JOEY!

Ayre and I both much prefer the quiet wonder of the woods. Who knows how long this old fir giant has listened to the symphony of the woods.

JOEY! SHADDUP!” The voice thunders down across the alley. It has awakened me countless times through the twelve years I’ve lived here. The women’s voice is deep and gravelly, a smoker’s throat. Her shout at her German shepherd grates out over the neighbourhood several times each day, like a Mullah from his tower.

Joey is a lovely dog, unlike her Rottweiller companion.(spell checker thought it should be rototiller…Close!) If I’m walking up the alley Joey will bark furiously but will come to the fence for a pat on the head, unlike her pal who snarls and drools like a hound from hell. The dogs never get a walk, nor apparently, much loving attention. They have a path worn around their yard just inside the fence. If the owner is in the yard, she’ll apologize, loudly and profusely, about not knowing what’s wrong with these dogs. We understand she is trying to make amends for the barking but doesn’t really care about her companions of so many years. “Just take them for a walk damnit!” Maybe she does care and her neighbours just don’t understand. Certainly, we’ve tolerated Joey’s imposition for all these years. There will come a time when we won’t hear Joey anymore. We’ll miss her.

The ant. I think the flower is a feral hollyhock, the ant was just passing by. It was lovely to my eye especially when I saw the insect.

Out of another alley last night, a black and rusty SUV rolled at a good speed. I braked, wondering what the driver intended. He gave me a vague but rude hand signal and so I proceeded. The other vehicle now lurched at me, a few feet at a time, like a bear threatening his intended victim. For some reason that triggered a mindless response from me to jam on my brakes. BANG! The vehicle rammed my car’s back end. I flew out of the vehicle and tiraded “If you keep driving like that you’ll keep meeting old assholes like me!” What the hell was I doing? I’d just broken all of the Four Agreements which I try to live by. I knew I was accomplishing nothing except to make an enemy. I’m weary of public mindlessness and selfishness but this was no way to deal with anything and what was I ever going to change.

Perfect! Not too sunny, not too cool, and ideal morning at low tide. Ayre is in the photo.

The other driver was adamant that I had violated his rights. Really? His rights? I see. All’s well that ends. My old car wasn’t damaged and life went on but think of the possible scenarios in my moment of knee-jerk madness had I been carrying a gun. I am not a reactionary thug but I am a human. It happens to the best of us when our karma runs over our dogma.

The skylight above my desk. I installed it years ago and love looking at all the different angles of the shadows.

Baxter Black, who’s he? Most folks have never heard of him but he was a cornerstone of the Cowboy Poets movement, which few have heard of. Yet in the wake of his death YouTube is filled with videos of Baxter reciting his work. He was flawless and humorous and a great inspiration as he dealt with the basic matters of life. He would always sign off by describing himself as being “From out there.” He has again proven that the big step in receiving artistic recognition is to die. Coming Bax, coming.

I went to a clock repair shop with an old wristwatch. I like these places, full of ticking time pieces and a sense that all is in control and in order. It’s a lovely illusion. When I arrived the proprietor was standing out on the curb in the pouring rain, cell phone in hand. Turns out that he was trying to spot an elderly lady who couldn’t find his shop. He works in a ground level basement of his home but somehow, despite his efforts, it was hard for this old soul to find. When she did arrive, in a late-model but battered Mercedes, the stooped old crone produced a hand bag filled with small clocks. She kept producing them, one after another all the while declaring that she was going to be late for a hospital appointment. I felt as if I was caught in an ancient Monty Python skit. “Can you fix ziz for ten dollar?” She demanded, handing over an antique alarm clock. “It vaz built in 1906 and has been vakink me up sinz I vas unt little girl.” The man behind the counter explained he couldn’t come down the stairs to his shop for ten dollars these days and besides, he couldn’t give her a quote until he knew what was wrong. “Ya, ya I must be gettink to ze hospital.” I cautioned her to drive carefully, the streets were slippery wet. “Ya, everyvon ischt beepink at me!” I find myself wondering how she’s doing.

Electric Harley. It’s not a bad name for a rock band. But struth, I’ve seen one! Throbbing, blasting, vibrating and big, big ,big was the realm of the ubiquitous North American icon. No more. It, to me, was like a biblical sign of the apocalypse. This mid-sized, black with no chrome motorcycle is owned by a man who claims it can go from 0 to 100 mph in 3 seconds. Then you come to the end of the extension cord. Haar! Seriously, I thought smoke and thunder was the whole point of a Harley. Nothing is sacred!

Modern Harleys, his and hers. Soon they’ll be antiques.

Joey! Shaddup!”

An old heart throb, the ‘Providence.’ I first met this beauty when she was packing fish for a living. The she was refitted and went into the charter business. I haven’t see her for years. She’s west-coast built and would look right at home in any European Harbour, Ketch-rigged, a wooden pilot house on a stout wooden hull, just a glimpse of her quickened this old salt’s heart and confirmed who I am.

The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” Dylan

Ps: Gone to hide in the woods for a while.

North

Nothing like the peace a nice little camp fire brings. The wind break marks my preferred spot on the beach at Naka Creek Camp
Ready for another night. The axe shows the wear of over fifty years of proud ownership. I bought it at the Squilax General Store, on the side of the Shuswap Little River BC

Sunday morning, Naka Creek. I sit inside my camper with a fresh, stout black mug of coffee beside this keyboard. It is chilly. I couldn’t be bothered to stoke up my propane furnace so instead I wear a heavy flannel shirt. Outside a low overcast races before a westerly wind and balls of drizzle wash over my campsite. I had the happy foresight to stow things away while it was still dry. Soon I’ll be on my way.

The view from my bunk.

Across Johnstone Strait a sail advances in the murk, westbound into the wind. It is bucking against the wind and tide. When the tide turns fully and the ebb begins to run in the boat’s favour, but against the wind, the seas will rise and those lumps will continue to hold him back. The boat is fast but for every six miles it tacks the position on the chart advances only a mile. I used to do that long ago, just to feel manly and salty but I eventually gave it up and motored directly toward my destination, having decided to bring a gun to the knife fight. Still I ache to be out there, cold and wet though it may be, it is in some people’s blood to suffer for the religion of the ocean. I am one. I think this boat is a participant in the R2AK motorless race to Alaska. Whoever is out there bashing along deserves full kudos for their drive and spirit. Puget Sound to Alaska is one bloody long way, I’ve done it often enough in a tug boat and even that was wearisome. Travelling the coast in my own sailboat was a dream. There was a time when the globe was being discovered by Europeans. This coast was explored entirely by wind power and muscle alone.

Then came the night again.

From where I sit I can see northward to Blinkhorn Pennisula, beyond famous Robson Bight and marking the entrance Beaver Cove. Past that are the radio towers of Cormorant Island and Alert Bay. In the far distance are the shoreline humps near Port Hardy, where the island shoreline turns sharply to the northwest. I know these waters with their labyrinth inlets and archipelagos. I ache to own a boat once again so I can vanish into secret anchorages.

The hard slog northward racing in the R2AK. The expanse and distance of our coast is overwhelming. At this point, after several days enroute, the race is not yet a quarter complete.
The big easy, southbound. One salmon says to the other “Look at all the canned people!”

Advancing from behind the sailing boats and passing quickly out of sight ahead is a gleaming white motor yacht. I wonder how many barrels of fuel per hour it burns. Powering along, level, warm and dry I wonder at other perspectives on manliness. Then I nod off, my thick old fingers on the keyboard produce two pages of ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp’s. Time for a walk. I clamber up to the secret waterfalls which are as beautiful as ever. I muse that on my last visit here my beloved companion, Jack the dog, was with me and I plunge myself into momentary sorrow. He will always be with me and I try to cheer myself with recollections of all the happy moments. He loved this place. Once again I can see him rolling happily on his back in the long grass and daisies as well as the smug look on his face when he had returned from running off on his own to visit other campers and their dogs. He never made an enemy. Today I have some lovely neighbours and new friends. I am grateful.

Our secret waterfall. It is about eighty feet high.
The fool’s caravan.
“Got a horse in there?”
“Naw, just a friend.”
Nuts!
The view from my camper side window. The crows were picking my old corn cobs out of the fire pit.
Here’s a story. How does a very old brake shoe end up in the gravel on the beach?
A burger tree. Actually it is a fungus. When baked dry then lit to smoulder, the smoke makes an excellent insect repellant.
An organic nose flute. Just more fungi growing on a stick. It is amazing to see what is under the leaves.
Organic camping, becoming one with the earth again.
I wonder about the child who rode this. Grown now, with children weary of tales about Naka Creek.
The Mack Attack
I’ve been driving by this truck for nearly forty years. I reason that one day this North Campbell river landmark will be gone. A simple photographer’s tip is to take the photo while it’s there.
From when men were men and their arses were sore. Note the lack of stereo, air conditioning, air bags and upholstery. You hooked one arm through the steering wheel and used both hands to shift those three levers in unison with much double-clutching. If you blew a shift you had no gears to hold you back on a hill. The brakes would soon overheat and the pedal sank to the floor.. What a feeling!
Be still my redneck heart. Ain’t she a beauty? Someone has done a wonderful job on this restoration. I wannit!

The weather evolves from winter-like conditions to a flawless summer day in a few hours. I change costumes and emerge with my fluorescent shanks sticking out of old camo-patterned work shorts. How have military motifs ever become high fashion? That bemuses me, the old poster boy of the thrift stores. I’m “stylin’.”

Home again it is time for tinkering on my little circus caravan. Minor repairs, some upgrades and I’ll be back into the woods somewhere on this magic island.

Ayre my new little dog put on a very happy face for my return home.

Let’s have a moment of silence for all those North Americans who are stuck
in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.h Earl Blumenauer

Closure

Closure

Yeah, yeah just another damned flower. The point is, they keep coming. There is a life force which I don’t understand, and at times don’t even want to be part of, but one may as well enjoy the ride. It’ll end soon enough.

I sure hope it is, however I can’t say the worst is over. At least we now have our daughter’s ashes. The modern term is “closure.” Those remains are in a beautifully engraved stainless steel urn which we have brought home. There is a permanent grimness to it but this is much better than the horrible wait for medical reports and finally the cremation itself. For the first time in about thirty-five years we know where she is this night. So much for my attempt at humour for the moment. We have the business of dealing with our daughter’s belongings and clearing out her apartment. That seems like a mercenary thing to do but it needs to be done like it or not. There will also be the random hits of paper work but we’re braced for that.

She will always be with us and always be loved. We miss her, dearly.

The little dog we’ve inherited from Rachel is settling in nicely with us and her trauma is slowly fading. What comes in the wake of the last six weeks is a total mystery. There is a defragging period to come I’m sure, but at the moment a heavy numbness is what we are living with. I’ll say it one more time, hug your children and understand that each time you say goodbye to anyone may well the last. There is no rewind button.

This wee dog has become the center of our lives. Yes, even me. I think I’m a sort of dog whisperer but this one is very slow to respond. Intellect clearly has nothing to do with brain size. She is flamboyant to say the least.

Meanwhile we continue to endure a cold and wet spring. The flowers and blossoms are brilliant and intense when they finally burst out. They seem to pass quickly under the battering received from the rain and wind. Better days are ahead I’m sure, soon I’ll hear someone bitching about the heat. I’ll kick them. Many men having been wearing shorts for a while now, I’m bemused at seeing their fluorescent shanks glowing in the gloomy cool weather. My arthritic knees throb like bad toothaches at the sight of these guys and whatever it is they are trying to prove. Surely they are not all retired postmen!

I’ve decided to indulge in another sort of masochism. I’ve bought a tiny motorcycle. The prices of used ones are insane and the dealer’s price on a new unit was amazingly good. It’s an old marketing ploy. Get some product out there and once it’s selling itself, bring the price into line. I’ve wanted a small two-wheel conveyance to explore around campsites and to run to town for supplies instead of breaking camp each time. I’ve acquired a Honda Navi. It’s a new product in North America. I refer to it as my scooter cycle. It has a tiny 109cc engine and a scooter’s cv transmission. There are drum brakes front and back, which I don’t like. I do prefer crunching gears to relying solely on minimal brakes but life’s always about a compromise. I suppose I can crack my skull well enough at 80 kmph as 140.

“Hardly a Hawg!” With no intention of Easy Rider exploits, it’ll get me from campsite to town for beer and chicken. The view is from South Ladysmith looking over power lines eastward to the Gulf Islands and Canada way over there. Deepsea ships wait in Trincomli Channel for a berth in Vancouver.

I don’t expect to get the 100mpg as promised but with gasoline now bouncing at around $2.25 a litre it’s much better than my other vehicles. I have to remember that when wing-dinging along at 75kph feeling like a pig on a roller skate. I brought the wee contraption home from Nanaimo, a distance of about forty km, first through a rain squall and then a hail storm. I found no romance in that ride as I wobbled along back roads most of the way. It has been over thirty years since I last travelled on two wheels. I know that this old fart is not nearly as reflexive nor intrepid as he used to be. As long as I keep that in mind I should be fine.

Country humour.
Duck and cluck, fresh from the butt.
Yes, really! Un-retouched.
It was glorious!
Fetch! She didn’t come back without it.
There’s a sixties rock song here.
Up close and personal
1933 Packhard. From back in the day when men wore three-piece suits, rode on running boards and carried machine guns.
No air bags and the trunk is a fold-down rack on the back.
Two spare tires…for good reason.
Well spoken.

The problem with “stuff” is that it usually demands more stuff. Now I have to rebuild or replace my home-built “stealth” trailer to accommodate the motor bike. Around and around we go. I built it three years ago with some cheap plywood which has essentially rotted and dissolved in our climate. The price of plywood has become ridiculous and I thought I’d save a few dollars. I knew better. I’m quite proud of my engineering but I’ll concede that having standing headroom the full length inside is a simple feature which I had not considered. “Keep it simple stupid.” The hinged lid has proven to be very hard to lift with the added weight of anything stored on it. Everything is a compromise. I just want to quit messing around and get to southern latitudes.

There’s a lot to be said for a backpack and a thumb.

Trillium fading. All things must pass.

“Closure is a greasy little word which, moreover, describes a nonexistent condition. The truth, Venus, is that nobody gets over anything.” -Martin Amis

Sleeping By The River

At the swimming pool a few mornings back, while in the hot tube, I learned of a BBC headline story. I’ve since looked it up. In Yorkshire a kitten was born without an anus. His name (which I chose to find hilarious) is Toulose. He underwent some life-saving surgery and all is well. Imagine the poor surgeon who opened things up!

How was work today honey?” “T’wer a bit shitty in fact!”

Apparently a tidy sum was raised to help. It’s a happy story, especially for Toulose. and frankly I prefer one about a little asshole in Yorkshire to anything about a big one in London. God knows, we need all the levity we can get.

I buried Jack yesterday morning under the sheltering branches of a large holly tree on the banks of a salmon stream. He is sleeping in soft river sand beside Napoleon Creek, a short distance before it joins Haslam Creek which then runs into the Nanaimo River. The grave is about a kilometer into the forest, beyond the range of the shouting, yuk-yuking shallowites. There is constant music as the stream burbles past. The burial was attended by two ravens practicing their throat singing, an eagle screaming its anthem and a large wood pecker banging passionately on a hollow tree. I did not linger, feeling that I had somehow betrayed Jack, which is ridiculous. It had to be done. He’s gone, he is at peace.

On a soft bed of ancient river sand, a bed of ferns. Jack now lays here, waist deep, safe from harm yet where he can hear what I come to say to him.
Well done my friend, sleep in peace
Who would have a living tree as a grave marker? The ancients believed that Holly protected one from evil. For Jack, the very best.

I have received many wonderful notes of sympathy, and empathy. A large number of those have come from you my readers and I cannot thank you enough. It means so very much.

One of the common threads is how it is often much harder to lose a beloved dog than any person. That is certainly so for me and your affirmation certainly raises a doubt than I am not quite as odd as I believed. Thanks. It also occurred to me this afternoon that grieving is not a noble ordeal as much as it is a massive endeavour in self-pity. No volume of tears or dark musings can restore that which is lost. My wife and I were bestowed with the privilege to afford Jack a good life. He out-gave us in every way. He indulged in his days to his fullest and brought joy to all who met him. Who knows what good came from that? I believe that my mission in life is to bring light to other’s eyes, man or beast. There is no merit in trying to solicit tears over success.

So, wherever you are, raise a glass to Jack and a life well-lived. Let’s have a wake. Here’s a link to a video about Jack which I made and posted on YouTube some time ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3_5vlFHHYk

There are two wolves fighting inside all of us.

The first one is evil, the second one is good.

Which wolf will win?

…The one you feed.” Ancient American Indian proverb

He’s Gone

Goodbye my friend.

Jack has died. This blog is my way of coping. So many of you good folks said so many kind things to and about Jack through the years, I need to let you know. Thank you.

It is now 12:15 am February 2, 2022. He passed about 11:45. He had done poorly on his walk yesterday. When we got home I carried him to his bed and he seemed to slip into a semi-coma with laboured breathing and a shallow pulse. We moved his bed to the living room and I made up one for myself next to him. I lay beside him, petting him, cuddling him and thanking him for all the wonderful years. I looked out the window through a brief break in the clouds and saw one faint twinkling star. “The Jackstar” I mused and then dozed off.

A short while later I was awakened by three gentle strokes on my arm. He emitted one last breath and was gone. I know what the strokes were but will always choose to believe that he said goodbye. I sit here now in the dark quiet with a stiff glass of rum beside me and type these words through tear-blurred eyes. Jack was a very special character, unique in many ways. He touched many hearts, both canine and human. He had no enemies. He was the son I never had and the reincarnation  of a puppy taken from me when I was an infant. I will miss him forever.

Smoke And Mirrors

Sunday Morning
Smoke and mirrors. The hamlet of Wardner languishes on the west bank of the Kootenay River. The smoke is everywhere. You cannot see the surrounding mountains.
Here’s why. I took this photo from downtown Cranbrook a week ago. I could see six separate fires from where I stood, there are over 280 burning in BC at the moment. Bring wieners! This fire is still not under control.

The fading calm of a smoky Sunday morning is punctuated with the steady drip of my galley sink tap. It’s first of my chores for the day. The neighbour’s children are up and playing peaceably but as the day wears on their harmony will become a series of screams and silly sounds. Last night at eleven pm they were still at it. But who am I to complain about the sound of happy children? I have the day off, first on my list is that damned tap. On the gravel road above me vehicles begin to arrive, many towing flashy boats (For which I’ve found a nasty name of course) on clattering trailers and once again the dust billows over us. I’ve learned to associate the sound of tires on gravel with choking dust. It s a wearying sound.

Under the volcano. Big Red sits with a wildfire in the background. This truck is growing on me. I love the clatter of its big diesel but parking it often means a long walk to the store. It does not fit in any regular parking spot. Apparently it’s a highly prized truck, known for its reliability and endurance.
Fredville.
Less the golf cart, this whole little travelling circus packs up and  fits together nicely. Mexico or bust!
Beauty eh? Even I like the look of this small, over-powered ski boat.
Ugly to the bone. I’m dissecting it and will rebuild it well but I am reminded of John Steinbeck’s remark that some boats are built to sail and some are built to sell.”

 The smoke and dust of another hot day begin to build. In the work week ahead I have some challenging jobs waiting for me, one of which involves the itch of fibreglass slivers and the dust and fumes of rebuilding a boat’s complete floor and framing. I swore I’d never do again but here I am now taking half the wages I used to earn for the same work. Sweat constantly smears my glasses, when they are not slipping off. I’m angry as hell at myself for feeling lonely and depressed and being without the vigour and stamina I once had. No-one could outwork me or endure extremes like I could. I want to scream. What the hell have I done to end up here, at my age?

Here is a photo that some of you missed in that vanishing blog. There is certainly more to life than work…and it’s all free!
These guys are incredible. They leave very strange meandering tracks in the dust. This one was only 4 centimetres long, other get quite large. Yes they can fly.
These guys have been around for several weeks. On the coast they don’t begin to appear until mid-
august. They click and clatter about here by the thousands. The birds love them.
Blue Willy. I don’t know what this cocoon is but it reacted violently to my touch. I did not want that blue thing poked into me and let God’s green creature continue on his way.

It’s especially frustrating when all around are the sights and sounds of folks trying to convince themselves they are having fun. Not that I’d know. I think I’ve forgotten how. My co-workers here don’t want to socialize much, just as I don’t, so we retreat into our cocoons of solitude and recharge ourselves as best we can for the next day’s work. Some of the younger workers wind themselves up late at night in a frenzy of gormless noise and occasional drunken foolishness but they deserve the excesses of their youth which will pass all too soon as it has for us who have already travelled that road.

Right colours, but nobody else was there.

So here I sit in my little fibreglass box, a crotchety old man. The dust piles up in a thick patina which I’ve given up trying to wipe away, there’s no point, it is as thick as ever by every day’s end. Sometimes I catch myself staring into space, picking the mud balls out of my eyes and nose. Clogged sinus’s lead to achy teeth and it all becomes another test. Eeeech! Snot funny! If you wipe off a table or counter and spill a little water it rapidly becomes a little mud stain. On the coast, it is black mould to contend with, here it’s dust. There’s only one cure for this malaise and that’s to go do something.

I took the old kayak out for a few hours and had a grand time but this man-made ditch is not the ocean in any sense. I can find no point in inflating my Achilles boat and ramming around in all the debris in the water. Besides I had no idea how so much of the shoreline has been developed into large trailer parks and even subdivisions. I took no photos of any of that, I was disgusted. I need so little to get where I need to go and here are people who have millions they clearly do not know what to do with. It’s the same on the coast where marinas bulge with exotic yachts that never leave the dock. I don’t understand how in an effort to escape the tedium and crassness of their daily world, so many folks manage to bring it with them.

It just ain’t natural. Lake Koocanusa near it’s high water mark. The water is lovely and warm for swimming.
Up the creek. Gold Creek as far as the reservoir water will allow me top go.
As usual mergansers are wary and fly off to find solitude. There’s a lovely play of light here.
Intrepidly the aging explorer worked his way up the jungle stream on his lifelong quest for the lost city of Gunnado.
He knew he must be approaching the village of the Moo Tribe.
I’ve travelled many a mile in my little plastic kayak and seen many splendid sights including whales. I’ve surfed huge waves and trespassed in idylic lagoons and on rushing rivers. It’s an old friend who’ll see me through many more adventures.

When I arrived back from my paddle-about I discovered a fellow had set up a day camp at the foot of the boat ramp. Amongst the gear he had spread around, he lounged on a deck chair beneath an umbrella. It was the oddest thing I’ve seen. I asked if he rolled out his sleeping bag on the center line of highways but his logic and mine did not coincide. He seemed rather miffed that folks backing their boat trailers into the water required him to keep moving out of the way. Hello? Then another aberrant character decided to appoint himself ramp cop and accosted me with fabricated allegations. I loath folks trying to empower themselves at other’s expense and I responded rather badly. He did not want to challenge the willy-nilly camper at the water line. Wazwithat? Damnit, those were the first hours I’d taken in weeks just to be. I’d found the peace I sought, then that! I was very close to quitting. Ultimately only I can let someone else ruin my day, but how do dark moments manage to often come in batches? How is it that after a lifetime, a person can still deal with certain situations so poorly?

I subscribe to a mantra called the Four Agreements:

-I will always do my best

-I will take take nothing personally

-I will assume nothing

-I will respect the power of my words

That’s it. Simple huh? Try it!

When I find myself in a sticky situation I review it later and assess what I could have done differently. An ordeal can at least become a learning experience. Those agreements certainly sound simple, and easy, but they are broken regularly. However an awareness of them and a sincere intent to improve helps ease the path through life…. for me.

Life goes on. Even with its roots extending past the crumbling cliff, with the inevitable obvious, this venerable bull pine stands majestic.

The week passed. Now it’s Sunday again. The smoke is thicker than ever with some occasional ash falling. There is still a list of jobs for the old camper which I need to tackle but I think I’ll take the kayak out later…somewhere else.

In Cranbrook I was delighted to discover an authentic Mexican restaurant. The owner is a real Mexican and a fine gentleman who cooks and also serves. He cheered me up immensely.
Oddly, my beloved Jaffray Pub has just imported some new Mexican furniture.
I love it!
His ‘n hers. I love the colours. And on her bike…
Says it all

Children are those who let someone else make all their decisions.” anon

McMinnville

It is a real place and home of a very fine aviation exhibition, The Evergreen Aviation Museum. I arrived too late to go in for a self-guided tour. I would need at least a half day. They let me park in the back corner, dry-camping next to old US Air Force rockets. There are four massive buildings. The largest one houses the Hughes Hercules and is nearly big enough to fly some of the small aircraft I have known, around inside it! The massive airplane is known worldwide as the “Spruce Goose” although it is actually built almost entirely of birch plywood. Howie himself flew it, once. An icon of dreams, it is the world’s largest wooden airplane ever and among the world’s largest airplanes, even today. Of all the amazing achievements of old weird Howard, this is the big one. Just imagine all the people telling him and his crew that it couldn’t be done. But he did, and so did it. Then WW II ended and the need for a massive air transport machine ended, at least for the time being.

The whole goose and nothing but the goose. This is the centerpiece of all the exhibits, around it and underneath it.
Inside, looking aft. It cost another $39.US to see the flight deck and have your photo taken. No, I did not.
A brilliantly-done cutaway of Pratt and Whitney R-4360. The Goose used eight of these. Each engine had 28 cylinders (With two spark plugs per cylinder for a total of 56 on each engine) They produced a net horsepower of 3500. The Goose sported eight of these. “I say old chap, number seven is a bit rough don’t you think.”  The flight engineer was a very busy fellow.
” Now son, I want you to change the spark plugs. When you’re done on this wing, do the other one. Don’t drop anything.”
The office up there.
Big smoothie. The huge Hughes.
One wing sponson dwarfs a beautiful Curtis Robin.
Where the money came from. Howard Hughes Sr invented this drill bit. He refused to sell it to oil companies, and instead leased it. Howard JR inherited the massive wealth at age 19 and started messing with airplanes. He was, by all accounts, a very skillful test pilot.
A Bell D1, the ubiquitous M.A.S.H. helicopter. Part of my apprenticeship was spent working on these. Wooden main rotors, dozens of grease fittings, it was crude. To trim the aircraft for varying loads, you slide the battery to the correct position in the tailboom.
Just think of it!
A Beech 17 Staggerwing.
When it hit the civilian market in the 1930’s it was faster than anything the US military possessed at that time.
A Pietenpol, probably one of the first home-built designs ever. The engine is from a Ford Model A
One of my flying mentors built one of these during the Great Depression and made an income selling rides. As he travelled, he’d sleep beneath a wing at night. There should be a song: “And that’s why I hit the tree, I couldn’t see, there was a radiator right in front of me.” These are still being built today with modern engines.
Them’s the brakes. A primitive toe-brake on a Curtis Pusher (That means the engine pushes instead of pulls. OK!)
A GeeBee Sportster, gentle sister of the GeeBee racer as portrayed with the model on the floor.
A beautiful full-scale replica of Lindberg’s famous “Spirit Of Saint Louis.” There were others who made the Atlantic crossing in little airplanes when we seldom hear of, but hi was the first successful crossing.
A misty-eyed moment for me. This is a Bell Huey, the most famous Vietnam helicopter. When I was graduating from high school in 1969 three friends  and I were determined to join the US Army. (30,000 Canadians went to ‘Nam) We could learn to fly helicopters for free! The first friend went ahead…and came home in a Glad Bag. We became a lot smarter overnight. It was my second consideration of a military career, and I lost interest for good.
A Le Rhone rotary engine. First World War technology. It was used in an airplane designed to kill…only a few years after powered flight had been proven possible. It was crude. The cylinders spun with the propellor. A 2-stroke engine, the lubricant used was castor oil, which flew everywhere. Pilots carried spare googles to exchange ones which had become coated with oil.
A DC3, probably the world’s most well known aircraft. Introduced in the late 1930s, it was the first to have a full-cantilever wing. (No external bracing) Eighty years later, many are still earning a living in skies around the planet.
An ME 262, the world’s first operational jet fight. Fortunately for us, allied bombers obliterated the factories where these were being built.
These are both real flyable airplanes, a kit-built helicopter and a Bede 4 personal jet. The little boy was completely fascinated by the jet, a perfect size for him.
A FW 190., another very respected Luftwaffe fighter. With its massive BMW radial engine, monstrous torque high-propellor, pigeon’toed undercarriage and short fuselage, this machine must have been a beast to handle while on the ground.

 

Even as modern airplanes go, the Goose thing is a monster. I am amazed at the survival of this wooden wonder. How it has not rotted or burned in 75 years is yet another wonder. The aircraft that I came to see is the only one of its kind ever built. This is my Mecca, the object of a pilgrimage for a guy who has been flying and otherwise messing around with airplanes his whole life. I’m hoping to find inspiration to cope with some tough weeks ahead. I’ve looked up at it already. The only time I’ve know that same feeling before was when I stepped aboard ‘Cutty Sark’ in Greenwich.

The museum itself is massive with its four huge (Ha… Hughes, get it?) buildings, three are for display and a third is a swimming pool. They have somehow hoisted a Boeing 747 (Imagine the fleet of monster cranes required to work in full co-ordination…with no wind)) onto the roof and converted it into the apex of a water slide. The parking lot behind the buildings would be adequate for landing smaller aircraft.. Imagine having rows of jet fighters for lawn ornaments!

Now that’s a lawn ornament!
It sure beats plastic flamingos or garden gnomes. It is a Lockheed T-33 or ‘Shooting Star’ I remember then from my early childhood. they are still flying in a few countries.
Am American drone clone. The US decided to copy the German V-1 and use it for a target drone. Someone has been droning on about something ever since.
Then came the V-2, brainchild of Wernher von Braun. It was the beginning of the space age.
There is something to amaze everyone, even if they’re not interested in aviation or space travel.
How about the lunar RVer?
Or…the lunar ATVer?
After a while sensory overload began to kick in. I began to worry about missing something. I’m sure I did.

The exhibits go on and on, with a movie theatre complex in the middle of the complex. I am a small airplane guy and there were plenty of these dispersed among the big fellows, both civilian and military. It was a dull overcast day for taking photographs, but I managed to click off about one-hundred-fifty frames that I’m keeping. That is a lot of editing. I could have easily taken twice as many.

Evergreen, a private enterprise, draws a very close second to the amazing Boeing aircraft museum in Seattle which doesn’t have a water park. Ha! It also doesn’t have the Goose or, the SR71 Blackbird. There are also two other great aviation museums in the state of Oregon, one in Tillamook and another in Madras. Here are a few of the photos taken at Evergreen, I once again repeat myself in saying that they don’t begin to compare with actually seeing this operation in the flesh. When I was growing up in the post-war, pre-space age, aviation was still a bit of a novelty. That, despite the massive aviation advancements of WWII. By the time we had put men on the moon the reality of flying machines had become a ho-hum fact of everyday life. We no longer look up when an aircraft passes overhead. Yet, clearly, there are a great many people who do hold a deep fascination for a highly and still rapidly evolving technology which is only a little over a century old.

I have long held the theory that the human race is not indigenous to this planet. We certainly do not fit in here. As far back as we know, we have had an affinity for the sky, for the stars, for flight. God is always from somewhere up there ( God being the concept which is our convenient pigeon-hole for all that we cannot comprehend including love, wisdom and infinity) Many of our wisest ancients speculated on ways and means to rise above our earthly bonds. We have scrambled frantically to fly, then to fly ever higher and faster. It is a compulsion which now has us sending machines beyond the known edges of our universe, looking for ways to personally visit and inhabit places like Mars. I believe that it is all part of that ancient quest to find our way home. Yet at the same time, we need to look within and consider our aberrant nature, and that that is perhaps why our ancient ancestors were dropped off here. Once we realize the way to get along with each other, as well as other species, only then will we be truly ready to go home. Then we won’t need to. In the meantime, to survive that long, we need to become considerably more gracious toward the beautiful planet that is hosting us. For now, it is the only place we have.

The computer grinch says that I have run out of space for any more photos in this blog, even in my edited series. I’ve challenged him three times because there is so much more to show. If, readers care to send a comment in favour of posting a part 2 to this particular blog, I’ll be glad to post more images. Happy Landings!

“Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see. ”   

Charles A. Lindbergh

 

Blizzard!

I left Baker in mid-morning after editing photos and posting a blog. It always feel good to be caught up. This trip has been a breathless rush of events, people and images which I feel are truly worth sharing. Reader’s comments confirm that. I began the day’s travels by visiting a local archaeological site. It was wonderful. I had it all to myself to speculate on the wonders of mud ruins, apparently seven-hundred years old. The wind was keen and shrill and cold. I wore no hat and soon had an ice-cream headache. My hands throbbed painfully. I am just not nineteen anymore!

Handyman special! View home in need of TLC. Quiet neighbours. These ruins left me with a whole lot of questions. Why here? Water? Game? Defenses? Each question raises three more.
Spring Valley, Nevada. There are five rows of these monsters steadily turning in the face of the approaching storm. it is an impressive sight to say the least. They are huge. It is hard to guess but I reckon each blade must be about ninety feet long. Maybe it was because the wind was shrieking, but the whole weird scene was dead quiet. Eerie!

Turning west onto Highway 50 (Called the loneliest highway in America) I again climbed and descended several mountain passes and traversed more wonderful valleys. I stopped to absorb the wonder of a huge wind farm in a place called Spring Valley. The wind was increasing and it was obvious that a storm was coming. I reckoned I could make it to Ely (Pronounced eely) and hunker down somewhere if the weather was indeed as serious as it seemed. The snow blew and thickened. When I finally arrived I passed an RV Park that looked so dismal in the deepening snow I could not bring myself to stop. I filled up with gas at a “Loves” truck stop and then decided that in consideration of the weather I should stuff up my own tank. The truck stop is adjoined to a sort-of casino and a Carl’s Jr. Fast burger joint. I know better. I still have a souvenir of that joint riding in my belly over a day later.

Sure glad I had my shorts and sandals along!
…And my bike too!
Struth! Of all the things a person could possibly see!
Slowly, the visibility improved and I could see what I was passing.
Can’t call it the Pearly Gate, and Horny Gate would upset some people. How about “Bone Bower?”
Those antlers represent an awful lot of dead deer and elk.
Eureka! I’ve found Eureka..which sure beat being back at Carl Jr’s in Ely watching the drifts pile up.
Somehow, in the snow, the old freight wagon does not look so romantic.
S’no dog like a Blue Merle Collie on an ATV in the snow.
These folks have known a winter day,or two, before.
This town knew some high times…before the gold ran out.
Mule Deer antlers, goat skull, maybe a clock some day? Too cold to ponder any longer.
“America’s Loneliest Highway.” Nevada HWY 50.
How’s Business?
Yeah, they’re everywhere!
Some Logo! What does a Fist and Whip really mean?
Not a place I’d want to work.
A big hat, a long range coat, the clink of spurs, a a horse’s steaming breath, the squeak of snow shoes. Wasn’t I in Mexico a few days ago?
We’re outta here!

All the employees there, mostly chunky ladies who looked like the Michelin Sisters wore company T-shorts with “Beyond Meat” emblazoned on their chests. The irony did not escape me. Clearly the management has an all-you-can eat policy for its employees. There’s an old country song that says, “I love the way you fill out your skin-tight blue jeans.” Not! What rhymes with sweat pants? I suppose it may be cheaper than a retirement program, but pity the pallbearers! My ubiquitous gang of Asian tourists arrived, looking completely bewildered. Their patriarch, an aged, shuffling fellow was dressed incongruously in a Russian fur helmet, a pair of John Lennon sun glasses, camouflage trousers and open toe sandals with bright pink socks. And I thought I was a snappy dresser! While we snacked on our gristle burgers, a full blizzard descended with swirling fury.

I am a former great white north guy and reasoned that if I could make it to the other side of the mountains, conditions would ease and the storm could heap as much snow as it wanted…behind me. Hell, I’ve driven in everything. Fool! My photos attest to that. However, the most weirdly wonderful thing happened as I set out on that trek. I could smell coal smoke and put it down to an over-reaction to my lunch or perhaps my angst about the weather. Then I saw it! Had I also begun to hallucinate? I leapt out into the wintry blast with my mobile phone. (My serious cameras were not going to be taken out into the driving snow.) There, in that raging blizzard, was a steam locomotive backing an antique work train onto a siding. I could not have been more amazed had I been looking at the ‘Queen Mary’. I’ve reviewed my short video and photos repeatedly to confirm what I saw. It is still hard to believe. You can google up information on the railway museum in Ely) Go closer to spring. I drove on westward into that storm; sometimes my speed was down to fifteen mph. I had to stop repeatedly to clear the ice from my windshield and wipers.

I was right. The snow eased and visibility improved and I arrived in Eureka Nevada. It was winter-bound and the RV park I saw looked closed. After a short stretch and breathe and shoot- up with my camera, I drove on west into the now-brilliant sunset hoping to find a place to stop for the night in Austin. Everything there was wintered out as well. After almost colliding with a large herd of mule deer on the main street I drove on down the mountain into the darkness. I looked back and saw that Stokes Castle was cleverly lit with golden light. Every time I drive across Nevada, Austin is on my route. This time I closed a loop of my south-bound leg to San Carlos. I hate looking for a spot to spend the night in the dark when I’m not sure where I am. Eventually I found a safe turn-out which proved to be the former site of a Pony Express station called ‘Cold Spring.’

In the morning I took photos of the surrounds and also ruins of a former telegraph station. Later, in perfect light, I came upon an archaeological site with loads of ancient and beautiful pictographs near Grimes Point, looking down on the Fallon Naval Air Base. Yep, right there in the desert! Tonight, I discovered I’d done something wrong and have no images to download from the day. Swear words! My water pump had again frozen last night. Later in the day as it thawed, a hose came loose and the water tank under the bed emptied itself inside the van. Grit! You’ve gotta have grit!

Blowing snow. The view did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.
Into the setting sun he drove, Westward, ever westward, California or bust. Hwy 50, Austin somewhere ahead.

 

Red Bluff California offered no room at the inn. It was full of homeless refugees from last year’s horrible wildfires in the surrounding area. I drove on into the gathering dusk, once again, looking for a level place to park for the night. I awoke in the morning beside a stockyard, beside a gurgling stream. “California!” I thought, I’ve made it, the snow is behind me now.” Haa!

It was fortunate that I made a decision to put my head down and just drive, ignoring some great images along the way, (which I would have lost as it turned out.) I drove through Reno (Eeeech) and then north, heading for Susanville California. Then I chose to head for low ground and put the last mountain passes behind me. Eventually I arrived in Red Bluff a few thousand feet ASL lower. In the wake of last year’s horrific wild fires, there is no space available in this area for the likes of me. Many of those displaced folks are living in RV Parks all over the interior of Northern California. So with no wifi again, no blogs will be posted tonight. I am in some very beautiful countryside, about one-hundred miles from the coast, parked on the side of the road once more. Think of the money I’m saving in fees. There is a gentle steady rain falling which, I know, is more snow in the mountains behind me.

I have always loved this region of California. The lush, rolling hills covered with open Oak forest and filled with grazing cattle soothes my soul. Sadly, everywhere you look there is a”Posted” sign. Private, no trespassing, no looking, threats of prosecution and execution. Where have you gone, Timothy Leary? Peace man!

Hard winter conditions have pursued me for the past week. I’m frustrated in not finding the rest and reboot I sought. I am in fact, exhausted. Meanwhile, at home, snow is piling up with more to come. Folks are emptying the grocery stores in anticipation of continuing harsh weather. I try not to feel guilty about being out here on the lam. Silly bugger!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” … Scott Adams.

Life Is A Journey

Life Is A Journey

(Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them)

The crack of dawn. It cracked because it was brittle with cold. Here I awoke at first light  in a gravel pit near Williams Arizona.

I am determined to journey homeward in a meandering fashion, with no particular route planned. The journey, after all, is its own reward. After all the repairs and expenses I knew I dare drift no further eastward, away from the general direction of home on Vancouver Island. I arrived in Flagstaff, where it was cold, snowy and blowing. I found a McDonalds and checked my e-mail and the weather. With more real winter to come, I checked for an RV Park then entered the data into my dash-mounted GPS. It lead me for miles in all directions and finally in the gathering darkness, I fired the miserable little box. The Grand Canyon was in my sights so I headed westward, where I would turn on to Highway 64 and find any old place to camp.

In the early morning light what to my wondering eyes should appear? A lifelong airplane guy, you’ll just have to put up with my occasional aviation photos. A pair of Convair 990s.
An inglorious end to a wonderful life of airshow flying. Closed for the winter, the museum claims to have many flyable aircraft stowed away inside.
Drones are nothing new. I want one for my birthday!
Bin der, Dun dat! No photo can convey the immensity, not only of geography, but also of man’s insignificance on this tiny planet within the universe. All this photo can tell you is that I was there.
That is the Colorado River down there. It’s almost a mile to the bottom and obviously much warmer. It is hard to believe that this meandering stream was the prime maker of the huge canyon. So where did all the dirt get washed to?
The nearby sign said 8000′, ASL. A ski hill close by was on Humphrey’s Peak, 12, 600′ up in the frozen desert sky.
That’s better. This is the through-road from the Grand Canyon where it arrives at Cameron AZ. I would have been here six hours earlier if the road had not been closed, forcing me to backtrack through Flagstaff.
If I had not been forced to detour, I would not have had the joy of meeting these wonderful Navaho ladies selling their handmade crafts. Who can resist smiling, waving people on the roadside out in the lonely desert?
They even sold mutton soup! An arrow and a bookmark were the only only souvenirs I bought  from these women on the entire trip. We had a great chat and I discovered the Navajo people endure the same issues as the North Coast natives at home, of whom these folks had never heard! That’s Lady laying there, guarding the jewellry.
“Honey, I felt the earth move.” A section of old highway. Things take a very long time in the dry desert to vanish into the earth.
A horse in the Painted Desert. The country is beautiful. I was left wanting a horse of my own so I could ride and ride. I can feel my saddle-sore bottom even as i think of it. Then there is the aching back of the poor horse who had to carry me!
A hogan. This was the traditional Navajo home. No matter what these folks live in now, they still also have a hogan for traditional religious purposes. With roofs made of different materials, the doors alway face east to catch the morning sun.
A Navajo community.
Beautiful but hostile to gringos like me. It is amazing to this outsider how indigenous people survived and thrived in this environment. Their art demonstrates enough free time to develop a rich cultural cornerstone.
Neo-native art at a roadside craft marketplace.
There were several murals, all very poignant.
While taking my photographs, a young Navajo girl stopped to shyly ask if I’d seen her runaway dog, a young brindle female pitbull named ‘Jinx.’ Hope you found your way home doggie!
One more
Sheep are an important part of Navajo culture.
The Painted Desert now holds a piece of my heart. Imagine a desert night’s sounds under a brilliant moon and star-studded sky. Whistling wind, coyote’s howl and all the things that go bump in the lonely night. Then comes the golden light of dawn against the vermillion cliffs. It is said that if your dog runs away, you can watch him going for the next three days.

 

The night was crackling cold. I piled on all my blankets and thanked the Gods for my propane furnace. The stars were amazing. By morning the potable water pump had frozen. I was worried about split plumbing but all’s well that ends. I arrived at the Park Gate, paid the horrific fee, and found my way to the snowy parking lot. I’ve seen thousands of photos and films of this incredible hole in the planet, but nothing can prepare a person for the moment when you first look upon the Grand Canyon. If you are not rendered speechless, then you are a sad creature indeed. My photos can only confirm that I was there; they cannot do justice to the expansive and overwhelming feeling of the place.

Unfortunately the price of being able to easily attend one of the world’s greatest marvels is that there are people, bus loads of them, steadily arriving in an endless convoy. They overwhelmed the place, with hordes pushing, shouting, being rude in every possible way and seemed oblivious to any sanctity or wonder. They’d come half-way around the planet to take selfies on their mobile phones and absolutely nothing else seemed to matter. I really do try to love all of God’s creatures and I hate categorization and racism so all I’ll say is that it is holiday time in celebration of Chinese New Year. “Gong Xi Fa Cai” with all due respect! These tourists were everywhere, I mean every-bloody where I was to go in the following days. Their behaviour was consistently rude and arrogant. Shop keepers and vendors expressed dread at their invasion. I’ve been in China, the folks there are charming and considerate. I cannot explain beyond my personal observation of what happens when they are visiting here. I should quickly add that I’ve found other cuacasion cultural groups just as abominable when on their vacation. People!

With the fabulous shifting light, I could have stayed, but after having actually been shouldered aside a few times, I decided to proceed forthwith. My plan was to drive on to a place called Cameron, where I could consider my options, but the road had been closed due to wintry conditions. Swearwords indeed! Why the hell could the National Parks folks not have made the closure clearly noticeable beforehand?

Frustrasted, with no other option, I headed the sixty miles back to Flagstaff, fortunately in part, on a different route. I ended my day in Page, Arizona on the shores of the great man-made Powell Lake where the Colorado River was dammed, and damned. Incredible scenery was sacrificed to make a huge recreational waterway. I had no interest in seeing it and headed off to see other wonders. Everywhere I go, I am boggled by what I see. The grandeur and vastness is too much to comprehend. I want to come back and slowly sponge it in and so the bottom is blown out of my bucket list. I am bemused that nearly all the best views are smudged by power lines. Or on clear days, by an endless parade of jet contrails streaking in all directions. I wonder repeatedly at how the world must have looked before it was “Settled” and how we have altered it so drastically and so quickly. Small wonder at the disenchantment of the First Nations People.

Finally arriving at the Arizona/Utah border I had to choose a route that lead approximately northwest. With a simple choice at a crossroads I left the natural wonder of the scenery of Kanab Utah behind and drove over yet another snowy pass into the wonderland of Zion National Park. I had barely heard of this place and can only describe it, inadequately, with photographs. I caught an incredible afternoon light and realized that everything was happening in a serendipitous order that makes perfect sense in retrospect, including some very wonderful people I meet along the way.

I’ll be back.

Beauty is not caused. It is.” …Emily Dickinson

Bouncing Back

San Carlos Harbour. Some call this place Tucson South where a vulgar display of wealth flies in the face of Mexican reality. But this place also has a Mexican charm.

Ya can’t bounce back til ya’ve hit bottom.” That comes to mind from deep in the archives of my mental hard drive as I passed along a hard rive of another sort. I left Nogales in the dark yesterday morning, totally exhausted after yet another sleepless night. Entering Nogales Mexico is a plunge into hell. A young lady, shivering inside her non-offical parka, gave my van a brief inspection and waved me on. Que? OK?. I entered a scene which was part Blade-Runner, Quest For Fire and any apocalyptic film of your choice. Crooked cobbled winding streets poorly lit, except for the hi-beams of vehicles hurtling in all directions, pedestrians wandering every which way, vendors already setting up their market trucks along the curbs, rare and nebulous road signs posted just at the junctions. Add all the mad Max’s in the world trying to block you. Holy shit! I have driven in Mexico and loved it, (Well mostly) but yesterday seemed incredibly bizarre. Out on the open road finally, the signage is variably good, with long sections of road repairs, then miles later, more “deviacion.” The cuotas, or toll booths, are presently unmanned by government employees but are attended by folks begging money and demanding to know where you are going. Eventually you see a sign indicating that you are, perhaps, on the correct route. Then you hit a Tope, one of Mexico’s infamous speed bumps.

The small city of Hermosillo, was a repeat of Nogales. Even in daylight I hate the gauntlet that is this dreadful place. At nearly every stoplight a gang of window-washers assails your vehicle, jumping all over it in their efforts to clean the glass and extort a small ransom. My shouted No’s are ignored. They banged on all windows with their demands and tried to take the bicycle off the back of the van. You’re helpless, inclined to leap out in confrontation, but you know of course, that’s dangerously foolish, so you sit inside, cursing and seething at your entrapment while a gentle voice on your shoulder whispers that “This is Mexico, relax, this shall pass, these kids are just trying to help support their family.” I do get it, but a simple permission and a gracious acceptance of “No” would completely improve the business model of these junior extortionists. When driving through a congested town or city, it is utterly wise to keep your doors locked and your windows closed. I’ve decided that next time I will start photographing them from the confines of my driver’s seat and, not to be so vulnerably alone. When i returned through this city, not a window washer was in sight!

About nine hours from Nogales I blearily drove past my turn-off to San Carlos and had to back-track up through Guaymas. Yet another hour of my foolishness. Its old-town and waterfront is beautiful, an oasis of tranquility, but I  simply needed to complete the journey for the day. Guaymas is also a swirling chaos of mad driving through dusty, despairing, sprawling barrios with vague signage. My on-dash GPS was useless and I was too busy trying to stay alive to have time to glance at it anyway.

Empalme, a southern satellite community of Guaymas. The fishing fleet was in before the tide fell. Fishermen stand out in the traffic selling bags of fresh prawns.
On the main street of San Carlos is an oasis for the weary traveller. There were more Canadians there than those left in Canada. They have a web site.
A view from my parking spot. Mexicans do seem to like their walls…Donald.
Sprawling development is going on everywhere. There goes the neighbourhood!

Well, somebody has to live here…don’t they?
Maybe I’m jealous, but it seems obscene to me. A concrete artisan and his helper do not even dare think of living in a place like this…nor me.
“Hi Mom, we’re home!”
What else can I say?
Cuanto vale? Below the 200 peso notes, clockwise the coins are 50 pesos,20 pesos, old and new, 10 pesos also old and new, 2 pesos, and 1/10 pesos.
The total of the entire complicated heap is 634.1p or about $30.US
There is also a 1/2 French franc which I cannot explain.
There are many splendid vehicles in Mexico which we never see in the north. There are both novel (To me) imports and locally built vehicles. This wonderful little Mexican Chevy truck has side-steps, a place to stand on the back bumper and a hand rail behind the cab.
Reality on the other side of the bay at Marina Real. Imagine living here and going to work at the shining luxury condos across the water at Marina Real. Kids, dogs, a leaning outhouse, piles of nets and laundry.
Home Sweet Home  complete with water barrel and a rocking chair in the sand. Don’t laugh, there’s no mortgage!

Obviously, yet I live. I am writing this in the rising warmth and light of another Mexican morning. A few feet above my head is a cooing dove hidden in the dense foliage. I am vibrating-weary. I love Mexico and ache to go on south, or just stay and rest, but I’ll complete the business at hand and promises kept, I’ll turn back Northward. Low finances and a faltering vehicle demand prudence. I desperately need to take a break. Crossing back into the US will, this time, take me a long way toward an ease of anxiety. There is a band of Northern Mexico which, in my estimate,is about 200 miles wide that I dislike. San Carlos marks the latitude of Mexico where I begin to love the country more and more as I drive further south. Sadly, this is as far as I am going. I’ll complete my business here and then turn northward.

It seems that every grotty little Mexican fishing village has at least one upscale seafood restaurant for the gringos. How could I resist a place with a doorman like this?
How about a table without a reservation and a view like this? You know the food’s good when the locals eat there.
At the next table, an aging rock star perhaps. Note the personal beer bottle glove.
Don’t get up. The view from my table.
The appetiser. The rest of the meal was as incredible and including two beer and a tip, it was the equivalent of approx $20. cdn
Was I really there? It seemed like a dream.
The village at La Manga where poor people still live by the sea and can afford to eat seafood…because they catch it themselves.
Another panga arrives with a fresh supply for the restaurant.
There must be a story here! Note the Saskatchewan license plate. Is the old camper someone’s home?
A Mexican attempt at recycling.
Honest Umberto’s used Rv’s?
I remembered Joni Mitchell’s song about the tree museum.
Yep, yet another hotel stands beyond the foliage.
A view from the front.
A view to the rear.
A discreet luxury development near San Carlos. I’m told it has to do with laundering money. There are no lights on at night.
At least I agree with their ideas for lawns. Note the various spots where helicopters can land.
A lingering view of the open Sea Of Cortez, upon whose face I should be sailing.
As I drove up, over and down from this place, I imagined a posh British accent exclaiming, “I say! This would be a proper blighter if ever it should snow.”
The following morning, the reluctant meandering trek homeward began. I cast a sad last glance at the Sea Of Cortez from the San Carlos waterfront. It is piece of ocean I love and yet I did not even wet my feet in her this time. I’ll be back. Soon.
Out of the desert came forth wine. There are many continuous miles of new vineyards along the Sonoran highway. They extend out of sight away from the road.
“Everybody out!” A military checkpoint on the highway. Wen I was southbound trucks were lined up for several miles, each waiting for a tedious clearance. Two young soldiers, poke around inside as buses engine compartment. They were only a few surly questions for the old gringo in the old van.

Two days later, I am now on the intended-to be leisurely and meandering return homeward. I decide to divert and stop over in Puerto Penasco on the Eastern shore of the Gulf Of California, at the top of the Sea Of Cortez, which like so many, I love dearly. I have a rule about driving in Mexico in the dark and I so I broke my own law. Onward I went through endless miles of fields, then desert, then fields, all punctuated by dusty, desperately poor barrios. I drove westward, peering into the setting sun through a dusty, bug-spattered windshield. I was desperate to find a safe haven for the night and took no more photos that day. 

The best images ever are never recorded on a camera it seems, but remain in the back of my brain, as clear as the moment i saw them. I am stuck with an indelible image of children playing soccer in the ubiquitous adobe dust of Northern Mexico at dusk and I wonder at the their future. They are well dressed, and everyone has perfect haircuts yet you can see that where and how they live is well below anyone’s notion of a poverty line. They have wealth in the embrace of their expansive families and the joy of the moment is always evident despite the misery of which they know nothing else. There is clearly a joy in a life without expectations which I do not understand. The narrow, rutted, pot-holed road stretched on ahead forever it seemed. Rushing oncoming vehicles with brilliant lights, or one or none at all, zoomed past. I could find no safe-looking turnout to rest for the night. I was exhausted, my brain on auto-pilot as I resolved myself to a head-on crash. My ended life marked with another rusting metal cross on the edge of some nameless field.

No visit to Mexico is complete without a look at a few churches. This is the Catholic church facade in Santa Ana.
The ostentatious church rises grandly above the squalor and poverty of this little town.
Beneath exquisite old Spanish architecture these huge and beautifully carved doors are locked; from the inside. Sanctuary?
The priest’s car I guessed. In double lock-up to keep me out…or him in?
HOLY SHIT!
The only caption I can think of. This is the church cupula in Pitiquito.
The bells and pigeons of Pitiquito. The church door was open and a group of ladies conversed inside.
Across the street from the church, a dark biblical mural at the taxi stand. Cheering!
A mixed theme of the Second Coming and Dias Des Muertes. I’d like this artist to paint my van!
A bright spark of happy genius. Meals on wheels indeed! LA BOMBI!

Eventually on the horizon of this flat land, distant lights began to arise. I finally realized that this was what I had driven so long and far out of my way to see. I had envisioned a sleepy, Mexican fishing region, gentrified but tolerable. I had expected to find some open beach where I could park and rest for a few days. What I saw instead was a vision of hell. The place stretched on and on and lay miles off the highway.. It looked like pictures of Miami and I drove on into the night, my hopes shattered. I tried stopping in the parking lot of their airport, also miles off the road, but a security guard gave me the boost within a minute. I found a spot on the roadside, brightly lit and there I finally stopped. In the morning I jacked up the van, and pulled my rear wheels apart to try and find the source of a horrible grinding noise. U-joints was my diagnosis and so I decided to head onward to the border. Ajo or bust. First, I stopped to thank Barb’s Dog Rescue for the haven and security of their brightly lit sign. I, a dog-lover, gave myself a strict lecture, took a breath and went on in. I left quickly, head down, not looking back. All those lovely dogs. Surely I could manage to bring one home, a travelling companion and a pal for Jack. I faced reality, and drove on.

Well, I’m writing in Ajo now, a desert town. The area is a popular winter retreat. A friend is parked next door in the Belly Acres RV Park and there are new friends all around me. I slept eleven hours last night. The wind howled and a torrential rain hammered down as if I were at home on Vancouver Island. More desert flowers! Tomorrow morning the parts store and garage next door will open and the course of my fate will be determined. 

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” …Albert Camus