Category Archives: travel

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Penny, Mission

I have a favourite coffee place in Mission, BC. The Penny is an amazing cafe that gives back to its community by supporting an outreach program that offers comfort, relationships, support and food to those in need. (In their words from their site.)

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Walking inside, it seems like any other cafe. Friendly staff, neighbours who greet one another, and plenty of comfy places to sit.

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But there’s something very special about supporting a neighbourhood space that is using its profits to better the situations of those in need.

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This last Christmas while there, a neighbourhood Santa stopped in to greet everyone and offer candy canes. He’s been doing this for 33 years!

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Everyone in the cafe was thrilled.

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I definitely recommend this place if you are ever in Mission. The coffee is great, and they very often have gluten-free treats!

For a theme song, I thought this fit well.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Finn Slough

In 2016, I became fascinated by a place in Washington near La Conner called “Fish Town.” This was an area just south of La Conner where, in the 70s, a group of artists rented fishing shacks along the slough where they settled an unofficial town. As the tale goes, these artists wanted to shun modern day convenience for their art and used the slough as a way to get into town for supplies. Years later, the owner of the fishing shacks would sell the land to developers who would clear cut the area and destroy the town.

(You can learn more about Fish Town from this documentary.)

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One day while having lunch in La Conner, I decided that I was going to find Fish Town! Not only does it appear on Google Maps, but it also appeared on my GPS. So I set the coordinates and started to drive. What I discovered was disheartening–an area of land with new homes and no remnants of the rich history of what should have been a historic place.

This is why it worries me that the Fraser Valley Port Authority might one day push the residents of our very own Fish Town off land they’ve been living on for three generations. (Follow link to the bottom of the page.) In Richmond, British Columbia there’s a place called Finn Slough, a “town” of about thirty living in shacks that were built in the late 1800s. (Some have been restored with modern conveniences.)

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At the south end of Dyke Road is an off-leash park (watch for coyotes!) that overlooks the Fraser River, Mount Baker, and farmland. A fifteen minute walk will bring you to Diplomat Bakery where you can refuel on coffee and treats.

 

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From the river bank you can walk the shore and see the historic buildings and imagine what it was once like for the original Finnish settlers who built their homes either floating or on wooden stilts. There are still three original Finn families living here, and I often wonder what a conversation with them would be like. (This may happen soon.)

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These photographs were taken on two separate days, the cloudier ones in October and the sunnier ones in December. I missed going back here when the snowfall arrived, but I do wish I could have photographed it then.

There’s a bridge over the swampy river that leads to a welcoming bench for people to sit and ponder. To the right and left are private homes with signs requesting respect for their privacy.

Grinfinn enjoyed the tall grass as he explored the area and sniffed all the smells. I didn’t take him off leash, since there are coyotes in the area I wanted to have him close by my side. (Not that he walks fast enough that I couldn’t quickly pick him up.)

If you want to learn more about Finn Slough, you can read about it here.

And for the chosen theme song for the post, I thought this fit well.

2017 in Review

2017 had a pretty rough start for me, but it finished extremely strong. When I look back on the year I feel pretty happy about the accomplishments I have made. I’m almost done my lib tech course, I began learning the ukulele, adopted a dog, took some road trips, wrote a new book, started submitting my work to publishers, and I met a really amazing woman.

Here’s a list of my top 12 events. Some have links to longer blog posts or to other sites of interest.

  1. Manresa Castle in Port Townsend.

That time I spent a night in a haunted hotel, and woke up the next day with the entire town dressed in steampunk costumes.

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2. Grinfinn the Pekingese.

That time I met a dog, and he chose me to be his caretaker.

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3. Friday Harbor, WA

That time I took a ferry to a town in the San Juan Islands, and met a couple at a cafe who turned out to be a good friend’s uncle and aunt.

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4. Leavenworth, WA

That time I went camping in a town that does Christmas all year long.

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5. The Steampunk Festival in Belligham, WA

That time I went to a steampunk festival and wished that I was in a costume.

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6. Coupeville, WA

That time I discovered the beauty of just sitting by the ocean with a cup of coffee, a dog at my feet, and a notebook on my lap.

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7. Arlington, WA

I wound up here by accident after taking a wrong turn. Then, after a second wrong turn, wound up finding the BEST homemade ice cream place I’ve ever discovered.

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8. First book signing since Flying Feet!

That time Denise Jaden and Eileen Cook asked me to be a part of their summer signing.

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9. Digital Services Tech at Richmond Public Library.

That time a part of my job was to create a digitization station for digitizing VHS, LPs, and cassettes. (It now does SO MUCH MORE!)

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10. Chosen to be a part of the literacy quilt.

The quilt was 50 feet from my station, and it still took me weeks and weeks to notice I was on it. In fact, it was a patron who asked, “Are you the James McCann that’s on the literacy quilt?” And then when the quilt travelled to another library, I got an email from a coworker who realized I was the author of one of her favourite books as a teen.

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11. Family came to visit.

My sister and mom came in July, and my nephew came in September. We took many road trips together and had an absolute blast.

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My sister, Grinfinn, and I in Horseshoe Bay on our way to Whistler.

Hell’s Gate was one of the many trips my nephew and I took.

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My nephew, Justin, in Hell’s Gate, BC

12. Had a Nice Surprise

If you follow my Instagram, you may have noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time with a special someone, Jessica. Here we are writing at the Penny, a really cool cafe in Mission. You can read Jessica’s work on Wattpad.

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And, I started learning the ukulele (as in actual lessons). I (almost always) end my blog posts with a song that fits the moment–so, here’s me playing the ukulele on week four.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Hell’s Gate Edition

For years I talked about travelling to Hell’s Gate — and not just so I can say I’ve literally been to Hell and back. Hell’s Gate is nestled in the narrowest part of the Fraser River just down from Boston Bar. In 1808, Simon Fraser uttered the phrase, “(it’s) a place where no human should venture, for surely these are the gates of Hell.”

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I had tried to visit a time just a few weeks before, but was turned back because the fires nearby were causing too much smoke. Yes, I was turned away from the Gates of Hell because the smoke was just too bad!

But with my nephew visiting, this seemed the perfect opportunity for a road trip. Grinfinn, Justin, and I all piled in the Jeep, and after a brief stop for lunch and coffee at the Blue Moose in Hope, we headed for Hell’s Gate.

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The drive there is gorgeous and the day could not have been more perfect. We followed the Fraser Canyon through the famous tunnels passing through Yale for a brief stop.

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Once at Hell’s Gate, we took the tram to the bottom of the canyon to what was once a mining town. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The scenery was amazing and in September on a weekday there were no crowds. Hell’s Gate is very dog friendly, so Grinfinn had a great time!

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I’ve been on a few trams and found this one especially calm. It was slow and steady with a guide who has a spiel that takes the time from top to bottom to get through. By the time you get to the bottom, you have a pretty good idea of the area’s history and that makes exploring a bit more fun.

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A restaurant, an ice cream/fudge shop, and a museum.
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The view from the tram.

 

You can walk across that red bridge and really get a good view of the river. It’s spectacular.

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On the other side of the bridge are train tracks and a bit of a trail. Depending on how much of a hiker you are, you can spend a good day exploring the area. It seemed really uphill, so my nephew and I opted for not going on the hike.

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That’s my nephew below looking all pensive over the cliff. Hard to tell in this photo, but he’s got a camera that he took some great photos of during our trip. He was trying to find the perfect shot here.

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The day was hot and Grinfinn needed a break. There is a museum of the area’s history that’s air conditioned, so the three of us found our way there and cooled down.

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Grinfinn enjoys the cool floor.

All in all, it’s a remarkable trip there and worth the drive. Go on a nice day, but not when it’s full on heat. If you’re a hiker, take hiking boots. If you’re not a hiker, get the ice cream.

I leave you with this song by AC/DC:

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Coupeville Edition

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The look on Grinfinn’s face when I grab his collar and my Jeep keys is priceless. He always does this little dance when he knows we’re going for a Jeep ride, and it’s the only time he bolts out the door as fast as his one inch legs can carry him.

This past weekend we travelled to Coupeville, Washington on Whidby Island, a town of approximately 2,000 people. I travel to Whidby Island a lot, and have blogged about it on more than one occasion. The town of Langley is a favourite travel destination that you can read about here. This historic site still has that frontier look from the 1900s when the town incorporated. Its history as a settlement from the 1850s is a fascinating one, and well worth the read.

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Beautiful, friendly, and peaceful, this was the perfect spot to go after a particularly rough week. There is something therapeutic that happens on road trips, kind of an erasing of the emotional cache that leaves me fresh for the following week. As always, Grinfinn was the hit of the town with lots of people stopping to take photos, pet him, and ask what kind of dog he is.

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Grinfinn and I wound up spending our time on a bench overlooking Penn Cove. Thanks to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, there was free wi-fi so I had a great spot to rest and write. There was also a hot dog stand where I was able to get my lunch.

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I managed to grab a cup of java from the Knead & Feed Bakery before they closed. (They literally locked the door as I entered the building.) They have a great place to sit outside that overlooks the cove, and once while passing through I had stopped for lunch here so I can say the food is delicious.

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During our walk Grinfinn became enamoured by this statue of a dog. It had me laughing out loud, and when others saw what was making me crack up they also laughed.

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My theme song for this post is Dare by Stan Bush. I’ve been digitizing my LP collection at my library, and now this is one of the many songs I have to play on my road trips. It’s from the 1986 Transformers movie.