Driveabout

Jack is sleeping in the truck two decks below. I am no longer permitted to stay down there during the crossing. so here I sit by a portside window in the cafeteria on the BC Ferry ‘Queen of Alberni’ watching the world slide by at about seventeen knots. We’re running downwind so it’s hard to tell our actual speed which is probably faster over the bottom than it looks. It is a perfect sailing day. The seas are low, it is not cold (but not warm) and the sky is mostly clear with no rain squalls in sight. And damn their teeth, there are sailing boats out actually sailing. Yep, once a sailor, always one.

Midpoint. When you come abeam the ferry on the opposite leg you know you are about half-way in the crossing. The mountain above Howe Sound on mainland Canada are in the background. Oddly, a week later later I am sitting beneath them as I post this blog.

When I worked on the tugs this vessel was known to us as the ‘Overlander’ because it had ran aground a couple of times in quick succession. I suppose if one worked out the miles and hours it has spent traversing the Strait Of Georgia back and forth this old tub has an excellent safety record. “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around,” a friend has told me and I’m not about to recount the times when I’ve gone bump. There have been a few. I’ve always been able to get myself free in short order and there’s never been any dramatic damage but…the gig’s not over yet.

Looking back to Vancouver Island after the two hour crossing to Tsawassen on the mainland.
At the edge of a swamp on the banks Of The Fraser River evidence of last winter’s feasting. A beaver’s teeth are a force to be reckoned with. The original think green technology.

It really is hard not to be pessimistic. I’m sure that thousands of years ago old geezers commiserated and proclaimed that “This can’t go on much longer.” I was raised by two zealous fundamentalist evangelical parents who could achieve a state of near ecstasy listening to yet another shouting leaping trickster behind his pulpit describe the “Second Coming” and the impending horrors of Armageddon. Well, the doomsters are still at it and somehow, we’re still here. So long as we keep asking questions and challenging those who try to manipulate us, there is hope. The moment is all any of us have and at this point in my little stumble through life I’m trying to savour all the small joys and forget the imperfections. I was once told that if I’m being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade. Anybody got a tuba? Speaking of tricksters, check out the TED talk given by a very brave reporter. Here’s the link https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley. This lady, Carole Cadwalladr, is Queen of the Questioners in my opinion. She sums up what I go on and on about, asking questions and hopefully inspiring others to do as well. She has blown the lid off some very grave business. Send me a comment, let me know what you think.

When a plan works out. The 4×4 truck towed my little trailer into a perfect spot beside the Thompson River. A very different world from the coast only a few hours behind.

Its sound and that of the trains are drowned in the steady roar of the river. Living on Vancouver Island where our single railway has been rendered redundant, working trains have become a rarity to me. These trains are amazingly long, over a mile I’d say, with locomotives in the middle and at both ends. They seem quieter than I recall but all are amazingly filthy and in dire need of fresh paint. The rails are now welded instead of being bolted together so the old clickety-clack is another sound of the past. In the last half-hour a chill Easterly wind has sprung up and I won’t be sitting outside pecking away at this computer for long. Jack is off sniffing about for Easter eggs in a tight radius of our little campsite. He discovered prickly pear cacti last night and is not keen to adventure far on his own.

I stopped at a small graveyard I had never visited before. This polished granite marker is well over a hundred years old and still gleams brilliantly.
Sober as it may be, this headstone is also a thing of beauty.  Twelve hours later I’d briefly visited old friends in Turtle Valley where I’d once live and worked on a small ranch. We drove on and found a spot on the side of the road to park before darkness fell. Jack was sick through the night, so we slept in. Just as well, it was a miserable drizzly morning. We completed our morning routine and hit the muddy, pot-holed road. Two hundred metres around the corner from the bleak little clearing where we had spent the night we discovered a lovely public campground next to a rushing stream. Life is like that. Either one goes too far or not quite far enough. Down into the Okanogan Valley we went. I once lived there. There is little I recognize now. All has become malls, car dealers and RV sales lots. Huge condominiums loom on the ridges, subdivisions sprawl everywhere. There is little visible agricultural land. Once this valley was a gentle, slow-paced rolling valley famous for its orchards. I saw one tiny segment of what I remembered, perhaps an acre at most. Mature apple trees surrounded an old farmhouse and I wondered if this tiny parcel of land should not become a museum. Folks have crammed themselves into this throbbing mess to escape an even more frantic existence elsewhere. And now we eat imported fruit. I chatted with a friend about this today. He summed it up nicely, “The whole damned valley has become a massive strip mall.”
The old square-hewn log house where I lived over 45 years ago. It was a hundred years old then. It still stands today. There was a time when I have shot my supper from out of that upper window.
Okanogan sunflowers. Something which hasn’t changed.
In the background meadow larks trilled, quail hooted their unique call, red winged blackbirds chittered, other song birds added their chorus.
The Sunny Okanogan.
A view south over Gallagher Canyon from the ascent out of the mess that is now the Okanogan Valley

To escape the madness I drove up into the Kettle Valley. It parallels the Okanogan and is perhaps now best known for a massive forest fire which swept along a massive area in the valley a few years ago; all, apparently, in the wake of one tossed cigarette butt. Miraculously, near Rock Creek, a small parcel of forest nestled in a bend of the Kettle River was spared. It is a Provincial campground, a green oasis in the middle of extensive devastation. I sit writing tonight beside my campfire in this piece of interior forest. It is very different from coastal rainforest and lovely in its own right. I’ll bank the fire and go join Jack who has already put himself to bed.

Bird Books. When I arrived at the campground I found this lovely little book exchange sitting on a post in the woods.
Kettle River Campsite.
Jack was in bliss.
Sometimes there is nothing finer than to sit with your feet near a gentle fire, stare into the flames and think about nothing. And then…
“Didja hear that?”
The whims of nature. The massive fire paused on the far side of the river. The parkland from where this photo was taken was spared. The Kettle River is in freshet at the moment and rolls along silently. It is eerie.
Catching up on my laundry and my blogging on a back porch in Rock Creek. Jack takes a break from trying to dig up voles.

The morning brings a cloudless sky and the sound of mating geese honking along the river. Jack is rested and anxious to go explore. So we shall. A few short kilometres further we find ourselves in beautiful downtown Rock Creek. It may have a population of two hundred. I sit writing on the back porch of a small enterprise which is a pleasant camp ground with wifi, handcrafts, second-hand goods, snacks and laundry facilities where I sit. A potential obligation has passed and I am free to enjoy myself. I drive across the high, spectacular country around Anarchist Mountain then descend to the route up through the Southern Okanogan which still bears a semblance of its former self. It has orchards! I still had a sense of it, then I arrived in Pentiction. Yep, back into the Okanogan strip mall. Along the highway, boarded-up fruit stands languish beside endless expanses of vineyards and wine tasting rooms. I had to drive half-way toward Kelowna to find an RV Park which was grudgingly accepting transient RV folks. Most parks I passed were filled with permanent residents living in mouldering motor homes and travel trailers. These grotty places charge ridiculous monthly fees but such is the economic situation for many folks. When you are too poor to have options, you just have to pay, and pay.

Okanogan Lake Calm.
BUT…it ain’t the ocean!
And when you leave a marina, where in the hell do you go!

At the end of my sixth day on the road I have visited with new friends whom I met through the passing of my friend Frank. (See the blog posted March 13th) It was a lovely and all-too brief visit but made my short stay here more than worthwhile. I was also able to tour the Naramata Area on the Eastern shore of South Okanogan Lake. I had never been there before and was amazed at what I found. Although grapes have taken over much of the old orchard land, there is a happy mix of crops and an amazing profusion of wineries. I’m not much of a wine taster, especially not when alone and I did manage to bypass all the enticing bistros, this time!

A glimpse of the Okanogan as I remember it. A vineyard in the foreground, fruit trees in blossom in the distance.
There are wineries everywhere. This one caught my fancy. Sounds of a bottling machine came from the big open door.
The other side. Tasting room and bistro. All very posh and appealing. It’s not the sort of place to visit alone.
The Naramata Inn 1908
Once built by a land speculator (Yes, even back then) then long-abandoned it has since been restored and is now a spa, inn and restaurant.
To name a few. Wineries/Vineyards in the last 5 km section of the Naramata drive.
BlackWidow Wines. The building has a stark appeal with its lack of pretension.
Ya can’t miss it! The grape-coloured house with the green roof on a knoll in the middle of the vineyard. Turn in there. Methinks here lives an old hippy.
Yet another relic from the flower power days. Ruby Blues Wine.
Far out man!
Where the plonck truck was plunked. Whoda thunk? Old farm trucks end up being vogue lawn ornaments.
I couldn’t resist. This was parked on a quiet street in quiet little Naramata. As I raised my camera I knew the caption had to be, “Drive Defensively.”

A week after I started this blog post I am freezing body parts at a campsite south of Whistler. This the latest trendy world skiing destination. In my jaded opinion it is all a bloody horrible mess. I am in a RV park which has a spectacular view and the highest price I’ve ever paid including a $10. fee for wifi. It has crashed this post twice and is still hopelessly slow at 6 am.  Enough! I’ll finish the rest of my travelogue as part two…elsewhere. 

A sad end. This rough pile of trees behind the white surveyor’s stake was once a venerable, productive orchard. Hopefully, at least, the trees will be cut up for firewood. Fruit wood is the best ever that you can get although burning wood for heat is now banned in many places. Ironically, it is not environmentally friendly.

All knowledge is not taught in one school.” …Hawaiian Proverb

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at svpaxboat@gmail.com

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