Selecting the Right Adventure Vehicle

Landrover Defender
Outdoor adventures come in various categories. Some people travel to large alpine ski resorts and stay in luxurious condominiums and enjoy fine dining each evening. Some people travel to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and lie on the beach sipping mojitos and for excitement go snorkeling over coral reefs. We on the other hand like to travel to places more off the beaten path. Ryan and I prefer to travel to locations such as Iceland, where we climbed on recently active volcanoes or strolled around pools of boiling mud along the Mid-Atlantic Rift. When we were in Norway, we climbed steep trails to peer over the edge of cliffs more than 600 m above the fjords. We also climbed over large glaciers in Norway and enjoyed a sip from the ice cold meltwater draining from under the 10,000 year old ice. Some people may find our choice of locations strange. Many people do not want to travel to places with poor weather, or spend hours driving between hiking locations, and some may even be put off by the lack of civilization in the areas we have travelled (restaurants and accommodations are usually scarce where we go). But this is what the Trekkit Team thrives on.

Different outdoor adventures require different vehicles to meet your needs. In some cases you have to compromise while in certain circumstances only one vehicle may do the job. I will discuss why we selected the vehicles we have so far on our Trekkit adventures, list the pros and cons, and discuss vehicle choices for our upcoming 2016 trip to the Scottish Highlands, and future Trekkit adventures.

Expedition Iceland 2014

HappyFor Trekkit’s adventure to Iceland, we rented a Land Rover Defender. This was a hard core off-road vehicle. It was diesel powered with a manual shift transmission. It also had over-sized off-road tires, high ground clearance, and a snorkel air intake. The Land Rover Defender was very rugged and definitely an old-school machine considering it had been in production with minimal changes since 1948 (20 years before I was born). The Land Rover was selected for our adventure to Iceland because the plan was to drive the interior Highland Roads. To be clear, these roads are not paved, they are little more than a path, water crossings are plentiful and there are no bridges. This is where the 37 inch tires, 12+ inch ground clearance, and raised snorkel air intake were important. Our wives initially thought we got the Land Rover only because it was cool looking. The Land Rover Defender was amazing to drive on the interior roads and was essential during the water crossings, where water sometimes was above the hood. However, I must admit that the Land Rover had some shortcomings. When traveling on the paved roads, it wondered around as if the steering wheel might not be connected at all. The clutch was terrible, the brakes were frightful, and the engine barely had enough power to climb some of the hills. With the four of us on board, plus our luggage, we would frequently crest hills at very slow speeds after having to gear down to 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and sometimes even to 1st gear just so it wouldn’t stall. Comfort and ergonomics in the interior was minimal and I should also add that it consumed fuel like fish drink water. We never calculated the fuel mileage – it would have been too scary. Despite the shortcomings, it was a fantastic vehicle to drive in Iceland.

Happy Land Rover Defender

Western Fjords of Norway 2015

IMG_6080The Trekkit adventure to Norway was quite different than Iceland. We drove through the Western Fjords and visited waterfalls, glaciers, and gorges along the way but stayed mainly on the pavement. The infrastructure in Norway was outstanding. The condition of the roads was better than anything I have ever seen. The roads were very smooth and we didn’t see a single pot hole during the entire trip, and we only traveled on the back roads. However, as is common in many European countries, the roads are relatively narrow. In fact, at times you might forget that you are actually on a two lane road. The road was often too narrow for two cars to pass. Wider pull offs are constructed every few hundred meters to allow you to pull over when you actually meet another car. Therefore, we needed a small car and we didn’t need anything to travel off-road with.

_Y3A4224We ended up with a Toyota Auris Hybrid (similar to a Prius in size). The car was small, very comfortable, and made driving the narrow winding roads very easy. The hybrid powertrain also delivered fantastic fuel mileage. Overall, we achieved close to 5 litres per 100 km (nearly 55 mpg) fuel economy on the trip. Great gas mileage was important, as Norway is the most expensive place in the world to buy gasoline (upwards of $2.50 per litre). Perhaps this is why electric vehicles are so popular in Norway. In fact, the completely electric Tesla Model S luxury car is the #1 selling vehicle in Norway. Electric vehicles in Norway are exempt from tolls, ferry charges, and parking fees – attractive indeed. Did the Auris Hybrid have any drawbacks? Yes, it was small and we had trouble fitting our luggage in the car, especially Ryan’s giant suitcase. The car was also low on power which wasn’t a big deal as the speed limit was typically between 50 and 70 km/hour on most back roads.

Scottish Highlands 2016

We spent considerable time deciding what we needed for transportation during our upcoming trip to the Scottish Highlands this spring. There will be four of us on this adventure so we will need more space. However, similar to Norway the roads will be narrow, so we don’t want something too large. We thought we might end up with a midsize sedan like a Vauxhall Insignia, or the very popular Skoda Octavia Estate (wagons are very popular throughout Europe). We considered even larger vehicles, something comparable to a minivan – like the Citroen C4 Picasso. All the cars I just mentioned are not available in North America (some of the options have interesting names though).

Ben NevisOur biggest issue during the planning stage was finding accommodations on the Isle of Skye. There are not many places to stay and we soon discovered that most were already fully booked for the summer months. The second issue was trying to decide where to stay and when, as we will be travelling all over Scotland on the trip. We want to minimize any unnecessary driving related to the weather. Scotland is known for wet weather and we have planned several major hiking days that will be best enjoyed in good weather. On past trips, we have simply worked with the weather we have. In contrast, on this trip we plan to adjust the itinerary and locations for each day based on that day’s weather forecast. This means that we don’t know where we need to be on a given day. A few weeks ago, Ryan called very excited with a fantastic idea; he had realized that we should rent an RV and just live in it during the trip. That way, we can just stay where we happen to be based on the changing itinerary. It was a brilliant idea. We are now renting a big RV (28 feet long and 10 feet high) – this in itself should provide numerous interesting and entertaining experiences. Imagine four guys living in an RV and driving around the Scottish Highlands and Ryan won’t have to ever worry about finding a bathroom on the trip.

Regardless of the vehicle selected, the most interesting attribute of the vehicle will be that the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and that we have to drive on the wrong side of the road. Furthermore, this means that roundabouts will be navigated clockwise, opposite to what we are accustomed to here in North America; because of this, I am sure we will have some entertaining stories to tell from the trip.

Future Trekkit Adventure

Ryan Groom NorwayWhen we are traveling, we occasionally talk about where we would like to go in the future. I have been pushing the idea of an entirely new adventure for the Trekkit Team. An adventure that would definitely push the boundaries of what we have ever done before. This would be an adventure so big and ambitious that it might take us several years to plan and prepare for the trip. I would like to drive motorcycles from Atlantic Canada to the southern tip of Argentina (off-road where possible). Yes, that is correct – the southern tip of South America. Now I realize that this would be a major undertaking and most of us do not even have a motorcycle license at this point. That is why I am proposing a shorter trip to start with, perhaps a trip across the Trans-America Trail (the “TAT”). The Trans-America Trail starts in Southwestern North Carolina, and ends at the Pacific Ocean in southwestern Oregon – nearly 8,000 km of mostly off-pavement riding. The route consists primarily of dirt roads, gravel roads, jeep roads, forest roads and farm roads. Occasionally, you end up traveling through dried-up creek beds and riding atop abandoned railroad grades. The trip typically takes 3 weeks to travel from coast to coast. Based on the amount of off-road riding, the obvious choice would be a dual sport motorcycle. It would be an amazing trip! Stay tuned to see if I can eventually convince Ryan to tackle this adventure.

To keep up to date on all the Trekkit adventures please signup to our Newsletter and catch us anytime on Trekkit TV.

Happy adventures,


Ben Nevis

Trekkit Expedition 2016 to the Highlands of Scotland and the Northumbria Coast

Photo By: David Crocker [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The day I am writing this is April 25th, 2016 and it is exactly one month before the Trekkit crew heads out for another adventure. In four weeks we travel to the United Kingdom to climb its highest point and then off to a castle tour on the Northumbria Coast.

This trek has two major purposes:

1. We are filming a documentary about climbing Ben Nevis and using it as a metaphor to inspire people to climb their own mountain, be it physical, mental, financial, spiritual, etc. Many people automatically come back and say, “When are you climbing Mount Everest?” I can safely say never. You don’t have to climb the biggest, baddest item on the list. Conquering any mountain can bring success and fulfilment; and Ben Nevis is just the right challenge for me.

2. We will be filming all the behind the scenes events while roaming around the UK creating the content (the Road Trip) for Season 5 of Trekkit TV on Bell Aliant TV1.

There are two new Trekkit faces on the crew this year.

Alex Vietinghoff: Alex was a guest in Season 2 and also co-hosted Season 4 but never has been on one of the European film shoots with us so we are excited to have him along. This is the first time taking a dedicated/professional camera person on location. Don’t get me wrong, Rodney and I will still have a camera close by for the impromptu opportunities but the epic shots will be the work of Alex. We are excited to see what this guy can do!


David Ian MathesonDavid Matheson: David is joining us from the Greater Toronto Area, but was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick so he qualifies in our “Atlantic Canadian” only group. David has been around professional TV/Movie production for most of his life so he will help add production value to the documentary plus add to the comradery of the group. I used to watch David in plays when I was in elementary school, oh yeah I forget to mention — he is also my uncle. I am looking forward to sharing this epic trip with him.

The Trekkit veterans:

UK (80 of 130)Peter Groom: Peter is alumni from previous Trekkit episodes including Mount Katahdin and Iceland. Peter is joining us on the eat/drink part of the tour as we visit the Northumbria Coast. Peter works in the UK from time to time so he is researching the best places to visit while in softer parts of the UK.


Rodney McAffeeRodney McAffee: Anyone who has seen any Trekkit TV has seen Rodney’s face and heard his geological wisdom on the show. Rodney is looking forward to the climb to the top of Ben Nevis and leaning/experiencing the history and geology on the Isle of Skye.


Ryan GroomMe (Ryan Groom): Yes I am going to! They can’t go without the director! This trip is going to be different for me. Filming the road trip for TV is one task but the spiritual guide for this trip is to create a film that will inspire people to identify with and then climb their own personal mountain. I have never attempted a scripted, planned film production so this is a growth area for me (my mountain) and I hope it is one you will find inspiring and entertaining.


Our Support Network

None of this could happen without the support of our families and partners. Taking off for 2 full weeks to the UK could not happen without the support of home base. So Kristy, Pam, Monica, Shauna, and Janel; thanks for your support as we lace up our hiking boots, charge the batteries, and take off to film at 4.4k feet above sea level and meet the challenge of a new “knife edge”.


tv1Bell Aliant TV1, (especially Csaba Domokos) and their continued support of Trekkit TV and enabling us to go into the homes of Atlantic Canadians and online world wide to help inspire the viewers to go on a trek of their own.


Microsoft SurfaceMicrosoft Canada. The Microsoft Band and Microsoft Surface teams have both graciously supported this trip and is our technology partner for the climb. We will be using the new Microsoft Band 2’s to keep track of health metrics as we climb Ben Nevis (comparing a computer geek’s (Me) vitals to those in shape; Alex, David and Rodney). We will be using the Surface for a ton a computer related tasks but especially checking the footage we just shot. We plan to take the Surface to the top of Ben Nevis to be able to check the footage, especially the aerial shots.


Orange SprocketOrange Sprocket has always made us look as good as they can (we need lots of help!). These folks are the designer of the 2016 expedition badge. Thanks to Bill, Jeff, and the creative team at Orange Sprocket.

We hope you stay tuned to our blog, the Bell Aliant TV1 website, and our social media channels as we will be posting lots of updates as we visit places in the UK starting May 25, 2016 until June 8th 2016.

Please subscribe to our Newsletter to keep up to date on all things Trekkit related. Thanks!

Safe and Happy Trekks,


Preikestolen – Norway Part 4

Preikestolen Hostel
We spent the night at the Preikestolen hostel, conveniently located at the start of the trail to Pulpit Rock. Take note of the grassed roof on the buildings – these are fairly common in Norway. The advantages of grassed roofs (also called sod roofs) are many. They are very heavy, so they help to stabilize the house during high winds. A grassed roof also provides good insulation and they are long-lasting. During the Viking and Middle Ages, most houses in Norway had sod roofs.

The hostel was clean and nice but the rooms could only be described as “cozy”. There was a small set of bunk beds but barely enough space to turn around in the room. Bedding was even included in the price of the room (more on that in a later blog), but you had to pay extra for a towel. That evening we each had a muffin in the main lodge. It was perhaps the world’s most expensive muffin – but it definitely was not the best muffin I have ever had. In general, food was quite expensive in Norway.

Pulpit Rock

The cost for everything is more expensive. However, Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I was surprised to learn that in Norway, personal income and wealth are public record, easily viewable online. It is also considered rude to flaunt your wealth.

Preikestolen hostel twilightThat evening we were treated to a beautiful sky and view of the moon over the lake (Revsvatnet) immediately behind the hostel. Unfortunately, we awoke to heavy rain the next morning.

Ryan was a bit surprised by the casualness of those using the unisex bathroom and shower facilities in the hostel – what I understand to be the more cultural norm in many European countries. Ryan had serious problems using the shower himself the next morning after he discovered that the shower door had no lock. With people (including women) in the common bathroom just outside, Ryan meanwhile was trying to shower – which can be difficult if you have to hold the door closed with your leg extended at all times – an image I still haven’t fully formulated in my mind.

While having breakfast we watched the water run down the windows in thick sheets – it was raining hard! Instead of a hike, we went exploring in the nearby town of Jørpeland that morning where Ryan finally got his SIM card for his phone. He couldn’t believe how cheap the data package was. Even if he tried, he wouldn’t be able to use all the available data usage while in Norway.

By 11 am the rain was beginning to subside so we got our gear together and started off on the 2 hour hike (4.2 km) to Preikestolen, commonly referred to as the Pulpit Rock. In recent years a team of skilled stonemasons and Sherpa from Nepal have done an impressive job of improving the path. Steps have been built in the roughest areas, and a rocky trail has been made to keep the impact on the environment localized and to a minimum. We left the parking area about 40 minutes behind a group that was staying in our hostel – we passed them after only 25 minutes (they were very slow). The hike was strenuous as the terrain was rough with many changes in elevation. The hiking trail itself provided great scenery along its entire length and although difficult at times, it can be traversed by almost anyone.

5875   Hike to Preikestolen    Rodney McAffee at Preikestolen   Rodney McAffee Norway

The view from the plateau was amazing! Pulpit Rock is only 25 m x 25 m in area and stands 604 m above the Lysefjord, and receives well over 200,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Norway. Like most visitors, Ryan and I each took turns crawling to the edge and peering over.

Rodney McAffee             Ryan Groom

Normally, I am not bothered by heights but I must admit that I was very nervous near the edge – perhaps it was the combination of the strong winds and all the people (or maybe just that it was over 600 m straight down). Imagine that if someone accidently bumped into you, you could just fall over the edge. While setting up for some video , we watched a group of teenage girls sitting on the edge for a picture and I seriously though that one, if not two, of them might fall off at one point due to their inattention. Reportedly, only one tourist (from Spain in 2013) has ever fallen off Pulpit Rock. Even portions of the trail to the site that passed along the fjord cliffs were a bit unnerving at times.

Ryan Groom             Preikestolen

To see more about our adventure in Norway, click here to watch Norway: The Road Trip – Part II.

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Safe and Happy Trekk,


Gloppedalsura Scree – Norway Part 3

Norway - Eagles Nest

Click Here To Watch Norway the Road Trip: Part II

The mountain road from Lysebotn is closed during the winter months and opens each year, usually in May. Construction of the road was completed in 1984, and was built in connection with the development of a hydro-electric power station. It is the only road to Lysebotn, access to the community during the winter months is by water only. The 27 hairpin bends and tunnel down to Lysebotn along the mountain road are impressive and can be best seen from Øygardsstølen (Eagles Nest), the viewing point near the top of the fjord.

Øygardsstølen and Ryan GroomØygardsstølen is also the starting point for the hike to the Kjerag Plateau and Kjeragbolten. Once we arrived at the top of the fjord we could appreciate why the path to the Kjerag Plateau was still closed. Wow, there was still a lot of snow on the ground for June! We were told that the snow along the hiking route could still be up to 3 m deep. Perhaps this hike will be a priority on a future trip to Norway. It takes approximately 5-6 hours to make the hike to the plateau, and the trek is described as “strenuous”. However, I think it would be worth it!

Norway - Snow RoadWhile driving through the “snow road” your ability to see oncoming vehicles is significantly reduced due to the very high vertical snow banks. Of course, this becomes a larger concern when the two-way road is effectively only one-lane wide. We did encounter a semi-trailer truck on a turn requiring both of us to brake quickly! We then had to back up nearly 100 m to a widened area to allow the truck to pass. Fortunately, this was all captured by the “GoPro look-alike” camera mounted on the hood of our car.

5868The Gloppedalsura Scree is a large expanse of avalanche boulders that are piled on top of an end moraine created during the last glaciation period. The avalanche boulders cover an area approximately 0.5 km x 1 km and the deposit is up to 100 m thick in the deepest part of the valley. Some of the boulders are as big as houses! It is interesting how the road was constructed through the boulder field. It must have been quite an event when all the boulders fell suddenly into the valley!

Gloppedalsura Scree Adventure Map

Ryan Groom and Rodney McAffeeIt was here that we discovered that the aerial drone had been damaged during the Oslo to Stavanger flight (Ryan was forced to check the drone with Norwegian Airlines). It appeared that someone had tried to remove the GoPro camera forcibly from the underside of the drone – severely bending the mounting brackets. It was a stressful situation as we rely on the aerial drone to get some of our most spectacular video footage. However, after careful evaluation, we were able to cautiously bend the brackets back into alignment so that the three-axis gimbal could function properly. Fortunately, the drone was once again operational to get the amazing videos that can only be obtained from an aerial perspective.

Check out the Trekkit TV episode to see the aerial video footage. With the drone repaired, we were happy again. To keep up to date on everything Trekkit please subscribe to our Trekkit Newsletter.

Safe and Happy Trekks,


Important Things to Consider when Traveling with Someone

Ryan and Rodney

Be in Better Shape than your Travel Companions

gangThis ensures that when you are hiking or climbing mountains that you are not the slowest person – giving you a real ego boost; similar to the feeling of being picked first on the school playground for soccer. If you are too slow, your hiking group may slip away from you and then later while they are still waiting for you at the summit they aren’t even sure whether you are even still coming or not. Being in better shape also allows you to film those in your group who are struggling to catch their breath while climbing that hill. Everyone likes to see other people struggling. Being last up the hill is also analogous to being the last to arrive to a house party that has been in full swing for several hours (people are laughing, relaxed, and some are even getting ready to leave). Being out of shape also means that you are likely very sore the next day. It is not fun when you can’t climb the stairs or even comfortable sit on the toilet. Being the fittest is also very beneficial if you are attacked by wild animals as you can easily outrun your travel companion to leave them to deal with the angry bear.

Dress Better than your Travel Companions

Ryan GroomThis can be viewed several ways. You should dress better considering the activity you are doing. For instance, blue jeans are not really appropriate for climbing a mountain. They tend to get heavy in wet conditions and may even show your plumber’s crack at times (remember, we are always filming). You need to wear pants that stretch, breath, and dry quickly. You should dress better for the weather. If it might be very cold on top of the mountain, bring warm clothes with you like a toque and gloves – even if it is a warm summer day when you start the hike. Don’t be the one freezing as you approach the summit that forces the climbing party to turn around. Overall, try to be the best dressed from the perspective of style – in particular as we film these trips. No one wants to be seen on TV looking like your wardrobe is still from the 90’s. Always remember that if you yourself have no idea about dressing fashionably, then you better consult with your wife before heading out on the next adventure.

Make sure your Travel Companions are skilled with Social Media

This is particularly important for someone like me who knows very little about social media. I only recently entered the world of Rodney McAffee on Facebook and I still don’t really know how to use it effectively. Using Twitter and LinkedIn are still completely foreign to me. To make things even more confusing, my daughter informs me that only Instagram and Pinterest really matter to the younger crowd.

I must be getting old. Fortunately, my travel companion is a whiz at these things and he posts, tweets, and shares all our great adventures so others can see the incredible places that we have visited and some of our most embarrassing moments. It has been hard, but he is slowly dragging me into the 21st century. I should add that the first picture of myself ever Tweeted was re-Tweeted by the Prime Minister of Canada (Justin Trudeau). Not bad for someone who knows little about social media.

