Tag Archives: jeep life

James in his Jeep Getting Java – Anacortes and Friday Harbor

As all my road trips down south do, this one started with my pit stop at Woods Coffee in Birch Bay. This road trip was way back, April 7th, and yes I am just getting caught up now in posting. All I can tell you about what you see in the photo below, was that the drink had cookies in it and lots of chocolate syrup. The bagel was plain with cream cheese, and together they were delicious.

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This time I was headed to Friday Harbor by way of the Anacortes ferry. I could have taken the ferry from Canada, but ferry prices are ridiculous up here–especially if you are bringing a vehicle. Unlike my trip to Port Townsend, I booked ahead to make sure I was on the ferry. It was good that I did, because the earliest ferry I could get was 8:30pm.

Since I had the day, and this one had turned out to be an unusually hot and sunny one in a spring that has been mostly clouds and rain, I stopped in at Edison, WA where I had lunch at the Slough Food and a coffee at the Tweets Cafe. There was quite the crowd at the Tweet with the jug band that was playing. If you’re counting, this was my second coffee while on the road.

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I arrived early in Anacortes and headed for the historic section of the town where I hunkered down for most of the day. Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, just north of Whidby Island. It has a population of just over 16 thousand.

After grabbing my third cup of coffee, I wandered the town and wound up at the Calico Cupboard Old Town Cafe. This one is a second location (apparently there are three) to the one I visit when I’m in La Connor. I had lunch and a glass of iced tea (real iced tea down in the USA–not the sugary syrup I’m accustomed to back home). The waitress was friendly and told me about the harbour that was worth checking out.

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The harbour was interesting with a museum (not open on the Friday I was there, of course) of a famous ship, the W.T. Preston Snagship. Also nearby the harbour was a hike up a small mountain that overlooked the city. Since I had time, I decided to take the hike.

At this point three things should have occurred to me: (1) I am alone. If I go on a hike and get hurt, there is no one to go for help. (2) I have asthma (3) I never carry my puffer.

The hike was steep, and very dusty from a dry day. There were a few moments where I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. But, as I looked at my surroundings and just how amazing they were, I decided if I were going to go out that was not such a bad place to do it.

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Once I got to the top, I was met by an elderly couple walking with canes. At first I was pretty impressed they’d hiked this mountain, but as I watched them hobble around I started to doubt we’d taken the same path. So I asked.

“We came up from the parking lot over there,” the woman said to me, pointing to a road that wound up the mountain. “Where did you come from?”

I pointed to the hiking trail, still a little winded from my asthma.

“You did that hike all by yourself? You’re brave.”

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After three more cups of coffee, I was ready for the ferry. It’s a short ride through the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor, but by the time I got there it was already dark.

I had booked ahead for a hotel room at a place called, “Orca Inn,” which was the only place in my budget. Everywhere in Friday Harbor was $300 plus a night, but Orca Inn, off season, was $70 for a night.

 

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The inn rented me what they call a “micro hotel room.” It was big enough for a bed and two closets. In one closet was a shower and toilet (separate), in the other a sink and coat rack. For one night it was perfect. Quiet, clean and affordable.

The next day I had breakfast where I met a retired couple who now drive yachts from Victoria to Friday Harbour. A few weeks later I would learn that the gentleman would post about our conversation on Facebook, where his niece (and good friend of mine) Crystal Stranaghan would read about it and connect that it was me.

I had lunch at Friday’s Crabhouse after taking a good walk around the town. The place looked amazing, so my expectations were pretty high for the food. I ordered the calamari and fries, which were passable as lunches go. They tasted (and were presented) like fast food without the fast food prices.

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Friday Harbor is a cute town, with a population of just over 2,300. (My “Canadian-ness” keeps wanting to spell it, “Friday Harbour,” so I’ll say sorry now in case I do so by mistake.) I wandered up and down the streets, had a coffee at the pier, watched the ships and ferries arrive and depart, and then decided it was time to check out the rest of the island.

