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.”

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

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

New And Improved

Yet another Dog Patch dawn.
Life goes on down on the waterfront without my daily presence. Jack and I continue to survey the rhythm of life from afar.
‘Rolano’  In the first photo this is the boat in the distance on the right. This shot of her was taken two years ago on Cortes Island. I would expect to see Popeye doing a jig on the foredeck. She’s someone’s dream. “I yam wot I yam!”

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that the format and appearance of this blog have suddenly changed. I have found a local cyber wizard whose magic fingers worked their wonder before my eyes. He left me feeling like a cave man! The blog is hopefully now more appealing and easier to navigate for both myself and visitors to find specific subjects. My ulterior motive is to increase my readership and thereby make the site a good place for businesses to advertise. I thank all my regular readers for their support but it’s time to try and monetize. All donations gratefully accepted even though I have no Phoenix church fire fund. I should explain why the blog is now called “Part II.” It is simply referring to the blog as it evolves past the sale of the boat for which this work was first named. The crew lives on.

The Rig. I join the millions of Rvers on North American roads. Hopefully my small (18′) trailer makes some sort of statement… it is all I need. Yes, all the lights work, even the ones on the roof rack. After a near-fatal near-encounter with a mule on a Mexican road in the night, I’ve decided that seeing what I’m going to hit is a good idea.
Them’s the brakes. To avoid worst-case scenarios I inspected and serviced all four trailer brakes. Auto manufacturers make bold claims about what their product can tow but never discuss stopping. It is one of the reasons I decided to buy a larger truck. It achieves the same fuel consumption as a smaller four-cylinder import truck I owned and yet has the mass to keep the tail from wagging the donkey.

A few days ago my old dog Jack and I walked around what know as our river loop. It is within a local regional park and our regular route is a little over a mile. That’s not far but Jack, with all his sniffing side-explorations, he is usually exhausted by the time we arrive back at our vehicle. The return leg is along one bank of the Nanaimo River where we often see interesting wildlife and flowers. At the moment fawn lilies and current bushes are in full bloom. We usually meet other fine dogs in the company of their lovely owners. Despite a gloomy damp overcast, we enjoyed our trip there. That evening a message from Google appeared on my mobile phone. “Did you enjoy your visit to the Nanaimo River Regional Park today?” What the hell? This old dude was frightened and angry. What cyber eye watches when I go to the bathroom? Or hug my dog? Or anyone else for that matter! Is there no privacy or any more respect for the individual? I have no secrets nor conduct any nefarious activities, so why are my daily activities being monitored. I know it has to do with the settings on my phone but what an affront! I am not broadcasting my activities. Why can’t they focus on the bad guys?

Damn I miss my boat! I suddenly ache to again be in places without cell phone coverage. On the water, I’m less vulnerable to other’s invasive snooping. Obviously, by using GPS tracking, big brother monitors who is where doing what. The thing is, I did not use my phone while on my walk today and I am totally mystified. If I’d made or received a call I would understand. If I go online to research any item I’ll soon get popups about similar available products. That I understand, irritating as it is. But this! Some days the biblical prediction about “The Mark Of The Beast” seems entirely possible. Suppose we all were required to bear a micro-chip which would work not only as an electronic transaction facilitator but also as a constant tracking device. If you did not have one, you could buy nothing, get no medical services, have no employment, in short, do nothing within society. Not having one would be an ultimate crime. Big brother would know where and how long you slept, with whom and how often you went to the bathroom. If one truly wanted to live “off the grid” they would have to become like a Sasquatch and probably be hunted as vermin. A wild, far-fetched idea perhaps; but try travelling without a credit card. Really! We’re not that far away from such madness.

George Orwell knew his stuff, just like Alfred Einstein knew his black holes. I understand that I use the internet to to do my research, communicate with folks, post my blogs and videos. Every time we look at any imaginable item online we have to endure pop-up cyber sales pitches from several sources for that item for days afterwards. Privacy is what we give up for modern convenience. It is part of what we call being on the grid. We live like sheep with ear tags, which, by the way, are now often herded with drones. Shepherd for hire!

Work on the truck and trailer is finally at an end. (for now) The time has come to actually hook up and go somewhere. As usual the spending curve has been steep and alarming but I now have all the gear to be fully self-sufficient for extended periods. I have tools including a massive jack-all, shovel, axe, mechanical tools, a power saw, an air compressor and a lovely little generator to run it and charge the trailer’s batteries as needed be. There is also a solar panel. I have a kayak to perch on my home-made roof rack and an inflatable boat which I can roll up and transport in the back of the truck along with a new outboard motor and all the other gear. To complete my heap of “stuff” there is also an old bicycle. It is rebuilt but looks suitably shabby to help discourage thieves. I know it works. I look shabby and no-one ever tries to make off with me!

A Trillium in the woods. They are beautiful to me.
Beside the pathway a few days ago.
Their evolution this morning.
Perfection.
To soothe an old sailor’s heart.
Weep not for me. I will bloom again.

I know I’m doing the same old thing as I have with all my boats. I put my time and resources into trying to make a perfect vehicle and never get around to actually leaving. The funds have all gone into my notion of perfect road worthiness. Other folks just go and deal with issues along the way. Learning a little more spontaneity is clearly something I need to work on. My positive negativity was learned during my aviation indulgence and usually, I have few nasty mechanical surprises on my adventures. Of course, there was the old van which I recently took south that, despite careful preparations, still managed to provide plenty of troubles. Those issues did lead me to meet new folks and have new adventures. Blessings and curses, they go hand in hand.

Where Jack and I begin a favourite walk… flowers everywhere.

Here’s a link to my eighth completed video posted on You Tube. As my self-taught skills slowly evolve I already look on my first efforts with a little bit of chagrin. Videography is a challenging and frustrating art. I had to start somewhere and have a huge new respect for accomplished video artists, especially those who produce brilliant wildlife works. Maybe, one day I’ll be able to humbly approach their ranks and stand among them. That’s something to work toward!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KesX8D9ETxQ

Seen one, seen them all. Well maybe for you, but not for me. I am still in a state of numbness at the moment, my recent blogs explain why well enough. It’s called mourning. However, spring is reluctantly advancing and although late, there is a profuse display of flowers. First the snow drops, then the fawn lilies and next as berry blossoms and periwinkles appear, so come the trilliums. A long-ago refuge from southern Ontario I revere them as the rare and official provincial flower of that province. Here in BC, they are much more common but just as magically beautiful. Despite their delicate appearance they are hardy and grace the forest for two or three weeks each spring. I find each one is unique. It is impossible for me to settle on one single photo as representative of their fleeting spring extravagance. So here are a bunch . Not one was picked. Enjoy them while they last. All photos in this blog were taken with my mobile phone. My serious photo gear languishes on the shelf. As usual, all images in my blogs can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.

Blooms on Forward Street on another rainy day. Ladysmith Harbour lays in the background.
WTF flowers. I found these in a local front yard. I don’t know what they are, but I sure like them.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” …Maya Angelou.

Changing Spark Plugs In The Rain

Schooner Spring
How can I post a ‘Seafire’ blog without at least one nautical photo? Beyond the greening meadows of Swallowfield a schooner drifts gently on calm water.

We’ve had several lovely days of spring weather. The afternoons have been glorious. The blossoms have emerged and the woods are leafing out with that fabulous early-spring chlorophyll green. Magnolia trees bloom. In order to survive the reality of being boatless I have been head-down busy. I have over six years of blogs to review, categorize and tag. In that process I’ve come across wonderful photos which I’ve forgotten and I realize how rich were the years when ‘Seafire’ was part of my life. I am a very fortunate fellow.

I swore that I’d never buy a black truck again nor one manufactured in North America. Here’s my previous truck parked beside my new one. I swear I’ll never own another boat again!
Original paint! I saw this 1952 GMC flat deck at the BC Ferry Terminal in Horseshoe Bay. The same age that I am, it is still working for a living and in much better shape! My GM truck is 67 years newer and will probably be in the scrap yard while this old beauty is stilling going strong.

I am also tinkering up my new old truck and trailer and it seems that I am turning that endeavour into a career. The to-do list goes on and on. A final job under the hood was to install new spark plugs. It sounds easy enough but with the sexy new-style spark plug wires, it was a challenge. Of course, as soon as I opened the hood and disabled the engine a cold, steady wintry rain began that was born on a gusting wind. I’m sitting beside the fireplace now with a tepid coffee and soggy joggy togs. They’re not sweat pants this morning. I haven’t had breakfast yet, which is part of the trendy Keto diet I’ve embarked on. My health issues demand that I shed some poundage so it’s fish and spinach for me. The doctor was mumbling about getting my stomach stapled, I replied that it would be a lot easier to staple my mouth. I also responded that after my recent trip through the US, I know I am NOT obese!

And now for the ubiquitous annual spring flower photos. This is the first Dogwood blossom I’ve seen this year. The petals are green before they mature into white or subtle pink. The Dogwood is British Columbia’s provincial flower.
A feral daffodil
Gravel blossoms. I’ve no idea what these little flowers are.
Fawn Lilies have emerged everywhere in the woods.
Oregon Grape in bloom.
Trilliums too.

But I know he’s right, I’ve spent too many years talking about going back towards my flat-bellied youth but lip laps don’t burn many calories. It’s get off the pot time. There was a time when buying shirts was an effort to find some that allowed my arms to fit through the sleeves. Now it is about finding something which will button around my belly. I’m in big shape. I’ve joked about having a place to set my beer but I can no longer be a gluten glutton. It’s killing me. As Hercule Shwarzenegger might say, “My pecs have fallen.”

I retain an indelible image from my recent trip south of a portly man wearing sweat pants with a revolver in a holster strapped around his girth. The sheriff from Bigofme! Bib overalls are another fashion favourite. I’ve even seen those striped beauties cut off above the knees for a summer fashion statement. Ad diamond knee socks and rubber Walmart sandals. You’re stylin’ dude! Now add a T shirt that says “I’ve Beat Anorexia.” It ain’t funny but it is! Some folks actually seem proud of their personal grandeur. In a US motel a while back I saw a TV ad from a liposuction clinic advertising how you could lose thirty pounds in one day. The next ad was for McDonalds. That’s funny!

Spring trail. Jack is somewhere ahead of me absolutely savouring all the spring scents.
“Run through the jungle.” Well crawl, hack and stumble maybe. Soon to be hidden under a fresh verdant blanket, this tangle will get a little thicker.

One bit of progressive news is that I’ve acquired a dinghy for the next boat. It is another Achilles inflatable which is in great shape. Achilles are made from a product called Hypalon which survives the UV damage of southern latitudes quite well. They also perform very nicely. This one can be deflated and packed in the back of the truck. I’ll have a seaworthy boat wherever I go, even in the desert. I found a fabulous price on a brand-new outboard for it, which is a first for me. (Both the price and something new) No more cobbling on someone else’s cast-off. How decadent is that?

Fresh! A spring morning after the rain ends.
The greening of the slough. After a long bleak winter, everything is lush and beautiful.

Nothing lasts forever, everything comes to an end. Since the first paragraph of this blog, I have finally completed the dreary ordeal of reviewing and stuffing each blog into its own little box. I can see how the blogs have improved through the years. My attitudes have changed and I hope that the boring, repetitive rhetoric which I’ve produced at times can be forgiven. There has been a lot of navel-gazing and negative comment. If I can see that now, surely I am evolving positively. I have also noted how friends have set out and completed adventures and dreams. I’m still here blogging away and yapping about what I’m going to do. Seafire is gone. She was the precipitation of this blog which was supposed to be about all the voyaging ahead. It would be a good time to say thank you to my readers and end the blog.

Oh for the wings of a vulture!
Ugly as sin when perched, a turkey vulture is incredibly beautiful in flight. They are soaring masters and ride fleeting breaths of rising air like dreams. For some reason they kept circling me!

But, the blog has become a force of its own. And, there is plenty of voyaging ahead. This effort helps give my life added meaning and from reader’s comments around the globe, I know it does make a positive contribution. If I achieve nothing else, I provoke some folks to ask questions and wonder at all the wonders. So begins ‘Seafire Chronicles’ Part II.

BLISS!
Jack in dog heaven in the soft sand on the banks of the Chemainus River.

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” … John Lennon

Everything improves with age … I’m incredible!” … Bumper Sticker

You Guys

I TOLD YOU I’D BUY A POWERBOAT!
…but not this one.The ‘Taconite’ was built in 1930 by Boeing of Canada. The solid teak hull is 125′ long. Her annual budget just for paint and varnish must be formidable.
Back in the puddles again (You know the tune!) This is Jack’s bliss. He can plunk around like this all day.

Last blog I briefly outlined some experiences with scammers while shopping for an RV. Well, some folks don’t learn. Through various windows on-line I came upon a site that promised to find paying work for my writing and also offered online training manuals to help my writing and marketing skills. All I had to do was sign up. Yup! Dummy!

Being wary I did peruse their site carefully and then decided to take a chance. Their prices seemed reasonable enough to consider risk-worthy. I subscribed. While I was immediately welcomed to their fold, there was no receipt provided for my payment. A warning light began to flicker. I downloaded their manual but my computer refused to open it and offered some dire warnings. I finally noted that there was no upfront contact phone number or email address. My brain was finally on full alert as the monkeys on my shoulder again began to chant, “chump, chump, chump.”

Daylight in the swamp. A little sun and warmth changes everything.
When I was a young boy I’d gather these, soak them in paint thinner and light ’em up…just like in the movies.

I called my credit card provider and began the process to unravel my stupidity. They helped me find a contact e-mail address and so the letters began to flow. The counter-measure dialogues began and continued until I mentioned my blog and a promise for negative advertising. They agreed to reverse the charges and told me in polite terms that it was my fault if the download could not be opened. However, all the gadoodle settings are just fine and always updated. I am since wisely advised that I should always first check online to see if there are any reviews or scam alerts about any online services that are enticing. Good advise! So… will you take a posted dated cheque for that bridge? It’s more proof that there’s no fool like an old fool.

Wonderfully camouflaged and a master of stealth, the rare Log Elk could venture forth in broad daylight for a drink yet seldom be seen.
An ancient Gary Oak beside the moth of the Chemainus River. Imagine all it has seen through the centuries.

I have paid off a loan with the Royal Bank from the proceeds of the sale of ‘Seafire.’ which releases me from a hefty monthly payment. Being on a fixed income, I can now breath much easier. This ‘Omnipotent Bank’ is like all others, an organization which is not warm and fuzzy. I had no such expectations. They squeezed me for every possible penny. One of the reasons I had to give up ‘Seafire’ was that this bank refused to honour a disability insurance for which I dearly paid a monthly premium. Heartless greedy bastards! They can go on the ‘S’ shelf with the other scammers.

Spring in the saltmarsh.
It was covered in snow two weeks ago. This is the estuary of the Chemainus River. It looks like an interesting place to kayak.
Ah shucks! For me? It’s tulip time again.

Here in Ladysmith on Southeast Vancouver Island it is safe to finally declare that it is spring. Afternoon temperatures are suddenly into the teens. (We’re metric here, you folks in the US.) In town the streets are alive with the sound of lawnmowers, leaf blowers and pressure washers. Down on the highway there is the snarl and throb of motorcycles. Young folks in their cars are over-revving their engines and squealing their tires with the slam-slam-bam of rap music on boom box speakers at full volume. I think I preferred heavy metal, and I hated that. Folks are wearing shorts that display their fluorescent white shanks all the while still togged up in toques and winter jackets. As I write, neighbours cavort on their sundeck in the shade of late afternoon. The men are shirtless, the women are wearing tank tops. It is still very cool out of the sun but clearly spring is a state of mind as much as temperature. Birds sing spring songs, children play loudly in the streets, old farts sit and write blogs about what other folks are doing out there.

On that note let me share this with you. It is too hilarious to just leave. I swear it is true; I am not making it up. Subscribing to a daily e-bulletin board, which is faithfully and wonderfully posted, from La Manzanilla, Mexico I have read some amazingly stupid and gormless gringo complaints. Presumably folks go down there to see something different and experience the exotic. But then there are characters who write stuff like this. It is the ultimate and I copy it verbatim. “While I have enjoyed my stay here (For the most part) this morning I was again awakened by really, really loud birds. I could take this if it was a once in a while occurrence but it’s been happening every morning. Shouldn’t you guys form a committee or something to do something about this? My landlord neglected to mention this “little issue” and it’s another reason (dusty streets, buses without climate control) I’m withholding my rent payment again this month.”

I repeat that I did not make this up. This uproarious humour was seriously posted by someone calling themselves “Broman.” Imagine having this dude on your strata council!

I had to comment. I suggested that birds, dusty streets and warm buses are all part of the romance of Mexico. I wondered which Arctic city the whiner calls home. Maybe the problem is a daily tequila hangover; but Geez Louise! I know we are surrounded with the “me” generation and then there is the “me too” bunch but where the hell do these people come from? YOU GUYS…yeah right! There were sixteen other responses as scathing as mine.

Another sure sign of spring.

At my home, I’m busy tinkering-up my new used truck and trailer. This old aircraft mechanic does not like to wheel out onto the runway without having everything in top shape. No Max 8 surprises for me. This habit has helped kept me alive through the years. I call it being “Positively negative.” I have repeatedly learned that by assessing worse case scenarios and preparing for them is an excellent habit. In addition, my frenetic activity is a way of dealing with my loss of ‘Seafire.’ In my “spare” time I’m working to upgrade this blog and do a much better job of marketing it. It’s gonna be good! But busy, busy for now.

My ubiquitous annual snowdrop photo

Living on Vancouver Island has its transportation problems. Residing on an outlying island multiplies the expense and inconvenience as well as lost time. But no-one is forced to live removed from the mainstream. Commuting is a big business here. BC Ferries has a stumbling way of dealing with what is a life-line to thousands. Many folks commute to daily business in Vancouver by riding on a scheduled floatplane service. Harbour Air has become the main player after acquiring most of the smaller charter companies along the South Coast. It is a lovely flight between either Nanaimo or Victoria to Vancouver. Another company, Helijet provides a spectacular fast and high ride joining the three cities but at a spectacular price.

Now Harbour Air is actively working to prototype the first e-seaplane. There is a thorough description of the plan and its practicality in the Forbes article linked below.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremybogaisky/2019/03/26/the-first-electric-passenger-aircraft-could-be-50-year-old-canadian-seaplanes/#66ef79cc2c3b

I envision the flight manual. “ When preparing for flight, be sure to unplug the electrical supply to your aircraft. Coming to the end of your cord may abruptly impede the takeoff run.”

On another page in the Times Colonist Newspaper, an editor rehashes considerations for a bridge or tunnel between Vancouver Island and the mainland. It is weary rhetoric but Jack Knox writes nicely. “Moving to an island and complaining about the lack of a bridge is like moving next to a farm and complaining about the smell of manure.” Well put, I think.

Willow Flowers
A Downy Woodpecker. Constantly on the move,this wee character is very hard to capture with a cell phone.

In many communities, volunteer police informers whom I call “Wannabe cops” stand on the side of the ride with fluorescent vests and clipboards. They try to intimidate motorists into submitting to the letter of the law, whatever their interpretation may be. They infuriate me. There are laws about intimidation. I weary of people trying to empower themselves at someone else’s expense. I hate any hint of a police state. We already live with enough fears. Yesterday, while in nearby Duncan, I watched three geezers, as described, put on a grand show of making notes on their clipboards, apparently recording driver’s infractions of the rules. Two of these enforcers, deep in conversation, stepped off the curb to cross the street without looking and nearly had their bottoms dusted by a car making a left turn through a red light. They noticed nothing. If you can’t see the cars, how do you see the cell phones? I wished I’d recorded the event with my cell phone, but then I might have set myself up for a ticket. You guys! There is just no cure for stupidity!

I photographed this photo hanging on the washroom wall in a Thai Restaurant. A perfect picture of pure joy and innocence, some-one had to add the leaf and completely pervert the message. You can come up with your own caption, there are plenty.
Seafire III. It’s not very salty but she sure pulls to windward quite well. What adventures lay ahead?

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

…Dr. Suess