James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Muddled Brain


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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




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!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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-the La Conner Edition


Last week I had another nice day, so I decided to take a trip down to La Conner, WA. Truth is, I’ve been feeling a little stressed from work, school, and Life Responsibilities (good stress though-just the normal “there’s a lot of it at the moment” stress) and needed a chance to recharge.

So, I’m heading for the border with my new-ish NEXUS pass that I’ve only used once so far. There are two lanes open, so I choose the right-hand lane. At that moment, two border guards emerge and wave at me to change lanes. Immediately I think, “Wow, a new lane is opening and I get to be first. What nice people!” One guard approaches my window while the second stays behind him with his hand on his gun.

“Turn off your ignition, put it in park, and unlock the vehicle for me.”

Apparently, being a single guy in a Jeep with a NEXUS pass travelling on a weekday morning sets off alarms of some sort. Thankfully, the search didn’t take very long and I managed to get through the border without becoming a statistic.

On the way to La Conner, well, pretty much any time I drive over the border I visit Woods Coffee at Birch Bay. It’s a friendly coffee house with great coffee and if you get the growler made with cold brewed coffee it’s fantastic.

La Conner is a small town with a population of just over 900 people. The buildings are wood panelled, and give this feeling of stepping back through time into the Old West. I was immediately struck with a sense of calm, and there was a boardwalk along the water that overlooked Fidalgo Island. That’s where I headed first.

The song I chose for this week’s theme encapsulates the mood that overcame me when I was in La Conner. My advice: skip to the end, play the song, then read the rest of the blog.


I met a couple on the same walk who said good morning to me, and so I of course said it back and smiled. They were an American Indian couple, Sue and Vernon I would learn, and they told me that once a year many tribes canoe to the spot on Fidalgo Island that I was looking at to celebrate together. Each year a different tribe hosts. It was clear by the way they spoke that this was a big deal to them, and so I listened as they told me their stories. After they finished, I thanked them for stopping to chat with me, introduced myself (learned their names) and we parted ways.


Fidalgo Island, where the American Indians meet annually.

As I wandered the town for the rest of the day, I thought about my reasons for why I road trip. (Yes, I use it as a verb.) There’s a history to these places I visit, and each person I encounter has a story to tell. And that’s the thing right there-people want to tell their stories. All it takes to open them up is to listen and hear them. We miss so much in our busyness and go-go-go lifestyle that the simple tales of lives we encounter briefly go missed. Then we return home, turn on Netflix, and fill our heads with made up tales. (Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I love my TV series, but that doesn’t have to be the only stories.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One thing I learned that day, is that just south of La Conner is another place called Fish Town. At one time, in the 60s and 70s, it was an artist colony that was off-grid and people flocked to in order to escape the busyness of city life so they could concentrate on becoming an artist. Here’s a fascinating documentary on it.

It’s only a 15 minute drive to the end of the road that leads to the walkway to what used to be Fish Town. I am terribly fascinated by this, and really want to see it for myself. What’s left? What is the area like? What drove these people to forgo the amenities of civilization to live off-grid and commune with one another?

The two things that are stopping me from going are:
(1) My penchant for getting lost. See that dotted line above? I’m pretty sure mine would wind up looking like an old Family Circus cartoon.
(2) I’ve seen the Blair Witch Project. No way am I going to wind up venturing into what I think is an abandoned fishing shack only to discover body parts in jars in its basement.

I do plan on returning to the area. This month the daffodils were in bloom, while next month are the tulips. I leave you with a few more photos, and the song that played as the theme.