Tag Archives: wanderer

James in His Jeep Getting Java – The Camping Edition

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Maybe it’s all the apocalypse writing and reading I’ve been doing over the last few years, but I got back into camping this summer. This trip I took west instead of south, and I stayed in Canada to visit a few places I’d never been.

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My goal was to drive from Vancouver to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. I booked campsites in Manning Park, Kokanee Creek, and Stemwinder Provincial Park. I drove the Crow’s Nest Highway (Hwy 3) from Hope to Nelson and stopped in a few really great towns.

What I didn’t know when I began was the necessity of booking your campsite ahead of time. Unlike when I was a kid, one cannot simply go into a campsite and expect a great spot. (Get the reference there?) I booked mine the week ahead, but because I was travelling on odd days (I began on a Friday and ended on a Friday) I was able to secure some sweet spots. If you haven’t used Discover Camping yet, it is a really simple service that lets you see photos of your spot. Unlike dating sites, these photos accurately represent what you’ll find when meeting.

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I originally wanted to spend Friday to Sunday in Manning Park, but by the time I went to book the only spots for that time frame were in overflow near the highway. Instead, I changed my dates to just Friday to Saturday, which opened up a spot in the Lightning Lake Large Loop section which was pretty sweet. A close walk to the lake, and a pretty private (and quiet) camping area.

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It was also early enough in the season that there were no fire bans. You do have to remember to bring cash for firewood, as it is illegal to transport out of park wood into your site.

The night I spent in Manning was actually pretty terrible. (No fault to the site at all.) Being summer, I was prepared for summer heat and not for the quickly changing temperatures of the mountains. It got cold that night–no idea how cold, but my tent, sleeping bag, and the sweater/pants/pyjamas I wore were not enough to stave off the cold. To say it was rough is to understate just how cold I got. I’m from Winnipeg–I’ve dealt with -40 and colder.

After Manning, I drove Crow’s Nest to Princeton, BC, a little town of about 3,000 people. It had an old feel to it and very friendly people. I discovered a very tasty cafe, the Cowboy Coffee. Had french toast and coffee there–highly recommend.

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While in Princeton, I knew I’d need a better sleeping bag if I wanted to survive another night. I found the outdoor store, Princeton Outdoor Supply, who was very helpful and had a sleeping bag that should do the trick. He suggested that I take the one I have and put it inside the new one, and sleep with the two if I got cold. It was a great idea, actually, and gave me the leeway to have a cooler night if needed.

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Plus, I saw this deer. Didn’t seem to mind me or the traffic at all.

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While on my trip, I listened to a local singer/songwriter Land of Deborah. Give her a listen–she’s great road trip tunes!

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.

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.

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:

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From Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

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.

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Jeep Tents at Quadratec
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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.