Invasion Of The Dufi

Invasion Of The Dufi

Pick me! Warm weather and perfectly-timed rain showers have produced a bumper crop of succulent blackberries. Delicious right off the prickly vine, they are also a seedy treat when thawed and used in baking during the long winter ahead.
Plum full. A feral plum tree was almost “Ripe for the picking.” I picked a hatful to bring home to fully ripen before the birds took them all. No apologies. They are plum yummy.

Friends report nasty weather in far away places wet and hot, wet and cold,depending where you are. Here on Vancouver Island the weather is superb for the beginning of August, exactly what one would expect. We’ve had a little rain now and then and there is a gentle breeze so the temperature rising through 28° C seemed perfect for a long-weekend Sunday morning. Without a boat, what was there to do but go for a drive? Driving a near 200-mile route in a circumnavigation of Southern Vancouver Island it was soon obvious that Paradise has been fully discovered and over-run.

Rugged beauty. This is ‘Noroue, a Corbin 39 cutter. She has been the pride of a dear friend who has taken her around the South Pacific. Well equipped, a good voyager, spacious and cosy below, she may be coming up for sale. She’ll take you anywhere and be a fantastic home.

The small town of Lake Cowichan lies inland on Vancouver Island at the east end of the lake from which it takes its name. The lake, and its sister named Nitinat, almost bisect Vancouver island into two halves before draining via the Cowichan River into Cowichan Bay. The two lakes drain in opposite directions. It is the short stretch of solid land, about eleven-hundred metres, between their head water streams which formally keeps Vancouver Island a single entity. The name Cowichan is an anglicized perversion of the original Coast Salish Quw’utsun which means “Warm valley.” It is lyrical and easy to remember, especially when used so often. The name is synonymous with fantastic handmade native woollen goods as well all the wine now produced throughout the area. I’ve joked that among some of the undulating vineyards here, you can almost imagine you are in Provence.

Across the Jack Gap. Clearly it was built just for him. This is on Butte Islet in Ladysmith Harbour, recently purchased as parkland by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Money well spent in my opinion.
Arbutus aromatherapy. It is the time of year when dried leaves fall from our unique Arbutus Trees. When stepped on they emit a fantastic aroma.
Smooth! A Gulf Island peek through an Arbutus (aka Madrona) tree. One of my favourite trees!
A summer view from Coffin Island in Ladysmith Harbour. I have a new appreciation of being able to get out there on a full-sized boat. My inflatable boat just does not fill the bill for long trips but Jack loves it.

It was certainly a warm valley today with the truck thermometer peaking at 32°C (89.6ºF) while stuck in the crawling traffic on the main street of the little town. Stopping to photograph the chaos would have just added to the danger and chaos. Folks wandered everywhere and the sights were amazing. Bobbling mounds of human anatomy, apparently held together with stringy bits of clothing, looked absolutely out of place as folks in various states of undress wandered through the swollen traffic of a historic, rustic community. I am no prude, nor a letch, and I’ve long-ago accepted gay rights (I’ve yet to hear of a heterosexual rights parade) but geez people! Obese rights? Bummer!

Rafting down the Cowichan River from town is a summer tradition. You could have walked the river without wetting your feet. It was jammed with flimsy plastic donuts filled with squirming, squealing pink creatures of various shapes and sizes. I thought of spawning jellyfish. There was no place to stop and photograph the incongruous sight. Plastic debris in the planet’s waters is clearly an urgent situation even well inland. There is also probably a carpet of aluminum drink cans on the bottom of the river.

Don’t laugh, it’s almost paid for! Actually this 1919 Franklin is a local vehicle regularly driven. Note the standard license plates. One hundred years old, it will outlive cars yet to be built. Beep!
Currently boatless and RV-less, this factory-built Japanese RV certainly caught my eye. It is cleverly designed; although a bit small for my needs, but I’ll take it!

The drive was a frustration of strange driving habits. I coined several terms for the characters encountered along the way. ‘Dufus’ will do to cover them all. Is the plural, Dufi? For some reason, there were repeated near-head on collisions with motorcycles leaned hard over on the wrong side of the road’s curves. Have you ever noticed how folks tend to use a common driving quirk on any given day? Laws of random stupidity were clearly in effect. There is a paved logging road stretching between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew which is on the open outer coastline of the island. It can be a beautiful leisurely drive of about an hour. Yesterday’s little trip was not. There is no centre line painted and expecting the next WTF was soon an obvious requirement. It was impossible to drive and also admire the scenic splendour of the route. There was no relaxing. I took no photos.

Some photos beg to be taken.  Someone donated this old umbrella to a local dog park.

Every spot providing any access to the clear forest streams was clotted with parked vehicles. Each tiny camping nook held at least one group, all campgrounds were seething with weekenders. It seemed impossible that the backwoods could be so overrun. Botanical Beach Park at Port Renfrew was so clotted with people and parked vehicles that creeping along the access road was a challenge. All this in the name of ‘getting away from it all.’ How I miss my boat! Finally hunkering down on a tiny bit of roadside beach, the Strait of Juan de Fuca was airlessly, flat calm. Very eerie indeed; this is a body of water known by many professional mariners as “Wanna Puke Ya Straight” in respect and dread of its often huge tormented seas, a product of days of usually strong winds against eternal massive tides.

Morons! Stopping for a roadside pee, we found this abandoned campfire still smouldering. Yes, I did! It is incredible that anyone can be so incredibly stupid and ignorantly selfish. Folks love the back country but have no respect. They left all their plastic junk as well.

Returning homeward along what were once back roads, one of which, after many decades of use is now blocked, was also hell. More WTF! New routes led through what was once a distinct suburb of Victoria. Langford is now a sprawling, faceless, soulless mess of grey boxes which folks call home and blurs into a megalopic sprawl. Where they’ve come from, and what all the people do here is a mystery to me. There is no fruit to pick, no more lumber to stack, few fish to pack. WHAT do they all do? It would seem that everyone must be hard at it building ever more houses for ever more of the inbound. I am reminded of all those dreary British row houses, but they at least have a bit of character, and a regular displacement of pubs. Here, it seems, the most common vendors of distractive substances are now marijuana dispensaries.

Next winter’s milk. This corn will feed local dairy cattle.
Cows? It looks edible to me.

The final leg back to home is the gauntlet of the Vancouver Island’s highway. Even though I drive it often, there is always another new subdivision and even more shopping which has sprouted up like another patch of toadstools. The quaint charm which drew me to Vancouver Island seems lost. Perhaps I am simply jaded, but the swelling population on the south island has precluded what once was. I keep seeing something new and find myself asking, “Hey isn’t that where the old ……….. once was?” Victoria just feels like any other city now. The city’s inner harbour has been mutilated with a monster yuppie yacht marina. Folks in boats of less than fifty feet appear to be an endangered species. There is now a plan in place to ban the ubiquitous horse-drawn carriages. I suppose flowers will be next on the hit list. Or perhaps the Parliament Buildings; a great location for more condominiums. I admit I am a tiny part of the problem and this island is not much like the place it was when I arrived almost four decades ago.

Yesterday I realized an affirmation about my latest video effort which I posted recently on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQiy9Bko1gQ&t=47s

A comment about our drinking water and how carelessly we consume it, I put it together after buying some bottled water to carry in my vehicle. I discovered the water had been bottled in Texas! Of all places! With its dusty aquifers, from where does Texas import water. Sudan? Well, (There’s a pun!) please give it a thumbs up if you like the video at all. I truly appreciate every bit of help.

Leaf it be.  An interesting natural abstract.

With a tough enough time selling my own books I seldom flog someone else’s work. However, I have just finished devouring ‘The Devil’s Highway’ by Luis Alberto Urrea. The writing itself is tremendously artful, combining the subject of illegal walk-in immigrants trying to cross some of the most hostile deserts in the world, with the convoluted bumblings of politicians and bureaucrats in both the USA and Mexico. This book gave me a new understanding of the US Homeland Security effort and I am very sobered as someone who likes to walk in the desert. My jokes about ‘Homeland Insecurity’ will be subdued from now on, these folks have a thankless job and their efforts are as much about saving lives of those lost in the desert as about catching illegals. Even if you do not have a fascination with the area, or care  anything about it, the work is an absorbing read and one of the best pieces of writing and research you’ll find in a long while. We gringos do tend to take so much for granted.

Got it! Nice crest!
I trespassed. I had to photograph this rare pine rose. Actually, a feral rose bush has vigorously invaded this feral pine, another invasive plant and part of an abandoned garden at an abandoned logging camp at Jordan River on the shore of Juan de fuca.
The rare Jordan River Pine Rose.  Seeds for sale!

Today has become a glorious cloudless, hot, calm holiday Monday holiday afternoon. The local British Columbia Day fireworks had Jack the dog in a fury last night. Now all is placid. Traffic on Mad Max Way, aka the Island Highway, seems to be humming along nicely without, for the moment, any chorus of sirens. Is it time to get out there and become part of the problem?

Dem’s da berries! Soon to be ripe.
Stone daisy. Just add water. This bunch is growing on the river bottom along the Nanaimo River.

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Cousteau

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.”