An honest review of adventure-worthy cars by a non-car enthusiast and a tiny dinosaur.

Although the vast majority of my favourite adventures don’t involve cars at all, their remote locations make driving a prior necessity. It’s not that I don’t like driving (I actually quite like it), it just doesn’t really go well with the pursuit of nature in my opinion. However, since we have established that driving is necessary for getting to adventure locations, many of which involve rough, winding roads and extreme weather, it seems appropriate to share some of my favourite vehicles from my driving history.

I was very clear in the title that I am not a car enthusiast. I don’t care about engines. I know how to do routine checks and change oil and that’s the extent of my interest. With that in mind, the following cars will be rated according to four categories:
1. Quirk (is it so awesome that it turns heads?)
2. Cost (is it expensive to run?)
3. Versatility (will it take me anywhere or only on paved roads?)
4. D’mitry Stamp of Approval (is there space for a little T-rex?)

 

  1. Mazda Eunos 500

This was my first car and I thought it was cool because none of my friends had a sunroof, but I did. A mentor recommended Mazda to me after having a very reliable one for around 10 years. Have to say, she was right about its reliability. That is, until a week after I sold it and the transmission blew up. But having said that, it was a very old car. This is also the car I owned when I found D’mitry.

Quirk: 1/5
It had a sunroof. That’s about it. Also it had no cup holders, which ruined everything.

Cost: 2.5/5
Meh.

Versatility: 2/5
It was pretty much a city car.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 1/5
Nowhere for a tiny T-rex to sit.

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee
This thing felt like a beast. It could go anywhere and double as a place to sleep when you got there. This was my first car after moving to Canada and I took D’mitry everywhere in it. That is, until it started breaking down. We had a great run, and then the combined cost of repairs and fuel determined that the Jeep had to go.

Quirk: 1/5
Many people own this exact model.

Cost: 0/5
4×4 V8 SUV is never going to be fuel efficient. And it certainly wasn’t.

Versatility: 5/5
This car could practically climb walls and fight bears.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
Many adventures were had in this car, and it had a little dish near the handbrake that was the perfect size for D’mitry.

3. Subaru Legacy
My current car. It’s smooth, comfortable and sounds impressive, plus it goes everywhere I want to. It’s perfect for snow driving and we all know how I feel about all things mountain, plus skiing is life. It’s also manual, which is my preference, although it is silver and that is probably my least favourite car colour.

Quirk: 2.5/5
I’m told it’s an impressive model. I guess I believe it.

Cost: 3/5
The reason this doesn’t score higher is because it takes premium. Having said that, it is still cheaper to run than the Jeep.

Versatility: 4.5/5
It isn’t as tough as the Jeep, but I’m not really into 4×4 and it takes me everywhere I want to go.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
No practical seat for D’mitry, but it’s already taken us on a handful of ski days so it’s promising for adventures.

4. Dad’s Land Rover Freelander
The car Land Rover fans buy when they can’t afford a Range Rover. It has awesome speakers (not even added after purchase) and lots of terrain settings, most of which I didn’t understand and never used. I took this car on a few ski trips and camping trips and enjoyed its comfort and versatility.

Quirk: 2.5/5
Meh.

Cost: 2/5
Meh. It was a diesel so it’s not all bad.

Versatility: 5/5
Lots of settings and pretty tough. I don’t know how it goes for 4×4, but I also don’t care.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 4/5
Good place to sit for a little dinosaur and plush leather seats.

5. ……….Wait for it. 

Definitely the greatest car ever built. 

Suzuki Jimny. *cheers*
Hands down the greatest. It’s tough. It’s adorable. It’s incredibly versatile. It looks like an old style Jeep shrunk down to a small woman (i.e. me) size. Featuring no carpet so your wet clothes won’t make a mess after kayaking, roof racks for carrying all the gear that won’t fit inside after you cram all your friends in there, no power steering so you really feel the road and a clutch that squeaks in rainy weather. It has full 4×4 capability and handles brilliantly in the snow and on windy, rough roads. Plus, they’re pretty rare. It honestly broke my heart when I had to sell this little box of awesome. But I was moving to the other side of world and couldn’t take it with me. I left a little piece of my heart in that car.

Quirk: Through the roof.
Not only would people stop and stare, but I would from time to time too, and I owned the car. It’s just so cute and tough at the same time.

Cost: 5/5
Super fuel efficient and cheap to fix… that is when it actually needs fixing. It was definitely the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.

Versatility: 5/5
It went everywhere and beyond because of its 4×4 and lightweight frame.

D’mitry Stamp of Approval: 5/5
A comfortable hidey hole for D’mitry. Fun, bouncy drives throughout the state. Ability to drive up mountains, along beaches, over rocks and wherever you want, albeit slowly. Best car ever.

I understand this is not an unbiased review. I don’t care. Many people dislike Jimnys because they are slow or because they don’t have power steering or air bags (prior to 2000). Still don’t care. My old roommate hated that car because he was super tall and it is tiny. Again, don’t care.

Please keep in mind that this review is everything it claimed to be: honest, about cars and written by someone who doesn’t care about cars with her little tiny dinosaur.

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The in between

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I like cold weather. It’s partly because skiing is my life but also because it means there are less people on hiking trails and blankets are the best. What I am less a fan of, however, is the in between weather that comes after it’s been freezing cold but before it gets warm. It’s like the weather version of a shrug and means I get really into vests, which are definitely the most confusing item of clothing. It’s like saying I want only between my shoulders and hips to be warm, but screw the rest of me, those bits can stay cold. Yet somehow vests make sense during the in between weather. Things also look less beautiful during this meh kind of weather. I will always love the forest and the mountains and even the beach on overcast, rainy days, but that kind of weather definitely takes away the vibrant colours that can be experienced during better, or even worse weather. Have you seen the environment during a storm? It’s awesome. The dull-coloured in between weather also tends to mean chunks of slushy, half-melted snow and that is usually gross. I love snow. I love not snow. None of this in between nonsense.

I also lose a lot of motivation to take photos during this kind of weather. I don’t edit my photos because I like to take natural shots and let nature do the images for me (D’mitry is the only enhancement, but he is actually there, not Photoshopped in). So above is the only photo I’ve taken in weeks, with all the dull colours of an overcast, in between weather day. Enjoy it until I take more dinosaur photos after the weather improves or deteriorates. I’m fine with either.

For those wanting photo evidence of my ski adventures this winter, sorry, it snowed too much for photos. Also I was distracted skiing. I’m not ashamed of my priorities.

Blegh

You know when everyone is sick but you’re all healthy and you’re like “I’m not sick, you’re sick! Ahahahaha!” Then a week later, just as everyone gets back to business after getting better, you start feeling that sore throat starting. You can only kid yourself into thinking you’re just dehydrated for so long before you finally have to accept the grim reality that you’re just plain old sick and not only that, you’re sick a week later than everyone else. This is bad because no one is there to sympathise with you and everyone has already used up all their pity on the fist wave of sick people. Being sick sucks. Especially when you’re the last to get sick.

Patience for adventures while I try to coax D’mitry into making me tea, even if he would spill most of it with his tiny and inflexible little arms. We did go skiing, I’ll tell you all about it when I can stay sitting up for more than ten minutes.

Epic journey to the cold lands

We journeyed to the cold lands where everything is flat and people are more coat than human. Logically, to me it seems the mountains should be colder but it seems we left regular winter with the mountains and opted for something a little more extreme. D’mitry and I decided to experience the frozen prairies for the first time in order to spend Christmas with New Family while Old Family endures a heat wave in the southern hemisphere, where even the cold lands are dying under the sun. Can’t complain, I’m a winter person so I’m happy.

And to make matters even better, we discovered a new animal to add to the list  of fun animals D’mitry encounters on his adventures: arctic cows. They’re even more exciting than lava chickens. Although, disappointingly, we are not technically in the arctic, the fact that cow poo freezes on contact with the ground is, to me, close enough. Tim even threw a lump of  frozen cow poo at me because he’s a lovable jerk.

I’m also told there’s a chance we could see northern lights here and if that’s not arctic I don’t know what is. I’m probably more excited about the prospect of seeing northern lights than I would be about meeting the cast of Jarrasic Park, and that’s an entire series of movies all about dinosaurs. That’s saying a lot.

Everyone needs an aloof silhouette shot, looking longingly into the distance. Even D’mitry. 

In case anyone was wondering, it was D’mitry’s birthday exactly one month ago.  Spread some love around to celebrate. 

Blessed Christmas to all those who love me enough to read about my adventures with my dinosaur. We love you.

Hedgehogs are great

If we stretch back far enough, we might have some vague memories of D’mitry’s old nemesis Cyril the Cat. However, it turns out that not all pets are nemeses, just cats because they are jerks. And also one particular turtle but that’s something else entirely. Recently, I achieved a life-long dream and obtained a pet hedgehog. This might not seem like a big deal, but let’s remember that I grew up in Australia where hedgehogs are nothing more than an adorable legend. Now D’mitry has a new buddy named Truffles.

It turns out hedgehogs are not easy to photograph, particularly when the one we adopted wasn’t cared for particularly well in its last home and, even though we feel good about providing a better, loving home for her now, she gets super grumpy about absolutely everything, even being given treats. Progress is slow but certain and hedgehog/dinosaur photos will follow shortly, trust me.

In other news: it’s winter and that means ski adventures! We already spent a ridiculous amount on upgrading our ski gear so the least you can do is read about us using it. Get ready for tales of powdery (mis)adventure and frosty photos of D’mitry.

Limited time offer: read one adventure, get a second one free

You get two adventures in this post. The first is my grand return, followed by  my less grand re-departure. I went back to Australia and hung out with my family and array of close friends, plus went on a few trips which involved everything from sideways, freezing cold rain and hail to super hot sunshine.

Melbourne is not a warm place for half the year. Sydney, however, always seems to be warm. You know the weather is bad when you drive to the trailhead of a great multi-day hike and decide that you don’t want to pitch a tent in this kind of storm, so you sleep in your little tiny car that is more built for the likes of D’mitry than two adult humans. You know it’s really bad when the park ranger speaks to you the next morning and says “look, I can’t really stop you, but please don’t go”. It was a pretty bad storm. Not only that, but the sideways rain and hail, combined with ocean spray from the coastal super winds made dinosaur photography impossible. Sorry, no cool storm pictures of D’mitry. Thankfully, the ski resorts were in full swing to make up for the lack of hiking options. Skiing absolutely counts as a good replacement.

After braving the Victorian coast and mountain regions, I became a tourist in my own country so fiance could show his Canadian side and D’mitry could show his little tiny T-rex spirit. So we went to Sydney. We had grand plans to teach fiance to surf and take dinosaur photos in the sand, which was heavily encouraged by 30 degree weather that made us feel like we were dying after sunny Melbourne. What we learned, however, is that you should always check the surf before hiring surfboards. Several hours and only a handful of half decent waves later, we settled for sand castles.

Returning to Melbourne held some new exciting adventures, this time for some awesome friends. A huge congratulations from us and a little dinosaur roar from D’mitry to Jake and Amy on their engagement, we were so happy to be in the country to celebrate when it happened! Although it does force me to the conclusion that I have reached the time of life where the newsfeed is full of engagements or weddings and the pregnancies are no longer accidental. D’mitry has the luxury of being non-biodegradable which, although a questionable attribute environmentally, means he is immune from growing older. Being in Melbourne again meant a week of celebration, dinners with family, drinks with friends and super quick packing of all the stuff I should have brought to Canada the first time. Then we were on our way back North.

That was the first adventure. The second happened two weeks later: we got married. Myself and fiance, that is. The truth is that D’mitry and I just don’t feel that way about each other, plus the whole cross species thing is weird. Also he is made of plastic and that doesn’t help matters, Although he is still the world’s greatest adventure dinosaur. The wedding was super fun but I came to the conclusion that weddings are weird. You turn up in fancy clothes, have a very meaningful ceremony and make some promises, then throw a party for everyone while they all ask you a million questions and keep telling you to kiss. The bad part is that fancy dresses don’t have pockets so D’mitry missed out on witnessing a time-honoured elemental part of our culture. Weddings are weird.

In case anyone was wondering, the duck is an old friend of D’mitry’s from a prior trip to Sydney. Always catch up with old friends, even if you think it’ll be weird. It’s never as weird as suddenly realizing it’s been two years since you last saw them. 

Just pretend it was time travel

We kind of fell off the face of the planet, didn’t we? Suddenly it’s six months later and I have a lot of adventures to catch you up on.

I like to think of our extended absence as like a time machine rather than a disappointing inconvenience. We left off with an announcement about my engagement and D’mitry’s happy discovery that rings make great neck accessories for tiny dinosaurs, and now suddenly it’s four days until the wedding. That itself is super awesome but here is a list of other cool things we did between April and now:

1. I ended my brief dabble in the retail industry and returned to working in outdoor instruction. It was beautiful.

2. I drove boats and dead lifted canoes all summer while D’mitry took up residence in my dry bag along with my wallet, phone and a very large assortment of keys.

3. Fiancé joined D’mitry and me on a trip to Australia so we could show him the exciting sites of my childhood, such as which supermarket I frequented, my favourite car wash place and the exceedingly large number of houses I have lived in. If you hadn’t already figured out that I’m Australian, you world must be shattered. Not sorry. 

Now we are back in Canada and we have real people jobs like real adults, except D’mitry who somehow gets away with living carefree on my desk while we both wait for our next adventure.

After a few requests, more details will be published about the Australia trip and what we actually got up to other than showing Tim mundane things and having him experience first hand my family’s inappropriate (and hilarious) style of humour. And relax, D’mitry will feature. 

Special announcement from your favourite dinosaur

The day D’mitry was rescued from that squalid mud puddle was the best day of his, and my, life. In the simple act of picking up his tiny plastic form, we both gained an adventure buddy that brought unspeakable joy to all subsequent journeys. That is now changing slightly. Not being the jealous type, D’mitry has embraced the new changes, knowing that he now has two adventure buddies: his beloved Mon and the elusive Boyfriend who recently upgraded to Fiance. I’m getting married and D’mitry sees the benefit for him in this engagement. More people means more adventures.

