Category Archives: Adventure

  • 1

Could this be the next adventure?

Check this out. Watch the video and add a comment. Perhaps we can take you on a long flying lesson from Patagonia to Florida in early 2018!

 


  • 0
Winter Tires in Canada

Winter Tires in Canada | How important are Winter Tires

Tags : 

Winter Tires in Canada
On Sunday October 1st you are required to have a snowflake logo on your winter tires in Canada to traverse high passes in BC.

What does that mean?

Well, frankly it leaves a lot of decision making to the consumer. Which is why this weekend you want to think carefully about what tires you put on your car. You might also want to drop in to your local BigO Tire dealership for some valuable advice.

In the absence of that, here is a little reading that may help you out.

First of all and importantly, the right tire compound with less tread will typically look after you better than a brand new tire with the wrong compound. That means you may have a set of winter tires that have done a few seasons. However, today if your budget will only stretch to a more affordable all weather tire with a snowflake, hold up. You are likely better off with that legal set of winter tires if they have the minimum tread depth required to be on the road.

What makes the decision confusing is the fact that tires are inherently a conflict. No one set does all the work.

There is such a conflict that when I am racing the rally car for Big O Tires. We often take 4 sets of completely different tires to an event, because a simple change in temperature can change the effectiveness of the tires.

Time To Make A Decision

In Canada we often have an uphill battle to be able to convince people to switch over from summer to winter use tires. Clearly it is impractical to keep four sets of tires for varying weather.

winter tiresThis weekend is pretty clear and simple in terms of decision making. Don’t rely on your all seasons to get you through the winter. For tires to provide grip – the compound needs to be at a temperature that allows it to function. All season tires will not function very well before we even get to negative digits on the thermometer. The compound is simply too hard, even in low single digit temperatures to effectively work.

Winter Tires in Canada on the other hand have a much softer compound. They will work even to extremely low temperatures. 

What are the difficulties we are facing in the early winter? Typically we will be plagued with black ice in this part of the season through to the snow with the exception of high passes. If that is the case, it would make sense to choose an Ice tire. Something like a Bridgestone Blizzak. This tire will have lots of siping to improve heat in the tire and contact on the ground. Remember the only part of your tire that touches the road is the “contact patch”. It is a thin strip, perhaps two inches of rubber is all that stops you from going in the ditch or worse on an icy road.

With that being said, that is not always the best tire later in the year. This is where we need a much more open tread to clear snow and dig in to what can be a compact layer of snow. Something similar to perhaps a Hankook iPike.

The iPike doesn’t do quite as well on ice, but you can add studs to improve performance. 

The Best Solution for Winter Tires in Canada

So what is the best solution? Firstly go and talk to your local BigO Tire dealer about the range and variety of tires that can meet your budget. Remember a lower budget winter tire will still be safer than a higher budget all weather tire with a snowflake logo. You need to analyze the type of driving you expect to do and select the best compromise. More ice, go to a tire with lots of siping which will help with the temperature of the compound and the surface area on the ice. If more snow, go with an open tread pattern to clear snow from your tires.

For sure, do not think that your “all seasons” will get you through this winter. You will simply be a danger to other drivers as well as yourself.

Overall remember that winter requires us to make sure our vehicle is in top shape mechanically. That means we have safety gear for an overnight in a remote area if necessary and that we drive according to the conditions – SLOW DOWN!

And remember Winter Tires in Canada are a must not an option.

Stay safe.

Mark Jennings-Bates
BigO Tires Rally Team

  • 0

TITAN Arctic Challenge – My Five Lessons To Get to Where You Want To

The TITAN Arctic Challenge

This past week on the TITAN Arctic Challenge I had the opportunity to drive the ice roads to our most northern community that you can drive to in Canada – Tuktoyaktuk.

It was a journey fraught with danger, cold weather, unpredictability and frankly, a lot of miles.

Titan Arctic ChallengeWe departed southern Canada in mid May knowing that we had several thousand kilometres to get under our belts quickly in order to be one of the last groups to ever drive the ice roads to Tuktoyaktuk, a remote Inuit hunting and fishing village in the far northern reaches of Canada.

The project, TITAN Arctic Challenge was in actual fact a driving project with Nissan. Promoting the hashtag #TITANarcticchallenge was going to keep their social media department happy and we were to put two Nissan Titan XD trucks through their paces on the way north to prove they had what it takes to compete with the North American truck market.

So off we want with all my pre-conceived notions of what the journey would be like – long, boring and flat. I thought I knew where I was going. How wrong I was!

Our first real port of call was the northern BC community of Terrace. It was really a service community for other smaller towns and villages in a remote northwestern corner of BC. Again, I had never been and I assumed Terrace was too remote for many people to want to live in and had a couple of nice mountains. Other than that I wondered why people would live there.

Getting to where you want toHow wrong I was!

The approach to Terrace through the smaller community of Smithers in the Bulkley valley and then the Skeena River valley was astounding. Towering coastal mountains shimmered in the evening alpenglow as we drove in to what was in fact a bustling community.

I met with a friend who had moved back to what was her home town. She was enjoying spending time in the community again and shared a story with me that amazed me. Her grandfather was the first person to build a home there. He returned from the Gold Rush in the Yukon and looked down on a valley that had enough lumber to build a few homes and founded what we know today was Terrace. Now I had known this person for ten years but never knew that story.

For the second phase of the TITAN Arctic Challenge, we pressed on through remote and wild, rugged mountains, north in to the Yukon. Our initial destination – Dawson City, the gold rush town itself. I immediately fell in love with Dawson, a charming, eclectic city that oozed pioneer living, individuality and freedom from a system that binds most people. The community here was just different – and that was OK by me. We only stayed for an evening but vowed to return.

Next on the agenda was the Dempster Highway – which I had researched on YouTube and knew to be flat and boring. A long arduous 700km drive from Dawson City to Inuvik. How wrong I was!

dempster highwayThe Dempster highway winds it’s way through the most stunning and beautiful mountain range I Have ever had the privilege of seeing. The Richardson Range is often confused with the Rockies but is really a sub-range of an Alaskan formation. In the arctic circle the permafrost ensures that the snow is maintained from the bottom of the valleys to the top of the peaks and so we were treated to approximately three hours of the most stunning white scenery you could ever imagine. My jaw was on the ground for the whole trip, dreaming of climbing, hiking and skiing trips in this extremely remote corner of the world.

We were now in to the final phase of the TITAN Arctic Challenge.

Arctic CircleNext up, Inuvik and the ice road to Tuk as it is affectionately known.

I knew all about that – or so I thought. 170kms of ice on the Beaufort Sea that would be exciting but featureless and we would end up in Tuktoyaktuk with 800 people who probably did not want to see us there. How wrong I was!

Our first spectators as we stepped on to the ice with the trucks was a pair of foxes sunning themselves on the northern bank of the road, simply watching vehicles pass them by. Driving up the McKenzie river we passed abandoned camps that had been used and were being restored for Caribou hunting. The ice retained a mesmerizing sea green colour as the sun on occasion lit up the bottom of the river bed for us. The road was busy but dull it was not.

On this day, the Arctic Ultra was running. A collection of hardy adventurers from around the world were trying their hand at running 350 miles in arctic conditions. The handful of tired runners that were still pushing to the finish in Tuk dotted the road as we cheered them on.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if we were lost or would ever get to Tuk a small cluster of coloured roofs appeared on the horizon. Prior to that, even standing on the roof of the truck all you could see was a white blanket of snow on the Beaufort Sea. We were about to reach the ultimate destination of the TITAN Arctic Challenge.

On arrival in Tuk, we were greeted by a few young children and their dog. The hamlet, primarily Inuit is focused on hunting Beluga Whales and Caribou. It was an immensely friendly community with people stopping us and asking if we needed any help. They proudly told us to tour an igloo which one of the local pastors had built for visitors to the town. In all, we were there for a about three hours, driving around, talking to a few people and exploring the remnants of a long gone oil and gas boom in the region.

Tuktoyaktuk ice roadsI was completely surprised by the nature of this remote community. The destination was extremely special for me. I am not sure I would ever have a reason to visit Tuktoyaktuk again but I have a wonderful memory of being one of the last people ever to drive across the Arctic Ocean!

The TITAN Arctic Challenge truly was a big eye opener for me.

So you are probably wondering what my five lessons are for getting to where you want to go!

My Five Lessons On Getting To Where You Want To

Some of the points I learned on the TITAN Arctic Challenge are here, in no particular order:

1. Two degrees of separation In business there is a saying that it is all about who you know not what you know. The truth is, many of us spend so much time talking, we forget to listen. The art of conversation is cleverly crafted around asking someone questions about themselves and letting them answer. If I had done that with my friend I would have known sooner about her family history. In business the more you know about the people in your circle of influence the easier it is to get an answer to a question you may have. This of course would allow you to move closer to your chosen destination.

