Tag Archives: road trip

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Arlington, WA Edition

I’m not sure where I was going that day, but like any good road trip I was prepared to find joy anywhere I wound up. I crossed the border from British Columbia to Washington without difficulty, thankful for the sunny day and Grinfinn who seems to just love travelling.

Grinfinn and I took the first turn from I-5 towards Fairhaven, as there’s an Arco on that turnoff with the cheapest gas in Washington. (Usually compares to Costco.) From there, I hit up my favourite lunch place–Avenue Bread and Deli. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to grab a sandwich and sit on a patio with the dog. Grinfinn even made a friend.

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One of the nice things about this place is that it’s slightly off the main road in Fairhaven, so there’s usually parking there even when the town is really busy. From there, it’s a nice walk to Village Books and Rocket Donuts. You can read more about Fairhaven here.

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The turkey club with house-made chips and a latte. My comfort meal for the road. Just look at that pickle. LOOK AT IT!!
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Grinfinn’s happy place — under the chair beneath me.

From there I drove the I-5 south, though I wasn’t totally sure where I was headed. I turned my GPS off and just took a few turns until I realized I was pretty turned around. I saw signs for “Arlington,” and decided I’d check it out and see what it was like. Glad I did.

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Arlington has about 20 thousand people, and is a pretty place with a strong artistic feel. I took Grinfinn for a walk, and found Legion Memorial Park and an art walk. Cool sculptures along a walkway on a nice day was just what I needed.

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There was also an old train station/now visitor information center. I still had a coffee from Avenue Bread, so I parked myself here for an hour and just watched the people as they milled about. Cyclists travelling across the state, families having picnics, and other tourists discovering the park. Grinfinn and I were in bliss.

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I knew I was close to La Connor, and so I decided to pass through there on my way back to Canada. Without turning on my GPS I started to drive in the direction that I was pretty sure La Connor was in, and wound up somewhere that felt like another world.

I found this home with art and sculptures and what looks like junk but is probably treasure and had to take a few photos.

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I got back on the road and headed towards what I thought must be La Connor. The day was getting very hot, and the sun was really starting to beat down. I came upon a roadside farmer’s market in the middle of nothing but farms, and I pulled over to check it out. I’m glad I did, because they had the best house-made ice cream.

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Just in case you’re wondering, I made it to La Connor. I did wind up consulting the GPS and it pointed me in the right direction. I wasn’t too far off, but I never would have found it had I not checked where I was.

In La Connor, I ended my day in a new cafe that had just opened under new management. It had a backyard with lawn chairs and very friendly staff. I can’t recall the name of it now, but when I find it I’ll update the blog.

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Al in all, that was a perfect trip. No destination, all day for travel, a dog by my side, and the discovery of a few great spots for coffee, ice cream, and relaxation.

The song that goes through my head as I write this post is by The Cars – MAGIC. Enjoy!

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.

James in his Jeep Getting Java – the Zombie Edition

Fairhaven, Bellingham WA, USA

You might be wondering why I chose to call this post “the zombie edition.” Well, the truth is the zombie apocalypse has been on my mind a lot lately. Not out of concern or fear that it may actually happen, but just out of that sheer human fascination of what people would do in that situation. It may be because I just binge read Walking Dead issues 19 to 23, or because I’m trying to decide the fate of a finished novel about zombies that is having a hard time landing a publishing home.

One of the best ways to clear my head, is to go on a road trip. Just pack up my thoughts, put them on the back burner, and get on the open road. Today, I decided to head down to Burlington to a restaurant I had heard about online. Bear with me as I relate most of what happened today to a zombie apocalypse, since that’s what I was thinking about all day.

Below you can see the line up of vehicles to get into the States, which took me about an hour. I watched as the Nexus line zoomed through–thinking how much nicer it will be once I have my Nexus pass. My interview is on Friday.

Whenever I’m on a road trip and my GPS tells me to “turn around when possible”, I know I’m in for a treat. It means I’ve accidentally gone the wrong way (yes, even with the GPS guidance) and I could wind up anywhere. In this case, I drove through farmland on my way back to the I-5, where I saw many derelict barns and old farm houses. “If this were a zombie movie,” I thought as I drove down that deserted road, “I would be accosted by a zombie horde right here and would be forced to take refuge in one of those barns for an ultimate showdown.”

Well, eventually I made it to Burlington–which most probably know of by its outlet stores. I stayed clear of the outlet mall (low Canadian dollar, and who wants to be near a busy shopping centre when the zombie apocalypse is on your mind?) and ventured into the town to see its historic downtown. It’s a town of 8500 people, and quite picturesque. Once again I got lost, and my GPS went crazy giving me alternate routes to put me back on track. I kept missing the turnoffs, and I’m pretty sure at one point the GPS said, “For the love of Pete…” Anyway, while I was trying to figure out how to get back on track I found this home with the most amazing welding art. This guy is totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse, and would make an interesting character in a novel. Not that I met him in real life, but my imaginary version of the artist was pretty cool.

Eventually, I found the historic downtown and it was filled with these great old character buildings. The streets were quiet, which fit with the theme of my thoughts and I spent quite some time just wandering the area taking in the atmosphere.

Look at this truck and tell me it doesn’t SCREAM zombie apocalypse.

Birmingham, WA, USA.

Possible zombie escape truck.

Eventually, I found the restaurant that I had gone to Burlington to try. It was beside the railroad tracks, and was a pub called, the Train Wreck Bar. Being that it was a bar RIGHT BESIDE the train tracks, I do have to tip my hat to their faith in human nature. Especially drunk human nature.

It was a bustling place and I managed to get one of the few tables still available. By this point, it was nearly 15C and very sunny, and that most of the place was in the dark made it not ideal for the sunshine depraved. However, I managed to sit right where you see the front window and was basked in glorious sunshine.*

*in a zombie apocalypse, however, you will want to be seated as far back in the bar as possible. Just saying.

When I go to a restaurant, I judge what I’m going to give as a tip based on two things. The quality of the meal, and the quality of the service. This place gets five stars (out of five) for both. The food was amazing, and came fairly quickly. I had the elk burger and onion rings, and kind of wished my stomach was bigger so that I could have had seconds. (Of course, if I had had seconds, my stomach might have gotten bigger.) And the servers were friendly, cheerful, and never let my glass (of water) reach empty.

Just a side-note here. Whenever I’m in the States and I see a room filled with people, all I can think about as a Canadian is how many of them don’t have health care. I went to the States once and had forgotten to get travel insurance, and I was scared to death the entire day that I was going to get hurt and wind up in the hospital.

I decided to return home via the Chuckanut Drive, which is an amazing route along the ocean. Along the way I found a few places for hikes and a cafe that is on the list of places to spend the day.

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I still had some time left, so I stopped in at the train station in Fairhaven (in Bellingham, WA) where they have a pretty cute little coffee shop. Now, by this point, this was actually my second place for coffee. Stay tuned.

In the photo below, that school bus was directly across from the Coffee Junction. Tell me that doesn’t SCREAM zombie apocalypse story. (It does. Trust me.)

I won’t go into detail about Fairhaven (save it for another post) but I will mention that I stopped in at Rocket Donuts, featured below, for both a donut and another cup of coffee. This was my third–but in my defense, the first was a cappuccino, the second a latte, and this was just plain coffee. Not the same at all, and completely justified.

The theme song of the road trip. Of course. Even if it isn’t actually about zombies. And what decisions did I make about my zombie book that is following me around like one of the walking dead (no copyright infringement intended)? No idea. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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.

 

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: