James in his Jeep Getting Java — The Steampunk Edition

The Fairhaven Steampunk Festival is an annual event put on in partnership with Village Books, the Historic Fairhaven Association and the Bellingham Steampunk Society. It’s well attended, fun, and if you enjoy the steampunk culture you will find yourself with your people.

When I took Grinfinn to this on July 22nd, I didn’t realize there was more to the story than just a fun event across the border. The annual event is in memoriam to a young man who had attended the first event, but in 2012 died in an accident. You can read about Mr. Flip here.

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Grinfinn and I didn’t dress up (I chickened out) and immediately we regretted it. The costumes were amazing, and everyone there was friendly and having so much fun.

The photo below is Mark Nichols & the Everexpanding Experience Machine. He was amazing! I have included his YouTube video at the end of the blog post as the theme for the day.

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This is Grinfinn posing as he is adored by several people all sitting on the benches around us.

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Not only did we have a grand day of steampunkness, but I also discovered a new cafe because I had to park so far away from Fairhaven. (Parking was at a premium due to the festival.)

The Firehouse Cafe, in the Firehouse Performing Arts Centre, has outdoor seating as well as ample indoor tables. It also has a take out window, which I am discovering is a handy thing when you are travelling with a dog. I was able to walk up to the window, order an iced latte, have a seat, and just enjoy the afternoon sunshine. Highly recommended.

The Fairhaven Steampunk Festival will stay on my radar for next year, and now that I know the story of Mr. Flip I will be sure to give him a shout out each time I go. Mr. Flip, wherever you are, no doubt you are wowing the audience.

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

It’s taken me some time to write this last part of the trip I took over a month ago. As always happens, life gets in the way, time suddenly disappears, and now I’m probably going to write two or three blog posts of all the things happening right now.

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First, Leavenworth, Washington. Travelling to this town in the Cascade Mountains is a little like going to visit Santa’s village. The town is made up to resemble an old Bavarian village, and oftentimes storefronts will play Christmas music even though it was sunny, nearly 35 C, and the beginning of summer.

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One of the reasons I chose to visit Leavenworth was that it fared well as a “dog-friendly” place on the Bring Fido website. When Grinfinn and I arrived, we took a walk around needing first to find the pet store to pick up some supplies.

A Paw Above was friendly and helpful in getting me Grinfinn’s food and a carrier just in case he needed to rest from the heat and all the walking I was planning to do. Just one note here, is that I had opted not to take dog food with me over the border as I had been told by friends that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring it. I have not been able to find any documentation to suggest that is accurate, and in subsequent border trips I have brought dog food with no trouble.

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Once we were set for supplies, the owner of A Paw Above asked if I wanted a list of dog-friendly restaurants for my stay in town. I said yes, and she provided me with one. This came in very handy (and I won’t reproduce the entire list here, as you really should visit her store for the list if you go to Leavenworth.)

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Leavenworth is not a large town for walking, and the main drag was just a few blocks long. If you’re in the mood for shopping, there are plenty of unique shops and for the foodies there are some delicious places to eat. It only took me a few hours to see that part of Leavenworth, but luckily there is more than just shops.

Below is Grinfinn after being served a bowl of fresh water at our first lunch spot. Uncle Uli’s had a large patio area where Grinfinn and I were able to have some shade and a good meal. I had the burger, and Grinfinn had his kibble. And maybe a french fry or two…

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As I noted above, it got very, very hot during the day and Grinfinn tired out quickly. He did enjoy being carried around in the dog-carrier, and on this trip I found that this was a life-saver.

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The second restaurant I tried, also with a dog-friendly patio, was the Icicle Brewing Company. It was so hot at this point, that I asked for a recommendation and the server suggested a plate of cold cuts, cheese and crackers. It was perfect and delicious.

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The temperature had risen to almost +35C that day, and Grinfinn was really needing a break. There was a “ghost town” nearby that I wanted to check out, so we headed out to Trinidad, WA.

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This is all that is left of the original town. And, unfortunately, it was closed until the weekend so I didn’t get to see inside.

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But the journey there gave Grinfinn a chance to cool down with the Jeep’s air con, which seemed to make him pretty happy.

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The third day, Grinfinn and I headed back on the road to return home. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that I kept seeing signs in Leavenworth for a “water park,” which I had interpreted to mean one of those parks where kids get sprayed with water and swim in a pool. As always happens, I had taken a wrong turn on my way out and wound up driving past the water park–also called Enchantment Park.

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It was still early in the day, so I pulled into the lot and took Grinfinn for a short walk into the wooded area. We sat and enjoyed the early morning air, and wouldn’t you know it I saw a deer swimming in the water!

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At first I thought she was struggling, but then she climbed onto a sandbar and watched me for awhile. After a little bit of her and I assessing each other, she climbed back into the water and swam towards me.

I had mentioned in a previous blog post about Zeke’s Drive-in and how I couldn’t get a meal as the server didn’t understand that my VISA required a PIN for it to work. (She just thought it was declining due to lack of credit.) Well, on the way back I made sure to have cash so that I could try their burger and fries.

Definitely worth the stop as the service is very friendly and the food is great. I do recommend bringing cash if your card requires a PIN. And there is a cat that is very grumpy, a little territorial, and doing just fine so it’s best to just leave it alone.

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This is Angel. The photo is blurry, as that’s as close as I felt comfortable getting.

 

 

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.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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