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James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Coupeville Edition

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The look on Grinfinn’s face when I grab his collar and my Jeep keys is priceless. He always does this little dance when he knows we’re going for a Jeep ride, and it’s the only time he bolts out the door as fast as his one inch legs can carry him.

This past weekend we travelled to Coupeville, Washington on Whidby Island, a town of approximately 2,000 people. I travel to Whidby Island a lot, and have blogged about it on more than one occasion. The town of Langley is a favourite travel destination that you can read about here. This historic site still has that frontier look from the 1900s when the town incorporated. Its history as a settlement from the 1850s is a fascinating one, and well worth the read.

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Beautiful, friendly, and peaceful, this was the perfect spot to go after a particularly rough week. There is something therapeutic that happens on road trips, kind of an erasing of the emotional cache that leaves me fresh for the following week. As always, Grinfinn was the hit of the town with lots of people stopping to take photos, pet him, and ask what kind of dog he is.

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Grinfinn and I wound up spending our time on a bench overlooking Penn Cove. Thanks to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, there was free wi-fi so I had a great spot to rest and write. There was also a hot dog stand where I was able to get my lunch.

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I managed to grab a cup of java from the Knead & Feed Bakery before they closed. (They literally locked the door as I entered the building.) They have a great place to sit outside that overlooks the cove, and once while passing through I had stopped for lunch here so I can say the food is delicious.

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During our walk Grinfinn became enamoured by this statue of a dog. It had me laughing out loud, and when others saw what was making me crack up they also laughed.

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My theme song for this post is Dare by Stan Bush. I’ve been digitizing my LP collection at my library, and now this is one of the many songs I have to play on my road trips. It’s from the 1986 Transformers movie.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

 

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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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.

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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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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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.

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 – 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.

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.