Friday, September 30, 2011

Article in Outlook

Here's a great article from Tanya Foubert at the Rocky Mountain Outlook! Thanks to the Outlook for the interest in our big adventure!

Retirement full of adventure for Rubens

Sep 29, 2011 06:00 am | By Tanya Foubert | Rocky Mountain Outlook
Andrew Sartisson, left, and Shona Rubens pose for a photo in southern Argentina.
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Many think of retirement as a time to take it easy, but for two-time Olympic athlete Shona Rubens, it turns out an adventure was in order.
After five seasons with Canada’s alpine ski team, the then 23-year-old announced her retirement last year and promptly bought a 1984 Westfalia Volkswagen camper van with her boyfriend Andrew Sartisson, who was a ski coach with the Nakiska Alpine Ski Association.
The pair set out on the road in August 2010 and over the past year have travelled to the northernmost point in North America in Alaska and then turned around and drove to the southernmost tip of South America at Tierra del Fuego.
“It was unbelievable the places we have seen and the people we have met,” Rubens says. “I would recommend it to anyone… it was so cool to see how little we needed to live.”
With 55,000 kilometres on the speedometer they returned home triumphantly earlier this month, but only after getting their first and only flat tire while driving into the Bow Valley.
Rubens says she has wanted to make the drive south ever since in 2006 she attended an alpine skiing camp on the archipelago.
A rare five-event skier, Rubens won three consecutive national slalom championships between 2007 and 2009, and in 2007 captured downhill, super G and slalom titles and made 63 world cup starts.
The first part of the trip saw the camper van, which Rubens and Sartisson named Kumu, make it to Inuvik, N.W.T., up the Dempster Highway.
“We didn’t have anything planned, we just knew we wanted to go from the top to the bottom,” she says. “We went through Alaska and our plan was to stick to the pacific coast the whole way down.”
While in Haines, Alaska they had the experience of fishing with a grizzly bear sow and her two cubs.
Sartisson says it was an incredible experience and different than here in Alberta where food is harder to come by for the species.
“We caught one fish all day, but the bears were just picking them out of the water,” he said.
Surfboards were bought in California and waves ridden throughout South America.
Sartisson says the van was shipped to Colombia, but after seeing the Panama Canal they had to take a different route.
“We found a guy sailing the world and were able to catch a ride with him,” he says.
He adds one of the most unnerving experiences on the trip was sailing through 50-foot waves at night while harnessed into the boat.
Once in South America they also spent a lot of time travelling through the Andes and looking for adventure in the mountains. A wrong turn saw them travel 80 kilometres and 3,000 vertical feet over a mountain pass and through the jungle.
“We tried to see a lot, but we didn’t do all the touristy things,” Rubens says. “It is about the scenery and the culture so we tried to stay out of the big cities.
“It was a super cool way to travel, with your own wheels you can go to so many places you would never be able to get to if you were in a bus.”
In Ecuador, however, Kumu was having problems and Sartisson says the guy hired to fix the van also helped them by giving them a place to stay.
While the hospitality was well received, the repairs to the van didn’t last and by the time they reached Peru had to be redone.
In Colombia, a similar experience was had when the van overheated. On the side of the road Rubens and Sartisson, along with two German travellers, were invited home with a group of locals.
“They welcomed us all into their house, cooked us dinner and told us about Colombia,” he says.
In Costa Rica they found an amazing remote beach and at night watched turtles come up onto it and lay eggs.
But it was not all experiences of hospitality. Driving through Honduras, Rubens says they were stopped five times by police and every time they were propositioned to pay a bribe.
In Peru another stop by local cops saw the couple asked to pay money and follow the officers to a parking lot.
Sartisson says it all sounded a bit too sketchy and they took off through the back streets of the city, losing the police in the chase.
Bolivia, says the couple, was a lesson in how gasoline fuels the local economy. In need of a fill up they went to a gas station but it was sold out.
A local man showed them that just down the alley from the gas station 100 people were lined up with jerry cans. The gas had been bought out and was being resold at an inflated price.
In Tierra del Fuego, the couple stayed in Ushuaia while their van was shipped to Florida.
“You can ship anything anywhere really, but if you want to do it on a budget it takes effort,” Rubens says.
In the month it took to do that they stayed in the Argentinean city and coached that country’s ski team. The team set them up with ski gear and a place to stay.
From Florida, with Kumu, they headed home, coming into the valley through Kananaskis and seeing five bears, a pack of coyotes and bighorn sheep the closer they got.
“Coming home to Canmore was pretty amazing,” Rubens says. “After all the places we have been to you come home to one of the nicest places we have been on our trip.”
Now Rubens has started her first year at the University of Calgary in environmental science and Sartisson is coaching with the Lake Louse Ski Team.
For more about the pair’s Arctic to Argentina adventure, visit

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back To Canmore!!!!!

The final stretch. Heading back to Canmore, we were not rushing back to get started with the next chapter of our lives. In fact, over the last year we have become quite accustomed to Kumu as our abode and decided to stay one last night in our beloved VW van. On our final day of travelling, our route took us on the Forestry Trunk Road and over Highway 40 through Kananaskis Country. The welcome wagon was out, seeing numerous Grizzly Bears, packs of coyotes and big horned sheep. 

Mom and her cubs that were just inhaling every berry they could find.


Wile E.

After a quick stop to repair a flat (yes, the first flat in almost 55 000kms, and it was less than 40kms from home) we got on the Trans Canada Hwy and back to Canmore.

Snowy Three Sisters

Enjoying great company at our welcome home party. Thanks to everyone who came out to welcome us back. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces after a year of having only the two of us.

The rad shirts given to us by Marg, Lenore and Marleen! 

And like that, our adventure was over. After 54,998kms, 16 countries, 60 custom clearances, 12.5 months, 62 military and/or police checkstops, sampling 69 unique beers, 17 ferry rides, 10 oil changes, numerous mechanic visits and 1 rebuilt engine we lived to make it to the end!!!! Its more than I can say for the 70 dogs, 37 guanacos, 8 horses, 7 cows, 13 cats, 1 dolphin and the 1 man that managed to meet their maker at the side of the roads we travelled.

In some ways it's good to be back. We are lucky to come home to one of the best places of our entire trip. We managed to sneak in a good amount of play time before putting our noses to the grindstone.

 Shona's been out biking with her mom,

we floated down the Bow River from Banff to Canmore,

The canoe fit on Kumu amazingly.... Canoe trip in the Yukon next summer is lookin pretty good...

We managed to get a hike in on Yamnuska too.

Towards Canmore.

Heart Lake.

Friday night light show at Mike and Mel's place.

Wouldn't be a visit to their place without a huge FIRE....

As for now, Shona is chin deep in books and scholarly things, while Andrew is back into the game of making champions. We have made the tough move to Calgary, but we have been almost too busy to notice.
We would like to thank everyone who has followed along with us on our journey. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and it was an honor to share it with everyone. If anyone has any questions about our trip we are always keen to share some stories (not ALL the stories were suitable for the blog!) 
Im sure for now the blog will probably slow down but we will make sure to add pictures of any of the great experiences we have in the coming year!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Alberta Bound

Like the great words of Paul Brandt

"I'm Alberta bound.
This piece of heaven that I've found
Rocky mountains and black fertile ground
Everything I need beneath that big blue sky"

Here are a few shots from our journey across America and back towards Alberta.

A common sight... we saw hundreds of miles of this..

More Hay Bales

Driving into the sunset... Heading west

Another common sight... Shona napping which happened 2-3 times a day

The Wyoming Badlands



We drove slowly by Mt Rushmore in South Dakota as we were too cheap to spend the 11 dollars to park... I guess George thought that was pretty funny....

We then headed over to Yellowstone National Park and had our fill of checking out ton of Geysers, Fumaroles and mud pools

Crazy colours and smelly sulfur!

We nailed the timing of Old Faithful and only had to wait about 10 minutes for her to blow! It was pretty impressive

Some of the places in Yellowstone were unreal, and some spookily looked like the end of the world... Hopefully this is not an omen of what is to come.... dun dun dunnnnnnn

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Homeward Bound

We are currently in Iowa, USA. I must say the last week and a half has been a bit of a blur. From the time our plane landed in Jacksonville FL we have been on the move.  We had a couple of days in Jacksonville before we were able to pick up our van so we thought we would see all there is to see there. And this is it. We went down to the Riverside Arts market under the interstate bridge in town where we had our palms read and saw a great local band perform.

While waiting for our van to arrive we opted to try out couch surfing rather than staying in a hotel. Jeff and Leny were great hosts and helped us kill a couple of days before the van arrived.

The bridge to the Blount Island Port in Jacksonville, we were hoping the stars were aligned for us to get our van out of customs without any hitches.

With a little help from Julia at K Line and the awesome US Customs guys we were able to get Kumu and on the road north to Canada sooner than expected!!!

After 2 and a half days of driving a VERY uneventful drive, we saw the first hints of Canada, windmills from across the St Lawrence River. Those and the solar panels everyone in Ontario is putting up were a sight for sore Canadian eyes!

It was unbelieveable to be back in Canada after having departed Canmore AB over one year prior..... well we were almost in Canada...

It took us one more hour hanging out with these guys and then we were home!!!! By far the most intensive border crossing of our trip.

There's nothing better than coming back to a large double-double and listening to a little Hip on Q107. Home sweet home.

Our first stop in Canada was on Simcoe Island in the St Lawrence River. We met Mel Kahung and Dante in Mexico while they were driving their rig south to Panama. Here Dante was ready to go find some artifacts as he was suited up in his Indiana Jones getup.

Canadian cottage country RULES...

Trying our luck for dinner...

We said our goodbyes to the gang after a perfect couple of days on the lake and headed east to surprise Andrew's family. There was no way we couldn't make a detour there to share some of the stories of our trip. It was a whirlwind tour but we even managed to fit in a quick slide show presentation at Andrew's Oma's retirement home. It was really great to have a chance to see family and friends before beginning our journey west and home!

We did make a stop in Georgetown to see and Brady and his family. Brady is a good friend from high school and skiing. Every time I stop by he seems to have a new toddler running around. This is Lucy, his oldest daughter in her favourite Hippy dress. I have a feeling she might be in one of these vans someday!

Travelling through the US across the midwest looks a little like this so far.....

But we are planning to catch a couple more cool things along the way so stay tuned to see where we end up.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Graffiti Walking And the Land of the Free

The last few days in Buenos Aires were spent wandering the streets during the day and hanging out with Alex, Carolina and Vicki sipping wine and playing Truco at night.
BA is a huge city and I started to notice the incredible artwork adorning the streets. Some drawn by restaurant owners and others simply by graffiti artists. It was as good as any museum, so I started taking some pictures of the art. Here are a few of the ones I really liked!

A big thank you to Alex and Carolina for putting up with us and sharing their home not to mention their delicious mimosas! We had some great nights together and look forward to the next time!

As for now... we are back. Back to the home of the brave. It was a serious culture shock landing at Jacksonville international. Huge highways littered with billboards. Massive box stores and endless fast food. Oh and its hot. Really hot. We walked around the sprawling city of Jacksonville, getting to know the bus systems and people watching. We discovered a great arts market down by the river where we sampled creole sauces and listened to great live music.
Today we hit up the farmers market with our couchsurfing hosts Jeff and Leny. It has been a cool experience even if a bit overwhelming. There are many things I appreciate after being away from it all for so long. One main one being the fact that we are lucky enough to be able to simply flush our toilet paper down the toilet. Oh the simple joys. Time is moving on and tomorrow will officially be one year from when we left. It feels like no time at all, but when I think back to everything we have done its amazing to think we have done it all in only one year. 
We are now again in the waiting game for the van. When will it arrive? When will it be released from customs? Lots of questions and fewer answers... but for the moment I am going to take it all in and hit up the pool. It could be worse...