Sunday, May 22, 2016

Illusions . . .

Being on the road, stopping to see friends along the way and lately putting in hard work building something with my own hands has given time once again for reflection, the seeking of my Zen place state of mind and looking at the last several years of my life and what the future may bring.

One of my favorite books over the years has been “Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  I have read and re-read it over 39 years now and it remains a sort of ‘Life Bible’ for me over the years.  Going back to different chapters in my life and re-thinking the different circumstances, actions, and outcomes to see where I can gain insight, clarity, and sometimes peace of mind.

It is a simple book and an easy read with many “gems” on how one should live life and treat other people.  Bach is an aviator mainly writing flying stories over the years with life lessons his common theme.  One of his early well known books was ‘Jonathon Livingston Seagull’ which was made into a movie.

Every so often I have gone back and read the book again and asked myself some of the questions and have been surprised by my changing answers over the years.  Was it maturity or circumstance that brought about the perspective swings? 

Here are a couple of quotes from the book to start you off on a flight to a better “me” or “you”.  Enjoy!

Quotations from the Messiah's Handbook
"Reminders for the Advanced Soul"
"Illusions - The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah"
by Richard Bach - 1977

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.”

This one has remained pretty constant in the fact as we learn and interact with people we have an effect on those around us.  Once we are gone I am sure there will be those that were affected having known us.  At least one would hope so and like to think we have impacted other’s lives in our journey.

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

We all learn from our past, sometimes we repeat the past until we have more clarity on that which we seek in order make positive changes.  We learn from the problems so at times I’ve seen where people create things (difficulties, problems, or circumstances) so they can gain confidence to act or make changes from the experience.

“Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”

This one seems so true for me as those that come in and out of our lives over the years allows one to see what place or seat they may take in the ‘theater’ we call life.  Who is on your front row and who places themselves in the back?  Over the years how often do they change the row moving forward or back?

“Remember where you came from, where you're going, and why you created the mess you got yourself into in the first place.”

We learn from our past or would like to think so.  What have you created to learn from in your life?

“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self. Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them. 

You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.”

What are your thoughts on this?  Life is about choices, and the different paths that each one brings with it.  Do some of the paths cross at different points in your life, or move parallel for a time perhaps?  Does it bring with it another choice(s)?

“You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”

The old adage “There is no free lunch” is so true about so many things in life.  It takes work, and many times it is hard work to make your wishes and dreams (goals) come true.  Hard work ethic and a spirit of working with a spouse, partner, or others never hurt anyone but my generation has done a disservice to our youth letting technology steal away imagination and work ethic in today’s society.  Some young adults expect that they be given or helped along the way without the temperament to get up and work hard, figure out the problems in their lives and provide for themselves.  The ‘instant gratification’ bug has took so many things away from our children who do not know or understand what it is to go play outside with a stick or sit and read for hours expanding their imagination.  If it does not have a joystick or keypad on it people are not sure what to do with themselves.  It has made many lazy with expectations of just getting by as I will not have to work for it as I will always be helped.  For those it is a shame that they will probably never know the meaning of working hard to accomplish something on their own and seeing the fruits of their labor.

“The world is your exercise-book, the pages on which you do your sums.
It is not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or to tear the pages.”

The world is out there waiting . . . Enjoy!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Traveling . . .

I’ve been on the road now over a month, part of it alone and others spent with friends along the way.  Parts of it different than what I might have imagined while other parts of it were exactly what I knew it would be.  There is the good and bad, the bitter sweetness that is life as we know it.  This journey wasn’t necessarily wanted but circumstances made it the right thing to do.  To take a break from what was the norm and go in search of something out there beyond the horizon I have seen every day.  I have been fortunate to have had several friends along the way to share time and conversations with.  To have fellowship and time to just “be” with no agendas or needs getting in the way.  

I think everyone should travel alone at some point in their life, ideally for at least a month.  You learn so much about yourself, you develop an inner confidence that you can’t find at home, nor when you’re surrounded with people you’re comfortable with.  You become stronger, more emotionally aware yet also so much more resilient.  You become a warmer soul, yet also far less inclined to take any sh٭t from people.  I’ve always thought myself warm but on the road meeting people along the way open you to listen more when talking with those met each day along the way.  That quick cup of coffee at five o’clock in the morning as you refuel talking with the attendant who may have been there all night or just coming to work who seem starved for conversation.  You learn a new level of appreciation for the opportunities you’ve had, and hopefully you realize that to waste them is a crime. You find purpose in the freedom.  All are positive changes to your psyche and well-being.

But to travel alone all the time is to miss something integral to humanity. We need connections to the people we care about. Travel isn’t only about seeing another historic town, or ancient church. It’s about sharing life changing experiences together, growing with people, solidifying friendships, and most of all creating memories.  And it takes at least two people to do that.
So you ask me which I prefer.  I would choose to travel with friends every day of the week, the ‘real world’ often gets in the way of that, but from the depth of my heart, the travels I’ve had with people I care about are literally the best experiences of my whole life.  And I’d guess it’s the same for a lot of people who travel.

Witnessing all the beauty the world has to offer is a privilege few people receive.  Don’t waste it. Speak to people close to you, make a plan to travel, be sincere, hit the road solo, learn, live and love. Then reconnect, travel together and watch, experience and appreciate the world together.  Because after all “Happiness is only real when shared”.

Spending time in the Pacific Northwest has been interesting.  Not exactly as I had imagined with still a small town feel here in Gresham (suburb of Portland).  There is a nice little main street town with several shops, restaurants with outside tables and an area where you can walk feeling safe and welcome.  I’ve been working with my hands again and that feels really good to see the fruits of your labor as the finished project wraps up.  The aches and pains each day of hard work feels good for a change and I think it is because it was of my own choosing and not something that was “for the company” or whatever.  It was for me to do to take an idea that was given to me, hopefully improve it with a final product that exceeds everyone’s expectations.

There is still more to see and do here, several other friends who I have not had a chance to catch up with.  I think a day trip to Mt. St. Helens on a clear day is in order before I leave the area as it did have an impact in my life so many years ago seeing it in all its beauty just before the big explosion.  I think it will be a fitting reminder of our lives and how timing is everything on our journeys.

Placido Flamingo is well but this post is my thoughts on traveling and he can tell you his in another post.  He is lounging in the hot tub with a new friend the last couple days.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ahhh, the smell of cedar and working with it

Driving alone gives one time to think and building something can easily have that same effect.  Taking this walkabout has given me time to stop the busy, fast paced world I have been accustomed too for so long. For most, our fast changing world continues to evolve in rapid and different ways that even two years ago seemed unfathomable.  “Normal” jobs are not getting shorter on attendance; rather longer hours continue to climb for most people.  Our minds and body suffer from overwork, you do more and suddenly you are asked to do more until the stress takes over lives of hardworking people.  Remember the adage "Everything in moderation, including moderation"?  That said; let me talk about a place between the two extremes of our lifestyle choices and a tool to find balance.  Deck building can give you balance in that you have time to think, work hard, and balance a sore back with the beauty of what you are building.   

Lifestyle choices are a fine balancing act between many things pulling you in so many directions and then making the choices of what directions you wish to go.  All across the world there is the thought of "mindfulness". Science is confirming that our health is dependent on doing "nothing" as well as exercise, proper nutrition and sleep. Our natural rhythm are also asking each of us to slow and sit, to observe, reflect, and breathe as much as we produce in a given day.  The Ying to the busy active Yang is deep sleep.  However, there is an important middle ground of transitioning between active and a relaxed state.  For me sleep is a fleeting thing usually with about four to five on any given night.  For my body and mental state that works well for me but most people need more to fully rejuvenate each day.
In Oregon I have been relaxing building a deck.  By relaxing I mean lots of physical work, some creative thinking and time to enjoy working with my hands again slowly seeing what is coming together as the project progresses.  It started out a simple task; take an existing deck (12 foot x 16 foot) and replace the decking materials.  After discussions with my friends Jan and Nate it was decided there would be some changes to be made.  The overall size would become 28 feet x 16 feet and the existing structural framing would be lowered four and a half inches to match the level of the patio door.  This required that the existing framing would have to be completely taken apart so the band joist attached to the house could be taken off and lowered.
Rebuilding the existing structural frame went smoothly and as the layout for the new deck frame was coming along nicely it was time to go order lumber.  We chose Lowe’s for the veterans discount given appreciating that acknowledgement of service.  We picked out the framing lumber and wanted it delivered.  First problem, they had no working truck, no problem we rented a U-Haul for a couple hours and picked out the framing materials and hauled it back to the house ourselves.  I was able to work on framing the new deck space and we ordered the top decking boards so they could deliver those in a couple days.  No problem, but this store did not have enough of the materials so they were going to get another store in the area to deliver.  Everything was scheduled for Tuesday morning between nine and eleven o’clock that morning but shortly we received a call saying it would be between one and three in the afternoon.  3 pm came and went so we called and was told it would be another hour or so.  It gave time to make a dump run to get rid of all the debris from the old decking materials and other items that needed to be hauled off.  The Lowe’s truck arrived just as we returned so the driver unloaded several pallets of stone for a wall, a pallet of edge pavers for the driveway and flower beds and finally about one hundred pieces of lumber ranging in length from twelve to sixteen feet.  We had to carry them to the back yard where they would be installed.  The driver was quick to leave and head back to his store.  The decking material was stacked and work continued on framing the new structure of the new deck. 
Several changes to the deck were made including adding electrical outlets for the end of the structure, a pergola added over the hot tub with a switched outlet for lighting above the tub.  Low voltage wiring for speakers ran inside conduit for electrical and low voltage wiring and I ran a gas line from the meter to the middle of the deck close to the patio door for changing the propane grill to natural gas.  Oh, did I mention adding a fire pit to one corner of the new deck space along with steps leading into the yard.  The last additions are bench seating and a handrail along part of one end.  It is not required due to height but will make a nice edge to one side.  Jan plans to put curtains up for privacy and to hold heat in if it is windy when the tub is used.
Friday was the day that the new deck top was to be installed.  Pulling out the first pieces I could see that boards had white stains that looked at first to be bird poop but quickly discovered that it was dry rotted with many of the boards warped or twisted beyond usefulness.  I tried for several hours to install the first four boards but it was to no avail as the wood was not able to take the imperfections out making them smooth and flat once again. I sorted through all of the remaining boards in the 12 foot and 16 foot length piles and discovered ninety five percent were unusable.  Thirty out of thirty four 16 foot boards were bad and twenty eight out of thirty four 12 foot boards were unusable.
I texted Jan who was in a meeting to call me when she was finished to discuss the problem with the Lowe’s lumber.  She returned home just after lunch and was shocked to see what had been sent for us to use.  After Nate and she discussed it the lumber would be returned and we would get new lumber from a local lumber yard about a mile away from the house.  We stopped in there to find some beautiful clear cedar decking materials. We placed the order and found it to be cheaper that the Lowe’s materials.  Go figure but I could not believe how they would even send out such poor finish materials as it was not fit for a burn pile.
By late Friday afternoon had installed about four or five rows, enough for the dogs to use their access door leading to the deck and back yard.  Over the weekend I was able to finish the install of the gas line, rough-in of the electrical and low voltage wiring and clear some low hanging tree limbs that blocked much of the view in the back yard.  It was a tired but productive week.
It has been a long process to bring wood to life and functionality in my own craft making.  I am traditionally a pipe and fitting worker.  Wood was difficult for me to work with, even years ago in high school wood shop class.  I could not make things straight and blemish free like other, more determined students.  Wood requires patience and knowledge that some are born with.  I had to learn its language later in life and am still developing a relationship with wood.  I have enjoyed over the years doing wood projects from making wooden cars for Toys for Tots to crafts and furniture.  For me, this process has been centered on movement in forests.  I went through the forests to find a take-off point to fly hang gliders.  I saw trees but didn't understand the language of trees.  Now I am getting a better appreciation of cedar, pine and working it into something functional and beautiful.
Here are photos of the work progress.
Looking down deck from side by patio door
Overall deck from porch side
Deck from rear of hot tub
Part of electrical rough-in
Placido Flamingo and friend found along the way
Enjoying fruits of my hard work in the tub

Have an nIce day!

Monday, May 02, 2016

It's a Deck of a day!

I wanted to give everyone an update on the WTF (Where’s the Flamingo International Tour 2016) since arriving in Portland Oregon just over a week ago.  I arrived at my friends, Jan and Nate’s house on Friday evening and enjoyed a nice evening together briefly before everyone headed of for some much needed sleep and me to stretch my back after enduring about 2.5 hours of zero to twenty miles an hour drive through Seattle (reminded me of Atlanta and why I headed to Alaska).  I have other friends here in  Portland I would like to see and spend some time with, Colin and Donna-Lee who I had a great time with in Mexico last Oct/Nov during several celebrations on that trip.

Saturday we headed up toward Mt. Hood, their bee boxes, the bar they own, The Whistle Stop Bar and Grill, and to participate in an annual event called “The Bite at Mt. Hood” a charity event where local vendors prepare food for the guests while both a silent and live auction are held raising money for local charities.  It was a fun evening with about 300 people showing up showing great community support.

The Whistle Stop served smoked sturgeon chowder and bratwursts.  The chowder was the hit of the night as we ran out and had to go back to the bar for more to keep everyone happy.  It was a fun night of serving and interacting with the community and the band played great music all night long. After the event we stayed at the lodge at Mt. Hood so we did not have to drive back that night.  Sunday morning we got up, headed to the bar for breakfast which had a nice local crowd coming in to eat reminding me of a local place in Anchorage called Gwinnie’s.

The weather the next couple of days was overcast and occasional rain but I decided to take on a project of redoing their existing deck around the hot tub.  The existing deck size was 12’ X 16’ and the new design will be 28’ x 16’ with the hot tub, a new fire pit and a trellis over the tub with several built in benches.  Needless to say my original itinerary timeline went out the window but that is what is so interesting with this walkabout.  I am flexible and can make adjustments as I see things along the way.

Yesterday was beautiful and you could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens all snow-capped and beautiful against the blue sky.  I think I will make a side trip and drive to St. Helens to spend a day there to see what it looks like now after the eruption in 1980.  I was very lucky back then as there was a group of us hang glider pilots who had been in Washington for a spring tournament and were driving back to North Carolina and we stopped at Mt. St. Helens to camp overnight and see this beautiful mountain.  We had hoped to find a way to fly from the mountain but the National Park Service would not give us permission like they did at Yosemite.  We camped for the night, stopped by Spirit Lake, met a fascinating old man, Harry Truman who lived there for many years and left for the long drive across country to Grandfather Mountain North Carolina.  That was May 17, 1980 and the next day while driving through Colorado heard the news about the eruption and all the destruction.  It was several months later that I saw the videos and still photos of the devastation for miles in the surrounding areas.  Sitting here yesterday I realized if the south side of the mountain had blown and the force of the event had come this way, it would probably had wiped out all of Portland and the surrounding area towns as it went almost 200 miles blowing down trees and devastating everything in its blast path.

Sorry for getting off on a tangent but it is another reminder of how things work out and how fragile life and living is for everyone.

The deck had to be completely taken apart as Jan and Nate want to lower the existing deck area around the hot tub about four inches requiring it all to come down so I can tear off the ledger board on the house to lower it to the new height.  This will make everything line up with walking out the patio door without a step down to the existing concrete patio deck.  It makes more sense than stepping down then up again to get into the hot tub.

Demo of existing deck boards.

Demo of existing decking.

Area of new deck to be added to the existing deck space over past the patio door.

I will keep posting progress of the deck building and also shortly will write up another on Nate and Jan’s bee hive they recently started.  It is fascinating and I want to do some research on that to write up a blog post on the bees and bee keeping.

Have a nIce day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

USA Border Crossing

Friday morning was a bittersweet time leaving my friend Russ to head south?  The time spent was wonderful sharing stories, philosophy, catching up on our lives and having a pint or two along the way.  I would be leaving Russ and Rose's warm home hitting the road once again in search of other horizons.  I am driving down my last hours in British Columbia, another ferry crossing and then the border station back into the USA.  Drive through Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, and on to the Portland area of Gresham where I have several friends to visit.

I left Campbell River at 7:15 am with mixed clouds with rain showers during the drive to the ferry terminal.  As I drove along past the town of Courtenay I saw an odd sight.  It was a very tall tree rising above the rest of the forest with dark ominous clouds in the background. The tree appeared to be dead as all the limbs had no leaves but the limbs looked like many arms (10 or so) protruding out of the body of the tree.  It was at least a hundred feet taller than the forest with the dead branches looming over the roadway like a monster in some B horror movie.  On the top most limb was a lone bald eagle sitting there like the gatekeeper to some unknown world.  It was raining lightly which made it more surreal and struck me as odd as I drove past.

Another observation from seeing the lone tree, it was like a tree of life, some leaves at the bottom and some gone in the upper limbs.  Are the leaves like friends, some blown off and gone forever while others survived the struggles, the elements like wind, rain, and fire to remain with you even if from afar.  Just one of many thoughts to ponder as one drives alone for many miles at a time.

The ferry ride was uneventful, with the only interesting to me was seeing a helicopter lifting sling loads of supplies off the lighthouse island and dropping them on the deck of a ship anchored just off shore.  I saw the helicopter make 4 loads to the ship from the island as we approached and sailed by. I disembarked the ferry just after noon and headed for the border crossing back into the United States.

The rain had stopped but still overcast with a light wind but warmer temperatures than the morning drive as I saw the first sign telling of delays crossing the border which was about twenty to twenty five minutes.  I proceeded to move into the queue of vehicles waiting for a spot to one of the eight lanes for the passport check.  Some of the guards were actively inspecting the vehicles contents so I figured with all the items and crap I have loaded I might be in for a long day getting across.  I am watching my lane and all the vehicles being checked and how much time is spent going through items in the vehicles.  I am realizing with each vehicle going through I am in for a long delay as he is going through everything in the other vehicles. I’m next so I flash my “new” passport card (like a credit card) to the remote sensor next to the cameras as you approach the guard shack.  Photos taken, card scanned, the vehicle in front of me slowly exits after an extensive search so I slowly approach the guard inside his hut.

I’m upbeat and friendly, “Good afternoon sir, how’s it going for you today.”  No answer.  He took my passport and immediately started asking questions, “Where are you coming from?”  Alaska I respond with a smile. “Where are you headed?” Portland then eventually to San Antonio, Texas. “Are you carrying over ten thousand cash Canadian money?”  I wish, but no sir I’m not.  “Are you carrying any firearms, registered or unregistered?” No sir.  Besides the Flamingo in the front seat are you transporting any other birds?”  Smiling replied, “No sir, just Placido Flamingo and me on this trip.  The rest of the flock is vacationing in Mexico this time of year!”  I thought I saw a little hint of a smile when he said, “Would you roll down your passenger window for me?”  (Rolls window down) He tries to look inside but it is slap full of stuff with my Margaritaville chair staring him in the face.  

He looks at me and says, “Do you have an inventory list for all these items?”  I responded, “No sir, I was just happy I could get everything in here after shipping 600 pounds south.”  He walks back to the back and pops the back, spots a bottle of Jim Beam, closes it and walks back to my window.  I see you have “Jim” traveling with you.  I did not respond.

His next question and my answer I think finally broke the Ice (no pun intended).  “What if I have you pull over there and we empty all your items and go through everything?”  I smiled my big Southern smile and replied, “I am laid off of work, and I have all the time in the world.  Where would you like me to pull to and I’ll be glad to help you look at anything you want!  It will give me a chance to rearrange things to better access some items that I loaded in the wrong place.”

He looked at me, smiled, and said “San Antonio huh?  I loved it when I was stationed there in the Air Force.  Welcome to the United States of America Mr. Whittington, Welcome home!” 

I proceeded to drive about 200 feet and saw this sign.

American the Beautiful, Gotta Love it!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mt. Washington British Columbia

Wednesday Russ and I drove to Mt. Washington for a few hours to possibly hike if the snow has melted enough to make the trails passable.  We both think that high up where the resort is will still be snow covered as the ski resort closed for the winter season last week and the summer bike season will not open until June several months away.

It was about a forty five minute drive south of Campbell River to the turn off up the mountain.  The sun was out, it was warm about 60 degrees with little to no breeze.  The landscape was changing from the farmland at the turnoff to an alpine meadow with mixed forest tracks of thick groupings of trees. There were several high mountain lakes with partially thawed areas with ducks or geese swimming. We made our way on several switchbacks as our elevation changed the higher up the mountainside we went.  The air was fresh and took on a slight chill as the car climbed its way toward the summit.

Looking east you could see the Inside Passage and the BC mainland across the channel.  There was a blue hue much like the southern Appalachians of North Carolina.  Great reminders of the part of the country I grew up and was so familiar to me in my younger years.

As we approached the summit we came across the sign for Mt. Washington.

We climbed the mountain till we arrived at the ski lodge where we walked around a bit taking pictures of the ski slopes, lifts, tubing runs and found a place for lunch that was still open between the seasons.  It was nice with an outside patio where we had a leisurely lunch.  Several people joined us on the patio and talked with us while everyone ate or just took in the beauty of the mountains and the surroundings.

Shortly we left the main lodge area and drove around to Raven Lodge on the south side of the mountaintop.  We were able to take several photos of the mountains, Twin Peak where Placido Flamingo insisted of getting some time in the snow and take in the beauty of everything around us.

We met a couple who were hiking and were on their way into the back country for some snow camping.  We talked with them a bit and they told me of another great place to camp in California near the Salton Sea and Palm Springs.  They had their backpacks loaded and were going to hike in several miles to camp for a couple days.

As we left Raven Lodge there was a nice waterfall back in the woods slightly off the roadway.  I took both a photo and short video so you could hear the beautiful sound of the falling waters on the rocks as the whole mountainside was losing its winter snow pack.

Video of the waterfall sounds.  It was quite refreshing as the temperature was almost 70 degrees out that afternoon.


All in all it was another great day outside taking in all the beauty that was before Russ and I in his home area around Campbell River.  Spending time with friends, reflecting on things does good for the heart and soul.  Another reminder that life is short, be involved in it with those you care for and love and don't miss the opportunity to let them know.

I could see many horizons from this high advantage point today and am reminded of one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs, One Particular Harbor:

And there's that one particular harbour
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within

A most mysterious calling harbour
So far but yet so near
I can see the day when my hair's full gray
And I finally disappear

Campbell River will be in my rear view mirror in the morning and I search out other horizons in my path.  Until next time . . . 


The Campbell River Experience

Campbell River is a coastal city in British Columbia on the east coast of Vancouver Island at the south end of Discovery Passage, which lies along the important coastal Inside Passage shipping route between Seattle and Vancouver shipping docks to Alaskan port cities.  The  population is just over thirty one thousand people with the number growing in summer during the tourist season.  Known as the "Salmon Capitol of the World" there are many areas to fish the different salmon species including salt water and fresh water adventures.  This area enjoys a mild climate with temperatures ranging between 28°F to 73°F year round with November receiving the most rain during the wet season.

I came by ferry from Vancouver via the Tsawwassen ferry terminal arriving in the town of Nanaimo at the Duke Point terminal.  The sailing took 1.5 hours and the time spent was comfortable in large seats with windows to take in the views.  I am a couple weeks early for whale watching but this is the route the migration takes between California, Hawaii and Alaska.  Today there were many sea birds diving into the water catching bait fish.  The wind was not strong but enough to create mini-white capped waves during the crossing.  After going up on the outside deck to see the sights I settled into a seat near the forward port side windows.  I had a great view of the island I was going too (Vancouver Island) and looking back the city of Vancouver getting smaller on the horizon from whence I came earlier this morning.  It was cloudy over Nanaimo with light rain hanging over the hillside but looked clear to the north in the direction I was headed.  It was a quick disembarkation off the ferry and onto the highway.  Russ told me to bear right which upon the highway to Campbell River instead of the left veer road leading into downtown Nanaimo.  The drive was pretty with the highway passing various farms, forests, and varied in terrain with rolling hills along the way.  This highway was just off the coast a few miles and gave quick glimpses of the Inside Passage waters to the east.

The highway was a limited access one with several traffic lights along the way.  They seemed somewhat out of place impeding the normal flow with four or five miles between lights and then you had to stop briefly, resume getting up to highway speeds only again to slow down or stop at the next one.  There was not much traffic so they seemed not needed but during the tourist season it may change a lot from what I was seeing on my drive.  I stopped in the small town of Courtenay on my way to get some fresh flowers for Rose, Russ' wife, a southern tradition going as a guest into someone's home.  I arrived mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day and evening talking as we fixed dinner.  It was an enjoyable evening after several days on the road with no one to talk with.

The day after arriving was pretty much a down day activity wise with time spent pulling things out of my vehicle so I could better arrange things for later in the trip.  I moved items that would not be needed to the middle inside area.  Camping gear, food, and other items that would be needed daily were put into the back area easily accessible every day.  I pulled my tools out for a little work around the house while I am in town.  Another southern tradition leaving things better for your hosts than when you arrived.  Everyone usually has a "honey do" list so it was no problem to do a few small things during my stay. Russ and I mailed a package went to the store and returned home to talk a walk.  We went around the neighborhood into an area of land owned by one of the native corporations which had kept it as green space with bike/hiking trails, wooded areas for wildlife habitat and only allowed foot, horse, or bicycle traffic.

We tried to walk everyday and the normal route was exactly four miles from the house to a local pub where we stopped for a pint, conversation, and enjoying the great weather outside in the patio area.  It was another half mile walk back to the house.  Several days we expanded the walk to about six miles length as it was less that two hours total time to get the exercise and drink.

Friday night Rose decided we would have seafood since it gave her an excuse to eat fresh seafood since Russ does not like that type of food.  No fish, crab, scallops for him, almost seems sad that he has not taste for fresh catch of the day living so near the water.  We decided to make a fresh Cajun style dinner using live dungeness crab, fresh salmon, scallops, onions, potatoes, corn, and other items to make our gumbo dish.  Russ ate his favorite, spaghetti.

Saturday was somewhat of a chore day with us having to get our fishing license for Monday morning. Rose needed to go to Costco for supplies for her food truck business to restock for the next week so we all drove along the coast highway to Courtenay where she dropped Russ and I off at a local brew pub, Gladestone while she went shopping.  We brought along Placido Flamingo which was a conversation starter and curiosity grabbing attention from the normal quiet place.  We spent a couple hours there had a flight of their brews, a couple more that we liked and talked like old friends do.  Russ pointed out a couple things in my thought process I had not considered so the afternoon brought with it an epiphany or two.  All in all a great afternoon. Listened to music in the evening while Russ talked with his brother in France their weekly Saturday night conversation.

Sunday morning was a time for Bailey's coffee and talking with Rose until Russ woke up then we started doing things around the house.  Showed Russ how to use the pressure washer on the deck and trellis to clean off the dirt and stains from no maintenance on it.  Rose nephew is coming in a few weeks and she wanted to have a little project for him to do to occupy his time and learn something new.  Russ and I went for a hike on the tribal land called Beaver Lodge and walked just over five miles where we ended up at the local pub.  We stopped in for a pint and Rose walked up to join us as it was such a beautiful afternoon.  We stayed about an hour and walked the half mile back to the house.

Russ wanted to take me out fishing so Monday morning we awoke to head down to the dock to meet Harry our boat captain on the vessel, Dirty Harry.  We took Placido with us and had a great morning on the water, catching fish, rocks, and watching the wildlife.  Harry told many stories from his thirty years chartering fishing both here in Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala.  It was an interesting day.  Another walk that afternoon and nice fresh fish dinner that evening.

Tuesday was my laundry day and chores around the house until Rose finished her food truck rounds. Went up on the roof and bleached the moss and later in the afternoon she went with us on our walk. We again went up into Beaver Lodge land and made our way back to the local pub called, Royal Coachman.  On our walk there is a small farm in the neighborhood which had pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, and horses. The people with the pigs must be great people since I did not see any signs for "pigs to rent". (reference to Lonesome Dove - Augustus McCrea = “If I had a mind to rent pigs, I'd be mighty upset. A man that likes to rent pigs won't be stopped.”)

Wednesday Russ and I drove to Mt. Washington a local ski resort for some elevated good times and conversations.  I will write about it in my next posting so stay tuned for that.

Thursday (today) was a nice one with going back down to Courtenay to Costco for supplies for Rose's business.  We also stopped by a small brew pub in Cumberland called the Cumberland Brewing Company.  We sat outside and had a light lunch while watching the artsy people in the small town.  It was a nice few hours and the food was wonderful.

On our last walk today Rose again joined us and we talked about my leaving and the fun we have had together on this trip.  We enjoyed a pint at the Royal Coachman before walking home for a nice stuffed pork chop dinner.   Just as we arrived back at the house to cross the street into the driveway we heard loud music coming over the hill above us.  "Born to be Wild" was blaring and could be heard about a block away.  Shortly a moped came over the hill with two people passing us music playing as they slowly went down the street.  A little surreal moment for sure.

My time in Campbell River British Columbia has been wonderful.  Spending time with my friend was like nothing had changed since our last meeting.  The laughter, the sometimes serious discussions about life and living were lively charged banter between us.  The stories told, some Lewis Grizzard memories and more stories had both of us laughing in stitches several times this week.  Thanks Russ and Rose for the hospitality, the warmth of your home and the kindness to this battered and somewhat disheveled person.  The time was well spent, the attitude adjusted somewhat and on the right path right now.  I'm off for other horizons and more friends along the way.

If you ever have a chance to visit this great little city of Campbell River I would highly recommend the time and travel to this beautiful place.  The people are friendly, the town clean and a healthy community feeling is everywhere.  Farewell to this wonderful place and I hope to return again soon.

Tomorrow morning, off to distant horizons, back in the USA, Bellingham, Seattle WA, and Portland, OR.  Jan/Nate/Colin/Donna-Lee I look forward to seeing you again soon.

What a wonderful Nice Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Long and Winding Road South to Campbell River

As I am making my way south from Anchorage to the Lower 48 on the "Where's the Flamingo" International Tour I was invited by my friend Russ' house to stop in and spend a few days.  Now to "stop in" I had to travel through one large state (Alaska), one large Canadian Territory (Yukon), one large Canadian Province (British Columbia), a 1.5 hour ferry ride and a 2 hour drive from the ferry terminal to Russ' house.  So as we southerner's say, I "do drop in" on Russ and his lovely wife Rose for about a week to visit.  

I met Russ online about 14 years ago on a gaming website where we quickly became friends after playing and chatting together for three years finally had an opportunity to meet, oddly in the Seattle airport on our way to a convention in Las Vegas.  I was arriving from Anchorage and Russ flew in from Edmonton Canada where our flights arrived about 20 minutes apart so I met him at his gate and we made our introductions and during the two hour layover found the Seattle taproom and had our first pint together with another friend who flew in from Oregon.  Our real life friendship carried over from our time online playing and chatting about many things.  Our kids were growing up, there were health issues in both families going on during that time and the time spent playing together kept us out of any possible trouble.  During part of this time period I will confess that I did spend more time than I should have online gaming.  Over the years a group of friend meet in different places around the country for a long weekend of fellowship, laughter, catching up on families or work while having some great meals and drinks together.

I left Anchorage at 8:00 am on Sunday morning driving through Glenallen, Tok, to the Canadian border at Beaver. Originally I had planned to stop in Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake in the Yukon but when I arrived in the early evening (7:55 pm) there was still light outside, everything was frozen (lake) so I decided to continue to Haines Junction about an hour away.  I needed fuel and was going to find a place to park for the night but found a self service gas station in town at 9:05 pm, refueled and fixed something to eat and continued to drive toward Whitehorse.  I found a rest area with several trucks and a camper about ten miles before arriving in Whitehorse so decided it was time to stop to sleep as it was just after 11:00 pm.  The temperature was 37° as I fell asleep after my first day driving 710 miles.

Awoke to temperature of 28° and started driving at 8:30 am into Whitehorse looking for somewhere to get a cup of coffee.  Nothing was open and I decided not to drive down the hill into the "downtown" part of the city along the river and continued to drive toward Watson Lake.  Several miles out of town had an moose/vehicle collision incident (previously blogged).  Saw many animals on or near the roadway during this stretch encountering multiple small herds of Caribou, a few moose, several foxes, and eagles along the way.  I stopped in Watson Lake for fuel, lunch, a phone call and pictures of Placido Flamingo and the Sign Forest. It was sunny and warm as I backtracked to Highway 37 south into British Columbia.  I would drive climbing into the mountains up to Dease Lake along a stretch of road approximately 60 miles with the burnt land from a forest fire.  It was in an area the lakes were still frozen but eerily alone with the burnt landscape and contrasting conditions.  

This stretch of road, 6 hours of driving I did not see anyone, another vehicle going in either direction and climbed up over gnat pass summit 3911 ASL (1192 meters) into snow for several hours and upon decent into cloudy overcast for awhile.  Past Bell River II where there were two helicopters parked used for heli-skiing and hauling mining equipment and supplies into the remote mines.  I did see one vehicle refueling but no people as I drove by.  I arrived in Meziadin Junction to refuel about 6:35 pm seeing my first sign of people in this very small native village.  After leaving saw several black bears along the roadway as i continued to drive to Smithers, BC pulling into a rest stop at 9:40 pm.  Second day on the road = 830 miles.

The start of day 3 I awoke to freezing rain on the windshield and windows and looked at the weather forecast for the days intended route.  I had planned to drive from Smithers to Prince George and continue east to Jasper Alberta and spend the night at Lake Louise.  Get up the next morning drive through Banff and west to Kamloops and stop along the way to Vancouver to camp.  My only problem was snow was expected all through the area and snow chains were required so I changed my route from Smithers, Prince George, Lake Williams, Thompson River gorge and stop for the night before going into Vancouver.  I stopped in Abbotsford BC at 6:00 pm got a room for the night for a much needed shower and good nights sleep.  It was raining and the temperature was 42 degrees.   Three days on the road, 2250 miles. 

I wanted to make the 10:15 am ferry from the terminal in Vancouver (tsawwassen) so I left about 8:15 am for the hour drive.  It was raining and 44 degrees so I wanted to make sure I was early but the weather cleared along the way by the time I paid and stopped in line to board the vessel.  it was sunny and 55 degrees so it was nice not having to wear a jacket or sweatshirt this morning.

I met a man in the vehicle behind me who lived half the year on Victoria Island in Nanaimo and the other half the year up north where I had driven from around Whitehorse.  We talked and he was curious about the road conditions as he would be traveling back north the next week.  He saw Placido and wanted to know the story behind him sitting in the passenger seat of my rig.  Another man in the vehicle next to me started talking about where I was headed and where he came from in Portland Oregon.

We shortly loaded the ferry and departed on time at 10:15 am for the one and a half hour sailing to the island.  It was nice being on the water again seeing the sea birds and the mini-white caps on the waves as we crossed from the mainland over to the island.  The ferry had several nice large seating areas, a small cafeteria, bathrooms and upper outside deck all the way around the vessel to sit, site see or enjoy the sun.  I went down to my vehicle and took Placido up on the upper deck for some photos and talked with a few curious people about what I was doing and where I was going.

Nanaimo was starting to rain as I exited the ferry but after a short drive north it turned sunny until I arrived at the house.  I arrived on Wednesday afternoon in Campbell River British Columbia about 1:30 pm and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and evening talking with Rose and Russ.  

Rose headed off to bed about 9 and we stayed up until after 1 am talking and having a few beers catching up on things since our last meeting in Orlando last July.

After four days of driving 2,250 miles through varying conditions, tragedy, spectacular scenery, introspective pondering about my life, my loves and dislikes I arrive to what I find a welcoming home, a truly beautiful small town by the ocean with many things to see and do with a great friend.  I'll write about the Campbell River Experience in my next posting.

"Just when I think I'm near the end, I always see the road a-bending. I wonder what's around the bend.'' - Charles Kuralt

Placido Flamingo and Dirty Harry

Placido Flamingo and Dirty Harry (or spending time on the water again)

While I'm visiting my friend Russ and his wife Rose in Campbell River, British Columbia one of the the weekend conversations turned to seafood and fishing.  Russ doesn't like eating seafood or fishing for that matter but it was decided we (Rose and & I) would make a seafood dinner for supper and Russ would eat one of his favorites, spaghetti.  Our meal consisted of fresh live dungeness crab and salmon, scallops, prawns with potatoes, onion, corn, rice, and Cajun seasoning.  It turned into a very nice meal for all and Russ decided that coming from the north hinterland of Alaska where fishing is a big pastime that I should go fishing in Campbell River the "Salmon Capitol of the World".  He booked us a half day charter on the boat "Dirty Harry" and it's captain, Harry.  The trip was set up for Monday morning to arrive at the dock at eight A.M. which we arrived a few minutes early to bring our gear down the gangway to the dock slip where the boat was moored.

We put our cooler of food and beer in the roll cart as well as a bag with our weather gear if needed. The gangway leading down to the boats drops about thirty feet due to the tide changes of about fifteen feet in this area.  It was before low tide so the water in the boat harbor and inside passage were dropping for another two hours till low tide.  We make our way to the boat and drop off the gear and can see the captain Harry preparing the fishing gear on the rear deck of the boat.  We do our greetings and introductions and start to pull the gear out of the cart and Harry sees this pink flamingo with a red Christmas hat and green scarf and you could tell by the look on his face what are these two idiots doing bringing along this flamingo on a fishing trip.

I explained my "walkabout" and the international "Where's the Flamingo Tour" which Harry thought was a hoot and was happy to take photos and allow on board his vessel. We took a couple photos at the dock, loaded everything and we cast off in search of Chinook salmon or "winter kings" as they are commonly called.  The main fishing season has not quite started yet but the winter kings are still around along with halibut and a couple other fish.  The main season starts in about three weeks when there will be a variety of species to catch.  Harry talked with several other captains on where everyone was fishing and who was having any luck.  Three other boat captains had chosen to ride out about an hour and half from the docks and had no luck while Harry decided to stay closer and try an area close to a local lighthouse on the ebb tide occurring.

We were trolling for the king salmon with two lines in the water at a depth of two hundred to two hundred twenty feet.  We used a down rigger with a ten pound weight to pull and hold the line with the lure about five to ten feet above the bottom.  Salmon or even halibut may see, smell, hear the line vibrating as it goes by so they head after the lure as it goes by them catching up and taking the bait in their mouth.  Once hooked the line comes out of the down rigger the fight is on to land the fish.

Russ was the first to make a catch, a double "rock fish" where he hooked two small sea anemone which had attached themselves each to a rock. Everyone laughed, a beer was broken out in celebration and we through them back in to "grow bigger".  As our line trolled over a rise in the sea floor our lures touched the bottom so he hooked the rock as it went over the rocks.

Shortly I hooked my first fish at about 200 feet depth as the rod tip pulled down and the down rigger released the line.  The hook was set so it was time to start reeling in the fish.  After several turns away from the boat the fish started swimming toward the surface and eventually jumped out of the water much like a silver salmon does when it is fighting.  It went back under and several minutes later jumped out of the water again.  Nice looking fish was on the line.

The fish was a twelve pound Chinook salmon (winter king) and it turned out to be a white Chinook which is not as common but runs during the winter months. Had it fresh for dinner that night by the way.  We re-positioned the boat for the next trolling pass and once again put out our lines in the water and about forty five minutes after catching the first fish I hooked into another one which had more fight but turned out to be a litter smaller, ten pound king salmon.

We fished the changing tide but did not catch anything other than Russ hooked another "rock fish" with this one being a triple with three rocks attached to the sea anemones.  The weather was perfect with high clouds in the early morning giving way to sun by the time the tide shifted.  The mountains around Campbell River were beautiful and inviting for a hike maybe later in the week.

It was a great day on the water, enjoying natures best, and the fellowship and stories of old and new friends.  I left latitude 62° and am now at latitude 50° so I guess there are some attitude changes going on.  I'm missing the normalcy and routines of Anchorage and the people there but trying to adapt to these changes now.  Good days and bad days but nothing quite seems to remain the same so this adventure continues.

Have an Nice Day!