Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Forty-nine days on the road together? Not so bad. Really.

We recently returned to our rural Oregon home after a seven-week 10,000-mile cross-continental road trip (and back) in a class B - that means small - Roadtrek van. Holy moly! 10,000 miles! Just the two of us! (In the serious RV world, our trip is puny. Lots of Class B RV people practically live in their vans, along with their dogs, cats, and significant others. And they do so for months!)
A selfie taken near Yellowstone National Park in October 2008, our first road trip after PK's retirement.
Lots of folks express envy about our adventures, but, at the same time, others are horrified, incredulous, appalled, repulsed, terrified, or nauseated at the prospect of spending that much time in close quarters with their mates.

Here's a representative comment, uttered (sputtered?) by a dear friend in a long-term loving marriage. (A woman. Men don't confide in me like this.)

She said:  I can't imagine spending that much time with "his name." I'd go crazy! How the hell do you do it?

My friend is in a niche demographic of much-appreciated people who read my blog, which includes retired boomers who travel, or who would like to. People who love to cook, garden, and who relish life. People I've known forever. People I love. People I don't know but would like to. People, who in one way or another, have something in common with me, and also with each other.  

Most of us have been married for decades and have weathered all kinds of storms. We've survived raising kids, or deciding not to have them. We've had disappointments along with successes, and health issues that scared us.

We've rolled over at 5 a.m. to negotiate whose turn it is to take the dog outside, argued in the grocery store about whether to buy the organic chicken or the tofu, and evaluated and re evaluated our relationships, in the end, deciding to stick together.

It makes sense, after all the years of grind and grit, growth and giving, love and lust, struggle and survival, that we should cash in as we arrive at the golden time of life. And it really is golden.

Topped by gray hair and oddly outfitted with saggy necks, we're now holding hands as we navigate aging, a most challenging journey that requires a rugged 4WD and trip insurance, currently not available.

Could there be a more perfect time to extract ourselves from our comfort zones to embark on really really long and exotic road trips!?

Well, maybe not everybody is ready, but we are. PK and I have determined to log as many miles and experiences as possible before we're forced to acknowledge that we're inexorably approaching the glowering edge of the flaming pit of death.

I know, "flaming pit of death" sounds bad. It is bad!

I thought I saw the glowering edge a year ago when I was diagnosed with melanoma. Talk about sounding bad! All is well now, despite the fact that "invasive" and "metastatic" were part of my initial diagnosis.
Here's someplace I didn't want to travel. A radiology lab in a regional hospital watching glowing radioactive stuff light up my lymph nodes to guide a surgeon who was to carve me up a few hours later. Welcome to the Cancer Club 
The month-long drama of thinking we might be in for a life and death struggle jump-started us, invigorating the travel bug.
See Back from Cancer's Brink - 10 Lessons Learned

A week after the results of my surgeries came back benign, we bought a 2010 Roadtrek, and a week later we were chasing the super bloom in Death Valley.

Life is grand as we enjoy freedom, health and vitality. PK is only 67, while I am 71. I used to worry about our age difference. Now it doesn't bother me, except on paper, where it seems he has the youth advantage, but in real life, we're very much on the same page.
Not exactly a typical camp spot, we're at a very special place on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Well, we're not always on the same page, which brings me to how we tolerate endless days together without a break. It's true that we bicker. We sneer. We roll our eyes, suppress emotions, lash out and so on. On our 49-day road trip
we squabbled a few times, mostly about whether we should follow our plans or our hearts when unexpected opportunities arose. Our heads were not always aligned. Outcomes were about 50/50. We have not filed for divorce.

We had rainy days. In New Brunswick we hiked in raincoats after spending a long morning listening to the deluge pound the van's roof and deliberating, in a friendly way, about whether we should leave a day early. We'd paid for two nights. We stayed. It was OK.
Rainy day hike, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Red chairs placed in random spots in parks across the nation are courtesy of the Canadian National Parks.  We love Canadian parks!
When van-bound by weather or darkness, I read and/or write and always have photos to work with. PK has maps to study, books to read, and music.

Every now and then, we stream Spotify on a cell phone that blasts over our robust sound system, burning up cell data as we enjoy a bit of a dance party.

On the road, PK prefers to drive. I fill in when he needs a rest.
I cook. He cleans up. Just like at home. Division of labor is understood and pretty much undisputed.

On long travel days, such as during the tail-end of our recent trip when we were booking it to get home, we listen to books on CD, or music, or public radio stations, and time and miles. Sometimes we even have a conversation!

Mostly we've adjusted, after nearly 40 years, to the comfort of one another's company. I believe we appreciate one another more with every passing year - and mile.

Spending extended together time in a small space is offset by moving through space and time, landscapes and cities, most of which we've not seen before and which are always of interest and beautiful in their own ways. Even the low-key locales, not destinations but places we must traverse to get where we want to beKansas? North Dakota? Eastern Montana? Ohio? Missouri? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. All good!
Ohio! In the middle of the afternoon! An iPhone photo through the windshield.

A sorghum crop slashing across a Kansas landscape. This day featured 40 mph sustained sideways wind with gusts to 50 mph. Fun! We drove about 500 miles, as we were on our homeward push.
In Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. 

Oh yeah! North Dakota is walleye country!
Most often we camp in pleasing spots where we can spill out and set up our little table, unleash our bikes, or lace up the hiking boots and tramp around incredible places, only to return to camp, uncork a bottle and relax in our REI camp chairs. 

Real, but blurry, life in the van. One-pot dinner on the propane burner. PK prepping for the next morning, and for putting the bed together. After all our years of tent and river camping, our Roadtrek is extreme luxury. When one of us is working in our limited space, the other is outside or viewing van life from a swivel chair in front. 
Active retirement is a privileged state.  We've enjoyed an occasional music-centric cruise, and are booked for a trip to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador later this month, making up for having to cancel the same trip last year due to melanoma. But soon after our return, we'll be driving the Roadtrek south to the Baja Peninsula and the beautiful bay at Loreto, where seabirds, dolphins, and blue whales rule.

Few people have a home on the road and also a sticks and bricks home to which they can return. We're fortunate, and we never take it for granted. I've wanted to live this life for most of adulthood, during all those years working and raising kids, and now I'm incredibly grateful that we've made it happen. 

I can't complain about squeezing into a small van and traveling the plains and deserts, mountains and seashores, cities and villages in close-quarters in the company of the man I've spent the past 40 years with building this wandering life.

Photos from the early 1970s in the first year of our relationship, the ONLY photos of us until we had a child in 1977. The red and white Landcruiser was our first RV (!). PK removed the backseats and made a platform bed with storage underneath. A plywood box on top made additional storage. 
Photo credit: Pat Teel
Earlier posts about Road Trip 2016

Meeting a time traveler on the road

Friday, October 14, 2016

Meat Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

A generous handful of experiences during our recently completed 49-day road trip stand out, and camping at Meat Cove at the tip of Cape Breton Island is one of them. 
Best campsite ever, although the small campground filled as the day went on. No matter. Absolutely gorgeous.
September 14, 15, 2016
We'd heard about Meat Cove long before we got to it. By many accounts, getting there seemed edgy; access is via a six-mile narrow, winding gravel road with sheer cliffs to the sea. Some reports said a 4WD was recommended. We gave ourselves permission to turn around if the potholes were too deep or if the road flirted too intimately with the cliffs.

No problem. The road was wide enough for two-way traffic and appeared to have been graded recently. Steeper sections had been paved. If anything, the glorious views improved with every turn as we descended to sea level and into the odd little settlement named Meat Cove. Apparently it's a year-round collection of about 65 people making a living from fishing and tourism.

 Meat Cove from the access road. Small cabins are available as well as 26 campsites along the bluff. All very simple. 
No hook-ups. Suitable for Class B RVs and tents. Mostly tents. 

Could be the best place I've done yoga ever.  
A Nova Scotia newspaper article, Remote Meat Cove an escape from modern life,  got it right, although the same could be said about numerous villages and small settlements in Nova Scotia. Aside from Halifax and Sydney, cities we didn't visit, it appeared that much of the country offers a "remote escape." What's special about Meat Cove is its unique and spectacular location on the very tip of the island, and the funky resort and the people who own and operate it.

The McClellan family has lived and fished in Meat Cove for six generations, and proud of it. A young robust McClellan, who roared around on an ATV, showed us to a camping spot suitable for our van. PK handed him cash, but  he returned a bit, saying, Don't worry about it,  and waved us on. We think, that like most small business owners, he appreciated the cash to avoid the big dig credit card companies take with every transaction.  Everybody was friendly and resourceful. We noticed him helping another camper level his van with select pieces from the Meat Cove Campground's wood pile.

The seafood chowder was outstanding, topped by a small mussel in its shell. The restaurant/community center
displayed a world map with pins stuck wherever visitors came from. It looked like thousands of pins,
 but only a few from Oregon, USA. About 8,000 people visit Meat Cove annually, I was told. 
The picture up top makes it look like we had the place to ourselves, but one other van and several tent campers joined us.
We all  enjoyed wonderful views,  and for one day, at least, perfect weather. That changed!

The beach can be reached from a short rail from the campground. The ocean was behaving more like a lake than a sea. Little pied plovers were working the shoreline. We learned about them here in New Brunswick, another of our favorite places on this trip.
PK relaxes against a slab of fallen cliff, scanning the horizon for boats, whales, seabirds, and seals.  Ah, so peaceful.
A surprise arrived in the evening, however. It was a BIG WIND. Had it been accompanied by pelting rain, it may have had a name. The windstorm probably packed about 50 mph sustained wind with higher gusts, but perched totally unprotected near the cliff as we were, it seemed mighty. We didn't get much sleep as the van rocked and rolled all night. I braced for the worst and wondered if  the gusts were strong enough to tip us over. 

Turns out I was being wimpy. Compared to the tent campers, we'd had it easy. When dawn arrived, many had already left. I bundled up and headed for the flush toilet (marginal), wind pushing at my back. En route a young woman wrestled with her pop-up tent, which had rolled and bounced down the road from her campsite. It refused to be corralled. She was laughing! No way could she get the tent up the road to her vehicle alone. Together we carried it, leaning into the gusts. She opened her hatchback and we stuffed it in, pretty much on top of her rottweiler-type dog, before she slammed the door shut and laid back against it. 

Her dog was terrified all night, she said, still laughing. When sprinkles started, she let the dog into her tent, and her best friend walked all over her throughout the long night. Ha ha ha ha.

I loved her attitude - What else can I do but laugh? she said.  I felt ridiculous that despite having spent the night in a comfortable, dry, cushy van without a dog walking on my face, I still managed to feel put upon by the universe. Forgive me.
Dramatic sunrise and roiling water.
Angry sea punishing the beach we'd enjoyed the previous day.
Sweet little water station for Meat Cove campers. 
Due to the wind, we were unable to hike any of the 11 tantalizing trails out of Meat Cove the next morning. However, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park has more to offer, and we were soon on the road toward the Skyline Trail. Coming next.

Preview - on Cape Breton's Skyline Trail.

Meeting a time traveler on the road

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Meeting a time traveler on the road

We're home now after 49 days on the road! Whew. It was great, for the most part, and meeting people along the way added to the fun. I'll be revisiting some of our experiences in coming posts. Cape Breton next. 
Brian travels in a 1977 VW van, behind which tows his  homemade flying saucer trailer.  He wears a tie-dyed tee shirt and headband and is not at all apologetic about his retro hippie persona. In fact, he's proud, I think, to be hanging back there in a time of great rock music, newfound freedoms, and a belief that simple living could change the world. Dang I wish I still had my tie dye stuff and the orange and white pop-top VW van we had in the late 1970s, not unlike Brian's. And also Paul's wonderful glossy chestnut locks. And my bikini-ready body. Alas. 
October 8, 2016, day 46 on the road

We were in Green River State Park, Utah. We'd arrived  in late afternoon after a fabulous day hiking in Arches National Park and quickly scored a shaded site.

Dolphins are featured on Brian's VW van.
The white paint on the side represents waves, he says,
PK took a quick bike ride as I prepared our usual one-pot camp dinner (a recipe post some time soon)  but he soon returned to urge, " You've got to see this." He explained that he saw a man just down the campground lane who travels in an old VW van pulling what looks like a flying saucer.

This is big. Somebody PK thinks I need to meet!  I drop the onion and knife, turn off the propane burner, and head down the road with my camera and curiosity. The truth is, PK is intrigued by this person.

He knows I will jump right in with questions. A former journalist, I'm not at all afraid to approach almost anyone, and I know that most people love it when someone is interested in who they are. This man was no exception. (This woman WAS an exception.) 

I pretended to just be strolling past, did a double-take at his rig, and asked something like, 'Wow, how does that thing handle the hills?" Followed by, "Is your trailer a flying saucer?"

That got him going.  Here's what I learned in about 10 minutes as we walked and talked around his van and his life:

  • His van is decrepit - it goes about 40 mph uphill and 60 on the straight. Utah's freeway speed limit is 80. Yes. 80. Traffic today freaked him out, blowing by him in buffeting puffs.
  • His dog, George, is deaf and bites. It even bites him. That's why he can't take me inside his van, where George reigns, to show me features such as an  elephant trunk faucet. George goes nuts and lunges when Brian cracks the door. No problem. There's plenty to see outside.
  • Brian doesn't own a smart phone or use a GPS. He may be the only person who will be able to read maps and do arithmetic in his head when/if technology collapses. But not having GPS was a bit of a problem for him today as a truck carrying ammonium nitrate overturned on the freeway in Salt Lake City. We'd heard about the incident on NPR traveling out of Arches to Green River. Like hundreds of travelers, Brian had been diverted, but unlike most, he lacked a prescribed route. He got lost and spent hours trying to return to the freeway south of Salt Lake City. Still, he says, "If you have a cell phone, the government knows where you are all the time. That's crazy."
Maybe he has a point. 

Brian, a printer by trade,  made his"flying saucer" from sheet metal and drainage pipe. It carries firewood and dog food. Note the silver and blue jets welded onto the van's back corner.

The red fringed canopy was sewn by his wife, who died five years ago, Brian tells me. "You never get over it," he says. Tomorrow he's debating whether to visit Arches or Bryce Canyon, both near-by national parks. Arches is closer. With all the mountains and hills between Brian and a Ringo Starr concert in Seattle Oct. 18, he'll probably go with Arches. 

I begin to move toward our small but sweet Roadtrek/Sprinter van, whose shiny silver exterior matches its deluxe, in my view, interior. Two-burner stove, furnace, lights, tiny toilet/shower, microwave, big comfy retractible bed, cherry cabinets, and a diesel engine that goes 80 mph, no problem. 

"I need to get back," I say, "Even though our van is boring compared to yours."

"People say that all the time," he says, grinning. 

 I bet they do. But like me, they probably don't feel all that bad about their dull-by-comparison homes on wheels. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

RV park near historic cemetery makes for stark contrast and sobering contemplation

September 12, 2016

It had been a "travel day,  meaning that we'd booked it to get through New Brunswick and close to the Nova Scotia border. Nova Scotia means New Scotland. Duh! How did I not know that??

Our New Brunswick experience the previous day at Kouchibouguac National Park had been stellar, so a hurry-up driving day was OK. We were excited to get on to Cape Breton.

To find camping spots we use an app called All Stays. You type in the general area you're planning to stay that night, and along the way, it points out the sorts of camping opportunities you've chosen from a list of "filters." Our requirement for this night: we had to be in Nova Scotia and we wanted a shower.
We had not, however, requested a deserted residential RV Park practically closed up for the season. And certainly not one with a cemetery gleaming in the late-day sun just across a ravine. But the cemetery was the unexpected bonus that made the RV park stay a travel moment, not necessarily a highlight of the trip but one that provided insight into the place and inspired thoughts about mortality.
Rust-colored waves lapped at rust-colored sand along a short beach in front of the RV Park as we took a stroll, wondering why earlier inhabitants had chosen prime real estate for a cemetery. We decided to climb the rocky rim guarding it to have a look. We discovered later that historic graveyards often occupy the most desirable places, perhaps a way to honor the dead. The grave stones were arrayed on a bluff overlooking the ocean. And also overlooking, the RV park. We were soon immersed in Scottish history. A mass migration from a troubled Scotland occurred in the early to mid 1880s. About a third of the country's current residents are their descendants, according to Wikipedia.
There were are hunkered down at the far left end in our little van dwarfed by giant trailers.This is not a campground, but an RV park. Most of the 150+ sites were occupied with travel trailers in winter mode. The owners had vacated, trailers were winterized, and we had our choice of maybe 20 campsites reserved for actual travelers. Although the park was deserted, remnants of summer days were evident; a list of park activities posted in the washrooms and community hall, a huge empty playground next to a slanted soccer field, and a ground-down path to the beach where rust-colored waves lapped at red sand. You could almost hear the shouts of children playing and summer neighbors chattering and clinking their glasses of local brews over their sizzling BBQs. 
If the ghosts of the Scots buried in this place could see it now, what would they think? The idea of metal homes on wheels? The notion that people could have a permanent home AND one they could move from place to place? Incomprehensible.  And our understanding of their hardships and sorrows, and perhaps their joys? Equally inconceivable. 
Family groupings with names such as McDonald, McAllister, McDaniel, McClellan and so on, most of whom died in the mid-to-late 1800s, populate this burial ground overlooking the sea.
PK and I are old enough to face that we'll die sooner rather than later. Like in maybe 20-25 years. Could be sooner. We'll likely be cremated and perhaps ask that our ashes be strewn near the Rogue River in Oregon, where we've lived for 45 years. But then in another century, how will random people happen upon  proof that we existed and wonder about who we were and how and why we died and what our everyday lives were like? As we did that evening when we crossed the rust-colored beach and communed with Scottish spirits. 
Recent travel posts

Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick, travel moment lasting an entire day

Rain and a nasty encounter in wonderful old Quebec City

Tofino, BC, Yes!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Travel Moment (s) New Brunswick

It was such a thrill to see this posing heron and others in his flock in New Brunswick's Kouchibouguac National Park, a place we stumbled upon as we were recovering from some rough travel the previous day. I learned that great blue herons, a treasured seasonal bird in our Southern Oregon home, nests here in New Brunswick. In Oregon we rarely see more than one heron at a time. Here, they hang out in gangs. Thank you, GBH. The older I get, the more such  moments thrill me. I enjoyed many such moments today.

Yesterday sucked. Even though we traveled from beautiful, rolling, church-spire-bejeweled and grain-silo decorated Quebec to reach New Brunswick, we disagreed about where we were going and what we were doing. You think that a married couple traveling in a small van for miles and miles and weeks and weeks doesn't sometimes think about divorce?  Gags? Murder? We're probably not the only ones. Right?

PK's a planner, and he's good at it. If he wasn't, we wouldn't be doing all this traveling.

But the problem with detailed planning and road trips, in my estimation? Plans put spontaneity on the back burner. If you have a destination, and you gotta get there on schedule, then unexpected side trips tend to well, slip aside. That's the crux. We managed to compromise with some mileage along a scenic route as opposed to a get-there-quick freeway, and arrived around 6 p.m. a few miles from our stopping point, Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick. (Hard to pronounce, easy to love, is the way they describe it around here.)

We found a municipal campground, scored a site in the trees, and started to relax. Our plan  for today was to roar on over to Nova Scotia and the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, a place we've talked and dreamt about for years. But we were just a few minutes from a national park. What the heck. Let's have a look. In a sweet burst of spontaneity, we decided to spend the entire day in the park and camp overnight. Thus began a day filled with wonder and fun, brimming with the travel moments that keep us on the road.

Canadian geese in, where else but Canada! They were feeding just a few pedal strokes from our campsite and the great blue herons were close by. 
PK getting ready to cycle. We practically had the campground  to ourselves, a Sunday in September, the
start of "shoulder season." Great time to travel! Even though it rained a bit today, and was windy, it was shorts weather.  This campground also has blazing fast wifi, which, coupled with a long relaxing day, is why I could whip out a blog post in short order. Wifi is not something we expected in Canadian parks, but it is often available. 

One of the park's claims to fame is restoring the pied plover population, which had dwindled near extinction here. One
of the interpretive signs provided this silly photo op. We rode our bikes here and that rectangle on my glasses is a bike 
mirror, in case you were wondering.
Just a few minutes down the boardwalk through the marsh, perhaps through divine intervention? we spotted this bird, which we believe, with the help of Stokes, to be a juvenile pied plover. Again, just unbelievable and thrilling to us both. Photo below, PK on the board walk where we spotted the pied plover.

One of many interpretive signs along miles and miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the bogs, lagoons, forests, and sea shore in this hard-to-pronounce national park.
Strong winds made the grasses dance but kept us safe from the local mosquito population, of which we were warned.

PK making his way through bog vegetation on a sinking boardwalk.
It was a warm but blustery day and we didn't expect to see people swimming or playing in the Atlantic Ocean on Kelly's Beach in the park.  But there they were, enjoying the last Sunday before school starts here next week. 
Yes, warm enough to swim, but PK and I stuck to wading and
splashing around a bit before getting back to cycling.
I liked the red chairs provided by the park service. By the time we got to the chairs to clean our feet and put on our
shoes, a middle-aged woman was occupying one and struck up a conversation. Within a few minutes, she spilled the news that her husband had recently left her for a much younger woman and was also deserting their sons, ages six and four. This was an unexpected torrent of anguish that didn't fit with our perfect day. But we both warmed to her and ended up in a discussion about love and marriage, hope and betrayal. I think we ended with hope. The last time she'd visited this place had been with the errant husband and their boys. She wanted to reclaim the powerful place as her own. I hope she did that. Our encounter reminded me that even when inevitable human suffering occurs, the sea and the sky, forests and mountains and rivers, birds and mammals, and even strangers on the beach, can be restorative. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Travel moment on the Plains of Abraham

Sometimes on a rainy foggy day, we can see certain things more clearly.
The St. Lawrence River from an overlook near the Plains of Abraham, Quebec City.
Language alert. I'll be quoting someone below who used bad language that crosses the line. No way to tell this story without the actual words.

I haven't posted a blog since August 18, a few days before we said goodbye to our tomatoes and peppers in Oregon and hit the road. It isn't that I don't think about writing every single day, but I get overwhelmed with photos and "material" and underwhelmed with reliable wifi and/or strong cell service. Hence images and words pile into a muddled mess in my brain and on my computer, and finding a focus eludes me. Even when I do land on a hook, as we used to say in the newspaper business, driving a few hundred miles several days a week and traveling in close quarters with another person doesn't exactly encourage productivity.

When I do find time and place to write, I try to avoid the "we went there and did this, and then we went there and did that" as blog narrative. So when traveling in wifi territory, I do the easy thing: post photos on Facebook with brief descriptions and move on. (If you're interested in seeing the photos, please be my FB friend.)

But something happened this inclement morning in old Quebec City that gave me an idea about how to handle too much stimulation.

Paul and I decided to hell with the weather, pulled on our Eddie Bauer raincoats, unfurled our travel umbrellas and ventured into the heavy rain. A few minutes later I started to smile and talk to myself.

You're doing the traveling you've wanted to do for decades. You're healthy. You have a good man. A good van. A good plan.  Quebec City is charming, picturesque, historic, beautiful, art-filled and stimulating. What a great day to be alive!

I skipped a bit but stifled myself as my Birkenstocks were soggy and the straps were stretched and my footing wasn't solid. As usual, Birks were the only shoes I had with me.

We were pretty much alone,  PK and me, strolling in a downpour from our little boutique hotel in Old Quebec City to the nearby Plains of Abraham. We reached a shelter with a viewpoint down  the St. Lawrence River and, in the opposite direction,  a look at the Plains. We learned that a pivotal battle occurred here between the French and the British in 1759.  It ended with a British victory over France, contributing to the formation of Canada.

The plains had belonged to a farmer named Abraham. No mention of the original First Nation people whose land it was originally.  Canadians did the same as we Americans - stole the land and all but killed off the people indigenous.

Ok. My happy mood was knocked down a notch. There had been plenty of bloodshed here, deep dark history of human beings settling issues with killing, taking, exploiting.  I had to pee.

I descended the deserted stairs to a public restroom. A scowling muscular forty-something woman with a blur of greying hair on her shaved head emerged from the restroom. It was just the two of us,  and as we passed, I nodded and said Hi. I wasn't inviting, or expecting, anything more than a return greeting, one human being's respectful acknowledgement of another.

She stopped and glared at me.
Do I have to say hi to every fucking person?! She spat the words.
I stood stock still, my mouth agape.
She wasn't finished.

Fuck you! Who do you think you are? And fuck Christ, she continued. I'm so sick of people, and you are disgusting. Fuck you! 

She was still spewing anger and hate as she strode into the rain. I made my way into the restroom talking to myself, again. Wow. What was that about? I can't believe that just happened. And so on.

Where I come from in small-town rural Oregon, and earlier in life, small-town Midwest, greeting strangers is as ordinary as toast with jam. It is sweet and harmless. It is not an affront or attack on privacy but an affirmation of a moment of shared time and place.

A few minutes later, when I told PK what transpired, he said he'd noticed the woman muttering something as she passed him, head down.

I'd taken the verbal attack personally, but he took a different view.

She was bald, he said. Maybe she's a cancer patient. Or maybe she's mentally ill. 

Yes, perhaps mentally ill, I concurred. I don't  believe that being a cancer patient explains bad behavior. The bottom line though, was that she was filled with anger and hate. She would have liked to kill me.  I've never been confronted by such a person. But then I've been spared much of the pain and sorrow that life dishes out, lucky in so many ways.

The encounter was a travel moment - a surprising and unexpected result of being out and about in the world, as opposed to sticking close to home. A travel moment is one that can elevate, elate, thrill or educate. Or all of the above. Like the time we swam with whale sharks in La Paz, or when we visited the sacred cremation site in Kathmandu, or when I made eye contact with wild gorillas in Uganda.

But a travel moment can also take you someplace you don't want to go,  proving that travel isn't just about driving around looking at pretty scenery and eating local foods, but also venturing into foreign cultures and lives, places you may not choose but there you are.

In any case, you learn and grow and are somehow challenged.

What does this have to do with Ordinary Life? More travel moments, past and future, will be shared here. I still want to revisit the sacred cremation site and perhaps the whale sharks, and other consequential moments that have become lost in the blur of passing time. Thanks for hanging with me.

Happy travels, wherever they may take you.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tofino, Vancouver Island. Yes.

Note: We're prepping for a road trip to the East Coast, so I better get this post out before new adventures eclipse our recent visit to Vancouver Island, which was agreeable on many levels.

Ok, so Tofino is touristy. But we are tourists.....and sometimes it's good to enjoy briny air, whales, eagles, beautiful beaches--some with wave-crazed surfers--great food and bike paths, even if others are in close proximity. Many others. 

Dramatic clouds formed as we searched for whales on a tour with only about 30 people. It wasn't a crowded situation. Especially regarding  whales, unfortunately, but we did glimpse a few.
A humpback whale surfaced not far from our whale-watching craft.  But the only way I could see it was by
checking my telephoto shots after the fact. I had no idea I'd actually caught an image. Nice surprise! Mediocre shot!
We arrived in Tofino in our little Roadtrek van in mid-July, prime tourist time. We'd been clued in to Tofino's assets, but I was surprised and delighted by how close those assets are. The ocean is close, the islands are close, the eagles, the restaurants, the temperate rainforests, the hikes, all minutes away, squeezed into the tip of a tiny peninsula.
Case in point. Our campground. We are several tiers back. The towering cedars and firs ease the cheek-to-jowl situation. We got the last site available. Sorta common for us, it seems.

Paul doesn't much care for cheek-to-jowl camping. On this night we could hear the guy next door sawing logs big time in his pop-up trailer. And on the other side, an Airstream with a baby crying. Still, it was a beautiful setting, perfect weather, and we could hear the ocean and the birds.

A favorite image from Tofino, a bald eagle being pursued by seagulls after the eagle attempted to plunder seagull nests. Eagles are scavengers and predators not unlike other birds of prey. Only USA citizens have assigned them a higher calling. 
Tofino's harbor with at least five islands visible.You could swim over for a visit.
Trendy Tofino, just outside the wonderful Wolf in the Fog restaurant, which Tripadvisor ranks as only the fifth most
popular in Tofino out of 36.. Number one? Chocolate Tofino. Ice cream.

Paul, a guy who doesn't like clams, oysters, shrimp etc,  surprised me by ordering this lunch from Wolf in the Fog's menu:cod cheeks and clams!!!! We shared a seaweed and shiitake salad.

The well-stocked bar at Wolf in the Fog bar. We chose this restaurant the best possible way; riding our bikes to town from our campground, I stopped to ask a dog-walking local his recommendation.

Big fat jellyfish doing a raw egg imitation in Tofino's harbor
Big guy seal with attitude oversees a bored harem, seen from the whale-sighting cruise, which lasted about 3 hours.
We didn't get to this restaurant, but you can't argue with the location. 

Tofino appears to be an active fishing port. 
Tofino is a small lively community, even when bloated with tourists, and campers need to make reservations or take a chance with winging it. We didn't exactly wing it, but got a reservation a few days in advance at an RV park.

We inquired too late to get into the Grass Point National Park campground not far out of town, and instead settled for a private campground that crammed 181 sites into prime beachfront property. Numerous spaces are on the beach, or have ocean views, but that was not the case with us, parked several tiers back, not far from one of the THREE restrooms serving the entire park.  Canadians call them "washrooms". If you ask for a restroom, they think maybe you're looking for a quiet place to nap.

 The one closest to us had two working toilets (out of three) and the one and only shower was out of order. And the cleaning crew was apparently on vacation. This is why boondocking - camping in free but legal places - is a growing phenomenon. We paid $40+ for this? But I quibble. We did have electricity, which we don't really need, and access to a great beach during beautiful weather.  On to the good stuff.

A bike path runs several miles paralleling the main road, and was accessible from our campground. We've hauled our bikes on too many trips where we didn't ride them enough to warrant the trouble. On Vancouver Island the bikes saw a lot of action.

Ahhh, a bike path! Just under 4 miles long, it allows visitors and residents to get around without driving.

Eagle portrait captured in the Tofino harbor as we departed on a 
whale watching tour. Guides said that 140 nesting pairs make 
their home around Tofino. It was a joy to see a few.

We didn't spend enough time in the Tofino/Ucluelet area. Ucluelet is small town about 20 miles from Tofino, which we drove through to reach the Wild Pacific Trail, a terrific way to spend a late afternoon taking in the coastal drama.

 The drive to this peninsula is also noteworthy.  Hwy. 4 passes the MacMillan Cathedral Grove, which somehow rivals a redwood forest, and includes a twisting narrow section through dramatic peaks and valleys with grades of 11 percent to 18 percent. Needless to say, but I will anyway, do not ride your bike to Tofino!
Part of the lush understory of the MacMillan Cathedral Grove.
Yet another opportunity for awe. Or ahhh. En route to Tofino.