James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Muddled Brain

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I’ve been doing a lot of homework lately. As most people who know me know, in September of 2014 I went back to school part time at Langara College to take the Library Technician course. This was a HUGE decision for me that took about five years to fully commit to doing, but once I did my life changed in ways that I have never regretted. However, being that I am nearly done I am now ready for that chapter to be over.

Today I was all set to work on reading a couple of chapters so that I could take my quiz tomorrow and be set and prepared. Instead, I woke with what I call the “muddled brain,” that is a feeling in your head as though you are stuck in a fog of smoke from which you cannot find your way out. Two things occurred to me: (1) I would retain nothing that I read today, and (2) I can do my homework anywhere.

I left my home just after noon, and headed south towards Bellingham to have lunch at one of my favourite spots: the Colophon Cafe. I’ve blogged about them before. My hope was that a drive and change of scenery would refresh my brain and un-muddle my Muddled Brain.

My meal was what will become my usual since I am a creature of habit. A half sandwich, the Turkey Village Club, and a small bowl of clam chowder. That’s a latte just above it. It was delicious and worth the drive.

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The day was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies and all sorts of pleasant scents along the drive. Leaving when I did, being that it’s the autumn season, gave me a different perspective of this drive that I take quite often. The sun shone differently, shadows cast in new ways, and the trees had all begun to change colour.

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A short walk through Bellingham after getting my chapters read at the Colophon Cafe was just what my muddled brain needed. The colours were vibrant, and there was a freshness in the cool breeze that made the warm rays of sunlight seem out of place.

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It was clear that autumn had just begun, and there would be more changes in the green trees as the weeks go by. This will be a trip worth taking several more times to witness these changes.

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As I wandered the streets, I checked the time and decided I needed more of a drive. I wanted to see where else autumn was blooming.

I headed towards the Chuckanut Drive, which I absolutely love to travel. I had set up my camera to video the drive, but unfortunately the camera stopped recording after only a minute and I didn’t get any of the gorgeous bright-coloured trees. I did take a few photos, which you’ll see below.

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At the end of the Chuckanut Drive, I turned right into Edison and was surprised at how busy it was. I didn’t stop there, though, and kept driving towards La Conner. I decided I wanted some dessert from the Calico Cafe, and then I would return home after that.

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When I arrived in La Conner, it was late in the afternoon and the quiet town was closing up shop. The Calico had just closed, and even the chocolate shop wasn’t open. I did find the Waterfront Cafe, which was open until the evening. So I stopped there.

The mud pie was the “chocolate special of the week,” so I had that and a cup of coffee. This was a nice spot right on the water, and by now the afternoon had reached 18C which felt quite warm. The waitress was friendly and told me stories of how the water below us was once used for smuggling, and I asked her if she had ever heard of Fish Town. She said no, and we exchanged tales of the area that each of us had learned. I relaxed for a spell here until my brain was able to enjoy the moment rather than that muddled fog it had found itself in earlier in the day.

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Below are some of the photos I took before heading back for home.

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The drive home was fast, and since it was just after rush hour there were no delays on the highway. When I got home I felt ready for my quiz tomorrow, with a brain that was relaxed and able to retain what it had read earlier in the day.

Not sure what song to offer as the theme, so I’m just going to add one of my favourites. Enjoy!

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–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.

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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.

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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 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: