Archive for August, 2008

Olympia, Washington

August 14, 2008

I am in Olympia, the state capital.  Unsure why, but I was thinking Olympia would be a dumpy town of 43,000.  But I really like it here.  It is a very offbeat and an incredibly hippie town.  A chain store wouldn’t dream of opening downtown [except sbux – which is empty].

There is water here [southern end of Puget Sound] with marinas and lots of boats. Walking/bike trails.  Fountains.  Murals/public art work.

Their parking here is “back in only” with signs stating: it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 … signal, stop, back in.

Yesterday I checked out the Capitol.  Very grandeur with marble stairs leading up to a big open area/dome.  They had no security here.  The governor’s office is in this building, and one can just walk up to her assistant.  The area around the capitol – Capitol Campus – is impressive.  The governor’s home is on the Campus – she can just walk 100’ to work!  The Legislative Building is Roman, they have a Greek Temple of Justice …   HUGE old trees, pretty grounds with flowers and a replica of Tivoli fountain, lots of war memorials and what I’ll call the “winged victory” statue/memorial…

I had read in a letter to the editor that someone was referring to the people of Olympia as the “leftist bastion of Olympia”.  I didn’t know this…until now.

At lunch, I heard a table on one side of me talking about the suffering in the world comes back to the treatment of animals.  And another table talking team building and other biz speak “as cliché as it sounds…” and he would say something that would make me gag.

I really enjoy cycling around town and the water/marina.

I have decided to temporarily “bypass” the state of Washington, and drive 3 hours to Astoria, OR [the most northwestern point of OR] and just “be” for 2 weeks.  I am “driven out”.  That will also give me time to figure out what I want to explore in WA.  I have been to Astoria and liked it.  I have booked the top floor [2 rooms] of a Victorian house there for 2 weeks.

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Olympic National Park, Washington

August 12, 2008

I made it across the border to the states with no problems.  There were border police both sides, but they didn’t “swipe” my passport [in a computer] and just asked a few questions.  Ya!

While I was waiting for the ferry to come in to board, I was in my car reading about things to do in WA when a different border police guy came up and started asking me why I bought a Jetta and how do I like it.  We had an unusually long conversation about my car.  I couldn’t figure out if:
* he’s just “making time” with me
* he truly is trying to figure out if he wants to buy one or not
* he is asking me what appears to be innocent questions, but secretly is gauging my responses.

The ferry ride was 18 miles, which took 1.75 hours.

So…I was back to the land of cherry dip for my dairy queen ice cream cones [and $1 less expensive for a small].  Back to the land where when you pump gas, you can lock in the handle to fill your car up, instead of standing there holding it.  And as we all know…cheaper gas.

Olympic National Park is right here, so I thought I would check that out.  I decided to travel 2/3 of the loop around it, traveling going west route and ending up in Olympia.

First off, apparently Mt Olympia is here.  However, nowhere on my AAA map does it show Mt Olympia.  Nowhere in any of my info materials does it mention Mt Olympia.  As I drove the one road around the circumference of the Park, there are no signs stating “this way to Mt Olympia”.  So, I’m not sure what the deal is.

The ferry docks in Port Angeles, which is an ok little town.  I decided not to spend the nite, but to keep going and do some hiking.

First stop is Elwha.  I hiked to the pretty waterfall.  Deer were everywhere.  Huge trees with moss all over them with the light from the sun setting sprinkling in.  One can hear the various waterfalls and streams the entire way.  Came across a really cool dam, with the lake water a pretty blue color.

I started driving up a path that probably would have been a fantastic view, but it was rocks/stones and 1.5 cars wide, twisty with blind turns every 40’ – 50’ with a drop off over one side.  I realized I was NOT enjoying the drive, so decided to turn around.  However, how do I do that?  Sheesh.

It gets dark around 8.30!

They have an odometer check here!  Just when I mention it a couple weeks ago in Canada, I found one here.

I then went to Crescent Lake and hiked around and spent the nite.

In the morning I got a very early start to the day. I hiked to a waterfall near Crescent Lake, and kept seeing these ?? 6” olive green snail like things, but without the shell.  Crescent Lake is really pretty.

I had a much needed bfast at the Hungry Bear Café, near Forks.  I like the name.  I should have known the size of the bfast by the name…it was huge.  There was a sign/xerox in the place with the names of the kids from the area who are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I went to the farmers market, and again, there was that sign.  The town of Forks is around 3,200.  They claim the “area” is 5,000 people.  They have 36 kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan!  Unbelievable.  They said that “that’s where our young boys go when they leave here”.

I certainly don’t want to get into a war discussion with the locals here, but I did want to know what their view of the war was…since this affects the whole town so greatly [the main woman I was talking to – her son just got back home from his second tour].  I can understand reasons that they would be either for or against the war.  They were FOR the war: “we’d rather have us over there, than to have terrorists over here”.

They have coffee kiosks [in parking lots] here.  I got my Ice Rage…exceptionally tasty!

I then hiked thru a rainforest and the moss growing all over the VERY tall trees.  Went to Ruby Beach with the monoliths in the ocean and driftwood on the beach.  And as you know, checked out the huge cedar and spruce trees.

It was pretty much dark, rainy and 58’ along the coast.  NO ONE was on any beach that I stopped at [besides tourists for a few minutes] except one fisherman.

They have a bunch of signs stating the years when trees were planted and then harvested.  50 – 65 yrs between planting and harvesting…”next harvest 2036”…

Saw only 3 cyclists on the road.

Along this loop, there is really nothing besides nature.  Here and there are trailers/trailer parks and small run down houses.  Be sure to have all you need before you arrive here.  Also, and this is a MUST, have your accommodations booked in advance.

I didn’t know if I wanted to spend the nite in Aberdeen or Olympia.  I had thought Aberdeen – cuz I like the name, and besides as I mentioned the other day, I was expecting Olympia to be dumpy.  However, I went with Olympia and made the right choice.  Aberdeen is the dumpy town. I need to add it to my “small” town worst list.  It’s a real undesirable looking logging town, with 90% of the houses that look exactly alike [one story, square, front door in the middle and windows on each side, with an additional foyer ?? built to enclose the front door].

I’ve read that Kurt Cobain was from Aberdeen, and couldn’t wait to leave town. I now understand why.

For some reason, Aberdeen makes USA Today’s weather map.  Wonder why.  East of Aberdeen is really pretty.  Farmland with 2 nuke plants.

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Victoria, British Columbia

August 11, 2008

Last nite I explored some areas not near the harbor, which I think is too touristy except for the Parliament Building [with pretty white lights on the edges], the marina, and the block long, ivy covered, fancy Empress Hotel [lit up with changing colored lights at nite].

Victoria has grown on me.  I really like the totem poles they have here.

Today I’m going to check out the Legislative Building, Butchart Gardens, and if I can pass US Customs/Border Patrol…will be on a ferry later today to Port Angeles, which is on a San Juan Island off Washington [and next to Olympic National Park].

MUST do’s re Vancouver Island:
* must drive to Long Beach/Tofino
* must book your accommodations [camping/room] in advance [in August].  Do NOT wing it…it is either impossible, or nearly impossible to get a room/camping spot…anywhere.

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Long Beach and Tofino, British Columbia

 

August 8, 2006

I would have been a fool indeed if I had NOT driven to Tofino.  The drive alone was worth the trip, even if I found mediocracy [unsure if that’s a word] at the end…which I didn’t.

It only took 10 minutes inland from Parksville for the wow factor to kick back in.

Spectacular.  Picturesque rivers, lakes, mountains.  Lots of stopping and picnicking.

This part of the island is only around 100 miles wide, however, the drive takes much longer than you’d expect.  Most of the road is very narrow, twisty/windy, up and down mountains, lumpy/bumpy…driving between 30 – 40 mph.

I’ve seen a few logging trucks on the road, not too many, and only saw one small spot where they clear cut the trees.

On the way I saw a sign for “pot sale”.  A week ago I would have known it was for plants, but it made me laugh with a different vision.

There was sign to check your fuel – next gas station was 55 miles away.  Right after that, there was  “closed” sticker on the gas station sign.  I knew to fill up.

Long Beach is on the west end of the island, and then Tofino is about 10 miles beyond that.  Between mid island and Long Beach, the temp dropped 30 degrees.

The area along the coast, including Long Beach is a Provincial National Park.  I hiked the Wickaninnish Trail, which they call the Bonsai Forest – due to the little trees/vegetation.  Hiked down to Florencia Bay where there were surfers in wet suits, surfing in the cold [60’] and fog.  Lots of white drift wood on the beach and people building fires.  Very misty/foggy…mystical.  I hiked thru trails of huge cedar and fern trees.  All I had heard about is Long Beach, Long Beach, Long Beach, which I thought was just ok [but I’m not a beach person].  More people in wet suits surfing, LOTS of driftwood, fog.  I think without the fog it wouldn’t have been as cool.

I had thought of taking a passenger ferry to Ucluelet and then cycling over to Tofino. I would have been sooo disappointed if I had done this.  First it’s far away, and second, there are no trails for people to cycle/walk on [narrow road], and thirdly, from the road you can’t see the water…you have to park and hike in.

I had done all I could do at Long Beach.  I decided to drive the remaining 10 miles to see Tofino.  Unsure if it would be worth the drive, but what the hey.  I drove past a few areas where there were 5 older wooden buildings, and wondered if this was the village of Tofino [ie Lake Louise], but kept going.  I thought I’d go until the road literally ends.  I turned a bend, and literally yelled out  “HOLY F*#%”. Immediately pulled over to take photos.  There were already quite a few cars there with people taking photos…and more cars stopping.  It was that initial POW.

What took away from the beauty was a huge tourist bus, other machinery/equipment, and the workings of a working logging/fishing area.  I spent the next hour meandering my way to areas where I could get a photo without the added “junk” in them.  However, I did attach the photos of my initial wow moment.  Of course, seeing it panoramically is more impressive.

Tofino is a working fishing/whale watching/logging town with a lot of young people who could use a good warm shower.  There is a dichotomy…lots of people/housing who seem in need of money, and then there are the resorts and the $25 personal small pizzas.  Meals at a small café are $25 – 30.

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Parksville, British Columbia

August 6, 2008

I am in Parksville.  Yesterday, my plans for yesterday and today changed about every 2 hours.  You are lucky I wasn’t sending emails out, and are spared the minutia.

 

After I sent the email out yesterday morning, I realized that I had asked Meredith her opinion of where to go/what to do.  She nixed several places I had heard about.  Told me I needed to go to Tofino, Ucluelet [both on the west side of the island. half hour apart], and she mentioned Parksville several times…even mentioned 2 places for me to stay here.

 

Victoria is on the southern end of the island.  There is a highway that runs along the eastern side of the island, and one, maybe two roads that cross the island to the west side.

 

My goals are to drive north along the eastern shore [6 hours to Port Hardy] and also to cut across to visit Tofino on the western shore [drive north 2.5 hours, then cut west].

 

Yesterday my only question/concern would be: which to do first?

 

I saw a Gremlin [car].  When’s the last time you’ve seen one of those [or a Pacer]?

 

Lots of wineries and fruit stands.  I had my fill of strawberries in WI and MN, then I had my fill of cherries all thru Canada to Vancouver.  Am currently eating my fill of raspberries and blueberries.

 

Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that the highway is “near” the eastern coast, but NOT next to it.  Besides lookout/viewing areas, I hardly saw the water.  The landscape w/o the water, is just OK.

 

I got to Parksville, which just happens to be the turning west point and decided I needed to suss the situation out [see if further north the landscape suddenly gets the “wow” factor].  Meredith had highly recommended me staying here, so I decided to do that.

 

I am unsure why she’s is so keen on Parksville, and have decided that maybe this is the best there is.  To me, it’s just an ok little town.  The big thing here are the beaches, and I’m not a beach person.  The tide does seem to recede greatly – several hundred meters, and the water is warm.  They claim it’s around 70’, I’m not sure about that, but I would consider it warm.

 

I made 3 friends yesterday, all of whom said that the drive north is exactly the same as the drive from Victoria.  I have had my fill.

 

The big thing to do here [besides the beaches] is to go to Coombs.  It is a little community about 10 minutes away that sells a bunch of artisan products, has a health food store, a café, and several ice cream places.  The store/café has a grass roof and goats live up there.

 

While standing in the café line, I met Sandee, her 2 poised, well behaved daughters, and her mom-in-law.  Sandee is a spitfire and I loved her company. I had lunch with them and then hung out with them while the daughters and MIL shopped.  Sandee grew up just north of here and they are staying there with friends.

 

Her hubby and father-in-law come here each year to go fishing.  Depending upon the size the fish, they come back each year with between 200 – 300# of fish.  They catch the limit, take it to a place to be cleaned and shipped to them in Calgary.

Sandee says Tofino is “mind blowing”. It’s rugged, the edge is a Provincial Park [Long Beach], the trees are only so high cuz of the wind, you won’t find anyone swimming in that water…the COLD Pacific Ocean…which is the only thing between you and Japan. [You had to hear her say it to fully enjoy.]  Hanging out with her was thoroughly delightful.

 

We were looking at maps, and she said that all that land [where there are no roads – the middle of the island] is full of pot growers.  The gov’t stopped flying over the land cuz they kept finding too much, and now they just rely on people squealing on their neighbors.

 

After that, I went to the coffee shop…and met Anne Marie.  She’s  a little older than myself, teacher and wheel chair bound.  I talked with her all afternoon re things to do on the west side/coast.  She told me I would be a fool if I came all this way and didn’t drive the 3 hours [along twisty turning roads] to Tofino. Just a fool.  She said it’s something I just have to see.

 

I then went and explored the beach[es].  As mentioned above, the water is warm…but not warm enough to entice me [at 5pm].

 

Later I had dinner with Anne Marie, her hubby and her son, who is 10.

 

All around an enjoyable day.

 

Am off to Tofino to have my mind blown.  I wonder if that includes a stop along the way to a pot growing farm?

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Change of Plans – in Victoria, British Columbia

August 5, 2008

As I was leaving Vancouver yesterday to drive to Seattle, I found out my Austin music was cancelled.  So, instead of driving south, I drove east and took the ferry over to Vancouver Island and went to Victoria.

This weekend, and especially yesterday, BC is celebrating their 150 yr anniversary, and Victoria is the provincial capital of BC.  Needless to say, it was a madhouse!  I had heard there was a music festival going on…which is always good, but oh goodness.  You know what it’s like when a stadium event lets out?  Well, that is what it was like there.  It’s a town of approx 75,000 people, and they claim over 100,000 were there, packed into the city center.  Good thing I had my bike, cuz I had to park wayyy aways and then cycle into town.

Burton Cummings played – from The Guess Who [No Sugar Tonight,  These Eyes, American Woman…].  Sarah McLachlan played for a whopping 30 minutes.  Others I can’t remember…the last act was Fiest.  I hadn’t heard of her but apparently [in Canada] there is an ipod advert on tv where someone is singing “one, two, three, four…”.  If you know what I’m talking about, this is her.  Bubblegum pop to me.

I am unsure 100% re what my plans are.  I need to go back to the Victoria city center too see how it is without the crowds, but yesterday my thoughts were that it was just ok…I little too touristy for me.  A female cop laughed at me when I asked her for a non-touristy, “character” place to have lunch.  In the city center???  Ha ha ha.  She was right.  I had such a hard time finding a place to eat [besides $4 scoops of gelato], that I actually went to the downtown mall’s food court.  Imagine that.

I have been invited to dinner Thursday nite by a woman [Meredith] I met last nite.  So, I most likely will travel around Vancouver Island for the next couple days, have dinner with her and her friends Thursday nite…then head/ferry it to Washington.

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