Make sure you know of any Special Dietary Requirements

SkyrOn a recent trip, one of our travel companions had a special dietary requirement that should have been disclosed at the start of the trip. The issue was potentially quite serious and based on what happened could have resulted in the need for hospitalization or in extreme circumstances – potentially death. Unbeknownst to us, our travel companion required three square meals per day. Furthermore, the meals had to consist of meat and potatoes served warm in an upper class restaurant. Snack foods obtained at local gas stations or pre-packaged foods such as energy bars could not be substituted in any circumstance. In addition, it must be stressed that any deviation from the typical morning, noon, and early evening feeding schedule was also a serious problem. Now I should be clear that the reference to hospitalization or potential death was not necessarily a direct result of the individual not receiving the proper diet, but instead could have been an indirect result of what could have happened to anyone in our group due to the amount of complaining that occurred. The best example that comes to mind was when we were 100’s of kilometers from any form of civilization when the individual declared that we must stop immediately and have dinner. Now I don’t know what he saw, because the only food for 100’s of kilometers was in our backpacks. So you can see how important it is to know in advance about any special dietary restrictions.

Do not pack too much Luggage when Traveling

Carrying around extra luggage is a pain in the butt. It is easy to bring more than you need. When the Trekkit Team went to Iceland, I felt that I had traveled the lightest of the group. Yet, I didn’t use all the stuff that I took. It seemed like I had packed enough clothes for a complete change twice a day – which didn’t happen. Perhaps my wife was thinking I would be changing my underwear and socks every day, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. The other guys all had large suitcases packed completely full, while I brought only a backpack.

Ryan’s suitcase was larger than anything I had ever seen before – even bigger than the typical large suitcase. Furthermore, it weighed nearly 75 lbs. The limit for most airlines is 50 lbs with a surcharge fee for overweight baggage up to 70 lbs. I am still surprised that they let the bag be checked onto the plane as it was. Apparently, the lady that checked us onto the flight liked his smile. When we went to Norway, Ryan again travelled with the “giant” suitcase. This time I noticed one example of why it weighed so much. He brought a jumbo sized bottle of shampoo that was full. He had enough shampoo for 6 months – or more! I don’t think he has heard of the small travel sized versions. I can’t wait to see what he brings to Scotland.

You must be able to Spend Time in Close Quarters for Extended Periods of Time

lastShow (5 of 85)Like most trips, it starts with the flight on the plane. Flying itself is not particularly fun. You are in a crowded space, you can’t easily move around, and overall I find it exhausting (perhaps in part because I cannot sleep on a plane). Ryan on the other hand just takes a pill and sleeps during the entire flight. As good as this sounds it wouldn’t work for me. I would only be groggy and thick-headed, but still not sleeping. Then, you will spend plenty of time packed in a vehicle not only with your friends but with the entire luggage (remember that Ryan has a giant suitcase) and camera/video equipment. Even though you may be doing lots of hiking or outdoor adventures on the trip, there will still be an abundant amount of time spent driving. While in Norway we travelled 2100 km by car, the distance travelled in Iceland was similar. The final part of the trip for getting close and personal with your traveling companions is of course the nightly accommodations. In Iceland, I spent nights in a tiny room with Paul. He snores! In Norway, Ryan and I spent one night in a hostel where the room was so tiny that only one of us could move around at a time inside the room. I had to wait in the hallway while Ryan was rummaging through his giant suitcase. So make sure that you get along with your traveling companions before venturing out on the next adventure.

Be Prepared for Inclement Weather

IcelandLet’s face it, you cannot control the weather. No matter how much you want good weather, it isn’t something we have any control over. Furthermore, it really seems like the weather forecast isn’t particularly reliable – at least beyond 24 hours. In Iceland, we had several days of rain and wind which makes it very difficult to film and especially difficult to film with the aerial drone. When the weather turned bad, Ryan started to lose his mind. Much of this fear related to potentially returning home with insufficient video for the number of episodes needed (he said his wife would kill him). It took much effort to cheer him up and make the best of the situation. When we were in Norway, bad weather was also frequent. Once again, Ryan had trouble dealing with the situation. I convinced him that we could still film – it just had to be done differently (using umbrellas, shooting from within the car out an open window, etc.). On both trips, Ryan was fixated on continuously checking the weather forecast. He would check it every 30 minutes (like it is going to change that often) and he talked about making drastic changes to our travel plans based on an unreliable forecast at best. As we prepare to visit the Highlands of Scotland, notorious for rain, drizzle, and fog, we have discussed how we will handle the weather. Ryan has assured me that he will be better and that we will simply “roll with it”. Remember, you shouldn’t worry about things that you have no control over.

Travel with someone you can Work well with

Ryan Groom and Paul ArcherThose who know Ryan and I would probably say we are quite different, perhaps even opposites. First off, Ryan works with computers and technology and I work in the field of engineering and geology. Additionally, some people may say I am meticulous, the opposite of a risk taker, and fussy (I think I may even have heard the words “anal retentive” used to describe me). Others may have used the words: all over the place, erratic, maybe even disorganized to describe Ryan at times. Even though these differences may be insurmountable for a marriage they seem to work well if you are friends traveling on adventures. Where I like to have things planned, being so well organized does not always add to an adventure. This is where Ryan excels – walking more on the “wild side” often brings excitement and great stories to the trip. That being said, my meticulous organization often helps Ryan to stay on task and move from location to location getting great content for Trekkit TV. Let’s just say yes, Ryan and I may be very different in some ways but we do have a very similar outlook on life in general. We definitely want to be outside, breathing the fresh air and pushing ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone. We both believe that people are over stressed and detached from nature. We definitely love to travel and see new things, finding those treks off the beaten path. We both enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. This combination of similarities and differences allows us to work great together as a team filming countless adventures for Trekkit TV.

Travel with someone you can have Stimulating Conversations with

GlacierGangSmallAs I have mentioned before, while traveling you often have long periods of time to kill while on a plane or in a vehicle. The radio is usually not an option as you have no idea what channel is good to listen to, or more likely which channel you and your traveling companion will agree on listening to. This is definitely the case for Ryan and I, as after connecting my iPod to the car’s sound system in Norway, Ryan immediately asked me to turn off that “crazy music”. Therefore, it often comes down to conversation. Now here is where our different talents have often filled in what could have been awkward silence. Since Ryan is the technology guru, I have been able to get private lessons on computer software, photograph, videography, etc. while traveling in Iceland and Norway. Ryan on the other hand has been taught about: continental drift, mountain building, rock formations, and engineering topics. I know what you are thinking, why would anyone want to know about these things (i.e. please poke my eyes out now)! However, we are both geeks at heart and we just want to understand how things work. Our differences then make it easy to discuss these things for hours at a time. On the other hand, there are completely different, or outlandish, conversations that we can have that are both very entertaining and can become very animated. I really don’t think anyone would want me to go into much detail about these particular conversations but suffice to say we have discussed, in probably too much detail, cars, food preferences, bathroom related issues, etc. These strange conversations often lead to one or more of us being picked on relentlessly while the other busted a gut laughing. We found these stimulating conversations often came with being able to make fun of ourselves, which seemed easy for us to do.

You must have a very Understanding Wife

UK (41 of 130)OK, this statement is good in a general sense but especially good if you travel to amazing locations every year with the guys. Leaving you wife at home to ferry the kids to their many activities and look after the home while you explore exotic locations around the globe with your buddies does not tend to go unnoticed. During the planning stages of each trip, as much as you want to discuss all the awesome places you will be visiting with your wife, it is best to downplay what a terrific time you will be having while she is still at home. Similarly, upon returning from these adventures, your wife will want to hear all your tales, but remember that she wasn’t there and that she was stuck at home doing the same old routine. Luckily, Ryan and I both have really awesome wives that encourage us to go on these great adventures. Having an understanding wife can make a significant difference.

Photograph more like a Professional, not like a Tourist

A few years ago, I decided that I would like to get into photography. So, I did some research and bought a fairly expensive DSLR camera. I also read lots of articles and books on how to take great pictures. The results were quite impressive. I was finally taking really good photographs.

So when the Trekkit team went to Iceland, I expected to get lots of amazing pictures. The four of us took more than 6000 photos on the trip! After countless hours of sorting through all the pictures we ended up with 280 photographs that we were proud to show to people. That works out to 1 good picture for every 20 to 25 pictures you take. I read once that a professional photographer expects to take at least 100 photographs to get that one great shot. So, it would seem like we were taking pictures like a professional – in fact, better than a professional (which boosted our egos). However, this was not the case. We did get 280 good photographs, but unfortunately none of them were good enough to grace the cover of National Geographic.

NorwayIn all fairness, I picked out around 30 photographs that I thought were really good. So now we are talking about a success rate of one “really good” picture for every 200 photographs taken. So what went wrong? We had the proper gear and we had practiced and studied how to use the cameras to get great pictures. I believe that the problem was that we were taking pictures like a tourist. When we arrived at the stunning sites in Iceland we piled out of the Land Rover and started taking pictures with reckless abandonment.

Here is a list of what we did not do:

  1. – We did not take any time to reflect upon the scene – how best to capture the image;
  2. – We did not consider our vantage point – we took pictures in the same spot as everyone else;
  3. – We did not evaluate the lighting – what angle would provide the best results;
  4. – We never used a tripod – always strongly recommended for landscape photography;
  5. – We did not look for a focal point and where it is placed in the photograph (rule of thirds); and
  6. – We did not think about foregrounds (points of interest) and leading lines.

IcelandThese short comings are by no means a complete list. We didn’t even look at the photographs we took until we returned home after the trip. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t professional photographers and we did get some really good pictures. We are Information Technology Specialists, an Accountant, and an Engineer who have no formal training in photography. But we certainly can do better.

On the other hand we are not as bad as a typical tourist. We didn’t walk around Iceland holding our tablet in front of our face clicking away getting blurry or grainy photographs. If this description sounds familiar, don’t be offended. Just realize that the little camera in your tablet or smartphone simply cannot compete with a “proper” camera to capture the rich colours and depth of field that make a picture impressive, especially in low light situations.

I was recently asked by someone why the pictures they were taking were not turning out very good. My reply was simple – stop using your tablet and use your “proper” camera. They conceded that I was right but the convenience and appeal of immediately seeing the picture on a bigger screen immediately after taking it still swayed them to continue to use the tablet even when they had their “proper” camera with them.

Norway If you simply want to capture the moment, then any old camera will do (even a tablet). However, if your goal is to get a great picture then you need more than just the right equipment. You need to think about the picture you are trying to capture. You need to try different things and you must consider lighting, foreground, background, focal point, etc. Most importantly, you need to slow down and think about the photograph before you even take a picture.

IcelandOn our recent trip to Norway, the Trekkit Team tried to photograph more like a professional and less like a tourist. The effort paid off, we had a higher success rate. We ended up with 340 good photographs from approximately 2000 pictures taken (down to 5 or 6 pictures taken to get a good one). Similar to the Iceland trip, I felt we ended up with about 30 really good pictures and I would argue that we even got a few great photographs that I believe are good enough to grace the cover a magazine – although I haven’t received any calls from National Geographic yet.
Norway Overall, the lesson learned is that anyone can take really good pictures and if you keep trying you may even get a great picture. However, you have to slow down and think about the photograph. If you simply run around snapping pictures with reckless abandonment (like a tourist), you likely won’t get any pictures worth framing and displaying on your wall. rod-sig1

Lysefjord – Norway Part 2


This blog post takes place during Norway: The Road Trip, Episode 1 on Bell Aliant TV1.

4241If the purpose of your trip is to see fjords, then you better get on a boat. We booked passage on a small ferry from Lauvvik to Lysebotn. The ferry was so small that we had to back the car onto the boat. We spent 1.5 hours traveling up the Lysefjord, one of the most photographed fjords in Norway.

The name means light fjord, and is said to be derived from the lightly coloured granite rocks along its sides. End to end, the fjord measures 42 km in length with bedrock walls falling nearly vertically over 1000 m into the water.

Trekkit Adventure Map of Lysefjord and Pulpit Rock

Click on the pins to see more photos

5799The most famous tourist attraction along the Lysefjord is Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock). It towers an impressive 604 meters over the Lysefjord. This flat mountain plateau, approximately 600 square meters in area, attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.

If you look closely in the photo you can see 2 people peering over the edge looking down at us. If the weather cooperates, we will hike to Pulpit Rock and hang over the edge ourselves. Ryan isn’t particularly fond of heights, so stay tuned!

5839As we travel up the fjord, we encounter a small village with the world’s longest wooden stairway. As there are no roads to the village of Flørli, access is only by boat. The problem is that the village is located at the top of the fjord and residents or visitors must climb the 4444 steps to reach the village. There are tales from a century ago, when children who played outdoors in Flørli were tied like dogs on a rope to the trees in order to keep them from tumbling down into the fjord below. There is also a story about an elderly man who got up from his deathbed and kindly walked himself down the mountainside so that he could pass away in the boat shed, saving his descendants the trouble of having to carry his body down such a steep and precarious slope.

5858Kjerag Mountain is another popular attraction along the Lyseford. At 1,084 meters above the fjord, it is the highest peak in the area. Our plan was to hike to the Kjerag Plateau. However, the presence of very deep snow along the path meant that the area was still closed. We were surprised that there is still so much snow! It is June after all and it isn’t like we are in the high mountains. Most people make the excursion to be photographed on the Kjeragbolten, a round boulder wedged solidly in a mountain crevice 984 m above the fjord. Kjerag is also a popular attraction for mountain climbers and BASE jumpers. We had no plans to do any BASE jumping on this trip!

5819Waterfalls line the sides of the fjord everywhere. Without being on a boat you would miss these spectacular waterfalls and the steep rock cliffs. Not only is the fjord long and narrow, it is in places as deep as the mountains are high (up to 1000 m water depth). The boat ride up the Lysefjord is definitely one of the highlights from the trip for me. This was a one-way ticket – once we reach Lysebotn, we will get off the ferry and encounter our first mountain road.


Stay tuned for my next post when we learn that there may be a problem with the drone.

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Thank you,


Previous Blog:  Road Trip Begins – Norway Blog Part 1

Coming Soon: Driving through the “Snow Road” – Norway Blog Part 3

Road Trip Begins – Norway Part 1

Ryan and I went to Norway to explore the Western Fjords during the Summer of 2015.  We spent nine days exploring, filming, and taking pictures of the majestic landscape.  Our trip will be presented in six episodes during Season 4 of Trekkit TV, starting early March 2016 on Bell Aliant TV1.  However, it is difficult to tell the entire story in a few half-hour television episodes.  Therefore, I decided to write this 18 part blog series highlighting some of the interesting or entertaining aspects of the trip that might get left out of the TV version.  To watch the first episode in the series, click here.

Another epic Trekkit adventure begins…

The first day of the trip to Norway was spent traveling.  I departed St. John’s, NL and flew direct to London’s Heathrow Airport while Ryan traveled a few hours west from Fredericton, NB to Toronto and then switched directions to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.  We both had flights through the night – too bad that I cannot sleep on a plane.  Interestingly enough, they served a hot breakfast on the flight at around 1:30 am my time.  But since the sun was rising on the horizon, as we flew east, I suppose it made sense.

I arrived in Oslo early in the afternoon (local time), 4.5 hours later than what my watch showed.  After a short wait, Ryan joined me and we then flew the final flight to Stavanger on Norwegian Airlines where we checked into our hotel at the airport for a good night’s rest.

Stavanger is located on the coast at the southern limit of the Norwegian Western Fjords.  When planning the trip, I quickly realized that we wouldn’t be spending much time on the coast as the fjords are much more impressive further inland.

Trekkit Adventure Map – Start of The Road Trip

Click on the pins to see more photos

After a big breakfast consisting of an omelet and smoked salmon (very popular in Norway for breakfast) we picked up our rental car and headed inland.  The weather was good – sun and clouds with the temperature around 12 Celsius.

VistaAfter only 30 minutes of driving we were officially in the fjords.  As we passed through the small community of Oltedal, the terrain transitioned quickly from gently rolling hills to narrow valleys with steep slopes.  This is what we came to Norway to see and we were only just on the edge of a fjord.  In 2009, the renowned National Geographic Traveler Magazine voted the Fjords of Western Norway the best preserved attraction on UNESCO’s World Heritage List!


Our first stop was a waterfall named Månafossen.  We were immediately greeted in the parking lot by a local resident of the area.   Highland Cattle are originally a Scottish breed suited to harsh environments.  They have long horns and long wavy coats.  This one seemed friendly enough but still looked a bit menacing standing in front of our small rental car.


Car You can see the rest of the herd in the background blocking the road.

A short hike 20 minute hike up a steep slope was required to reach the viewpoint for Månafossen.   The first part of the hike required us to climb a rugged rock staircase but then the trail transitioned to smooth bedrock that required you to hold onto chain links held by poles bolted into the granite.

Rodney and WaterfallThe falls were indeed impressive.   With a free fall of 92 m and the high flow rate from the spring runoff, the waterfall produced a loud roar.  Månafossen means “Moon Falls” and is pronounced “MOH-nuh-foss-un”.  Many of the waterfalls in Norway have been tapped for hydropower, Norway’s main source of energy generation.  Norway produces approximately 99% of its electricity from hydroelectric power, more than any other country in the world.  However, this waterfall is unregulated and flows unrestricted as nature intended.  The viewpoint is opposite the falls and you stand at the edge of a vertical drop that is at least 100 m straight down.   I am only standing about 1 foot from the edge – watch your step!

Ryan GroomStay tuned for my next post when Ryan and I decide not to visit a small community that requires you to climb 4444 steps to reach the village.

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Thank you,


Read Next – Lysefjord – Norway Blog Part 2

Technology and Travel

I have always been a computer geek ever since my Dad got me a Commodore 64 many moons ago.

Having the chance to get away from my keyboard and explore the great outdoors has been an opportunity of a lifetime. Getting off the beaten path in places like Iceland, Norway and the UK with great travelling companions are golden memories plus we even produced a TV show seen around the world.

Even when I get outdoors, technology is still one of my favorite travelling companions. As we do our own filming, editing, and social media – even when on the road, we have light but powerful cameras (like the DJI Osmo), super fast tablets, and wearables to keep us productive and connected while on location.

Our on the road GOTO (remember GOTO from BASIC) tablet is the Microsoft Surface Pro as it is super light and super powerful (mine has an i7 and 8 GB of RAM), I can take the SD card out of my camera or Go Pro and quickly view the shot we just took, either viewing aerial footage from Vincent or fresh 4k video footage. Also on the Surface we have Adobe Creative Cloud and the Go Pro editing software so we can quickly make clips while on location in the middle of nowhere, plus it’s nice to have a full keyboard when needed.

NorwayBlog (8 of 9)

In Norway last year, I wore my Microsoft Band 1. As I am the “out of shape” member of the team I used it to see if filming was healthy. I recorded my steps, examined my heart rate, plus the Band notifies me if someone texts or emails me so I am not looking at my phone all the time (be in the moment). What I like about my new Band 2 is I can have a VIP list, so it only notifies me if my wife emails or texts me while filming, everybody else will have to wait.

Rodney was very intrigued by the Band (being a “Dr.” he was intrigued by the sensors and science), so he gets his Band this week and already wants to compare pre-season workouts. He wants to compare what I do to get ready vs what he does. I can tell you now, he will win. The Band even works with his iPhone.

Katahdin (3 of 16)

This summer we are climbing Ben Nevis (the highest point in the UK) to talk about the ancient Appalachian Mountain range and compare it geologically to other Appalachian points we have filmed like Mount Carleton and Mount Katahdin. Part of the journey will examine the team’s health status vs mine. We have a new member of the team joining us this year, I am not sure he realizes that he will not just be hiking with me but carrying me and the DJI Phantom 4 up to the top mountain.

As a computer geek and traveller I am excited about having new technology to play with on the trip!

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Safe and Happy Trekks,

P.S. As you guessed it, we are heading to the Highlands of Scotland (again!) for Season 5
P.S.S. Make sure you checkout our current season on Bell Aliant TV1

Charlotte County Fall Fair

This fall we (Alex Vietinghoff, Jacob, my son Alex and I) had a great time filming at the Charlotte County Fall Fair.

I got to see many people I had not seen in a long time and got an insight into how a post and beam barn was constructed, how to build an authentic Maliseet canoe, and check in with my Grade 11 math teacher to learn about the rich history of the area. Oh yeah, my uncle Dave makes his Trekkit TV debut!

This episode is in two parts, the first part is about Trekkit flying quad-copters to get aerial footage and the second part is on the Charlotte County Fall Fair (starts at 11 minutes, 30 seconds).

To view this episode online just click here to go to the Bell Aliant TV1 Video on Demand Website or if you are a Bell Aliant FibreOP TV customer you can watch on Channel 1 or 401 anytime, click here to see how.

There are two very awesome interviews that the editor cut from the show (boo), but I liked them so much I wanted to share them with you.

The first clip was my very first attempt at beet and carrot jam made by my classmate from SSHS from ages past, Andre Mosher. She does a great job making interesting and tasty jams, and even gets me to try pickles again (which I HATE). Check it out.

The second clip was me talking with Jeff McShane from Ganong Bros about my love for Chicken Bones and he gave me a new recipe for popcorn and Chicken Bones together which is fabulous. Please check it out below.

ChickenBones (1 of 2)
For more information, click on the links below:
The Charlotte County Fall Fair
The Beet
Ganong Bros and the 150-year history of Chicken Bones

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Thanks for watching,