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

FROGS

Say Goodbye!
A last glimpse of Seafire with a new owner at the helm. It’s all over but the drinking. There shall be no looking back. This blog will continue to bear the same name for the time being.

I am an autodidact. The trouble is that I never payed attention in class. I did well enough in school and even graduated with a scholarship a year ahead of the rest of the class. Then my real education began and don’t, for a moment, confuse schooling with education. Some of the stupidest people I have known possess box loads of degrees and certificates. I attended the old school and the university of hard knocks. Some folks ask me from time to time where I went to university. I simply say that I graduated from Perdue, which really was the name of my high school. There’s no point in explaining further.

The problem is, that at my age, the clever self-taught one who thinks he is some sort of writer, has new-to-me words appear and I wonder why I’m only learning them now, words like autodidact which is the name for someone who is self-taught.

And if I am so damned clever why am I standing on an empty dock with my prized ‘Seafire’ moored somewhere else, now documented with someone else’s name? I should be softly singing “Free at last,” but I am now living in a big emptiness. It is, however, only temporary.

Now that I’m beach bound all I can do is watch the boats head out. Leaving Ladysmith Harbour, someone greets the morning light and  fading fog. That will be me again. Just watch me!

I have a plan. In the weeks leading up to this wistful day, I’ve been scouring on-line sites which advertise RVs and others which advertise trucks. Eventually, I want to own a displacement-hull powerboat, big enough to live in and seaworthy enough to voyage at least as far as Mexico. The right boat will be tough to find. First I need more funds. For the moment I will satisfy myself with land-based expeditions.

Nice RV dude! Precariously perched, the shack’s straps have come loose. I scooted on by.

I do want to satiate my strong land travel-lust. I have considered every option. There was a time when crawling under a tarp stretched across an overturned canoe was perfect, even romantic, but now my knees are too shot for kneeling in a canoe. I am well past even the tenting concept. I have tried the camper van notion and am not inclined to repeat that. I’ve considered truck-mounted campers but don’t like that idea for a few good reasons. Motor homes are not my cup of tea. So I have settled on the trailer concept. For me a trailer that can leave the pavement and also be dropped while roaming about with the towing vehicle only.

I first owned a home-made teardrop trailer. My early blogs of five years ago described a trip to Mexico with that trailer. I loved it but soon the romance wore off. I almost froze to death in it one night in Nevada. It had only sitting head room; so the simple endeavour of getting dressed while inside was challenging. Getting dressed outside was also interesting. “Mommy, what is that man wearing,” and that before I’d pulled on a shirt! Sticking your bare feet outside into the darkness with a good chance of stepping on scorpions while going to pee did not pique my sense of adventure. The tiny, cute kitchen in the back, under a huge lid, was not so great or exotic when the rain and wind came.

My first rig. Cute but a bit too tight for a fat-arse like me. It was a memorable trip.
Everyone loved that tear-drop trailer. The Mexicans called it ‘La Chiquita.’ The smell of coffee first thing in the morning always brought someone by to say hello and beg a mug.

My second trailer, was a beautiful conversion of a 12’ cargo trailer. I loved it. I could stand upright in it and I had a porta-potty for those night time functions. Cooking inside, or sitting to eat and write was next to impossible. There was a lovely retractable awning outside, which is where you spend most of your time as you go further south, but the notion of cooking or writing there in inclement weather soon paled as well. What would be perfect for me was a trailer small and tough enough to survive being towed on primitive roads. I needed separate, comfortable beds for at least two people, indoor cooking and dining facilities, some sort of bathroom facility and adequate storage as well. That will allow total self-sufficiency for 7 to 10 days without going to town. That’s a tough order to fill, especially on my budget. Building exactly what I need is very appealing but the cost of doing it right would be formidable.

My second attempt at dreams on wheels. I was proud of this trailer, but had not thought about what to do in foul weather.
When finished it had a lovely interior and the most comfortable bed ever with loads of storage space beneath. The bunk also converted instantly into a great work bench.

For a towing vehicle I also required an affordable, reliable short-wheel base 4×4 truck with enough power to tow the trailer yet be good on gas, have a canopy to store extra fuel and water, a small generator, a small air compressor, extra tools and also enough room to carry a small boat, outboard motor and a kayak. Most of the time, four-wheel drive is not necessary but when you need it, by gad you really need it. I wanted all of this for less than $20,000. I know! I am a dreamer. Both pre-owned trailers and good used trucks have ridiculous prices. My only hope was to find something online, even if it meant flying and driving across the continent. Importing any vehicle from the US is essentially straight forward, yet there are so many clauses and codicils, that one has to be quite wary. Imagine showing up at the border with a vehicle which may not be imported under any circumstance because the clearance lights are wrong. Vehicles over fifteen years in age are generally permissible but still vulnerable to subjective opinions of individual customs officers about things like the location of clearance lights. Yes, I did read that. And, every import is subject to GST which really chips into tsavings you’d calculated. Then, once over the border into Canada, there are two separate safety inspections to pass before the vehicle can finally be registered in your home province. Geez Louise! I looked anyway. Day after interminable day, all over the continent, for several hours at each sitting. This endeavour furthered my autodidact education and my standing as a masochist.

Next, I considered something a little bigger yet still affordable.
The chickens were not included. I declined.

Simply put, we’ve all heard it before, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” I think I can safely claim that three quarters of the ads I pursued were scams. Firstly, if something is advertised in an area a great distance from where it is alleged to actually be, raise a warning flag. There was a disconcertingly consistent bullshit story with an almost word for word same script. Repeatedly the story was that a lady officer in the military was about to be re-posted, usually overseas. Old dad had died and this beloved truck, or RV, was a too-sad reminder of him and they just wanted to clean things up before their imminent deployment. The transaction would be done through E-bay and the sale item would then be shipped to me. Photos of the vehicle were extensive and showed something in immaculate condition. I made several inquiries, simply out of bemusement and also the theory that once in a while the ad might actually be legitimate. WRONG! That gambling philosophy is what gets a lot of folks into trouble.

One ad, placed in Craigslist-Kootenays described a near-virgin Rialta motor home which, it turned out, was claimed to be located in Prince Rupert, several hundreds of miles away from the Kootenays. (First Alert) Considering the remoteness of this location, it did seem plausible that the price was less then half of other quotient prices especially with the story I was given. A senior lady from Prince Rupert was in a California hospital with her husband who was waiting on a donor to provide a heart for a transplant. Because she was so far from home, and desperately short of funds, she had arranged for a quick sale through a third party, a shipping company in Prince Rupert. If I met her price the RV, and all paperwork, would be shipped to me. In response I explained that I never buy shoes without first trying them on. I proposed to fly to Prince Rupert, inspect the RV, do a lien check and then pay by bank draft. Clearly, paying a shipping fee out of such a low price did not make sense, nor did the notion that some unnamed shipping company was quarter-backing the deal. I have not heard back from her. In previous years there was an experience with some Nigerian scammers claiming an interest in a sailboat I advertised. That is a whole story in itself.

There must be masses of stupid people out there. Scammers would not be plying their trade so vigorously if they weren’t making money. There was a strange pleasure pretending to be a potential dupe until I finally wearied of kissing all those frogs.

I’m sure it will be here in a day or two. I know I put it in the mail. The side of this old mail truck was too good to walk away from.
One more shot I could not resist. This is part of the remaining old town in Nanaimo

Well I did find both the right trailer and a great towing vehicle, right here on Vancouver Island and within a day of each other. Oddly, the same thing happened when I bought ‘Seafire’. I looked at boats all over the continent, as far away as North Carolina and Toronto. I found her languishing in Blaine, about forty miles away. Go figure eh! Including taxes and insurance I am well within my budget for truck and trailer. Now I just have to get rid of the frog breath. Speaking of which, today is a fine clear, warm and sunny day. While writing this I am in a beautiful, luxurious semi-rural home dog-sitting for some friends. At the bottom of this acreage lies a small swamp. The frogs are singing heartily. Wherever I look, I can see no snow. Is it really spring?

Maple Bay spring dawn. It is spring! Beneath the fog lays a flooded field where swans swim and feed up for the long flight northward.

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” Kinky Friedman

A Last Night

The last light on the last night. What a comfort this lantern has been.
A last look. Then I turned away and refused to look back.
It is spring time! Somewhere.
Life at the edge. Eeech.

Hunched over the steering wheel with bleary eyes I was once again in my old camper van driving into a town where I had never been before. It was raining and sleeting heavily. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to find a place to park for the night. The gas gauge was tsappingon empty. I worried that when I went to fill up the gas tank, my credit card would be rejected. Then I woke up from my terrible dream. There were a few nights much like that on my recent trip. That lost and lonely feeling is much how it is for me again tonight.

I am aboard my beloved ‘Seafire’ anchored in a beautiful nook known as Maple Bay. It will be my last night aboard this wonderful vessel. Tomorrow I meet with the buyers for a sea-trial. On the following day the boat will be hauled out for a survey and once that is past, the deal is near completion. I feel like a convict on the night before his appointment with the hangman. At least he has the sweet hope of oblivion. The ship’s chronograph rings out seven bells, right on time. It is nineteen-thirty hours (7:30 pm) I am reminded that the clocks are to be turned ahead tonight for daylight savings. The clear evening sky held a little light until about a half-hour ago. It is damned cold. There is snow along the shore right to the waterline.

Maybe I’ll buy a tiny motorhome and run away to the desert. Isn’t this sweet? I’ve  never seen one so small.

So here I sit, the aging man who lived in this egg, surrounded by the teak and brass in what has been my world. The one oil lantern remaining in the boat is glowing brightly, its cloying bittersweet reek fills the cabin. The furnace is belting out a lovely warmth and I reminisce about all the nights through the years spent aboard sitting right here, at this table, while the rain hammered down or the wind howled while the boat slammed against a dock or tugged frantically at the anchor chain. There were summer nights when the hatches were open to let in the fragrant night air; sometimes there were swarms of mosquitoes. Around the boat, seals and sometimes whales or dolphins snorted and splashed. Occasionally while anchored in some remote north coast bay there would be wolves howling in the surrounding rain forest. Sometimes the northern lights would begin to pulse and throb in the black, star-studded sky. There have also been nights in the harbour of some city where the lighted buildings towered above me and sirens howled above the constant drone of traffic. I don’t like cities. There have been times when I have sat here feeling like the loneliest man in the world but so very often I wanted to be in no other place.

And the days, those magic days, when the world passed at a stately speed between five and eight knots. Grey days, sparkling sunny days, none of then were bad; even those long hours bashing through monstrous breaking, foaming, hissing mountains of briny water when you knew that what you were doing was insanity. Sometimes the boat was surrounded in thick fog. It always made sense to me. I and this beloved little ship have seen an awful lot. We never made it to Europe, or even to Mexico, which was the original plan, but without that dream I would not have experienced much of what I have. A friend e-mailed me today to remind me of my recent metaphor about having to draw the arrow backward to launch it forward. Life is a long series of rapidly passing moments which ricochet between choices, some good, some bad.

When I edited this photo I had to go check that it was flying right-side-up. It was. For a moment the wind had folded it over. An inverted flag is an international distress signal.
I felt the wind and the sun on my face as we skimmed along slowly toward our destination.

Today on the short three-hour voyage to this bay the wind freshened out of the north. It was cold and clear and beautiful. I hoisted the sails which have been tightly furled away far too long. For two hours I motor-sailed, then the wind faltered and died. It was as if the gods wanted me to have one last dance with the wind. I will miss this boat, dearly and desperately, I know that. I also understand that you can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. There is no ocean voyage that is not made between points on shorelines. Land and sea are meaningless without each other. After days or weeks out upon the broad, curving eternal face of the open ocean you make a landfall, often in a port where you’ve never been before. You rest, re provision, find new charts, make repairs and modifications. Then recharged you sail off on a new course to a new destination. Life is an eternal journey. I will send postcards, many of them. Meanwhile, tonight will be very long.

A light in the fog. Then darkness fell and the long night began.

Two days later, the sea-trial is completed, the buyers are happy. I am waiting for the surveyor this morning. There are only some simple formalities to complete the transaction. Then I will be boatless, for the moment.

I learned last night that a new friend, one I made on my travels in the desert, has died. For many years Frank was only an acquaintance until I spent a few days visiting with him in Ajo Arizona. We bonded like brothers and made plans about where and when we would meet again. We had met through a mutual friend who was a life-long close friend of Frank’s. Fortunately Jimmy was able to spend Frank’s final hours at his bedside. Any man who has a friend like that is successful indeed. When circumstances took Frank’s leg he was able to give it a positive spin and became an advocate, at a high level, for the disabled. He took his personal challenge and turned it into an advantage for himself and many others. He was courageous and positive. Nothing held him back. Only a few short weeks ago he took me for a drive in the desert. This one-legged guy drove his standard shift vehicle by using a stick to work the clutch. He didn’t miss a shift.

This short eulogy is all that I can do. My sadness is overwhelming. This is a reminder that one should live among their fellows like each goodbye is the last one. It just might be.

Those who knew him will miss Frank dearly. I took this photo just a few weeks ago. I am assured that his beloved little dog Xena (his half-a-lap dog) went to a very good home.

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

A Strange Week Indeed

Winter Blues
It’s just a little ice on a puddle and an excellent example of the everyday things we look at and don’t see.
Shattered.
A different perspective.
There may different ways to look at anything.
Look before you scrape.
The car windshield on a winter morning.
This man’s curse, and his dog’s joy.
Jack enjoys a roll in the crusty snow, then a slide on his back down the hill.
Birds.
I hear birds, alway the birds.
A “murder” of crows.
Nevermore!

My last blog was about poor old me worrying my way toward the final steps in the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’ on this coming weekend. I thank those readers who have offered their warm support and kind comments to help me through the angst of the next few days. I am coping by staying busy indoors and out. I’ve sorted through my recent photo files, tinkered on the camper van, did some dog-sitting for friends and put together yet another short video from my recent trip. I am scheming ways to produce some income and looking forward to whatever comes next. This too shall pass. Idle hands find the devil’s work it is said. So it’s head down, arse up while staying gainfully busy. I am never stuck for things to do.

The W word.
My charges, Bella the Portuguese Water Dog and Louie the Poodle give me the eager eye in anticipation of their morning promenade.
Wanderlust, the incurable condition. Across the sea and over the mountains there are so many places and people to see and meet. A Vancouver Island view of mainland Canada.

And then it happened. The van sold, in less than a day of advertising it. Remember the song, “The thrill is gone?” Change the word thrill to van…yeah you’ve got it! Yes, I immediately bought a lottery ticket. May my karma not run over my dogma. Here is the latest video from the recent trip.

I need just enough to tide me over until I need more. …Bill Hoest

The Ides Of Marches

On the road to Tonopah Arizona. I wonder how the weather is there today.

Well there’s my tired clichė about the beginning of March. It can go right on the shelf beside the lamb and the lion, and oh yeah, the groundhog. Spring must be coming. Herds of dock inspectors roamed the marina yesterday, peeking into windows, thumping hulls and scanning boat rigs. After empty docks all winter, they’re back. It is nice way to spend some time on a sunny day, drifting and dreaming. Despite my despondency about parting with my boat, I too savoured the warm sunny day and I tried to see the world through the eyes of a landlubber. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter still holds Vancouver Island in its icy grip. We do spells of clear skies, there is a little snow melting during the day and I did see some snow drops growing among the bushes. Other years there have been daffodils at the end of January. Both scenarios have the doom-gloomers declaring clear evidence of global warming. I’ll leave them to sort it out. And yes, I am aware of all the gasoline I burned on my recent trip.

There will be an incredible flower show in the desert in a few more weeks. I want to be there.

Of doom and gloom, the final transaction for the sale of ‘Seafire’ is a week away. I have spent days unloading the boat, one groaning, squeaking wagon-load at a time all the long way up the dock and ramp. Every time I have moved off of a boat I have been amazed at the “Stuff” a person accumulates. Now I’m giving my beloved her final scrub, removing winter’s grunge. And we all know that the deal is never done until it is done. The suspense is killing me. Oddly, there are two new inquiries, one of which involves delivering her to San Francisco, but truth be told, I am beseeching the gods for a last minute miracle which will allow me to keep my wonderful boat and travelling companion of so many miles. We have endured a lot together and I shall sorely miss her, and the whole idea of her, when the final day comes.

I have also decided to sell my old van. Wanna buy a camper van? It is a faithful little old bus but I know what I need now so I may as well clear the table and start over. I see other people settling into a comfortable retirement and the notion of a new beginning seems odd at my age but life is an adventure. I remind myself of Francis Chichester, who well into his seventies, and fighting cancer, set sail alone on an incredibly difficult-to-manage yawl ‘Gypsy Moth IV’, travelled around the world and then wrote his memoirs. Then a dark monkey on my shoulder asks, “So what’s your point?”

It can certainly be tough to stay positive and buoyant. On occasion I’ve let it slip that I have lived with clinical depression of all my life. I’m not complaining, just explaining. It has certainly been no sleigh ride and there are times when enduring another dreary day seems absolutely pointless. Being a blue-collar character I have lived in a world where such a thing is never admitted or discussed. That I live into “full maturity” (how’s that for a positive spin on ‘pre-geriatric’?) is, I think, a positive and happy story. On my recent trip I met inspiring people who deal with many challenges which would shatter others. Their life-force is a positive radiation and a wonderful influence which helps inspire their fellows forward. I consider how folks live elsewhere and marvel often at the obvious poverty and dreariness and wonder how people live a life which, to me, appears unbearable. There are secrets and courage which I do not begin to understand. As bleak as I’m feeling these days, I am struggling to finish reading a book called “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. It is an amazing inside look at the everyday lives of Afghani people, incredibly well-written and depressing as hell. The normal life of these people, especially the women, could make a stone weep. Their lives can only be endurable because they know nothing else. Are our expectations the root of our unhappiness?

I may be a creature of the sea but I left a piece of my heart at Baboquivari and in the desert . I will return.
I think I left a wrench here. I’m going back to find it.

I also marvel at the new things I see. In the desert, with the eyes of a newcomer, and a sailor, I saw flora and fauna which survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. There is a reason for life to go on against massive odds beyond my comprehension. A joy which helps life make sense and have purpose is seeing those things and realizing that we too have a place in those circles, even if we don’t understand the total sum of the all the parts.

Stuff! It’s all just stuff. As much a personal temple as ‘Seafire’ has been, it is just stuff and there will be new pleasures in the future. The trick is finding joy in the moment. Belongings should never be a measure of who we are.
This delightful image was made and provided by my dear friend Kerry.

Giving up my boat is a step forward. While it feels like an ending, I know it shall be the beginning of a whole new set of adventures. Seafire Chronicles will continue to be posted under the same name. Comments from readers tell me there is value in what I do and in response, the sense of mission that I am afforded, in part, by this blog helps carry me forward. To give is to receive. Thank you. I often use the Lord Nelson quote, “Ships and men rot in port.” Staying busy keeps me alive; I subscribe to the mantra of “use it or lose it.” Some of my busyness will be to continue to hone my video-making skills. The first video from my trip is now posted on YouTube. It is a simple short clip made with my cell phone and a very good essay on the winter we’ve had. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REe71VHzJxU See ya in the movies.

A storm always ends. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

Roy Goodman

Song Of The Blackbird

After the wild storms all the way up the Oregon Coast, this is what I found at Cape Disappointment on the mouth of the Columbia River. Peace!
It was a perfect mid-winter afternoon. Folks were out and about to absorb every minute they could.
The Columbia River near Astoria Oregon. It is surely one of the world’s great rivers.

In Mexico, in the mornings, their blackbirds can conjure up a symphony of calls that sound like a jungle filled with a hundred different birds. It is splendid. This morning, Jack and I went for a walk at Swallowfield Farm. The wet snow had frozen so the long trampled path was easy enough for me clomping along in my winter boots. Jack trotted along happily on top of the untrampled frozen snow with a great grin on his old phizog. In the distance I could hear the call of red-winged blackbirds. I waited until I actually saw one to confirm it was the real thing and not some starlings mimicking the song. The blackbirds, with their red epaulettes, were real and their trilling song was true. It is a first sign of spring here, despite the harsh winter the northern hemisphere is enduring this year.

Home again. Note the heron in the middle of the image. He has a long wait until the tide comes back.
Have a long look then close your eyes and hear redwing blackbirds singing from the forest’s edge.

I look back on the last month’s mad travels (8,000 km/5000 miles in one month) and see how how I could have done things much differently. I should have stayed home and completed the deal on ‘Seafire’ then ambled south with nothing to rush anywhere for. With the harsh winter, and cool temperatures with snow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, It would certainly have been best to wait a while. Hindsight! Shoulda, woulda, coulda! In another two months the Sonora desert will be starting to bloom profusely. Maybe I can return there in time for that. I do know that I saw many marvellous things and met some incredible people with a perfect timing which almost seems predestined. I know that this old salt has left a big piece of his heart in the desert.

I have previously travelled to Mexico while towing a teardrop trailer. I learned a lot from that jaunt and I now have my experience with the old camper van. It’s not sexy but it did get me home again. I’ve made up my mind that I need a small, sturdy trailer of less than twenty feet which can be used for shelter in inclement weather. I have a blind fantasy of living outside beneath an awning at a small table but the weather dictates how that happens. I’ll pull the trailer with a 4×4 truck that is old enough to be affordable and also repairable by myself. The trailer can be dropped off while I explore especially rugged areas with the truck.That towing vehicle can then hold tools, bicycles, extra fuel, a kayak, an inflatable boat perhaps. The trailer has to be rugged enough to be eased along rough back roads without falling apart. Many new trailers being marketed as “Offroad” could not survive for long off-pavement. Putting knobby tires on a trailer is stupid and does NOT make it into a rugged offroad RV.

I could write about what are my does and don’ts, but those may not be especially helpful to someone else venturing out. There are many different ways to direct the same script. I found that Northern California was very expensive. I am told that the southern part of the state is considerably more ridiculous. The secondary roads in California are in dreadful condition, on a par, or even worse than back roads in Mexico. Diesel fuel, in many places, was more expensive than regular gasoline sometimes by a dollar more per tiny US gallon. Gasoline generally was up to a dollar more than in neighbouring states. I soon learned not to buy fuel at the first location in town that one comes to, sometimes the fuel in the middle of town sells for as much as sixty cents per gallon less. Most gas pumps will ask you for your zip code when you stuff your credit card into it. It was frustrating until I was taught that with a Canadian card, you enter the numbers in your postal code followed by two zeros. It always worked like a charm. in my case I found that the road signs in the US in many places were inadequate or downright misleading. My road maps often did not agree with each other and my GPS, at times, seemed utterly confused about which planet it was on.

In any case, do not put yourself in a space where you are regretting what you did not do. Today is all you have, go for it! In the blogs I have written about this trip, I have often alluded to the vastness of the states I crossed. Despite man’s imposition of change everywhere he goes, there are still massive expanses between the horizons of a majestic, sprawling land. There are many areas where you can view the planet almost as it has always been. Then, when a person looks at a map and sees they have only travelled a tiny scratch of the earth they become very humble. That is a good thing.

Perhaps not as fascinating as a cactus but this old, rough bark has its own beauty.

Presently I am unloading my beloved ‘Seafire.’ It is a big job which I hate, especially when performed through misty eyes.This vessel is a huge part of who I am. (I have arguments with myself about stuff being part of my identity.) She’s going to good new owners but, for me, it is hard to envision a future without her. I’ve painted myself into a corner financially, this is my way out. I intend to have a trailer and a powerboat in which I will live and travel and write into my dotage.

As I write, I close my eyes and can smell the sea air of Mexico, the pure silent wind in the desert; I can see red rocks and sand, cacti and palms, high-altitude twisted, stunted pines. I have fleeting images of jackrabbits, wild burros and horses and perhaps an illegal immigrant hiding in a thicket of mesquite. I think of people whom I met there who know only their world and are very content in it. My home is here on Vancouver Island, which folks come from around the world to see, because it is spectacular. I need never leave this island to have a full and wonderful life. But I am one of those who is cursed with a compulsion to see what is around the next corner…and so I go.

Stinkeye.
Jack regarded me with his special look of disdain during my first few days home. I’d been away without him. He’s over it now.

This Saturday evening came with bursts of heavy sleet and snow during the drive to Nanaimo to see a movie, ‘Green Book.’ It has many nominations and awards and certainly deserves them. I suggest that if you see only one film during the entire year, this is the one. I’ll end this blog with one of many great lines from the film.

Buddhy. He is my travelling companion, security system and charmer of officials at border crossings. “Who’d want to deal with one of THOSE nutters?” I believe that is what they might think. In any case, he works well  for me with his incessant grin as he sits velcroed to the dashtop. This photo is about his actual size.

The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”

McMinnville – Part 2

(Once again, a reminder that you can enlarge any image by clicking on it)

The last blog was cut short when the host, WordPress, informed me that I had used up all my cyber bits and bytes. I had to purchase a business-grade subscription. I was delighted to hear from several subscribers who wanted a part 2. So, now I’ll now finish my photo essay on this wonderful aviation museum. No matter how many photos I post, it is impossible to portray the enormity of this incredible display.

Oh those Russians! There is an amazing number of Russian equipment on display. We tend to forget that the Russians have always been a forerunner in aviation and space technology. These copper borscht kettles are enormous.
I remember Yuri. he followed monkeys into space. They all survived their flights.
Nice ride Yuri!
A pointed relic of the cold war.
“Oof, it must’ve been something I ate!”
“Aw quit your whining and get back in here. It smells fine inside my suit.”
Sikorskys in a row. I have bent wrenches on the two types on the right, an S-55 and an S-58
An S-56. This was a new one on me. It is described as the world’s first heavy-lift helicopter introduced during the Korean War. What a pig it would have been to fly! Note the little girl at the tail. I could just reach the white band on the lowest tail rotor blade. Now let’s clear something up. If you go to U-tube and look up Nazi helicopters, you’ll learn that the Germans had heavy-lift helicopters in the late 1930s! There are films of them flying artillery field pieces. So…fake news? Uh huh!
Remember the Jetson cartoon of the ’60s and the notion of personal commuter aircraft? This is a McCulloch J2 autogyro from that era. It is, apparently, still available from a Nevada builder now as the Pegasus III. At the same time, in Canada, a similar aircraft was produced called the Avian Gyroplane. Despite government subsidies it followed the dodo bird south, just like the Avro Arrow. Today, with some wonderful composite plastic materials available, there are several new-gen gyro products being built. I’ve always wanted one.
The flying lawn chair. This is a home-built Benson autogyro. Plans and kits are still available. I flew one once. That was enough…no airbags! The 2-stroke McCulloch engine on the back was used in WWII target drones.
Of course! The military explores all the angles.
“I just dropped in to see if you have any hand grenades.”

 

A Piasecki Vertol H-21. I have some personal experience helping repair these clatter boxes. Introduced the 1950’s, they were being surplused out from the military by the mid-sixties.. With a metal fuselage, they still twirled wooden rotors.
A Piasecki HRP1 from 1944. With wooden rotors and fabric over tube fuselages, it would take one brave soldier to go for a ride into battle in one of these.
Remember the 1954 film ‘The Bridges At Toko Ri’?
Mickey Rooney played the pilot of one of these rescue machines. It is a Sikorsky H-5 Dragonfly.
The office, full of steam gauges and switches. This is the cockpit of an F4 Phantom. Imagine having an intimate knowledge of every item there so you could invade the steaming skies of Vietnam while trying to evade a herd of Mig fighters trying to blow some smoke up your bottom. Today’s fighters have a full electronic display and lots of computers to help you make it all work.
The F4 Phantom
Jet fighters are everywhere, inside and out. I lost track. This is an F84 Thunderchief.
One of the engines from the SR71 Blackbird which could fling it at up to several times the speed of sound and to 70,000′. The huge evil-looking black beast carried cameras.
The SR71 looks like an angel of death from every angle.
I prefer biplanes.
I kept wondering how the museum acquires all these items. It is amazing how billions of dollars in military assets are relegated to the scrap heap.10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- Gone!
Even the humble Piper J3 Cub, all 65 horsepower of it was turned into a weapon called the ‘Grasshopper.’ A light observation aircraft, someone figured out how to lash bazookas to the wings.
The Cessna 337 was similarly employed during the Vietnam conflict.
I can’t take it anymore!
A Skyraider, designed for stowage aboard an aircraft carrier. That monster was flung off the deck with the aid of a steam catapult. It’s something I always wanted to do…as a passenger.
From this…
…To This! In a single century! Imagine if we had applied the same diligence and resources to eliminating war, starvation, malnutrition, and disease. What if we presented God as being on everyone’s side? We would not need all those war toys. It is all a matter of choices and the first should be to overcome our insatiable craving for possession and control.
Finally, I could take no more. The photos in this and the previous blog are by no means all of which I took. Outside there was more. Scrap heaps of parts and engines sit randomly in the dirt and pouring rain.
Like my headers? A corn-cob radial anguishes out in the weather.
The drip! I could not resist this parting shot of the hand of the bronze statue of the museum founder.