Rules of the Road (Trip).

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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:

  1. Point the Jeep in a direction, but be prepared for unexpected results.
  2. Don’t give yourself a time limit. Sure, eventually it’s time to return home, but that time should be fluid not set.
  3. Wave to other Jeeps. In Washington, they’ll wave back. In Vancouver (Canada), they’ll sometimes wave back.
  4. Check out the small town museum. Always.

And lastly, a few highlights from my past summer of road trips (in no particular order):

10. Little Red Caboose, Blaine

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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.

9. Birch Bay

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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.

8. Campbell Valley Regional Park

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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.

7. Sea to Sky Gondola

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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.

6. Snoqualmie

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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.

5. Edison/La Conner

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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.

4. Lynden

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The Dutch Village Inn.

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.

3. Langley, WA

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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.

2. Fairhaven, WA

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Village Books

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.

1. That time I met a knight!

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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!

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.