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.)


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


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


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!


Everyone in the cafe was thrilled.


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–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.


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.


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-the Vacation Edition

IMG_20160506_202419I live in one of the most incredible places in the world. Of course, I can’t say that from experience as I haven’t travelled the world, but I have been told by people who have that I should feel very blessed to live here. So, it should be no wonder that when my vacation time comes my first thought is, ROAD TRIPS!!

This week I took a couple of familiar trips to Edison and Desolation Pass. As day trips go, this is my current favourite. I’ve blogged about this before, but what makes these trips unique is that one I took solo and the other I brought along a friend.

Not a lot of people understand the solo trip. It’s a lot of time to spend on your own, exploring new places where, if something tragic happened, the chances of someone knowing you were missing is bleak. There are steps to take: make sure someone knows you’re gone and for how long until you return. I make Facebook updates along the way when I find places with WiFi. That way friends can say, “He last posted at XX at such a such time.” You get the idea.


Recognize this?

What a solo trip does is it allows me to get completely lost in my thoughts and to not feel rushed or pushed from going places I want to see. It’s a little selfish and narcissistic, really. And you know what? Sometimes in life that’s okay. Once I started school part-time and combined that with a full-time job I realized that there were going to be times when I needed to let my mind refresh and the only way to do that would be to go somewhere that felt like a complete escape. A solo trip allows me to recharge.

Two of my favourite spots to recharge are in Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island. Useless Cafe for lunch (best burgers anywhere) and an iced-cold brew coffee at Kalakala Mercantile Co.. I normally stay for a time at the latter to write and get my thoughts out that build over the course of the drive there.




This week one of my long-time friends, Sarah, decided to accompany me on my road trip. I took her through the Chuckanut Drive to Edison route only to discover that on Mondays almost everything in Edison was closed. Thankfully, the Bread Farm was still open and I was able to buy my loaves of sour dough!

From Edison we travelled to La Conner, which I’ve discovered I enjoy on off-tourist version of La Conner far more than it was during the Tulip Festival. A less stressed out town means easy parking and friendly people in the cafes and restaurants. I was glad that I returned to see this version of the town, as my last visit didn’t leave me with a very good impression.

Travelling with Sarah can be a challenge when one of the things you want to do is visit a cafe. She’s celiac, and therefore has special dietary needs (no gluten) which can make food choices scarce. We went to the Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery that I had gone to once before during the Tulip Festival. My previous experience was a long wait (over an hour), a terse complaint to me that they didn’t normally seat singles on the balcony but would in my case, and rushed service at a table beside their dumpster.

This time, the cafe staff were in good moods and super friendly. There was no wait, and immediately I knew my previous experience was simply an unfair time on which to judge this cafe. I had a regular coffee with a lemon meringue slice, and Sarah discovered a whole variety of gluten-free choices. (She had a muffin and cookie.) I highly recommend this place if you are ever in La Conner.

La Conner

Since the Slough in Edison was closed, Sarah and I wound up with a lot more time in La Conner than I’d expected. We took a walk through the streets and the waterfront, and then drove the bridge over to the island and took the road that lead us to Fidalgo Island and Deception Pass.

This is another area that I have driven through many times and stopped at the bridge to take a look and a few photos. I’ve always remarked to myself how unnerving it is to stand on the bridge with traffic whizzing by–especially when you see the posts dividing vehicle/pedestrian traffic smashed by vehicles. Below is the view of Deception Pass from the bridge.

What I’ve never done in the dozen or so times that I have stopped on this bridge is to take the time to wander down the path onto the beaches below. Since we had lots of time and weren’t planning on travelling farther than this, Sarah and I took the short walk down to the beach.

This wound up being my favourite part of the trip. While a solo adventure is all about that meditative state of filling your memories with new scents and views and memories to heal the toll put on us by an overly-scheduled lifestyle, being on a road trip with a good friend was all about discussions of what great friends we have in common, where our lives are headed, and how amazing the world we live in is. This was a good reminder that neither the solo trip nor the companion trip is more necessary–they each have their own intrinsic value. Below is an assortment of views I would not have seen had I been travelling solo. All taken from the beach.

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Now, just look at the faces of these travellers in the photo below. Deliriously happy, or super-caffeinated? I think I was on cup three…maybe four?


And the theme song from the trip was decided during a conversation where Sarah remarked how easy it is to read signage in the States  I mentioned it was like that Ace of Base song, and she’d never heard of it. So, Sarah, here it is, just for you: