Rain driven by fierce winds at nearly a 45-degree angle stung my face and whipped my clothing. I sidestepped to the railing to get a better view of this world at the 54th northern parallel, somewhere off the coast of Labrador. The weather precluded any chance to see stars or the northern lights, and I prayed it wasn't preventing the ship's captain and first mate from iceberg-spotting in the surrounding sea.
Out of the salty darkness came a voice. "Sue, over here," yelled Bruce Elfstrom over the wind and crashing waves. It was no surprise that our trip leader was on deck in the middle of the night and was actually enjoying the weather, apparent from his broad smile. Of Nordic heritage, Elfstrom is a four-wheel-drive expert who owns and operates a company called Overland Experts; he makes a living leading off-road expeditions around the globe. Something of a modern-day Viking, some of his favorite annual trips are to Iceland and Mongolia as well as to Mexico's Copper Canyon. In addition, he has a 90-acre 4WD track for training and evaluation, set up practically outside his backdoor in southern Connecticut.
"We're in a bit of a storm, and the ship's engine is having some problems," Elfstrom explained. "It's beautiful out here, isn't it?" he added. I had to agree. While I wasn't exactly enjoying the choppy seas, I was in the midst of yet another great adventure that used 4WD vehicles as a way to see and learn more about the world. The 14-day-long trip, dubbed OEXBYOVEXPNA (Overland EXpert's Bring Your Own Vehicle EXPeditions--North America), had begun in Quebec and traversed the land of the Inuit through Labrador, tracing Viking history in Newfoundland. Along the way, there was plenty of great four-wheeling.
Neither a poseur nor a Sunday-afternoon enthusiast, Elfstrom holds instructor-level certifications for Land Rovers and all other 4WD vehicles in England and the U.S. He trains newbies and driving experts, but what he really loves are trips just like this one, where the venue includes the opportunity to drive unique and out-of-the-way 4WD trails, learn and perform vehicle trail fixes, study history, and participate in a community-service project.
Earlier that evening, we'd driven our vehicles onto the ferry. While a few drivers had some last-minute trail fixes to attend to in the belly of the boat, the rest of us stood on the ship's deck, waving goodbye to our local guide in Goose Bay, Labrador.