Rules of the Road (Trip).

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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–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 – Lynden, WA

Travel is much like music. If you go to a specific spot with the same person over and over again, you will associate that spot with that person. If that person is no longer in your life, it may hurt too much to go there (or hear that song as it may be) as it reminds you of when times were good with them. Sometimes, when we have enough distance from the part of the relationship that became bad, we can remember the parts that were good without the baggage attached to it. And today, that’s what I did. I took a road trip that I had taken with my ex many, many times, for the first time alone. And I feel so much better for it. My theme song for this trip is Edge of a Broken Heart, by Vixen.

First, some background. Some years ago, I was listening to a radio show where a psychiatrist was talking about relationships (okay, it was actually the pilot episode of the TV show Fraser Crane) where the talk show host, well, Fraser Crane, mentioned that in a break-up it isn’t the person we miss but the traditions the couple had created while together.

I’ve only ever had one relationship end where I felt sadness and regret rather than relief and joy. My first instinct was to bury the memories, forget the relationship, and move on. Truth is, she and I were not very kind to one another the last few months we were together. However, having some years pass has taught me that the break-up needed to happen in order for her and I to live the lives that would ultimately make us happy. She’s doing what she loves, and so am I. But neither of us would be if we had stayed together.¬† That would have been a tragedy. I’ve also learned that when you’ve spent a significant amount of time with someone, and most of that time was great, it doesn’t make sense to forget it.

If Fraser Crane was right and what makes us sad is the loss of the traditions, then it seems to me that to stay happy we must continue those traditions we miss. (And yes, I do realize I am taking advice from a fictional psychiatrist.) One of my favourite traditions that I did with my ex-significant other, was to travel to small towns and discover cool cafes or shops or parks or people. (Thus, my goal to road trip every weekend.) For the first year and a half after the break-up, I couldn’t travel anymore without getting solemn. Last year I broke the travel-fast and took a few trips, but each time I did it was with the ghost of relationship past in the passenger seat next to me.

Welcome to a special episode of James in His Jeep Getting Java – the healing edition where I travel to Lynden, WA, a town of just under 13 thousand. It was originally a dutch settlement, and still clings to much of its roots.

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The road there is picturesque with farms and tree-lined roads. No matter the season, it’s breathtaking. This time a farmer was burning stuff. It was a HUGE pyre the size of his barn, in the middle of his field. I’d forgotten to take my good camera, so all photos were taken with an iPhone 4S (terrible camera) and I couldn’t quite capture the majesty of it.

A few of my favourite places to visit here are the local shops, starting with the mall attached to the inn with the awesome windmill. The Dutch Village Inn is attached to a quaint indoors mall with shops and apparently a theatre plays there in the summer.

The first few times I’d been to Lynden, Heroes Resources was tiny and was never open when I was there. Then one fateful day in 2012, lo and behold it was open and I was able to check it out. I bought a “Dr. Who meets Star Trek Deep Space Nine” comic for my pals Sarah and Rob. Now, four years later, it’s bustling with activity and is twice the space. The staff were friendly (not pushy at all) and they even gave me the number of a local (to Lynden) guy that makes custom chain mail armour. They have game rooms where people of all ages were playing Magic: the Gathering, and by eavesdropping on customer queries¬† it was obvious that the staff are very knowledgeable of the gaming world. When the Canadian dollar rises, they will be taking some of my money.

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Heroes Resource

Lynden has public restrooms. This may seem like a silly thing to consider a favourite place, but when you are travelling it is important to have a clean, well cared for place to do your business. Bravo, Lynden.

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The restrooms

Below is the Lynden Pioneer Museum, which has three levels. It’s filled with thousands (I think the curator said 50 thousand) artefacts (and the library tech in me marvelled at what it would take to catalogue and track them all). The first floor is the town’s history, the basement is filled with buggies, and the third has a replication of the original downtown Lynden. This was my first time in here.

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My first java stop was the Lynden Dutch Bakery. They are a bustling bakery that serves light meals as well as baked goods. I had a breakfast sandwich and cappuccino. In times past when I came here, it was for their apple pies. Later in the day I had returned for said pie, but they were so busy (it had started drizzling) that I chose to save it for next time. This is my favourite spot, but be warned: if you need WiFi, theirs is spotty and hardly operational. (Thus, I had to choose a second place on my trip to check in on my school work.) Take a book, or better yet bring someone to chat with.

But do try them out. Their staff is friendly, and it’s kind of amazing to watch the locals greet one another. Such a nice community!

A few random photos below. I did find a post office, a library, and a museum — but no clock. Every hour I heard clock chimes, so I’m convinced there must be a clock there. However, I could not find one.

Below is Lynden City Park, which during the winter kind of reminded me of a spooky zombieapocalypse movie. (So, yes, I thought it was cool.) I’m betting in the summer when everything blooms, it’s a great place to walk. And when it warms up, I’ll let you know. The play area for kids looks amazing. It’s a replica of a town!

On my way home, I stopped in at Woods Coffee House for one last java and to use their WiFi. While there I bought a growler of coffee (which I’d only ever heard of in legend through friends) and decided to take that home with me. It was a nice souvenir of the day.

 

And that was my day in Lynden. Considering how many times I had attempted to return there, only to change my mind at the last minute, I must say that I am glad I went. Fraser Crane is a wise man, and he was indeed correct when he stated that what we feel sadness for are the rituals that we have lost. Today I reclaimed a ritual that I had lost, and now I feel as though I can remember a significant relationship for its good times, instead of the final few months where it fell apart. Travel heals.