Rules of the Road (Trip).


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!


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-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 StatesĀ  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:

James in His Jeep Getting Java-Edison, WA

Wow, it’s almost been a month since my last road trip. The weather has been particularly rotten lately here on the West Coast, plus the semester at school is wrapping up so there is plenty of work to do. However, I just got my NEXUS pass and have been itching to try it out, so since today looked like it would be a sunny morning I took a short day trip over the border for lunch to Edison, WA.

Edison is a small town just off Chuckanut Drive, south of Bellingham, Washington. It has a population of 150, and was named after the famous inventor, Thomas Edison. Also notably, in 1897 it was once the headquarters of a utopian socialist project–according to Wikipedia, anyway. So of course I had to see it.

Funnily enough, while at my dentist last week, I mentioned that this was a destination I was hoping to get out to see. The dental hygienist told me that she had been there, and that it was an amazing place. She even gave me the name of a bakery to check out.

First, when you enter Edison, it looks like a pretty typical small town. I’ve actually given up on what I at first mistook as the “small town staples”; a steam clock, an old church, and a museum. I’ve now come to realize that’s a staple of the “historic downtown” in a bigger metropolis, and not at all what you’ll find in small towns. The first shop I found was “The Lucky Dumpster,” which was an antique/artisan shop with many cool finds. The shop owner was busy sweeping the sidewalk in front of his store, but greeted me politely and we exchanged some friendly banter.

There were also two art galleries, a fitness studio, and a cafe called, “Tweets” that I did not go to this time around. That water fountain below is in front of one of the artist galleries.

I took these photos because they reminded me of my zombie WIP, and I’m considering if I were to write a sequel to it that it may take place here. Just look at that truck! And that shed is filled to the brim with pieces of wood.

I wound up here, Slough Food, which was beside the Bread Farm–the bakery my dental hygienist had told me about. It didn’t look like much on the outside, and it wasn’t fancy on the inside, but I just had a very good feeling about this place so I gave it a shot.



What I will say, is that the staff at this restaurant were two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. When I looked like I might be a little lost, one of the servers told me they had a seating area out back with heaters if I were interested. I was, so I ventured through a door that felt like the doors on the wardrobe leading to Narnia.

It. Was. Awesome.


The slough out back was low because of the season, but at this point mid-morning the sun had started to come out and it was actually getting warm. I needed a place to hunker down and do some homework, so I decided this would be where I sat for the remainder of my time here. The soup of the day was potato-leek, and I added a grilled-cheese with ham sandwich to that. The food was amazing.

For much of the morning, I enjoyed their atmosphere while chatting with the server, whose name I asked, but neglected to write down. Drat my memory!


And while I sat and drank coffee after my lunch, I saw a few birds. The server, whose name I wish I recalled, brought me out refills for my coffee and offered me a fresh pot when she ran out.

And then this guy flew ten feet over my head!

And this was my spot for the morning. The time to come here, so I’ve been told, is during the Tulip Festival. Edison is close enough to the action, but far enough away not be be smack into the mayhem.


That was pretty much my trip to Edison this time around. Will return again, as there is a lot along the Chuckanut I still want to explore. I did, however, find a steampunk artist shop on the Chuckanut that had the coolest items for sale. It was called the Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden. I couldn’t take photos of the interior, as that would be unfair to the artists.

Plus, I got my assignments done that I needed to get done and returned home just as the rain started. Edison, WA, is a place worth exploring. And the Slough Food, definitely a place worth eating at.

And the perfect song for this trip: