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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

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