and the keys stopped working. But this keyboard had been in the van for two dreadful winters...and it failed from the elements attacking the tiny screw in the back and it rusted and the rust corroded one of the key circuits and I had had to rebuild it with a section of circuit from the number pad that I never used...but I couldn't do it such a way that it would always be on or else that letter would constantly be typed. It's all explained in this succinct DIY video, which taken out of context would suggest I had gone insane, which is sort of the effect I was looking for. I think the larger performance involved representing an insane way of life...but the insane way of life was really anyone who contradicted me, since I'm returning from an apocalyptic future so I know what's going to happen, and I'm trying to warn people, and people think I'm the one who is insane. So the performance had several dimensions, all of which were overlooked by the authorities. But first let me get the trip properly started...

I spent the winter of 2010-2011 in St. Louis, a city full of love and peace and opportunities for all, a place you might see on the news recently for their overflowing amount of love for one another. Everyone I met was basically living on unemployment or disability or credit. I hitchhiked to Philadelphia and then on to New England to pick up my van, that had been rotting in the snow, chase the squirrels and mice out of the van, clean it up, charge the battery, make some final adjustments and head north...for the third attempt to get to Ellesmere Island.

This was in late May, I believe, and I had no trouble at the Quebec border. Maybe the New Brunswick people had not warned anyone outside of Quebec that a time traveler in plaid bell bottom pants was trying to get to Ellesmere Island to save the Arctic Wolf. They let me through and I spent a few days in one of the greatest cities in North America, Old Quebec City, which is fortified. The last time I was there, 2 winters earlier, I had to speed through because I was trying to get to Labrador. Now I enjoyed the place, set up a wolf promotion video booth but didn't get much interest. I also failed for 2 years to find a single person willing to make this trip with me as a cameraman. That would've made a big difference because I had a difficult time filming everything. I've seen solo documentaries so it can be done but it got kind of complicated explaining myself to the police while trying to make sure no one confiscated the camera. Borat is what inspired this whole performance because I thought the character he had created was compelling, people would watch and listen, and if I could do the same thing for the Arctic wolf then maybe awareness really would be raised. See, it was a combination of Borat and Star Trek IV and Inconvenient Truth but trying to do all of that alone with one crappy miniDV camera was tiresome. And every time I opened my mouth I was risking a full deportation or commitment to mental hospital so trying to do that on video in addition to the normal day to day living issues of living in the van for real, well it all added up to a complicated scenario and usually the video camera was the first thing I forgot to grab. I figured I would eventually write a whole essay on the quest and the video might or might not be useful.
Time to Panic

I drove through Quebec and soon realized the distance I had to travel was a test of the van's endurance. I figured the chances of the van surviving the trip in one piece was about 50/50. I was going to a place where everything was expensive and most vehicles that had problems never made it out alive. I also didn't have enough money or credit to fix any major problems so there was a point of no return somewhere on the north end of the St. Lawrence river. The road was still pavement but at some point I had to load the van on a ferry and the ferry wasn't crossing the St. Lawrence, it was crossing an inlet river that was as wide as any river I'd ever seen. This is around the area where the St. Lawrence is really a wide seaway you can barely see across from sea level. There's only one road, Rt 138 north and since it hugs the river and it's too remote to build a huge bride, there are a few free ferries that allow travel north. Once I took a ferry across a river I started to panic because I could sense this was a remote location and I also suspected it wasn't the kind of remote that attracted celebrities. This was the kind of remote that was uninhabited for a good reason and that would mean fewer resources, fewer people, fewer parts for the van. I was sick to my stomach that I hadn't brought a spare alternator and I knew that my alternator had been rotting under a snow pile for months. If that alternator failed then I would have to hitchhike to a car part store...and then wait for an alternator to be ordered and hitchhike back to the van...which might not be there. This made me sick and I was convinced something would happen that would complicate everything beyond tolerance.

I drove on and on until Route 138 turned north at Baie Comeau. 389 North becomes dirt almost immediately but the suspension of the van is perfect for slightly rough dirt roads. The suspension of the van is only unsuitable for narrow Guatemalan river rock roads that seem to vibrate the whole vehicle to pieces. But wet graded dirt roads present no problem for El Conquistador.

I think the only good video footage I have of the whole quest comes when I hike to some remote peak or forest and set up the camera on a tripod and record a speech regarding the wolf. I did that several times and the footage is not very interesting. I wanted to interview people but as soon as I left Quebec City there were no people to interview. Lots of mosquitoes but no people. And the few travelers I met didn't seem the kind of people who would give an interview on camera and the also agreed with me that the climate had become unstable and there were major catastrophes on the horizon for wolves, people and environment.

Two people like this were hiking in the Mont Groulx area of northern Quebec where there is a huge area of open terrain in a reserved park setting, meaning there is one trail leading through the forest but above tree line there is no trail. Open Country is what they called that in Alaska's Denali Ntl Park. I happen to love Open Country but the day I was going to establish a base camp in the Mont Groulx park I went to test the starter on the van and nothing happened.

So, I will end this chapter at this point. It's depressing that I have not been able to bend the narrative toward the wolf, but this must be trying to teach me a lesson. I think a quest has three permutations: 1) The Ideal. 2) The Reality 3) The Story. I'm not going to pretend this story of the quest is totally true, nor did it follow closely to my ideal quest narrative. This is the story of the quest, not necessarily the quest. The Ideal was my fantasy and the reality was my experience and now I'm combining the two into a story. The story should be raising awareness about the wolf, but it doesn't feel honest. The quest itself involved the wolf but the story is the story. I'm like a painter who sees a shape in the canvas and there's no way I can manipulate the shape into something phony. I'm following my instinct in the telling of this story and the wolf was decidedly absent at this point in the narrative so I'm not going to say much about him. I was stuck in north central Quebec on a dirt road near a crater impact rebound lake in the shape of an eye, called "The Eye of Quebec" by locals or the Manicougan Reservoir by fancy, educated folks. If I was asked what I was doing I would say, "My name is Oggy Bleacher...I've been sent here from the future to find the Arctic wolf." and that would lead to some wolf awareness topics and discussion of the climate and a polite "Good luck" at the end. But at the point when the van did not start and I checked all the fuses and the ignition switch and the battery cables and realized the battery itself had no voltage I opened the electrolyte caps and peered inside to where I could see one of the battery cell separators had caved in to one side, thus there were only 4 cells instead of 6 and the voltage was non existent. The worst case scenario had come true and I could not go hiking into the open country of Mont Groulx. I was stuck with the van and I was too far from anywhere to try to find a replacement battery.

The worst place to break down in North America

The situation was bleak, but I was determined to find a solution. After three years of trying to reach Labrador I was too close to be denied.

Here are links to the installments of the Wolf Quest

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.