I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.
I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.
This past weekend I decided to take a trip south to Washington. I went to Lynden, which is a favourite place of mine to visit when I need to think. There’s lots going on in my life these days, and sometimes being on the road hearing only the quiet of my own thoughts is the best medicine.
I have a couple of big road trips coming up in the next few months. Plus, with the impending nicer weather approaching (at least this is what I hope is happening) I’ll soon be able to stay places overnight for weekend trips. It’s a bittersweet thought that I am no longer unable to stay away from home for more than a few hours.
I’ve been considering tenting as a means of travel. I could keep one in the back of my Jeep and just take it out whenever needed. But then I came across this on Pinterest:
The hammock is kind of an ingenious idea, and after doing some research I discovered that quite a few people do this with their Jeeps. It would save a lot of room not having to have a tent, plus a hammock would be much easier to care for. (Especially if it is raining. No need to have a wet tent rolled up that could possibly still be wet the next night on longer road trips.)
I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but before investing in a hammock I may try stringing a bed sheet of the same size across my rollbar to get a better idea of just how cramped this is. My head would be pretty close to the roof, but would that really matter? If it looks feasible, I’ll give it a try on a couple shorter road trips before my longer ones.
There are also these cool Jeep tents that I think I’d go for if I had a hard top. The first one, from what I’ve read, requires a few installations for the frame you see surrounding the body of the Jeep. That might make taking the soft top off a little difficult.
The bottom one is more feasible, but looks like it would take up a lot of space once put away. Plus, as I have a soft top, my lock box takes up the trunk and so I can’t imagine needing (or wanting) access to my Jeep once the tent is up. These are great ideas if I had the Jeeps pictured. But I don’t.
Do you have any ideas? Suggestions? Do you own a 2-door soft top and have tried the hammock? Let me know. This weekend when I experiment I’ll let you know what I think.
In 1997 I was 25 and living in Vancouver for the first time. Unsure with the direction of my life, I decided to spend a few weeks on the road to clear my head and plan. This was the first big road trip I had ever taken on my own.
I owned a 68 VW Beetle, and drove it from Vancouver to Kelowna; to Banff, Alberta to Jasper to somewhere near Edmonton (don’t remember where) to Drumheller; to Battleford, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg (and then back again).
In Kelowna, Westbank to be more specific, I visited my grandparents’ old home that they had sold almost a decade earlier. It wasn’t yellow anymore and the woods behind it had been cleared, but it brought back many memories of my grandfather taking my sister and I fishing on the Okanagan Lake.
That trip I visited the Westbank museum, where I met a friend whose name I no longer remember. She introduced me to iced coffee, and we were friends for a few years. Wonder what ever happened to her.
After that, I headed over to Lake Louise and then Banff. This was me somewhere in that area. That jean jacket was way too baggy on me.
The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper is a gorgeous one with bodies of water that are icy blue or very green. This was one of the many moose I saw along the way.
My most memorable time in Jasper was in the campground after it had rained pretty heavily. I arrived and set up my tent — absolutely famished. Unfortunately, my stove had stopped working, I had lost my can opener (and only had canned food), plus the firewood was soaking wet. It was going to be a long night with no food and no camp fire.
Suddenly, a guy from the campsite next to me walked over and threw down several cut pieces of dry wood. He then placed a can opener on my picnic table, and muttered, “We have a generator if you want to plug in.” Then he walked away back to his wife and kids.
Because of that act of kindness, I had warmth and food that night. Plus, I always remember that moment as one of the fondest of my trip.
I spent a couple days in Drumheller, exploring the museum and the valley. Two days was not enough and I have always wanted to go back. If you love dinosaurs, this is the best place to visit.
I’m pretty sure this photo was taken in Drumheller. I lived in this tent for almost four weeks and loved every moment.
That trip was the first I ever took on my own, and it was amazing. People would drive off the highway and follow me when I pulled over for gas or to rest at road stops. They’d tell me stories of when they were my age (and it was actually 1968) and they drove their Beetles on road trips. I wish I had known how amazing those stories were and had taken the time to write them down. But I thought I would just remember them forever and ever.
To help spark memories, I leave you with the theme song of one of my favourite TV series from 1990-2000.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are some of the photos I took before heading back for home.
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!
Today 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.
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.
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.
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.
On August 13th I took a drive down to Birch Bay for their 2nd annual Rollback Weekend. This was a flash back to the cars of the past, with music and hot dogs and people dressed up with clothes from the 50s and 60s.
This has become one of my favourite spots to visit, and is the location where my next book will take place. I’ve been spending a lot of time there over the past few weekends, and this particular day was one of my favourites. Here are a few photos of my favourite vehicles.
The Jeep, no surprise, has always been among my favourite vehicles. It’s rugged, tough, and just looks cool. In high school and well into my 20s I drove a *cough*deathtrap*cough* 1977 CJ7 3-speed, and so when I saw this CJ 5 I immediately wandered over to it. I have a lot of fond memories driving around Winnipeg in that CJ 7 with my buddies piled in, the roof off, and the music blaring.
This vehicle obviously gets a lot of second looks on the road. And I bet no one tailgates him.
A big part of my childhood was spent camping in one of these with my uncle. We took trips from Winnipeg to Florida, Winnipeg to Los Angeles, and many, many others. No doubt a big part of why I love the road trip even now as an adult.
This is my second favourite car after the ’72 Cuda.
There’s much to love about Birch Bay if you’re in the area and looking for a fun spot to spend the day. After the car show (and a very questionable hot dog) I hiked up the highway to the Birch Bay Cafe, where I sat and sipped a latte and wrote. And of course, the theme song for this post should have been obvious. Because black cars do look better in the shade…
My magic number is 16. That’s how may road trips I figure I can get in between April and the end of August, over the course of 20 possible weekends, taking into account that some weekends will be overtaken with business or bad weather.
This year, I got in 17 road trips. I visited Lynden, La Connor, Edison, Langley (WA), Birch Bay, Fairhaven, Blaine, Fort Langley, Campbell Valley, Whytecliff Park, George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Squamish, and Shannon Falls. It was a good year for discovering new places, and a few of those I visited more than once (in case you wondered how 13 places adds up to 17 road trips).
There were many times when I woke up early, and didn’t feel like getting in the Jeep and going. But I did, because every year the number of enjoyable weekends is limited. And once that nice weather is gone, it’s gone. And that makes me understand and realize that our whole life is like that–we have a limited number of weekends left and each time I put something off for another weekend, or another year, I take the risk that the remaining weekends may not afford me the same freedom as the one before me.
We’re this strange species that acts as though we’re going to live forever. Sure, we know of our mortality. We know how fragile we are, and how fleeting life can be–when it comes to other people. And maybe the way we cope with that is that we don’t acknowledge our own hour glass of time running out. I’m no different. I waste time as much as the next person and don’t spend it as meaningfully as I should. But I have discovered a way to live forever–or if not forever to at least feel as though time has slowed down considerably. It helps to follow a few rules:
And lastly, a few highlights from my past summer of road trips (in no particular order):
I finally got to have coffee in the Little Red Caboose Cafe. I first discovered it in 2011 when I took my first road rip to Bellingham, but it was never open. Now it’s under new management and is a fantastic place to stop in for coffee and lunch while in Blaine.
The outdoor bookstore I discovered in Birch Bay. Even though it doesn’t have a name, it’s within sight of the C Shop if you’re ever there. And bring cash, as the cash register is a bowl where you can leave money and take your own change.
Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley (Canada). An easy hike with plenty of historical sites, including an old raceway and a one-room schoolhouse. Watch out for horses as it’s a shared path.
The Sea to Sky Gondola at Squamish. The views here are spectacular. What can I say that this photo doesn’t say on its own.
The town of Snoqualmie. This was one of the longest drives I made–just over three hours– and while the falls themselves were a bit underwhelming (I went on a long weekend, and I don’t much like crowded spaces) the city was lovely. The train museum is worth the trip itself, but the cafe across the street from it was some of the best coffee I’ve had in awhile.
This was one of my favourite places to visit this year and I went back often. There’s something therapeutic about the Chuckanut Drive that leads to this place, and everyone I met were so friendly and amazing. The Slough for lunch, the Bread Farm for my sour dough, and then to the Calico in La Connor for coffee. That it lead me to learning about Fish Town was just a bonus.
I discovered this place in 2011 completely by accident. I was on a road trip with an ex-girlfriend, and we happened upon it. Since then, I’ve been returning here several times a year–mostly for the Lynden Dutch Bakery.
I discovered Langley by Googling, “Best small towns in Washington” and it showed up on a list. Seemed like an interesting place to point the Jeep, so I drove down there. Not only did I get to drive the Chuckanut, but I also saw Deception Pass, Oak Harbor, and Coupville. Whidbey Island is an amazing place and I return here as often as possible.
Fairhaven is a historic part of Bellingham, and filled with wonderful lunch spots and cafes. Village Books is lots of fun to peruse, and Rocket Donuts is just down the street.
I ended August with a trip to Langley (Canada) for the annual BC Renaissance Festival. I go every year to watch the jousting.
It seems fitting, if you’ve ever seen Highlander, that Princes of the Universe by Queen should be the theme song for this post. And of course, summer isn’t exactly over and there could be a few more road trips ahead. But as September arrives, the weather is far more unpredictable. Although, Lynden is beautiful to visit in October!
Some time ago, I’d taken a road trip to Lynden Washington when I decided to travel the other direction down the Birch Bay/Lynden road. I’d found a little cottage town that I fell in love with, but had only had a short time to explore. That day I had vowed to return so that I could better check out the area. At the time, it seemed as though I had stepped through a time portal to the 50s and so I wondered if I’d ever find it again.
Today I decided to return to Birch Bay and see more of the little cottage town–as well, I’d discovered that a cousin of mine (who also, it turned out, loved visiting Lynden,) visited Birch Bay often. It’s a short drive over the Canada/US border to Birch Bay–known by me mostly for the little shopping centre by the highway with the Woods Coffee that I always visit. (Yet didn’t this time.) Birch Bay has a population of just under 8,500 people.
I was pretty confident that I knew the area well enough not to need my GPS. After all, I’d been there once before and had found it completely by accident after taking a wrong turn. Surely that meant I’d have no trouble finding it a second time. (That should be read with the utmost of sarcasm plus the sound of one smacking himself in the forehead.)
I drove around for probably 45 minutes and wound up in six dead end streets. I finally had to give up and pull out my GPS, only recalling that the name of the place I wanted started with a C. Or a G. Or maybe it rhymed with C or G. I didn’t want to use my cell phone and pay for US data roaming, so once again I gave up on the GPS and just guessed which street might be the right one. I also guessed on the name of the place; more on that later.
I wound up along a strip of road that I didn’t recognize, and so I stopped to check things out and maybe get some lunch. The cafe below looked interesting, but was closed today until noon which was still an hour and a bit away.
What I noticed mostly as I walked along the road beside the beach, was how low the tide was. There were boats marooned in the sand and rocks with no water for a good mile. I attempted to get a photo, but I’d forgotten my proper camera and while the cell phone has great MPs, it cannot do zoomed in shots at all without pixelating the image. The one below isn’t terrible, but there were sections of the beach covered in boats.
The Beach at Birch Bay is a place I’ll try next time, but today there wasn’t anyone in it and I’m always leery of places without customers. I will note that on my way back to my car, it was full.
So, I went to the place below. CJ’s Beach House had a reasonably full patio, so I figured if the locals liked it I would as well. I had a coffee and crab cakes, since it was still an hour and a bit before noon. The service was very good and the food was enjoyable.
At this point I knew I was never going to find the place I was originally looking for, but at least I was fed. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to Google the address of the place I was looking for, and then I could plug that into my GPS and find it. So I did. It was called the “C Shop.” (Whatever you do, do NOT accidentally Google “the c spot” which was what I thought it might be called.)
Also, it was just another three blocks down the road that I was on, which meant I was headed in the right direction all along.
Today’s coffee shop was the Bay Cafe, kitty corner to the C Shop. Walking inside feels like stepping back through time–thus the theme song for this post. (Which you’ll find at the bottom of the post. In fact, go there now, play it, then continue reading from here.)
I had a latte and one of the cookies below. Both were delicious! The Bay Cafe was once a root beer stand from 1930-1950, and much of the feel of the place has remained the same.
I spent the next couple hours at a table on this gravel patio enjoying the day and listening to locals.This place was just what I needed to de-stress and refocus my energy.
By mid-afternoon, I was ready to stretch my legs and see what else was here. Across the street there were tables with local artisans selling their wares. I was drawn to a large sign that read, “BOOKS!” so I wandered down the road towards it. It was basically a self-serve used bookstore! And just in case you think my theory that I’d stepped back in time is ridiculous–there were no DVDs here. Just VHS!
And of course there were plenty of big homes, private beaches, and places I wasn’t supposed to enter. >whistles innocently< There were also waterslides, but since I can’t swim and I’m afraid of heights water parks don’t really interest me.
On my way back, I stopped in at Blaine to see if the Caboose was open. I’d been spying it for years, but have never once been in town when it wasn’t closed. And in case you were wondering, I didn’t use my GPS to find my way back to Blaine (I figured how hard could it be? It looked like this one road lead straight there.)
Thankfully, most of the road I took was gorgeous and the day was hot. My temp gauge in the Jeep said 26C (78.8F) and the sun was blaring. I had my windows out and the sunrider roof open, with my hat and sunscreen to protect me. In retrospect, I should have had water with me.
I wasn’t lost for long, although at one point I nearly wound up back in Canada and wasn’t sure how to U-turn or where.
Anyway … Blaine is a cute little border town of approximately 5,000 people. I especially like all the murals on their buildings. Plus, if you have to use the public toilets, they are clean and not scary.
Today, finally, persistence paid off. The Little Red Caboose Cafe was open! And it was worth being so persistent over. As cafes go, this one was terrific. They do serve food, but I was in the mood for something cold to drink and not a meal. I had a mocha frap, and sat for a spell on their patio. When I mentioned to the barista that I was surprised they were open, she said they were bought by a new owner and that’s why they weren’t closed.
And that was my trip to the Birch Bay/Blaine area. Considering how close I am to it every time I venture south, I’m surprised I’ve never checked it out before. I will certainly be checking it out again–many times. In fact, August 13 and 14 is their Birch Bay Rollback Weekend with the promise of returning to the 50s and 60s. See? They do time travel there!
Last weekend I took a road trip to Shannon Falls near Squamish, BC. This time, pal Marcie asked to come along and I welcomed the company. Of course, as I’ve blogged about before, there is a risk when travelling with someone as opposed to going solo. Solo, I stop where I want, leave when I want, and do whatever I want. In a nutshell, I get to be selfish–and in order to recharge sometimes people need to be selfish. But when you’re travelling with someone, you have to be considerate of the fact that they may not want to see the same sights, or stay as long, or they may get upset with you when, for the millionth time, you’re lost.
Marcie was a terrific travelling companion and I put her to the test. Driving out of Vancouver I got turned around and couldn’t find the road that lead to the highway–she laughed and directed me so we wouldn’t spend the day circling one-way streets. Once on our way, we headed to Shannon Falls!
Just before Shannon Falls, there’s overflow parking to the left. I highly recommend using the overflow, especially if you visit on a busy long weekend like we did. Or, you could do what I did and make another wrong turn while attempting to find the overflow and wind up in the campground next door to it–which was where we took the photo of me beside the jalopy below.
Across the highway (there’s a pedestrian crossing with lights from the overflow to Shannon Falls) we found a walkway that lead to the falls. While the park was beautiful and the falls were incredible, there really wasn’t much to do and after twenty minutes we were looking for more trails.
We found two paths–one that sloped down, possibly to a river, and one that lead up (and up and up and up) to the Chief, which is not a hike for beginners or for those with the wrong shoes–such as my Blundstones. At first Marcie thought it might not be so bad, but after a short climb we both agreed that we should see where the other path leads.
We expected to find a river, as that was where it seemed to head. However, it came out of the forest where the new Sea to Sky Gondola was situated. It was still early in the day, and Marcie said she was up for it if I was–so we went inside to see about getting tickets. What we discovered, is that there are two places to buy tickets. Inside where we went, at the info desk, there was no line up. Then, when we went outside to the cable car area, we found another ticket booth and a long line-up of people. (>insert evil chortle<)
There were two types of cable cars, and we took the one on the left (we assumed the one of the right was for supplies).
The view is amazing, and for those who may be scared of heights (like I am) this cable car felt very secure. It was an extremely windy day, but the cable car stayed pretty still.
When we got to the top, we discovered that there was a wedding going on. So I took photos, because that’s what one does when one sees a wedding in a public place. In case you want to book your wedding there, here’s the link.
At the top there’s a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, and two smaller food kiosks. There are plenty of picnic tables if you bring your own food (such as what we did), and the walks around the summit are easy and short with amazing views. The suspension bridge was fun to cross.
When we decided it was time to leave, the line up for the cable car was very, very long. It does move very, very fast though–so no need for stress. We lucked out when an attendant asked if we liked dogs, as there was one in a cable car and no one wanted to ride with him. We said yes, and thus I made a new friend below. (I don’t recall his name, but in my defence he probably doesn’t remember mine either.)
Normally, I end the post with a theme song, but today, since Marcie is an accomplished actress, I’m ending with her latest commercial.