Lonely Roads

Happy Dory. From my archives I unearthed this image of a classic little fishing boat. Built in the 1930s, it provided a living to support many families for many decades before retiring to a life as a pleasure boat. That face could launch a whole new series of children’s stories.

Sell, sell, sell! I warned you that there’d be a little bit of marketing in my blogs. Now posting my images for sale online with Fine Art America.com I’ve just received an e-mail from those folks saying, that to kick-start business in July, they are offering a $100. wine gift certificate with Naked Wines.com. Apparently the offer is valid in the US only but the gift card comes with any purchase of artwork, no matter how small the order. So, for a $15 mug you get a $100. worth of wine. Now you know. Apologies to my fellow Canadians. Damn eh!

What attracts folks to live in places like this?

A month ago, four blogs back, I posted a blog titled “Goldfield Calling.” I wrote about Highway 50 being described as the loneliest highway in America. The route runs East-West across Nevada. Even telephone poles along its length are a rarity. As you drive its long miles you are in the wild wide open west. Now I believe I’ve found an even lonelier road. While listening online to Radio Goldfield I learned of a community in Nevada called Gabbs. The name “gabbed” me. I’ve looked it up on Google Earth. I don’t think there will be e-mails from anyone saying “Yeah, ‘bin there, know it well.”

Miles and miles of miles and miles…I love it. This image was taken somewhere in the Mojave Desert.
Surviving hang gliders will be shot. “Dunno wot it were yer honour,. It wasn’t moving so I shot it…agin! This shot-up sign is well on its way to being a sieve.

I can’t explain why but I love lonely roads and I will certainly drive this way on my next trip south. Here’s the route: on Highway 50, a few miles east of a half-way mark between Austin Nevada and Reno is a pinprick on the map called Middlegate. I’m not sure there is even a gas station there. Don’t blink when you are getting close in case you go on by. Hopefully there is at least a road sign. The junction sits a few miles west of Bench Creek Wash and Cold Springs, location of the Pony Express Station which I have written about. I had already decided to go back there to explore and photograph that old outpost so I’m not going out of my way at all by swinging down toward Gabbs.

Turn south to Middlegate, you’ll now be on Highway 361. Gabbs is about 30 miles away. If you look this up on Google Map you’ll see bleak, brown, bare, dry desert in all directions. Actually, that kind of country supports an amazing ecosystem if you care to look. There is certainly a lot more than tumbleweed, rattlesnakes and coyotes. For me that is part of the magic of deserts. It is all a mystery to me. Well aware that I am an alien there, it thrills me to see how much is going on in an environment that at first appears bleak and hostile, just like the ocean but in an opposite sort of way. If you leave me on a remote beach here in the Pacific Northwest, with just a pocket knife and a lighter, I may not be happy but I’ll be OK. In the desert I’m not sure how I’d survive. It is a very different world to me.

Gabbs looks more like a camp than a town, the landmark there is a huge open pit magnesium mine, now closed. Wikipedia says the population was 269; it will not be higher now. It is now unincorporated but there is a description of infrastructure which among other things includes a jail; a sure sign of civilization. Folks who live in places like Gabbs are not there because of their high social yearnings. They did not seek out seclusion so they could befriend inquisitive strangers. There are bullet holes in nearly everything in the US Southwest. It’s a cultural statement best heeded. Let reclusive people demonstrate their desire to interact, at their inclination. I meet plenty of lovely folks down there, but I remain aware that I am the intruder. I’ve never felt at risk but then birds of a feather know when to flock off. In fact I always feel better whenever I go into remote areas. The desert leaves me with the same inner peace I know when far out at sea. Locals who choose to live in isolation operate on similar frequencies as me and I find an affirmation in meeting them. I might be nutters but I’m not alone. Cities leave me with a very opposite feeling. When surrounded by urban throngs I seldom feel at ease.

Whomever built this house never considered how that one day it would be a crumbling ruin. Man’s presence on this planet is like a passing virus.

Gabbs was named for a paleontologist who was fascinated with the large number of fossils in the area. So, there’s something else that may be of interest. A few miles south of town, a gravel road, even more remote and primitive, angles off the pavement to the southeast where it eventually passes the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. In the photo on Google Earth it looks like a massive sunflower comprised of solar panels and it alone appears to make that entire back road jaunt look worthwhile. I’ll let you know.

Uh Huh!

There is another route, which is a paved road, but either way will eventually take you to Tonapah, civilization at last. Just look for the road signs if they are not too shot-up to read. Tonopah has several fast food joints, each of which will have wifi… so I can post a blog with photos describing my adventure realizing yet another little dream. This past winter I sat in the MacDonalds there trying to do exactly that. Other patrons stared me down for the stranger I was. Clearly, using a laptop there was a suspicious activity. At the table next two me, two bewhiskered old codgers loudly reminisced over their boyhood glory days in the South Pacific during WWII. Clearly, it had been the pinnacle of their life still worth reliving over seventy years later to anyone within earshot. Meanwhile, across the restaurant a near-deaf, geriatric couple shouted insults at each other. I recall deciding to do my work elsewhere. There is, by the way, another Tonopah. But that one is in Arizona, another place and part of another story.

The Nevada town’s name of Tonopah is an old Shoshone word meaning “hidden spring.” One of my joys in the US Southwest are those place names. They are lyrical, whimsical, even romantic. An illustrious place-name may now prove to be just more empty desert with little or no sign of human presence ever. What was once someone’s centre of the universe is now gone. Why it was ever there may be a profound mystery.

Google Map shows many funky little communities, or place names at least, spaced all over the desert including the perimeters of Area 51 and Nellis AFB, only a few minutes to the east by supersonic fighter jet and alleged home to strange events, including alien sightings and encounters. There are other remote but well-developed, large airfields which have no names, all very strange indeed. I’ve met people who describe themselves as “Aviation Archeologists.” They go out into the desert in hot rod offroad vehicles looking for the remains of crashed airplanes. The Southwest has long been a military aviation training region and there are wrecks littered all over the landscape. What a great excuse if you want to roar around the outback drinking, shooting and generally being a yahoo.

Suddenly a horse with no name. Wild horses and burros appear then vanish like ghosts. How they survive and thrive is wonderful.
A bottle top never opened. Little flowers no-one looks at. Green leaves sprouting in dry sand. There is a whole novel in this one image…and there are millions of square miles like this to contemplate.

Whenever you travel in desolate areas it is wise to carry extra gas and you can never have too much water, the latter preferably in bottles so that any leak is confined to one small container. Not only is carrying a few basic supplies a good idea for your own needs, you never know when you might come across someone who needs a little help. In the desert, like any remote area, a simple mishap, like a simple vehicle breakdown, can easily become a matter of life and death. You must look after other folks in distress. It is the code of pay back and pay ahead, especially when there may be no-one else to come along for a very long time.

Top up with gas whenever you can, never assume you will find more before you run out. The gas station promised miles ahead may be closed. If you must pay a little more to fill up before you venture on, think of much you’d be happy to pay if you were to run out. Living in remote areas much of my life, I’ve learned that leaving town with a full fuel tank in a vehicle is like having money in your pocket. Spend wisely and keep some cash on hand; some places do not accept credit cards.“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

Old Hammerhead. A Saguaro cactus in southern Arizona. This is a rare anomaly in these cacti. This one is known by locals for miles around.

And..there are infinite miles of other back roads to explore as well. Looking at the vastness of the American Southwest, it is hard to grasp that, despite its emptiness, there is not one square inch that has not been explored. Every stone must have been turned over, at least once, in a quest for the mineral riches hidden among all that rock and dirt. I marvel constantly at mine locations. Profitable or not it is amazing how someone found, then extracted, that vein of ore exactly where they did. Their tenacity, both physical and mental, was huge. There were no roads, no automobiles, minimal technology, only deprivation, grit and single-mindedness. Even with modern technology, we cannot duplicate that spirit of endeavour.

The wetback.

Meanwhile my summer is passing on what proves to be a far lonelier and dustier road than any I’ll find in any desert. Sometimes the road of life offers barren distances which you must travel to get to greener places. I’m finding life without ‘Seafire’ an absolute dreary hell. I am now among billions of others who are landlubbers. The difference is that, unlike most, I know what I’m missing. “It is better to have loved and lost…” I know, I know. Bullshit I say, bullshit!

An Arbutus. These lovely trees are unique to this corner of the world.

Nothing lasts forever, this dreary time shall pass, but I am restless and eager to move forward. No matter what one’s circumstances, you can only live one day at the time. I find myself trying to ponder good things to come. Fortunately, I can spend hours contentedly travelling virtually on Google Earth. What a wonderful technology! A daydream machine! This from a guy who often laments his cyber ineptitude! Now for the moment, I’m back from my desert musings.

The old boatshed. A relic on the beach from days gone by. There are not many of these old-school landmarks left. I’m always tempted to go peek inside to see what treasures are stowed away.
All abuzz. The frenetic sounds of winter preparations surround flowers everywhere as insects pollinate the flowers and perpetuate the cycle of life .
Playing with shutter speeds. Water on a step of a fish ladder.
That’s me in the middle. There is beauty to find everywhere you look.
The snake and the ant. Who’s going to eat who?
Tarzan of the slugs. What it was doing away up there is a complete mystery.
Suspense. Then came a puff of wind.
Just a leaf, and not a new one at that. I thought it was an interesting natural composition.
It’s over my head. Wet grass and a cousin called corn.

Here on Vancouver Island we are having what is deemed by many to be an unusual summer. It is a slightly rainy July, which is not extraordinary. I recall that most years here we have a wet July. We certainly need all the moisture that comes. Every year folks seem to forget the previous summer. Most people complain no matter what the weather is doing, too wet, too cool, too hot, too smokey, too windy. Other reports from the Northern Hemisphere describe muggy summer heat beside the Great Lakes and on the East coast friends describe constant cold.

Ebb tide in the swamp. Placid to the eye, there is a whole world living in those reeds.
The nurse stump. This massive clump of cedars began as seedlings in the old stump they have since split and pushed aside.
Up the creek. The Nanaimo River, short but beautiful. Running from a series of lakes on Vancouver Island this clear, green, pure water is a treasure too many people take for granted.
As the stones turn. The rock where these potholes are formed is not especially soft. How many milenia of annual high waters has it taken for these boulders to grind out the basins where they are trapped.? It is boggling to contemplate the passing of time when you look into these pools. Jacks considers how long a million years really is.

So we’re doing just fine on our island, a wonderland of moderate climate and gentle yet dramatic natural beauty. People come from around the planet to see it. Jack takes me on spectacular walks within a radius of a few miles of home. Some days I am able to actually see it all and marvel that I live here. This morning I napped peacefully on the banks of The Nanaimo River while its crystal laughing waters sang happily on their way to the sea. Jack snuffled and plunked around, chasing waterbugs and digging in patches of soft sand. He drank from the clear water and then chased more bugs before falling asleep in the sun-warmed ground. A deer wandered out of the forest a little way upstream to drink in the river. Flowers swayed in the breeze while birds twittered and flitted. I have no idea what the poor people were doing.

Bambi takes a bath. Out of focus in the distance, this doe wandered about for several minutes  in the middle of the river. Fishing perhaps?

There are three kinds of people in the world:

The living, the dead, and those who go to sea …Aristotle

Perceptions

Two men and a boy. While reviewing my photo files I came on this image which I had gleaned from a magazine article about Brixham trawlers. They were sailed by “Two men and a boy,” hence the impression . What is uncanny to me is that the boy looks amazingly just like me at that age.
  Business first.  So to the complaint department: In the recent formatting changes of this blog, the comment box at the bottom disappeared. In its place, at the top right had corner, above the theme photo is a button called “Get In Touch.” That’s the new and improved way for contact and comment. If you’re like me any change in any cyber system is baffling. That’s why the dinosaurs disappeared. They could not assimilate a changing environment quickly enough.

And now some advertising. Folks often tell me how they like my photographs. I love flattery. (It is something I’ve been doing for over fifty years and yes, I do miss film cameras and the old darkroom days.) Anyway, I’ve recently discovered a site called Fine Art America.com, FAA for short.  I’ve joined up and now have posted over five hundred of my images from my digital photo archives. You can buy any of my work there, (or other artists of several disciplines) reproduced in many ways such as canvas prints, framed prints, shower curtains, T shirts, hand bags, duvet covers, coffee mugs and so forth. I receive only a pittance of each sale but it is great exposure for my work and a fantastic gift idea for anyone. There is an image to please anyone. Many of the photos which have appeared in this blog are available. Of course, folks can always contact me directly through this blog, or any of the popular social medias. I may have something to please your specific heart’s desire. Be warned, In future I will regularly flog this site on my blog. A direct link is now in the ads column on the top right hand of this page. End of commercial, we now return to the regular blogging program.

I spent many hours in front of my computer editing my photo files, posting images and their descriptions one at time time. It was truly a pain in the ass after sitting day after day. But now I have an online portfolio, a true love-me effort I am rather proud of. Between digital images, slides and negatives, I cannot guess how many thousands of images I have squirrelled away from all my years messing around with cameras.

I also signed in with Face book, LinkedIn, and with Twitter. Haar! Now I can exchange views directly with Donald. Considering that I have to drive to cross US borders twice to get to Mexico, I know that I do not want to deal with Homeland Insecurity if there is any sort of dark marks on file. Few of those folks appear to have any sense of humour and, I’ve learned,  do not appreciate my jokes or smart remarks. So... two ears, two eyes, one mouth. Yes sir, no sir.
Ladysmith, we keep our anchor clean. In the fountain in the roundabout at the foot of mainstreet, pranksters dumped some soap in the water. Now that we have a public bath, perhaps we can get a public washroom.
Chicory flower after some rain. Even weeds can be lovely.
Morning Glories twist around other plants and look up to the light. Another pretty weed I think.
Another weed. The little purple petals in the middle are intriguing.
On that note, I’ve just finished reading ‘Into The Beautiful North’ by Luis Alberto Urrea. He is a Mexican who clearly understands the illegal Mexican immigrant story.  This novel drew me eagerly forward with a wonderful account of young Mexican women smuggling themselves into the US in order to bring a few Mexican men back south of the border to protect their town from criminals. It is humorous, entertaining, insightful, and also a primer of Mexican Spanish and slang. I seldom recommend a book I’ve read but this one gets lots of stars from me. It certainly offers a fresh perspective to this gringo. This work enhances conversations and new insights I gained on my most recent trip down that way. There are certainly no valid black and white arguments once one begins to grasp all colours of the cross-border situation. Despite all the dark stories, I love it there and want to return as quickly as I can.

Perspectives are often misleading and a person may look back on a view eventually realizing how inaccurately life can be seen and believed. For example, when I was very young, my father who loved brass bands and so too the Salvation Army, parades and military tattoos, provided my with plenty of exposure to that sort of music. One of my childhood amazements was trombone players. I was gobsmacked, how when playing their horns, they could slide that long brass tube up and down their throats without ever flinching. I was convinced they were as talented as sword swallowers.  I held no desire to play the trombone. 

We listened regularly to the local radio station CHWO 1250 AM, “White Oak Radio.” I had been shown the station itself which occupied the upper floor of a small brick building in town. I listened enthralled, wondering how in the hell all those bands, orchestras, singers and musicians passed through that place, up and down the stairs, without ever making a sound. I waited interminably for someone to drop their cymbals, or cough, but nothing, always nothing. I believed all music in the radio studio was live. I knew nothing about recordings, we certainly kept none at home. My perceptions have changed.

Often we believe something as solid fact which is actually unfounded and inaccurate. A part-truth is as good as a lie. We are immersed with a daily avalanche of information from the media. In their need to constantly produce a quota of content we are often under an overdose of babble and speculation  until our brains are nearly exploding with a plethora of fiction. I watch folks sometimes come close to blows over a certainty about what they have gleaned from public news sources, the clergy, politicians, the weatherman or some other uninformed opinion either deliberate or accidental.

How many millions have died in wars and natural catastrophes believing God was on their side just as their enemy also did? Throughout history hype masters and spin doctors have determined what someone else wants us to believe. Even I, a self-declared cynic, am stunned at how incredibly gullible I can often be. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t believe everything you imagine.” In other words, ask questions. Always.
Chihuahuas and weed flowers. You know you are getting older when you begin to appreciate the merits of each. I recently wrote an essay about these little dogs and their virtues.

The cave you fear to enter hides the treasures you seek. Joseph Campbell


	

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

I wonder As I Wobble

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.