Category Archives: cafe

James in His Jeep Getting Java–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part One

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I was awake by four a.m. and up by five. Call it excitement, maybe a little nerves, but this was my first camping trip in seven years and my first with Grinfinn. When I attempted to wake up the boy, he just looked at me, grunted, and resumed his slumber. But if I was up, so was he.

I’d planned this trip for months, originally intending to take ten days on the road to travel down to Oregon, up through Leavenworth, and home through the Okanagan. With Grinfinn, me being unsure how he would manage in a tent, I decided on a much shorter trip of five days on the road just to Leavenworth. If anything went wrong, it was a quick ride back up to Canada.

You can see my preparations for camping with Grinfinn here.

Rather than just chance it, I chose instead to book ahead to make sure I had a spot at the campground. Good thing I did, because the weekend was full and I didn’t get a booking until Monday. That brought my five day trip down to three.

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Grinfinn was absolutely chill sitting in his bed (with his seat belt on and the air bag turned off). Driving over the border (NEXUS lane), I had all his papers ready but wasn’t asked for them (there by US or back by Canada). I did get yelled at by the US Customs Guard for not seeing that he’d put up the red light for me to wait (that NEVER happens in the NEXUS lane).

While I considered stopping in Edison on my way there, I chose instead to just I-5 it down to Everett and jump on the Number 2 highway. I did stop for a rest at the Smokey Point Rest Area just north of Everett where I took a nap and walked Grinfinn (and, of course, I had stopped for my traditional Woods Coffee in Birch Bay).

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Yes, that looks like a shallow grave in the shape of a human body that Grinfinn is sniffing. There was a manicured, beautiful area with picnic tables that dog owners were not allowed to use. Then there was this wild terrain, with weeds and mounds of dirt such as the one in the photo above. That’s where you are relegated to if you have a pooch.

And yes, those are working phone booths!

 

My next stop was Gold Bar, WA, a town of just over two thousand people. It’s quite pretty if you take a drive through the streets, and the main strip on the highway (there’s even bus service to Everett) is right by the railway with the mountains as backdrop. I liked it as it made me feel as though I were back in the Wild West.

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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar
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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar

The weather up to this point was warm but overcast. When I drove into the Cascade Mountains, the clouds disappeared and the temperatures rose to plus 26C.

 

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Took a wrong turn. Got lost.

This would be the first time I’d attempt to get a burger and fries from the roadside stop, Zeke’s Drive In. Unfortunately, I didn’t have cash and the attendant didn’t understand how my chip card worked. (I was told it was declined, but I couldn’t get her to understand that I had to enter in a PIN for it to work. And once declined, she insisted they’d be charge $35 for trying it a second time. Sigh.)

I did stop in on my way home, so expect a proper review in the third instalment.

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.
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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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There were lots of places to stop and take photos, but after a few I had to just push on and accept that sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment as a fleeting one. It didn’t take long to arrive in Leavenworth, a town modelled after a Bavarian village. (More on the town in the third instalment of this blog series.)

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And since it felt a little like time travel, with small towns not understanding chip cards to phone booths, I felt this song was appropriate to the trip.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Port Townsend

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Did I ever tell you about the time I stayed in a haunted hotel and time travelled to Victorian era America? True story.

March 31st I had decided to take a roadtrip to Port Townsend and found a hotel online that looks like a castle. The Manrea Castle in Port Townsend has quite a history,  even claiming to be haunted according to one website. It seemed like the ideal place to stay for a writer.

I took the Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham towards Whidby Island, passing through one of my favourite places for lunch: Edison. The Slough had been closed my last few stops (the owner takes a well-deserved vacation) but this time it was open. I always have their soup of the day and grilled cheese sandwich as it never disappoints.

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I can’t say that I wasn’t warned to book ahead for the ferry. Not only was it on the hotel’s website, but there are a million signs posted along the highway telling you to book ahead. I didn’t listen, because I figured it couldn’t possibly be that busy on a Friday afternoon. It can, and it was.

I arrived at 2pm and was told if I wanted to wait I might make it onto the 6:30pm ferry. My other option was to book for the 6:30pm ferry, leave for a few hours, then return. My thought process: I had some writing to do, there was a cafe there, and really a few hours was no big deal. Reality: A few hours is a really long time.

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Keystone Cafe was good for what it was: a cafe by the ferry. If there were choices, it would not win out. However, they did have ice cream so that was good. I spent the afternoon writing for a few hours, thinking, took a nap, ate some ice cream, drank way too much coffee (like there’s a such thing), watched two ferries arrive and leave without me (the 2:30pm and 4:30pm ferries), and finally the 6:30 ferry arrived. I was the final vehicle to make it onto the ferry. Barely. At that point, I think the ferry staff actually felt sorry for me because I was the only one being polite with them and not shouting curses.

Port Townsend is a very beautiful place. It wasn’t my first time here, but it was my first time to spend time exploring the city. I had passed through before on my way to Forks a few years ago.

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As I had arrived late in the evening, there wasn’t much open so I went straight to the castle and checked into my room. At this point, I hadn’t read any of the lore regarding the haunting, but later that night I would swear to hearing footsteps on the ceiling where there should have only been an attic. As well, that night I had one of the worst allergy attacks of my days that could only have been brought on by a ghostly spirit (or the gorgeous flower gardens in bloom around the castle).

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As a place to stay, I’d recommend Manrea Castle. It was comfortable and reasonably priced. However, because my room had a window on my door light from the hallway kept my room from getting dark enough to let me sleep. I did mention that to staff, but you may want to make sure they’ve corrected it before you book. And book ahead for the ferry. Just trust me on that.`

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And apparently I time travelled. The next day there were people wandering the streets dressed in Victorian-era garb, which I would learn later was because of a Victorian Festival that happens every year. These were the townspeople and not actors just out enjoying the amazing place they call home. (I learned this after asking a few people if I could take photos, and one couple asking me, “You know we all live here, we’re not actors or anything, right?” No. No I did not.)

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I ventured over to Point Wilson Lighthouse, which has an interesting history from when it was a working lighthouse. The lighthouse is in Fort Worden Park, which itself was a beautiful, pleasant walk. The day was sunny, and warm — and in one of the photos below, you can see the glimpse of an otter scampering from the lighthouse through the rocks to the ocean.

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I found an old bunker that looked to me like the scene from a zombie apocalypse. Blame my fascination on zombies for that, and probably the book I wrote on the zombie apocalypse.

As road trips go, Port Townsend is one I will do again. It has an interesting history, a friendly town, cool architecture, and next time I’ll make sure to plan to attend the festival.

My theme song for this trip is Clannad’s Robin Hood even though Robin Hood was medieval and not Victorian.

Road Tripping, Valentine’s Day, and Snow

The time is nigh. The sun has been out all day today, and the snow is now a faint memory of yesteryear (or yesterweek?). That leaves my mind thinking about the places I may want to point my Jeep this year as I again attempt a road trip every weekend.

Last year out of 26 weekends between March and August I believe I had made 16 road trips. You can see my summary of those trips here. This year, I have a few destinations in mind. More on that in another post.

I started thinking about road trips on of all days, Valentine’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny day and I headed to Grouse Mountain for the evening. (Was this the first road trip of the season?)

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The gondola ride up the mountain was quick and not too scary–if you’re like me and a little terrified-in-the-extreme of heights. I went at sunset, which made it a really gorgeous time of day to see the mountain. There was lots of snow, and I had a touch of a cold, so I was worried about it being freezing up at the top. But it was ten degrees and quite nice.

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There’s lots to do on Grouse Mountain, even if you don’t go to skate, ski, snowboard or snowshoe. What I do recommend, is to not forget your winter boots in your vehicle like I did, which made going for a walk on the path absolutely impossible. I tried, but it was clear after a few feet that I was probably going to slip and kill myself. Since that would put a damper on my day, I opted for something a little less dangerous than a walk.

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The sleigh ride is pretty fun, even if it is pulled by a snowplough and not a horse. I suggest sitting in the back, so you are well away from any fumes. Below you can see the photos I took from the sleigh.

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Next trip to Grouse Mountain, I would definitely prepare for a snowshoe walk through the paths. Dress a little better for it, and maybe get there earlier in the afternoon. However, since I had booked a table at the Observatory Restaurant I was dressed for dinner out.

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The meal was fantastic, and the cost of the gondola is put towards the purchase of your meal. So, if you are going up the mountain for the day (and don’t have a ski pass) it’s worth it to get yourself a really decent meal at the restaurant. I had the tenderloin, and my date had the pork. After tasting the pork, I have to say that I think her meal was better than mine (which is not to say the tenderloin wasn’t good. It was amazing!). For dessert, on recommendation, we shared the carrot cake which was unbelievably good. (It didn’t last long enough for a photo.)

All in all, this place is highly recommended.

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Muddled Brain

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I’ve been doing a lot of homework lately. As most people who know me know, in September of 2014 I went back to school part time at Langara College to take the Library Technician course. This was a HUGE decision for me that took about five years to fully commit to doing, but once I did my life changed in ways that I have never regretted. However, being that I am nearly done I am now ready for that chapter to be over.

Today I was all set to work on reading a couple of chapters so that I could take my quiz tomorrow and be set and prepared. Instead, I woke with what I call the “muddled brain,” that is a feeling in your head as though you are stuck in a fog of smoke from which you cannot find your way out. Two things occurred to me: (1) I would retain nothing that I read today, and (2) I can do my homework anywhere.

I left my home just after noon, and headed south towards Bellingham to have lunch at one of my favourite spots: the Colophon Cafe. I’ve blogged about them before. My hope was that a drive and change of scenery would refresh my brain and un-muddle my Muddled Brain.

My meal was what will become my usual since I am a creature of habit. A half sandwich, the Turkey Village Club, and a small bowl of clam chowder. That’s a latte just above it. It was delicious and worth the drive.

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The day was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies and all sorts of pleasant scents along the drive. Leaving when I did, being that it’s the autumn season, gave me a different perspective of this drive that I take quite often. The sun shone differently, shadows cast in new ways, and the trees had all begun to change colour.

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A short walk through Bellingham after getting my chapters read at the Colophon Cafe was just what my muddled brain needed. The colours were vibrant, and there was a freshness in the cool breeze that made the warm rays of sunlight seem out of place.

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It was clear that autumn had just begun, and there would be more changes in the green trees as the weeks go by. This will be a trip worth taking several more times to witness these changes.

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As I wandered the streets, I checked the time and decided I needed more of a drive. I wanted to see where else autumn was blooming.

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I headed towards the Chuckanut Drive, which I absolutely love to travel. I had set up my camera to video the drive, but unfortunately the camera stopped recording after only a minute and I didn’t get any of the gorgeous bright-coloured trees. I did take a few photos, which you’ll see below.

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At the end of the Chuckanut Drive, I turned right into Edison and was surprised at how busy it was. I didn’t stop there, though, and kept driving towards La Conner. I decided I wanted some dessert from the Calico Cafe, and then I would return home after that.

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When I arrived in La Conner, it was late in the afternoon and the quiet town was closing up shop. The Calico had just closed, and even the chocolate shop wasn’t open. I did find the Waterfront Cafe, which was open until the evening. So I stopped there.

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The mud pie was the “chocolate special of the week,” so I had that and a cup of coffee. This was a nice spot right on the water, and by now the afternoon had reached 18C which felt quite warm. The waitress was friendly and told me stories of how the water below us was once used for smuggling, and I asked her if she had ever heard of Fish Town. She said no, and we exchanged tales of the area that each of us had learned. I relaxed for a spell here until my brain was able to enjoy the moment rather than that muddled fog it had found itself in earlier in the day.

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Below are some of the photos I took before heading back for home.

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The drive home was fast, and since it was just after rush hour there were no delays on the highway. When I got home I felt ready for my quiz tomorrow, with a brain that was relaxed and able to retain what it had read earlier in the day.

Not sure what song to offer as the theme, so I’m just going to add one of my favourites. Enjoy!

The Colophon Cafe; Fairhaven, WA

11427759_10155736117565341_1115954290909891726_nToday was one of those days where it started off cloudy and rainy and cold, so I chose to stay home. As it so happened, when noon arrived so did the sun–and it left me wishing I’d gone somewhere and done something.

I’m not opposed to staying home and relaxing for the day. Sometimes, that’s what we need to recharge and I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted a day if all I’ve done is nap/read/binge watch Suits. However, when that sunshine hit me so did a desire to be on the open road with music blasting.

But it was noon. Too late to go anywhere or do anything. Road trips always start at 8am–and then I wondered why I’d ever agreed upon such a stupid rule. New rule: Road trips begin when they begin.

I wound up driving down to Fairhaven,WA, which is a spot I go to often. I have several places I adore for coffee or lunch, and my first thought was Avenue 16. Love the food and I have never been disappointed. When I arrived in Fairhaven, there was a sidewalk sale going on and the little historic part of Bellingham was packed. I was lucky to even find parking (which, coincidentally, was right outside Avenue 16).

I decided to walk the streets before deciding on a place, and wound up behind Village Books at the Colophon Cafe.

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I’d seen this cafe many times over the five years that I’ve been visiting Fairhaven, but I’d never given it a try. The inside is substantial, and there’s a host who will seat you. The decor is casual and comfortable with tables and some spaces with couches. It’s a bit of a hybrid between restaurant and cafe.

I ordered a half sandwich–turkey–with a bowl of clam chowder. I also had a coffee, and the waitress brought be water without my having to ask. The service was fast, friendly, and even though the place was busy and I stayed a little longer to finish my coffee I was never made to feel as though it was time for me to go so they could turn over my table. (I think that’s the correct term.) And the meal? Extremely tasty.

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The setting in historic Fairhaven is bustling and friendly. It’s a family-oriented neighbourhood (lots of children running around) and people walking their dogs. I loved it.

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Of course, eventually I had to return home. Thankfully, there was still ample sunshine and I returned to the pond in my complex alive with bullfrogs, ducks, and turtles. It occurred to me as I walked my own neighbourhood, that this is what is meant by living a life you don’t need a vacation from.

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James in his Jeep Getting Java – the Zombie Edition

Fairhaven, Bellingham WA, USA

You might be wondering why I chose to call this post “the zombie edition.” Well, the truth is the zombie apocalypse has been on my mind a lot lately. Not out of concern or fear that it may actually happen, but just out of that sheer human fascination of what people would do in that situation. It may be because I just binge read Walking Dead issues 19 to 23, or because I’m trying to decide the fate of a finished novel about zombies that is having a hard time landing a publishing home.

One of the best ways to clear my head, is to go on a road trip. Just pack up my thoughts, put them on the back burner, and get on the open road. Today, I decided to head down to Burlington to a restaurant I had heard about online. Bear with me as I relate most of what happened today to a zombie apocalypse, since that’s what I was thinking about all day.

Below you can see the line up of vehicles to get into the States, which took me about an hour. I watched as the Nexus line zoomed through–thinking how much nicer it will be once I have my Nexus pass. My interview is on Friday.

Whenever I’m on a road trip and my GPS tells me to “turn around when possible”, I know I’m in for a treat. It means I’ve accidentally gone the wrong way (yes, even with the GPS guidance) and I could wind up anywhere. In this case, I drove through farmland on my way back to the I-5, where I saw many derelict barns and old farm houses. “If this were a zombie movie,” I thought as I drove down that deserted road, “I would be accosted by a zombie horde right here and would be forced to take refuge in one of those barns for an ultimate showdown.”

Well, eventually I made it to Burlington–which most probably know of by its outlet stores. I stayed clear of the outlet mall (low Canadian dollar, and who wants to be near a busy shopping centre when the zombie apocalypse is on your mind?) and ventured into the town to see its historic downtown. It’s a town of 8500 people, and quite picturesque. Once again I got lost, and my GPS went crazy giving me alternate routes to put me back on track. I kept missing the turnoffs, and I’m pretty sure at one point the GPS said, “For the love of Pete…” Anyway, while I was trying to figure out how to get back on track I found this home with the most amazing welding art. This guy is totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse, and would make an interesting character in a novel. Not that I met him in real life, but my imaginary version of the artist was pretty cool.

Eventually, I found the historic downtown and it was filled with these great old character buildings. The streets were quiet, which fit with the theme of my thoughts and I spent quite some time just wandering the area taking in the atmosphere.

Look at this truck and tell me it doesn’t SCREAM zombie apocalypse.

Birmingham, WA, USA.

Possible zombie escape truck.

Eventually, I found the restaurant that I had gone to Burlington to try. It was beside the railroad tracks, and was a pub called, the Train Wreck Bar. Being that it was a bar RIGHT BESIDE the train tracks, I do have to tip my hat to their faith in human nature. Especially drunk human nature.

It was a bustling place and I managed to get one of the few tables still available. By this point, it was nearly 15C and very sunny, and that most of the place was in the dark made it not ideal for the sunshine depraved. However, I managed to sit right where you see the front window and was basked in glorious sunshine.*

*in a zombie apocalypse, however, you will want to be seated as far back in the bar as possible. Just saying.

When I go to a restaurant, I judge what I’m going to give as a tip based on two things. The quality of the meal, and the quality of the service. This place gets five stars (out of five) for both. The food was amazing, and came fairly quickly. I had the elk burger and onion rings, and kind of wished my stomach was bigger so that I could have had seconds. (Of course, if I had had seconds, my stomach might have gotten bigger.) And the servers were friendly, cheerful, and never let my glass (of water) reach empty.

Just a side-note here. Whenever I’m in the States and I see a room filled with people, all I can think about as a Canadian is how many of them don’t have health care. I went to the States once and had forgotten to get travel insurance, and I was scared to death the entire day that I was going to get hurt and wind up in the hospital.

I decided to return home via the Chuckanut Drive, which is an amazing route along the ocean. Along the way I found a few places for hikes and a cafe that is on the list of places to spend the day.

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I still had some time left, so I stopped in at the train station in Fairhaven (in Bellingham, WA) where they have a pretty cute little coffee shop. Now, by this point, this was actually my second place for coffee. Stay tuned.

In the photo below, that school bus was directly across from the Coffee Junction. Tell me that doesn’t SCREAM zombie apocalypse story. (It does. Trust me.)

I won’t go into detail about Fairhaven (save it for another post) but I will mention that I stopped in at Rocket Donuts, featured below, for both a donut and another cup of coffee. This was my third–but in my defense, the first was a cappuccino, the second a latte, and this was just plain coffee. Not the same at all, and completely justified.

The theme song of the road trip. Of course. Even if it isn’t actually about zombies. And what decisions did I make about my zombie book that is following me around like one of the walking dead (no copyright infringement intended)? No idea. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java- Forks, WA (Classic Edition)

Forks Washington is a town between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean of just over 3,600 people. It’s fame comes from the Twilight novels, as that was where Stephanie Meyer set her stories. Interestingly enough, she had never set foot in the town when writing her books nor did any of the movies get filmed there. It is, however, an interesting place to visit if you are into pop culture (and its effects on people) or just like a beautiful drive. Olympic National Park is amazing.

This was a trip I had taken back in the summer of 2012, but since there’s nothing but grey skies outside and I haven’t been feeling up to a road trip the last week and a bit I’m going to reminisce. (Also, since I’ll most likely never have the chance to return to Forks, it would be nice to have a blogged record of it.) My soundtrack for this trip is Vacation, by the Go-Go’s.

I didn’t have my Jeep in 2012, so this was more of a “James in his Prelude Getting Pizza” event–which really doesn’t have the same ring. This vehicle, a 90s relic that looked better than it performed, used to suddenly begin to overheat with no cause. I had a few mechanics look at it, one changed the thermostat which helped for a short term, but eventually the vehicle completely died.

However, for this particular trip it performed well and only overheated and smoked at the the border while coming home. (Thankfully, it would stop overheating when I was at customs and then continue when I was over the border. It was really strange.)

Below is my dog, Conan, who really wanted to come with me. He stayed at the Baggie Socks Spa (a friend’s place that he stayed at whenever I went on vacation) where he was pampered and loved.

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Conan the Shih Tzu

This was my first experience driving through Deception Pass (see my blog post about Langley, WA). I took the ferry from Fort Casey to Port Townsend, my first stop along the way. Port Townsend I do hope to return to someday to better explore, as it was a beautiful little port side town of just over nine thousand people.

I did find a 50s style soda shop where I had a burger and root beer. The food was good and the atmosphere was like that of Al’s Diner from Happy Days.

But this wasn’t where I was headed, so off to Forks. What I will say is that, as an author of a vampire series that came out a few months before Twilight (and that has been accused of copying Twilight’s tropes ever since,) it was fascinating to me to see what this level of fandom can do for a relatively unknown town.

Forks was a logging community and I got the impression that the residents were happy that the popularity of Twilight was waning so they could return to their quiet life. There was a bus emblazoned with the words “TWILIGHT TOURS” that drove through the area every hour filled with tourists. (I did not take the tour.) There was also a store dedicated to the sale of Twilight memorabilia.

I visited all the tourist places that marked events in the books. La Push was freezing cold, even though it was a hot summer day of plus 30C. Along the drive to La Push, there are dozens of signs warning of possible, sudden tsunamis. Made me feel a little nervous about being there — very open and exposed to the ocean.

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All in all, I should have stopped to take more photos of the drive there as Olympic National Park was spectacular. (Warrants another trip there, for sure.) It would also be interesting to see the town after the Twilight phenomenon, now that it has died down so much. The people there were quite friendly, and there was a restaurant that had the *best* french toast I have ever had. (They said they used “egg bread” which I’ve never been able to find anywhere.)

Below is one more photo from the trip, this one taken in Port Angeles. I didn’t get to eat in the restaurant, as it was closed when I was there. (It was open only for dinner.)

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Where Bella and Edward had their first date.

As an author of paranormal fiction, I do have to tip my hat to Meyer for creating such a blockbuster success (regardless of my own opinions on the books). She did help the sales of my own novels, even if it is annoying to be constantly compared to her books as though hers invented the genre. (Mine didn’t either, in case you think I’m hinting at that.)

If you’re curious about my books, you can still get a copy of Rancor which is available in a 2014 edition on Amazon. And if you ever decide to go looking for Minitaw, where Rancor takes place, I should warn you that the town doesn’t actually exist. I did, however, base it on my experiences with Birtle, Manitoba, which was founded by my great-great-grandfather. And, it’s nothing like Twilight.

 

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James in His Jeep Getting Java – Lynden, WA

Travel is much like music. If you go to a specific spot with the same person over and over again, you will associate that spot with that person. If that person is no longer in your life, it may hurt too much to go there (or hear that song as it may be) as it reminds you of when times were good with them. Sometimes, when we have enough distance from the part of the relationship that became bad, we can remember the parts that were good without the baggage attached to it. And today, that’s what I did. I took a road trip that I had taken with my ex many, many times, for the first time alone. And I feel so much better for it. My theme song for this trip is Edge of a Broken Heart, by Vixen.

First, some background. Some years ago, I was listening to a radio show where a psychiatrist was talking about relationships (okay, it was actually the pilot episode of the TV show Fraser Crane) where the talk show host, well, Fraser Crane, mentioned that in a break-up it isn’t the person we miss but the traditions the couple had created while together.

I’ve only ever had one relationship end where I felt sadness and regret rather than relief and joy. My first instinct was to bury the memories, forget the relationship, and move on. Truth is, she and I were not very kind to one another the last few months we were together. However, having some years pass has taught me that the break-up needed to happen in order for her and I to live the lives that would ultimately make us happy. She’s doing what she loves, and so am I. But neither of us would be if we had stayed together.  That would have been a tragedy. I’ve also learned that when you’ve spent a significant amount of time with someone, and most of that time was great, it doesn’t make sense to forget it.

If Fraser Crane was right and what makes us sad is the loss of the traditions, then it seems to me that to stay happy we must continue those traditions we miss. (And yes, I do realize I am taking advice from a fictional psychiatrist.) One of my favourite traditions that I did with my ex-significant other, was to travel to small towns and discover cool cafes or shops or parks or people. (Thus, my goal to road trip every weekend.) For the first year and a half after the break-up, I couldn’t travel anymore without getting solemn. Last year I broke the travel-fast and took a few trips, but each time I did it was with the ghost of relationship past in the passenger seat next to me.

