This last trip was difficult. I'm home and happy to be home for a little while. Getting back and enjoying Thanksgiving with friends and family was all i wanted after a little bit of a scare in the Northeast.
This was the first "big" trip i had taken with my new van; used, but new to me. Before taking off I had a friend with me and they mentioned they could smell fumes and exhaust as we were driving. I couldn't detect it really and i almost always have my windows down anyway. I should have taken it in to be looked over but threw caution to the wind, anxious to leave. If you've followed me over the last couple of years maybe you have picked up that very often i am only home for a couple/few weeks before leaving on some other month long excursion. I had been home for 3+ months this time and could hear the road calling.
In order to get to Newfoundland (by car) you have to put it on a ferry in Nova Scotia and go across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is essentially the open Atlantic Ocean. I get motion sickness sometimes, and on boats always i guess (Truth be known on the way back i had to hug the toilet for the 6.5 hour ride, my ribs are still sore). Anyway, i guess the van didn't take it very well either. Once driving off the ferry onto Newfoundland soil i couldn't get it to go more than 10mph for the first hour or so. I was worried of course, so far from home, potentially stuck in a tiny port town. Port-aux-basques is a beautiful place and i did find that there was a mechanic there that could help, and the ubiquitous pride of Canada Tim Horton's, but the van worked its kinks out by morning and i felt comfortable continuing north to Gros Morne National Park.
I have a drop desk and extra vehicle battery for power in my van. It makes it easy to keep laptops and cameras powered and some light at night without worrying the van will be out of juice in the morning. I can't be gone these long periods without doing work and i'm thankful that that fuels and keeps me able to do these ventures.
It was cold. On average the temps were in the teens at night and that's even too cold for me to have the windows down. I do have a tiny heater but it burns up my battery in about an hour of continuous use, so i had to keep the van running, not only to keep the rest of the electrical system working but to augment the heater with the heater of the van.
You probably see where this is going... it took me some days to figure out, i guess i'm slow. Or, the toxins weren't helping my brain to figure out i was giving myself carbon monoxide poisoning. I'd be sitting there trying to draw or edit and the dull headaches, lightheadedness i was just blaming on travel fatigue and nausea that i could blame from being residual sickness from that awful ferry ride would creep in. I'd get to the point where i was practically passing out at the computer and shut everything down and crawl into the sleeping bag for the night.
Writing now, i realize how possibly very close i came from not surviving this one. Had i chose to leave the van running at night for heat with the windows up....
What was the worst of it, but what did finally make myself question there was something else going on, was the paranoia. Carbon Monoxide poisoning, one of the symptoms is paranoia. I had talked myself into believing i had a terminal disease over these few days too. This really threw my trip into a tailspin. The thought lodged itself and i obsessed over it for the next several days, completely unable to enjoy and take in where i was or concentrate on making images. Just the ever pervasive "you're at the end, you messed up, you don't have insurance and this illness is going to take you down".
Everything bad you can think of.
I'm losing my job,
Everyone hates me,
Dark nights of the soul brought to you by carbon monoxide.
A long hike brought me out of it. The weather cleared one day and i got to get out of the van and wander around St. Johns, but more importantly i got to detox. After getting out eventually that lingering nausea went away and my head cleared and i got to think rationally about what was happening.
I'm not sure if the boat ride knocked something loose from all those crashing waves or i was getting it all along and it took going somewhere really cold to close up the compartment and have it build up....
I looked at google and it said 48hrs from St. John's back to St. Louis. I just took it slow, kept the windows down when i could. Stopped often to walk around and eventually made it home.
I'm writing all this because it really is what it's called; the silent killer. As we are getting into winter watch you are getting proper ventilation. CO detectors are cheap, like less than $10 at Walmart cheap. Stay safe everyone.