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Saturday, August 18, 2018


       We've stopped traveling for while so there's not much to write about except the poop lady.  More on her later.  

    After rolling 7000 miles we've hunkered down in a beach house on Monterey Bay. But who wants to read about that?  Relatives drop in  with their kids. We have a blast playing with them but it doesn't make for a Grove Guy story.

   Brother Bruce?  He stopped by for Francesca's bread baking class.  Afterwards he got crazy and fixed an electrical outlet.
   Pi was a big help.

    Adam, former Miamian turned Santa Cruz surfer, came over with his friend, Tatiana.  We took them on the trestle walk. This is what 4 p.m. can look likeThere's a beach and an ocean somewhere down below.

     If I'm putting you to sleep, sorry. We're settled in for a while.

     Everyday we walk on the beach where the Pacific ocean is Slurpee cold. 

Fortunately the nearby pool is heated but that's not something you want to read about either. 


Maybe you're interested in moving out here.  There's a house for sale, just two blocks from the beach. 

   It's 300 square feet include a kitchen, bedroom, bath and a long list of the drugs the architect was on when he designed it. 
It can be yours for  $1.4 million.

     Good stories are scarce when you're barely moving but this week was the exception. Five of us were walking down the trail that leads to the ocean, the one that passes a local sewage station. We've seen it many times marveling how the churning poop water does not stink.

     The poop water is aerated in this vat.  Once a dog fell in, we learned, and someone pulled him out. Pity the person who had to drive him home.

    That day we saw a truck and a county employee sampling the brown liquid. We waved and she waved back. That's how our sewage maintenance facility tour began.
   The waste water expert showed us how how the poop separates from the rest. The girls said, "Euww!".

   Michelle, the poop lady, was happy to have company as she explained, "I take everything you put down a sink -or toilet- and turn it into clean water and fertilizer". "Even baby wipes?", I asked.  She said there are exceptions, the things that don't decompose. The wipes, tampons, dental floss, and condoms must be removed by hand. "Of course, I wear gloves" she added.  
     Hearing this I shook her hand and thanked her.  Michelle gave Pi a dog treat explaining, "It's freeze-dried buffalo guts.  Dogs love 'em!"  We loved her tour and expressed our gratitude.

     So there's not much to write about now. We look offshore for whales but have not seen any yet. I trapped a couple of rats yesterday but so what? I do that back home.

     I expect I will have stories next week as we head to Burning Man once more. The tales are endless there.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


       We could have crossed the border better.  
 After a fantastic week in western Canada we had decided to return to the U.S.
   There is no wall delineating where the two countries meet, not yet. You wait in line with 100 other cars to flash your passports.  When it came our turn the guard asked, among other things. "Do you have any fruit, dog food, or firewood?"  When I said, "We have all of them", he slapped a yellow card on our windshield that must have said something like"suspicious people inside".

Above the clouds on the Oregon Coast, photo by Francesca 
    We were told to park our van in their search lot, our dog in their kennel, and to go inside a building for questioning. After ten minutes of interrogation  a woman came in with a green pepper and two apples. She told us, "These are illegal...and so is your firewood, and, the stick horse". Handing us our passports she instructed us to return to Canada to dispose of the wood.  When I asked, "Any particular place?" she seemed a little annoyed and told me any place in Canada would do. 
   We pulled Pi out of her pen, jumped in the van, and asked the next guard, "How do we get to Canada from here?".  She directed us to a special access road for suspicious people.
    This led to the Canadian border crossing just a quarter-mile away.  A friendlier guard took our passports and asked us how long we planned to stay in his country. I told him, "About five minutes.  I need to dump my stick horse and some firewood".  After I did I had to ask another guard how to return to the United States.

There was no hiding from border guards

   On our third border crossing in two hours another U.S. officer asked, among other things, how long we had been in Canada.  After I said, "Ten minutes", he sighed and waved us through.

    It got better after that.  We camped on a bay south of Bellingham, Washington.  While eating dinner at our campsite a smiling young man approached and said, "I know you. You're the guy who writes that blog about van conversions!". My god, for five minutes I felt like a rock star as Andy Stephen, a west coast mountain guide, told me how he'd used my instructions to build his camper.  It's good sharing what you know.

With my new friend, Andy 

 Taking the trolley in Astoria, a 19th-century town at the mouth of the Colombia River.


    We headed down Oregon's coast spending the next night near this sunny beach.

and camping next to Jamie and Rita.  
   They had just arrived from Vermont on bicycles. The duo described their 2 1/2 month journey in fascinating detail.  They met kind people everywhere, and, a man  pulling his 40-pound dog over mountains with a bike trailer. The generosity of the locals astounded them. The heat was intense. They sometimes started their 8-hour rides at 4 a.m.
    Jamie told us we could do it too but "you gotta be strong". We'll probably stick with our van. It has the bikes on the back.
Tillamook's Air Museum.  The huge hanger once housed a WWII blimp. 
    When we crossed the U.S. border giant Marijuana men beckoned us to Oregon's pot emporiums. They were like hypnotists intoning, "You're getting're getting want to eat an entire gallon of ice cream".

    The next day we crossed into northern California. We knew we had reached the crazy state because in the first 20 miles we saw  dinosaurs,

Paul Bunyan, 

and the "Ship Ashore" lounge.

                  Getting valet service at the Ship Ashore

    We stopped to enjoy Point Arena's Vintage Motorcycle Festival. 

     A few days later we were visiting Francesca's childhood friend, Berit Meyer. 


 She and her husband, Brian, own Ramone's, six cafes and coffee shops in Northern California. 

When we toured the original Ramone's it had a line going out the door.


Berit's cat cookies


     Back at Berit's farm I marveled at the ancient 30-foot wide tree stumps in the yard. 
    This redwood was over 1000 years old when it was turned into lumber. In the 1800's it was most efficient to sever them with axes and saws fifteen-
feet above the ground.

   After sunset we dined on fresh-caught salmon, fine wine, and huckleberry pie. MM-mm

   In the morning, after feeding the chickens, 


we headed to Fort Bragg, Ca. where former Grovites, Norma Watkins and Les Cizek now live. 
Norma is working on her third book and Les keeps busy creating fine woodwork.

    Norma and Les, photo by Fran Fevrier

     Five miles south we stopped in Mendocino

to see Les' woodwork exhibited at a local gallery.

    I met him when he was leading Miami's Radical Art Student's Mississippi Reggae B-flat Conch Suckers Band. 

For years he would head down to Key West to win their annual conch shell blowing contest.
In the 80's his conch band led the King Mango Strut.

    Point Reyes is a rugged national park hugging the coast north of San Francisco. When we showed up to visit Francesca's sister, she was up above,
weeding her roof.

     Now it was time to "live inside" for a while. We  went from cooking eggs over a fire to frying them in Carmen and Doug's kitchen.  

   With so many friends and relatives in the Bay area, we're skipping the outside life for a spell.  It's exhilarating to be taking hot showers again.

                 Humbled by the redwoods

Friday, August 3, 2018


    "You've gotta see this lake!", friends told us.  We'd already seen plenty of lakes, had been driving all day, and couldn't imagine "Lake Louise" being that special. 
 A lake like no other and one distant red canoe

As the Canadian mountain traffic and storm clouds were thickening Francesca fell asleep. I figured, "I'll get through the rain, take a peek, and report back to her".

     A spot in a crowded parking lot opened as a cold shower ceased. As I walked down a deep forest trail sparkled with melting hail I approached this "must-see" lake. Suddenly, there it was.
    My words were the same as Steve Jobs' last, "Oh wow!".

     I trotted back to the car, woke Francesca, and told her, "You've gotta see this lake!". She turned the trail's corner and saw blue water framed by mountains, glaciers, and hundreds of Japanese tourists.
"My goodness", she said,"This is Canada's Mona Lisa!".
   And it was, one of America's must-see sights that we had not heard of until weeks before.

   Pi was very popular too. None of the tourists had brought their pets from Korea, Australia, or Japan and many were eager to commune with our little dog. 

     I asked a park ranger if we could camp by Lake Louise (named after Queen Victoria's fourth daughter) and he laughed, "They only allow camping in the Fairmont Chateau and rooms start at $800 a night. You should probably move along if you want to find a place to stay tonight."

     I figured we might get a paddle in but their red canoes were renting for $105 a hour. All this was way beyond the Grove Guy's budget (even if $105 was $75 American).

   We could afford a walk so we strolled around the picture perfect lake before searching for a  campsite down the road.
  A half-hour later an attendant in one of the "full" campgrounds let us spend the evening in his parking lot. It was nice, next to a meadow complete with grazing mountain goats.  When you live in a van you can camp almost anywhere.


     In the morning we saw this rig parked in Yoho National Park. Clearly ready for the zombie apocalypse, you did not want to mess with it. There might have been a machine gun hidden in the turret above.

    Roughing it two days earlier


   We had a schedule to keep. Friends were expecting us on the west coast. We zipped over to Vancouver and took a Sunday stroll on its picturesque waterfront.
Looking out to Vancouver Island

 Travelers departing for Alaska
This tall building had these words repeated on twelve floors, "The clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street".

It wasn't easy leaving the Canadian Rockies 

  for Trumplandia. Late that afternoon we crossed the border three times in two hours.  Try guessing why. If you're thinking, "forbidden fruit", you'd be close. Pi's stay in the border patrol kennel was brief. More on that later.

    Not a bad place to be