Welcome to a special episode of James in His Jeep Getting Java – the healing edition where I travel to Lynden, WA, a town of just under 13 thousand. It was originally a dutch settlement, and still clings to much of its roots.

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The road there is picturesque with farms and tree-lined roads. No matter the season, it’s breathtaking. This time a farmer was burning stuff. It was a HUGE pyre the size of his barn, in the middle of his field. I’d forgotten to take my good camera, so all photos were taken with an iPhone 4S (terrible camera) and I couldn’t quite capture the majesty of it.

A few of my favourite places to visit here are the local shops, starting with the mall attached to the inn with the awesome windmill. The Dutch Village Inn is attached to a quaint indoors mall with shops and apparently a theatre plays there in the summer.

The first few times I’d been to Lynden, Heroes Resources was tiny and was never open when I was there. Then one fateful day in 2012, lo and behold it was open and I was able to check it out. I bought a “Dr. Who meets Star Trek Deep Space Nine” comic for my pals Sarah and Rob. Now, four years later, it’s bustling with activity and is twice the space. The staff were friendly (not pushy at all) and they even gave me the number of a local (to Lynden) guy that makes custom chain mail armour. They have game rooms where people of all ages were playing Magic: the Gathering, and by eavesdropping on customer queries  it was obvious that the staff are very knowledgeable of the gaming world. When the Canadian dollar rises, they will be taking some of my money.

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Heroes Resource

Lynden has public restrooms. This may seem like a silly thing to consider a favourite place, but when you are travelling it is important to have a clean, well cared for place to do your business. Bravo, Lynden.

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The restrooms

Below is the Lynden Pioneer Museum, which has three levels. It’s filled with thousands (I think the curator said 50 thousand) artefacts (and the library tech in me marvelled at what it would take to catalogue and track them all). The first floor is the town’s history, the basement is filled with buggies, and the third has a replication of the original downtown Lynden. This was my first time in here.

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My first java stop was the Lynden Dutch Bakery. They are a bustling bakery that serves light meals as well as baked goods. I had a breakfast sandwich and cappuccino. In times past when I came here, it was for their apple pies. Later in the day I had returned for said pie, but they were so busy (it had started drizzling) that I chose to save it for next time. This is my favourite spot, but be warned: if you need WiFi, theirs is spotty and hardly operational. (Thus, I had to choose a second place on my trip to check in on my school work.) Take a book, or better yet bring someone to chat with.

But do try them out. Their staff is friendly, and it’s kind of amazing to watch the locals greet one another. Such a nice community!

A few random photos below. I did find a post office, a library, and a museum — but no clock. Every hour I heard clock chimes, so I’m convinced there must be a clock there. However, I could not find one.

Below is Lynden City Park, which during the winter kind of reminded me of a spooky zombieapocalypse movie. (So, yes, I thought it was cool.) I’m betting in the summer when everything blooms, it’s a great place to walk. And when it warms up, I’ll let you know. The play area for kids looks amazing. It’s a replica of a town!

On my way home, I stopped in at Woods Coffee House for one last java and to use their WiFi. While there I bought a growler of coffee (which I’d only ever heard of in legend through friends) and decided to take that home with me. It was a nice souvenir of the day.

 

And that was my day in Lynden. Considering how many times I had attempted to return there, only to change my mind at the last minute, I must say that I am glad I went. Fraser Crane is a wise man, and he was indeed correct when he stated that what we feel sadness for are the rituals that we have lost. Today I reclaimed a ritual that I had lost, and now I feel as though I can remember a significant relationship for its good times, instead of the final few months where it fell apart. Travel heals.

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Mission Edition

The one thing about the West Coast is that it tends to rain a lot in the winter months. For people like me, this is preferable than snow (and if it wasn’t, I could always just drive up a mountain and have all the snow I want). This winter has been a mild one, with temperatures often well above zero leaving the weather to feel like spring.

I’ve decided that as long as it isn’t a deluge outside, I’m going to go on a road trip. Today, I chose Historic Downtown Mission BC as my destination. I passed by Stave Lake, and considered stopping but didn’t. I thought I’d pass it on my way back, but my GPS took me in a completely different direction coming home. There was even a point where I was questioning whether or not the GPS was taking me home, or if it were trying to kill me by getting me so lost that I’d never find my way back. Not enough bread crumbs in the whole world. More on that later. The theme song for this dreary day: Where Is My Mind.

