Groaners

A glittering softness hangs over the stream bed. Water levels are very low this year.
That’s it! An August water level in June.

Nearly everyone knows about Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoons. When you mention the man’s name, folks instantly tell you about their favourite one. A former family doctor, when sending files to a specialist, would glue a Larson to the folder. He claimed that file would always end up on top of the pile. After an accident which required major heart surgery, I was able to get near the head of the line-up relatively quickly. Perhaps a Larson cartoon helped save my life!

Down to a trickle.

Half of Larson’s work goes right over my head. I don’t understand it at all. The other ones are indelible. I cannot name a favourite because I have several filed away in my brain. Among them is one about a boy entering the “School For The Gifted” and pushing desperately on a door marked ‘Pull.’

Two dogs have a man on his back while they tickle him and laugh at his twitching leg.

There is one about the “Boneless Chicken Ranch.”

Cows grazing placidly in a field stand on their hind legs until someone shouts “Car coming!” Two old salts sit at a bar and exchange yarns. One with a wooden leg says “Well that’s interesting but let me tell you how I lost this.” His buddy has a wooden peg sticking up from his collar with a sailor’s hat hanging from the top.” The humour is often dark and sarcastic, but then all humour is a form of sarcasm.

Our cartoonists and comedians are among our modern philosophers and Larson is there with the best. One of his works depicts cattle in a long queue which goes up a ramp into the Acme Abattoir. One cow stands at right angles to the line with its head jammed between the tail of the cow in front and the face of the next cow which says, “No cutting in eh!” How’s that for social comment?

Two morgue workers attend a body in a drawer, sheet over it, toe tagged. They are going through the deceased’s pockets. One worker finds a winning lottery ticket. He says,“Lucky stiff.” As you recall one cartoon yet more come to mind.

Humour has been my salvation. Mr Larson has certainly helped sustain me in a few different ways. I’d like to buy him a beer and discover what sort of fellow he is in person. I often employ humour to ease my way through difficult situations and in interactions with other people. If you can make someone laugh, especially yourself, things are going to work out. Folks who don’t laugh leave me baffled. Everyone needs levity and the endorphin release induced with laughter. “Laughter, the best medicine” is not just a cliché.

No-one is as broke as the person who has lost their sense of humour. I think of the people out there with no apparent sense of humour at all, ever, and I wonder how they carry on. Many of those dour characters are in prominent places making global decisions. I’m sure they carry a sobering load but wouldn’t it be great if people like Mr. Trump, for example, just stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Did you ever hear the one about…?” Suddenly the world would become a much brighter place. Imagine Gary Larson, Billy Connolly, Steven Wright or Rowan Atkinson as a political leader. Prime Minister Bean, that does have a ring to it. Mind you, they probably do more for humanity right where they are. Volodymyr Zelensky, the new President of the Ukraine, was a nationally prominent comedian. Considering the dangerous clown named Putin with whom he must now lock horns, he is perhaps imminently qualified for his new role. I know nothing about politics, especially in Eastern Europe. Politics here leave me plenty baffled.

The bee’s knees. You can see them sticking out from behind one flower.

Even here at home, where everyday the political news is yet another groaner, it would be nice to laugh with, instead of at, all those manoeuvring to get themselves re-elected. On a final note about politicians and humour, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has just announced the government’s approval of the very controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline . I am reminded of Steven Wright’s line, “I just took a lie detector test…no I didn’t.” 

A promise of green apples. “Anyone can count the seeds in one apple, but who can count the apples in one seed?”

On the subject of groaners, my little rotted trailer is gone. It sold at a salvage price to some very nice people who clearly understand, and want, the project they have bought. No matter how I did the math, I could not make sense of building myself a mobile monument. I could easily have spent all of the summer, and up to another ten thousand dollars, building the ultimate f.r.e.d. trailer (freaking ridiculous economic disaster) Now the albatross around my neck is gone and so once again I can start over. After attending URVU (Used RV University,) I can find another trailer now that I think I know what to look for. Meanwhile I feel that I’ve stood over the toilet and ripped up ten thousand dollars for one mighty royal flush. That much money is a fortune to me these days but I keep telling myself that I’m getting off lightly. I know of folks who have bought houses, vehicles, boats and RVs for a very much higher tuition.

Closed. I know, it’s irrelevant to this blog, but I could not resist the image.

You can well imagine some of the language I’ve used in consideration of recent events. Coincidentally, a friend just e-mailed me about the origins of the word “Shit.” Lord, I hope this is true! Before fertilizers had been invented manure was often shipped by sea. To reduce weight, it was always dried first. (Some places on earth had natural deposits of seabird droppings which was mined as “Guano.”) Once at sea, this cargo tended to absorb moisture and begin to ferment. Fermentation produces methane. Any flame below decks, such as a lantern, would cause a huge explosion. Several ships were lost this way before the cause was eventually determined.

After that, these cargoes were marked with the warning, Ship High In Transit. S.H.I.T. Thus ends the nautical portion of this blog.

My nautical image for this blog. It is of a stowed gaff-mainsail and an explanation of the term, “Knowing the ropes.”

The stream beds are dry, the snow on the mountains is gone. Folks continue to soak their lawns and continue to wash their cars and boats. This, in a community where sprawling subdivisions have been permitted to spread like cancer. The newcomers water their new lawns as oblivious to the problem as the municipal fathers. Water levels, this mid-June, are lower than many years in August. We have twice the population as only a few years ago with the same water supply, let alone in a year of drought. All those new roads, and driveways are freshly paved. That in turn sheds any precipitation we do receive. It is no longer retained as it was in the forest ecosystem which is now gone. When the tap to the hot tub coughs out a puff of dust, who will we blame? Water, clean fresh water, even in our toilets, the most precious commodity on the planet, is something with which we are abundantly blessed and take absolutely for granted. I close my eyes and hear Joni Mitchel singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’… “They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Who would have ever thought that British Columbia would face water shortages?

Jack, now very hale and healthy, indulges in his favourite pastime while there’s still fresh water to wade in.
Summer!

So, two quotes for this posting. One leapt out at me from some research I was doing. I am a sucker for anything Steinbeck so I was immediately hooked. It thumped me between the eyes. The lyrical blessing of the second quote was graciously sent to me from a friend who apparently understands perfect timing. Is it possible? Can one’s stumbling progress come together as if there was a higher purpose that will make sense in the end? Only we can make that realization.

The hairy monster. A dog we met on the trail was furious at the sight of the microphone.

Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

– Edward Abbey

Goldfield Calling

In the American Southwest all roads seem to funnel through Las Vegas. There is also another place which my travels invariably take me to when travelling the breadths of Nevada. That place is Austin. It is an old mining town. Like many ghostly communities in that state, it is perched high on a mountain-side overlooking a broad valley. The population is sparse. I’ve driven through it twice already this year. While returning from Mexico, I was there again, now on a vicious winter evening. Snow was blowing along the main street. I came face to face with a herd of approximately eighteen white-tailed deer. They seemed to have no concern about the weather or me. I stopped and let them cross the highway.

Looking back on the outskirts of Austin Nevada. Thazzit!

The Austin campground, run by the local Baptist church, was closed. It was where I had planned to spend the night. All the side roads were solidly drifted-in. I could find no place to pull in for the night so I drove on westward. Down across the valley I travelled into the gathering darkness for more countless weary miles. Highway 50 is called America’s loneliest highway. It certainly was that night. Finally there was a spot sufficiently off the road at an old Pony Express historic site. In the morning I read the narrative signs and took my photos.

I vividly recall how the history of that epic venture was described. A dismal financial failure from the beginning, after a few short years, the Pony Express was decimated by the then-new telegraph system. As I drive through that vast country I often think of someone on a horse pelting across the untamed wilderness. Even in a vehicle, you can drive for days across bleak and beautiful land that leaves one wondering about that romanticized era. What has not been glorified was the desperate lives of the station keepers of the express service. They were the backbone of the fabled trek. Horses had to be changed regularly, every few hours, and that meant there had to be stables with fresh horses all along the route. Not only did the folks at these places get no glory, they endured multiple deprivations of hunger, cold, heat, illness, loneliness and frequent native attacks all for a meagre income. It must not have been at all romantic.

Sadly, that day, the data memory card in my camera came adrift. I have no photos of that dramatic place but I will not forget that stop at aptly named ‘Cold Springs.’ On my homeward trek this was yet another night of bitter cold when the plumbing in my van froze up. By then, on that wintry drive, I had learned to fill my morning kettle the night before. Thanks be that my trusty propane furnace did not ever let me down but there was never a happier sound in the morning than when that old engine fired up! The came the whistle of the kettle and the first sip of hot, black coffee which I drank as the front heater began to produce more warmth. I’m not so sure I would have done well as a Pony Express employee.

Highway 50, “The loneliest highway in America.” This was taken westbound for Austin on the night described. It was as cold as it looks. Imagine this same scene from horseback, with no sign of civilization anywhere. You have not eaten all day, the horse is beginning to limp.
Looking west from Austin on another day when Mexico-bound. This is the valley described which I crossed that wintry night in the dark after a twelve-hour day of driving       I intend to go back there, soon, and hike the few miles up to the actual station. Apparently you can still see gun ports in its stone walls. That will be after I work out what the hell to do about funds and rebuilding or replacing my ill-fated little trailer. No-one seems to want to buy it outright as salvage nor as an interesting project. I’m beginning to wonder if the Gods are determined that I do this rebuild. I have my preliminary measurements and drawings complete. It will be a huge job but ultimately produce a solid off-road steel-framed trailer, (maybe even with a few gun ports.) What I envision will certainly be something to be proud off although I’d rather be out there taking it easy and enjoying a leisurely summer with my cameras. I am supposed to be retired but that is clearly a state of income.  I’m not qualifying.

This all came to mind recently as I uploaded my best photos from that trip to Shutterstock.com. That is a website which heavily screens and files a photographer’s work then sells quality images as selected by a global clientele. On occasion I actually get paid a few coins for some of my efforts. Editing and submitting those images took my memory back to an intriguing old mining town in Nevada called Goldfield. Southbound, somewhere near here, is the latitude where one first sees Yucca trees growing wild in the desert. I’ve previously described the village as a full-time Burning Man event. There are funky relics, buildings and some interesting people. Like all the other old communities, it has a distinct personality.

One notable point is a wonderful volunteer FM radio station located on main street but also streams its programs live online. “Voice of the Wild, Wild West.” I’m listening as I write. There’s some Harry Chapin on, “The Cat’s In The Cradle.” If you know the song, you’ve dated yourself! Next is an old, old recording of Paul Harvey delivering an essay called “And God made a farmer.” Then comes Dylan with “Tweeter And The Monkey Man.” I love this station. Now I’m listening to the theme song for the ancient TV show, “Mr. Ed.”Then comes some Ian Tyson. “Cain’t beat it with a stick!”

Alive and in colour coming to you from the wild, wild west.

Here is the link: https://tunein.com/radio/Radio-Goldfield-891-s137238/  Not only is the music earthy and pleasant, it takes me back to that town. It instills a deep yearning to return and linger. An outback humour is shared among it’s hosts who all joke about an imaginary station mascot. This burro, named ‘Tumbleweed,’ loves to drink thirteen beer at a sitting in the local saloon. There are of course many other backcountry radio stations out there which remain undiscovered to me. Check out KGFN Goldfield for some rustic comfort. Listening to local stations as they come within range and then fade behind me as I drive along is one of my travelling joys. Unfortunately that desert peace fades for me once I descend into Las Vegas.

The first yucca I saw on my way south. That is an entire old-growth forest of them in the background.

Friends have now discovered a route which allows one to sneak around Las Vegas (Spanish for the plains or lowlands) on its east side. I will certainly try to find it next time. All other roads force one to descend into the bowels of this horrible place. Real plastic! I don’t like greed, glitz, din, facades or pretentiousness which seems to be all that Vegas is about. Real plastic! Real plastic! World famous! World famous! The notion of gambling and all the maggots who feed on that industry has always wilted my biscuit. In Vegas even the churches look like casinos. There are flashing lights everywhere. Apparently casino chips are welcome in the collection plates! Enough said! Meanwhile, the desperately poor are apparently invisible within the shining throb and flash of all that shallow fantasy.

When I returned from my southern odyssey in February, this was the view at the old Swallowfield farm.
Five months later.
Another morning, another walk. It helps keep at least two old dogs youngish.

In the midst of my present woes I just received an e-mail from a boat owner. He has an Albin 27 on which I left my card last year saying “If you ever want to sell…” Now he does. It would be a perfect little displacement cruiser for me, tough enough to take to Mexico and very practical to own. Albins have been long-loved by me, simple and tough is my kind of sexy when it comes to boats. It could be a great summer home on this coast. Bugga!

This is the actual Abin 27 in question. I photographed it last summer when at the local marina. Then I left my card.

I continue to look for a way to hook my dream. I have a very hard time being hove-to and waiting for the storm to pass. They always do. Possessing a manic need for my hands and brain to always be busy, sitting day after day waiting to see which way the pickle squirts is damned hard. I know nothing happens until you do something but sometimes you just have to be cool; even when it’s hot. Speaking of heat, the thermometer here this afternoon rose to 32°C. For fun, I checked the temperature in Goldfield, 29°C. Go figure!

Blackberry Honey
The blackberry bushes are a-buzz with bees. There will be a massive crop if we have enough moisture. Their flowering seems to be at least a month early this year.
The last plum. Indian Plumbs are small but make good jam if picked when ripe. The birds know when they are perfect. Suddenly they are all gone.

After a long wet winter we’ve had a very dry spring. Streams are dry, some trees are beginning to wither. A long summer lays ahead. We will either dry up, turn to dust and blow away or burn, or…it will rain the whole season. One way or the other, this island is still paradise. Here is a link to my latest video-making effort. In three minutes you can get a sense of one facet of life on this island.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=one+fine+day+fred+bailey

When I think of all the places on this planet where millions are born, live and die who may never see a real tree or can image unlimited amounts of fresh water… and the health and plenty and peace we take for granted I can only be thankful to live here.

“Ya well you bikers aren’t so tough when you’re on your own!” A cleverly motorized bicycle indeed.
That’s easy for you to say.
Lego world! Jack and I sometimes go for a walk past this old mine’s head rig. A historical site it is apparently under renovation. Ship’s containers make clever, strong scaffolding and perhaps…affordable housing.
I deliberately did not focus this orange cat to show how well he blends in. It is the art of not moving. Do you ever wonder how many creatures you pass closely and do not see? Jack didn’t.
A Barred Owl I was fortunate to see as it flew silently through the limbs and settled here.
Remember that while cream may rise to the top, so does scum.                                                                Some may want to take that as a political comment.
Your call!

 

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

A Walk With Jack

Now just breathe. Sunday morning in a Crofton backwater.
“Slow down! Let’s just stop and smell the roses.”

My blogs have been so gloomy-doomy lately that I think they could make a hangman cry. This little life of mine seems to be hove-to at the moment. So, no mention of boats or Rvs or shattered dreams. How about a walk on a perfect weather Sunday morning? The joy of it was that Jack seemed to completely be himself this morning. He is certainly not a bounding puppy anymore nor does he lunge off after rabbits now but he is taking a full interest in life and actually has some vigour. We went to our beloved estuary at the mouth of the Chemainus River. I simply sat and watched him play for over an hour. He loves to chase little creatures, shadows and sparkles. He always has. It was very healing. Here are some pictures.

Full blooms. It’s June.
“Dorothy, it ain’t Kansas, and I don’t care.”
Let’s zoom in.
Nettles and Buttercups. Weeds are just plants for which someone else has no use.
The wild roses are at their peak.
Is the bush a rose hip’s way of reproducing?
You walk like a heron.
In the moment

I saw this on a bumper sticker. “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Jack’s Back!

Jack’s Back!

That old sparkle which I worried I’d never see again is back. What a relief!
Back in the wade. Jack’s favourite bliss.

Jack is now on the mend. His nose is wet, his eyes are shiny and he is taking a full interest in life. He was near death it seemed. A wonderful vet came by in his mobile clinic and deduced that Jack had eaten something nasty while out on walk. With other dark clouds in my sky I was terrified that he wasn’t going to make it through the night only four days ago. My hope was thin. I am happy to report that he was out on the trail with me this morning sporting along almost like his old self again. I am deeply grateful to a wonderful veterinarian who brought his mobile clinic to the door, just the way things used to be done. Thank you Tom.

Wiggling on his back in a patch of fragrant grass is another joy.

While I am being thankful I cannot let my appreciation for the love and support of family and friends to go unmentioned. The last two weeks for me have been hellacious, the support has been life-sustaining. THANK YOU!

My RV for the moment. This newly-completed bike/walking trail is lovely and close to home. I’m working up to pedalling all the way to Chemainus, the next town, for a coffee and then pedalling back.
Downhill and up, shift down, shift up, pedal, coast.
Porter’s barn…well, it’s one of many on this very successful dairy farm. I love barns and how form and function can work together.

I am able to check statistics for my blog site. I know how many people have looked at each posting, what country on the planet they are in and how long folks on average have spent looking at each post. I’m sure there’s more I can learn but being the cyber-caveman I am; good enough!

I only have access to a viewer’s e-mail address when they contact me with a comment. I always reply to every one, even when it’s a criticism and I do stay respectful of other folk’s information. Always grateful for every interaction I’m always eager to hear from my readers. I’ve noted something interesting. Posts that draws the least views also produce the most comments. It is like a lottery. The higher the main prize, the more tickets sell and the odds rise to very, very thin odds. The latest blog drew comments about personal bicycle memories and concerns for Jack have also come in. Thank you!

As you may recall I recently had a local computer whiz tune-up this site. That man has two huge computer screens on his desk which he is able to work simultaneously. His hands flash over his keyboards and text heaps up before your eyes. He never looks at what his hands are doing. Half of his spelling is incorrect but at the end of each bit of writing he pokes a button. Everything is spell-checked, the punctuation is correctly arranged, line spacing and indents are perfect. That is amazing; yet I see the big possibility of mistakes which can go unnoticed, especially if the computer is thinking in American-English.

My old saw is the question about ‘checking your cheque book.’ I also know what happens when you become dependant on technology. You lose your basic skills. That is the reason I rail against using electronic navigation in the marine world. You should have the basic old-school knowledge in the back of your head if the Global Positioning System ever fails for any variety of reasons, including deliberate human intervention. Once you become dependant on anything, you quickly give up of freedom of self-reliance and in the case of writing, self-expression.

I have used the two index bananas on my gnarled paws to peck out two novels, several other books, copious poetry and musings. Each letter is typed one at a time and spelling errors are fixed as I go. I edit everything. I trim away all the ands, buts or other conjunctives I can. Should the same word be used twice to describe anything, I try to find another word to replace one of them. The art of good writing is to say as much as possible with as few words possible. Flowery just does not cut it.

I think of some of the world’s great writers who produced everything longhand with a dip pen and a candle for light. If you wanted to change a word or sentence, you’d have to rewrite the whole page. And, operating like I do, as you jotted down the final period, you’d manage to tip the ink pot over the whole manuscript. Haar again. But then with a computer, now and then some writing and photographs manage to vanish into the ether never to be seen again. “Oh golly,” I think to myself. Yeah right.

Quail’s Gate
Beside the trail. There’s always a photo if you care to look.
There’s one! A lone pedestrian ahead on the trail. I stopped to take a photo and let him go ahead. In the early morning, you should respect another’s serenity.
The shed out back. The forest never stops trying to reclaim itself.
The line forms on the left. Early morning, before the juice begins to flow. A young backyard entrepreneur has set up shop beside the trail. “A capitalist is just a socialist who’s found an opportunity.”

There is another “Phew.” I’ve finally made a decision about my little trailer. It is for sale as salvage. It is a hard decision but also a relief and a viable consideration. “First loss, best loss.” If the ducks line up for a rebuild I am open to options but at the moment, with no repair facilities, the economics of a major rebuild just did not add up from any angle. There is another home on wheels, a good one, out there somewhere with my name on it even as I write. Christmas in Baja…or bust. My dark drama may have come about, in part, because of my ingrained farm-boy sense of economics. It seems to be in my DNA, this life-long propensity to spend thousands of dollars trying to save dimes. But then, if I’d had spent more on a trailer it may also have been a write-off. Who knows? I’ve certainly gained a million dollars worth of experience.

Gift-wrapped. “Some boats are built to sail, most are built to sell.” … John Steinbeck           Trailers too!

I again employed my inept fiscal instincts today. I found my computer mouse laying on its back with its little feet in the air. Dead! Stopping by the local dollar store I proudly came home with a bargain mouse I’d bought for ten dollars. It worked, sort of. This afternoon I came out of the local computer store with a brand name product which works beautifully. So there you are. In my determination to be cheap, I’m now out the price of a piece of junk. Maybe I’ll throw it in with the trailer. That’ll clinch the deal!

And that’s the way I feel. I truly believe that dogs are one of man’s higher achievements

If you want to buy good, clean, fresh oats you must pay a fair price. Ones that have already been through a horse cost a bit less.” …anon.

I wonder As I Wobble

 

Crofton, a local mill town.  E. J. Hughes, a famous local painter managed to combine simplicity, subtle tones and saturated colours in his wonderful work. It is very hard to replicate with a camera.                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the items I acquired to go with my trailering-south plans was a bicycle. It is an old one which I purchased from a local fellow who recycles bikes and sells them at very fair prices. His business can be found under the name ’Vibe Bikes.’ Mine is an aluminum-framed mountain bike. It definitely looks like it has been up and down a few mountains but the tires, brakes and other machinery are in excellent shape. I wanted something that looked a bit rough instead of screaming “Steal me!”            My last bike travelled all the way to Mexico and home again this past winter without ever being ridden. You may recall photos of it on the back of my van in a blizzard in Nevada. It had been severely saturated in road salt and calcium and I donated it to the cause. The newer old bike has languished in storage ever since. I went and bought an affordable ventilated helmet that even has a built-in led tail light. It can blink or be turned on to a steady red display. The whole notion of a helmet leaves me a bit tongue in cheek but it is nice to offer a clear target to folks coming up behind you. For those ahead of me I bought a little squeeze-bulb horn just like a clown would wear on his lapel. I am angered when cyclists brush by from behind without even an “Excuse me” as a bit of notice. “Ya coulda hit me by cracky!” I also bought a fat-ass seat cover but it only gets in my way when I try to swing my leg over the thing. I almost ended up in the rhubarb before I finally got aboard.
Behind the scene. On the other side of the beach, three bucks poke about for something to eat.
No country for old bicycles. A bike that went all the way to Mexico and back without being ridden.
Another bike in white.
A slightly warmer day.

Here’s an image for you. A slightly-past prime, slightly Rubenesque geezer in baggy shorts on a bike as battle-scarred as he is, wearing a fluorescent green helmet, wobbles off around the bend, his scrawny white legs pumping labouriously. Just to make sure it works, he pinches his clown horn well before he passes a couple walking on the path ahead. The lady likes the horn and thanks him for it and the old guy on the bike refrains from any rude jokes about horns. Well done indeed! That image of course is none other than meself lurching along like a drunken sailor.

You may not forget how to ride a bike, but there are certainly muscles which do not want to remember. “All those years, and now you want me to spring into action?” Nearby is a newly completed gravel path, a few kilometreswhich are long, picturesque and gentle for walking and cycling between the local areas of Saltair and Chemainus. The fine, hard-packed surface seemed to cling at my tires. A local bumper sticker says, “Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill.” Too right mate! Everything seems uphill on a bike. But one day soon, thanks to the swimming, the biking, dog-walking and dieting, you’ll be able see right through me like the gossamer wings of a bird.

I already owned a vehicle (Note I didn’t say ‘car’…it was a Vauxhall) when I turned sixteen. My bike went south as soon as I got behind the wheel. That means I have not ridden a bike very much in the last half-century. The feelings of today’s brief jaunt, wind rushing up my shirt and rumbling in my helmet, the sound of the tires as one leg, stronger than the other, always pumps a little harder and then the joy of coasting down a bit of incline. Yesterday, on my first bike outing, that rush was only realized after I pushed the bike up a hill. Well, some folks do call them “Push bikes.” Many cruising sailors keep bikes aboard but I never warmed to that idea. Either you had an expensive silly-looking bike with tiny wheels that you stored somewhere below, and I’m sure always in the way, or you kept a full-sized one on deck somewhere but never in a place where it can’t foul lines into a dangerous tangle. So, I never did bother with going to sea with a bike on board. Not only are they always out in a harsh marine environment, bikes are also unfriendly toward wood work, paint and fibreglass.

I said: “No bikes on the dock!”
Kerplunk.

One of the happier memories of my dad and I comes from a time he found a discarded bicycle and lugged it home. We removed the old wheels and I bought new tires, learned how to patch inner tubes and adjust spokes. The front forks needed new bearings but because all was seized tight he built a fire and threw the bike into it. Once heated, the rusty old parts yielded to our persuasions and eventually we had a working bike. The only paint available was salvaged from two cans which mixed into a bright salmon colour.

It would be a very cool tone today, but it was an embarrassment back then. All the same, I put a lot of miles on that recycled rig. I delivered newspapers with it and rode it all over Halton County between the local waterfront and the cow-pasture airfield which I haunted.

The bike was a standard single speed CCM. The braking system simply involved applying reverse pressure on the pedals. The handles were angled backward a bit from a long crossbar. If you were trendy you flipped that bar over so that the handles pointed up like cow’s horns. Some kids used a wooden clothes peg to hold a playing card on the frame so that it clattered in the spokes as the wheel turned. With a little imagination, you were on a motorcycle. There were no complex cable systems nor gear-shifting mechanisms requiring complex adjustments. To keep your pant cuff from getting caught in the chain you simply tucked it inside your sock. Bicycle clips were for nerds. For night riding you could buy a feeble head light powered by a tiny generator which flipped over to be driven by the spinning sidewall of one tire. Those generators required a noticeable amount of extra pedalling and the light’s brilliance rose and fell with turn of the wheel. Exotic bikes had three speeds, cable brakes and down-swept handle bars. A Raleigh was the ultimate brand to own.

“Yeah well, you bikers aren’t so tough when you’re on your own.” At a festival on Moss Street in Victoria.
Nice honker!
Once upon a wreck.
“Turn your night light on.”
Come to think of it, of all man’s infernal machines, the bicycle has to be one of the ultimate inventions.

As I write I am reminded of an older Dutch man from my youth who often rode by on an omafiet (Grandma’s bike) a traditional bike from Holland where the pedalling is nearly all on flat ground. He sat rigidly upright puffing on a big pipe and pedalling slowly. Yet he hurtled along, a stately image I can still see. The heavy bike had a skirt over the rear wheel, a monstrous chain guard and sported a huge wicker basket on the front which was often full of various items. These traditional Dutch bikes are now very desirable. Copies are manufactured in North America. Isn’t it funny how one memory leads to the other? And how what was gross and stupid suddenly becomes the latest trend. There’s nothing new! And all of this blog, so far, comes from spending a few minutes on a bike.

An Omafiets. I found this image on Google Images. All rights to this image are theirs.
I love my bowl. More please!

Old Jack is suddenly showing his years. He is bravely affectionate and still thinks intrepidly but there are signs that worry me. Tomorrow the vet is coming. Hopefully there will be the joy and comfort of his presence for a good while yet. He is needed, badly, and I do my best to be optimistic. Surely it is not his time yet. I recall a story about a family sitting around their dinner table mourning the recent lose of their beloved family member. They were discussing why dogs are so short-lived. The little girl suggested, “Maybe it’s because they already know the stuff it takes us so long to learn.”

This old dog. He was still chasing butterflies yesterday and digging in the soft sand. You can’t keep an old dog down.

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that God doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” Emo Philips

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

CLUNK!

Ahhh. Rain! Taken an hour ago. Despite a long wet winter, all is already desperately, unseasonably dry.  The rain felt so good. Who knows? Maybe it will rain all summer.
Jack smells the flowers. Where I stood to take this photo is usually muddy year-round. Yesterday it was dusty.

I promise. ‘Seafire Chronicles’ will not become an ongoing diatribe against the RV industry. This posting will be the end of my whining and self-recriminations about my own incredible stupidity. Then it will be on with the next adventure. After realizing the terminal cancer in my sweet little trailer I began making a video about my folly. Something interesting thing happened. I was standing in front of the camera beginning to film what I was to name “Fun Finder Blues”. The light was wrong and I just couldn’t remember the lines I had rehearsed, even after several “takes.” While I was struggling with that I was approached by a fellow who told me how he had bought exactly the same model of trailer, brand-new, from a local RV dealer. His 2014 Fun Finder 189 was leaking rainwater inside before he got it home from the sales yard!

He had a hell of an ordeal with both dealer and factory before finally having it repaired by an independent shop and selling it, with a clear explanation of his bargain price, to a young couple. He was obviously a well-heeled, intelligent man who had also done his research before making his ill-fated purchase. By the way, should any of you locals need one, that shop is Adrian’s RV in Nanaimo. He comes with many high recommendations including mine. I felt slightly better to realize I was not the only sucker. So I wrote this:

There’s nowt as smart as an old buck

Until that old buck mucks up

Then he’s just a head on the wall

And a chump roast in the freezer.”

Humour, desperately needed as it may be, doesn’t resolve an issue. It does ease the pain a bit and certainly helps me make it through the day. Now, a week later, I’m very much older and a little bit smarter. I’ve picked up my custom order of new aluminum facing to which I had to commit. I bought it to expedite the repair of the trailer. There is a limited amount of time to store it in a space which had been graciously provided so I could make repairs. Ordering ahead seemed the clever thing to do at the time; especially when you live on an island. The invoice, quoted ahead of time, was almost twice what I expected and of course I’d forgotten about the sales tax. It just gets better and better! For once my usual prudence of being positively negative and assessing worst case scenarios has blown up in my face.

Just a few days ago I went to bed in here feeling snug and smug about about my lovely little trailer.  Jack cuddled up happily beside me and we never moved till dawn. Now it looks like a Taliban suicide bombers classroom. “Pay attention lads, I’ll only show you this once!”
Putting on a brave face. A temporary measure for storage or transport to the knacker’s yard or a place where I will perform a major rebuild.

As I pilot I can tell you there is a deadly situation called a spiral which most often occurs when you lose sight of the horizon. The aircraft accelerates downward in an ever- tightening turn until the aircraft disintegrates, usually when it hits the ground. The recovery procedure is to first recognize the situation as soon as possible, then pull back on the throttle, level the wings and gently but firmly reduce your speed by raising the nose. You need to avoid structural damage or entering a high-speed stall. How’s that for a metaphor? It will all seem funny when this story is in the distance and viewed through a rear-view mirror. “Pull up, pull up.”

There are some positive aspects. Imagine if this rot box had exploded or imploded somewhere on the rugged roads of Mexico or in a desert wilderness. Or, how about on an Interstate Highway as one of those behemoth trucks hurtled past pushing its wall of compressed air. I’d bet it happens from time to time. And I swear, that with my new awareness, I can now actually see self-destruction happening in very many trailers and motor homes.

I’ve decided that there was no point in wasting time putting together a video about low integrity and consumer rape when there are clearly so many other fools out there. Manufacturers clearly have all the conscience of politicians. The products excreted from their factories are marketed on the terms of bi-weekly payments. With the “Eat, drink and be merry” philosophy of our frantic culture, we fools do rush in so long as we can make the bi-weekly payments. So the marketing model becomes: “Eat crap, a billion flies can’t be wrong.”

I’ve done further research and I see now that most of these trailers are built the same way.

Losing face.The delamination on the faces of both these trailers is obvious.
Boink, boink, boink. Now I can see the problem  on trailers everywhere. On metal-sided trailers it is much harder to see, sometimes until you fall through the rotted floor!

Here is a link to a short YouTube video where the Jayco Trailer Company proudly displays how they throw together thirty-two trailers a day, each one in about six hours. The workers run like raped apes, easily showing why one should never buy this product. This video is one of the most counter-productive marketing tools ever. Why it is posted at all raises some obvious questions. But then, there a lot of fools out there, like me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXMJrRQ3SVk

It made me recall an RV salesman once eagerly telling me how what he was trying to sell was made by the “Mennonite folk, quality indeed,” he assured me although I could the ground through holes in the inside storage lockers of a virgin trailer. In the above video some costumes and hair styles prove some folks of that persuasion do indeed work in these plant. That is very sad. Their faith was once synonymous with integrity.

Well enough already! It is time for me to heave-to and see which way the wind will blow. Then I can fall off onto the proper tack to get where I am going. Negativity feeds on itself and so does being positive. Always in life the first/best resource is a good attitude and so I’ll try to go that way. But damn! It’s hard.

Woody! One of the joys of NOT owning a boat is that you still see the beauty but do none of the work, especially on wooden boats. Now I can wander down the dock, hands in pockets, accosting boat-owners bent to their tasks and say things like,”Work, work, work, it never bloody ends!” This is a gorgeous wee vessel from the days when it would have been a grand yacht by the standard of its day.

My ongoing Keto diet is still working even though I cheat a bit. There is already enough manic action in my script without any more self-imposed strictness. One of the reasons I didn’t like what I was recording on video is that I think I look older as I lose pounds. I’m half-way to my targeted lower mass but worry and depression are not part of a recommended weight loss program. I need to stay busy. I can’t seem to find a job and I’m not feeling especially creative. One of the reasons I take so many photos and make videos is to stay in touch with the amazing beauty all around us. When you stop seeing that, you are half-way dead. I live in a beautiful place. Folks from around the world travel to see Vancouver Island. The trick is to keep on seeing the raw beauty while you live here. Ladysmith sits on the northern lip of the Cowichan Valley. I have easy access to both forest and ocean all around me. The weather is perfect, hot and dry already, and so it’s boots and saddles. C’mon Jack!

Old Jack spots a rabbit. Note the deep concern of his prey.

And so…on to the next adventure.

Last evening, while sitting in front of the goon box watching a movie about a pug, of all things, a rat suddenly ran in through the open door. He was a big bugger! He scuttled back and forth along two walls of the living room with his little feet pattering loudly. We closed the door so he could not escape and then shut Jack in a bedroom. A Keystone Cops routine ensued as old ‘El Gordo’ here pulled out furniture from the walls, all the while trying to keep Rodney the rodent from moving further into the home. I seized a short chunk of two by four from the garage and finally herded the wee beast into a corner. Clunk! He was promptly dispatched to the big cheese in the sky. Me, the once-great hunter, felt both sympathy and empathy for this fellow creature of the universe. I understood, all too well, those horrible long moments within the terror of entrapment and realizing a mistake I could not reverse.

Ain’t life strange? You’ve got to laugh.

The path in the glen. This is a favourite spot on a local walking trail. Who knows where the wandering way leads?

She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”

From “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

I Thought It Pulled Heavily!

The Dream. The Sea Of Cortez and all of Mexico around it . It exists even as you look at this image.

As noted in my previous blog, a week ago Jack and I were in a campsite on Sproat Lake just west of Port Alberni. It was a nice enough place although a bit too civilized for me. Yet I found myself in bliss because the trailer was proving itself as a close-to-perfect unit for my needs. This would be my mobile home for months on end so I could take exquisite photographs and make inspiring videos and write. It would be this old fartist’s (not a typo) studio and make for a healthy, affordable retirement. With that lifestyle in mind, I know my state of being and longevity will improve. I was fantasizing about sitting beside the trailer under a brilliant starry desert night sky, with a gently flickering mesquite campfire. Coyotes yipped and howled in the distance. My plan was to come home and repair the delamination in the front of the trailer. It would be an easy job for an old boat re-builder guy like me. The trailer would then be ready for adventures south. It is supposed to be a light-weight trailer. It thought it felt a bit heavier than it should, sort of like driving a loaded logging truck. I was essentially correct. The damned thing was water-logged throughout, top to bottom, front to back.

The joy of the trailer a few weeks ago. That reality was too short-lived.
Reality today.
“Whadya mean I’ve taken apart the wrong trailer. This belongs to who?”
NOT! Metal frame or not, you do not build a product like this and sell it to the public. “Good enough” is never good enough. The gap in the insulation and the poor joins are inexcusable as is the longitudinal piece which is an added chunk at the end only 8″ long.
Let there be no doubt as to who built this sorry mess. It is 12.5 years old and should not be  completely filled with moisture and rot. And…I don’t care who else builds crap like this, it is wrong. “Make America Great Again?” Start with some integrity!
Like can be simple. A motor bike and a pop-up tent. The best days of my life were when all I owned was a backpack.

Today I’ve just removed all my personal effects from the trailer which is now proven to be a hopeless rotted-out wreck. The more structure I opened up, the worse it got. I can see now that there were obvious signs of water damage but this arrogant Mr boat-fixer guy, with decades of marine experience, was too smart to get a seasoned RV person to come and have a look before I bought it. I’ve seen the same thing happen to knowledgeable mariners who decided they did not need a third party to survey the vessel they were buying in a fit of nautical lust. Now it is my turn to affirm that you cannot see objectively to pick out obvious signs when you are in a passionate state for a thing or a person. That is why so many marriages fail. Now I have nothing but a trailer frame and floor with working appliances. Worst of all, it was purchased with precious funds from the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’.

Despite plenty of tough times in my life I have never lost something so important so quickly. A dream one minute, a disaster the next. Now I can understand the vacant look in the eyes of those who have endured a flood, or fire, invasion or earthquake or… well, there are plenty of ways your life can change instantly. Just a quick drive to the corner store can become a life-shattering experience, or perhaps a slip in the bath tub.

Part of the “South Library.” I’m keeping it handy.

This problem is not life and death, it just feels that way. Suddenly, in this moment, my dream is dashed and all looks hopeless. I know sailors who have put their boat and their whole life on a reef and considered themselves lucky to have survived the swim ashore in shark-infested waters to some distant foreign country, without water, money or passport. A while later, they had rebuilt their life and continued on, somewhat the better for their adventure. I am left wondering how to turn this into an adventure instead of an ordeal. There is a way. I will find it.

“The dream never dies, just the dreamer”
“Hope springs eternal.”
It’s up to you.

Self-produced videos online are testimonials to what a wonderful trailer a ‘Fun Finder’ is. I interviewed owners who could not offer enough praise and love for their Fun Finder. So I bought this trailer because several points of research told me the product was built with an aluminum frame and was a rugged, off- pavement capable trailer. Check out their website https://www.cruiserrv.com/travel-trailers/fun-finder.html There is, in fact, no aluminum in the structure anywhere. Perhaps my trailer, built in 2006, was before these people began using metal superstructures. I am not claiming the product was misrepresented and admit that clearly, my research did not go deep enough. I know that I did not buy a new product. That aside, the workmanship I have found points to a shabbily-built product which would have begun self-destructing as soon as it was pushed out of the factory into the weather. That is where I find an outrage. So let me suggest:

-DO NOT buy anything called a “Fun Finder” or “Shadow Cruiser” or “Cruiser RV”.

-If there is any evidence on a used RV of re-caulking anywhere, run like hell.

-A simple test for water damage (I’ve now learned) is to pull aside the insert strip in corner mouldings and remove a screw or two in the lower part of that seam. If the screw is rusty, or spins freely without backing out, the wood beneath is rotten, run like hell.

-If the vendor objects to an inspection, run like hell.

-If any interior covering such as wall paper is even slightly wrinkled, that’s water damage, run like hell.

– DO NOT but anything susceptible to the ravages of time and weather without the second opinion of somebody intimately familiar with that specific product.

I will be producing and posting a video of the damage. It will be on You Tube alongside all the accolades for the same product. It has been suggested that I park my wheeled hulk on the side of the highway with a sign saying “I’ll never buy a Fun Finder again.”

I did give  the trailer an interior sniff test, like all old boaters know how to do. It is actually a very good test for rot detection to the experienced nose. It seemed fine. I thumped and bumped all over and except for the “delamination” it appeared, to my unknowing eye, to be dandy. I’d researched that rippled front skin. Videos on YouTube show how to fix it easily. The vendor was a very nice fellow, who passed my street-smart tests for honesty and integrity. I truly believe that he was unaware of any problems behind the “delamination” which he pointed out absolutely up front. I thought I had bought myself a bargain and after a little work, I would be off to see the world. Since my dark discovery I have noticed several trailers and RVs with similar exterior signs of water ingress and clearly there are a lot of products out there in varying stages of self-destruction. Those signs are glaringly obvious now. They are out there as I write, hurtling down the roads of this long-weekend oblivious to the horror that awaits them. So, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

It’s Indian Plum time already!
Six months from now the trailer has to be rebuilt and in Loreto Baha for Christmas. A tall order, but I you don’t make plans, guess where you’ll end up.

After a few troubled night’s sleep, I’ve determined there is only one route which is forward. I’ve some debt to clear up, no money, no workplace and can easily fall into a state of utter hopelessness. (It’s that old manic depressive thing) I know it’s just a tiny trailer, but it represents the rest of my days. So I’ll sing the old lemonade song and get to work. Creative busyness is, for me, the best distraction. So I go.

So Caveat Emptor, there’s no fool like an old fool.

As smart as he looks. The old fool himself.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”…Frank Tibolt

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

A neo-traditional totem pole.
It stands in front of the band office of the Tseshaht people in Port Alberni.  After tremendous oppression for decades from both outside and inside their community, First Nations people are regaining their dignity, their voice and a modicum of control over traditional lands. Hopefully we will soon all see ourselves as equals while retaining our individual cultural identity.

A barred owl begins its night time serenade of hoo-hoo-who-hoo. Darkness settles over the calm water as frogs croak into the darkness and from somewhere out on the lake a loon utters its plaintiff cry. Here in the campsite there is the crackle of a freshly-lit fire and the steady gnawing crunch of Jack dogging on a bone. We are in a campsite on the west end of Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. The view over the darkened lake is framed by the black silhouette of newly-leafed branches and a few subtle lights twinkle over the glassy water from cottages on the distant shore. It is tranquil and lovely, lonely, complete. Jack has now gone to bed. I will join him shortly. This setting is perfection, yet it is not the ocean.

By my Horne Lake campsite, a neighbour who is travelling by motorcycle, settles in for a night.
The Morning After

Twenty four hours have passed. We did not do much. It was a grand day. The same scene as last night lays beyond the extravagant fire I have set. Haunting Yiddish violin music from a treasured old Cd I have found sifts out of my stereo at a low volume. I let it repeat around and around; it blends perfectly with the night sounds. The pulsing glitter of a jet’s trajectory crosses from behind the lofty rock cliffs above the lake and is paralleled by its reflection on the water. The owl repeats his booming hooting again, slowly coming closer to our campsite. Jack snores gently in his bed at my feet. Soon we will both retire to the comfy bunk inside the trailer. There is an extra bed. I wish you could be here.

The camp on Horne Lake.
It’s wonderful but… I miss the boat.
Here’s the dinghy for the next boat. Achilles are my favourite inflatable and Tohatsu outboards need no sales pitch. This old marine mechanic thinks they are the best.
Horne Lake sea trial. It all went well…but it’s not the ocean. My brand-new Tohatsu purrs beautifully. The wheels, by the way, are for hauling the boat up out of the water.

Another twenty-four hours finds Jack and I in another Provincial Campground on the other side of the mountain. Now we are on Sproat Lake a few kilometres west of Port Alberni. As the crow flies, we are only about 15 kilometres from where we set out this morning. The drive from one valley to another took well over an hour. There is a climb and descent up and over a steep grade which is a good test for truck and trailer after recent adjustments. The Alberni Valley is famous for fierce summer heat and here, before mid-May, the mercury climbed well above thirty degrees Celsius. The forest fire hazard rating rose from moderate to high today and will rapidly become extreme if the weather persists. I’m enjoying the campfire tonight as the evening cools. There may soon be a ban on any fires for the rest of the summer.

Sproat Lake Petroglyphs. There are nine carvings on this rock face on the lake’s edge. It is also a parry site for the local young folk. Hopefully this photo gives a glimpse of the way it has looked for a long time.
The crack tells how long the carvings have been there.
Now THAT’S a steak. One of the joys of a low-carb diet.
Jack loved the bone.

The lake was liberally dotted with white and pink bodies of squealing exuberant youth frolicking in the water. After Jack’s refreshing swim we plodded back to our campsite along the dusty trail where we met motley groups of young folk in various states of intoxication. The aroma of marijuana smoke wafted through the forest. Worldly as I think I am, it was still a rattler to meet gorgeous scantily clad young ladies who met Jack ever so gushingly yet chattered sweetly all the while in the rawest, four-lettered sailor-speak I’ve ever used. It seemed incongruous for a moment, and then, I just felt old.

Some folks have garden gnomes or plastic flamingos on their lawns. Then there are those with some of the world’s biggest aircraft. That is a Martin Mars. Coulson Air Crane converted a pair to serve as water bombers. They are now world famous and have proven their worth many times over. Not as big as the ‘Spruce Goose’ they were intended for the same purpose: To provide rapid mass transport for troops to the South Pacific. The end of WWII rendered them redundant.
The back yard is impressive too. These are the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars, which is in its original colours of the United States Navy Air Transport Command. These were the world’s largest flying boats ever manufactured. There were seven built.

A day later, a day older. I have yet to master the art of doing nothing without feeling guilt. Jack (A master at living without guilt) and I walked our walks, I visited with a dear friend whom I learned was in Port Alberni. The day passed, now it is dark again. The sound of neighbour campers visiting around their fires mingles with the happy din of children playing. A huge shining (Yes, gold in colour) motor home appeared at dusk and now runs its generator despite the rules. Such is life when you accept the challenge of co-mingling with strangers. Come morning the grand escape vehicle fired up its diesel engine to idle for a half-hour of exhaust stench before hoisting the automatic levelling jacks and buggering off somewhere else after a hard night of roughing it.

Traditional First Nations carving.
Note the pendant on her belly. Or, is it a fetus?
Pedestal detail. I find this work stunning.

Other folks were making coffee over a wood fire after a night in a tent behind their car; a very good aroma.Some folks still possess a primal urge to be close to the earth. Organized campgrounds may be as primitive an experience as they will ever have but at least they are off the couch and away from the goon box. I am not a fan of these places but this weekend they served my purpose. It’s better to have some of these folks organized and protected than to have their edge-of-the wilderness forays and random fires occurring hodge-podge. The problem on Vancouver Island is that it is hard to find untainted wilderness. There is evidence of man’s exploitation everywhere and of course the roads we use to get to the back of beyond were all built by logging companies.

I found this life-sized diorama incredible. Badly in need of a good cleaning it depicts a native whaling crew at the moment a whale is harpooned. To go out on the cold ocean in a hand-made, hand-propelled cedar canoe to harpoon a whale with primitive weapons was a courage that no-one possess today. Even the water in this work is entirely hand-carved wood. “Oh shit, I forgot my life jacket …and my pants!”
DANG! The motor in my truck is a 5.3 litre V-8. This 425 hp “Kicker” is 5.6 litres! As an old salt I cannot imagine why anyone needs something like this. We won’t try to guess the price!
Jack watches a native fishery on the Somass River in Port Alberni.
A native spring fishery. This gill net is set across the Somass River on a flood tide.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the Rv world I find it interesting that despite the massive effort to charm folks into coming to indulge in “Super Natural BC” there is a paucity of camp grounds and facilities like sani-stations and places to fill tanks with potable water. One is now charged everywhere for a dribble of air or water and who wants to try manoeuvring a clumsy large vehicle near the awkward places where those hoses and their coin boxes are located. It is intriguing that we know face shortages of water in a place abounding with snow-capped mountains, streams and lakes. Of note is a recent news item I heard which claims that despite our long snowy winter, Coastal BC snow sheds hold a sixty percent less than normal amount of water. If it doesn’t rain all summer, which is entirely possible, it may be a paint your lawn season once again. Now back in Ladysmith, the skies have gradually become overcast and this morning shows evidence of overnight showers. Soon, it begins to rain steadily. Of course, I’ve yet to see a Victoria Day weekend when the weather was not foul, cold and wet. That having been said I recall once being advised that “Only fools and newcomers predict the weather.”

As I raised my camera a beautiful grass snake vanished into the nettles and periwinkles and one dandelion.
Jack sees a rabbit. it was not concerned.
Wild and free. These are blooming at the concrete base of a crane once used to unload logs.
Perhaps one of the last dogwood flowers I’ll see this year.
Welcoming the waxing moon of May.

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” …Tom Lehrer

The Way You See It

If you can’t see the humour in this, well…I hope you’re feeling better in the morning.

I have a natural inclination to apply humour to all my human interactions. It comes from a hard-wired insecurity which tells me that for successful interpersonal relations, I need to win folks over with a laugh and a smile. Most of the time that strategy works and I can get along well with folks, even those I don’t actually like. Once in a while I encounter some poor soul who is so broke they have no sense of humour. Then I’m stuck.

Sad beauty. This old miner’s house sits in an alley in downtown Ladysmith. It waits for a demolition crew. Through its inhabitants a house becomes a living thing. I hear children’s laughter, smell coal smoke and cooking aromas, see golden light in the windows on a wet winter night. Now it is no longer a sanctuary, but boarded up and slowly returning to the earth.

Recently I found myself in a large box store at a check-out counter. I was purchasing a new sewage-connection plumbing kit for my little trailer. The box it was in refused to stay closed. Plastic bits and long uncoiling brown springy hoses insisted on leaping out of their containment every time I managed to almost stuff them back into place. It was annoying but I could also see the funny perspective of my poo-pipe Jack-in the-box. I recall thinking, “Where’s the hidden camera?” A lady standing in line behind me asked, “Can I give you a hand”? Without thinking I responded with my usual come-back to that particular question. “Oh sure, I can always stand a little applause.” Invariably this brings a smile and laughter and I’ve made a new friend. Not today, even though others nearby saw the humour in my remark.

Dad? When can we have a another boat?

Look I was just trying to be helpful and you give me sarcasm. Goddamned men and their chauvinist attitudes! You don’t think women can do the same things men do!” Actually I do, I may even be more of a feminist that some women because I know many ladies who are more skilled than men doing anything that is considered within the manly realm. Pilots, doctors, welders, mechanics, machinery operators, ship’s captains, engineers, educators, politicians, on and on, gender is irrelevant to ability whether men can admit that or not. I refuse to categorize based on gender. That I even write about this is ridiculous. With that sensibility, I also have little patience with chauvinist remarks. I responded, “Look, I’m just trying to check out my shit pipes. I tried offering you a little humour in exchange for your kind offer. Now, please, get off my tits.” She shut up. I instantly regretted my last quip although I was implying that we are all equal, we are all mammals, now lay of the gender babble. She had intended to be helpful and I had worked at shattering her day simply because she has a different view of life.

When I rewind that scenario I realize that it would have been best to simply keep my pie-hole wide shut. I just can’t keep from responding to other folk’s remarks. Only I can allow their words to affect the course of my day in any way. Ultimately, the only person responsible for our feelings is ourselves. A woman once said to me in a very condescending tone, “You men are all the same!” Nope; I couldn’t resist. “Oh,” I replied, “Just how many men have you known?” Like the sign above says, “Do not make eye contact with the gorilla.”

Just another Dogpatch dawn.
The morning light is rich and sweet no matter what the sky.
Shadow chaser. An airliner at altitude flies into a perfectly aligned tunnel of its own contrail’s shadow.

Another equalizer is being overweight. “My doctor told me I was obese and I replied that after a recent trip through the US, I was not obese, thank you very much. I am certainly not spandex-tight wattle-revealing waddling sideways porky, but I’ll concede I am not the flat-bellied willowy self of decades past. With a few health problems spiralling around each other, packing around an extra forty pounds is detrimental to my well-being and longevity unless… I am a bear about to den up. Other folks I know have had great success with the trendy “Keto Diet” and so I have eliminated the consumption of carbohydrates and gluten including wheat, rice and pasta, beer, and most of the other foods which give me pleasure. I am left with meat fish and poultry, nuts, green vegetables which grow above the ground, cheese and a little dark chocolate. I am actually not missing the addiction to carbohydrates (Yeah right!) and things are starting to look down. There is also a certain pleasure in realizing that I have rejected the garbage diet most of my culture swallows without question. It is an easier regimen to assume than I thought and I am enjoying the results of a little self-deprivation. My jeans are beginning to hang from my suspenders like clown pants. Maybe, as I lose my big shape, I’ll actually be able to again use a belt successfully. For that you need hips. Don’t buy me any thongs just yet. Yuck! There is already a pair of Speedos I can’t bring myself to wear in public anymore.

A very short train. Ladysmith clings to a flickering dream of a railway museum.

Losing weight is not the only effort to trim the results of personal over-consumerism. I am trying to reduce the accumulations of belongings. If I never use it, or have even forgotten I possess it, it is junk. While I can’t bring myself to throwing out books or tools, I also am chagrined to realize that there is no point in storing boxes of things like plumbing fittings, bits of exotic wood, old useless boat parts and so forth. I’ve been dunging out and truly have ended up with loads of bits and bobs of no value to anyone. Potentially useful materials go to people like ReStore but otherwise, why keep stuff just for the bizarre comfort of owning “Stuff.” I’ve previously written about relatives who were hoarders to the point of reducing the value of their property because it was heaped with “Stuff.”

Lush. Calm. Birdsong.

I will confess to having rented a storage locker for the interim to store equipment and components left over from the sale of ‘Seafire.’ In the storage yard where my locker is, there is row after row of old cars, RVs and boats that are clearly worn out, rotting away and otherwise not used. Yet someone is paying to keep their belongings. Folks in our culture have so many belongings they can’t fit them into their over-sized homes. The storage business is a growth industry in North America. ($38 billion in the US alone.) As I was driving away and musing on our capitalist instinct, yet another news story on the radio ran on with more weary statistics about global warming. I often rant on about the “Profits of paranoia” so it was with some joy to sit at this desk and open a short YouTube presentation emailed on to me by a friend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiPIvH49X-E This link will take you to an excerpt from the 9th annual International Conference On Climate Change. It covers a short presentation by a renowned scientist named Art Robinson. Here are few things he has to say: “We are on a democratic playing field trying to save a constitutional republic.”…”All democracies fail and descend into mob rule.” In summation of what he presents the man says, whatever you choose to believe we ask you to “Think.” He presents a very different and qualified perspective on Global Climate Change and I found myself sitting at this desk applauding what he has the courage to say. I think some of his perspectives are skewed, we do need to think and act in a more responsible way toward our environment, but think, damn it, think.

Red Dogwood

I’ve recently forwarded two presentations of polemic, satirical political comment from YouTube to select friends. It was very interesting to consider the reactions each evoked. Some were in complete agreement with the views presented, others were enraged and very polarized against the ideas put forth. Interesting, in all negative responses I detected that only selected portions had been absorbed and the overall message had been missed. I have to always keep that in mind with what I write and leave no doubt in my comments and messages.

I have learned to keep my abstract social/ political views to myself past a certain point. There is no advantage for me to repel subscribers yet I also feel obliged to present thought-provoking suggestions that inspire folks to ask themselves questions which take them out of their personal comfort zones. Perhaps of all the things that separate the human organism from any other life form is our ability for introspection and self-questioning. To avoid doing so is to wilfully deny yourself your humanity. Goose-stepping out onto thin ice is foolish but sometimes, like it or not, you do have to look the gorilla in the eye.

The Sausage Hound. I couldn’t pass up this shot . One of the joys of Ladysmith is its old-time butcher shop on main street. It’s next to the pet store.

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” …Albert Camus

Driveabout Part II

Driveabout Part II (Back to the sea)

First I have to apologize to those who are not receiving the full meal deal in regard to my recent blogs. Apparently, and coincidental with my new formating, there were some technical glitches of my making. If the images or text have been, or are still, troublesome please let me know.

AQUA! How’s this for clean lake water? This is entirely natural and very uplifting to see.

One of the wonderful things about living in British Columbia is that you can can travel a short distance and be in a very different type of scenery. Two days ago I drove from the south Okanogan to Princeton then turned north for some lovely lakes not far from a town called Merritt. The fecund orchards and vineyards soon give way to lush ranch land and steep rolling grassy hills interspersed with forests of mixed pine and fir. A twisting road climbs and descends past rocky cliffs and winding, rushing rivers. An ever-changing vista offers a visual feast and makes staying safely on the road a challenge.

An Osprey nest. This is a man-made nesting site which does not make the birds any less beautiful. Note the plastic baling twine incorporated by the birds in their nest-building. The environmental impact of plastic is far-reaching.

Jack is fascinated with each new topography and its new smells. He is always eager to explore and stake out any new territory. When we finally arrived at the Kentucky- Alleyne Provincial Park he spent a happy afternoon snuffling into the endless burrows of gophers and ground squirrels. They would stand erect watching him from a safe distance and he never caught on that he was beaten from the beginning. But he had fun, and he slept well.

Folks who live in glass yurts shouldn’t throw anything. I found this solarium on a back street in Hedley. It is made from re-claimed windshields. I am not sure I’d sleep well inside that glass fabrication.
A landmark at Spence’s Bridge on the Thompson river. I do not know its history but it is clearly abandoned now.
Quasimoto, where are you?
The church unveiled

This country borders on the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, an area of beautiful open forest and grassland. It is wild, open country which I love. I’ve found the same landscape in Eastern Oregon. When in this kind of place I ache to once again know the squeak and rhythm of the saddle and the feel of a stout working horse beneath, a splendid way to see and know the world. I know that for me to get back on a saddle after many decades, I’d soon be aching in other places. Horsemanship is an entirely different way of life with its own sensibilities, smells, paces, knowledge and people quite apart from what most of us know. The relationship between a horse and its human is a special bond you must experience to understand. Add a good dog to the mix and it is bliss indeed. Horse people generally have a level, peaceful way of dealing with life. If they were otherwise they could not interact successfully with horses which are very spiritual creatures. It is hard to know what comes first, the horse or the attitude. That does not mean these folks always get on well with other people.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge
The high country. On the edge of range land of the Douglas Lake Ranch this is Alleyne Lake. It is stocked with trout and attracts fishermen year-round.
Prince Jack surveys his latest new kingdom. He was in bliss.
Morning at West Pond. Bull Pine, aka Ponderosa Pine, aka Yellow Pine look down on Jack’s big lawn where he was fascinated with the burrows of gophers and ground squirrels.
Kentucky Lake. Pristine!
Old barn, Nicola Valley
The old ranch house. It stands unnoticed on the side of the road. Imagine the lives that were centered here. Notice the encroaching open pit mine in the background.
The rail fence around the house and barn. Part of the old way of doing things, when labour was cheaper than barbed wire. Each time I see these relics of days past, I realize they will soon all be gone.

Fully intending to spend a day or two in this splendid place I awoke and put the coffee on only to discover that I was out of propane. Swear words! Jack and I went for a walk. I prepared the trailer for the road and headed for town. All fuelled up, I drove a little further, and then some more. It would become that sort of day. At the head of the Nicola Valley I turned back on my old track to Lytton, then on up the Fraser Valley to Lillooet. On the way I met an oncoming vehicle with flashing headlights. A little further and I came on a small rock slide on a curve above a cliff. Skirting the rocks on the road came eight mountain sheep ewes. We passed within inches of each other and no, I did not get one photo. Jack was impressed. Lillooet had no appealing campgrounds and we took to the high pass which leads to Pemberton and the Coastal Mountains. It is a tortuous drive, climbing and descending steeply, all the while filled with sharp curves and frost-heaved pavement. Huge residual blocks of winter’s old ice clogged the ditches and Duffey Lake at the top was still half-frozen.

Pemberton had no camp grounds to offer and we trundled on despairingly toward Whistler. I had thought that Lillooet would be a fine place to spend a couple of days but now here we were many hours past and over a long mountain pass. Whistler is a beautiful place with stunning mountains and plenty of snow but it has been exploited and developed to a sorry state. I have no sense of the Alpine village the former tiny, remote community once was.

Whistler Valley evening view.
Next morning
Yeah right…next morning. Brrrr!
Not just passing through. The slap-dash winter skirting gives it away. Whistler is an instant town, booming so fast that housing is a challenge for newcomers.
Supply and demand pushes costs to the limit.

Everything there now is about glitz and dollars, with garish yet boring architecture. If someone could extort you for your next breath, they certainly would. Any business with the word ‘Whistler’ in its name will be charging exorbitant rates like the Whistler RV Park. $52 for one night and $10 extra for their internet password to a service which worked very poorly. The sewage connector pipe rose 18” above the ground. And Whistler or not, sewage does NOT run uphill.

When I mentioned that their prices were the highest I’d ever paid I was told they were on par for the area and I would really love the view. As if they had provided the scenery! The view is bisected with a busy highway, a railway, and a power line. I hate power lines. They are soul-destroying visual blights. You are never out of sight of one in this area. They transmit energy from the dams back up in the hills to Vancouver. I understand that electricity is necessary to run all those ski lifts and light all those bars, condos and hotels but there is a lot lacking in the rustic charm department. Concrete and poo-brown paint might work for urban condomites but not for this old bush-ape.

In the morning, at no extra charge, we stepped out of our trailer to a very heavy frost. We drove southward, looking for a place for our morning walk. We turned in for a trail head near Garibaldi Mountain only to discover two kilometres further along, large signs clearly forbidding dogs. Grrrrr! We turned the trailer around and headed back out onto the concrete snot chute.

That’s more like it. I immediately felt at home. Some creative wit travelled for miles in Paradise Valley and brilliantly altered the road signs.
Says it all!
Crystal clear streams, even in spring, run through dense coastal rainforest.
Spring in Paradise Valley
“Hi mom, we’re home!”
Devil’s Club, very aptly named. This nasty plant can grow ten feet tall and is completely covered in toxic spines. Every skin puncture will become an itchy, infected welt. They grow in thickets, which if you stumble in, well….!

A few miles further south we discovered a lovely place called Paradise Valley just north of Squamish. It is bliss. A lovely bunch of folks operate a beautiful RV park and campground which includes a network of beautiful trails winding along the Cheakamus River and a series of streams and ponds connected to a salmon hatchery. Everything has worked out for the best. It seemed especially sweet after the crassness of Whistler. https://paradisevalleycampground.net/ It really is worth a visit. I am not a fan of commercial RV parks and campgrounds but these folks have really achieved something quite special.

Fiddleheads. They have just matured past the state of being tenderly tasty crunchy.
On verdant pond. I could not savour this place enough.

Squamish, which is losing its former “rustic/industrial charm” to the blight of concrete, chrome and glass heralds a return to the frantic rush of city folks and their desperate need to be in a constant rush to go and be among more herds of people. The ‘Sea To Sky Highway’ was rebuilt at fantastic cost in the hope of safety by widening and straightening the route to Whistler. It only allows for higher speeds regardless of posted limits. Some people have clearly lost a base instinct called fear. I swear James Bond passed me; several times. Zoomheads! I arrived at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal with mixed feelings. It was grand to out of the Whistler gauntlet but the wait for the next ferry is always a diminishing experience. I’m sure that part of the exorbitant fare is for storage! As one salmon said to the other when the ferry passed, “Look at all the canned people.” There was a time when I used to enjoy a ferry experience. The thrill is gone. At least I’m back on the ocean. My gasping gills are happy.

In the line-up at the ferry terminal i pulled up behind this work of art. Entirely home-made, this trailer  was built by a sport fisherman needing a home away from home.
It is beautiful to the last detail.

This little jaunt over and through hill and dale was a shakedown for the miles ahead. Now, rustling up income for a big trip south is a task among all the upgrades and modifications required. My new/old truck began consuming copious amounts of engine oil, with no unusual smoke or any leaks… yet another mystery to resolve. It is probably just a gigametric fufu valve within the new order of engine technology which this old wrench bender doesn’t understand. When you are done learning, your life is over. Now then, can anyone recommend a good road map of Baha?

While cleaning the trailer i found this, a Jersey Penny. Now this is a mystery indeed.
I’m back home to the coast for the first Camas blooms.
Bluebells and Oregon Grape
Back in the old harbour again.

Life is a highway…

The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights…

I wanna ride it all night long.” Tom Cochrane