Tag Archives: travel

Zombie Apocalypse: Clumsy and Claustrophobic

Ever wonder what authors would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse? For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the answers to that question on my blog…

This week, author Lee Edward Fodi weighs in on his zombie apocalypse survival plan.

What is my best skill in the case of a zombie apocalypse?

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and have tried to imagine what I would do if I was dropped into a scenario of such apocalyptic proportions. It made me think of all the adventures I’ve had that might be comparable. Such an exercise made me realize that I’ve explored a lot of places to do with the dead.

See, when I was a kid I had visions of walking in the footsteps of such intrepid explorers as Indiana Jones, Tintin, or Stryder. I wanted to visit as many tombs, crypts, dungeons, and catacombs as possible.

The good news? I’ve made that happen!

The bad news? Turns out I’m clumsy and claustrophobic. Not exactly the best fit for a world explorer—or survivor of the zombie apocalypse.

There was the time I visited the ancient temple of Kom Ombo in Egypt. Located on the banks of the Nile, it includes a section dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god. There were many crocodile mummies here—so, if you think about it, I’ve actually encountered what is the closest thing to a real zombie. Unfortunately, it was at Kom Ombo where I fell into a giant hole up to my neck.

APOCALYPSE PREDICTION: If we actually set a trap to capture zombies, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the one who plunges into it.

Another time, I was visiting the ancient temple complex of Tikal in Guatemala. You’d recognize these temples from the very first Star Wars movie ever made—they filmed the exterior of the Rebel Base here. They are also the biggest Mayan ruins in Central America, where different rituals and sacrifices were performed. Surely spirits inhabit this place—but, undaunted, I traipsed up incredibly steep staircases, the kind with narrow ledges and no railings and made it to the top of one of the temples where I watched an incredibly gorgeous sunset over the junglescape. The problem was that on the short trek back to our cabin, I got separated from my companions and became lost in the jungle. Howler monkeys screeched at my shoulders and shadows clutched at the meager path before me. Then a giant jaguarundi bounded out of the foliage, right across my way.

APOCALYPSE PREDICTION: If we have to hide from zombies in the wilderness then I’m probably not going to make it. The zombies will find me wandering around, alone and disorientated.

The final episode I want to discuss happened during my honeymoon. My wife and I decided to go to the city of love and romance: Paris. There are many romantic sites in Paris, but one of the first things we did was descend into the underground tunnels known as the catacombs. It’s here where you can see countless bones and skulls, testament to the long and often inglorious history of the city.

I could have easily got lost down there, but we had a guide, so I managed to stay with the group. There we were, creeping through the catacombs, absorbing the eerie atmosphere, when suddenly an alarm began to blare from my coat pocket, right in the middle of one of our guide’s spooky stories. Everyone turned and looked at me and I suddenly became that guy who can’t even turn off his cell phone when he’s on an incredibly cool tour a league beneath the crust of the earth.

I should mention here that I don’t even OWN a cellphone. It was my iPod and no one can call or text me through it. It’s just that I had set my alarm for a different time zone, and now it was shrilling.

APOCALYPSE PREDICTION: It wouldn’t be hard to imagine myself and a group of apocalypse survivors hiding in the root cellar, trying to avoid detection when, at the most inopportune moment, I knock over something or set off some sort of bell to alert the zombies to our location.

. . . So, what is my best skill in case of the zombie apocalypse? I hate to admit it, but probably a decoy. When you think about it, that’s what I do for a living anyway. I tell stories and provide distraction. During the zombie apocalypse, I imagine it would be quite the same.

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Lee Edward Födi is an author, illustrator, and educator—or, as he likes to think of himself, a professional daydreamer. He is the author of several books for children, including The Chronicles of Kendra Kandlestar and The Secret of Zoone, which is coming out with HarperCollins in 2019. In his free time, he’s a traveller, adventurer, and maker of dragon eggs. He especially loves to visit exotic places where he can lose himself in tombs, mazes, castles, and crypts. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and unhelpful cat.

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–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part Three

It’s taken me some time to write this last part of the trip I took over a month ago. As always happens, life gets in the way, time suddenly disappears, and now I’m probably going to write two or three blog posts of all the things happening right now.

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First, Leavenworth, Washington. Travelling to this town in the Cascade Mountains is a little like going to visit Santa’s village. The town is made up to resemble an old Bavarian village, and oftentimes storefronts will play Christmas music even though it was sunny, nearly 35 C, and the beginning of summer.

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One of the reasons I chose to visit Leavenworth was that it fared well as a “dog-friendly” place on the Bring Fido website. When Grinfinn and I arrived, we took a walk around needing first to find the pet store to pick up some supplies.

A Paw Above was friendly and helpful in getting me Grinfinn’s food and a carrier just in case he needed to rest from the heat and all the walking I was planning to do. Just one note here, is that I had opted not to take dog food with me over the border as I had been told by friends that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring it. I have not been able to find any documentation to suggest that is accurate, and in subsequent border trips I have brought dog food with no trouble.

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Once we were set for supplies, the owner of A Paw Above asked if I wanted a list of dog-friendly restaurants for my stay in town. I said yes, and she provided me with one. This came in very handy (and I won’t reproduce the entire list here, as you really should visit her store for the list if you go to Leavenworth.)

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Leavenworth is not a large town for walking, and the main drag was just a few blocks long. If you’re in the mood for shopping, there are plenty of unique shops and for the foodies there are some delicious places to eat. It only took me a few hours to see that part of Leavenworth, but luckily there is more than just shops.

Below is Grinfinn after being served a bowl of fresh water at our first lunch spot. Uncle Uli’s had a large patio area where Grinfinn and I were able to have some shade and a good meal. I had the burger, and Grinfinn had his kibble. And maybe a french fry or two…

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As I noted above, it got very, very hot during the day and Grinfinn tired out quickly. He did enjoy being carried around in the dog-carrier, and on this trip I found that this was a life-saver.

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The second restaurant I tried, also with a dog-friendly patio, was the Icicle Brewing Company. It was so hot at this point, that I asked for a recommendation and the server suggested a plate of cold cuts, cheese and crackers. It was perfect and delicious.

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The temperature had risen to almost +35C that day, and Grinfinn was really needing a break. There was a “ghost town” nearby that I wanted to check out, so we headed out to Trinidad, WA.

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This is all that is left of the original town. And, unfortunately, it was closed until the weekend so I didn’t get to see inside.

But the journey there gave Grinfinn a chance to cool down with the Jeep’s air con, which seemed to make him pretty happy.

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The third day, Grinfinn and I headed back on the road to return home. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that I kept seeing signs in Leavenworth for a “water park,” which I had interpreted to mean one of those parks where kids get sprayed with water and swim in a pool. As always happens, I had taken a wrong turn on my way out and wound up driving past the water park–also called Enchantment Park.

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It was still early in the day, so I pulled into the lot and took Grinfinn for a short walk into the wooded area. We sat and enjoyed the early morning air, and wouldn’t you know it I saw a deer swimming in the water!

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At first I thought she was struggling, but then she climbed onto a sandbar and watched me for awhile. After a little bit of her and I assessing each other, she climbed back into the water and swam towards me.

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I had mentioned in a previous blog post about Zeke’s Drive-in and how I couldn’t get a meal as the server didn’t understand that my VISA required a PIN for it to work. (She just thought it was declining due to lack of credit.) Well, on the way back I made sure to have cash so that I could try their burger and fries.

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Definitely worth the stop as the service is very friendly and the food is great. I do recommend bringing cash if your card requires a PIN. And there is a cat that is very grumpy, a little territorial, and doing just fine so it’s best to just leave it alone.

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This is Angel. The photo is blurry, as that’s as close as I felt comfortable getting.

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Instead of theme music for this blog post, I have a short video of the deer I watched in Enchantment park. It was truly enchanting. (If you listen closely, you can hear Grinfinn grunting.)

James in His Jeep Getting Java–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part Two

The last time I went camping was probably about seven years ago. And when I say “camping,” I mean it in the most liberal sense. This is “car camping,” where you pull into a spot and your entire site is there ready to use. The last time I went actual camping, where I canoed several lakes, portaged between them, and hiked to the camping location, was more like twenty-five years ago.

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I chose the KOA campsite over the State one only because I thought it might be nice to have access to showers. Plus, the prices were about the same, so I wasn’t saving anything by going to a State park. I also liked the idea of having internet access, so that I could blog each day of my journey.

KOA Pine Village was more like a hostel where you stay in a tent instead of a room. There was a general store, washrooms, showers, a coffee shop, a pool, a dog run, a hot tub, and internet access.  I was placed pretty far from both the dog run and the washroom, though I had emailed ahead to request a site next to them (that also overlooked the river). At the time of check in, I should have mentioned my request again, but I was too tired and didn’t feel like it. In retrospect, I will now always be more vocal.

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The dog run area for off leash.

I’ll rate the site out of five stars on a few key points:

(1) Cleanliness. This I would have given them a solid five star. The campsite, including the washrooms, were always kept very clean and were well maintained. However, when I asked about recycling I was told they hadn’t got around to that yet since they’d only been open for two years. Two years! That downgrades them to a three.
(2) Internet. Not always important to people who are car camping, but since I wanted to blog my travels it was for me. The internet (and I was right by the tower) was shoddy at best. On two devices (my Android phone and my iPad) I couldn’t maintain connectivity for longer than a few minutes. The iPad couldn’t stay connected for more than a few seconds. This I give zero stars. It was so bad it was actually not better than nothing.
(3) Staff. Five stars. For the most part, they were kind and polite.

So, they get a 2.6 star rating out of five. To improve, I’d suggest either boosting their internet signal or just not advertising that it’s a service. Plus, get a recycling bin.

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Wenatchee River. Where I should have insisted I be placed.

There was a warning at the site office for wild turkeys, deer, bears, and cougars. The last one was what got my interest, as I have no fear of the other animals. I asked how often they’d had sightings, and was told that they’d actually never seen a bear or a cougar in the area, but because of the proximity to the mountains they were required to give the warning. I asked if she knew what to do if they saw a cougar, and she told me that no, in fact, she didn’t. She seemed shocked when I told her that you don’t run, you actually have to stand and fight it. I’m pretty sure I was labelled the “Crazy Canadian” after that.

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The wild turkeys checked me out every time I left my site.

I did see many turkeys and a few deer. The turkeys enjoyed roaming my campsite, and only mine–they never ventured into anyone else’s. When I was at the site, they stayed off in the bushes and wandered the woods. There was no fear in them of becoming anyone’s dinner.

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Grinfinn discovers that I have the magical power of fire.

The first night I had forgotten to pick up a propane canister for my camp stove and the general store was out of them. Instead, I bought some wood and built a fire, figuring I could boil my water for coffee and oats over that until I was back in the town the next day. This was Grinfinn’s first experience with fire, I assume, as it completely freaked him out.

I tried having him in my lap, but every time the fire popped and sparks flew Grinfinn would want to run as far as possible. Can’t blame him, since his fur is basically an accident waiting to happen. The next day, I made sure to get propane so that I wouldn’t have to build another fire. Grinfinn enjoyed the second night much more than he did the first. Lesson learned.

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The first night it was so hot that I considered removing the fly from the tent to get more of a breeze. That would also erase my privacy, and when you’re car camping you have neighbours that are right beside you. Also on that first night, I started thinking to myself just how many horror movies take place in camps, campgrounds, or camping. Friday the 13th, Blair Witch Project, Sleepaway Camp, Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods

The second night, it was so cold that I was pretty sure my tent was haunted and I needed to perform an exorcision. Unfortunately, without proper internet access, I couldn’t Google how to do that so I just had to suck it up. I tried to get Grinfinn to sleep in my sleeping bag, but he was still hot (fur) so he didn’t want to stay in it with me.

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All in all, it was a good experience and first attempt at camping with Grinfinn. I have a few key things I’d make sure to bring next time (like a blanket just in case the night gets cold), but there wasn’t anything that would stop me from doing that again.

With that, instead of a theme song I thought I’d leave you with some video of Grinfinn fast asleep in the tent. His snores are quite relaxing, and can be very soothing to fal asleep to. Enjoy.

James in His Jeep Getting Java–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part One

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I was awake by four a.m. and up by five. Call it excitement, maybe a little nerves, but this was my first camping trip in seven years and my first with Grinfinn. When I attempted to wake up the boy, he just looked at me, grunted, and resumed his slumber. But if I was up, so was he.

I’d planned this trip for months, originally intending to take ten days on the road to travel down to Oregon, up through Leavenworth, and home through the Okanagan. With Grinfinn, me being unsure how he would manage in a tent, I decided on a much shorter trip of five days on the road just to Leavenworth. If anything went wrong, it was a quick ride back up to Canada.

You can see my preparations for camping with Grinfinn here.

Rather than just chance it, I chose instead to book ahead to make sure I had a spot at the campground. Good thing I did, because the weekend was full and I didn’t get a booking until Monday. That brought my five day trip down to three.

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Grinfinn was absolutely chill sitting in his bed (with his seat belt on and the air bag turned off). Driving over the border (NEXUS lane), I had all his papers ready but wasn’t asked for them (there by US or back by Canada). I did get yelled at by the US Customs Guard for not seeing that he’d put up the red light for me to wait (that NEVER happens in the NEXUS lane).

While I considered stopping in Edison on my way there, I chose instead to just I-5 it down to Everett and jump on the Number 2 highway. I did stop for a rest at the Smokey Point Rest Area just north of Everett where I took a nap and walked Grinfinn (and, of course, I had stopped for my traditional Woods Coffee in Birch Bay).

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Yes, that looks like a shallow grave in the shape of a human body that Grinfinn is sniffing. There was a manicured, beautiful area with picnic tables that dog owners were not allowed to use. Then there was this wild terrain, with weeds and mounds of dirt such as the one in the photo above. That’s where you are relegated to if you have a pooch.

And yes, those are working phone booths!

 

My next stop was Gold Bar, WA, a town of just over two thousand people. It’s quite pretty if you take a drive through the streets, and the main strip on the highway (there’s even bus service to Everett) is right by the railway with the mountains as backdrop. I liked it as it made me feel as though I were back in the Wild West.

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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar
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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar

 

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City of Gold Bar

The weather up to this point was warm but overcast. When I drove into the Cascade Mountains, the clouds disappeared and the temperatures rose to plus 26C.

 

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Took a wrong turn. Got lost.

This would be the first time I’d attempt to get a burger and fries from the roadside stop, Zeke’s Drive In. Unfortunately, I didn’t have cash and the attendant didn’t understand how my chip card worked. (I was told it was declined, but I couldn’t get her to understand that I had to enter in a PIN for it to work. And once declined, she insisted they’d be charge $35 for trying it a second time. Sigh.)

I did stop in on my way home, so expect a proper review in the third instalment.

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.
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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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Cascade Mountains.

 

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There were lots of places to stop and take photos, but after a few I had to just push on and accept that sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment as a fleeting one. It didn’t take long to arrive in Leavenworth, a town modelled after a Bavarian village. (More on the town in the third instalment of this blog series.)

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And since it felt a little like time travel, with small towns not understanding chip cards to phone booths, I felt this song was appropriate to the trip.