San Juan Islands

Well, before I went to bed last night I had pretty much decided to spare myself the cost of more ferry rides and to go to the Cascade Mountain Highway instead of the San Juans today. That all changed while I slept, I guess. When I woke up I decided I really wanted to see San Juan so I got the hell out of the shit hole that was the Mark II Motel and headed back to Anacortes. This time I had a ferry schedule and I arrived just in time for a quick breakfast and then the ferry ride. The earliest ferry straight to Friday Harbor was not till 2:45pm, so I took the 12:05pm one to Orcas instead. I’m glad I did!

Orcas turned out to be absolutely, stunningly beautiful. I had the most wonderful time. When I was buying my ferry ticket the ticket seller lady told me I should go to Mount Constitution cause on a day like today the view would be great; so that’s what I did. It was about a 30 minute drive to the top, but you can see from the pictures that it was all completely worth it. It’s only about 2800 feet high, but when you have a summit that looks out on islands and tons of natural beauty it doesn’t take a lot of height to do the job.

On the way back down the mountain I stopped at one of the trail heads for Cold Springs, which sounded good to me. I get a thrill from drinking from mountain streams, so that sounded like a good place to do it. Unfortunately, there was a sign at the trail head saying no potable water from here on, so I didn’t have any. It was very pretty though.

I headed back to town and got back on the ferry to go to Friday Harbor. The ride was very nice. It reminded me of something, but I can’t think of what. I feel like every time I ride one of these boats it’s taking me back to something I miss, but I don’t think I ever spent a lot of time on a boat anywhere in my life. My Dad was in the Coast Guard, and he really enjoyed it and felt a great attachment to the sea, so maybe I am channeling him. I know that the smell of salt water, and the shriek of sea gulls and seeing a lighthouse on a rocky point just pulls right at my soul and I love it.

Anyway, I didn’t have a plan for Friday Harbor, and by driving through the town I could see it was going to be pretty dead. It’s a Monday evening in the off season. Not a lot going on.

I took a drive out to Lime Kiln State Park which was supposed to be the best place for seeing whales from the coast (instead of on a boat) and I hiked out to the viewing area. I didn’t see any whales but I did see a sea lion right up close! He was maybe 20 or 30 feet away just chilling on a rock! So cool! I tried to get a picture, but when he heard me he just flopped right into the water. So beautiful.

It was starting to get darkish so I checked the little brochure that came with my ferry ride for places to stay. Under the “really cheap” section I found Juniper Lane Guesthouse which was described as “New, hip, gorgeous, wi-fi” which sounded like just the place for me. The prices were also supposed to be from $30-$165 which sounded great.

I kinda blew past the place at first cause I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I thought about heading into town to see if there was something closer to the action (heh!) but after seeing it was only 1.3 miles away I headed back.

I peeked in the door of what seemed like the office but it was dark and no one was around. When I peeked back out a girl was walking up towards me. She introduced herself as Juniper, the owner of the guest house and told me all about it. The place is absolutely beautiful and every bit as cool as the description made it sound.

She has a nice web site with a ton of pictures, so just check that out. If you are every in Friday Harbor you *have* to stay here.

And that’s it for my San Juan Islands adventure. Today was great. I had a really nice time all day and I found a perfect room to sleep in, which is a welcome change from yesterday.

You can click the birdy at the top for today’s pictures.

A Day of Dissapointments

Before you read about my crappy day today, you may want to go back to yesterday’s post and re-read it. I finished it up and it’s much more interesting than this one 🙂

Today didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it to. My morning started with a jolt when my alarm went off at 8am and I didn’t remember falling asleep. I guess I was so tired that I slept right through the night without a single wake up and when I got up at 8am it felt like I had just dozed off a moment before.

Anyway… I decided to drive down to Victoria to see what that was all about and then come back to Sidney later on to catch a ferry to San Juan. I set out to Victoria, which wasn’t very far away. I caught a quick breakfast and then wandered around downtown for a while. I decided I wasn’t much in the mood for a city but I did see on the map that the cruise ship port wasn’t far off, so I rolled over there to check it out. That turned out to be a lot of fun.

At Port Victoria, where the cruise ships come in, there is a giant water break that I guess keeps the waves away from the port. You could walk out on it so I did, and it was a really nice walk. On the way back I climbed down the side to walk on the big granite stones that made it up and enjoyed myself completely.

After that I headed back towards Sidney to try to get to San Juan and found out the only ferry for the day left at 11:30am. That’s what you get for not planning anything. I tried to come up with other options, but eventually ended up just completely backtracking the way I came. Unfortunately, so was everyone else and I ended up waiting in line for the ferry for around 3 hours. Then I had a 45 minute wait in line at US Customs to get back into the States and now I am settled into the nastiest motel I’ve ever been in at the junction of WA-20 and I-5. The walls are peeling, there is water on the floor of the bathroom, I can hear things in the walls and the highway traffic is deafening.

I couldn’t decide if tomorrow I will go to San Juan (I finally got a ferry schedule, and there are plenty of options) or if I will go east to the Northern Cascades Highway, so I got a room right in the middle of the two to decide tomorrow. I should have gone back to Anacortes and stayed where I stayed Friday night. Only 5 miles away and light years nicer. Oh well.

And that’s it for Sunday. Pretty much a big waste of a day, although the walk in Victoria and the ferry ride back were both very nice. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun, whichever way I decide to go.

Click the water break at the top to see today’s pictures.

Vancouver And More…

I’m too tired to do a full post tonight, but I uploaded lots of pictures from today. In brief: I woke up in Anacortes, drove to Vancouver, walked across the most expensive toll bridge in the universe, saw some timber wolves, checked out downtown Vancouver and Chinatown and then took a long, awesome ferry to Sidney, BC so that I can cross to Friday Harbor, San Juan tomorrow. And now it’s time for sleep!

Click the big bridge to see today’s pictures.

And now, to finish that up! I woke up early(ish) in Anacortes and did some laundry, which was badly needed. I had had no time to get any done before I left for the trip and things were starting to get pretty bad. After all that excitement I headed to the port to try to catch a ferry to the San Juan Islands; destination Friday Harbor. On arrival it turned out the next ferry was not until 2:45pm and it was only around 11am. After a little though I decided I’d take the long way around, drive to Vancouver, check it out, then go to Victoria and eventually take the ferry to Friday Harbor from the west instead of the east.

Some of that actually happened.

I did make it to Vancouver, and it was gorgeous. On approach you see skyscrapers with a snow topped mountain backing. It’s really, really beautiful. When I crossed the border to Canada one of the first things I saw was a billboard for a walk across suspension bridge, and it looked really neat so I decided to check it out. I plugged in the address in my GPS (which has been the most awesome thing ever) and headed straight there. Along the way I saw a really tall mountain that I decided I wanted to see the top of before I left. File that for later.

The suspension bridge was ultra-touristy but still worth it. The bridge itself was really cool, and very bouncy and then the little town in the trees made me think that the designers of Kelethin in EverQuest and of the tree section of Far Cry had definitely been to this place. It was very neat. Shame I don’t know much Japanese, or I would have been able to communicate with every single person there. Very touristy.

So then it was off to find that mountain. I saw a sign that said “Grouse Mountain – The Peak of Vancouver” and that sounded pretty promising. I drove to the top and they had a cable car that would take you the rest of the way but it was $36 and I had just paid $26 to walk across a bridge, so I decided to skip it. I did get to see some real wolves for free though. They were behind a three wire electric fence, but I could have easily patted them on the snout if I were so inclined. I was not so inclined. Close up a wolf does not look anything like a dog. It looks like a killer.

Next up I had to decide what to do with the rest of my day. I had considered sleeping in Vancouver, but I didn’t really have any good reason to. Just in case a reason presented itself, I decided to check out a hostel downtown and see what happened. My GPS took me right to it and I recognized the front of the building from the picture I had seen earlier. Mostly recognized. There was some new art on the front door in the form of black spraypaint exclaiming “Die Punks Die”. I decided to hit the road.

So, the plan was to take a ferry to Sidney, B.C. (British Columbia), spend the night and then try to get to Friday Harbor in the morning. The ferry ride was awesome. It snaked through a bunch of little islands and once again, I started thinking the designer for the Siren Isles in EverQuest had once sailed the same way.

I slept in a great Super 8 with speedy Internet access which would come in to play several times throughout the next day… but that’s tomorrow’s (today’s) post!

Anacortes, Washington, USA: Around The Sound

My buddy, the bird.It’s been a busy few days. Much to my dismay, I’ve found myself getting up around 6am, getting ready to go and being out the door by 7:30am. Much to my great pleasure, the company has been excellent and my hosts have been wonderful.

Now, to fill in some details! Over the past year and a bit I have been doing some side work for a company in Seattle. They have a great product and I have been doing some contract coding for them. We’ve been working closely for quite a while now and I thought it would be nice to finally put some faces to the names, and emails. That is part of the reason for my starting my trip in Seattle. Additionally, I’ve never been to Seattle or anywhere in the northwest of our great country and I figured that since my flight to Melbourne starts in L.A. this would be a great chance to do a little exploring in my own country before I go around exploring a bunch of other ones!

One of the people I’ve been working with has a lovely home on Bainbridge Island and he kindly offered to let me stay with him during my time in Seattle. That offer has been a great thing for several reasons. One, Bainbridge is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me very much of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Trees as thick as you can imagine and water available everywhere. The island is just a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle across the sound but it instantly drops you into a wonderful small town feeling place and you quickly leave the bustle of Seattle behind. It’s great!

I’ll go back a bit now, since I was tired when I made my first post about Seattle. When I arrived at Sea-Tac Airport Wednesday afternoon my friend picked me up and we headed down to the city. I got to meet the people I’d been working with and then we headed out to dinner. This is where it gets scary!

All of you know that I am the pickiest eater in the world. It’s basically burgers and fries for me, which explains my Adonis like figure. In particular, I don’t eat seafood. Well, we started walking and eventually ended up at McCormick and Schmick, which is a very top end seafood restaurant! I swallowed hard and went in, fearing the worst.
A brief aside: One of my goals for this trip is to break out of my very confining walls and get rid of my hang ups. My food fears are at the top of the list and I have vowed (to myself) to at least try to eat everything I am served.

Anyway, I scanned the menu and saw several things that didn’t sound too scary. I eventually decided on fresh grilled Albacore tuna with a peanut something sauce over it. I figured, “Hey, I like tuna from a can. I should like it from a grill.” Let me tell you, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I devoured the tuna, the rice, some of the veggies and even the crunchy ricey thing that I was completely unable to identify. It was delicious. So, a thank you to my host for getting me to try something new, even if no one knew! 🙂

After dinner, I got set up in my room and hit the sack early. It had been a long day and that was the post you saw on Wednesday evening.

Thursday I spent the day in the office doing some debugging and such of some of the code I’ve written for the company. We also took a quick side trip downtown to find me something warm to wear. I packed for summer and it’s still what I would consider super early Spring weather here. Kinda rainy and cold and I was doing a lot of freezing. It was a relatively quiet day and we wrapped it up with a great Thai dinner right on the harbor of the island. Incredible views and excellent food.

Today I had big plans to strike out on my own and start my exploration. I found the location of a Budget rent a car place that was close to the ferry port and my friend walked me up to it first thing. A few minutes and dollars later and I was sportin’ a lovely white Pontiac G6, which, I hate to say, I really like driving. I set out with a plan to find an Apple store to either get a new battery or get mine fixed under warranty. The life on it has sucked recently. I picked the Apple Store in University Village which is near The University of Washington (U-Dub to the locals) and didn’t have much trouble getting there. I ended up getting a brand new battery under warranty, so that was awesome. I also picked up a nice fleece from North Face which I desperately love.

Next up I headed back to town to meet up with my friend and take care of some last minute mail business and then took the ferry back to Bainbridge to pick up my gear and head off on my own!

My friend and his wife had told me a million great things to see while I was here, so I decided to just hop on a road and head north and see as much as I could. I definitely wanted to visit Vancouver and the San Juan Islands. My friend also told me about a great mountain pass on the North Cascades Highway that sounded right up my alley!

So, I drove! I took a different ferry from the island this time, landing in Edmonds which is north of Seattle. So that saved me the downtown traffic. After a brief stop at REI (dissapointing) and then Best Buy to pick up a Garmin Nuvi 350 (Ouch!) I hit the serious road and eventually found myself in Anacortes, which is where I am typing right now! It was dark when I arrived and I had no plans or reservations so I just stopped at the first decent looking motel in town and settled in. Happily, it’s a nice, clean room with free Wifi and a good price. Score! I haven’t been able to see anything of the town or water or anything, but looking at Google Maps I should be in for a hell of a view when I wake up tomorrow 🙂

My plan tomorrow is to… dun, dun, DUN: Do some laundry! I didn’t have time before I left Kansas. After that I’m going to take the ferry to Friday Harbor and spend some time soaking up the island life. Eventually I’ll head into Victoria, B.C. and then up to Vancouver.

And that’s it for Wednesday through Friday! I’m having a wonderful time and I’m in love with this place. I can’t wait to see what the weekend brings.

There’s pictures from my Seattle adventures on Flickr (click the birdy at the top) if you’d like to see what I’ve been seeing.

Seattle, Washington, USA: The Adventure Begins!

Well, after a week of harried moving and packing and storing and just generally being completely busy and worn out, the trip has finally begun.

After a few last minute trips to the storage unit this morning,  and a bunch of other errands I finally boarded my first flight! Courtney took me to the airport around noon for my flight to Seattle. Four hours later and I finally got my first glimpse of the Pacific Northwest. It was overcast. Heh! 🙂

It’s been a pretty wild day. This morning I was piling trash in the carport of my home for 5 years and now after a short flight, meeting up with some friends, a great dinner and a ferry ride I’m homeless and settled into my friend’s guest house for a night of much needed rest. Tomorrow I’ll get to see more of the city, but I am already in love. The ride from the airport was all green and trees, and downtown Seattle is just gorgeous. Obviously I have not seen very much yet, but it has a small town feel that’s all grown up. There are beautiful, old brick buildings nestled in with the skyscrapers and everything just oozes excitement.

I have one week before I have to be in Los Angeles for my flight to Melbourne. Tomorrow I am going to try to rent a car and find an affordable place downtown to stay.

And that’s all for today. I’m beat, and have an early start in the morning. Bye for now!

Road Trip: Fantastic Caverns, Talequah

Look! A cave!Friday was my last day at work and everyone sent me off with a ton of well wishes and happiness. The nice people in my department at my job got me a card and a multi purpose compass, whistle, thermometer, magnifying glass, signal mirror, flashlight that totally rocks. I packed up all my stuff and off I went… for 6 months vacation.

Let’s savor that for a moment, shall we?

Ahhhhhh…. that’s very nice.

With a weekend to blow and miles to burn, Courtney and I went on a little roadtrip. I had been talking to a guy on a Ducati forum for a few days about buying some modified exhaust pipes. Turned out he was in Oklahoma City and since Courtney and I were planning to visit Tulsa and Tahlequah we decided to swing past OKC to pick em up instead of having them shipped!

Saturday morning we got up early(ish), dropped off Sonja at the kennel and loaded up The Black (as I will henceforth refer to my RX-8) and rolled. We hit Fantastic Caverns a few hours later and it was pretty cool. Tony suggested I might be disappointed with it, but I went with reasonable expectations and enjoyed it. The landscape around it was gorgeous and our tour guide was really cool. The caverns were a little bit of a let down, as I was expecting more crystal structures and it was all limestone, but it was still really cool. When he turned off the lights completely it made me want to go spelunking.

After Fantastic Caverns we made a bee line for Oklahoma City to pick up my exhaust. This part requires a minor aside. On the way to Fantastic Caverns Tony called me to tell me he had bought a new MacBook Pro (to supplant his brand new MacBook, fucking Sprint employees) and after I mentioned what we were doing he related a story about a church in Oklahoma City where there is no actual live pastor or anything; just TVs. They go to a giant church and all watch someone preach to them via TV. It’s called Lifechurch.TV. I called him an idiot, as I do, and ignored the comment. That’s the aside. On with the story.

A mere 200 hours later we were rolling into OKC and I called the guy that was selling me the pipes. He said to take I-35N in OKC to 2nd street and that there was a church at that intersection where we could meet. As we’re driving up I-35N we notice this HUGE cross and I’m like “Wow, I wonder if that’s the church?”. Courtney comments that the church building has a shit ton of satellite dishes on top of it, which is a little weird for a church.

Well, as you’ve guessed by now, we pulled into the parking lot of Lifechurch.TV. I couldn’t believe the irony coincidence of it. We made the deal and quickly hit the road, but not before considering catching a sermon out of pure morbid curiosity.

Next up was Tulsa where we were planning on doing… nothing? Something. Who knows? We got a room at a newly renovated Red Roof Inn, got some great Thai food and considered going to a movie before I announced I was too damn tired. We (I) crashed hard and called it a night. I woke up to Courtney eating cold, leftover fried rice directly out of the styrofoam container. With her mouth. Only.

I didn’t have any fried rice to eat so we went to Village Inn for breakfast and met Courtney’s Mom and her boyfriend so Courtney could catch up for a bit. And so I could be judged, I suppose. Soon it was back on the road for Tahlequah where I had been threatening that I’d like to do some hiking!

We visited Courtney’s sister at her work and then headed out to Sparrow Hawk where I had slightly explored on my last trip but wanted to see more. We stopped at a wilderness area and decided to hike to the summit to see the really great view. I had left my oxygen equipment at home so we had to do the entire 75 foot ascent without it. We were pretty winded, I’ll tell you.

Seriously, I am not sure how high it was but when we finally got to the little rock outcropping that she guided us to it looked pretty damn high to me. I guessed around 1000 feet and she guessed around 400 but I have no idea. Foolishly, I did not take my GPS because I rock. The view was incredible and the hike was very pleasant. I turned over every log I found but didn’t find any snakes. I like snakes.

We headed back and took a drive through the rest of the area. I found a really steep hill and drove up it and it turned out to be the Sparrow Hawk Village that Courtney had talked about. Aparently it’s a little religious village where everyone lives and worships together and they worship peacocks. Their giant water tower is in the shape of a cross. A fine mix of form and function if you ask me.

We finished out the trip with some awesome pizza at Sam and Ellas’ Chicken Palace and headed home. We drove 1000 miles in 35 hours and only saw two states. I call that criminal. Nice trip though, and a nice weekend altogether.

You can click the picture of the caverns at the top to see the rest of the pictures from the trip. Yes you can!