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Reports

Saturday, 22 March 2003
Fort Providence --> Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

I had a peaceful time at my room in the Snowshoe Inn motel where Jeff and Steff Philipp invited me over in small town Fort Providence.


After having breakfast at the restaurant across the street (I could put my drinks and meals on the motel’s tab), I met up with Steff in the office of the motel.

She was very busy with all the accounting. Today she would take me along to the family home in Yellowknife, but that would be at the end of the afternoon.

Because she so busy, she asked: “Would you like to drive my truck for some sightseeing around?” I was astounded! Since when do my hosts simply let me drive their big trucks?!

But I of course accepted the offer and got into Steff’s yellow Ford Escape truck named Tweety.

I drove through town, along the Mackenzie River and was very careful on the icy and slippery roads. I ended up on this remote road where I noticed it was a passage for skidoos (snow mobiles) and continued onto a lake. Well, as I don’t want to drive a truck on ice where there is no visible road going on, I reversed and planned to just turn around at a nearby t-crossing.

But I guess I don’t know how slippery the roads can be when I reversed with some 15km per hour and turned around. The truck should have stopped where I actually wanted it to stop. It had its own will and decided to go over this wall of snow along the road and loved to just end up in the ditch.

Oops! (Well, I actually used a lot of bad language) Then the anxiety came along.

This is not my truck.
And this truck is in a trench along the road.
And: this is not my truck.

Of course I tried to back out of the trench again, but reversing wouldn’t make the truck move an inch! With the truck balanced on the snow hedge, all the pressure was on the front left wheel, blocking the entire 4x4 rescue method.

Tweety was stuck!

I got out of the truck and looked at this situation. Then four local kids came from the lake on their way to the village. One of them would try to get a rope and “we will pull you out with the skidoo.”

That sounded good and five minutes later we were attaching a small rope on the back of the truck and on the back of a skidoo. Whatever happened, the truck did not move. More locals pulled over on their skidoo.

One girl invited me on her skidoo, to go home to her dad and let him pull out the truck with his 4x4 truck. At that moment I didn’t know it was Steff’s brother-in-law.

Ten minutes later I was back at the spot of the ‘accident’ and the truck was fortunately pulled out the trench. It had no scratch and the excuse Jeff’s brother gave was: “This car should not be regarded as a truck. It is a toy. It’s too lightweight to be a good truck.” And that explained that I simply glided off the slippery road. Sigh!

(You can see what happened in this week's one-minute movie, now online on the forum)

I thanked the man for the help and continued my trip through town. Right in town I noticed a gathering of locals and decided to check it out. There was actually a local carnival going on and various people were in on the games they played. I enjoyed watching them make a fire with their own chopped wood and the game involved having your can of tea boiling the first. I loved watching the passion of the locals on these natural events that I hung around there quite a while.

Back at the motel I had a little nap while I tried to ignore most of the American news on television. Steff woke me up with a call on the motel phone. “So did the entire tour around Fort Providence take you more than three minutes?” She was joking on the size of this town, but I gave her a serious answer. “Actually yes, I was stuck in the ditch with your truck, the whole drive around town took me an hour.”

“Are you serious?” She asked shocked. “Are you really serious?” It took a while to calm her down and to let her know I was dead serious. And honest. There was absolutely no damage to the truck (as it was just a little snow wall) and everything was alright again. “Oh okay…”

She let me know we’d be on the road around 4.30pm, so it was time to pack my bags and get ready to leave Fort Providence.

It took a while to get the two kids in the truck, stuff it up with all kinds of stuff that had to be transferred back to Yellowknife and the old hurting dog was placed in the bag. When we were ready to leave, Steff told me it was going to be the last day for their dog.

He has been her dog for the last fifteen years, but since a while the dog seems to be having continuous pains and he could barely walk anymore. “He is just suffering too much lately. It hurts to see him with so much pain.”

The road from Fort Providence to Yellowknife was another long stretch. We passed the Buffalo Reserve, but unfortunately saw not one of the famous northern buffalos walking around. In the kids the kids fell asleep during a cartoon on DVD and slowly the night began to fall outside.

It was interesting; not only the condition of the road became worse, also the conditions of trees changed as we drove. We were nearing the line on our world, where the growth of trees end, and from here on to the North Pole there will only be low bush or absolutely nada. Yellowknife is just on that tree line.

Yellowknife is called after the copper knives that the Slavey aboriginal people used and it currently has a population of some 20,000 residents. The main industries are oil, gold mining and since a few years: diamonds. Because what did people find when they thought they were running out of gold? Indeed, pure diamond rocks! Since then the city's logo has the titel 'Diamonds capital of Northn America'

Another industry of Yellowknife is tourism. You don’t really expect this, but this city, the capital city of the Northwest Territories, gets over 15,000 Japanese tourists visiting this area as they all want to see the Northern Lights!

We arrived in Yellowknife after a four-hour drive. As it was around 8 o’clock in the evening I did not see much next to street light poles and the usual residential suburban blocks.

At their home I finally met up with Jeff Philipp, who had initially invited me to stay in Yellowknife and basically helped me out with everything in order to get here from the province of Alberta.

He asked Gwen and Fred in Hay River to help me out and let me stay, he arranged a donated bus ticket to Fort Providence, he let me sleep at the motel there which he owns with the family and his wife Steff took me to Yellowknife.

What’s next? I am not finished with Jeff yet, but I’ll praise him some more tomorrow, as today’s thoughts were less about being over excited.

The dog. Today was the day that Steff decided to put her to sleep. With the dog still in the back of the truck, the kids were offered a chance to say goodbye before Steff would go to the pet doctor.

Especially Cole, the 5-year-old son, was quite upset with the announced put-to-sleep of the dog. The atmosphere wasn’t there to be cranking jokes with my hosts later that night, so I kept my presence pretty low when Steff returned back home.

After dinner with the entire family, Jeff took me along for a quick stop at his office, as he is the President of SSIMicro.com (SSI stands for Snow Shoe Inn, so it's partly named after the family business), the internet communication company of Canada’s big north. With pride he showed me where all the projects of the company are being processed on the map of Canada as its main goal at the moment is to connect remote communities on wireless (!) broadband internet.

“These communities will not only be able to connect to the World Wide Web, but they are also able to do video conferences with other communities and companies this way.” It sounded all great to me!

I was given the guestroom next to the kids bed rooms and after spending a part of the night writing updates for this website, I headed to my bed.

I am going to stay in Yellowknife a few days, until Wednesday, and all with the Philipp family. On Wednesday I will board a plane that will take me to the further northern town Kugluktuk in the Nunavut province.

Good night Yellowknife!

Ramon