Update as of November 30, 2017

Here's a quick update on the Defender, Donner, me, Stefanie, and plans for next year's trip.

 The Defender.  After more than one year in the garage following the Defender's break-down in from Salina, Utah, and then haul back to DC, I finally got it back today and it is running superbly, due in no small part to its 4.6-liter engine, upgraded from 3.8.  While I am somewhat hesitant to admit it, since April 2016, when I had to make a decision to either give up that beloved 1994 vehicle or figure out what was causing it to not start at times in wet weather (I opted for the later) until today, I figure I spent or invested more than $60,000 in repairs, upgrades and incidental costs related to its troubles (towing, hauling, car rental in the Yukon, etc.).  Readers of my 2016 blog will recall my resolution on September 24, 2016, after it broke down on the cold, dark, grizzly-inhabited Alaska Highway, 220 miles from the nearest garage, that the Defender will ride again, and it did.  That resolution was made partly out of my determination to not give up on anything I do, but also because when your vehicle breaks down more than 4000 miles from home in a foreign country with more than 1000 pounds of gear on it, and with a reactive 100-pound dog as the sole passenger, you just do not search for another way home because there is no other option. Readers will also recall that my mantra during that layover in the Yukon was the last three words of Nessum Dorma (from Puccini's Turandot), Vincero, Vincero, Vincero (“I will win, I will win, I will win”), which my spontaneous temporary travel partner Stefanie and I adopted for our mantra during some rough going in the Arctic. Well, I am happy to report that I vinceroed after all.

Donner.  I am equally happy to report that Donner is doing well, and has improved enormously with his reactivity over the last year.  After spending his first four years chained in L.A. backyards with no chance at socialization, my measure of his reactivity when he sees another dog has decreased from, say, 100 to 1.  While he has yet to play with a dog, with some careful introduction he can stand side-by-side with dogs as if they were not there or the best of buddies. I am so proud of him.

Me. Readers of my 2016 blog will also recall that from time to time I referred to my “pesky sciatic nerve problem.”  I lied. It was not a pesky problem, I was in dire pain with every right step I took. I just did not want to remind myself of what I was going through for fear that I might abandon the trip.  Well, since then, after three surgeries (back, hip and knee) and almost 50 sessions with five different physical therapists, I am approaching getting back to normal.  All indications are that the hip surgery either impinged or severed some nerves, preventing critical walking muscles from firing properly.  My hope is that I will be back to my pre-2016 walking ability in two months, although right now I still need to use a cane on long walks. I also need to get rid of the weight I put on since my low-point on last year’s trip because of my inability to walk any distance until recently. Again, Vincero, Vincero, Vincero.

Stefanie.  Readers of my 2016 blog will also remember Stefanie, the 24-year old medical student from Germany I ran into in the Canadian Rockies at a rest break and who then then joined me days later on the Arctic and Denali legs of my trip. Dedicated readers of the 0TR8 blog will recall that we adopted Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turnadot as the song for our trip together, especially for its last three words, Vincero, Vincero, Vincero (I will will, I will win, I will win). Well, Stefanie visited me in November for two weeks and the big surprise for her was a box seat at the Met in NY for Turandot, when she thought we were going to an Explorer’s Club photo exhibition where my photo of our tent on the Arctic Circle was to be shown. Surprise.

2018 On the Road 9.  Although my plans for 2018’s trip will depend on which vehicle I take, the Defender or a new vehicle (probably a Jeep Wrangler), the options now being considered are one or some combination of the following:

(1) The complete Labrador to Prudhoe Bay journey that has eluded me three time already.

(2) Quebec’s Rue du Nord to James Bay (below Hudson Bay) to Tuk (NWT) along the just-opened all-year 70-mile road from Inuvik (NWT) to the Arctic Ocean at Tuk.

(3) Either on their own or on our return trip home, the Bears Ears and Grand Escalante Staircase national monuments that Trump wants to destroy, just so I can see what we the people will lose.


Updates on all of these to come in the future.