Polar Adventures - The Journey Tour

Over the last month, I have learned what true cold feels like. The South has annoying cold. The Northeast has wet, snowy cold. Canada has ‘why would anyone live here’ cold. They speak fondly of their summer season, then in the same breath lament, that though it is magnificent, it is only two months long. In the last month I’ve experienced stunning mountains, frozen prairies, and temperatures the same as the surface of Mars. The Journey isn’t over yet! Two weeks to go!

Paul Brandt is a wonderful person, and talented country artist. His music is the reason and vehicle for my polar experience this year. Though freezing, getting to work with such an individual is worth it. He lives his life, and holds to standards of behavior, in ways that very few artists do these days. Family values, moral fiber, and genuinely good-natured interactions with fans and crew are rare things in secular music. If you have a chance to hear him perform, or support one of his charities like #NotInMyCity, know that your efforts will not be in vain.

We have journeyed from Western Canada, across the high plains, and are now in Ontario. Since the beginning of The Journey tour, we have been accompanied by a polar vortex. Our bus drivers, both from the southern states in the United States, have had a crash course in serious winter driving. Snow, sleet, frozen windshields and water lines, as well as a healthy dose of rural roads, have made things interesting. But, for the Canadian truck drivers at Paul Brandt Trucking, this is just par for the course. Yet another reason why living here is not a decision that I will be making.

Our trip started in the Canadian Rockies. The crew bus had to be towed up a snowy mountain in the middle of the night, but up until that point, we had gotten to enjoy the stunning views that the Banff region, and Alberta in general, provide. These snowy peaks feel more wild than the Rockies in the US. There is less tourism, and generally fewer people. It is an area that, should you like mountains, you should definitely put on your bucket list, regardless of the season.

After that experience, we headed into the prairies of Canada, as well as the far north. Fort McMurray is a place that I will not forget. The hardy folks that choose to live there make a great living in the oil sands just north of town, but freeze their tails off for 8 months of the year. That day during load-in, the temperature, with windchill, was -54 ºF. Holy crap. We froze. The trucks had to back up to a roll-up door that led directly into the venue. Needless to say, the heating system indoors didn’t recover for at least 4 hours afterwards. The cold was so intense, that I took a freshly boiled pot of water, threw it into the air outdoors, and saw nothing but ice crystals erupt in a cloud from the cups that held it. Brrrrr.

Following Fort McMurray, we went to Mars. Not literally, but almost. Saskatoon was another one of those places that are ‘great in the summer’, but everyone avoids in the winter. Well, except for The Journey tour. We go where no man/tour has gone before! The air temperature that day was -40 ºF, not including windchill. Stubbornly though, I wanted to get coffee, and probably had mild frostbite when I reached the Starbucks, which was eight blocks away. On the up side, at least I know that, with an air supply and a few other accessories, my jeans, converse, and winter gear could keep me alive on the surface of Mars. That morning, Saskatoon was the coldest spot on our planet, and the same temperature as sections of Mars.

We are now heading into regions where it is ‘warm enough’ to snow, and the air has things like ‘moisture’. So, instead of frozen tundra, we are now just in feet of snow and actual winter. It is Valentines Day as I am writing this. The thoughts of my Valentine at home, and our kiddos, are keeping me warm, as I look out the window into a foot of snow and ice on the ground. If you ever make it to Peterborough, ON, Canada, look up Cork & Bean. They have excellent espresso, beer and wine on tap, and great local food …. and blazing WiFi, as well as window seating :)

Warm wishes and happy Valentine’s Day!

- Hans