I suppose some would say marriage itself is an adventure but I don’t see it that way. What I see is that I now have a life-long adventure buddy to travel, hike, ski, kayak, bike and slide down glaciers on my butt with. And he’s stuck with me (willingly, apparently).

There are a few adventures in the works right now, sit tight and they will be here soon. It’s worth the wait to read all about my travels with my TWO adventure buddies.

Mon & D’mitry…. & Tim.

 

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The excitement of moss and rocks

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In January, I went on a trial trip South. After enjoying a zoo more than the children around me and eating an amazing burger, plus onion rings that were practically an entire onion, segmented and deep fried, I decided Washington is a nice place. So I went back with D’mitry fiercely in my pocket. This time, however, I became a forest nomad for five days, living out of my Jeep instead of spending a weekend in the city. I reverted to my unshowered, barefoot, loose clothing ways and loved it. I even had a designated ‘bedroom’ and ‘kitchen’ area in the back of the car. Never mind that I was sleeping on a pile of blankets and eating nothing but ham and cheese sandwiches, apples and trail mix for five days. Some would envy such a carefree lifestyle. I find it kind of liberating.

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It was a rather long drive from Canada to the first campsite, with a border official who thought I was nuts. For real, he thought I was actually crazy for driving hours to go camping alone in the rain. He knows nothing of adventure, unlike D’mitry. This is why a small plastic dinosaur is my adventure buddy, who’s crazy now? The plan was to spend an entire day hiking through the forest but a recent cougar sighting in the area had me concerned for D’mitry’s safety so I protectively opted for driving through the forest instead. Dang was it worth it. I’ve done a lot of driving, both as driver and passenger, through crazy scenery but this drive, aside from the life threatening narrow mountain roads with views so good it’s terrifying (because you might become part of that view), has to be among the top few. Perhaps I still haven’t worn out the novelty of everything in sight being covered in crazy moss, after all I haven’t lived in the Northern Hemisphere very long, but it was an amazing drive.

Considering dinosaur photos were lacking and we’d already started wearing a camp headband, indicating an advanced level of not showering, we made a stop in a rainforest. Despite the cougar sightings, I couldn’t help but risk a few kilometres which made way for some fine, mossy, rainforesty dinosaur photography. I have a newfound love for moss. Not only does it look super cool, but when you are grubby from camping and not showering and it won’t stop raining, it provides an excellent way to wash your hands and face. I should create a line of designer moss sponges.

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MOSS!

Eventually I drove to the coast for some beachy camping but, forgive me, it just doesn’t feel like a beach without sand. That doesn’t mean the beach I visited wasn’t awesome; beach rocks are my new favourite thing. They’re just so smooth and make really nice sounds when you stack them. It was totally worth walking 3km along a muddy in the rain to get there, especially because some old guy pulled over, kind creepy initially, just to tell me there were otters in the river next to the road. Here I was, soaking wet and holding onto D’mitry for dear life when the old guy who had suddenly pulled over next to me pointed out one of the most awesome animals on the planet (don’t even try to argue that). Best day ever.

Inevitably, the rain had to stop at some point. That point was my last night, camping on a coastal point before a full day of driving home. It was really nice to be able to read a book outside instead of justifying having to sit in my car out of the rain by playing guitar and singing, both very average quality, as loud as I possibly could. I’m back home now, trying to get my life in some kind of order before I start working again next week. At least I have a real people job.

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Snowpocalypse

Where I grew up, it snowed about once every two years. My parents were super into skiing but it meant a two hour drive on a road that we travelled so often that I had practically memorised all the turns by the age of ten. Apparently, my new town receives a similar amount of snow and I was not expecting to spend my first winter here wading through waist-deep powder. Then snowpocalypse happened with well over a metre of snow falling in less than two days. D’mitry was thrilled, after all it meant fine photography, and I was too because snow is the best thing ever. I love watching snow falling from my window almost as much as I love skiing, both of which I have been doing a lot of over the past few months. I never thought I would ever reach a point where I said “there is too much snow”. It seemed like a preposterous statement that people with no joy in their heart would say while frowning bitterly at snowmen and snowball fights. As it turns out, there is such thing as too much snow and those people probably aren’t quite as sinister as I imagined. In a town that is simply not equipped to deal with this much snowfall, it really has been apocalyptic. And I would love a single day where I don’t have to leave for work twenty minutes early just to make sure there is enough times to scrape the most stubborn ice ever from my windshield. The worst part is that I’ve neglected to take photos of D’mitry making the most of snowpocalypse because I’ve been an irresponsible dinosaur owner. I’m sorry.