Downtown Mission is right beside the train tracks, and is filled with character. There’s a view of the cloud-topped mountains in the distance, and I found quite a few cool buildings to inspire me.

These were a few of the building that were around the museum.

I arrived early to discover that the museum wasn’t open for a couple of hours. (Which is why it’s all gated up.) I did however wander about to see if I’d find what I consider the staples to the small town/village/heritage small town sites. That is, the post office, the church, and the old (usually steam powered) clock. I did find the first two, but a steam clock was no where to be found.

These were the streets that I wandered along. The weather, while cool (plus 9 Celsius) stayed dry.

I came across the Sweet Spot Cafe and decided to give it a shot. It’s a quaint little space with a few tables, and a really nice garden patio that would be a nice thinking spot come summer. The staff was friendly and the atmosphere was relaxing. There was no WiFi, and I kind of liked that. I wound up taking out my notebook and writing for a couple hours while I enjoyed my lunch and waited for the museum to open. I had the savory bacon rosemary waffles, and they were delicious. I highly recommend this place.

Below you will find what I saw in the museum. (I took a photo of a shirt because I still wear ones just like it. If it’s in a museum, does that mean I should update my wardrobe?)

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And second lastly, a few random photos of the local used bookstore, antique shop, and places I thought were cool.

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And of course, the theme song:

James in his Jeep Getting Java – Langley, WA Edition

This is going to be a classic edition of the blog, as these photos are from the several trips I took last year driving down to Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island. While there are many small towns along the way to visit, and I’ve been to almost all of them, today I’m going to focus on Langley as that was where I spent the most time.

First, the Jeep. It’s a 2014 Wrangler, and this is what it looks like those few times when it’s clean. Always good to start the road trip with a clean vehicle, and end with it dirty. Last spring when I made all my road trips to Langley, I was fortunate to have sunny skies and hot weather. So I drove with the top down the entire way playing classic rock on the stereo. The soundtrack song for these trips is Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar On Me.

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The drive through Deception Pass is stunning. Every time I drive over it, I have to stop to marvel at the view. There are trails for hiking, if you’re into that sort of thing, but if you’re more like me you can still get a good look at seals playing in the water or eagles hunting along the shore. Amazing.

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Along this particular road, I drove through Oak Harbor and Coupville, both of which I stopped and spent some time in. More on them another time. Langley, WA (not to be confused with Langley, Canada, which is another great place,) is a quaint little place on the water that reminds me of Steveston.

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There’s lots to do in this town. There are three bookstores to choose from for one thing. Kids Books & Puppets pairs up a great book and puppet for your little one, Gregor Rare Books specializes in rare books, and Through the Reading Glass has a plethora of used books to suit whatever your taste.

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But a road trip just wouldn’t be a road trip without a great place to get a cup of Java. Here’s where things get strange – the best place to sit and have coffee in this village actually only makes tea! It’s true! Kalakala Mercantile does make a tea that tastes like coffee, but it isn’t coffee. It is, however, darn good. This friendly spot is the kind of place that you can walk into, and have a conversation with the employees whereby you tell them what flavours you like and they will suggest a tea for you. So far, I have had a dozen teas from them and they have been spot on each time.

The photo of me in what I think is a red shirt but probably isn’t was taken one sunny afternoon when I was sitting on the tea house’s patio and I met the woman who is in charge of the town fair. As we sat chatting, she introduced me to everyone who passed by us and I wound up having this amazing afternoon of unexpected shared stories. I loved it!

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The best lunch spot in town is the Useless Bay Coffee Co. They have indoor seating, and a HUGE outdoor patio. Their burgers are yummy, and I even quite liked the American Iced Tea (for those of you who don’t know, Canadian Iced Tea is mostly sugar). I return to this spot every time I’m in Langley.

There’s also a great spot to walk along the water and sit for awhile on a bench. And if you see a whale, there’s a bell to ring so the whole town can know and rush to see.

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The theme song: