Published: February 2nd 2006February 1st 2006 January 20 - February 1, 2006
Jeff & Isis Resting
An exhausted Jeff rests at Shelly's parents' house the day after leaving Port Townsend and all the duties of a Responsible Adventurer.
Port Townsend - Anacortes, Wash. Loop
We’ve completed the first leg of our shakedown cruise, as yesterday Matilda waltzed a full circle and is back to a place in the road she’s traversed before: Anacortes, Wash.
Granted, it’s not far from our home port of Port Townsend, which we and Matilda (our Volkswagen Vanagon camper-van) departed on January 20, but in the last week and a half, we’ve all had our share of adventures and lessons learned.
I (Shelly) will begin this first on-the-road entry of our 2006 Sabbatical travel blog by noting that transitions are hard. We didn’t expect this one to be easy. But neither did we anticipate how wrenching it would be to uproot ourselves, even willingly, from our settled life for this very different, albeit temporary, lifestyle.
Jeff opined that there must be no such things as Responsible Adventurers—as we were attempting to be—because “an adventurer, by definition, has to be irresponsible, because it’s too much trouble to depart responsibly!”
We were both officially unemployed as of Jan. 1, but our last weeks in Port Townsend were consumed in a frenzy of preparations. If you’ve ever
Toasting to the Trip
We broke out the champagne we'd been carrying from Port Townsend on the real "first night" of our trip, at a rustic log cabin on Lopez Island.
packed up a house to leave it for other people to live in for a year, or if you’ve ever packed for a long trip in which each item must be chosen carefully for its weight and size, then you have an inkling of how stressful it can be to do both simultaneously. As it was, Jeff and I didn’t manage to make the same ferry out of town. I got out first, driving a car we later put in storage, and took it as a sign that after a solid month of rain and very little sun, a rainbow chose that afternoon to make an appearance.
We spent the weekend at my parents’ house in Anacortes, repacking the van and taking care of last-minute business. On Monday we cast off the comforts of home and caught another ferry to Orcas Island in the San Juans, where Jeff had an appointment to visit the OPAL Community Land Trust (CLT)
. Jeff is on the board of a new CLT named Homeward Bound on the North Olympic Peninsula created to conserve affordable housing opportunities, and plans to research similar models as we travel across the country. We were very impressed by
Jeff, Shelly & Matilda
With bikes and kayaks, we're ready for recreating on Lopez Island!
the model on Orcas, which incorporated an ethos of work-with-the-trees-and-topography site design as well as sustainable building systems and materials.
That night felt like the real “first night” of our trip, so we toasted in front of the fireplace at Bill and Jill’s log cabin on nearby Lopez Island, with a bottle of champagne we’d been carrying from PT. These joint PT-Lopez residents were the perfect hosts for our first night on the trail. After dinner, out came the guitar, banjo, penny whistles and Rise Up Singing books, and we played and sang till the starlight called us out to Matilda’s cozy roost on their wooded drive. The next day we had slated for recreation, and the sun cooperated, shining full-strength for our morning bike ride on the island and afternoon kayak paddle around its northern point.
A couple days later, we headed north to Bellingham for a visit with friends there, then on to Blaine for our first night in a campground (through my parents, we have a family pass to all Thousand Trails/NACO
campgrounds). Although it was a wet and windy night, we were perfectly snug in Matilda, cooking a one-pot meal on our two-burner propane
Jeff & Bike on Lopez
The San Juan Islands were the perfect place to start our trip. On bikes, we explored Lopez Village and the view from this public pier.
stove and listening to the radio (powered by our back-up car battery) while sipping hot drinks and reading our novels.
The next day we crossed the border and followed directions to the Vancouver, B.C., home of Jeff’s graduate school roommate, an architecture student named Vince. Well, Vince is now a successful architect, and his self-designed West End house was a modern marvel with sweeping views of the city skyline and inlets. I’ve posted one of my photos of the façade here, and there are more on his website
Jeff and Vince hadn’t seen each other in 14 years, but we got to know his charming family quite well over the next four days, as our stay in Vancouver was extended due to vehicle malfunction! Matilda had to see a mechanic Monday morning after her engine started cutting out intermittently. We are grateful to our regular mechanic in Port Angeles for being in regular phone contact through this trying period, and to our hosts for their wonderful and patient hospitality, and also for our good sense in taking this shake-down cruise close to home so we could work out bugs like this. That’s exactly what this leg of the
Found on Lopez Island, this is the road for us! (Problem is, it only led to a lone farmhouse...)
trip was for.
As luck would have it, this past weekend was a fortunate time to be stranded in Vancouver because it was the Chinese New Year celebration. Vince, a Hong Kong native, was our guide to an excellent meal on New Year’s Eve as well as a traditional Chinese orchestra performance. Then on New Year’s Day (Sunday), Jeff and I attended the hours-long parade in Chinatown and I had lots of fun shooting the lion dancers with my new telephoto lens (see attached pictures).
We tied two Chinese good luck charms to the rearview mirror and Matilda ran perfectly all the way back Anacortes yesterday. Our fingers are crossed that the problems are all fixed. We had to adjust our planned route to Vancouver Island because we found out the Victoria-Port Angeles car ferry is on winter hiatus and we wouldn’t have been able to drive off the southern end of the island, as we had planned. Plan B for my story assignment in Victoria is to take the passenger-only, weekend-only ferry from Port Angeles this coming Friday. We’ll report on that in the next entry!
We’ll leave you with some lessons learned during our shake-down
Shelly's Kayak Bow
Kayaking on the north shore of Lopez Island. Is the scenery really going to get any better than this?!?
* Check ferry schedules well in advance when planning a route that involves water crossings.
* Don’t veer onto “back roads” that aren’t on your map when darkness is approaching (this happened between Bellingham and Blaine, when we unsuccessfully tried to follow the coastline).
* A Vanagon looks like a breadbox and handles like a breadbox—especially in strong cross winds. (We may have to leave the kayaks stored in Anacortes to reduce our windage…more about that later.)
* Give mechanics home-baked cookies.
* Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
There are more photos below