2. Don’t confuse the journey with the destination Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the destination we pay less attention to the journey. It is important to keep our eyes on the prize but frankly it is the journey where we learn and grow the most as leaders. I truly had no clue about the scenery we would be driving through even though I had done some research. In fact, all the team members were in the same position. We were in awe at the scenery as we drove north to Tuktoyaktuk.

3. Sometimes, you are just wrong! Lets face it we can’t be right all of the time. Being wrong simply presents an opportunity to learn and grow. Several times on this trip I was wrong in the planning phases and with my assumptions. While it was not critical on this trip in business making a wrong decision can be critical. The important thing is that you learn and adapt. You must learn to change a bad decision quickly. You own it, you made it, admit the mistake and fix it before it impedes your journey too much.

4. Give it 100% While this is obvious, it is probably the biggest reason for failure. So many business people are indecisive leaders. From #3 you can see that mistakes if corrected are not a problem – they are part of business. Being indecisive is a problem. If you do not commit to the plan 100% then you will fail. It is your plan – you had best be the biggest salesperson of that plan. The extreme example is the military. When an Officer prepares his or her orders and presents them to their leaders, they had better believe in their plan 100% or nobody will follow them in to battle with confidence. Likewise in business, your financiers, investors and subordinates will not be inclined to follow your lead.

5. Believe in good things When we initially left our homes, the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk was closed. We left in total confidence, believing in our plan and believing that the roads would be open. As we ventured further north the ice road did in fact open, however the Dempster Highway closed due to Blizzards. We left Dawson City for the Dempster at the same time it was closed. We did however believe it was going to open. By the time we arrived at the gas station by the snow gates there was a big line up of traffic. We sat down had lunch and by the time we finished the gates had opened and we were on our way. Would the gates have opened if we did not believe in good things? Of course they would, be would not have been there because we would have believed that leaving while the gates were closed was foolish!


  • 0

The “Dawson Toe” – A hard life up north

The Dawson Toe

We arrived in Dawson last night – a stunning town steeped in history and folk lore.

The drive up from Whitehorse was spectacular and enroute I could not help but recall the movie “Into The Wild”. I found myself peering off in to the distance trying to spy abandoned school busses with some lonely urban teenager living a remote life in the Northern Yukon.

Dawson Sour Toe

Photo: Budd Stanley

On arrival in Yukon, I was reminded of a town I am in the process of moving to, Kaslo in the Kootenays. With a rich history and a funky flair, Kaslo and Dawson share a few things in common – even mining. The wooden boardwalks on main street take you straight back to a bygone era and you can see dancing girls and drunken miners spilling out of bars as you stroll along the short main street.

The real treat was to come later however.

The Nissan’s have been chewing up the miles effortlessly but tonight is the real test for the diesel. It is parked outside in minus 30 and we are anticipating a sluggish start but… lets see.

I remain impressed with the seats. With almost 4,000 kms under our belt, both myself and passenger Steph Jeavons are comfortable and not at all tired with stepping in to our office each day for another days driving. The zero gravity seats that Nissan uses allow you a more comfortable ride without compromising the feel that a driver is looking for from the seat – that extra little bit of sensory perception that signals something is about to go wrong, just before it does!

With the cars parked on the street, Budd Stanley, Bryan, Steph and myself stroll over to the bar where we are treated to a very unique experience. The Sour Toe cocktail is heralded the world over as a must do in Northern Yukon. A black necrotic toe sits in a mound of salt, waiting for the next patron to “kiss the toe” as they knock back their chosen shooter. Budd was a long time member of this fraternity but tonight was our opportunity to knock back a sour toe cocktail.

The Dawson Toe

Photo: Steph Jeavons

I opted to go last, which frankly was a mistake since the toe had softened considerably from the other two going ahead of me. Doing my best not to think about it I flung my head back swallowed the drink and stared at the toe – stuck in the bottom of my glass. I was furiously shaking the glass trying to dislodge the toe in order for me to get my certificate. Unceremoniously the toe flopped against my lips – job done. We were now honorary members of the sour toe cocktail fraternity and have a really cool certificate to show for it!

 


  • 0
titanarcticchallenge

#TITANArcticChallenge reaches the Yukon!

The #TITANarcticchallenge, Wow, what an amazing experience we are having.

#TitanArcticChallenge – what is it?

This is an opportunity to put both the truck, or trucks more accurately – a pair of Nissan Titan XD’s with the PRO4X package through the paces. As it happens it is putting us through our paces too!

#titanarcticchallengeWe left BC only a few days ago, departing Vancouver and heading north to Whistler then on through the Duffy up to Prince George and beyond. The vastness of the country is amazing when you sit behind the wheels for hours and hours and look at the GPS to realise that relatively you have gone nowhere.

Yesterday on the #titanarcticchallenge we drove up through what I referred to as the Valley of Ghosts. Northern BC’s majestic mountains line the highway from Terrace to Whitehorse but in our case they were delicately camouflaged by a gentle layer of ice fog and cloud in the -16 degree temps. Occasionally we were treated to a glimpse of a shoulder or valley that drew our eyes further in to the scene to reveal carefully sculpted treelined valleys and slopes leading higher and beyond the clouds – our only reference for the several hours of driving.

Towards the end of the day we found a pull-off just past Dease Lake and decided to call it quits.

Treeline Outdoors

Erecting the Treeline Outdoors tents that were provided was a breeze which was particularly helpful in the colder temperatures we were starting to experience. After a quick bite to eat provided by Muninn’s Post in Kelowna, BC we decided to get our heads down for the night.

Today we pushed through to Watson Lake for breakfast and then departed for Whitehorse, technically our geographic centre on the trip. We pick up an extra passenger and push north through to the Arctic – bring it on.

The TitanArcticChallenge is an adventure project put together by journalist and photographer Budd Stanley. Supported by Nissan Canada, Treeline Outdoors and Muninn’s Post and joining us for fun is famous Motorbike explorer, Steph Jeavons.

 


  • 0

Where Mountains Touch The Heavens

On the drive yesterday we were witness to some of the most awesome scenery I have ever seen.

From Prince George to Smithers was a pretty routine flat landers type of drive. The Nissan Titans were purring away, not overworking and the temperature was hovering around -10 degrees. Shortly after a quick stop, we arrived in Smithers.

Skeena River ValleyFor me, in my imagination, Smithers was a far off town – way North of the Okanagan and frankly the impression is that nothing happens here and it is almost in the frozen north. In truth, it was one of the most inspiring mountain environments I have been in. Jagged peaks and large cwms harbouring beautiful glaciers. It was an adventurers paradise.

I called a friend to see if she could meet us for supper. I told how impressed I was with the scenery and to make things even better, the sun appeared. She assured me I had seen nothing yet and was about to enter the Skeena River valley where the mountains touch the heavens.

The drive along the river was stupendous. Alpenglow kissed the summits and glaciers all around as we drove to where I know the sun now sets in the mouth of the Skeena River behind the mountains to the west of Terrace.

It was a fitting end to a good days driving, only bettered by an amazing meal at Don Diego’s in Terrace BC, a little gem that everyone needs to visit at least once.

#TITANArcticChallenge, #WhatTheTuk


  • 0

The TitanArcticAdventure – Zero Gravity Seats #WhatTheTuk

“And they’re off”… the famous intro to the cartoon series The Whacky Races… and our TitanArcticAdventure may be about as whacky. Thankfully, whatever comes our way, we can be assured of a sound back thanks to the Zero Gravity Seats installed in the trucks.

zero gravity seatsOn Thursday this week, local auto journalist, Budd Stanley and myself set off on an adventurous journey to Tuktoyuktuk. We have a very special gust with us too, Steph Jeavons a famous round the world female solo motorcyclist.

The objective is to take two Nissan Titan XD trucks and be one of the last groups to ever drive on the arctic ice roads up to Tuk.

Later this year the roads will be decommissioned in favour of a new highway to avoid the danger of driving on the arctic sea ice. So how could we say no?

Well, pretty easily actually. Temperatures could be as low as -50 degrees. Like every expedition, getting started is the hardest phase. Items not being delivered on time, last minute fabrication to the trucks and minutiae that serve to delay the start.

Zero Gravity Seats

But we are off and thanks to the Zero Gravity seats in the Titan XD trucks our backs are relaxed and we are enjoying a night in Whistler before heading further North tomorrow and starting to knock off some serious miles.  Until I started to really think about it, I had not noticed the effects of the Zero Gravity Seats. Driving on the roads today I realized that what I was feeling sitting in the seat was a lot less than the truck was experiencing driving along the bumpy swing highways in British Columbia. A lot of the jarring movement of the truck was not being passed to my body. It is a curious sensation but one that will help many people who spend large amounts of time behind the wheel of their vehicles.

titanarcticchallenge

For a while now, the ice road to Tuktoyuktuk has been closed and so our hope is that by the time we get there the weather will have cleaned up and we will be able to drive to Tuk and see one of Canada’s most interesting frontiers!.

Check back in for updates along the way.


  • 0

KEEP IT RUBBER SIDE DOWN.

Winter AdventureThis time of year, I always worry about which friends of mine will get caught going off the road in adverse weather conditions. With a little preparation most accidents can be avoided.

Having won the Open Class rally championship in Western Canada on two occasions, I have used that experience to put on occasional safe winter driving courses. I am not sure my schedule allows me too this year, however, if your group or organisation can benefit from a 90 minute classroom session, I invite you to contact me, mark@markjenningsbates.com and I will see what I can do.

The plain truth, in terms of rallying is that winter conditions are some of the fastest conditions we drive in. Usually because the surface we drive on is so consistent. It sounds strange I know, but with the right driving style and tire choice, snow and ice can be a surface that you can drive extremely fast on.

Accidents are caused by only a few circumstances, some of which are very subtle. In the right conditions simply lifting your foot abruptly off the throttle can send your car in to a spin. Who would have thought? Rally drivers, including myself will use this technique on gravel and snow to “unsettle” the car before a corner. We can lift the throttle abruptly, change the direction of the car and initiate a slide that is beneficial to us. If you are not aware of the weight transfer that can happen or the resistance that lifting the throttle can create on a slick surface, you should be!

So here are a few tips that may help you keep rubber side down this year.

  1. Practice driving on loose surfaces. This year, the Big White Winter Rally (www.bigwhiterally.com) which is happening in early December may present an opportunity for you to enter their “snow cross”. Grab a helmet, take your daily driver up there and push yourself on a closed course. It is very safe and you will be the only car on the course. The worst thing that could happen is you may get stuck in a snow bank and need a tow out… you will have learned something!
  2. Concentrate. Rally drivers will routinely drive at 200kph on surfaces that make you “pucker up”. So what is the difference. They concentrate. Most people I see driving today are on their phones, drinking their coffee or checking their make up in the mirror as they slide off unnecessarily into a ditch! Pay attention. After a fast winter stage that is 8kms long I will be soaked with sweat because of the concentration and effort. When we are driving 4,000lb vehicles on the road I am absolutely shocked at the lack of attention to driving. Driving is serious business.
  3. Be aware of the surroundings. If the wind is blowing left to right on a highway and you pass a truck, expect the impacts of the wind after you come out of the wind shadow beside the truck. It is often enough to send you in to a big slide if the wind is strong enough.
  4. Be a passive driver. Use the throttle and brakes gently and don’t use cruise control. Sure I know your truck sounds cool, but hitting the gas hard is not going to prove anything other than how expensive it is to fix the pretty truck you are still paying for. Don’t change lanes aggressively and develop some “spider senses”. Particularly in a diesel truck you have so much torque that the automatic gearbox change can set the back wheels spinning.
  5. Slightly contradictory to the above, when you need to use the brakes (If an accident is imminent), step on them hard if you have anti lock brakes. There are very few vehicles without anti lock brakes today. The problem is that if you are my age or older you don’t trust them. We learned to “threshold brake” or “cadence brake” which is what we use in race cars, THAT DOESN’T WORK WITH ANTI LOCK BRAKES! They do the job for you, you just press hard and when the brake pedal vibrates, they are doing their job, brake and steer! If you don;t have anti lock brakes, you will need to learn the techniques for threshold braking – go look it up on Youtube!
  6. Please, get the right tires. Go see Big O Tires in Westbank. They have sponsored my rally team for years and know as much about tire technology as anyone. You don’t need studs, just good winter tires. The difference in control you will have is massive. Don’t cheap out on the only part of the vehicle that is going to stop you in the winter… your tires!
  7. The final piece of advice. Four wheel drive will not stop you going off the road, it won’t stop you sliding when you loose traction. It will help you get up the hill! Whether you have all wheel drive, front wheel drive or rear wheel drive, with the right knowledge and equipment you can drive safely on BC roads this winter,

For a country that spends a lot of time in the winter with snow and ice conditions we should not see so many bad drivers in the ditch, but it is guaranteed, every time the snow first flies. We seem to forget that we live in Canada!