About Us

The Open Road Project exists to spread kindness and meet the needs of strangers. We travel in a 1979 GMC Vanguard named Lily. These are our stories.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Knob

As a cold-blooded reptile sluggishly moves in the cold, so we arose, unwilling to depart from what little heat remained in our sleeping bags. Our once-hot water bottles had lost their life-giving warmth while the fly on our tent had dislodged and was blowing an aggressive draught over our feet.

By the time we rallied together to get moving, more complications arose. Our boots had frozen in awkward shapes and our fire had long dwindled to a lonely pile of ashes. The breakfast we had planned (pancakes) was no longer an option; instead, our morning meal consisted of a special pastry provided by our lovely friends chez Pop Tarté...

After breakfast, we took down the tent and packed up all our gear. After this activity, we began to feel limber enough for our hike to the summit. After some deliberation (take the road around or hike straight up) we opted to take a straight shot up to the summit. Despite the steep slope, the hike was much easier that the day before, since our packs remained at camp.

After hiking for about 20 minutes, we stopped for some lunch. We still had a good sized stash of dried goods, which tasted simply heavenly. It was also at this time when we took a swig of our now mountain cold hot water bottles. We were all surprised with our water's overwhelming smoky aftertaste that had evidently come from the campfire boiling process the night before. We then coined the term Spruce Smoked Water (TM), and are currently exploring different markets where there may be customers to purchase this unique product in disposable bottles. It's possible we'll make millions, so we'll keep you posted.

As it turns out, the woods where we stopped for lunch was a mere 25 metres from the top of the mountain. With some extra spring in our step, we reached the summit. Spruce Knob was ours.

We did it!
Click to enlarge photos.

Being at the highest point of Spruce Mountain, Spruce Knob, was a great feeling. We had accomplished what we had come to do and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the vast West Virginian wilderness.

Now it was time to climb back down the mountain, and see how Lily was holding up...

Home is where you park it,
The Boys

Post by Jeremy Enns

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Camp Site

The hike up Spruce Mountain was exhausting. The cold winds, deep snow, plus our heavy packs contributed to the physically demanding adventure.

Since we were climbing up the east side of the mountain, we were racing to keep up with the setting sun. Just as we were about to give up hope of finding a good place to set up camp, I (Jeremy) heard Jamie send out a cry of victory from up ahead. His triumphant cheers gave us the rejuvenated strength to persevere through the audacious adversities of the mighty mountain for just a little longer. Dylan, Jordan and I quickly caught up to him and shared in his excitement. We had found the snow-covered road, and with it a lovely clearing: perfect for setting up camp.

We took a quick walk down the road, and found out that our site was very close to the East Overlook, which provided a beautiful view of the valley and parallel mountain ranges. We were very close to the summit of Spruce Mountain, and our destination, Spruce Knob.

Since the sun was quickly disappearing on the horizon, we hastily got to work on our camp site. We needed to clear a spot for our tent, create a fire pit, gather dry wood--and obviously--construct a homey and comfortable latrine.

The East Overlook.
We all got to work, and finished setting up our camp more quickly than anticipated. With the wind causing a little trouble, Jamie's expertise helped us get a nice fire going.

Once the sun went down, it got cold. Very cold. Our sweat from the hike and camp site set up rapidly chilled us to the bone. We also noticed that although our fire was blazing, snow that was less that a foot from the fire was not melting. The frigid winter air quickly snatched up any heat we created. We all huddled as close to the fire as possible without our eyebrows, dreads, and/or beards getting singed.

Jordan, our resident chef, got to work on dinner while the rest of us kept the fire roaring and melted snow to replenish our water stores. Before we finished our steaming hot beans with canned chicken, they were freezing cold. We filled our Nalgene bottles with boiling water and stuffed them into our jackets.

Within a few minutes of finishing dinner, we all looked at each other and unanimously decided it was time to sleep. We were all huddled together in our tent, clutching our warm bottles by 8:30.

*And cue cheesy concluding paragraph.*

At the end of the day, we felt triumphant. Yes, we were exhausted, and yes, we were cold, but we were on an adventure, braving the elements and testing ourselves. We had worked together as a team and had accomplished something. We knew that reaching the summit in the morning would be an incredibly satisfying experience. Thus began a long, cold (very cold) night, in and out of sleep.

Beans: It's whats fer dinner.
Our "warm" tent.

Home is where you park it,
The Boys

Post by Jeremy Enns

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

Around 10 am, we were still driving through Circleville, a small town at the base of Spruce Mountain. After deliberating where to park Lily in said "town"--we use that term loosely--we decided to risk her up Forest Road 28, a long and winding road.

Up and up Lily went, navigating the switchbacks and increasingly icy gravel road with conviction. However, after a few miles, the ice slowed us to a point where we decided we could go no farther safely. It was here, from the middle of nowhere, where we would commence our trek, leaving Lily roadside for the time being.

With bags packed, items stowed, and a heading set, we began to venture along the road. At one point, we reached an open pasture. We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by West Virginian Yaks, which looked quite similar to Canadian Cows. As we continued, we essentially parted the Red Sea of Cattle, with the large beasts looking on as though they knew we were from out of town. As an eerie silence fell over the hillside, we came to a fence with a sign that read: "If you can read this, you're in range." It was here where we decided that the road was no longer something we wanted to follow...

We altered our course at this point, heading for the east hills, towards the forest and away from the yaks and fearsome sign.

This hike was not an easy one. We took turns leading the way and breaking through the knee-deep snow. We rested frequently to prevent sweating in the subzero temperatures, and to set down our heavy packs. Our tactics did little good; even in the frigid weather, it was hard not to sweat due to the strenuous physical demands of our uphill climb, plus the bright sun beating down on us from overhead.

We happened upon a cool little hunting cabin and took a jerky break. It was very small, perhaps six feet by six feet, with only a few things inside including two pairs of binoculars, a stool, and a scattering of shell casings. 

Feeling uneasy about this potential act of trespass, we decided to get to the forest ahead as soon as possible, especially after we noticed some movement by one of the farm houses below. Before we had taken even ten steps toward the forest, a large blue truck burst out of the woods, beelining straight for us. Our instincts told us that the inevitable conversation would redefine our stay in West Virginia... for better or for worse.

We waved politely at the vehicle barrelling towards us, hoping for the best. The driver stopped. We stopped. As the window rolled down, the man inside bellowed, "You know this here is private property?" With smiles hiding our uneasiness, we did our best to explain our intentions (foolhardy though they may have been) and pointed at the peak we intended to summit, still embarrassed we were slightly uncertain it was even The Knob.

Mentioning we were Canadians did us well. The driver, along with his wife in the passenger seat, chuckled as we shrugged of his warnings of large snow drifts and mountain lions. We were put at ease as the conversation continued, and were happy to get positive confirmation of our peak. They were somewhat surprised that we didn't have a gun as we headed into the wild, but wished us luck regardless. As we prepared to set off once again, the driver introduced himself: "The name is Greg Bennett. Pleased to meet you guys." With that, the blue truck drove on and left us in its tracks.

Home is where you park it,
The Boys

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Summer VS. Winter

There were a host of new things we learned about traveling in Lily due to the winter season that was upon us during our trip to West Virginia.

Our first lesson was learned within two minutes of driving on the QEW. As we got Lily up to her mighty cruising speed of 90km/h, I quickly noticed Arctic Force winds all up on my legs and feet. It was hard to tell exactly which rust hole or gap between the doghouse and the cab was providing us with the inconvenient air conditioning. I guess on the positive side of things, ones feet would go numb within a matter of minutes and consequently stop feeling the frostbite setting in.

The worst part was that upon coming home and telling Rudy (my father) about our little draft problem, he let me in on an old car manufacturers secret. Before AC was a widespread option, there were foot vents installed in vehicles that were operated by hand. Sure enough, when he showed me where the vent was, it was wide open.  Kids these day don’t know nothin’ it seems.

Other things that we needed to consider were the cold nights that would inevitably come our way. Hoards of blankets, sleeping bags and pillows were added to our inventory and a few space heaters to hook up to the generator were brought along as well. Lily isn’t exactly insulated, and she could use some of those energy efficient windows that retain heat in all the fancy new houses these days. Perhaps we can get in on that government grant that paid people to install them. Driving in the RV was naturally colder than driving in the summer, but you know what they say: A chilly environment is a productive environment. I don’t actually know if anyone says that.

After breakfast in Elkins, we drove to Circleville, West Virginia. This was the town from which we planned to hike.  When we climbed Mt. Fitzwilliam two summers ago, we were slightly unprepared for the snow that one encounters once you reach the top of a Rocky Mountain. This time however, we had a better grasp on what we were doing. We were better prepared for the winter weather and once we had loaded our backpacks it was time to hit the mountain.

With Lily parked on the side of sketchy Country Road 28, we set out to conquer the Spruce Knob with spirits high.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Elkins, West Virginia: The City of Dreams

During any travel day, I always catch myself thinking how neat it is that you can start a day with a delicious Porch SmoothieTM in a familiar place and by the evening you can be transported to what seems like a world away. We made the decision that the small town of Elkins, West Virginia, would be our home for the night. The question of where exactly "home" would be "parked" had yet to be answered. Over the past three years of Open Road trips, a general philosophy has been developed for when we arrive at a new location. First, make an effort to meet people (anybody and everybody), next have a good attitude, and lastly, don't say no to any opportunity, and VOILA! Things will happen.

So that's what we did. We cruised the streets of Elkins, looking for something... anything. The town was dead. However, as we rounded the bend after a few minutes and a gallon of fuels worth of searching, we decided to park in the lot across from the the first group of people we saw. Lily is our go-to conversation starter and five minutes later, after asking the folks if they knew of anyone in town that would be able to put us to good use, one man, Duke, offered each of us his card. At first we were confused, but then it happened. Duke Talbot, PHd ........Mayor. Three years after a dream for The Open Road Project, we crossed yet another thing off our TORP bucket list:

42. Meet the mayor of a small town.

Not only did he hook us up with a great parking lot to spend the night (City Hall), he pointed us in the direction of two local establishments where we would be able to meet and bless a few good folks. That night, before hunkering down in our extremely well insulated RV (sarcasm*), we indulged at a local hotspot, Gino's Pizza. Our server Krystal was wonderful, and we sure enjoyed those American prices!

The following morning, we visited the Hometown Cafe and worked a scheme with our very helpful and delightful server to to cover the meals of all the folks inside the restauraunt. The owner, Barbara, caught wind of or plan and soon came to hang out with us at our table. She share with us her love for random acts of kindness, shared some stories and passed along two bags full of baked goods, on the house! Our breakfast at the Hometown Cafe proved to be a great success. We then once again filled Lily up with gas at the local Sunoco and began the hour drive to Spruce Knob!

Home is where you park it,
The Boys

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Porch Smoothies

Seven and a half hours into the New Year, Lily was packed up and pulling out of Jer's driveway in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and onto the Open Road. When we caught wind of a breakfast offer from some of our friends, Kayla and Karissa, we knew that our adventure would begin before we even left Niagara! We later found out that Jordan had essentially invited himself over, but the girls were surprisingly happy to be waking up at the crack of dawn to make us breakfast.

Jan 1, 8:00am: the one time of year when you can expect almost every human to be sleeping. Traditionally, blenders and sleep haven't jived well, so we enjoyed our first meal of the New Year outside, and accidentally invented the sure-to-catch-on "porch smoothie."

It seemed very fitting that we spent our first meal of the New Year outside (in the cold), and it was also nice that Kayla and Karissa joined us in solidarity.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Alive and Well

To Our Wonderful Mothers (and other readers of course)!

We are happy to let you know that we have made if off of the mountain in one piece. We have also found a little bit of internet, so we will fill you in as fast as we can write!

It's been a very eventful and exciting trip and we are looking forward to telling you all!

Love, The Boys

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And We're Off!

Wow it's early.

That was not a lot of sleep.

... Let's drive.

The Boys