Tag Archives: travel

James in his Jeep Getting Java – Langley, WA Edition

This is going to be a classic edition of the blog, as these photos are from the several trips I took last year driving down to Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island. While there are many small towns along the way to visit, and I’ve been to almost all of them, today I’m going to focus on Langley as that was where I spent the most time.

First, the Jeep. It’s a 2014 Wrangler, and this is what it looks like those few times when it’s clean. Always good to start the road trip with a clean vehicle, and end with it dirty. Last spring when I made all my road trips to Langley, I was fortunate to have sunny skies and hot weather. So I drove with the top down the entire way playing classic rock on the stereo. The soundtrack song for these trips is Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar On Me.


The drive through Deception Pass is stunning. Every time I drive over it, I have to stop to marvel at the view. There are trails for hiking, if you’re into that sort of thing, but if you’re more like me you can still get a good look at seals playing in the water or eagles hunting along the shore. Amazing.




Along this particular road, I drove through Oak Harbor and Coupville, both of which I stopped and spent some time in. More on them another time. Langley, WA (not to be confused with Langley, Canada, which is another great place,) is a quaint little place on the water that reminds me of Steveston.




There’s lots to do in this town. There are three bookstores to choose from for one thing. Kids Books & Puppets pairs up a great book and puppet for your little one, Gregor Rare Books specializes in rare books, and Through the Reading Glass has a plethora of used books to suit whatever your taste.





But a road trip just wouldn’t be a road trip without a great place to get a cup of Java. Here’s where things get strange – the best place to sit and have coffee in this village actually only makes tea! It’s true! Kalakala Mercantile does make a tea that tastes like coffee, but it isn’t coffee. It is, however, darn good. This friendly spot is the kind of place that you can walk into, and have a conversation with the employees whereby you tell them what flavours you like and they will suggest a tea for you. So far, I have had a dozen teas from them and they have been spot on each time.


The photo of me in what I think is a red shirt but probably isn’t was taken one sunny afternoon when I was sitting on the tea house’s patio and I met the woman who is in charge of the town fair. As we sat chatting, she introduced me to everyone who passed by us and I wound up having this amazing afternoon of unexpected shared stories. I loved it!



The best lunch spot in town is the Useless Bay Coffee Co. They have indoor seating, and a HUGE outdoor patio. Their burgers are yummy, and I even quite liked the American Iced Tea (for those of you who don’t know, Canadian Iced Tea is mostly sugar). I return to this spot every time I’m in Langley.

There’s also a great spot to walk along the water and sit for awhile on a bench. And if you see a whale, there’s a bell to ring so the whole town can know and rush to see.




The theme song:

James in his Jeep Getting Java – Deep Cove

In this episode of James in his Jeep getting Java, I took a road trip to Deep Cove. It’s unseasonably warm (+8C when I was there, +11C in some parts as I drove home) and very misty in the mountains. A song of note that played on the radio was “Magic” by the Cars, the only song that played that I listened to in its entirety. (See video at end of blog post.)

One of the things I keep in mind when going on a road trip, is that the destination is not what is important. Truth is, I had a much different trip planned for today, but due to circumstances I had to change those plans. Change is good. Change is okay. After all, what makes a good road trip are the places you see along the way. Where you go is just a place to point your vehicle, it is not the most important part of the trip.

First, Deep Cove. This is a great place if you like mountain trails and hiking, which I do not. It is quite scenic just walking along the shore, even on a day like today when the fog has rolled in over much of the view. I enjoy leisure, and walks that don’t require a lot of work where my focus becomes, “Oh my word, I have to do this intense trail AGAIN to get out of here.” Thankfully, I have friends who do enjoy that sort of thing so I get to enjoy the photos of the places they venture to see.

The way I like to travel is this:

I walked out onto the dock to get a good shot of the view, and was told by a family that there were jellyfish in the water. I attempted to get a picture of them, but they were so clear that they never showed up in any of the shots I took.

So, this is Deep Cove. Incidentally, this is where the TV series Cedar Cove is filmed. It’s an amazing place, so I can see why they chose it.

Here we have a view of the street, and the cafe that I sat in for part of my morning. It was very, very busy both inside and out. I assumed that doughnuts were their specialty, so I had a chocolate one with my cappuccino. The doughnut was okay, but it was the drink that was exceptional. There was no wi-fi so I wound up writing in my notebook – not such a bad thing. The conversations around me varied from languages I couldn’t understand, to tourists discussing everything they’d seen, to local moms comparing babytime programs. (I came close to suggesting they make the trip to Richmond Public Library for our babytime. I didn’t.)

This was a great day, but being that it was so misty I didn’t feel much up to walking about any more than I had. of course, as I drove off, the fog began to lift. This gave me an opportunity to check out a park I had passed on the way there, Cates Park.


I loved this place more than I did Deep Cove. As I meandered about along the beach, I thought about how great it would be to take my nephew here for swimming the next time he visits, or meet my Scooby Gang here for a picnic (but we’re adults, with adult schedules, so that’s unlikely to happen), or in the spring when it warms up to bring Conan here for a walk.

I spent a good portion of my morning sitting on a bench, enjoying the water and sun and people and Nature RX.

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Best of all, come summer time, there’s even a burger place at this beach to check out! All in all, this was an amazing road trip – though it was not the one I had planned. But as people¬†sometimes say, though it was not the one I had planned it turned out to be the one I needed.


And in case you want to hear the theme song for this trip, here it is:


My Hobby

Last June, I had to update my resume. Under “hobbies,” I was stuck for what to write. What are my hobbies? Besides my Netflix addiction, what was I doing with my spare time (when I had spare time)?

In 2007 I wrote a blog post about what happens when your hobby becomes your job. Writing had been my hobby since I was in high school, and once it became employment it no longer felt relaxing to create stories and to let my imagination run wild. It felt like work.

2016 is going to be about figuring out what my hobbies are – one of them, I’ve accepted, is discovering cafes in small towns. I love small towns! Even more, I love finding small towns that are now within the borders of what have become bigger towns. So, today I am going to feature Ladner Village, British Columbia.

First stop was the Ladner Museum, a cool old-looking building that was closed today. Definitely means a trip back on a day that it’s open.

This is a good shot of why I like small towns. I love the character of them, and that most businesses tend to be owned by independent people. Locals shop here, as do visitors, and that’s what keeps these small towns alive.


Every small town has one of these. An old clock somewhere in their village. Funny that as I type this “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News is playing in the cafe where I’m seated.


And the small town Church. Again, a staple of the small town. They’re always amazing to look at.


And this was where I wound up. “Stir Coffee House” in Ladner Village, British Columbia. For most of the afternoon that I’ve been here, the cafe has been bustling. I’ve had two cappuccinos and a grilled-cheese sandwich, all of which I’d recommend to anyone who comes here. This here represents exactly what I love about writing. Finding an out of the way cafe, sitting at a table, listening to the music they play, hearing the conversations around me, and letting that become my muse.

Where else will 2016 take me? Not sure, but you can bet you’ll read more of this along the way. And whenever I fill out a form that asks for hobbies, I’ll be putting, “Finding out of the way cafes in small towns and city villages.”

CWC Canada Summer Camp 2008

On Monday I left with Lee Edward Fodi and Dan Bar-El to meet up with Kari Winters, Lori Sherrit and Kallie George at the CWC Canadian Camp 2008. This year it was held at Trinity Western University, which is a beautiful campus in Langley, BC very near Fort Langley (and the awesome Wendel’s Bookstore!).

On arrival, Lee and Kallie raced around their student’s rooms planting secret objects while Dan and I just tried to get our bearings. The theme for this camp was ADVENTURE, and I was partnered with Lori Sherrit of the TICKLE TRUNK PLAYERS. What I noticed most on arrival was the energy the students had – and there was a range from grade 4 up to grade 8 – as they met their roommates and saw the campus.

Lori and I had decided on the theme of “dungeon,” with me leading the writing and Lori the drama. In my class, students learned the terminology of dungeons such as the LORE and TRAPS and CODES or GUARDIANS. I showed them movie clips that reinforced my lecture, and then they began to write.

First they wrote the legend, or lore, of how their dungeon came to be. Then they drew maps, and wrote in secret passageways, guardians of the treasure, and traps to keep would-be adventurers out (or in!). Then they had Lori, who taught them to write a play – everything from story to character. Finally, Lori and I took what they did in both our classes and had them create a comic book.

What I’ll take away from this camp most of all won’t be the classes or the lessons, but the time spent with these awesome students. During free periods, Lee and I spent our time outside working on our own projects. While Lee drew, I wrote. And while we did this, there was always a group of students that came out to join us and watch.

One boy commented to Lee that he had thought Lee’s drawings just came from the computer, and this was the first time he really understood the work put behind each illustration. Another one of the boys told me that he enjoyed writing fantasy, because he could just make things up without any research. When I showed him the amount of research I put into writing my werewolf lore, he was very interested. It was moments such as those, when students got a chance to see working authors and illustrators in action, that they learned the most.

Of course, the camp was not all work. There was a treasure hunt with riddles and codes that had to be broken in order to figure out the course. Everyone had a great time running from point to point, working in groups to be the first to break the codes. It was awesome to see this group of students, many of whom were strangers when they met, working so well together.

The hardest part of the camp is the same as any camp – having to say goodbye and return back to Regular Life. There’s something very special about sharing meals with fellow writers – adult and student – that makes life just feel awesome. Suddenly being at home, typing away on a laptop without anyone knocking on your door to ask a question or slipping a coded message under your door as a prank, that feels a little too quiet. Of course, there’s always CWC camp next year…

Road Trips

I’m certainly no stranger to the road trip. In 1997 (still can’t believe it was 11 years ago), I took a road trip in a ’68 Beetle from Vancouver to Kelowna, then over to Banff, up to Jasper, across to Edmonton, then down to Calgary through Drumheller, and over to Winnipeg.

The entire way I slept in a tent, and ate food that I cooked over an open fire. (I had a Coleman stove, but couldn’t ever get it to work.) It was the best time I ever had, and probably the most adventurous thing I’d ever done.

Back then, my goal was to inspire myself as a budding writer. I wanted to find my creative spark, and to get in touch with my creativity so that I could one day be an author. Though my friends and family thought that was a little far-fetched, I did it anyway.

Here I am, 11 years later, with three books published – one that’s going into reprint and a fourth due out this Christmas. Life is pretty awesome. The best part – I’m planning another road trip! Granted, there will be some changes this time around. First, I won’t be going on it alone. kc dyer, friend and fellow scribe, will be sharing the experience with me! Second, I won’t be sleeping on the hard ground in a tent. Comfort all the way!

The best part of this trip is that we have destinations planned. Stops in Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Banff, Cochrane, Calgary and Red Deer. We may even have one more to completely fill our itinerary.

Another difference from that first trip is that Comic Life will be along for the ride! kc dyer and I will be blogging our trip through comic, using this easy and fantastic program. (It’s what I used to create my book video, and many of my past posts.) Comic Life has agreed to let us give away a copy of its program to each of our stops – not a bad value for those who come out to our events! Hear two popular authors, eat some chocolate, and be in a draw to leave with a free copy of Comic Life!¬†