Unlike the day before, the clouds had started to roll in and the air felt like rain. But even with inclement weather, the San Juan islands are a beautiful place to visit.

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There were a few spots along the scenic road that took tourists around the island where signs told the history of the island. I wound up stopping to look at a really beautiful bird, actually there were many of this species, when a cyclist pulled up behind me.

“They are cormorants,” he said to me, instantly friendly and kind. “beautiful, but the scourge of the island. It’s illegal to hunt them, or I’d shoot them all.”

This cyclist suddenly turned into a James Bond-ish villain in my eyes as I imagined him huddling down in the bushes waiting for his prey. Apparently, the cormorant (not a native species to the island, according to the cyclist) eats all the fish in the lakes and has no predators.

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My next stop, and at this point it did start raining on and off (pretty heavily on while I was here,) was the Cattle Point Lighthouse. There was a visitor shelter that looked more like a zombie apocalypse bunker, so I hunkered down and stayed dry for awhile.

As I drove around the island, I passed many farms with cattle, horses and llamas. The landscape is quite picturesque and on a nicer day better suited to cycling than driving.

I wound up finding what I thought was another town after about thirty minutes of driving. This surprised me, as I had thought that Friday Harbor was the only town on the island. Turned out it is the only town on the island, I’d just driven the entire circumference and not realized it.

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The rest of that day it rained pretty hard, so I spent it in a cafe writing my thoughts and crafting my stories as I sipped probably another three or four cups of coffee. After that, I headed home.

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If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend Friday Harbor as a place to visit. For the type of get-a-way I enjoy, one day was enough to get a feel for the place and explore what I wanted to explore. But if you wanted a place to just relax by the ocean with an old-town feel, Friday Harbor would make a great longer vacation.

Preparing for Summer Road Trips

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.

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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:

jeep hammock
From Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

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.

Jeep Tent
Jeep Tents at Quadratec
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Jeep Tent

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.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-Birch Bay Edition

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Mission Edition

The one thing about the West Coast is that it tends to rain a lot in the winter months. For people like me, this is preferable than snow (and if it wasn’t, I could always just drive up a mountain and have all the snow I want). This winter has been a mild one, with temperatures often well above zero leaving the weather to feel like spring.

I’ve decided that as long as it isn’t a deluge outside, I’m going to go on a road trip. Today, I chose Historic Downtown Mission BC as my destination. I passed by Stave Lake, and considered stopping but didn’t. I thought I’d pass it on my way back, but my GPS took me in a completely different direction coming home. There was even a point where I was questioning whether or not the GPS was taking me home, or if it were trying to kill me by getting me so lost that I’d never find my way back. Not enough bread crumbs in the whole world. More on that later. The theme song for this dreary day: Where Is My Mind.

Downtown Mission is right beside the train tracks, and is filled with character. There’s a view of the cloud-topped mountains in the distance, and I found quite a few cool buildings to inspire me.

These were a few of the building that were around the museum.

I arrived early to discover that the museum wasn’t open for a couple of hours. (Which is why it’s all gated up.) I did however wander about to see if I’d find what I consider the staples to the small town/village/heritage small town sites. That is, the post office, the church, and the old (usually steam powered) clock. I did find the first two, but a steam clock was no where to be found.

These were the streets that I wandered along. The weather, while cool (plus 9 Celsius) stayed dry.

I came across the Sweet Spot Cafe and decided to give it a shot. It’s a quaint little space with a few tables, and a really nice garden patio that would be a nice thinking spot come summer. The staff was friendly and the atmosphere was relaxing. There was no WiFi, and I kind of liked that. I wound up taking out my notebook and writing for a couple hours while I enjoyed my lunch and waited for the museum to open. I had the savory bacon rosemary waffles, and they were delicious. I highly recommend this place.

Below you will find what I saw in the museum. (I took a photo of a shirt because I still wear ones just like it. If it’s in a museum, does that mean I should update my wardrobe?)

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And second lastly, a few random photos of the local used bookstore, antique shop, and places I thought were cool.

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And of course, the theme song: