Category Archives: Health

James in his Jeep Getting Java–Cottage Town

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A friend commented that this pic looks like a Mad Max Road Warrior photo.

 

 

 

A couple weekends ago I took a road trip to Lynden, Washington, a town I visit quite regularly. I follow the Lynden Dutch Bakery on Instagram, and they’d posted a pic of all the fresh raspberries they’d acquired and so I knew a trek was in order.

While Lynden was my destination, I’ve always said that a good road trip isn’t where you point your Jeep but where you ultimately wind up. This day was warm and sunny, hitting a nice 25C by noon. From the Canada/States border, the road to Lynden is called the Lynden/Birch Bay road. Turn left to Lynden, turn right to Birch Bay. (The latter is where I always stop for my coffee at the Woods Coffee.)

In Lynden, a town of just under thirteen thousand, I got my Raspberry Delight as pictured below) and attempted to get a selfie of me and it. A woman was sitting at the table beside me with her newborn, and offered to take my photo for me. We wound up chatting as she and her husband had just been to Vancouver for the first time, and we compared stories of what it’s like to live where we do. She and her husband had moved there from Texas, and they were finding it difficult to meet new people.

Below are photos of my walk through the historic part of Lynden, and they can be compared to my earlier journey there from January. I did stop at a new place for lunch, and while I enjoyed the meal I had a rude comment from the manager that I had intended to blog about. But, to be honest, sometimes the best way to let people know about a bad experience is to just not give that place any advertising. Next time I’m in Lynden, I’ll stick to the Lynden Dutch Bakery since they are always friendly and the food is always amazing.

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20160702_120141After I had my lunch, it was still early in the day so I decided to drive down to Fairhaven and just enjoy the rest of the sunny day. I often go to Avenue Bread for their iced coffee and some sort of pastry.

As I walked through the town, I kept thinking about that Lynden/Birch Bay road and how I’ve only ever driven the Lynden route and never all the way to the end of the Birch Bay area. I was curious what was there, and while I could Google it nothing beats actually venturing it yourself.

The photos below are a collection of Fairhaven from that trip and a previous trip in May. The red bus is Fairhaven Fish and Chips which makes a great, greasy fish and chips meal.

I also recommend taking a stroll through Fairhaven Park.

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When it was nearing time to head home, I still had a couple hours of free time. As I neared the Lynden/Birch Bay road, I decided to turn left down towards Birch Bay and see what was there. At first it was a typical country road, but then I came across Birch Bay State Park and had to stop to purchase a pass.

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After getting my pass, I drove towards the camp grounds and found a road that wound along the bay. There were dozens of families enjoying the water, and I stopped at a picnic table by the water to finish my iced coffee that was leftover from Avenue Bread. It was a beautiful day.

 

Below, you’ll find photos of the campsite area and the road along the water. When I left, my GPS took me on a different route home than where I had begun. And that’s when I found the most amazing of places.

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I saw the bright yellow from down the road and instantly had to find a place to stop. It felt as though I had stepped through a time portal and had wound up in the 70s where simple cottage life still existed. The C Shop was a cute little place that served ice cream and fudge. Birch Bay Village has a population of just under 8,500 people.

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Families had gathered, and across the street were tables where people were selling their arts and crafts. Kitty corner to that was a yarn shop. As I watched the world happen (while eating my ice cream), a group of kids all rode by on their bikes and stopped for ice cream.

All of this got me thinking about a novel I have finished but have just not been happy with. There was something missing–something about where the kids live, why they have their conflict, and the reasons why they’ll never see each other after that last summer together. That story returned to me as I watched the lives unfold at Birch Bay, and many of the pieces I couldn’t figure out suddenly made sense.

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I didn’t have nearly enough time to fully experience Birch Bay, so this will be a spot that I return to again when the sun is out and warm. I’ll sit in the cafe, enjoy a coffee, and be inspired by a slow way of life that sometimes feels completely lost.

And yes, as you can see below, I’ll also stop in at the Woods Cafe at Birch Bay Square to fill up my bottles of cold brew coffee.

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And what song went through my head when I saw the old C Shop and that cute cottage town?

James in his Jeep Getting Java–Langley Edition

20160625_140640One of the first historic places I visited in the Greater Vancouver Area back when I was first deciding if I should make the West Coast my home was Fort Langley. This area has a population of 3400, and was a former fur trade post of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The original site was 4km downstream from the current fort, and was constructed in 1827 in response to the Canadian border possibly being created along the 49th parallel. You can read more about that here.

These days, the site is a tourist mecca with old-style buildings  (a strict building code is in effect to preserve the town) and, of course, the fort. I visit here regularly with my favourite spots for java and I find the drive along the country roads through farmlands rather soothing.

Above and below are the streets, many of which you may recognize from movies. This is a favourite spot for filmmakers. Check out a list here. Planet Java Fifties Cafe is a fun spot for a burger and shake, or if you’re in the mood for something less greasy Wendel’s Bookstore and Cafe has good food and fantastic coffee.

 

Wendel’s, seen below, is part bookstore and part cafe. That’s where I chose to hunker down for part of the afternoon  for a meal and iced coffee. (Just look at the sign they had posted. How could you not stop there?)

On this particular road trip, I didn’t stop in at the fort. I’ve taken family to it twice, and I wasn’t really in the mood to see it a third on my own. I do recommend it, however, and so I’ve included a few photos from when I took my nephew last February. My nephew and I were in luck, even though it was raining on that February day, as we got to see a musket show. There are some very cool family friendly activities.

Another interesting attraction is the old railway station. Below you can see the CN Station, and the old cars they have restored.

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The CN station is also a great place to nap, so I did. When you road trip with sleep apnea, sometimes a nap is in order to enjoy the rest of the day (I can take 15 minutes exactly and be completely refreshed for the rest of the day. You could set a clock to my nap time.)
A friend saw the photo of me napping on Facebook and thought it would be funny to make it look like I was walking and then create it into a meme. Oh, Susan C., you crack me up!

 

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After visiting Fort Langley I took a short drive south to Campbell Valley Regional Park. It was a sunny and hot day, so a walk through the woods was the perfect way to cool off. There is something about the tree canopy that cools down the air that makes the woods feel so welcoming. Nature’s air con.

Before I went for my walk, I read a sign that warned of bears, coyotes, and cougars that may be in the area. The warning about cougars: if you see one, DO NOT RUN. Apparently, if you have seen it, that means it wants you to see it as it has been stalking you for quite some time. If you make a dash for it, the cougar figures you are food. If you stand and fight (which you will probably have to do, so the sign warned,) you can show the cougar that you are not food. That made me a little nervous on my walk.

Below you can see my favourite parts of the walk, mostly around the boardwalk over the marsh. The only wildlife I saw were a few birds (in previous posts I have admitted to knowing nothing about bird species. I could make some stuff up about them if you would like, but maybe I’ll do that in another post). I did see a little bunny that kept hopping out of the woods.

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The photos below are the most curious of the park. This was once the site of the Langley Speedway, a historic racetrack that was active from the 60s to early 80s. You can learn more about it here.

So, I leave you with a song that went through my head as I wandered the wooded area of Campbell Valley Regional Park. It was from a Robin Hood TV series that was my favourite in the 80s,  and I wound up with the DVDs when an acquaintance on Facebook was moving and wanted to unload them–but only to another fan.

James in His Jeep Getting Java–the Terra Nova Rural Park Edition

During my holidays, on May 30th, I visited (as I do on many an occasion) Terra Nova Rural Park. There are many reasons to love island living (Richmond, BC is only accessible by two bridges or a tunnel) and our nature parks are one of them. Terra Nova is 63 acres wide, has walking trails, historic sites, and a playground that will blow your mind and make you wish you could be a kid again.

Along the way, you can stop in at the Starbucks at Terra Nova Village on Westminster Highway and First Ave. Then, head over to the park and prepare to enjoy your day.

Below is the entrance just meters from the playground. If you’re not going to the playground, this is a quieter section to enter. You’ll find ample parking along the dyke, or if you have come as a cyclist the paths are quite cycle friendly. (Just remember that you are sharing the path, and it is your responsibility as a cyclist to make sure pedestrians know you are approaching by ringing a bell.)

If you are going to the playground, your kids are in for a treat. The structures look like something from a Flintstones cartoon, and it’s billed as an “off-leash” place for kids. The City of Richmond consulted with children before creating this place, and invested 1-million dollars in it. Click here for a better view and more information.

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The slide.
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The zipline.

Myself, I venture over to the boardwalk that crosses over a (very small) marsh. There are benches to sit on and it’s normally fairly quiet, with the noise from happy children heard as background from the nearby playground.

One note I will make are the cigarette butts that are seen stashed between the floorboards of the walkway. If you must ruin your health by smoking, maybe you can think of others by taking your trash with you when your cigarette is done. It means we can all enjoy the space, not just you. (And to you smokers who do this already, thank-you.)

There are a few First Nations art installations along the pathways that are worth seeing. Below is a stone bench carved with a Raven, and a little history of the Musqueam peoples. It weighs 3200 lbs, so little chance of it getting stolen. It’s a great place to sit for a spell and take in the sounds and scents around you.

As you wind your way through the paths, you’ll come across a community garden. In a day and age where many people are living n condos, this space not only allows for the growing of fresh vegetables and fruits but also a place where neighbours can meet each other. People here are generally friendly and proud of what they are creating, and more than willing to engage in conversation.

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Below are the two objects that made me think of the zombie apocalypse. That bicycle would be great to use to cart stuff around, and that clay oven could either be used for baking bread or disposing of zombies. (Not both.) Ahhhh, the writer brain never rests.

Below is a house that I’m pretty sure was a community building for the gardens, but I wasn’t positive. I may have trespassed that day…

And you will see wildlife in the park. There are several species of birds, below you’ll find the heron and a couple ducks. Usually I see hawks and eagles, but none were out that day.

All in all, this is a great place to visit for a picnic or to let your kids get rid of their energy with the ziplines, slide, and many other cool things in the playground.

Not sure what the Queen song, Princes of the Universe, has to do with the mood of that day except that hikes through the woods sometimes makes me think of the movie Highlander. (There was only one movie–the others never existed. NEVER. EXISTED.) So, I leave this song as the theme for this post.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-The Bird Sanctuary Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABird watching or scoping out the territory during a zombieapocalypse?

This past May long weekend I spent the better part of the morning at George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary with good friends Rob, Sarah, and Brianna.

Reifel is a 3 km square area in Delta, British Columbia that is a designated site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (as taken from Wikipedia). On a quiet day it’s a nice slow walk with many species of birds to spy, and on a busy day it’s an attempt not to trip over small children that are in constant danger of being attacked by geese as their parents take photos moments before doom sets in.

I’m going to be flat out honest and just say that I have no idea what bird is what except that the one below enjoyed flying into Brianna’s hand like a scene from Snow White (but a kick ass one where the poison actually makes Snow stronger and she takes over the kingdom by force with her army of dwarves.) When I attempted to lure the bird to my hand, it refused to come near me and I’m pretty sure it even cackled with laughter. Sometimes at night I can still hear the laughter.

This below is a sparrow. (I think.) It was tiny and carried sticks presumably to build a nest–or it was weight training knowing that the other birds would probably tease him eventually because he’s small and he wanted to make sure he could fight back. I may be projecting.

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To the left, that’s a blue bird of some sort. On the right is a wood duck perched on a log.

Below is a bird that seems to be saying, “You lookin’ at me?” in a De Niro voice.

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And here are the rest of the photos of the bird sanctuary. I do recommend this as a road trip if you are in the Delta area, especially on a nice day. Rob will warn you that some of the berries are alarmed, thus known as “alarm berries,” to make sure that the foliage is not being tampered with. I’m mostly certain he’s joking…

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And there’s my best bud, Sarah and me, enjoying our outing at what I think will be an ideal place to survive a zombie apocalypse should it ever happen.

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This is the theme song from the day because Rob and I made a joke about this song and the birds flying. Unfortunately, it took me so long to post this that I have completely forgotten what the comment was. It was funny though. Seriously, really funny.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Snoqualmie Edition

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My 2014 Jeep Wrangler.

A few weeks ago, I was in an artist’s store and had a conversation with the proprietor who seemed a little down. We spoke a lot about what she was doing, and the art in the store, and after a few minutes she asked, “What is it you do?”

“I travel from place to place reminding people that they have purpose, and what they do matters,” I said to her, meaning it as a joke, but in a really serious tone. (Blame it on my dry sense of humour.) There was a silence for a few seconds, and at that moment I could just tell that she really did need to hear exactly that. She needed me to be that person who travelled from place to place reminding people that they have purpose. And so for her, in that moment, I was.

“You have purpose,” I said to her, “and what you are doing matters.”
Then came a big smile, and a really sincere thank you. I nodded and smiled back, and told her it was time for me to find my next place. And I left, thinking that this was probably the strangest encounter I have ever had and yet realizing that this is exactly what this world needs. (My theme song at the end of this post relates to this very incident.)

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about Purpose, and what it means to matter and to have a desire to matter. So this week, as I travelled to Snoqualmie Falls, I had a lot of time to ponder this very thing. It’s a three hour drive from Canada to Snoqualmie, with beautiful countryside that is just starting to bloom. The flowers in the fields, and the many colours that are painting across the landscape, is nature’s way of reminding us that no matter how dark and dreary the past may have been everything can be made fresh and new again.

My first stop was Fall City, a population of just under 2000 and a centre that exists right on a very busy highway.

I found a burger shack called Small Fryes that was quite busy, so I figured that would be a good place to stop for lunch. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and drink special for $5. It was very greasy–and perfect.

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While on one side of the highway is the town business centre, on the other is the Snoqualmie River. There are benches and tables and places to rest, so I brought my food there (it’s a two minute walk from Small Fryes).

A few more photos of the town:

It’s a twelve minute drive from Fall City to Snoqualmie Falls, and by this point it was just after noon. What I hadn’t considered on my way here, was that this was the Easter weekend and so there were HUNDREDS of tourists at the falls all scrambling for parking. It was seriously insane. I took one try around the lower lot, chose not to cross the highway and die to get to the upper lot, and headed for Snoqualmie City.

This was not a disappointment.

Along the way, there’s an old train that sits on unused tracks adjacent to the highway. Immediately when you enter the town, you see a train museum and the history of Snoqualmie City. It’s amazing!

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I was about ready for some coffee, so I found a place called The Bindlestick Coffee and Beer House. They were really busy, with regulars phoning in orders and only the owner behind the bar making food and serving drinks. But she greeted me straight away, was polite and cheerful, and it was obvious by the way she interacted with her patrons that she loved them and they loved her. Even though I had to wait ten minutes before she could serve me, it was kind of a pleasure to watch this mutual respect happening right in front of me. If I hadn’t just had lunch, this would be a great place for a meal as well as a coffee.

After I had my latte (it was very good and well worth the wait) I sat outside on a bench and watched the town. Snoqualmie City has over ten thousand people, so it is by no means a small town. However, it is a very picturesque and historical city–with the Bindlestick situated right across from the train museum and a park.

I took a walk down to Sandy Cover Park. There were a few families there enjoying the warm day (at this point it was plus 17C and sunny) plus…Amee. (Yes, I am spelling that correctly.) She was with her family, and when she saw me it was love at first sight. In fact, she knew immediately that I had purpose and I mattered. Once our eyes locked, she ran straight for me.

Her owners shouted, “Sorry! She never does this! She’s friendly!” and I kneeled and scratched her head. Amee knew that I was the kind of guy who would love to give her some attention, and so of course she ran right for me. Her owners were pretty cool, too.

When I felt it was time to head back, I decided to give Snoqualmie Falls another shot. I was situated in the right direction to check out the upper parking lot, and I did manage to find a spot. The crowds, however, were not diminished by the amount of time that had passed.

I’m glad that I got to see the falls since that was my main reason for heading this way. Had I not seen them, I would have just as gladly returned another day.

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That was my road trip to Snoqualmie Falls. My purpose that day: to bring a dog happiness. Today, it was something new. And tomorrow, it will be something else. Each day our purpose changes, whether we know in that moment that we are affecting someone’s life or not. What you do matters.

(In case you don’t get the significance of this song, click here.)

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java-the La Conner Edition

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Last week I had another nice day, so I decided to take a trip down to La Conner, WA. Truth is, I’ve been feeling a little stressed from work, school, and Life Responsibilities (good stress though-just the normal “there’s a lot of it at the moment” stress) and needed a chance to recharge.

So, I’m heading for the border with my new-ish NEXUS pass that I’ve only used once so far. There are two lanes open, so I choose the right-hand lane. At that moment, two border guards emerge and wave at me to change lanes. Immediately I think, “Wow, a new lane is opening and I get to be first. What nice people!” One guard approaches my window while the second stays behind him with his hand on his gun.

“Turn off your ignition, put it in park, and unlock the vehicle for me.”

Apparently, being a single guy in a Jeep with a NEXUS pass travelling on a weekday morning sets off alarms of some sort. Thankfully, the search didn’t take very long and I managed to get through the border without becoming a statistic.

On the way to La Conner, well, pretty much any time I drive over the border I visit Woods Coffee at Birch Bay. It’s a friendly coffee house with great coffee and if you get the growler made with cold brewed coffee it’s fantastic.

La Conner is a small town with a population of just over 900 people. The buildings are wood panelled, and give this feeling of stepping back through time into the Old West. I was immediately struck with a sense of calm, and there was a boardwalk along the water that overlooked Fidalgo Island. That’s where I headed first.

The song I chose for this week’s theme encapsulates the mood that overcame me when I was in La Conner. My advice: skip to the end, play the song, then read the rest of the blog.

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I met a couple on the same walk who said good morning to me, and so I of course said it back and smiled. They were an American Indian couple, Sue and Vernon I would learn, and they told me that once a year many tribes canoe to the spot on Fidalgo Island that I was looking at to celebrate together. Each year a different tribe hosts. It was clear by the way they spoke that this was a big deal to them, and so I listened as they told me their stories. After they finished, I thanked them for stopping to chat with me, introduced myself (learned their names) and we parted ways.

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Fidalgo Island, where the American Indians meet annually.
As I wandered the town for the rest of the day, I thought about my reasons for why I road trip. (Yes, I use it as a verb.) There’s a history to these places I visit, and each person I encounter has a story to tell. And that’s the thing right there-people want to tell their stories. All it takes to open them up is to listen and hear them. We miss so much in our busyness and go-go-go lifestyle that the simple tales of lives we encounter briefly go missed. Then we return home, turn on Netflix, and fill our heads with made up tales. (Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I love my TV series, but that doesn’t have to be the only stories.)

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One thing I learned that day, is that just south of La Conner is another place called Fish Town. At one time, in the 60s and 70s, it was an artist colony that was off-grid and people flocked to in order to escape the busyness of city life so they could concentrate on becoming an artist. Here’s a fascinating documentary on it.

It’s only a 15 minute drive to the end of the road that leads to the walkway to what used to be Fish Town. I am terribly fascinated by this, and really want to see it for myself. What’s left? What is the area like? What drove these people to forgo the amenities of civilization to live off-grid and commune with one another?

The two things that are stopping me from going are:
(1) My penchant for getting lost. See that dotted line above? I’m pretty sure mine would wind up looking like an old Family Circus cartoon.
(2) I’ve seen the Blair Witch Project. No way am I going to wind up venturing into what I think is an abandoned fishing shack only to discover body parts in jars in its basement.

I do plan on returning to the area. This month the daffodils were in bloom, while next month are the tulips. I leave you with a few more photos, and the song that played as the theme.

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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How to Live Longer and be a Better Writer/Librarian/Whatever

It’s about that time of year when all those New Years resolutions start to fall apart. The diets, the workouts, the promises to take better care of yourself. Maybe you tried a fad diet or workout program and after a few weeks, when the promised results didn’t happen, you felt like a loser and chose to give up. Or you paid for a gym membership and all the regulars sneered at you or made comments about you being a “resolutioner crowding the gym.” Whatever the reason is that you gave up, I want to encourage you to try again.

Last semester, I took a class where the instructor had us read articles that he’d written throughout his career as a librarian. His views on library work are inspiring, but what I really noticed were the snide comments he made about himself in terms of being out of shape and how that was expected because of his chosen profession. I grew tired of his body shaming, and at one point I wrote a paper on why staying in good health was actually a health and safety issue for a librarian. Putting yourself at risk for a heart attack or Diabetes isn’t comedic, it’s disrespectful to both yourself and to those who love you.

Writers also tend to put themselves down for having out of shape bodies, and pass it off as though that were the most natural thing. But honestly, you’ll be a better writer if you’re healthy and you’ll have the chance of a longer lifespan and a bigger body of work to leave behind. Some of my favourite authors and illustrators have found ingenious ways of staying in shape. Arthur Slade and kc dyer use a treadmill desk. Don Tate swims and does yoga, while Tyner Gilles lifts weights.

We don’t have to look like a Hollywood A-lister with bulging biceps and a six-pack. We’re all different sizes and shapes, and “healthy” is going to look different for all of us. What’s more, is that you should understand that to some people, no matter how healthy you get, you’re always going to be the overweight, short, skinny, wiry, individual that they’ve always seen you as. I’ve come to understand that no matter how long I work out for, strangers will always start conversations with me by saying, “I knew a guy once who was even shorter/thinner/smaller than you.” Makes me want to gasp and say, “Impossible!”

But I don’t, because now it no longer bothers me. I know what I’m capable of and what my goals are. I’m meeting my goals, and that feels amazing. I once got through an entire workout with a guy (stranger, never met before) constantly smirking and rolling his eyes at me as I walked on the treadmill because I wasn’t going fast enough. When he got off the bench press and I increased the weight by 20 lbs for my workout, he stopped sneering. I thought I’d won his respect. But later in my workout when I started doing abs, he made a rude comment to me — twice to make sure I heard it over my headphones. If anything, my being able to lift more than him just made him dislike me more. These people exist for one reason and one reason only: to shame you into not trying so that they can feel better about themselves. Don’t let them win.

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January 2016. (Yes, that is a Tardis t-shirt.)

From last June until this year I didn’t work out regularly. I was sporadic, mostly because I had started a new job and was adjusting to a new schedule. It would have been easy to just never go back to the gym and to quit altogether. But this is the most important thing I have learned: You are allowed to fail. You are allowed to miss a day, and start again. You are allowed to miss a week, and start again. You are allowed to get back up every time you fall down.

There are no fads that are going to offer you a real quick fix. No 30 day diets are going to change your life forever. No shortcuts that are going to make the world notice what an amazing person you are. Only one thing is going to change your perception of yourself and your life and it is believing this: I have value. You know that exercise is the greatest factor in stress relief and disease prevention, no one is going to dispute that. Find the program that works best for your goals, and you can’t lose except if you quit for good.

And if you are on the verge of quitting for good after attempting to go to the gym or start a diet I want you to join me in this challenge: Three days a week, we’re going to exercise for 30-minutes a day. I don’t care what you do: walk, do pushups, sit-ups, leg lifts, yoga, whatever. At this point, don’t change your diet. Don’t do a cleanse. Just concentrate on that three days a week for 30-minutes exercise.  Make it low-impact. Don’t concentrate on results, just on that 30-minutes.

In a month, we’ll check in with each other. But at this point, if you’re just starting, or if you’re starting out, what I want you to keep in mind is that your goal is to create consistency. To create a habit. It’s going to be hard for the first few weeks. Your mind, your psyche, and maybe even the people in your life, will discourage you. But you need to push past that, because once the habit is formed it’ll feel strange not to do it.

One last time because it is worth repeating: there are no 30-days to a better you programs that will work. But maintaining a consistent workout schedule with realistic goals will change your life in unexpected ways.

You can do it. So go do it!

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: