Cancer, Camping, and Cool Tunes

Depending on how well you know me, you may be aware that when I was ten I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the third stage. (Actually, I’m pretty open about it to whomever I speak–even to the point of joking about it. So chances are if you’ve met me even in passing you know this about me.) Six months before I was diagnosed, the doctors thought it was mono, and so it spread from my neck to my shoulder, spleen, and the lymph nodes by the spleen. Long story short, the photo below is me at ten after six months of chemo and just before my radiation. (Yes, I kept all my hair. I was not as fortunate as I got older, but it’s hard to complain about such things when statistically I shouldn’t even be alive.)

 

b Mud Island Trip (4)

Mud Island, Memphis, TN. 1982.

This was the first extended road trip I had ever taken with my family. For three weeks, my sister, mother, uncle, and I all journeyed from Winnipeg to Disney World in Florida. We travelled in that yellow (or green, depending on whom you asked) VW camper van and stayed in campgrounds. Even then I knew we were on that road trip because there was more than a fifty percent chance it was going to be my last. We were making memories that my sister, mom, and uncle could have of me for the rest of their lives.

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c. 1982

I obviously survived, and have remained healthy for the last three and a half decades. After that trip, my uncle took me on many other road trips. New York, Drumheller, and countless camping expeditions. At a time in my life when I had no male role model, he was the one that taught me how to appreciate life. I was pretty lucky to have had an uncle who was that interested in having me with him on his journeys.

 

a New York Trip

This would have been while I was in grade five or six. c. 1983/84. That’s when I was obsessed with that hat — and I had no idea it was for a sports team.

California trip (2)

This would have been from our trip to California when I was thirteen or fourteen. c.1985/86

That time in my life had a big impact on me. As an adult, I road trip because of the appreciation I was taught as a kid. Up until now, my trips have been day trips or overnight stays in hotels. Now that summer is here, I’m planning on rekindling my fond memories with campgrounds. You’ll notice in my tent, beside my sleeping bag, is a dog bed.

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Now that I have Grinfinn, I want to include him in as many trips as I can. So this week as I head to Leavenworth, WA, we’ll be camping for a few nights together. Leavenworth rates well being dog-friendly, so I plan to test this out.

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Prior to the trip, I set up the tent in my living room and let Grinfinn jump in and out of it to get used to it. He seems to like it, and I suspect that as long as I’m there beside him he’ll think it’s the time of his life.

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If all goes well, we’ll take a further trip to the ghost town Trinidad (Washington) and Quincy for a look. All the while, I’ll keep a blog of the best dog-friendly places to visit!

Hard to believe that this is a tradition I keep up from all those trips my uncle took me on while I was growing up. Uncle Les, thanks for passing that on to me!

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Grinfinn and I at Terra Nova Rural Park. I’m still alive, road tripping and enjoying life! 2017.

My theme song for this post is just a really cool version of John Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” not for the lyrics but for the road-trip worthiness of the tune.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Port Townsend

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Did I ever tell you about the time I stayed in a haunted hotel and time travelled to Victorian era America? True story.

March 31st I had decided to take a roadtrip to Port Townsend and found a hotel online that looks like a castle. The Manrea Castle in Port Townsend has quite a history,  even claiming to be haunted according to one website. It seemed like the ideal place to stay for a writer.

I took the Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham towards Whidby Island, passing through one of my favourite places for lunch: Edison. The Slough had been closed my last few stops (the owner takes a well-deserved vacation) but this time it was open. I always have their soup of the day and grilled cheese sandwich as it never disappoints.

I can’t say that I wasn’t warned to book ahead for the ferry. Not only was it on the hotel’s website, but there are a million signs posted along the highway telling you to book ahead. I didn’t listen, because I figured it couldn’t possibly be that busy on a Friday afternoon. It can, and it was.

I arrived at 2pm and was told if I wanted to wait I might make it onto the 6:30pm ferry. My other option was to book for the 6:30pm ferry, leave for a few hours, then return. My thought process: I had some writing to do, there was a cafe there, and really a few hours was no big deal. Reality: A few hours is a really long time.

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Keystone Cafe was good for what it was: a cafe by the ferry. If there were choices, it would not win out. However, they did have ice cream so that was good. I spent the afternoon writing for a few hours, thinking, took a nap, ate some ice cream, drank way too much coffee (like there’s a such thing), watched two ferries arrive and leave without me (the 2:30pm and 4:30pm ferries), and finally the 6:30 ferry arrived. I was the final vehicle to make it onto the ferry. Barely. At that point, I think the ferry staff actually felt sorry for me because I was the only one being polite with them and not shouting curses.

Port Townsend is a very beautiful place. It wasn’t my first time here, but it was my first time to spend time exploring the city. I had passed through before on my way to Forks a few years ago.

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As I had arrived late in the evening, there wasn’t much open so I went straight to the castle and checked into my room. At this point, I hadn’t read any of the lore regarding the haunting, but later that night I would swear to hearing footsteps on the ceiling where there should have only been an attic. As well, that night I had one of the worst allergy attacks of my days that could only have been brought on by a ghostly spirit (or the gorgeous flower gardens in bloom around the castle).

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As a place to stay, I’d recommend Manrea Castle. It was comfortable and reasonably priced. However, because my room had a window on my door light from the hallway kept my room from getting dark enough to let me sleep. I did mention that to staff, but you may want to make sure they’ve corrected it before you book. And book ahead for the ferry. Just trust me on that.`

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And apparently I time travelled. The next day there were people wandering the streets dressed in Victorian-era garb, which I would learn later was because of a Victorian Festival that happens every year. These were the townspeople and not actors just out enjoying the amazing place they call home. (I learned this after asking a few people if I could take photos, and one couple asking me, “You know we all live here, we’re not actors or anything, right?” No. No I did not.)

I ventured over to Point Wilson Lighthouse, which has an interesting history from when it was a working lighthouse. The lighthouse is in Fort Worden Park, which itself was a beautiful, pleasant walk. The day was sunny, and warm — and in one of the photos below, you can see the glimpse of an otter scampering from the lighthouse through the rocks to the ocean.

I found an old bunker that looked to me like the scene from a zombie apocalypse. Blame my fascination on zombies for that, and probably the book I wrote on the zombie apocalypse.

As road trips go, Port Townsend is one I will do again. It has an interesting history, a friendly town, cool architecture, and next time I’ll make sure to plan to attend the festival.

My theme song for this trip is Clannad’s Robin Hood even though Robin Hood was medieval and not Victorian.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-SureFyre Farms

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As a writer I like to have as many unique experiences as I can so that when I’m working on a project, I can draw from a vast pool of ideas. A new member to my Dungeons and Dragons group mentioned that she lives on a farm, SureFyre Farms, and teaches equestrian horse riding, and so I thought it would be fun to take a lesson.

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The road from Vancouver to Squamish is a beautiful one, and SureFyre Farms is actually just past Squamish. While the drive took some time to get there, the day was mostly sunny and quite warm.

I took my time getting there and just enjoyed the scenery. In fact, I made mental note of several places that I’ll return to this summer to spend a day. That area of BC is ripe with gorgeous landscapes, mountain views, and wildlife galore.

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When I arrived at the farm, I was greeted by Gabrielle who was my instructor for the day. (And, just in case you wonder how I did, I was told that when I get it right I do so 100%–but when I get it wrong, I get it wrong 100%, too. Funny enough, that’s what my tae kwon do instructor also used to tell me!)

The farm is a picturesque landscape of ten acres and bustling with activity. They have borders who are there riding and caring for their horses, and everyone was friendly and cheerful.

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Garbriel introduced me to Ghost, a very calm horse that she broke herself. She is a very knowledgeable and patient instructor and, considering this was my first time riding in probably seven years, Gabriel made me feel at ease.

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The day was fun and the hour lesson went by fast. If you’re ever looking for a place to learn equestrian horse riding I recommend SureFyre Farms as a place to check out.

Be careful on your way out, however, as you may (as I did) see moose crossing the road.

SD73 YAC Conference May 5th!

I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.

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Preparing for Summer Road Trips

This past weekend I decided to take a trip south to Washington. I went to Lynden, which is a favourite place of mine to visit when I need to think. There’s lots going on in my life these days, and sometimes being on the road hearing only the quiet of my own thoughts is the best medicine.

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I have a couple of big road trips coming up in the next few months. Plus, with the impending nicer weather approaching (at least this is what I hope is happening) I’ll soon be able to stay places overnight for weekend trips. It’s a bittersweet thought that I am no longer unable to stay away from home for more than a few hours.

I’ve been considering tenting as a means of travel. I could keep one in the back of my Jeep and just take it out whenever needed. But then I came across this on Pinterest:

The hammock is kind of an ingenious idea, and after doing some research I discovered that quite a few people do this with their Jeeps. It would save a lot of room not having to have a tent, plus a hammock would be much easier to care for. (Especially if it is raining. No need to have a wet tent rolled up that could possibly still be wet the next night on longer road trips.)

I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but before investing in a hammock I may try stringing  a bed sheet of the same size across my rollbar to get a better idea of just how cramped this is. My head would be pretty close to the roof, but would that really matter? If it looks feasible, I’ll give it a try on a couple shorter road trips before my longer ones.

There are also these cool Jeep tents that I think I’d go for if I had a hard top. The first one, from what I’ve read, requires a few installations for the frame you see surrounding the body of the Jeep. That might make taking the soft top off a little difficult.

The bottom one is more feasible, but looks like it would take up a lot of space once put away. Plus, as I have a soft top, my lock box takes up the trunk and so I can’t imagine needing (or wanting) access to my Jeep once the tent is up. These are great ideas if I had the Jeeps pictured. But I don’t.

Do you have any ideas? Suggestions? Do you own a 2-door soft top and have tried the hammock? Let me know. This weekend when I experiment I’ll let you know what I think.

Western Canada Road Trip – 1997

In 1997 I was 25 and living in Vancouver for the first time. Unsure with the direction of my life, I decided to spend a few weeks on the road to clear my head and plan. This was the first big road trip I had ever taken on my own.

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I owned a 68 VW Beetle, and drove it from Vancouver to Kelowna; to Banff, Alberta to Jasper to somewhere near Edmonton (don’t remember where) to Drumheller; to Battleford, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg (and then back again).

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In Kelowna, Westbank to be more specific, I visited my grandparents’ old home that they had sold almost a decade earlier. It wasn’t yellow anymore and the woods behind it had been cleared, but it brought back many memories of my grandfather taking my sister and I fishing on the Okanagan Lake.

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That trip I visited the Westbank museum, where I met a friend whose name I no longer remember. She introduced me to iced coffee, and we were friends for a few years. Wonder what ever happened to her.

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After that, I headed over to Lake Louise and then Banff. This was me somewhere in that area. That jean jacket was way too baggy on me.

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The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper is a gorgeous one with bodies of water that are icy blue or very green. This was one of the many moose I saw along the way.

My most memorable time in Jasper was in the campground after it had rained pretty heavily. I arrived and set up my tent —  absolutely famished. Unfortunately, my stove had stopped working, I had lost my can opener (and only had canned food), plus the firewood was soaking wet. It was going to be a long night with no food and no camp fire.

Suddenly, a guy from the campsite next to me walked over and threw down several cut pieces of dry wood. He then placed a can opener on my picnic table, and muttered, “We have a generator if you want to plug in.” Then he walked away back to his wife and kids.

Because of that act of kindness, I had warmth and food that night. Plus, I always remember that moment as one of the fondest of my trip.

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I spent a couple days in Drumheller, exploring the museum and the valley. Two days was not enough and I have always wanted to go back. If you love dinosaurs, this is the best place to visit.

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I’m pretty sure this photo was taken in Drumheller. I lived in this tent for almost four weeks and loved every moment.

That trip was the first I ever took on my own, and it was amazing. People would drive off the highway and follow me when I pulled over for gas or to rest at road stops. They’d tell me stories of when they were my age (and it was actually 1968) and they drove their Beetles on road trips. I wish I had known how amazing those stories were and had taken the time to write them down. But I thought I would just remember them forever and ever.

To help spark memories, I leave you with the theme song of one of my favourite TV series from 1990-2000.

Road Tripping, Valentine’s Day, and Snow

The time is nigh. The sun has been out all day today, and the snow is now a faint memory of yesteryear (or yesterweek?). That leaves my mind thinking about the places I may want to point my Jeep this year as I again attempt a road trip every weekend.

Last year out of 26 weekends between March and August I believe I had made 16 road trips. You can see my summary of those trips here. This year, I have a few destinations in mind. More on that in another post.

I started thinking about road trips on of all days, Valentine’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny day and I headed to Grouse Mountain for the evening. (Was this the first road trip of the season?)

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The gondola ride up the mountain was quick and not too scary–if you’re like me and a little terrified-in-the-extreme of heights. I went at sunset, which made it a really gorgeous time of day to see the mountain. There was lots of snow, and I had a touch of a cold, so I was worried about it being freezing up at the top. But it was ten degrees and quite nice.

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There’s lots to do on Grouse Mountain, even if you don’t go to skate, ski, snowboard or snowshoe. What I do recommend, is to not forget your winter boots in your vehicle like I did, which made going for a walk on the path absolutely impossible. I tried, but it was clear after a few feet that I was probably going to slip and kill myself. Since that would put a damper on my day, I opted for something a little less dangerous than a walk.

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The sleigh ride is pretty fun, even if it is pulled by a snowplough and not a horse. I suggest sitting in the back, so you are well away from any fumes. Below you can see the photos I took from the sleigh.

Next trip to Grouse Mountain, I would definitely prepare for a snowshoe walk through the paths. Dress a little better for it, and maybe get there earlier in the afternoon. However, since I had booked a table at the Observatory Restaurant I was dressed for dinner out.

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The meal was fantastic, and the cost of the gondola is put towards the purchase of your meal. So, if you are going up the mountain for the day (and don’t have a ski pass) it’s worth it to get yourself a really decent meal at the restaurant. I had the tenderloin, and my date had the pork. After tasting the pork, I have to say that I think her meal was better than mine (which is not to say the tenderloin wasn’t good. It was amazing!). For dessert, on recommendation, we shared the carrot cake which was unbelievably good. (It didn’t last long enough for a photo.)

All in all, this place is highly recommended.