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–Langley Edition

20160625_140640One of the first historic places I visited in the Greater Vancouver Area back when I was first deciding if I should make the West Coast my home was Fort Langley. This area has a population of 3400, and was a former fur trade post of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The original site was 4km downstream from the current fort, and was constructed in 1827 in response to the Canadian border possibly being created along the 49th parallel. You can read more about that here.

These days, the site is a tourist mecca with old-style buildings  (a strict building code is in effect to preserve the town) and, of course, the fort. I visit here regularly with my favourite spots for java and I find the drive along the country roads through farmlands rather soothing.

Above and below are the streets, many of which you may recognize from movies. This is a favourite spot for filmmakers. Check out a list here. Planet Java Fifties Cafe is a fun spot for a burger and shake, or if you’re in the mood for something less greasy Wendel’s Bookstore and Cafe has good food and fantastic coffee.

 

Wendel’s, seen below, is part bookstore and part cafe. That’s where I chose to hunker down for part of the afternoon  for a meal and iced coffee. (Just look at the sign they had posted. How could you not stop there?)

On this particular road trip, I didn’t stop in at the fort. I’ve taken family to it twice, and I wasn’t really in the mood to see it a third on my own. I do recommend it, however, and so I’ve included a few photos from when I took my nephew last February. My nephew and I were in luck, even though it was raining on that February day, as we got to see a musket show. There are some very cool family friendly activities.

Another interesting attraction is the old railway station. Below you can see the CN Station, and the old cars they have restored.

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The CN station is also a great place to nap, so I did. When you road trip with sleep apnea, sometimes a nap is in order to enjoy the rest of the day (I can take 15 minutes exactly and be completely refreshed for the rest of the day. You could set a clock to my nap time.)
A friend saw the photo of me napping on Facebook and thought it would be funny to make it look like I was walking and then create it into a meme. Oh, Susan C., you crack me up!

 

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After visiting Fort Langley I took a short drive south to Campbell Valley Regional Park. It was a sunny and hot day, so a walk through the woods was the perfect way to cool off. There is something about the tree canopy that cools down the air that makes the woods feel so welcoming. Nature’s air con.

Before I went for my walk, I read a sign that warned of bears, coyotes, and cougars that may be in the area. The warning about cougars: if you see one, DO NOT RUN. Apparently, if you have seen it, that means it wants you to see it as it has been stalking you for quite some time. If you make a dash for it, the cougar figures you are food. If you stand and fight (which you will probably have to do, so the sign warned,) you can show the cougar that you are not food. That made me a little nervous on my walk.

Below you can see my favourite parts of the walk, mostly around the boardwalk over the marsh. The only wildlife I saw were a few birds (in previous posts I have admitted to knowing nothing about bird species. I could make some stuff up about them if you would like, but maybe I’ll do that in another post). I did see a little bunny that kept hopping out of the woods.

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The photos below are the most curious of the park. This was once the site of the Langley Speedway, a historic racetrack that was active from the 60s to early 80s. You can learn more about it here.

So, I leave you with a song that went through my head as I wandered the wooded area of Campbell Valley Regional Park. It was from a Robin Hood TV series that was my favourite in the 80s,  and I wound up with the DVDs when an acquaintance on Facebook was moving and wanted to unload them–but only to another fan.

James in His Jeep Getting Java–the Terra Nova Rural Park Edition

During my holidays, on May 30th, I visited (as I do on many an occasion) Terra Nova Rural Park. There are many reasons to love island living (Richmond, BC is only accessible by two bridges or a tunnel) and our nature parks are one of them. Terra Nova is 63 acres wide, has walking trails, historic sites, and a playground that will blow your mind and make you wish you could be a kid again.

Along the way, you can stop in at the Starbucks at Terra Nova Village on Westminster Highway and First Ave. Then, head over to the park and prepare to enjoy your day.

Below is the entrance just meters from the playground. If you’re not going to the playground, this is a quieter section to enter. You’ll find ample parking along the dyke, or if you have come as a cyclist the paths are quite cycle friendly. (Just remember that you are sharing the path, and it is your responsibility as a cyclist to make sure pedestrians know you are approaching by ringing a bell.)

If you are going to the playground, your kids are in for a treat. The structures look like something from a Flintstones cartoon, and it’s billed as an “off-leash” place for kids. The City of Richmond consulted with children before creating this place, and invested 1-million dollars in it. Click here for a better view and more information.

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The slide.

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The zipline.

Myself, I venture over to the boardwalk that crosses over a (very small) marsh. There are benches to sit on and it’s normally fairly quiet, with the noise from happy children heard as background from the nearby playground.

One note I will make are the cigarette butts that are seen stashed between the floorboards of the walkway. If you must ruin your health by smoking, maybe you can think of others by taking your trash with you when your cigarette is done. It means we can all enjoy the space, not just you. (And to you smokers who do this already, thank-you.)

There are a few First Nations art installations along the pathways that are worth seeing. Below is a stone bench carved with a Raven, and a little history of the Musqueam peoples. It weighs 3200 lbs, so little chance of it getting stolen. It’s a great place to sit for a spell and take in the sounds and scents around you.

As you wind your way through the paths, you’ll come across a community garden. In a day and age where many people are living n condos, this space not only allows for the growing of fresh vegetables and fruits but also a place where neighbours can meet each other. People here are generally friendly and proud of what they are creating, and more than willing to engage in conversation.

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Below are the two objects that made me think of the zombie apocalypse. That bicycle would be great to use to cart stuff around, and that clay oven could either be used for baking bread or disposing of zombies. (Not both.) Ahhhh, the writer brain never rests.

Below is a house that I’m pretty sure was a community building for the gardens, but I wasn’t positive. I may have trespassed that day…

And you will see wildlife in the park. There are several species of birds, below you’ll find the heron and a couple ducks. Usually I see hawks and eagles, but none were out that day.

All in all, this is a great place to visit for a picnic or to let your kids get rid of their energy with the ziplines, slide, and many other cool things in the playground.

Not sure what the Queen song, Princes of the Universe, has to do with the mood of that day except that hikes through the woods sometimes makes me think of the movie Highlander. (There was only one movie–the others never existed. NEVER. EXISTED.) So, I leave this song as the theme for this post.

James in His Jeep Getting Java-the Cloverdale Edition

20160617_144729June 17, I was invited to present a workshop at the Cloverdale branch of the Surrey Public Library on writing action scenes. Writing action is what I’m known for with paranormal fiction involving wars between werewolves and vampires (mine was out before Twilight before your mind goes there) and secret martial arts clubs in Flying Feet.

There’s a lot of violence happening in the world right now, and it may seem irresponsible for authors to write about it in fiction–especially in books where impressionable youth are involved. However, those who believe that don’t give enough credit to just how sophisticated a tale youth desire these days, nor to the power of a story to guide youth (and grown adults) through questions and concerns they may have of living in such a violent world. My main talking points were:

  • Write responsibly.
  • Violence should move the story forward, not be a plot device nor be gratuitious.
  • If you can cut the violent scene out without changing the flow or meaning of the story–cut it.

Ten teens showed up (the entire creative writing group) and they were friendly, kind, and intelligent writers. They asked questions, they supported each other, and they made me feel welcome. I have no doubt that we are in for some incredible literature from the next generation and I left feeling encouraged.

The Cloverdale library is set in a city of just over 71 thousand people close to the City of Langley. Historic Cloverdale was settled circa 1870, and is a very cute spot to get a lunch and spend an afternoon. If you remember the TV series Smallville, you will recognize this area as the spot where the show was filmed. The theme song for this post is the intro song to the TV series.

Below is the area where the library is found. There is a museum, an old clock, plus a log cabin in this square. I arrived several hours early to explore (and grab some java) and was glad that I had. Unfortunately, I found the museum too late but will certainly make my way there another day.

What I loved most about exploring this small section of a few blocks was old signage. While the buildings had that rustic “old village” feel, the signage on the side of buildings and the shingles were what really made this place worth seeing. Below are a few of my favourites.

For you Smallville fans, you may recognize the theatre (now closed) as the Talon from the TV series.

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I wound up at the Rustic Rooster for coffee, and had their blended iced coffee which hit the spot on such a hot day. They have a small patio for nice days, and a rather spacious interior with several places to sit and enjoy their food. As well, if you are interested in crafts, they sell quite a few knick knacks worth looking at.

Unfortunately, none of my photos turned out of the cafe so you’ll have to check out their website before heading down there.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-The Bird Sanctuary Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABird watching or scoping out the territory during a zombieapocalypse?

This past May long weekend I spent the better part of the morning at George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary with good friends Rob, Sarah, and Brianna.

Reifel is a 3 km square area in Delta, British Columbia that is a designated site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (as taken from Wikipedia). On a quiet day it’s a nice slow walk with many species of birds to spy, and on a busy day it’s an attempt not to trip over small children that are in constant danger of being attacked by geese as their parents take photos moments before doom sets in.

I’m going to be flat out honest and just say that I have no idea what bird is what except that the one below enjoyed flying into Brianna’s hand like a scene from Snow White (but a kick ass one where the poison actually makes Snow stronger and she takes over the kingdom by force with her army of dwarves.) When I attempted to lure the bird to my hand, it refused to come near me and I’m pretty sure it even cackled with laughter. Sometimes at night I can still hear the laughter.

This below is a sparrow. (I think.) It was tiny and carried sticks presumably to build a nest–or it was weight training knowing that the other birds would probably tease him eventually because he’s small and he wanted to make sure he could fight back. I may be projecting.

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To the left, that’s a blue bird of some sort. On the right is a wood duck perched on a log.

Below is a bird that seems to be saying, “You lookin’ at me?” in a De Niro voice.

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And here are the rest of the photos of the bird sanctuary. I do recommend this as a road trip if you are in the Delta area, especially on a nice day. Rob will warn you that some of the berries are alarmed, thus known as “alarm berries,” to make sure that the foliage is not being tampered with. I’m mostly certain he’s joking…

And there’s my best bud, Sarah and me, enjoying our outing at what I think will be an ideal place to survive a zombie apocalypse should it ever happen.

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This is the theme song from the day because Rob and I made a joke about this song and the birds flying. Unfortunately, it took me so long to post this that I have completely forgotten what the comment was. It was funny though. Seriously, really funny.

James in his Jeep Getting Java-the Vacation Edition

IMG_20160506_202419I live in one of the most incredible places in the world. Of course, I can’t say that from experience as I haven’t travelled the world, but I have been told by people who have that I should feel very blessed to live here. So, it should be no wonder that when my vacation time comes my first thought is, ROAD TRIPS!!

This week I took a couple of familiar trips to Edison and Desolation Pass. As day trips go, this is my current favourite. I’ve blogged about this before, but what makes these trips unique is that one I took solo and the other I brought along a friend.

Not a lot of people understand the solo trip. It’s a lot of time to spend on your own, exploring new places where, if something tragic happened, the chances of someone knowing you were missing is bleak. There are steps to take: make sure someone knows you’re gone and for how long until you return. I make Facebook updates along the way when I find places with WiFi. That way friends can say, “He last posted at XX at such a such time.” You get the idea.

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Recognize this?

What a solo trip does is it allows me to get completely lost in my thoughts and to not feel rushed or pushed from going places I want to see. It’s a little selfish and narcissistic, really. And you know what? Sometimes in life that’s okay. Once I started school part-time and combined that with a full-time job I realized that there were going to be times when I needed to let my mind refresh and the only way to do that would be to go somewhere that felt like a complete escape. A solo trip allows me to recharge.

Two of my favourite spots to recharge are in Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island. Useless Cafe for lunch (best burgers anywhere) and an iced-cold brew coffee at Kalakala Mercantile Co.. I normally stay for a time at the latter to write and get my thoughts out that build over the course of the drive there.

 

 

 

This week one of my long-time friends, Sarah, decided to accompany me on my road trip. I took her through the Chuckanut Drive to Edison route only to discover that on Mondays almost everything in Edison was closed. Thankfully, the Bread Farm was still open and I was able to buy my loaves of sour dough!

From Edison we travelled to La Conner, which I’ve discovered I enjoy on off-tourist version of La Conner far more than it was during the Tulip Festival. A less stressed out town means easy parking and friendly people in the cafes and restaurants. I was glad that I returned to see this version of the town, as my last visit didn’t leave me with a very good impression.

Travelling with Sarah can be a challenge when one of the things you want to do is visit a cafe. She’s celiac, and therefore has special dietary needs (no gluten) which can make food choices scarce. We went to the Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery that I had gone to once before during the Tulip Festival. My previous experience was a long wait (over an hour), a terse complaint to me that they didn’t normally seat singles on the balcony but would in my case, and rushed service at a table beside their dumpster.

This time, the cafe staff were in good moods and super friendly. There was no wait, and immediately I knew my previous experience was simply an unfair time on which to judge this cafe. I had a regular coffee with a lemon meringue slice, and Sarah discovered a whole variety of gluten-free choices. (She had a muffin and cookie.) I highly recommend this place if you are ever in La Conner.

La Conner

Since the Slough in Edison was closed, Sarah and I wound up with a lot more time in La Conner than I’d expected. We took a walk through the streets and the waterfront, and then drove the bridge over to the island and took the road that lead us to Fidalgo Island and Deception Pass.

This is another area that I have driven through many times and stopped at the bridge to take a look and a few photos. I’ve always remarked to myself how unnerving it is to stand on the bridge with traffic whizzing by–especially when you see the posts dividing vehicle/pedestrian traffic smashed by vehicles. Below is the view of Deception Pass from the bridge.

What I’ve never done in the dozen or so times that I have stopped on this bridge is to take the time to wander down the path onto the beaches below. Since we had lots of time and weren’t planning on travelling farther than this, Sarah and I took the short walk down to the beach.

This wound up being my favourite part of the trip. While a solo adventure is all about that meditative state of filling your memories with new scents and views and memories to heal the toll put on us by an overly-scheduled lifestyle, being on a road trip with a good friend was all about discussions of what great friends we have in common, where our lives are headed, and how amazing the world we live in is. This was a good reminder that neither the solo trip nor the companion trip is more necessary–they each have their own intrinsic value. Below is an assortment of views I would not have seen had I been travelling solo. All taken from the beach.

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Now, just look at the faces of these travellers in the photo below. Deliriously happy, or super-caffeinated? I think I was on cup three…maybe four?

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And the theme song from the trip was decided during a conversation where Sarah remarked how easy it is to read signage in the States  I mentioned it was like that Ace of Base song, and she’d never heard of it. So, Sarah, here it is, just for you:

Zombies and the British Columbia Interior

In 2010, I was trying to decide what kind of book I wanted to write and a friend of mine in tae kwon do suggested zombies. At the time, I laughed and told him that zombies were not scary and maybe a little stupid. “I’m going to bring you some reading material next class, and your mind will be changed.” I’m always up for a challenge, so I accepted.

He brought me the Walking Dead comics, World War Z: Recorded Attacks graphic novel, and World War Z the novel. My. Mind. Was. Blown. This sent me on a spiral of discovering George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (plus the remake by Zack Snyder), playing Left for Dead 2 on STEAM, and coming up with my own story that started my then named novel, Zombiepocalypse.

Clinton, BC 2012

At the time, I used to take a yearly trip from Vancouver to Williams Lake to sell books for Vancouver Kidsbooks at a teacher’s conference. This particular year, after all the literature given to me by my tae kwon do pal, I wound up stopping in a little town called, Clinton. Clinton has a population of just under 600 people and is quite beautiful. It looks like an old frontier town, and gives its visitors a sense of history. As I pulled over my rented van filled with books for the conference, I knew that I had found the place where Zombiepocalypse would take place.

First, a few highlights from the town. In a lot that’s been for sale every year I’ve visited, there are posts with shingles nailed to them. On each shingle is someone’s name and where they are from. This was an incredible sense of history to me–kind of like a library, but with carvings instead of paper books.

I started to imagine where my character might have grown up, who he was, what kind of upbringing he had. Unlike a big city where zombies would thrive by the thousands, what would small town life look like?

Clinton, BC 2012

More importantly, who would be his enemies? Who would he compete with for the scraps of what was left? As I drove down the highway wondering where his enemies might hold up, I came across Hat Creek Ranch and knew, instinctively, that this was where the my main character would find his nemesis.

Equally important, was knowing the topography of the area. While I was lucky enough to be able to drive the area (over the course of a few summers, too) I also had the benefit of Google Maps.

Hat Creek Ranch

It’s been a long time since 2010 when I wrote the first draft, and now, six years later, I have the final draft and a final title: Rise of the One-Eyed King. Over the next few months, I’ll let you know when you can pre-order a copy for your very own. It will release July 1st.

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One of the many songs that inspired the novel, and the theme of this post: